EXCLUSIVE: After 10 films and $7 billion, Marvel Studios is finally stepping up the diversity in their long-range superhero slate. Introduced onstage today alongside Avengers stars Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans, 42‘s Chadwick Boseman will be the first African-American superhero to lead a stand-alone Marvel tentpole in 2017’s Black Panther. I hear he’s signed a lucrative five-film deal that begins with 2016’s Captain America: Civil War continues through Marvel’s just-unveiled Phase 3 lineup.
Boseman joins other diverse characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but is the first to get his own standalone and that is notable. There have been rumors of Anthony Mackie and his supporting Falcon character taking over the Captain America shield from Chris Evans in some capacity after Avengers 3, which has been titled Avengers: Infinity War and split into two parts. Boseman is repped by Greene & Associates and Management 360.
The progressivism marched on today as Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige surprised fans by announcing a Captain Marvel movie for 2018, which will mark the studio’s first stand-alone female superheroine. While Warner Bros. and DC have Gal Gadot set to play Wonder Woman in her own film and Sony’s trying to mine their Spider-Man holdings for a female superhero, Marvel fans have been clamoring for a superheroine to get her own spotlight. There’s already one well-established in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow. But don’t hold your breath for that character to get her own adventure, says Feige.
“Black Widow couldn’t be more important as an Avenger, but like Hulk the Avengers films will be the films where they play a primary role,” said Feige. “Her part in Avengers: Age Of Ultron is very, very big and further develops her character. The plans we have for her through the rest of the Avengers saga are very big and she is a linchpin, in fact, to those films. So instead of taking her out there or doing a prequel which we haven’t done yet, we’re continuing the forward momentum of the continuity of the Cinematic Universe, of which Widow is a key part.”
Captain Marvel will instead introduce another popular comics character to the MCU while building on the thematic threads established during Phase 3. The Carol Danvers character appears in Marvel’s Civil War comic series, which splits superherodom into two factions supporting and opposing the government’s Superhuman Registration Act. Those sides are led by Iron Man and Captain America, whose growing rift is seeded in a scene from Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age Of Ultron that Feige showed to fans at Hollywood’s El Capitan this morning.
Captain Marvel also unites the two elemental strains of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which the success of Guardians Of The Galaxy helped open the door for. “This film has been in the works almost as long as Doctor Strange or Guardians Of The Galaxy, and one of the key things was figuring out what we wanted to do with it,” said Feige. “Her adventures are very earthbound, but her powers are based in the cosmic realm.”
Asked if Marvel would hire African-American or female directors to match Black Panther and Captain Marvel, Feige played it cool. “We’re looking for the best directors possible,” he said, acknowledging that producer-director Reginald Hudlin is one filmmaker with Marvel ties. The Django Unchained producer actually penned the Black Panther comics in the 2000s. “Reggie I’ve known for many years and is a great guy — I think I’m meeting him again shortly.”