UPDATED: Marvel Studios President and Chief Creative Officer Kevin Feige says he’s proud that the Disney-owned superhero factory has “inspired other companies” to follow its lead by making screen adventures that “represent the world that goes to see our movies.” Feige also got a cheer from an audience of film students when he assured them that Marvel’s first openly LGBQT+ character is on the way “very soon.”
During a New York Film Academy Q&A event this weekan audience member asked Feige about the studio’s plan for bringing LGBTQ+ characters into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The audience member amended his question to make it specifically about trans characters, but in video from the event it’s unclear that Feige actually narrowed his response.
“Yes, absolutely yes,” Feige responded, presumably to the broader category of any LGBTQ+ character. (Marvel insiders on Thursday said Feige was indeed referring to a LGBTQ+ character, not a trans character.) “And very soon. In a movie we’re shooting right now.” That could mean a film as soon as Black Widow this May or as far off as the first Black Panther sequel in May 2022.
Black Widow (May 1) is now in post-production but Marvel has a history of major last-moment additions, such as the post-credits “shawarma” scene, which was added to the first Avengers film after the film’s red-carpet world premiere.
Marvel Studios projects now shooting include The Eternals (with Angelina Jolie and Kit Harrington, due in theaters Nov. 6) and three projects lined up for next year: Destin Daniel Cretton’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (Feb. 12, 2021 release), Scott Derrikson’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (May 2021), and Taika Waititi’s Thor: Love & Thunder (November 2021).
Gender and sexuality are already expected to be entrenched themes in Thor: Love and Thunder (2021), the fourth film in the cosmic franchise rooted in Norse mythology and the 1960s comic books by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee. Feige has said the film will present Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster wielding the hammer of Thor as well as Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie stepping forward with Marvel’s first openly queer relationship. The fan-favorite Valkyrie has been portrayed as bisexual in the pages of Marvel comic books and Thompson teased fans at last summer’s Comic-Con International in San Diego with a reference to royal romance.
“As new king, she needs to find her queen,” Thompson told Hall H fans in July. “That will be her first order of business. She has some ideas. Keep you posted.”
A month later, at the D23 Expo in Anaheim, Feige told Disney fans that The Eternals would also arrive on screen with queer representation within its cosmic tale. Feige was tight-lipped on specifics but said it’s a male character and a father. “He’s married, he’s got a family, and that is just part of who he is,” Feige told fans.
Asked another question about Black Panther, Captain Marvel and the representation movement in Hollywood, Feige noted that female filmmakers are now filling the skies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe on the studios next two feature film releases and on four of the first six Disney+ series importing the MCU to the small screen.
“With those two films in particular, Black Panther and Captain Marvel, we wanted to keep showcasing heroes from the comics that represent the world that goes to see our movies…what’s exciting is that both those movies were such big hits that it squashed any sort of question otherwise. And [that] I hope and I think has inspired other companies around the world to do the same thing and tell those different kinds of stories.”
Feige noted that both of the studio’s 2020 releases are directed by women: Cate Shortland directs the Scarlet Johansson-starring Black Widow, a solo backstory film for the Avengers super-spy while Chloe Zhao brings forth The Eternals in November with an ensemble led by Angelina Jolie, Kit Harrington, and Salma Hayek.
The representation push extend to the small screen as well and the Marvel series that are being ramped up for Disney+, the subscription streaming service. “Two of the three Disney+ shows that I just mentioned, directed by women,” Feige said. “We’ve got three other shows that we’ve announced but we haven’t announced the players — spoiler alert, two out of the three of them are women.”
Marvel hopes Shang Chi (which will be released on Chinese New Year) will give the studio are high-intensity heroic tale that will tap into some of the same cultural cache as the Black Panther success and also grab the imagination of new Marvel fans in increasingly robust Asian markets.