A couple of weeks ago, we published a piece on the most influential comic writers and artists who shaped the first 10 years of the MCU. This is the other half of that piece. Here are some of the writers who will shape the next 5 years of the MCU. If you want an idea of how the MCU is going to look like, check out these writers and their books.
Arguably the most recognizable name on this list, a lot of people don’t know that author Neil Gaiman dabbled in Marvel Comics amidst his successful stints as a novelist and graphic novelist. In 2006, Gaiman, with the help of famed artist John Romita Jr., revitalized the classic Kirby-creation, Eternals, a title obscured from comic shelves of the time.
Gaiman plucked out characters like Ikaris, Makkari, Sersi, and Thena and reimagined them as people living normal lives, unaware of their dormant cosmic powers and origin. The story isn’t by any means amazing but it did check enough boxes for Marvel Studios to use it as the basis for their upcoming film.
Matt Fraction is on this list for a couple of reasons. His Iron Man run has a fantastic Mandarin story ripe for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings to draw from. The Iron Fist run he co-wrote with Ed Brubaker was the seminal story for the character. But the thing that Fraction is truly celebrated for is his iconic Hawkeye run.
Fraction deconstructed the myth of being in the world’s biggest superhero team through the eyes of the team’s most human member, Hawkeye. The superhero life isn’t as glamorous or high flying as we thought it was. Clint Barton wasn’t a big superhero saving the world from an alien invasion in this comic. No, Clint was just a guy who wanted to get the lights of his house fixed. Add a feisty partner in Kate Bishop and some neighborhood goons to that scenario, and you have what is the most fun comic in recent memory.
The comic was such a seminal depiction of the character that it’s not at all surprising to see that they’re using it as a template for the upcoming Hawkeye series. Goons included. Granted, there are some changes to be expected. Clint Barton, in the comics, is a single childless man while he’s a family man in the films. He lives on a farm in the middle of nowhere while in the comic, he lives smackdab in the city. It’ll be interesting to see just how faithful they get in this retelling of the Fraction comic.
Former CIA agent-turned comic writer Tom King has only ever written one Marvel comic in his esteemed career but it’s already up there as one of the genre’s most inventive and unique. Simply titled Vision, the book was a character drama about the Avengers’ resident android and his attempts to hold together a family of like-minded androids living a suburban life.
Though stylized as a superhero, this story is a study on familial dysfunction and identity. What transpires in this 12-issue run is a heartbreaking unraveling of who these androids really are underneath the nuts, bolts, and suburban normalcy. One look at Wandavision’s premise and you can already envision how Tom King’s run could serve as an inspiration. And if this comic is any indication of how good Wandavision could really be, we’re in for a treat.
G. WILLOW WILSON
Kamala Khan is inarguably one of Marvel’s biggest successes in the past 10 years. The character has amassed a huge fanbase and become an inspiration for people of different religions, garnered critical acclaim and multiple awards, and is already on track to have a solo series on Disney+ all in under 6 years.
The success of the character can be attributed to the minds of writer G. Willow Wilson and editor Sana Amanat who sought to tell the Muslim-American experience not through overtly religious lenses but through a teenager’s quest for self-identity and self-worth. Amanat described the events of the first Ms. Marvel volume as, “what happens when you struggle with the labels imposed on you, and how that forms your sense of self.”
Last we heard, the production of Ms. Marvel was knee-deep in their search for the next big MCU star that will play Kamala Khan. The character has a treasure trove of inspiration to draw from in the comics so it won’t be hard to imagine how amazing this show can be. Much like the MCU version of Peter Parker, we have the opportunity to see this live-action Kamala grow from being a teenager struggling with who she is to an Avenger standing next to all her heroes.
Of all the Marvel street characters, Moon Knights seems like the trickiest to write. With a complicated origin and an even more complicated mental state, it’s extraordinary to see Marc Spector be such a celebrated character today. The success of Moon Knight can be attributed to writers like Jeff Lemire, who really deconstructed the character’s mental state and its connection to Spector’s allegedly mystical origins.
With the help of artist Greg Smallwood, the resulting comic is nothing short of amazing as the comic brilliantly chronicles, in Chuck Palahniuk fashion, Spector’s efforts to get to the bottom of his origins, all the while trying to survive in a mental institution run by literal monsters. If you take this premise and combine it with the classic Batman trappings of Marc Spector, you have the formula for a potentially amazing series.
On top of his work on Moon Knight, Lemire also took over Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye run as soon as it wrapped and wrote some pretty cool Clint Barton and Kate Bishop moments that the upcoming Hawkeye could use for inspiration.
With all the attempts to modernize and keep the MCU as contemporary as it can be, modern comics tend to be easily favored over some of the older runs. You’ll notice that the majority of writers listed in this two-parter are people who have actively worked in the industry in the last 15 years or so. So it’s an extraordinary thing to see the work of late writer Mark Gruenwald inspire the next few years of the MCU.
Gruenwald loved challenging the idealism of what it meant to be Captain America. He brought into question the myths of being symbols of patriotism. In the 1980s, Gruenwald introduced several villains that would become villainous staples of the Captain America mythos. Crossbones, the Serpent Society, and Flag-Smasher were all villains Gruenwald created to be idealistic foils to Steve Rogers’ colors.
None of it is more evident than with the introduction of the Super-Patriot. Gruenwald toyed with the idea of having a version of Captain America minus the innate goodness of Steve Rogers. What if a hard-headed patriot from the south became Captain America? Someone wouldn’t think twice to chant “USA!!” at any given moment. Therein lay the impetus that led to the creation of John Walker, the Super-Patriot, a character we now know today as US Agent.
It doesn’t take a genius to realize how influential Gruenwald’s work is for Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Creations of his like John Walker and Battlestar are already expected to show up. The show is set to tackle the very same themes Gruenwald sought to question.; what does the shield mean politically? What does patriotism truly mean? Gruenwald may no longer be with us but his vision lives on in the future of the MCU.
Who could have predicted that a Southern boy from Alabama would one day write one of the most out-of-this-world, larger-than-life comic runs starring a Norse god with a hammer? Jason Aaron’s Thor run, beginning from 2012’s Marvel NOW relaunch all the way up to 2019’s King Thor finale, has been nothing short of legendary.
Aaron broke the era’s streak of Midgard-centric stories like Siege and kicked off with a story about three generations of Thor battling a being called the God Butcher. Thor: God of Thunder returned to the grandiosity of the classic Thor books and soon saw the Odinson face off against classic Walt Simonson villains like Malekith and Mangog.
Aaron further broke the mold by doing the unthinkable; making Thor himself unworthy of his hammer. Suddenly, the character was in untouched ground and the fans were all for it. But it wasn’t until Jane Foster’s transformation into new Thor that Aaron truly changed the mythos.
Come 2022, we’ll see the fruits of Aaron’s labors on the big screen with Thor: Love and Thunder. Natalie Portman is back with a vengeance as she’s been confirmed to take on the mantle of Thor this time around. Famed Batman actor Christian Bale is also set to make his MCU debut in this movie, with fans speculating his character to be either the God Butcher or Dario Agger, an Aaron creation.
It’s easy to forget that Jeph Loeb was a comic writer before he dabbled in TV. And he wasn’t just some writer. Loeb wrote seminal books like Spider-Man: Blue and Superman: For All Seasons, and Batman: Hush. But just like his track record with his television work, his comic work has been also widely hit-or-miss. For every amazing Loeb has done, he has an Ultimatum (roughly the worst comic Marvel has put out in 20 years) to even it all out.
In the late 2000s, Loeb wrote a 25-issue long Hulk run which brought some very interesting changes to Hulk’s status quo. Loeb turned the supporting cast’s world on its head when he turned staples like Betty Ross and Rick Jones turned into giant monsters. Villains like MODOK and Leader found new prominence. But arguably Loeb’s biggest change to the Hulk canon was turning Thunderbolt Ross into the Red Hulk, a change that reinvented the character, who found his way into the big leagues like the Avengers and Thunderbolts.
The fate of Thunderbolt Ross in the MCU has long been speculated on. There have been rumblings of him possibly becoming the Red Hulk in the upcoming She-Hulk series. While that remains to be seen, it’ll be interesting to see how much of Loeb’s writing makes its way onto the first Hulk outing since 2008’s Incredible Hulk.
The 90s was a very controversial period for comics. It was a time of excess of the highest order, comics were selling like crazy regardless of quality, and some of the magic of the eras that came before went and disappeared. Kurt Busiek was one of the few writers who kept that magic alive.
In 1993, he and artist Alex Ross penned Marvels, a slice-of-life comic that followed the life of a photographer named Phil Sheldon as he witnessed from the ground level events that changed the course of Marvel history. In 1997, Busiek created the Thunderbolts and shocked the world with a twist that was unthinkable; these heroes weren’t good guys at all but the Masters of Evils in disguise. The twist was regarded as one of the industry’s best and it propelled the title to prominence.
Of course, throughout the years, the core idea of a team composed of bad guys trying to do good remained despite constant line up changes. Rumblings of a Thunderbolts appearance in the MCU has been around since Zemo was introduced in Captain America: Civil War. And with his return in Falcon and the Winter Soldier imminent, it’s about time he bands with the surviving villains of the MCU to start an evil team.
There’s something cinematic with the way Jonathan Hickman writes his stories. Be it his epic Avengers run leading to his Marvel masterpiece, Secret Wars, or his title defining Fantastic Four run, or his high-concept take on the X-Men, Hickman sure knows to ripen a story for any potential live-action adaptation.
Case in point, during his Avengers run, Hickman plucked Shang-Chi out of the D-leagues and painted him in a way that had never been seen before. Hickman turned him into a Bond-like globetrotting agent of the Avengers that oozed badassery. With Avengers: World, Hickman took Shang-Chi to another level. Shang-Chi was no longer just a man who mastered kung-fu. He was a warrior that could go toe-to-toe with a kaiju. It’ll be hard to imagine the Shang-Chi film not at least taking inspiration from some key Shang-Chi moments in Hickman’s run.
Shang-Chi is merely one of the many stories Hickman has done that will likely make it onto live-action at some point. Some of the best Doctor Doom and Fantastic Four stories are from him and come their live-action due, they’ll likely draw from it as well. When asked about his return to Marvel following his departure after wrapping Secret Wars, Hickman gave a very peculiar quote that may pertain to the Fox acquisition by Disney. Hickman said, “What I’d like to do if I came back, what he’d like for me to do, and some vertically-integrated opportunities at the company that were not available when I was there last.”
Some of his work has already made it onto the MCU. Black Panther director Ryan Coogler cited Hickman as one of the inspirations for the script. His work on the Secret Warriors was used on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. And more recently, both Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame featured his creations the Black Order.
Having Sam Wilson take over the mantle of Captain America was never gonna be an easy job but writer Nick Spencer sure made it look easy. Nevermind the naysayers whose pitchforks were raised when the idea was announced or the “I-told-you-sos” when the mantle had to return to Steve Rogers. Spencer did a fantastic job of reshaping what Captain America meant to the world.
It goes without saying that Sam Wilson was always gonna have a very different view of America than Steve Rogers and that America was always gonna have a different view of Sam Wilson wielding the shield. Spencer tapped into the current political zeitgeist pervading our news cycle and morphed into something that was compelling, meaningful, and kick-ass at the same time.
Arguably the biggest status quo change at the tail end of Avengers: Endgame was the passing of the shield to Sam Wilson. The ending put to rest the long-standing Falcon vs. Winter Soldier debate among fans and for good reason. Falcon and the Winter Soldier is set to tackle the very same issues the made the Sam Wilson Captain America run so fantastic. Expect the show to be as political, if not more, as the comic.
Like his contemporaries Joss Whedon, Jeph Loeb, and more famously, Kevin Smith, Allan Heinberg is a writer who has managed to traverse both Hollywood and the comic industry. Heinberg has multiple TV credits to his name, wrote the massively successful Wonder Woman movie, and more relevant to this piece is the creator of the Young Avengers, a superhero team composed of teens with connections to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
The book was a breakout success as fans quickly gravitated towards the team’s roster. The dynamic of Patriot, Hulking, Wiccan, Speed, Hawkeye, Stature, and Iron Lad breathed new life into the Avengers brand, as the book tackled themes of drug use, sexuality, abuse, and identity. Heinberg’s stint with the team also provided some much-needed spectacle as the team crossed paths with heavy hitters like the actual Avengers, X-Men, Kang the Conqueror, and Doctor Doom.
If you’ve been following all the rumblings about upcoming MCU properties, then you’re likely aware of the seeds that are getting planted for Young Avengers. The Hawkeye series is set to star Kate Bishop. Wandavision will feature Wanda’s twin sons as evidenced in the teaser. Isaiah Bradley, grandfather to the Young Avengers’ Patriot, is rumored to have a role in Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Kang the Conqueror, who is an alternate version of the Young Avenger Iron Lad, is rumored to appear in the Loki series. And last but not least, Cassie Lang is in the right age to take the mantle of Stature.