Captain America: Civil War was one of Marvel Studios’ most jam-packed films. Not only did it pay off on the long-gestating hostilities between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark, but it also introduced two major new heroes in Black Panther and Spider-Man AND set the stage for both Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. A big film, to be sure, and as Marvel Studios Executive Producer and Parliament member Nate Moore revealed it was a major step up from the original pitch for the threequel.
In an interview with Matthew Belloni, Moore let slip that the original pitch for the film revolved around a story arc from the 1970s that was written by Marvel Comics’ legend Jack Kirby: the Madbomb!
So we were developing Captain America 3 and we were [doing] really good. Winter Soldier worked, people were back in, they’re interested, and we were talking about a movie, and we knew we had to resolve, obviously, the Winter Soldier storyline. We wanted Cap and Bucky to ultimately reunite. And the plot that we… And we knew we wanted to use Zemo. What a great character. You know, he’s obviously a classic Cap villain. And we were building the movie around a MacGuffin around the Madbomb, which, the Madbomb goes off and causes normal people to start fighting each other. It’s honestly a little similar to what I think they did in Kingsman.Nate Moore
Moore’s comments give some insight into the creative process at Marvel Studios. Regardless of what the plot was, Cap 3 was seemingly always going to include Zemo and the reunion of Steve and Bucky. Moore and his team were high on the possibilities of the story, but unfortunately for them, Kevin Feige was not. According to Moore, the Madbomb simply was “not a big enough idea” for Marvel Studios The One-Above-All. But Moore wanted to prove him wrong.
And it was cool, and it was grounded, and it was political, and whatever, and [Feige] was like, ‘That’s not a big enough idea, guys.’ And we’re like, ‘Let us write a draft, we’ll prove it to you.’Nate Moore
Moore mentioned that Feige responded by saying, “Okay, prove it to me” and so they set to work on adapting Kirby’s Madbomb arc for the big screen. Moore continued the story and described the genesis of the jump from Madbomb to Civil War.
As we’re getting done with it… he pulls me into his office and he said, ‘You know, I think we should try to do Civil War.’ And I was like, ‘Kevin, we don’t have half the stuff that’s in Civil War. We don’t have the New Warriors, we don’t have… Here’s all the reasons why we can’t do it.’ And he’s like, ‘Go home, read it, let’s talk about it.’ So I went home that night, read it… I re-read it, ’cause I had read it before and I was like, ‘Yeah, look we don’t have the Negative Zone prison…’ There were so many things that we didn’t have.Nate Moore
Shortly after that, as Moore tells it, Feige approached Joe and Anthony Russo along with co-writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely and gave them their marching orders saying, “So, stop with the Madbomb, you guys are doing Civil War.” Moore and the team were then faced with throwing out a great deal of work and having to start over. According to the executive producer, it was a scary time, but as we all know now, Feige was right.
Look, It was scary and when you’re throwing out a whole thing and starting new, it’s always a bit weird, but he was right. He was right. We were still able to pay off the Bucky storyline. We still figured out how to use Zemo. But the central conceit of the movie was something that audiences would gravitate towards and they did.Nate Moore
It’s well-known that Marvel Studios will often use discarded storylines in other projects and the Madbomb idea may at one time have been part of the plot of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier. A common rumor ahead of production on the project was that the series, which filmed under Pandemic Productions LLC, was going to feature a terrorist bioweapon that could have been similar to the Madbomb. As a real-life pandemic beset the world, rumors swirled that the pandemic plot was rewritten, though director Kari Skogland debunked the rumors that the plot was ever in the script. Whatever the case with The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, the Madbomb arc remains open to adaptation down the road in the MCU whether as part of a streaming series or as the first act in another Cap film.