Marvel’s Key Avengers: Part Seven

Back on Earth…

Following Avengers: Age of Ultron  (2015), new solo heroes were introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe that have had a drastic effect on the universe at large. 

Ant-Man: Ant-Man (2015), which premiered only a couple months after Ultron, introduces us to Scott Lang/Ant-Man. Scott is in jail following a Robin Hood-esque stunt in which he electronically stole huge amounts of money and returned it to the people it was “legally” taken from. Upon his release he struggles to find work to pay child support and see his daughter. Hank Pym/the original Ant-Man manages to trick Scott into stealing the Ant-Man suit, which enables the wearer to become smaller/bigger. Hank had previously worked with SHIELD before founding Pym Technologies and now finds himself being ousted. Together with Hank’s daughter, Hope van Dyne (later, the Wasp), the three of them work together to steal Hank’s technology and stop Darren Cross/Yellowjacket.

Later, Scott fights for Captain America’s team in Captain America: Civil War (2016), playing an integral role in Steve Rogers/Captain America and Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier’s escape. To avoid jail time, he takes a deal that has him under house arrest for two years.

While Scott does not make an appearance in Avengers: Infinity War (2018), the events of his second solo outing appear to be incredibly relevant to the forthcoming Avengers: Endgame. In Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018), Scott is nearing the end of his sentence while Hank and Hope are working to build a tunnel to the Quantum Realm to rescue Hank’s wife and Hope’s mother, Janet van Dyne, the original Wasp. Their experimentation leads to the realization that Scott and Janet became quantumly entangled with Janet during the climax of Ant-Man. Hank and Hope then kidnap Scott, leaving a decoy behind for the FBI as Scott nears his release day.

Hank, Hope, and Scott find opposition to their plans in the forms of Sonny Burch, a black market dealer hoping to profit off Hank’s inventions, and Ava Starr/Ghost, who seeks the Quantum Tunnel to end her own suffering caused in part by Hank Pym. In the end, Sonny and his gang are arrested, Janet is recovered and helps heal Ava, and Scott is released.

What appears to be the key element for Endgame is the Quantum Realm itself, which has the potential to enable time travel. From what we’ve seen, both from Ant-Man and the Wasp and from the Endgame trailers is that Scott loses everyone important to him in Thanos’s snap, but will find his way to the Avengers to help fix what happened in Infinity War.

Doctor Strange: Although referenced by name in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), Doctor Stephen Strange doesn’t make an appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe until his solo film in 2016. In the film, after losing the use of his hands, surgeon Stephen Strange turns to mysticism to get his hands back. Instead, he finds himself in an inter-dimensional battle for Earth, in which he uses the Time Stone to defeat his enemy. He becomes a Master of the Mystic Arts and the keeper of the New York Sanctum, which helps protect the world from forces outside their dimension.

Stephen makes his next appearance in Thor: Ragnarok (2017) in which he kidnaps Loki when he realizes he’s on Earth. As Earth’s primary protector from things outside the Avengers purview, he explains to Thor that he really just wants Loki off-planet as soon as possible before he can cause any new trouble. He does help the Odinson brothers find their father, however, whom he had helped previously.

Doctor Strange plays a huge role in the events of Infinity War. As the protector of the Time Stone, he is a direct adversary for Thanos. After arriving on Titan with Tony Stark/Iron Man and Peter Parker/Spider-Man, he looks into possible futures to realize that there’s only one in which they win. Before he disintegrates he tells Tony, “We’re in the endgame now,” implying that he knew what would come next and how it would be reversed.

Spider-Man: Following his introduction in Civil War, Peter Parker/Spider-Man becomes something of a son to Tony Star/Iron Man. In Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), Peter establishes himself as a “friendly neighborhood Spider-Man”, realizing the he is not ready for the kind of responsibility that comes with being an Avenger (and an adult).

In Infinity War, Peter travels to Titan with Tony and Stephen. As in the comics, he (and the others) almost succeed in removing the Infinity Gauntlet from Thanos. His disintegration is heartbreaking for both Tony and the audience.

Black Panther: T’Challa/Black Panther’s first movie came out only months before Infinity War, but actually only takes place a few weeks after Civil War. In Black Panther (2018), T’Challa becomes king of Wakanda and battles his long-lost cousin, N’Jadaka/Erik “Killmonger” Stevens for the title. His actions during the film unite all of Wakanda’s tribes and opens up Wakanda and her technology to the outside world.

T’Challa and the Wakandan people play a large role in protecting the Earth from Thanos. While T’Challa’s endlessly brilliant sister, Shuri, works to remove the Mind Stone from Vision so it can be destroyed, the rest of Wakanda battles Thanos’s forces. As the most technologically advanced country on the planet, they are the best equipped for such a task, however, many lose their lives during Thanos’s snap, including T’Challa himself. 

Okoye, the leader of the Dora Milaje, Wakanda’s elite female warriors is featured in one of the Endgame posters, which establish who did and didn’t survive the snap. While she hasn’t been an obvious part of the trailers, it’s fair to assume that she will play a big part. There is also talk that she may play a role in the potential/rumored A-Force movie, which will have an all-female Avengers team. 

Nick Fury: Although he was the director of SHIELD for years, in 1995, Nick Fury was still someone else’s subordinate and new to the amount of weird in the world. It’s also when he meets Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel. It’s after meeting her that he gets the idea for the Avengers Initiative and he is the one to initially bring them together. In the present, Fury hasn’t been seen since he came to the rescue in Ultron, providing lifeboats for the Sokovians. At the end of Infinity War, however, he manages to use his modified pager (a gift from Carol at the end of Captain Marvel (2019)), to send a message before disintegrating. We don’t know what Carol has been up to since we saw her leave Earth, but it’s clear that she will play a role in Endgame, thanks to Fury’s quick thinking.

“Way too many Spider-Man movies”?

“The Good Place”, property of Fremulon, 3 Arts Entertainment, and Universal Television

Spider-Man has been a constant in media for as long as I can remember. Growing up, I watched Spider-Man (1994-1998) and (to a lesser degree) Spider-Man Unlimited (1999-2001), the Raimi series starring Tobey Maguire (2002, 2004, 2007) and the semi-related Spider-Man: The New Animated Series (2003) which starred Neil Patrick Harris (BRILLIANT casting, btw). Since then, there’s been a semi constant stream of animated series and live action films: The Spectacular Spider-Man (2008-2009), Ultimate Spider-Man (2012-2017), Spider-Man (2017-present), Andrew Garfield’s The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014), Tom Holland’s appearances in the MCU (Captain America: Civil War (2016), Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), and Avengers: Infinity War (2018), and the anticipated Avengers: Endgame (2019) and Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)) and, of course, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018).

Tl;dr: Spider-Man has been on TV or in theaters consistently since 1994. My brother will tell you that’s almost 25 years

And that’s not even talking syndication or getting into the media produced prior to 1994.

So, what about the Spider-Man property makes it appeal to so many? What has made the Spider-Man character such a fixture in pop culture, often listed as the archetypal superhero beside Batman and Superman?

The original Spider-Man is Peter Parker, a high school student from Queens, New York. He’s an avid photographer who is also considered a science nerd and is often bullied as a result. After being bitten by a ‘radioactive’ spider, he gains spider powers, including the ability to walk on walls and increased strength, agility, and senses. After taking up the mantle of Spider-Man, he must balance being a normal teenager with being a superhero.

I think that Spider-Man’s continued popularity comes from his continued cross-generational relate-ability. 

Being a teenager is something we can all relate to. Humans biologically go through a change from childhood to adulthood and during this time, teenagers feel like they are different, isolated, all while struggling between the joyous irresponsibility of childhood and the desire to be seen as an adult. Peter Parker and Spider-Man have long been able to tap into and/or recapture these feelings.

For example, let’s start with the name Spider-Man. When Spider-Man was created, teenage superheroes were typically given names that ended with ‘Boy’. While Stan Lee had his own reasons for choosing Spider-Man over Spider-Boy, I think the name resonates now for different reasons. It’s a demonstration of Peter Parker’s desire to be seen as an adult and given responsibilities. That he is not an adult comes into play in a number of different ways, but that he wants to be treated like a grown up is something all teenagers experience. 

The other thing about being a teenager is that everything feels very urgent and very dramatic and very important. This is due to different reasons, the changing brain chemistry, the new/increased responsibilities, etc. The point is, it tends to be memorable period of time as a result. During the struggle for increased independence and the quest to find an identity, it’s easy to feel isolated, like no one else feels the way you do, or could possibly understand. The strong desire for more new responsibilities and freedoms results in feelings of helplessness and a desire for control that teenagers think adults possess. (We don’t, btw. We just learn to live with it.) Spider-Man’s decision to present himself as an adult reflects this desire, as well as his attempts to take control using the powers he now possess– something every teenager wishes they could do as they come to realize the amount of control their parents have over their life.

Peter Parker is an outsider at school who has the ability to take control of his circumstances and how he is seen by others when he becomes Spider-Man. I can guarantee that it doesn’t matter how ‘popular’ you were in high school, you absolutely felt like no one understood you, that you were weird and different from everyone else, that you wished you could take control and make changes. 

While Batman and Superman were adults with additional freedoms and powers, teenage Peter Parker/Spider-Man has some strong limitations. Because of his age, there are people constantly watching out for him including teachers, friends, and family. He can’t just call in sick or not come home when there are rules and expectations in place. Spider-Man has to find a way to balance his normal life and his superhero life with more variables than the adults. In recent years, this has become increasingly relatable as high school students wishing to go to college are expected to have a laundry list of extracurriculars and special skills, all while trying to connect socially and do well academically. 

In recent years, this has become increasingly relatable as high school students wishing to go to college are expected to have a laundry list of extracurriculars and special skills, all while trying to connect socially and do well academically. But, even older generations can relate to that feeling of having to constantly report back to someone.

Essentially, Spider-Man is the ultimate teenage fantasy– what we all wish we could be. He is free and powerful all in between schoolwork and other responsibilities. This is why the character never seems to leave our screens for long. And, with castings such as Tom Holland and new takes such as Spider-Verse, it’s easy to want more.

“The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”, property of Netflix and NBCUniversal Television Distribution