In 2008, Iron Man launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the superhero genre was changed forever. Back then, Marvel Studios took a risk with a B-level comic-book character like Tony Stark, and the gamble paid off, paving the way for more characters to be introduced onto the big screen. Combined with the promise of a crossover among the characters and an ongoing narrative among films, the MCU created both intrigue and excitement to many fans. It was during 2012's The Avengers that Marvel Studios' gamble truly paid off, as fans witnessed their beloved heroes fighting side by side against a common threat, much like in the comic books.
As expected, the crossover feature film shattered box office records, and it produced overwhelming positive responses from critics that showed the studio's long-term scheme of storytelling was a success. After that, the MCU experienced continued dominance through the years, releasing sequels for their original heroes, new movies to introduce more lesser known characters, and the eventual Avengers crossovers at the tail end of their slate of films. After 23 movies and 11 years of superhero storytelling, the franchise cemented its place at the top of the box office ladder with Avengers: Endgame, satisfying fans even more by bringing together all of their characters in one epic finale to the Infinity Saga.
The MCU has now introduced a vast amount of characters who became cinematic superstars in the eyes of the movie-going audience. As the studio moves on, a new wave of films are set to debut in the ambitious Phase 4 of the billion-dollar franchise. The next phase will look to reinvent the franchise, since it will not only include the usual films but also new TV shows from Disney+ will now be included in the narrative. This creates an opportunity for a newer kind of storytelling, where fans get to experience several character storylines in episodic form rather than being compounded in a two-hour movie. On top of the sequels of returning characters, brand new properties, such as Shang-Chi, The Eternals, and Moon Knight, are on their way to creating new stories and expanding the franchise. While there are confirmed characters set to debut, several outlets and insiders have laid out a slew of characters who will either get their own movie or TV show down the road.
Below is a breakdown of every MCU movie and TV show that is rumored to debut in the franchise.
History in Marvel Comics: In 1976, Marv Wolfman and John Buscema created Richard Rider, and it paved the way for the character's debut in The Man Called Nova #1 under Marvel Comics. A chance encounter with dying Nova Corps member Rhomann Dey changed the life of Rider forever as he was chosen as the former's replacement. The hero's powers come from the Nova force and his abilities include flight, super strength, durability, speed, and the power to absorb energy and release it as gravimetric pulses and beams.
Reports/Rumors: Nova's backstory is well suited for an MCU movie to tackle in the near future. The fact that the character almost debuted in one of the MCU's biggest ensemble movies is pretty telling about the cosmic hero's potential. Screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely revealed during the Quarantine Watch Party of Avengers: Infinity War that the cosmic superhero was supposed to be the one to crash into Earth to give the warning to Dr. Strange and Wong in New York, but this was scrapped in favor of Mark Ruffalo's Hulk having this role. In April 2018, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige agreed on that front, as he shared that the character has "immediate potential" to join the wider MCU.
This wasn't the only time that rumors of a Nova film created a buzz in the digital realm. Way back in 2017, Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn also revealed that Nova "comes up occasionally" as a character that he can potentially use in future movies, which leads many to believe that the character could cameo in the upcoming third installment of the Guardians franchise. In December 2018, Ant-Man and Ant-Man and the Wasp writer Adam McKay expressed his interest in helming a movie for the beloved character, casually revealing then that the studio is "kicking a Nova idea around."
Back in October 2019, another outlet in the form of MCU Cosmic also shared that Nova could potentially debut in Phase 5 alongside the now-confirmed Blade, Fantastic Four, and the Mutants. And now, a new report from the Illuminerdi revealed that Marvel Studios is in the early stages of developing a Nova project. It is still unknown, however, if the project is a movie or a TV show. At this point, the character could be next in line to star in his own movie and serve as one of the leaders of the cosmic side of the MCU moving forward.
History in Marvel Comics: Namor the Sub-Mariner is a longtime Marvel antihero, often compared to DC's Aquaman since both of them are rulers of Atlantis in the comics. Created by Bill Everett, the character's first comic appearance was in Marvel Comics # 1 back in 1939. Namor is the son of a powerful Atlantean woman and a captain of an American explorer. His abilities include super-strength, flight, as well as Atlantean abilities to breathe underwater, communicate with marine life, and have enhanced vision under the sea. Namor's ability to fly has long been alluded to him being Marvel's first mutant.
One key characteristic of the character is his arrogance that made him invade the surface world, thus making him an enemy of several heroes including Black Panther, the Fantastic Four, and the Avengers - even though Namor's intentions were not evil. His loyalty and motivations are based on the conflict at-hand, and there were times that Namor helped the heroes in order to fend off a common threat. Namor is a key member of The Illuminati, a group of Marvel heroes who secretly work behind the scenes to discuss potential threats.
Reports/Rumors: Namor has long been requested by many MCU fans, but the complex movie rights of the character, which belong to Universal alongside the Incredible Hulk, have prevented a solo movie for the character from coming into fruition. In 2014, Kevin Feige shared that the movie rights of the character were "complicated," but he also affirmed that the character has a "future" in the MCU: it is just a matter of when. Feige also revealed that "older contracts" prevented the studio from creating a solo flick based on the character. However, earlier this year, MCU Cosmic shared a rumor which teased that the rights of Hulk and Namor have already returned to Marvel Studios.
Not much is known if the rumor is true, but the recent tease from screenwriters Markus & McFeely during the Avengers: Endgame watch party might have been the closest confirmation that the character could pop up soon in the MCU. In the reveal, the writers shared that they intended to plant the seeds for Namor during the scene where Okoye updated Natasha about the earthquake under the ocean. As for how complex the movie rights for Namor are, the character has a rich backstory and complicated motivations that has the potential to be an MCU flick in the upcoming phases.
History in Marvel Comics: In 1961, the Fantastic Four debuted in Fantastic Four # 1 with a team comprised of the brilliant Reed Richards, his fiancee Sue Storm, her brother Johnny Storm, and Ben Grimm. The four went into a voyage in space, but the supposed adventure didn't end up well as the team was exposed to cosmic rays but eventually survived. After that, the four members each gained unique superhuman abilities.
Reed was now able to stretch and reshape his body into incredible lengths, Sue gained the ability to become invisible and create force fields, Johnny was able control and manipulate fire, while Ben transformed into a rock-like monster with super strength and durability. Together, the four joined forces to fight threats and was later named as Marvel's First Family. The Fantastic Four had multiple enemies in the comics such as Doctor Doom, Mole Man, Silver Surfer, and Galactus.
Reports/Rumors: Last year, the rights of the Fantastic Four and the X-Men finally came back to Marvel Studios, after Disney's acquisition of 21st Century Fox. There have been four movie adaptations that revolved around the Fantastic Four in the past few years, but the reviews about those films have been mixed. Given that, there has yet to be a proper adaptation of Marvel's First Family on the big screen. However, with the rights going back to Marvel Studios, many fans are hopeful that the studio can finally give the heroes justice. During last July's San Diego Comic-Con, Kevin Feige casually revealed at the tail end of Marvel's Hall H panel that a Fantastic Four movie set in the MCU is on its way, but a release date remains to be seen.
The confirmation of an MCU version of the team is the first huge step. At the same SDCC, Feige also shared his excitement by revealing that the studio will bring the Fantastic Four to the "level they deserve." Ever since the merger between Fox and Disney, fans have been actively campaigning their top celebrity picks to play the characters on social media. The top consensus to play Reed Richards and Sue Storm are real-life celebrity couple, John Krasinski and Emily Blunt. The campaign actually may have had an effect, as it was rumored that Blunt had a meeting with the studio last January while Krasinski openly expressed his desire to star and direct in a Fantastic Four movie last April. Shortly after that, Krasinski had a meeting of his own with the studio where a "multitude of projects" have been discussed, giving fans hope that one of those projects is the long-awaited Fantastic Four film.
Meanwhile, at the director's chair, Ant-Man director Peyton Reed shared his original pitch last year for his own version of a Fantastic Four film. In his pitch to Fox in 2002, the film focused on an already-established group of heroes, but the surprise factor was the setting of the film: the 1960s. However, there's no word if Reed will helm the MCU version of the First Family. Another rumor from Youtuber John Campea emerged last April which revealed that ex-MCU director Joss Whedon (The Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron) had conversations about the studio's take on the heroes. Given the massive shift of release dates of the current slate of films, the film will debut in 2023 at the earliest.
A Fantastic Four film was confirmed to be in development by Disney at their recent investor day. The film about Marvel's first family will be directed by Spider-Man's own director, Jon Watts.
History in Marvel Comics: In 1963, Jack Kirby and Stan Lee created the X-Men, and the characters debuted in the pages of X-Men #1. The X-Men are mutants who have the X-Gene, which gave them a variety of superhuman abilities. The team is led by Charles Xavier and includes members such as Cyclops, Storm, Jean Grey, Beast, and Wolverine. The usual enemy of the team is Magneto and his brotherhood of evil mutants. Many fans have been familiar with the dynamic and relationships among these characters since Fox has produced an original trilogy, five spin-offs, and four feature films in the prequel/semi-reboot timeline.
Reports/Rumors: Disney's acquisition of Fox last year paved the way for the X-Men to come home, which meant that Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios have creative control for the characters. Just like the Fantastic Four, the X-Men films have dealt with mixed reviews over the years, much attributed to the convoluted timeline of the films. The last remaining X-Men film under the Fox banner that has yet to be released is New Mutants. Many fans have been wondering if the film will be set in the MCU but a recent confirmation last January debunked those rumors.
During March 2019, The Hollywood Reporter revealed that an X-Men film set in the MCU would debut in 2021 at the earliest since the studio has various projects still in development. In last July's San Diego Comic-Con, Feige confirmed that the super-powered group is coming to the MCU by revealing to the audience at the end of the panel that "there's no time left to talk about mutants, and how mutants fit into the MCU." This was the first confirmation that the group of heroes would debut in the MCU soon. After that, news about the Mutants has been stale aside from the usual rumors. The most prominent one involves The Falcon and The Winter Soldier since the show has been rumored to feature Madripoor, a location that has been featured in X-Men comics. Now, new set photos have been recently revealed that may potentially confirm the location's existence in the Disney+ series, which could potentially plant the seeds for the mutant's debut in the larger MCU.
History in Marvel Comics: In February 1991, artist/writer Rob Liefeld and writer Fabian Nicieza created Deadpool with the character debuting in the pages of The New Mutants #98. Believe it or not, Deadpool was initially a supervillain in the comics, but the villainous role changed into a more anti-hero role. Wade Wilson, Deadpool's persona, is a superhuman mercenary with an accelerated healing factor. Also known as the "Merc with a Mouth," the character is best known for his usual fourth wall antics and his humorous quips.
Reports/Rumors: Alongside the Fantastic Four and X-Men, Deadpool is another property that came home to Marvel Studios due to Disney's acquisition of Fox, much to the delight of the fans. In July 2019, Kevin Feige revealed that it will be a while before Deadpool helps out the current crop of Avengers in the MCU. However, Ryan Reynolds, who plays the titular character, revealed last December that the third installment of the Deadpool franchise is currently in the works at Marvel Studios. Reynolds has been recently vocal about his excitement regarding the character's involvement in the MCU, describing it as a "win for everyone" as well as "explosive and amazing" since there are a lot of stories that are yet to be told. Meanwhile, Bad Boys for Life directors, Adil El Arbi & Bilall Fallah, recently expressed their excitement about directing an R-rated character like Deadpool.
Wendy Molyneux and Lizzie Molyneux-Loeglin were reported by Deadline to write Deadpool 3. Industry insider Justin Kroll also reported that Deadpool 3 will be rated-R. Deadpool 3 seems to be all but confirmed at this point, and is a lock to be apart of the MCU phase 4.
History in Marvel Comics: There are many iterations of Ghost Rider in the comics, but the most notable one is the portrayal of Johnny Blaze, who debuted in Marvel Spotlight #5 during August 1971. Blaze is a stunt motorcyclist who gives up his soul to become a flaming skull vigilante. As Ghost Rider, he can transform his iconic motorcycle and surround himself with hellfire. He can also use hellfire as a weapon to fend off enemies. Other versions of Ghost Rider in the comics include Robbie Reyes, Danny Ketch, and a Cosmic Ghost Rider.
Reports/Rumors: The film rights of Ghost Rider came home earlier than Marvel's Fox properties when the rights reverted back to Marvel in 2013. After that, the Robbie Reyes version of the character, played by Gabriel Luna, debuted during Season 4 of ABC's Agents of SHIELD in 2016. Due to the positive reception of fans to the character, a live-action Hulu series focused on Robbie Reyes' Ghost Rider was green-lit in May 2019, but it was revealed that it would not be set in the same universe as Agents of SHIELD. Shortly after that, Deadline reported in September 2019 that Hulu decided to not move forward with the series since it reached a "creative impasse which could not be resolved." Now, an exclusive from our site, shared by our contributing insider Daniel Richtman, has revealed that a Ghost Rider project is currently in development at Marvel Studios, but no release date was given. The project will be reportedly set in the MCU and the Johnny Blaze character could be in the mix.
History in Marvel Comics: Riri Williams is a 15-year-old African-American teenager in the comics created by Brian Michael Bendis and Mike Deodato. The character first appeared in the pages of Invincible Iron Man Vol. 2 #7 in July 2016. Williams is a scholar attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has a genius-level intellect. Williams built her own Iron Man armor, which caught the attention of the original armored Avenger, Tony Stark, grooming her to be the hero's successor down the line.
Reports/Rumors: In mid-2018, the Black List, a Hollywood group keeping tabs of promising screenplays, noticed one script that was made for Ironheart by screenwriter Jada Rodriguez. This led many to believe that a film focusing on Riri Williams in the MCU was in development, but the project didn't come to fruition. After Robert Downey Jr.'s exit in Avengers: Endgame last year, the actor campaigned for the debut of the Ironheart character in the MCU, leading fans to believe that he is ready to pass the torch to the character's successor in the comics. And now, just recently, Thomas Polito of Cinema Spot reported that an Ironheart Disney+ series is in "active development" at Marvel Studios, but the rumored show has no release date yet. If proven true, this will mark the character's debut in the billion-dollar franchise.
An Iron Heart Disney+ show, titled 'Ironheart', was confirmed by Disney at their investor day. Ironheart will be played by Dominique Thorne.
History in Marvel Comics: Created by Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung, the Young Avengers debuted in the pages of Young Avengers #1 in April 2005. The team is composed of young heroes who mostly have connections to several members of the original Avengers. Members of the team include Wiccan, Hulkling, Patriot, Iron Lad, Hawkeye, Speed, and Stature.
Reports/Rumors: As early as January 2019, there has been a rumor of a Young Avengers film in development, but this was before the birth of Disney+. In the months leading up to the debut of Disney's new streaming platform, Full Circle reported in September 2019 that Marvel Studios was developing a live-action series for the young heroes that will be set in the MCU continuity. A month after, insider Charles Murphy revealed in his Murphy's Law podcast that Ant-Man 3 will formally introduce the Young Avengers to the wider MCU. These rumors made sense since some members of the Young Avengers have either been teased or debuted in the MCU - including Cassie Lang from Avengers: Endgame, Speed, Wiccan, and Hulkling from WandaVision, and Kate Bishop from Hawkeye. Thomas Polito of Cinema Spot sent out a tweet in April 2020 saying that Marvel Studios is now looking for writers to helm the Young Avengers project. It appears that the project is in active development, but fans would need to wait after the current slate of Disney+ shows have premiered before they get to see the live-action iteration of the characters.
S.W.O.R.D. (Secret Invasion)
History in Marvel Comics: S.W.O.R.D. debuted in the pages of Astonishing X-Men Vol. 3 #6 in December 2004. The space-based organization, created by Joss Whedon, was often compared to its earth-based counterpart, SHIELD. The organization is led by Abigail Brandt, and its chief purpose is to fend off extraterrestrial threats. Meanwhile, 2008's Secret Invasion was a well-acclaimed comic-book storyline that focuses on the long-term invasion of the Skrulls (alien shapeshifters) who have replaced key superheroes in the Marvel universe.
Reports/Rumors: In December 2019, set photos from the set of WandaVision hinted at an appearance of the space-based organization, S.W.O.R.D. The photos revealed that Teyonah Parris' Monica Rambeau, whose younger self debuted in Captain Marvel, is a key member of the organization. Not much is known about the role of the organization in the Disney+ series but speculations point to them partly handling Wanda's mess. Moving on, a rumor from Bleeding Cool surfaced last January which revealed that a Secret Invasion Disney+ series is in the works. A month after, insider Daniel Richtman posted in his Patreon page that the rumored Secret Invasion series will incorporate S.W.O.R.D. after the organization's debut in WandaVision and the series will lead directly to Captain Marvel 2. Several days ago, a tweet from Vicky Depledge of Cinema Spot revealed that the S.W.O.R.D. series was in fact the rumored Secret Invasion Disney+ series after all. Since it has major ties to Captain Marvel 2, which is now set to premiere in July 2022, fans can expect this series to premiere months before the anticipated sequel.
History in Marvel Comics: Created by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev, the Secret Warriors were introduced in the pages of The Mighty Avengers #13 in July 2008. Secret Warriors is actually a codename of Nick Fury's Team White, who are a group of superpowered agents. Moreover, the team made a prominent appearance during the Secret Invasion storyline in the comics and then went on to star in their own ongoing series.
Reports/Rumors: In live-action, the Secret Warriors was a team prominently featured in ABC's Agents of SHIELD, but the show has been widely ignored by the MCU. More so, Geeks Worldwide shared a recent rumor that Marvel Studios is working a project related to the Secret Warriors. It remains to be seen which characters will be featured or if it will finally acknowledge the team that is currently led by Chloe Bennet's Daisy Johnson in Agents of SHIELD. Given that the team was featured in the Secret Invasion storyline in the comics, which is rumored to have a Disney+ series, the release of Secret Warriors can either be before or after that particular show.
America Chavez (Miss America)
History in Marvel Comics: America Chavez, also known as Miss America, debuted in the pages of Vengeance of #1 in September 2011. Created by Joe Casey and Nick Dragotta, Chavez is Marvel's first LGBTQ heroine to star in an ongoing series. Chavez is both a member of the Young Avengers and the Ultimates in the comics. Her powers include inter-reality transportation where she can open portals into alternate realities.
Reports/Rumors: In August 2019, Geeks Worldwide reported that Marvel Studios is developing a Miss America series that will be released on the Disney+ streaming service. Shortly after the rumor was released, Stephanie Beatriz (Brooklyn Nine-Nine) and Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin) both expressed their interest in playing the Latina superhero. Last January, a casting call for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, shared by Illuminerdi, may have hinted that Chavez could debut in the sequel. Given that the character's skill set is heavily focused on alternate realities, the appearance of the heroine in the film before eventually starring in her own Disney+ series would make sense. Due to the character's rumored connections with the Doctor Strange sequel, the Miss America Disney+ series could premiere shortly after that.
Agents of Atlas
History in Marvel Comics: The Agents of Atlas debuted as a team in What If #9 in June 1978, but the more recognized line up of the team debuted last year during the War of the Realms. The team consists of mostly Asian and Asian American superheroes which include Aero, Shang-Chi, Wave, Jimmy Woo, and Silk.
Reports/Rumors: Last February, Geeks Worldwide reported a rumor concerning the live-action debut of Agents of Atlas. In the rumor, it was revealed that Marvel Studios is developing a project centered on the team that would be set after Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Moreover, two notable members of the team are either already in the MCU or about to debut in the franchise: Jimmy Woo (Ant-Man and The Wasp, WandaVision) and Shang-Chi. Given that Agents of Atlas seems to be closely tied to Shang-Chi's feature film, the rumored project could debut in 2021 or 2022.
History in Marvel Comics: Created by Louise Simonson and June Brigman, Power Pack is a superpowered team of four young siblings who debuted in the pages of Power Pack # 1 in August 1984. The team is said to be the first team that consists of pre-teenage heroes in the Marvel universe. The members of the team include siblings Alex (Gee), Jack (Mass Master), Julie (Lightspeed), and Katie Power (Energizer). The team's abilities are as follows: Alex can control gravity, Julie can fly and leaves a trail of rainbow light, Jack can control his mass, and Katie can convert physical objects into energy then discharge them as powerful bolts.
Reports/Rumors: Back in 2017, That Hashtag Show reported a rumor that Marvel Studios is developing a film centered on Power Pack. In June 2018, Kevin Feige expressed his interest with the heroes, revealing that "[Power Pack is] a property that we’ve been interested in for a long time" and the studio "wanted to do something for families, something that’s a little younger." In September 2019, HN Entertainment revealed that the Power Pack project will be adapted as an animated series on Disney+ instead of it being a movie. At this point, there is no confirmation from the studio regarding this project, so it could potentially debut in Phase 5 or beyond.
History in Marvel Comics: The Thunderbolts are a group of supervillains that first debuted in the pages of The Incredible Hulk #449 in January 1997 and were created by Kurt Busiek and Mark Bagley. In the comics, the original team is led by Baron Helmut Zemo and the members include Beetle, Fixer, Moonstone, and Screaming Mimi. Throughout the years, there have been different iterations of the team and one notable version is the team led by Norman Osborn. Osborn's team includes Moonstone, Bullseye, Penance, Radioactive Man, Songbird, Swordsman, and Venom as members. The villainous team is not mostly evil as themes of redemption and a sense of heroism have already been tackled throughout the team's comic run.
Reports/Rumors: As early as 2015, That Hashtag Show shared a rumor that the Thunderbolts would be getting a Netflix series. However, this project didn't pan out and it took some time before new information would be revealed about the property. In December 2018, a certain Roger Wardell, who has been accurate with some of his scoops, tweeted out a rumor concerning the plans of Marvel Studios with the Thunderbolts. In the tweet, Wardell revealed that the MCU version of the team would include Baron Zemo, Ghost, Justin Hammer, General Ross, and The Abomination, with the Leader serving as the project's main villain.
Moreover, in November 2019, MCU Cosmic shared that early development on the Thunderbolts had potentially begun, but there has been no word if the project will be a film or a Disney+ series. Last January, insider Daniel Richtman revealed in his Patreon that the villainous team will debut in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. This latest rumor made sense given Baron Zemo's involvement in the Disney+ series. As for the release date of the presumed Disney+ series about the supervillain group, it would potentially premiere in Phase 5 to avoid realsing near the already massive number of properties in Phase 4.