The Marvel Cinematic Universe has raked in tens of billions of dollars at the worldwide box office over the last decade and half. But as Marvel looks to life after 2019’s “Avengers: Endgame” and other superhero stories it wants to tell, producers are looking to the small screen.
Enter “WandaVision” on Disney+. The miniseries focuses on the trials and triumphs of two secondary characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe — Wanda and Vision — plus issues of grief, the passage of time, and the perception of reality. That’s all according to Washington Post comic culture writer David Betancourt.
“WandaVision” does this through the sitcom world, based off of programs like “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and “Malcolm in the Middle,” according to Woody Hood, director of film and media studies at Wake Forest University.
Betancourt says the show is a physical manifestation of Wanda’s psyche, following years of loss and the trauma stemming from a war-torn childhood.
“She's using her grief, as well as a very strong magical power, to manipulate reality to turn her life into a sitcom,” Betancourt says.
Hood adds that “WandaVision’s” miniseries format — a departure from Disney’s vast film franchise — serves as a way to flesh out character backstories.
Disney’s next show: “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier”
“WandaVision” might’ve wrapped, but it's paving the way for other Marvel superheroes to transition to TV. Characters including The Falcon, Winter Soldier, Loki, Ms. Marvel and Hawkeye are all expected to have series streaming on Disney+.
Launching this week, Betancourt predicts “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” will focus on Sam Wilson (aka Falcon, played by Anthony Mackie) taking on the mantle of Captain America, following the events of “Avengers: Endgame.”
Due to Marvel and Disney’s tendency to keep its projects secret, it’s unclear what direction the show will take, but Hood predicts the story will likely be based off of a storyline pulled straight from the comics.
“It seems like the focus is going to be on Mackie’s character, and the fact that we're moving towards a Black man playing Captain America,” Hood says.
Betancourt adds, “This is not Disney and Marvel basking in the wokeness of the era. This is a storyline that actually happened in the comics. … We know that this series is going to build into Anthony Mackie’s character, probably with whether he can handle the responsibility that Steve Rogers has given him [with] giving him that shield.
Adding diversity to comic books
Betancourt says the comics contain storylines where Captain America’s Blackness plays into real life conversations about race and ethnicity in the U.S.
“It dealt with an America not really being ready for that. It was very much parallel to the reaction to Barack Obama being elected … [the] first Black president of the United States, where you had some people that were very excited about Sam Wilson being Captain America, a Black man. And you had some people that said, ‘Well, that's not my Captain America.’”
Betancourt points out that consciously adding diverse superheroes in the world of comics isn’t new. He uses the example of Miles Morales, who was introduced to the Marvel universe in 2011. He’s a half Puerto Rican, half Black character who carries on the work of Spiderman.
“There have been efforts in the comic book industry at all the major publishers — Marvel, DC, Image, you name it — to get more diverse, not just with the characters on the page, but the writers and artists responsible for bringing those stories together,” he says.