With Thor: Ragnarok opening in theaters this weekend, our minds are going to be working on how the numerous storylines are going to converge May 4, 2018, on Avengers: Infinity War, in addition to the events of Black Panther on February 16. And then there will be a year between Infinity War and Avengers 4, which will include Ant-Man and The Wasp on July 6 and Captain Marvel on March 8, 2019. But what about what else is going on in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, outside of what is readily known and beyond?
Recently we got a tiny morsel of what’s beyond when Laurence Fishburne, who plays Perry White in the DC Extended Universe in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, revealed to Collider that he is joining the Ant-Man and the Wasp cast as Bill Foster, Hank Pym’s assistant. Fishburne was free to join the cast since there was a conflict in his schedule to appear in Justice League.
In the comics, Foster is the second Giant-Man, and the fourth character to take on the mantle of Goliath, sharing Pym’s ability to increase in size and mass to giant size. Fishburne also expressed how as a kid growing up in New York City, he was a fan of the Marvel Comics that came out during the 1960s and 1970s when the comics were, as he put it, “touching everything that was happening in my world.”
Then Fishburne let it slip that he’s working with Marvel on something else.
“I’ve got Black-ish going on, I’m developing something else for Marvel that I can’t talk about. It’s gonna be really cool. It’s gonna change the world, we hope (laughs). I went to Marvel and pitched them something that really couldn’t work out—there was a lot of legal red tape that just [was] something they couldn’t work out. But then they came back with the offer for Ant-Man and the Wasp and then they said, ‘Hey, what do you think of this?’ and I went ‘Oh yeah that, yes!’ so …”
So, what could this mysterious project be? A new film? A new Marvel TV series on ABC, Hulu, or Netflix? An animated series? Or maybe Fishburne wants to be involved in helping create a comic book series? Lots of possibilities, so let's have some fun and throw some carefully aimed darts at what this secret project is, keeping in mind this is something he's developing with Marvel. So let's think outside the box, because 1) it's fun, and 2) based on what Kevin Feige has said, the MCU beyond Avengers 4 might not be phase-dependent.
First let’s guess at what didn’t work out. Marvel Studios does not have the exclusive rights to do anything related to the X-Men (Fox), Namor (Universal), Fantastic Four (Fox), Silver Surfer (Fox), Man-Thing (Lionsgate), or any of Spider-Man’s (Sony) world without some kind of revenue sharing or partnership, like what happened with Sony on Spider-Man Homecoming. For something to be stuck in red tape, that takes place in New York, we can’t help but think that Fishburne was talking about a Spider-Man or Fantastic Four-based story, since both of those took place in New York City.
Joseph “Robbie” Robertson / Phil Sheldon Hybrid
Robertson is the Daily Bugle’s editor-in-chief and voice of reason, contrasting the loudmouth tyrant J. Jonah Jameson. But Robertson was also one of JJJ's closest friends. This might be too close to what Fishburne plays in the DCEU, but it’s easy to envision him with frosted hair, a coffee cup, and being a different voice of the Daily Bugle and a positive influence on Peter Parker.
Now, at first glance, this isn’t a game-changing role, but what if an MCU story is told from a non-powered character, like Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross’ 1994 Marvels mini-series that showed some of the major events of the Marvel Universe told by photographer Phil Sheldon? I'm not saying that they adapt Marvels, but they certainly could. But instead of Sheldon, we see what the birth of the MCU would be from the perspective of a black man working beside the egotistical JJJ, and doing damage control. Now that would be a game-changer.
Jefferson Davis, aka Miles Morales’ father
Davis is more of a supporting character than a feature player, but this would give busy Fishburne the flexibility to be in other film projects. We think Fishburne would want to help launch or be a part of a film that has a greater meaning than just the average popcorn fare, because he's taking an active role in developing the project. Having Miles Morales take the mantle of Spider-Man would have a profound effect on viewers; it's a story many would like to see, but it has to be different enough to co-exist with the new Peter Parker played by Tom Holland. There's also an animated Miles Morales movie in the works. Because of legal red tape involved with Sony, this could have too many hurdles as well.
Now, let's think further outside of the box, at what Fishburne might have enjoyed as a kid; take some of the more esoteric titles that Marvel put out in the 1960s and 1970s and re-imagine them in today's MCU. Some of the genre-specific titles and exploitation titles come to mind.
Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos
How cool would it be to see Nick Fury featured in his own film instead of being a cameo in every Avengers-related film? Samuel L. Jackson and Fishburne team-up? The Howling Commandos made their appearance in Captain America: The First Avenger, and characters like Kenneth Choi’s Jim Morita and Neal McDonough’s Dum Dum Dugan have appeared in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Plus, Morita’s grandson appeared in Spider-Man Homecoming as Midtown’s principal. So it's fertile ground to revisit, and Fury's a character fans would like to see more of, especially those wondering how he got that eyepatch. Maybe Fury and a new character that Fishburne plays show how Fury went from fighting with the Commandos to becoming the leader of S.H.I.E.L.D.
A creation of Stan Lee, Len Wein, and John Romita Sr., Voodoo first appeared in Strange Tales #169 and was often seen in the Doctor Strange corner of comics history, at one point replacing Strange as the Sorcerer Supreme in the “Dark Reign” event. Jericho Drumm makes good on a promise to his dying brother Daniel, a practicing shaman, to visit his mentor Papa Jambo. Jericho does, and becomes Jambo's student, eventually becoming a master of the voodoo practices. Before Jambo dies, he summons Daniel’s spirit and fuses it with Jericho’s, becoming Brother Voodoo. It's out there, for sure. Legally, there's no hoops to jump through, and it's something different that could be modernized with appearances by Benedict Cumberbatch.
Now let's think about what Fishburne accepted. What could have Marvel come to Fishburne with to make him jump on board despite his own failed pitch? With the ability to tweak characters and retrofit those where the race of the character could be open, the possibilities are endless. Let’s be realistic, though, Fishburne will be 57 next year, so maybe a more grounded MCU film is easier to envision, but what characters would that entail? Here are a few other possibilities that Marvel could have brought to his attention, that have some meat to them and would add something new and different to the MCU.
Truth: Red, White & Black
Written by Robert Morales, with art by Kyle Baker, this is the story of Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments that were conducted between 1932 and 1972 under the disguise of “free health care” by the United States government. Isaiah Bradley was the Jackie Robinson of Super Soldier serum experiments and got the serum as a part of the Tuskegee Experiments. The seven-issue mini-series takes place in 1942, following a regiment of black soldiers who took the serum only to mutate and die. The lone survivor was Bradley.
This potentially puts the setting of this film in World War II, and would be on a path to an expensive period piece. It could also appear to be revisiting a similar story to Captain America, but the MCU loves to sprinkle in cameos, and we could see Chris Evans and Sebastian Stan appearing in this story as Cap and Bucky. But the Tuskegee Experiment would be a new twist on the Super Soldier Serum, while also bringing to a greater light the actual story of the experiments. With Fishburne getting up in age (for comparison, Robert Downey Jr. is 52), this could be a stand-alone film, and serve as a huge vehicle for him or be the launchpad for the next and probably best possibility …
Created by Christopher Priest and Joe Bennett, this story is set in Little Mogadishu, aka “The Mog,” where gentrification has displaced the criminals and the poor to a war zone. Four orphaned heroes find a common bond in all that they’ve lost, but each has his own path to a newer and greater state of being. They assemble for selfish reasons, but achieve greater results when they begin to think selflessly.
Here’s why The Crew could be a more logical story that Marvel Studios would want to explore: When thinking about what’s been done and what could be added to the current MCU, Priest and Bennett’s comics start out with a down-and-out Jim Rhodes of War Machine fame, who goes to The Mog to investigate the murder of his estranged sister. He runs into Josiah X, who wanted to help others through nonviolent Muslim teachings as he tried to move out of the shadow of his father, Isaiah Bradley of Truth: Red, White & Black.
Rhodey pulls in the help of Kasper Cole, a cop and vigilante of White Tiger and the South American Junta, who is an ousted CIA operative looking for a way to get back in. This would set Rhodey on a new purpose after losing the ability to walk (from Civil War) and give Don Cheadle (53) his own arc, separate from The Avengers.
There are also strong ties to Black Panther, as Junta’s White Tiger costume is an old Black Panther costume modified to Kasper’s needs and talents as a marksman. Again, Fishburne could play either Isaiah or someone else in The Crew. There are a lot of themes that The Crew dives into that could remind Fishburne of those comics from his childhood, and more could be written to reflect today’s pulse of the nation. More importantly, this story could be easily tethered to Black Panther and Captain America if they decide to reference Josiah’s father.
There’s a long list of potential stories that Fishburne could be a part of, and it’s fun to come up with potential projects. Time will tell if I completely missed the mark or hit a bullseye. Hopefully, Marvel is open to a project that would invite something different to stray away from the safe formula. Anyway, those are my guesses at Fishburne's secret project; what are yours?