Diversity Aboveground: Marvel’s Most Wanted

Black Cat, Misty Knight and Black Widow

Courtesy of Mark Brooks

Did the holiday season of gift giving come early?

It certainly seemed that way this week as Disney gave its fans two precious gifts…and that’s not including all the new Star Wars merchandise on Force Friday.

Isaac Perlmutter has been Chief Executive Officer of Marvel since January 1, 2005 even after Disney took over the company. Perlmutter was the final decision on whether merchandise should include females, how much a production budget should be and should Sony make a Black Cat film. As stated in previous columns, Perlmutter personally killed not only the Black Cat film but also the Black Widow and Runaways films.

Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige wasn’t able to fully control his own studios because he needed Perlmutter’s, and Perlmutter’s committee’s, approval over everything. It should be noted that Isaac Perlmutter and his committee are four Caucasian men and one Hispanic male, not too diverse, is it? In the past sixteen months, at least three major directors, including Joss Whedon, have left Marvel over creative control problems stemming from Perlmutter and his panel of Marvel experts. Feige threatened to join the defected directors and leave Marvel. Instead, Disney has agreed to have him report to Alan Horn, chief of Walt Disney Studios. The approval of the committee is also no longer needed except to coordinate continuity.

Kevin Feige and Scarlett Johansson

Without Isaac Perlmutter, Kevin Feige is free to take more chances. There was already speculation that Perlmutter stepping down in 2017 or 2018 was the only reason he allowed Black Panther and Captain Marvel to be made. Now, Feige could have Black Widow or the Runaways or Young Avengers or even Ms. Marvel starring in their own film.

Without the committee dictating their every move, Marvel’s oversight will resemble more of the normal oversight expected on a big budget production at a major studio. Feige’s Marvel Studios might be able to woo back some of the directors they lost. Other directors might be more willing to work with Marvel if they know the environment has become friendlier to their creative input. Feige could also have more daring steps like fostering cast members to step into crew positions. Of the original six Avengers alone, all but one has experience directing, producing and/or writing, so why not use that to Marvel’s advantage more than just ad-libbing lines? It’s easiest to find talent in house rather than looking elsewhere.

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Isaac Perlmutter and his committee aren’t completely gone. All Marvel Television productions will still report to them. Since television is expected to be cheap, his thrifty ways haven’t been seen as such a problem. Since the budgets can be so low, Perlmutter has also been more lax about letting women and minorities in lead roles. However, how long can this last? With separate bosses, will the television keep “It’s all connected” to the films? If the small budgets lead to problems attracting talent or allowing cameos, how much longer before the television show runners revolt just as the film directors did?

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Hawkeye and Mockingbird

Last spring, it was reported that Barbara Morse and Lance Hunter would star in a spin-off from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The series premise wasn’t reported. It could have been about the couple as mercenaries or leading an elite band of “gifted” individuals. Secret Avengers, anyone? Last week, the project was revived as Marvel’s Most Wanted. This is what should happen if the television gods allow.

The on again/off again antagonistic nature of Barbara Morse and her ex husband Lance Hunter is based off the Marvel comic’s portrayal of Morse and Clint Barton. Hawkeye’s very first solo comic wasn’t 1983 and also starred Mockingbird. Morse and Barton were married by the fourth and last issue. However, their most unique series was Solo Avengers/Avengers Spotlight. From December 1987-January 1991, forty issues followed either Hawkeye or Mockingbird as they teamed up with other Marvel heroes. All the heroes were fan favorites either between series or not quite popular enough to merit their own series like Scarlet Witch, Falcon, Black Widow, Black Panther and The Wasp.

Marvel Studios has already toyed with making short films for popular characters who can’t have their own films. Called Marvel One-Shots after the comic book lingo for a comic series with only one issue, the shorts were included with the BluRay copies of their films from 2011-2014. The most popular of these starred Clark Gregg and Hayley Atwell which led directly towards gaining their own series.

Marvel has a lot of characters who are not likely to get their own film. There are also a lot of fans wanting more diversity from the company’s films. Marvel’s Most Wanted could solve both problems. Have Barbara Morse and/or Lance Hunter work with or against a different character every week in the style of Solo Avengers/Avengers Spotlight. There could easily be an over-arching plot that requires travel all over the world and the cooperation of local heroes. Since the actor or actress would only be needed for one 43 minute episode, it would make it easier for someone who might not want to commit to 21 episodes or even a shorter Netflix series. They could also explore the more obscure characters like Squirrel Girl. If a character became a break-out hit from just one or two episodes, Marvel could work out how to bring the character into other series or films. The shorter shoots for guests could also better allow for cameos from other shows, including the Netflix series. Why should they be treated separate? Why can’t Misty Knight work with Mockingbird?

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Mockingbird and Lance Hunter

Barbara Morse and Lance Hunter are starring in a one-shot this month by Chelsea Cain and Joelle Jones. It may shed some light on the new series.

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Ashley Callingbull

Have you heard about the newest Mrs. Universe?

Not only is Ashley Callingbull the first Canadian winner, but she is also a First Nations woman. First Nations is how indigenous people in Canada refer to themselves. Callingbull is part of the Enoch Cree nation and has already used her new status to bring attention to issues concerning the First Nations.

Ashley Callingbull explained in an interview with the National Post that “First Nations people are always put on the back burner. Our issues are never important. I’ve talked to a few politicians and they’ve all said that to me…It drives me crazy because we are the first people of Canada. We are as important as anyone else” and in an interview with CBC, “With the bills that have been passed, we are being treated like terrorists if we’re fighting for our land and our water.”

This frankness against the Canadian government has caused backlash especially from fans of her least favorite politician; Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. She’s also been criticized for participating in Idle No More; a protest movement in Canada by the First Nations about the government threats against them.

Ashley Callingbull will not keep quiet.

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So, which Marvel character do you want to appear on Marvel’s Most Wanted?

Next week will be…is DC Comics kind of kicking Marvel’s ass at diversity across the board? Or it just seems that way?

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