Marvel Studios Unveils Diverse Film Lineup at Comic-Con


LOS ANGELES — Marvel Studios has generated more than $22 billion in global ticket sales since 2008. Its 23 movies during that period have turned minor comic-book characters like Iron Man and Rocket Raccoon into cultural touchstones. Even “Ant-Man” was a hit.

But for months Marvel played coy with fans, not to mention rival studios and Wall Street, about its future projects.

On Saturday night, the studio finally unveiled what is coming next: a slate of interconnected movies and streaming-service shows that emphasizes diversity on both sides of the camera. The lineup includes the first openly L.G.B.T.Q. superhero in a Marvel film, a superhero who is disabled, and a film anchored by an Asian superhero.

The films and TV shows will either push Marvel further into the stratosphere or at long last reveal the studio’s limitations. Until now, Kevin Feige, Marvel’s fanboy in chief, has focused almost entirely on movies. But the Walt Disney Company, which owns Marvel, is now counting on him to also make must-watch shows for its Disney Plus streaming service, which is scheduled to go live on Nov. 12.

And he will have to do it without some of Marvel’s most popular characters, including Iron Man and the Hulk, who are taking much-needed rests.

Mr. Feige announced Marvel’s new projects during an evening presentation at Comic-Con International, an annual fan convention in San Diego that attracts 140,000 people.

Scarlett Johansson will headline “Black Widow,” reprising her role as a spy and superassassin from earlier Marvel films like “Captain America: Civil War.” Fans have long pressed Marvel to give the character her own movie (and sell more related merchandise). “Black Widow,” directed by Cate Shortland, will be released in theaters in May.

Angelina Jolie, Kumail Nanjiani, Salma Hayek, Brian Tyree Henry and Richard Madden will star in “The Eternals,” a film scheduled for November 2020. It will focus on mysterious immortals, one of whom is deaf. The movie’s director, Chloé Zhao, is Chinese and known for little-seen art films like “The Rider,” which collected $2.4 million worldwide last year.

Marvel will also seek to replicate its theatrical success with “Black Panther,” which featured a majority black cast, by adding a standout Asian superhero to its cinematic universe. “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” will star a Chinese-Canadian actor, Simu Liu, in the title role. Awkwafina will join him in the film, which is scheduled to be released in theaters in February 2021. “Shang-Chi” is being directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, the Japanese-American filmmaker known for the 2013 indie film “Short Term 12.”

Marvel’s coming slate also includes “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” (May 2021) and “Thor: Love and Thunder” (November 2021). In a major twist, Natalie Portman will return to the “Thor” series as a female version of the god of thunder. The fourth “Thor” installment will also find Tessa Thompson reprising her role as Valkyrie; Ms. Thompson confirmed during the Comic-Con presentation that her character will have a lesbian narrative.

“As new king, she needs to find her queen,” Ms. Thompson said. “That will be the first order of business.”

Mr. Feige said he was also working on a new version of the vampire thriller “Blade,” this time starring Mahershala Ali, and a new “Fantastic Four” movie, along with “Captain Marvel 2,” “Black Panther 2” and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.” Those films are expected to start arriving in 2022.

If not king of the world, Mr. Feige at least became the king of Hollywood over the weekend: Disney said that Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame,” as expected, would squeak past James Cameron’s “Avatar” by Sunday to become the highest-grossing film of all time at the worldwide box office, not adjusting for inflation. “Avatar” collected $2.79 billion by the end of its run a decade ago, or $3.3 billion in today’s money.

“The astonishing achievements of both of these films are ongoing proof of the power of movies to move people,” Alan F. Horn, co-chairman and chief creative officer of Walt Disney Studios, said in a statement. Mr. Horn cannot gloat too much about dethroning “Avatar”: It became part of the Disney empire in the spring with the completion of a $71.3 billion deal to buy most of Rupert Murdoch’s entertainment assets, and four sequels are on the way.

The next batch of Marvel movies — Phase 4 in the studio’s vernacular, with “Spider-Man: Far From Home” wrapping up the previous phase — will feature story lines that overtly extend to smaller screens, a first for Mr. Feige’s operation. Until now, Marvel-branded TV shows like “Jessica Jones” and “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” have been made by a lesser Marvel division.

Four of the five shows that Mr. Feige is working on for the Disney Plus app, all previously announced, focus on “Avengers” characters. Tom Hiddleston is reprising his villainous role in “Loki” (2021). Elizabeth Olsen will reprise her ethereal Scarlet Witch character in “WandaVision” (2021). Anthony Mackie will return as the Falcon in “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” (2020). And Jeremy Renner stars in “Hawkeye” (2021).

A fifth series, “What If … ?” (2021), is animated. It focuses on new versions of pivotal moments from old Marvel movies.


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