The above picture represents what the Avengers may look like starting this fall. It’s pretty different from what we’re used to. It’s been making news all over the place, especially the changes to Captain America and Thor. Change to the characters in comics is nothing new. It’s been happening for generations. In fact, this isn’t even the first time that someone else has taken up the Captain America and Thor identities. This time seems different, though. These heroes have never been in the mainstream spotlight as much as they are right now. The Avengers are THE cash cow right now, not just for Marvel but for their parent company, Disney. Avengers 2 is already shaping up to be an even bigger hit than the first Avengers movie, if that’s possible. So, it seems strange to shake everything up right now. People are wandering into comic book stores and they’re looking for stories about the Avengers they see on the big screen, and now they are going to find a female Thor and a flying Captain America. Why? I recently wrote a post where I discussed some of the reasons why the changes might be happening, including it could be a gimmick to get more attention and sell more books. Today, though, I had a thought. I wonder if the changes are a result of the huge success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Stay with me here, it might actually make sense in the end.
One of the things that has always been consistent in the comics is that the heroes, the main characters never age. I mean, there’s the occasional one-off or special miniseries where they get older and you get to see what it would be like if they do get older, like Kingdom Come or The Dark Knight Returns , but for the most part, Superman, Batman, Captain America, all the big names , stay the same age. The world around them moves on and ages, but the heroes stay the same. It’s easy to do in the comics, and widely accepted. Nobody seems to mind. This is fine in a world drawn by hand. They don’t have to worry about age and things, they just draw them the same as they’ve always been drawn. This works great for comics, but not for movies. Actors do get older. It’s just a fact. It’s something that production companies have had to deal with forever. Sometimes they get creative like Doctor Who with regeneration, and sometimes they just go with a change in actors and provide no reason for it, like James Bond. Or you can go the route of just bringing in all new characters. Marvel has to find a way to keep the Avengers movies going after Avengers 3, when the contracts run out for their big three, Cap, Thor, and Iron Man, or at least their actors. Those are big shoes to fill, and there is no bench for those heroes. Avengers 4 will have Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man. So how will Marvel deal with a change in actors? The same way it always should be in comics. These characters are bigger than the individual characters. They are symbols. Anyone can put on the suit or throw the shield or, if worthy, pick up the hammer. I think the change in the comics could be preparing us for the changes in the films. They’ve changed the characters before, but it’s always been temporary. I wonder if this time the changes will be more permanent because we have to get used to not Steve Rogers as Cap, not Tony Stark as Iron Man, and not Thor as…Thor. And, I hope it continues. It’s been one thing that I always thought would be cool. What happens when the heroes get old, and younger heroes take up their mantles. It could lead to some great stories and new insights on the characters. I was sad when Bruce Wayne came back from the dead and Dick Grayson’s run as Batman was done. Bucky Barnes’ time as Cap was too short. The comic publishers have always been willing to initiate the change, but they never stick to it. Maybe the long-term plans for the Marvel Cinematic universe will change that. Maybe Sam Wilson will take up the Captain America Mantle permanently. Maybe my kids will grow up reading about a female Thor. Maybe that will be the new norm. And maybe it will start happening with more heroes. I think there is a lot of potential there, and it just makes sense. Now of course, we have our suspicions that the Captain America title will be passed to Bucky Barnes in the movies, similar to what happened a few years ago when Steve Rogers was shot. Sebastian Stan has signed on to a 9 movie deal with Marvel, which means they are tying him down for something big. They still have to figure out how to move on without Chris Hemsworth and Tony Stark, and bringing in different actors to play the exact same characters is not going to go over well with the fans. A change in character makes more sense. I hope it’s the case. It will be an interesting turn in the stories of the characters and the Marvel universe as a whole.