**This episode contains spoilers from WandaVision. **
It’s no secret I love Marvel. My husband and I have one of the largest Funko Marvel collections. Our daughter’s name is even Marvel. So I was beyond stoked to finally get some time to chat with one of my favorite nerd writers, Russ Milheim, all about the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After all, he has been covering the MCU for our website for a few years now when he took over the reins from the OG Jesse Rolufs. We start the conversation off with what we are obsessing over. Russ has recently gotten rid of most of his Marvel Funkos and has moved onto Hot Toys. The lack of Funkos has made for an empty house, so he’s been nerdy re-decorating. I’ve personally gotten myself addicted to The Crown lately, and even Andy’s been enjoying it. But let’s get back to this podcast’s real topic, the Marvel Cinematic Universe or the MCU.
During the early part of its history, the MCU was meant just to mean the movies, but it’s come to mean anything that is Marvel over the past decade. Unlike DC Comics, where shows and television are separate, Marvel, for the most part, has tried to keep things working together in one universe. When prepping for this podcast, it was quite awesome to see how hard we’ve come since 2008 when Iron Man appeared on the scene. The Nerd and Geek power were just beginning to rebuild with things like Dark Knight, Harry Potter, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy being released. Did we ever expect it to be this complex and amazing? Heck no, but we are glad it did. Iron Man, though was the start of it all, but Incredible Hulk really had us taking a step back. It really took Iron Man 2 and Thor to get my trust back after the horrid movie that was Incredible Hulk. Russ does point out, though, that Iron Man 2 wasn’t that great. Mostly this is because it was trying to set up so much in the MCU. Both of us agree that WandaVision sort of did the same thing for Phase 4 with Agatha. It’s really is amazing to see how all these things are webbed together and intricately planned. Russ and I talk in-depth about how all these different phases, plans, and easter eggs just make fans more and more interested. This results in Marvel becoming more and more tightened-lipped since comic book fans can easily try to figure out which direction the studio is going simply based on the thousands of comic storylines available. Marvel is known for silencing its actors, having no cellphone policies on set, and have NDAs with huge consequences.
We jump back into our journey of the MCU to talk about how Thor got our attention after Iron Man 2 redeemed our trust. Thor was dark and different. Darcy was a character that was so underrated through all the movies but finally got to have her shining moment in WandaVision. Russ talks about how he’s not too fond of Jane Foster’s character and why it has to be “Female Thor.” His argument is Thor is a name, not a mantle. The mantle is God of Thunder. It’s like running around calling every Spider-man Peter Parker. What really sold us both, though, on the Marvel franchise was Captain America and Avengers. While Captain America lacked in fight scenes, it did make up for it with amazing character development that lasted through the decade. The reality is Avengers did something no other franchise or movie studio has ever done before. It brought together multiple movie franchises together to make an even bigger one. Marvel is one of those unique companies. All they do is make Marvel content. Unlike Warner Bros who deals with not only the DC franchise but thousands of other hugely popular franchises. Marvel’s sole attention is only on the content it owns, but this wasn’t always the case. Fox had X-Men, Deadpool, and Fantastic Four. It was so bad that at one point, Marvel couldn’t use the word mutant because it applied too much to the X-men universe. In the Age of Ultron, Wanda and Pietro were referred to as “miracles” and that the tesseract gave them their powers. Not even the slightest hint that Magneto is really their father. Sony was attempting to hold onto Spider-man but ended up better with Tom Holland (Sorry Andrew Garfield). Then there were the television shows that Marvel Entertainment put out, which is different than the movies and current shows Marvel Studios is putting out. Once Marvel was sold to Disney, the decision was made that Marvel Studios would in charge of any movies or televisions. Before this deal was done, Marvel Entertainment managed to put out some television series like Agents of Shield, Agent Carter, and the forgettable Inhumans. Netflix also released the Defenders lineup with Daredevil, Punisher, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage. Hulu even got in Cloak and Dagger and The Runaways. Unfortunately, while fans all think it’s canon and connected, Russ thinks they aren’t. Marvel has never confirmed that they are, and frankly, most of the Marvel Entertainment stuff is one-sided. When looking at WandaVision and Falcon and The Winter Soldier, the television series prop up the movies and vice versa. The Marvel Entertainment shows just filled holes in the movies while the movies never acknowledged they even existed. Personally, in those early years, I believe that Marvel Entertainment was trying to keep us hooked while we waited for the next movie to drop.
Looking back, Avengers really was a calculated equation that Marvel has now mastered. Solo Movie, Solo Movie, Sequel, Solo Movie, GROUP THING! I mean, these “Phases” are working for a reason, right? Avengers was really the movie that sold me on the franchise and what started our Funko collection. The original Avengers set was one of the first complete sets we had and still have to this day. Russ and I chat about how fun it is to watch commons released YEARS ago and were worth nothing. Now they are worth tons just because a new series is coming. Case and point, our original Avengers Funko Loki. Loki, though, is a unique character. He was introduced as a bad guy, and we really grew to love him. He’s not really bad nor good. He’s mischief. We both note how some of these actors have really made these Marvel characters what they are, especially when you look at Tom Hiddleston, Chris Evans, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Robert Downey Jr’s performances throughout these movies. The movies’ music also has had a profound effect on us as well. My wedding theme song is the Avengers march, and my husband still says it was the best decision ever. Every time we hear the little avengers part, we get chills. As a couple whose wedding was Peggy and Captain America themed the same year that Captain America: Civil War came out, it was gratifying to watch End Game, knowing we were right and they were always meant to be together.
I love chatting with Russ because he is always into the bad guys while I’m always rooting for the heroes. We chatted about his love of Thanos and how he really could continue to pop up in the MCU even though he’s dead. I make an adamant statement that I don’t want another Fantastic Four, although Marvel has already confirmed a new one. Russ is right because these real franchise and they have to be kept fresh to make money. Unlike Inhumans which won’t be touched for a while, franchises like X-men and Fantastic Four have a lot of power behind them since they can expand the MCU even further. We both agree though we miss Stan Lee, and if Kevin Feige is listening, we think you should replace the Stan Lee cameos with Deadpool ones instead. We finish out the conversation by talking about being media writers and how people get mad at us for being so critical. The reality is you can be critical and analyze something and still enjoy it. Frankly, it’s this in-depth looking and analyzing that makes watching these movies so fun.