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Marvel Cinematic Universe: Main-Stream Cinema's First Megaseries
First coined by comic book writer Dennis O’Neil in his book "The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics", the concept of a megaseries is a narrative that spans multiple subplots within a greater whole, almost emphasizing them over its main plot. The main example used was DC’s first massive crossover event “Crisis on Infinite Earths”. In his description, O’Neil described it more as an art of the creative process and less of the work itself. Much like comics’ close relative, television, the megaseries has been used to create immense story arcs that expand across multiple creative visions, giving the audience pieces of a larger world.
The MCU is special because this is cinema’s first time at this, at least on a theatrical-level. The article could go into the cultural impact these films have had and how their inter-relativity might have contributed to their success. It could also go into the relationship of the main plot (“Avengers”) and how it contrasts to its multiple "subplots". What’s most interesting is how film –as a medium– works within this design. Within a megaseries prose, comics, and television use subplot in heavily passive ways. For the most part, they’re shorter. In comics, one issue could suffice for an important arc. In television, one episode. But with film, one would need to use an entire movie that could range hours. Within the same time-frame that almost every other film creates and concludes its universe, the MCU simply builds a tiny piece upon theirs. Regardless of how people feel about the quality of these movies, volumes can be said of their importance both culturally and structurally.
The most important thing to take away is their success. No studio or creative property has been able to support this investment. Very few stories (ever) have the wealth of content, cultural impact, and audience recognition of current mainstream comic books. So despite the IP’s strength, could this paradigm be used for a completely original concept? And could cinema ever have its own megaseries, birthed and intended only for the medium’s use; not as a cash-grab, but as a testament to its own art?