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?

  • Very interesting topic. One suggestion I have for exploring the ways to expand on this franchise is also how the MCU has branched into other forms of media such as television, since Agents of SHIELD and Daredevil tie into the main story of the film series. You could also look into how the MCU's success has prompted others to re-create their success, such as what DC is doing with Batman v Superman and what Sony tried to do with The Amazing Spider-Man. – Seth Childers 8 years ago
  • This is a great topic, one I'm eager to see! I think it would be worth looking at how the real world has and eventually will impact these films. Take the recasting of Rhodey in the Iron Man films or Bruce Banner. And maybe look towards the future, such as what happens when RDJ and Chris Evans eventually leave? Where does that leave the mega-series? Obviously it's going to hang on for dear life with new properties, but the passage of time and the demand from an audience will cause problems that could only really impact cinema. The comics these films are adapted from don't have this same problem as, if Tony Stark were to die one month they could easily bring him back the next and the devoted fans would still be there. But once RDJ walks away from Iron Man? It's over for that era of film. Would the fans accept Don Cheadle in the role of Iron Man/Patriot/War Machine? There's no way to know for sure, but it's worth exploring the longevity of the series as a whole. It'll be interesting to see if the Marvel movies themselves can keep going after Infinity War on story alone or if the mainstream fans will simply stop caring once their favorite characters have either died or changed forever. – Shannd1 8 years ago

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