Comic book movies are monster box office machines. But 10 or 20 years ago, comic book fans might have had to endure some serious side-eye for their interest in sequential storytelling. Today though, there are good odds that your grandma knows about Wakanda and what an Infinity Stone is.
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Much of that comic proliferation is thanks to Marvel Studios and their expansive Marvel Cinematic Universe. Love it or hate it, the MCU has risen to the top of the comic book movie landscape. But without the classic Marvel storytelling on the comic book page, the MCU would never have had the strong foundation on which to build. So let's take a look at some of those legendary stories that gave rise to the incredible MCU.
10. Thor: Ragnarok - "Planet Hulk"
While Thor: Ragnarok takes inspiration from throughout the Thunder God's 50+ year history, a main focus of the plot centers on Thor and Hulk stranded on planet Sakaar and forced to fight in gladiator battles. This was introduced by writer Greg Pak in the "Planet Hulk" storyline from Incredible Hulk #92-105 and Giant Size Hulk #1. In "Planet Hulk", the Jade Giant is banished from Earth by the Marvel Illuminati to an uninhabited, paradise world where Hulk won't be able to hurt anyone. Unfortunately, his ship is knocked off course and crashes on Sakaar, where he's forced into the gladiator battles. While Thor wasn't part of "Planet Hulk", Hulk does battle with none other than the Silver Surfer!
9. Spider-Man: Homecoming - The Amazing Spider-Man #2 & #33
Marvel's flagship character was introduced into the MCU in 2016's Captain America: Civil War, but it wasn't until Spider-Man: Homecoming in 2017 that the new webslinger got his own solo adventure in the cinematic universe. This film was largely influenced by Amazing Spider-Man #2 from 1963 (by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko) which introduced the Vulture and the Tinkerer, played by Michael Keaton and Michael Chernus respectively. As an important addition, Spider-Man: Homecoming adapted the iconic scene from The Amazing Spider-Man #33 in which Spidey is pinned under tons of debris and has to dig deep into his willpower to escape.
8. Iron Man/Iron Man 3 - "Extremis"
Following the events of "Avengers: Disassembled", "Extremis" from Invincible Iron Man (vol. 4) 1-6 set the template for the Armored Avenger that we know today. Written by Warren Ellis with amazing art by Adi Granov, "Extremis" retconned Tony Stark's origin from selling weapons during the Vietnam War to the modern day where he is taken captive in the Middle East. It also introduced the driving antagonistic force from Iron Man 3, Extremis. Like Iron Man 3, the Extremis process turns people into super-soldiers, capable of taking on Iron Man with their bare hands. The way that Tony devises to defeat the Extremis soldier named Mallen is pretty different in the comic than it is in Iron Man 3, and is definitely worth reading.
7. Captain America: Winter Soldier - "Winter Soldier"
For decades, it was a long-accepted fact of the Marvel Universe that Bucky Barnes, Captain America's trusty World War II sidekick, was as dead as disco. But in Warren Ellis and Steve Epting's 2005 shakeup in Captain America (vol. 5), it was eventually revealed that the deadly, Cold War era assassin known only as the Winter Soldier was, in fact, Cap's old ally, Bucky, stripped of his memories and brainwashed into killing for the Soviet Union. This comic run was the inspiration for Joe and Anthony Russo's 2014 film, Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
6. Black Panther - Marvel Knights Black Panther
While the general backstory of King T'Challa, the Black Panther, has evolved since his creation in 1966, the comic run that had one of the biggest influences on the 2018 film Black Panther by Rayn Coogler was Christopher Priest's Marvel Knights Black Panther. Priest introduced many aspects of the Black Panther world, including characters like Okoye, Nakia, Everett Ross, and the Dora Milaje. He even wrote a story pitting T'Challa against his longtime enemy Killmonger for the fate of Wakanda.
5. Guardians of the Galaxy - Guardians of the Galaxy (vol.2)
The Guardians of the Galaxy have a long comic history, but the version that we recognize the most from James Gunn's 2012 film Guardians of the Galaxy comes from Andy Lanning and Dan Abnett's 2008 comic run on the series. Though the team we recognize from the film came together previously in Marvel's cosmic epic Annihilation: Conquest, the 2008 Guardians of the Galaxy series reunited the team and introduced many of the aspects that influenced the films, including Knowhere (which was created by Abnett and Lanning in Nova #6) and even Baby Groot growing in a pot.
4. Captain America: Civil War - Civil War
Written by Mark Millar with art by Steve McNiven, Civil War was a seven part series (with dozens of spinoff comics...seriously, it affected almost the entire Marvel Universe) which pitted Iron Man against Captain America after the two Avengers came down on opposite sides of the debate on superhuman registration. Each hero formed their own team of like-minded heroes, eventually leading to a gigantic final battle between the two sides which was adapted (albeit to a significantly smaller scale) into the iconic airport battle in the 2016 film, Captain America: Civil War.
3. Avengers: Infinity War - Infinity Gauntlet
More than 20 years before Thanos was using the Infinity Gauntlet to threaten half the Marvel Cinematic Universe, writer Jim Starlin wrote Infinity Gauntlet. In many ways, Avengers: Infinity War plays out very similarly to the events of Infinity Gauntlet: the Marvel Heroes from Earth and throughout the cosmos do battle with Thanos. The big difference is that the cataclysmic "snap" of Thanos fingers that wipes out half of all life in the universe happens at the very beginning of Infinity Gauntlet as opposed to the last few minutes of the cinematic counterpart, and the remaining heroes have to rally what remains of the ranks in order to bring the fight to Thanos and get him to restore the universe.
2. Doctor Strange - Strange Tales #115
Though Doctor Strange debuted in the pages of Strange Tales #110, it wasn't until Strange Tales #115 that his origin was explained. Nearly everything that we see in the 2016 film Doctor Strange, directed by Scott Derrickson and starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Stephen Strange, draws its inspiration from this single issue: Strange's career as a surgeon, the car accident that damages his hand and ruins that career, his journey to Asia to seek a cure for his hands, The Ancient One, Baron Mordo...it all came from Strange Tales #115. Not just that, but "The Origin of Doctor Strange" is only a secondary story in issue #115! The main story featured The Human Torch fighting The Sandman.
1. Ant-Man - Marvel Premiere #47
Much like Doctor Strange taking much of its influence from a short backup story in Strange Tales #115, most of what we see in 2012's Ant-Man is taken from a single issue, Marvel Premiere #47. Since his debut in 1962, Ant-Man had always been Hank Pym, but Marvel Premiere #47 shows us a different character, Scott Lang, who has stolen the Ant-Man suit from Pym. Again, so much of what was in the movie came directly from this issue: Lang's history as an ex-con, his daughter Cassie, even the villain of the movie, Darren Cross. The biggest difference is that Lang steals the Ant-Man suit in order to rescue a doctor who had been kidnapped and is the only person that can save Lang's dying daughter Cassie.