Over the last 10 years, fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have become attached to a vast array of characters from different walks of life, ranging from Captain America to Iron Man to Black Panther to the Guardians of the Galaxy, and beyond. However, the majority of these superheroes are adults, which admittedly hasn't shied teenagers or pre-pubescent kids away from wanting to be them when they grow up.
But Marvel Studios would do well to recognize there's an opportunity to put forward teen superheroes who'd be even more relatable for this younger demographic right now.
Tom Holland's Spider-Man and Teen Groot are the only examples in the MCU at present, but as we saw in Avengers: Infinity War, younger heroes have a bigger emotional draw to them. With this in mind, it'd be a smart move for the studio to start adding more of them to its ranks as soon as possible.
Having such superheroes for teens to aspire to allows for lighthearted and warm coming-of-age stories, like Spider-Man: Homecoming. Their adventures feel authentic, teaching kids about things like discipline, bullying, socializing (hey, don't forget prom) and leaving them engrained with quality principles at an early age. Sure, they can learn about doing the right thing from the Earth's Mightiest fighting aliens, robots and whatnot, but there's still an age gap there that shapes an extra degree of fantasy in watching adults at work.
But if it's someone who looks, dresses and talks like them, you bridge this gap, making it easier to instill philosophies encouraging empathy, compassion and understanding. Having relatable symbols -- filled with depth and substance -- to look up to creates a greater receptiveness to these profound lessons, plus making this connection with teens early on goes a long way to ensuring they grow up with these values.
Peter Parker is the poster boy for this, as he's the typical adolescent, socially awkward and bumbling his way to adulthood. But he's earnest and learns from all his failures, using them to be a better person. Then there's Groot, a rude and stubborn video game-playing tree who we can't help but love. Simply put, they're characters youngsters feel a kindred spirit with, while also reminding us adults of our early days.
This was pretty evident the way both resonated in Infinity War and how fans reacted when Thanos killed them. We were left close to tears, as they died in front their father-figures, scared and helpless. Peter's anguish in Tony Stark's hands, and Groot calling out "Dad" to Rocket Racoon hit home harder, because there's just something more emotive and soulful with teens, making their deaths all the more jarring. Clearly, they tug at the heartstrings with extra oomph, no matter the age of the audience, because they represent an era of innocence in our lives we all cling to.
Producer Nate Moore has confirmed "blue sky" surprises in Phase Four, hinting some of the fresh faces to be introduced may well be younger superheroes cut from the same cloth. “I think it’s an opportunity for us to bid a fond farewell to characters we’ve come to know for a while,” he said, “but to also then introduce characters who are going to feel completely new and hopefully surprising to both our core fans and fans of our movies who aren’t as well-versed in publishing.”
Kamala Khan aka Ms. Marvel immediately comes to mind, a movie Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige said is coming. As a Pakistani-American Muslim, her story could educate on discrimination and other sociopolitical issues, preaching tolerance along the way for high schoolers and the like. With T'Challa dead (for now), his genius sister, Shuri, might even take on the mantles of Black Panther and queen of Wakanda, breaking gender barriers and acting as a role model for young females. With the Nova Corps set to rebuild, Sam Alexander as Kid Nova can be brought in too, empowering kids to literally reach for the stars. These characters would also bring a sense of fun, charm and youthful exuberance to the superhero genre.
These inclusions would go a long way in increasing the hype for the next chapter known as Phase Four. With Thanos eliminating half the galaxy's inhabitants, new blood would feel like natural progression as well, especially as we expect a new generation to be inspired and rise up to replace the old guard. Cassie Lang will appear in Avengers 4, and although this doesn't necessarily confirm the Young Avengers, it does highlight tomorrow is looming on the horizon. With it comes an inevitable wave of change and hopefully, something to leave audiences in awe of the brand-new era of the MCU.