Arguably, Marvel Cinematic Universe is the biggest thing to happen to pop culture in the last 20 years. It's not only an absolute juggernaut in terms of the revenue it’s generated through its various films, but its popularity is responsible for the existence of several spin-off television series on ABC, Fox, and various streaming services, as well as inadvertently creating a number of copycat franchises attempting to make their own universes (See Transformers, the Dark Universe, and technically even the DCEU if we're being honest about it).
But did you know that Marvel’s film universe has also affected its own comic books? That’s right; even though the comics are meant to be the “source material” that the films draw from, the films have often altered the comics heavily as well, creating a sort of loop in which both the films and the comics feed off of one another. Sometimes this results in changes for the better, and other times...well, not so much. Since a lot of these changes can wind up slipping under the radar, CBR has compiled a list of the times the films have changed the comics without most fans ever even realizing it. How many do you think you noticed before?
15 THE INHUMANS
Potentially best described as ersatz X-Men for most of their existence, the Inhumans enjoyed a life of obscurity until the Marvel Cinematic Universe came along. Thanks to Fox, Marvel found itself unable to add one of their most popular groups to their growing list of IPs, and as a result decided to try and use the Inhumans instead.
This experiment wound up as a bit of a mess, with the Inhumans going from being on Marvel’s list of upcoming films to being a low-budget, badly received television series on ABC. Meanwhile the comics have been trying to make the Inhumans high profile for roughly half a decade now, from placing them at the center of major events to giving the characters their own comic books.
14 GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
The biggest change inspired by the MCU has to be what happened to the Guardians of the Galaxy. The original incarnation of the team saw grizzled veteran Star-Lord assemble a team of the most powerful people he could find in order to prevent the massive destruction he’d seen in two back to back wars that had left the greater Marvel Universe in tattered ruins.
Marvel Cosmic was carefully cultivated over several years by a number of genius writers and artists, and its popularity eventually led to them gaining a film franchise. But director James Gunn took the characters on a decidedly more humorous path when he brought them to life in his 2014 film. Which would have been fine, but the comics quickly decided to take advantage of the film’s popularity to change their version of the team into a similar band of “lovable misfits”.
13 CREATED TEAMS BASED ON THE FILMS
Many people might not realize it, but the Avengers line-up as presented in the films never really existed in the comics. Sure, they’ve been close to it more than a few times, but it’s never been exactly that group. But in 2012, the comic book Avengers Assemble launched as a part of the Marvel NOW line of comics, from long-time collaborators Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley for the first eight issues.
During that time, the team featured the line-up of the Cinematic Universe’s Avengers in order to potentially entice viewers of the film to give one of the comics a try. Though the line-up would eventually become a rotating one when Kelly Sue DeConnick and Stefano Casselli took over, there’s no doubting that the MCU was the very reason this book existed in the first place.
12 THE DEFENDERS
The gathering of the Defenders was, for awhile, almost as exciting as the third Avengers film, and the excitement around them even got us a brand-new ongoing. But did you know the line-up we got in the comics is completely different from the classic Defenders group? The original Defenders were a team of heavy-hitting powerhouses including the Hulk, Silver Surfer, and Doctor Strange, with the gimmick being that they were a team that wasn't really a team.
But since a line-up like that would bankrupt even Netflix’s coffers, it was a given this team wouldn't be the ones making it on to television. Instead, the name was co-opted to make a team consisting of Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, Daredevil, and Luke Cage. And while the actual series left much to be desired, Brian Bendis and David Marquez managed to turn the group into quite the entertaining ongoing this year.
11 PEPPER POTTS
Before the Iron Man film, Pepper Potts had all but divested herself from Tony Stark and his weird world of science, superheroes, and super-spies. But between Happy Hogan dying in the aftermath of an encounter with Spymaster and the on-screen chemistry between Gwyneth Paltrow and Robert Downey Jr. in the film, Pepper was drawn back in to the Iron Man universe, becoming a weird mixture of Tony’s sometimes-girlfriend, his Girl Friday, and the effective CEO of his companies whenever he’s off being Iron Man.
This is a minor change for the Marvel Universe as a whole, but a pretty major one for the world of Iron Man, as Pepper’s continued presence in the comics would eventually result in her gaining a suit of armor of her own, making her the superhero Rescue.
10 MALEKITH THE ACCURSED BECAME REALLY IMPORTANT
Malekith had been a long time villain to Thor, but over the years gradually faded in importance as Thor spent more time dealing with the machinations of his brother and other important events like Asgard suddenly changing realms to Midgard. But when Thor: The Dark World made the character into its primary villain, current Thor scribe Jason Aaron quickly managed to include the Dark Elf into his own storylines in his Thor: God of Thunder ongoing.
And while Malekith was so quickly forgotten in the films he hasn’t even been mentioned since the end of The Dark World, in the comics his relevance has never been greater. His machinations have cost Thor his arm, and he’s basically been the primary villain of the book since 2014, currently responsible for a massive war between the nine realms.
9 PHIL COULSON
Quick, before the MCU proper began, point out a comic book with Phil Coulson in it. That’s going to be a bit hard, because before the films the character didn’t even exist. But Coulson, played by actor Clark Gregg, was such a likable character that despite dying in the Avengers film they managed to bring him back to star in ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. television series.
And not long after the film premiered, he made his way into the comic series, becoming an important member of the super-spy organization alongside Marcus Johnson, Nick Fury’s son/the new Nick Fury. He helped see the organization through quite a few rough spots, including the second Civil War, but unfortunately his time in the comics came to an end recently when he was killed by Deadpool on the orders of evil Steve Rogers.
8 MUTANTS NO MORE: SCARLET WITCH AND QUICKSILVER
For years, if fans asked the question of whether Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver were Avengers or X-Men characters, the answer was something of a toss-up. They certainly spent more time with the Avengers, but they were also the twin son and daughter of Magneto, one of the most well-known mutant characters of all time, and they got their start as members of his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.
Still, when Marvel wanted access to the two characters for its Avengers sequel, they ran into a bit of an issue when Fox decided to include Quicksilver in Days of Future Past. And rather than waste time dithering over rights issues, they simply decided to change both characters’ origins entirely. Now they had never been Magneto’s children, but instead normal humans that had been experimented on by the High Evolutionary to gain their powers. That’s gotta make family reunions awkward.
7 REPULSOR TECH
One of the core parts to the 2008 Iron Man film was the genius technology that powered Tony Stark’s chestpiece; the all-important arc reactor that both kept his heart going and made armor like Iron Man’s possible. Of course in the comics there had never been any such thing, at least not until Matt Fraction’s landmark Invincible Iron Man run in 2008.
The name was changed from “arc reactor” to “repulsor”, after the name of Iron Man’s signature palm laser attacks, but the basic idea to it remained the same. Instead of the suit being brilliant on its own, the brilliance was in the piece of tech that was able to power an exosuit capable of doing all the things the Iron Man armor could. It was a crucial change, and much of Fraction’s five year storyline would be built upon it.
6 HAWKEYE'S COSTUME
Hawkeye used to have one of the most visually distinctive costumes in the Avengers, with the perfect sort of showiness necessary for both a superhero and a former circus performer. Not that that was a good thing, as fans could be quite divisive on whether they actually liked his outfit or not, but either way it stood the test of time, and Clint Barton wore it for several decades…until the Avengers film came along.
With his new origin as a secret agent, there was no need for such a fanciful outfit, and as a result the character was given something far more low-key and realistic. And despite Clint in the comics having no real need to change up, the character was given a permanent makeover that cemented itself with Matt Fraction and David Aja’s run on the character in 2012.
5 THE CHITAURI
The Chitauri were never known to be huge galactic threats the way the Skrulls or the Kree were, but when the Avengers finally hit the big screen, things changed. Once a race of lizard-like aliens that shapeshift, they made their on-page debut in the The Ultimates, which was an alternate version of the Marvel proper 616 earth. And while they sound menacing, they were rarely seen in the comic until the MCU.
Now looking almost identical to their big screen movie counterparts, the Chitauri looked like the mainstream audience would know them to look, complete with flying hovercrafts. Perhaps the Skrulls were under Fox's banner of owned properties (something that Disney doesn't have to worry about anymore), but regardless of the reason the Chitauri have shapeshifted to match the MCU's version.
4 TONY STARK'S PERSONALITY
This was one of the first signs of just how powerful an influence the MCU was going to be over the comics. For decades, Iron Man was a very serious character -- someone who seemed like the weight of the world was on his shoulders, as Tony tried to be the best entrepreneur and superhero that he could, constantly working for the betterment of the world. Of course, due to the effects of "Civil War", he was changed to become more and more of a jerk -- fighting his friends and engaging in downright fascist behavior in order to enforce his principles.
But then out of nowhere came 2008’s Iron Man, with Robert Downey Jr's standout performance. And just like that, Tony Stark’s personality was re-written a second time, turning him into the snarky, fun-loving super-scientist we know today.
3 IMPORTANCE OF S.H.I.E.L.D.
In truth, S.H.I.E.L.D. has always been “important” to some degree or other in the Marvel Universe. Certainly, Marvel’s super-spy organization has played crucial roles in major events in the '00s like "Civil War" and "Secret Invasion". But it’s always basically been the higher-ups that they chose to focus on like Nick Fury, Dum Dum Dugan, or Maria Hill, with creators occasionally bringing in characters that were better-known as costume-wearing heroes and making them members/temporary members of S.H.I.E.L.D. in order to make people care more about the group.
But since The Avengers in 2012, and the largely successful ABC series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., things have changed a bit. Fans have become far more curious about the inner workings of this clandestine group, leading to them getting their own ongoing series in 2016.
2 WHAT FANTASTIC FOUR?
After several groundbreaking runs from legendary creators like Mark Waid, Dwayne McDuffie, Mark Millar, and Jonathan Hickman, you’d think no franchise at Marvel would be safer than the Fantastic Four, right? Don’t bet on it. In the aftermath of 2016’s "Secret Wars", this team was put on the shelf -- with no rebooted title coming after that major event, and no renumbered title appearing for Marvel Legacy, despite the Fantastic Four being one of the comics that kick-started the Marvel Universe to begin with.
As for the reason, well when Fox decided to exercise their right to keep the team by making another movie featuring Marvel’s First Family, the company decided to cancel the book entirely. There are rumors that the team might make a return sometime in 2018 and their chances are better now with their impending big screen Marvel homecoming.
1 NICK FURY
When Mark Millar was allowed to remake the Avengers for Marvel’s Ultimate Universe in the '00s, he brought with him the trend of having characters in his universe resemble real life famous people, and “cast” Nick Fury as Samuel L. Jackson. Call it prescient, or life imitating art, but when the MCU finally hit the ground running, the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. was indeed everyone’s favorite expletive-hurling actor. Of course in the Marvel Prime universe he was still much more Knight Rider than Snakes on a Plane.
But since the Ultimate Universe was being erased anyway, they decided to fix this by “killing” off Marvel Prime’s Nick Fury (he actually became the new Watcher but that’s another story) and making his son, who just so happened to look just like Sam Jackson, take over in his place. They even call him Nick Fury, even though that’s totally not his name.