ByAndy Pham, writer at
Superhero, Fantasy, Graphic Novels, Manga etc.
Andy Pham

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is an American media franchise and shared fictional universe that is centred on a series of superhero films, independently produced by Marvel Studios and based on characters that appear in publications by Marvel Comics. Their goal is to build a franchise which has expanded to include comic books, short films, and television series. The shared universe, much like the original Marvel Universe in comic books, was established by crossing over common plot elements, settings, cast, and characters. Clark Gregg has appeared the most in the franchise, portraying Phil Coulson, a character original to the MCU. I also look at MCU as a product and a brand of the business, Marvel Studios.

The Marvel Ultimate and 616 comics are the inspiration the MCU to create the shared universe most Marvel fans recognise today. However, what about a person who's not into comic book and actually wants to after they see any MCU film. It’s hard to deny that the Marvel’s Cinematic Universe has affected their comics. Characters generated on film have leapt into the pages of comics, and niche heroes are now comics mega-stars thanks to movie successes. But the movies’ impact on the comics stretches actually back farther than you’d think.

This type of approach is to make the comics more approachable to the average reader, the one who sees the movies and then becomes interested in the comics. So it makes sense to change the comics to better reflect the movies, even though they follow most aspects of the source material but still Marvel Studios are creating their own identity. (The Hulk suddenly becoming an Avenger again also comes to mind.)

Guardians of the Galaxy is a great example. Throughout my years of school, I would always buy and read comic books alone, isolating myself from students. 'Guardians of the Galaxy' is one of them. When I explain the characters, plot and their intentions to my friends, They laughed at me. After they saw the movie, they loved it so much, I laughed at them for making fun of me for it. After that, I recommended a few GOTG books to read and I realised there are major changes not just GOTG but the whole franchise.

Their reactions when they first heard GOTG.
Their reactions when they first heard GOTG.

Before I go straight to the point, this article isn't a rant nor fans should expect it to be hate. This is just an article talking about the awareness of the changes MCU and other Marvel films made to market non-comic book readers after they saw the films. Mostly on the characters. Like my friends for example. So what better time to look at ways Marvel films have already changed Marvel Comics, for better or worse. Up to the fans who are resistant to change or not.


This change is the most obvious and appealing to the majority of Marvel and non-comic book fans. Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye isn't much different in terms of abilities to his comic book counterpart of the same name, but the obvious difference comes in the form of their costumes (there’s also the fact that Renner’s version in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is criminally underused in comparison to the comic book version – who has his own brilliant titular comic – but that’s a discussion for another time).

The comic book version of Hawkeye wears an iconic purple costume that includes a rather flamboyant mask and headgear. Few months ago, Jeremy Renner was featured as Wizard World Chicago's main event and final big panel. During the panel, Renner, who plays Hawkeye in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, took questions from the crowd. One young fan wanted to know if Renner's Hawkeye would ever put on a mask, like his purple comic book counterpart. This is his response...

"No, I don't wear a mask," adding, "You know the Ultimates version of Hawkeye?" - Jeremy Renner

I believe that we can all accept this version of Hawkeye. Renner’s version wears a much more sensible looking S.H.I.E.L.D. uniform that makes him stand out less and, frankly, looks a lot less silly (though there are definitely still people who’d love to see him wearing something more recognisable from the source material). This is probably why in the movies, Wolverine doesn't wear a mask and some people shouldn't expect him to.

This is what Hawkeye in the comics looks like right now. Matt Fraction's Hawkeye is heavily influenced on the success of the Avengers in 2012 and this costume, in my opinions looks very realistic and authentic to not only comic book fans, but those who aren't. At least his personality didn't change as much. Although this change is very appealing and for those people who aren't familiar with the comics, be aware that this change whether is for the good or bad.


This change also appealed to me and the minority of fans. Peter Quill was the first and also current Star-Lord, a human-alien-cyborg hybrid and member of the Guardians of the Galaxy. He is the son of J'son of Spartax who is the leader of the Spartoi Empire. Most non-comic book fans should know this. Peter Quill did not wear a signature red coat in the earlier comics before the movie came out. The success of GOTG changed Peter's look and made him more looking like an outlaw than a space policeman. In the earlier comics, he didn't possess the Walkman either, just an Element Gun and SHIP. Shows that there are times, MCU changes for the better.

This is what he looks like right now in the comics. The success of GOTG, rating more than 91% on Rotten Tomatos and IDMB, has influenced comic book artists to change Peter's look to suit not only the old fans, but new fans as well. Especially the ones who laughed at me for reading them.

When Marvel relaunched the Guardians of the Galaxy in 2013, writer Brian Michael Bendis revamped the Peter Quill character on several levels from his origin, to his personality of arrogance and quick wit, hair color from brunette to blonde to red, and even age. Along the way he gained some rogue-ish swagger that has become a trademark for the character. And while most old and new fans aren't complaining about the final results it’s interesting to see how different Star-Lord was before Marvel’s movie lights shining on him. Thanks Chris Pratt. I wonder if this change, according to everyone is for the better for Marvel Comics or for the worst.


This is what they look like before in the older comics. Perhaps the most notable impact of the Marvel Cinematic Universe on Marvel Comics in recent memory is the sudden prominence of Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot, who make up the movie cast of Guardians of the Galaxy.

Speaking of Groot (No pun intended), in the older comics he does speak. But after the success of GOTG, they changed his ability to speak only the word that he understands and can say.

From this (left) to that (right)
From this (left) to that (right)

Before 2014, the Guardians were some of the most obscure heroes in Marvel Comics. Even with Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s recreation of the team in 2008 (which inspired the make-up of the movie team, rather than the original 1969 roster), the group did not play a major role in the comics. But immediately following the huge success of the movie, the Guardians appeared everywhere. Looking exactly like what the GOTG appeared in the movie. Outside of their own ongoing series, Rocket and Star-Lord (along with his aforementioned wardrobe update) got standalone comics series devoted to themselves, and will be joined by Gamora, Drax and Groot in that regard this year. They even got their own series of crossover comics in Guardians Team-Up. Now in the comics, Rocket collaborated with Deadpool a few times.

This is what they look like in the comics right now. Suddenly the characters went from minor snippets to comic book headliners, all thanks to the success of the movie. I wonder if the changed of the Guardians of the Galaxy is for the better or the worst.


Are they mutant or not? After Avengers: Age of Ultron, Uncanny Avengers #4 reveals that long time mutant heroes Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver were never actually mutants but H.Y.D.R.A experiments— a move that brings them in line with the non-mutant origins of the characters as they appeared in Avengers: Age of Ultron.

I understand that MCU movies can't use the word "mutant" because Fox owns the rights to all X-Men properties, and mutants fall under that category. The Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver of the comics are both mutants, meaning they were born with their powers, but their X-Men connections run deeper than that. They're also the children of the X-Men's greatest foe, Magneto. Obviously the MCU had to switch things around so as not to run into issues with Fox, so in Age of Ultron, the twins receive their powers from H.Y.D.R.A experiments and are the orphans of nondescript Eastern European parents.

From this (left) to that (right)
From this (left) to that (right)

Right now, Marvel Comics gave the twins a bit more of a realistic and authentic costumes after the moderate success of the film Avengers: Age of Ultron and the success of Aaron Taylor Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen's portrayal of the twins.

As hard to deny the impact as it is, in the end perhaps the more “sinister” elements of the MCU’s influence in the comics — the idea that Marvel are potentially spiting their movie-making rivals at Fox and Sony by undermining the characters they have the film rights to in the comics — seem to be little more than speculation, combined with Marvel’s own elements of its comics output to act as support to its global blockbusters. Example of this would be Scarlet Witch's headband was not used because like Hawkeye, it would not translate very well in film or Quicksilver's costume in the comics with the lightning bolt from the shoulder down. The comics will always be different from the movies (over 80 years of stories too insane for film can attest to that), but as a bigger and bigger audience gets used to big screen superheroics, it makes sense that the comics would be open to a little more integration whether the changes are for the better or the worst. I wonder if the fans did see that coming. *Wink, wink*


Or should I say Tony "Snark"? Before 2008, if you wouldn't have asked comic fans to describe Tony Stark’s personality the first words that would come to mind is “smart.” But after Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of the man in 2008’s Iron Man, Tony Stark became Tony Snark – in movies and comic books. And the costume almost didn't match as perfectly as the Invincible Iron Man, mostly the mask shape.

The Iron Man movie changed the way everyone saw the Armored Avenger, from movie fans to comics fans and even comic book writers. After 2008, Tony Stark’s comic book appearances were imbued with irreverence and playfulness that Downey himself added to the role; something director Jon Favreau once dubbed as being a “likeable asshole.” Although a hero, he wasn’t “Dudley Do-Right” as Downey describes him. Writers such as Matt Fraction and Brian Michael Bendis picked up on that heavily in the aftermath of the movie, and it’s gone on to become a key part of the character in comic books, film, animation and elsewhere.

Now he looks like how we see Iron in the movies. Not just the armour, but the face to make it look exactly like Robert Downey Jr. Now, with Tony set to be the All-New, All-Different Marvel Universe's leading man post-Secret Wars, the film's influences will be more prominent than ever. Majority of fans believed that this type of change is for the better. The 1% may be resistant to this change. Either opinion, MCU has definitely influenced the way fans see Marvel Comics.

"RDJ is Iron Man!! - As most comic and non-comic book fans would say.


To many, Samuel L. Jackson is Nick Fury. But the long saga of the actor’s impact on the Nick Fury of the comics begins well before the introduction of Nick Fury Jr.

When Nick Fury was introduced in the “Ultimate” universe in 2001, he was already drastically different to his main universe counterpart — cropped hair, clean shave, and of course, African-American. But suddenly a year later in The Ultimates, Fury was redesigned to be completely bald and bearing more than a passing similarity to Samuel L. Jackson (the comics even remarked on the likeness). Jackson got wind of the use of his likeness and contacted Marvel — instead of forcing them to change the character’s appearance, he merely instead asked that any future movie appearances by the character would be played by him.

Now in the comics, he looks like this. It resembled exactly like Samuel L. Jackson, after the successful impact on the films Iron Man and the Avengers.

Even with Jackson’s Fury being introduced at the climax of 2008’s Iron Man, it would take another four years before the comics caught up to the movies. The 2012 miniseries Battle Scars introduced Marcus Johnson, a.k.a Nick Fury Jr.. Johnson was introduced as an African- American (bearing, once again, a more-than-passing resemblance to Jackson) who was actually the long lost son of Fury. Eventually Marcus, adopting his birth name of Nick Fury Jr. became a S.H.I.E.L.D agent and even a member of the Secret Avengers, despite a mixed reception from fans concerned at the movie universe affecting the comics. I wonder if this change is for the better or for the worst.


From this (left) to that (right)
From this (left) to that (right)


The impacts of the current MCU on the comics was the reintroduction of Pepper Potts as an important member of the Iron Man supporting cast. Before the first Iron Man movie, Paltrow’s Potts a key part of the cinematic Tony Stark’s life, Pepper was re-integrated into a more prominent role in the Iron Man comics as Tony’s personal assistant, just as she was in the films. Shortly after she was injured in a terrorist attack, and was given an arc rector similar in design to the movies (at that point in the comics, Tony was not using an arc reactor but an artificial heart) to keep her alive.

Pepper even eventually becomes the CEO of Stark Industries, just as she did in the films, and was given her own suit of Iron Man armour to become the hero Rescue — a development referenced in Iron Man 3 when she briefly dons an armour suit. Therefore, this character has made such an impact for the film, that writers and artists respectively have to put her character in the comic books. Making the change either for the better or for the worst.


Just as they introduced MCU-inspired Nick Fury to the comics, it also added another cinematic creation to comics canon: Phil Coulson.

And just like that. MCU did really make a huge difference of how we see comic books, especially the face of Marvel.

Introduced as part of Iron Man and appearance in cameos up until his “death” in 2012’s The Avengers, Coulson joined the S.H.I.E.L.D of the comics to tie in with his leading role in the T.V. spin-off Agents of SHIELD. Clark Gregg who plays him even voiced him in the Ultimate Spider-Man animated series. Despite the wide approval of Coulson as a character, comic book fans were hesitant at his arrival in the comics alongside the new Nick Fury, but MCU paid no heed to the complaints. In fact, they went even further in mixing the movies and comics together by introducing the Agents of SHIELD characters of Melinda May, Jemma Simmons and Leo Fitz alongside Coulson as main characters in the new SHIELD ongoing series, which began late last year.


MCU doesn't get any bigger than this. In the comics, the most well known Ant-Man is Hank Pym. The second smartest man in the Marvel Universe after Reed Richards who is very known of his witty remarks. In the MCU, he is portrayed as an old man retired of being the superhero and chose Scott Lang, a petty thief, to don the costume

This is what Scott looks like right now after the success of Ant-Man. A small supporting character to the major headline of the MCU. Some fans had doubt that this movie will hit the box office, but this film will not let you underestimate the greatness of Ant-Man.

Scott Lang, the second Ant-Man, has been a Marvel fixture for years. He's done stints as both an Avenger and leader of the Future Foundation, the Fantastic Four's spin-off organization, and even filled in on the main Fantastic Four series.

Over the summer, Lang headlined his own hit film that saw Ant-Man join the MCU to much acclaim. And while the film was a hit, Lang’s film appearances won’t stop there. He will be joining the cast of Captain America: Civil War, purportedly siding with Captain America.

Meanwhile, a new Astonishing Ant-Man comic book is about to enter its second volume under writer Nick Spencer as part of "All-New, All-Different Marvel." This change is great huh? Thanks Paul Rudd.


I have more characters to talk about, but yes, I think I have made my point that MCU has seriously influenced and changed a few elements to suit non-comic book readers after they saw the films and TV shows. Remember, this article just makes people aware that changes are noticeable.

Like I said before, this type of approach is to make the comics more approachable to the average reader, the one who sees the movies and then becomes interested in the comics. Even Kevin Feige (President of Marvel Studios) said this.

If the fans want to look further and find connections, then they're there. There are a few big ones obviously, that hopefully the mainstream audience will able to follow as well. But... the reason that all the filmmakers are on board is that their movies need to stand on their own. They need to have a fresh vision, a unique tone, and the fact that they can interconnect if you want to follow those breadcrumbs is a bonus." - Kevin Feige

As a result, Marvel’s Cinematic Universe has affected the way we see Marvel comics. They are still faithful to the source material and the essence of their characterisation. However, they added their own elements in, to provide their vision of each character and suit the mass markets. The more successful the films are, the chances they'll star and change the characters in a comic book. Characters generated on film have leapt into the pages of comics, and niche heroes are now comic book's mega-stars thanks to film successes. Thank you MCU.


Do you think MCU's slight changes of Marvel comic books are for the better or for the worst?


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