While walking around the Marvel area of New York Comic-Con 2019, I didn’t see anything that particularly surprised me. Everything was telling of the times, from cosplays of Iron Man plus Gauntlet to what seemed like a legion of “Bro Thors,” showcasing the pop culture impact of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Avengers: Endgame. But on the television side, all I spotted was one scene that may elicit despondency from fans.
At the Marvel booth was a display of costumes from the canceled–Jessica Jones, with a sign displaying “Marvel Television Live Auction.” While last year’s NYCC brought big hitters like Daredevil season 3, this year only had Runaways. Despite the love and excitement expressed through that panel, there was something off about Marvel Television president Jeph Loeb, and his company’s entire presence at the convention.
About a week later, it would be revealed through Deadline that Marvel Studios’ Kevin Feige is now Chief Creative Officer of Marvel proper, with his division now overseeing Loeb’s Marvel Television and Marvel Animation. The rumored Marvel TV takeover has apparently begun.
It’s always the job of the executive to keep a happy face on when facing the public, despite whatever corporate politics are happening behind the scenes. And so Loeb trooped on during that Runaways season 3 panel, maintaining his dad joke persona while eschewing his usual penchant of trying to start group chants in the auditorium. It was an event that seemed oddly deflated, perhaps not something that the average observer would notice, but I couldn’t help but wonder what was going on in the back of Loeb’s mind as I watched him moderate the panel in a slightly uncharacteristically tepid manner.
It felt like the panel took place in its own vacuum, actively trying to drive away any thoughts or whispers about anything else happening with Marvel Television. While warning audience members to not record any trailers or footage of the season 3 premiere, Loeb subtly joked that Marvel has “agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” in the auditorium ready to confiscate anyone’s phones; the audience surprisingly cheered upon mention of that key phrase. “I can just do that?” said Loeb. “Hmm. ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’” Another cheer, as well as one yell behind me of “Don’t cancel it!”
Of course, Marvel Television’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. isn’t getting canceled, but rather getting a proper ending on its own accord. Still, losing the flagship and longest-running program for the company doesn’t bode well, nor does the pre-cancellation of the sort-of spin-off Ghost Rider on Hulu. While Helstrom is still beginning production, Runaways being the lone title with anything to show was foreboding.
It made sense from a publicity perspective, but Loeb not acknowledging the hits that Marvel Television has taken in the past year still felt peculiar. But while Marvel themselves may not have made light of it, the fandoms behind these deceased shows made sure that the Defenders wouldn’t fade away into obscurity. While the floor was riddled with those Iron Gauntlet and Fat Thor cosplays, there were no shortage of Matt Murdock and Karen Page costumes as well.
In fact, Daredevil on Netflix attracted probably the most passion. The #SaveDaredevil campaign is probably one of the louder and prouder fan movements I’ve seen online, and they’ve made sure of having a real world presence as well. The campaign, which some friends and former colleagues of mine are a part of (Marvel News Desk‘s Brooklyn Wallace is pictured above with Joe Quesada and Charlie Cox), carved their own space in New York Comic-Con 2019 with a meet-up.
This “Fandom Without Fear” will certainly be tested with the recent Marvel shakeup, which could bring the future of Daredevil (and associated characters) in the Marvel Cinematic Universe into question. Could this be a good move, one that allows for Marvel Television’s work to be properly integrated with the rest of the canon? Or will we see Charlie Cox potentially getting replaced and Matt Murdock undergo a reboot?
This report should be taken with a grain of salt, but The GWW claims that the Inhuman Royal Family, previously depicted in the ABC bomb Inhumans, will be recast for the Ms. Marvel Disney+ show. Whether the report is valid or not, the failure of that show would probably warrant such a reboot. The question is whether the same philosophy would apply to the more popular Marvel-Netflix shows, which Feige had no hand in.
It is impossible to know what sort of conversations are going on in Marvel until we see the end results on our screens, but we do know who answers to who now. Along with being the head of Marvel Studios, which is under Walt Disney Studios rather than Marvel Entertainment, Kevin Feige, as mentioned, now has the title of “Chief Creative Officer, Marvel,” bringing Marvel Television and Marvel Family Entertainment in his purview.
That means that while Feige still reports to Disney CEO Bob Iger, Walt Disney Studios CCO Alan Horn, and Co-Chairman Alan Bergman, Feige now has a number of new underlings. Along with Loeb, Dan Buckley, the President of Marvel Entertainment, will report to Feige in matters regarding to publishing creative/editorial matters. Marvel Chairman Ike Perlmutter, who trades say Feige had a falling out with, will remain in his position, with Buckley reporting to Perlmutter for issues in publishing operations, sales, creative services, games, licensing and events.
Long story short, Feige will probably exercise the professional courtesy in not publicly disclosing what he’ll do with those characters; I doubt he would throw any of the aforementioned (except for Perlmutter) under the bus. But can he reboot Daredevil, Ghost Rider, and the like if he wanted to? Absolutely.
It’s all corporate politics when all is said and done, but for the larger MCU fandom, it’s a battle of the soul. It is evident that the Marvel Studios productions have had a larger cultural impact in the mainstream, and now the company is hoping to replicate that success in their own Disney+ television shows. But that isn’t to discount the continued love for everything Marvel Television has done (except for Inhumans), and it might be unwise for Feige to ignore that faction of the fandom, if #SaveDaredevil is any indication.
One could say that Marvel Studios simply likes doing everything its own way—but at the same time, they brought back J.K. Simmons to play J. Jonah Jameson, and they’re absolutely going to bring back Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool, as a recent tweet hinted at. As Melinda May said in a meta-moment of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., “we have a small, but active fanbase.” Hopefully, Feige hears that fanbase out.
And with any luck, Jeph Loeb will get to keep his job, hopefully continuing his own productions while receiving more support from Feige’s division. If that’s the case, we can only hope for more dad humor and schmaltzy chants from Loeb in future New York Comic-Cons.