MCU: The Reign of Marvel Studios is a Must-Own Book

MCU: The Reign of Marvel Studios by Joanna Robinson, Dave Gonzales, and Gavin Edwards. Courtesy of Liveright.

Joanna Robinson, Dave Gonzales, and Gavin Edwards tell the definitive MCU history in the must-own MCU: The Reign of Marvel Studios. The paperback is due out on October 15, 2024.

“‘I am Iron Man’. You think you’re the only superhero in the world? Mr. Stark, you’ve become part of a bigger universe. You just don’t know it yet.” – Nick Fury, Iron Man

I happened to be on hand for the Denver book launch of MCU: The Reign of Marvel Studios in October. It took me until late April to finally start reading the book. But after opening it up, I would end up reading it really quickly. I credit the trio of writers for editing the book in a way that gives it a fast pace. While it may be an unauthorized account, a number of actors, directors, producers, and writers open up in interviews. It is either that or they draw on sources. With the many Marvel films and subsequent press junkets, there is zero shortage of interviews to draw from. In any event, one can see why the Marvel method works so well in putting a film together. There might be situations or strife or bad reviews but Marvel’s system is almost always a winning formula.

It’s fascinating to read about Marvel’s history in Hollywood not to mention the infighting between West Coast studio and East Coast administration. If not for then-Disney CEO Bob Iger intervening, the infighting would only continue. The Creative Committee would later pave way for the Marvel Parliament and the rest is history. I should mention that Ike Perlmutter took control of Marvel during the initial bankruptcy proceedings. He came from the toy business and it’s rare that people catch a glimpse of him on camera. But anyway, it’s his toy business background that would later make him one of the worst CEOs in business history. His ideas on what sells toy is what explains the delays of Black Panther, Captain Marvel, and Black Widow as theatrical movies. The lack of Black Widow toys, too.

Kevin Feige during the A Celebration of the USC School of Cinematic Arts' 90th Aniversary at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills on Monday, April 8, 2019.
Kevin Feige during the A Celebration of the USC School of Cinematic Arts’ 90th Aniversary at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills on Monday, April 8, 2019. (Matt Petit / ©A.M.P.A.S.)

A few key hires had to happen to put Marvel on it’s path towards where it is today. The first is Avi Arad. Without Avi, Spider-Man would never make his way to the big screen. The second is Kevin Feige. Feige’s hiring came while the Donners were producing the X-Men movies. Of course, those films didn’t happen without the animated series becoming a hit on TV. True, the films would target an older audience but animation would show that an audience is there. And then, there’s David Maisel. Maisel entered Marvel’s picture in the early 2000s and pitched his idea to Perlmutter in a lunchtime pitch at Mar-a-Lago of all places. Marvel had been licensing out characters to other studios. His pitch would change things for the better:  what if Marvel could be a real studio rather than license out characters to other studios, without spending Perlmutter’s own money.

The year Maisel met with Perlmutter would be an interesting one for Marvel. It gave us both Daredevil and Ang Lee’s Hulk. Both films were from different studios–20th Century Fox made a Daredevil spinoff, Elektra, only so the rights would not revert back to Marvel. Thanks to Arad and Marvel’s merchandising deal, the company would still make money licensing and merchandise even if films didn’t do well at the box office. In fact, Maisel told Perlmutter that he would not waste the potential of characters, pointing to Tony Stark/Iron Man as a key example of neglect. Arad and Feige knew the layering approach had its limits and Feige pushed for Marvel to get the rights back. Maisel pointed out that if Marvel made their own movies, they could control which characters appeared and when. The rest is history.

Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Jeremy Renner, Robert Downey Jr., and Mark Ruffalo in The Avengers
Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Jeremy Renner, Robert Downey Jr., and Mark Ruffalo in The Avengers. Photo by Marvel.

It’s still hard to believe that the MCU kicked things off 16 years ago with the releases of Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk. The initial phase would culminate with The Avengers. However working with Edward Norton would pave the way for how Marvel worked with directors and talent going forward. As a producer, Kevin Feige knows what he wants. However, directors still have to do their jobs even when pre-viz will determine what shots to use in an action sequence. Some directors can work well in the Marvel sandbox. Others, not so much. This is why it would not surprise me if Feige turns to the Russo brothers for the next two massive Avengers films in the Multiverse Saga. Call it wishful thinking. While a number of original Avengers concluded their arcs with Avengers: Endgame, the multiverse is what could bring a number of actors back as variants.

There’s so much studio history that it is impossible for a mere book review to give this book the justice it deserves. The trio cover just about every single topic that you can think of. Whether it is Avi Arad having the foresight to know Spider-Man would be a billion-dollar property or Kevin Feige putting in the work starting with X-Men, the list goes on and on. One could probably write an entire book on Head of Visual Development Ryan Meinerding. The book is still fresh up through early 2023. Obviously, one cannot discuss the recent films and TV series without acknowledging issues surrounding the visual effects work. Most films would be in post-production until just before their theatrical releases. But once Feige had to come up with content for Disney+, it would mean increasing the workload but with a smaller budget. It’s an impossible task.

Whether you’re a casual or die-hard Marvel fan, MCU: The Reign of Marvel Studios is essential reading.

MCU: The Reign of Marvel Studios is available wherever books are sold.

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.