As a movie lover, from Martin Scorsese to Brad Bird, or Quentin Tarantino to J.J. Abrams, it is now almost completely impossible to ignore the influence of Marvel superheroes on popular culture. Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Stone, really, you are going to waist brainpower and our reading time on a bunch of childish GCI mediocrities?” I get it. Normally, I would agree with you. As a 22 year old, the characters and plots of these movies should be above my pretentious media consumption, (even if some of the jokes in these movies are actually funny). But what really fascinates me about all these movies is the interconnectivity between them all. It makes for a beautiful mess. When Nick Fury shows up in the first post-credits scene for a Marvel film, the first Iron Man, and asks Tony Stark to part of the Avengers Initiative, I thought it was just a really clever inside joke. Nope. Sure enough, 4 years and 4 more movies later, the first Avengers movie airs and Robert Downey Jr., (excuse me, Tony Stark), fulfills the promise he made all those years ago. It is the small little Easter eggs in every single movie that interlinks all these characters and plots that really get me. There are things behind-the-scenes that we don’t know or can’t see yet, that will gradually be revealed over a painfully long period of time. And this is the really crazy idea: all of it is canon! Meaning none of these movies can contradict each other! I mean, good heavens, Disney now has several TV shows on ABC and Netflix that are within this same universe, and these programs cannot contradict events in the movies, nor can the movies contradict the TV shows. Kevin Feige, the alleged puppet master behind this “Marvel Cinematic Universe” (MCU), claims he has ideas for movies all the way to 2028! Regardless if they will still be successful by then, the simple fact this bold team of creators is trying to implement this is wonderful.
Now, how does all this apply to future “adult” fiction writers? I think you are going to see more attempts by novelists and writers, (both on their own and in collaboration), to create fictional universes with recurring characters and plot device, but where each work somehow stands alone. This has happened before. The famous Weird Tales Trinity of the 30s: H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Clark Ashton Smith are now infamous for mentioning each others monsters, characters and fictional literature in their short stories. It is now starting to happen again. Brandon Sanderson is a famous American fantasy author who has written several novels in the Cosmere universe: a place where each world is radically different from the rest in terms of magic, but there is a recurring character and mythology that somehow ties them all together. David Mitchell, the British novelist famous for penning Cloud Atlas, published a book last year called The Bone Clocks that ties all of his novels together in one really, bizarre universe.
For better or worse, I think writers are going to start taking cues from Marvel, and are going to attempt more and more often to make their stand-alone stories connect in some pretty bizarre ways. The age of interconnectivity is here, and I will gladly participate.
By: Stone Phillips