The Week in Spandex – S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, The Dark Knight Returns for Justice League, Charlie Sheen as Spider-Man and more

Our weekly round up of the big news stories from the world of screen superheroes, including S.H.I.E.L.D., The Avengers, Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Guardians of the Galaxy, Justice League, The Dark Knight Rises, The Dark Knight Returns, The Amazing Spider-Man, Kick-Ass 2: Balls to the Wall, The Wolverine, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Arrow and Charlie Sheen as Spidey…

We’ll start things off this week with the news that Joss Whedon’s previously announced Marvel TV series will centre around the exploits of the Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement and Logistics Division – a.k.a. S.H.I.E.L.D. – with Whedon currently developing the project alongside his regular collaborators (and relatives) Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tanchaeoen. There’s no word yet on whether the show will include S.H.I.E.L.D. agents such as Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, Cobie Smulders’ Maria Hill or Maximiliano Hernandez’s Jasper Sitwell, but assuming it doesn’t go the same way as Firefly and Dollhouse (which would be hugely surprising, given the popularity of Marvel’s characters on the big screen), the series open up the possibility for Marvel to introduce some of its lesser-known characters (Iron Fist, Luke Cage et al.), as well as throwing in occasional cameos from Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (budget permitting, of course)…

…Sticking with Whedon and his contributions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, The Avengers returns to U.S. cinemas this Labor Day weekend (with rumours of an additional post-credits sequence), while a couple of deleted scenes have also popped up online ahead of its home entertainment release, including an alternate opening featuring Maria Hill, and an extended introduction to Chris Evans’ Captain America. Be sure to head on over to Vulture for an interesting interview with Whedon, during which he discusses the deleted scenes, along with the upcoming S.H.I.E.L.D. show and The Avengers 2

…Elsewhere in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s been announced that ‘exclusive’ footage from Iron Man 3 will be screened at Ireland’s Movie Fest next weekend (which will likely be a variation of the footage shown at the San Diego Comic-Con International back in July), while set photos from Thor: The Dark World have started to pop up online as principal photography on the Alan Taylor-directed sequel prepares to get underway here in the UK. Meanwhile, Marvel Studios supremo Kevin Feige has touched upon the Guardians of the Galaxy movie in an interview with the Japanese blog Nifty (via ComicBookMovie), hinting that the ‘space epic’ will inevitably build upon The Avengers’ mid-credits sequence by incorporating the Mad Titan, Thanos…

…Marvel’s The Avengers will extend its lead as the biggest box-office hit of 2012 with its re-release this weekend, although Earth’s Mightiest Heroes will have to settle for second place behind The Dark Knight Rises here in the UK, with Christopher Nolan’s final Batman feature overtaking the UK gross of ‘Avengers Assemble’ this past weekend. Despite being outperformed by Sony’s The Amazing Spider-Man when both films opened in direct competition in China this past Monday, The Dark Knight Rises now looks a certainty to cross the $1 billion mark and should do so this weekend. The film is currently sitting in fourteenth position in the all-time box-office chart, while domestically The Dark Knight Rises has already cracked the top ten, having overtaken The Lion King and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest to become the ninth biggest North American release of all-time…

…Now that The Dark Knight has risen, attention is starting to turn towards the next phase of Batman’s big screen career, and rumours this past week have suggested that Warner Bros. are keen to reboot the character as part of its planned Justice League ensemble, which would then serve as the basis for a new solo series. According to Batman-on-Film, WB want to ensure that the next cinematic Batman is part of the wider ‘DC Cinematic Universe’, which gets underway next year with the release of Zack Snyder’s Superman reboot Man of Steel. As for Justice League, with Christopher Nolan and Ben Affleck both ruling themselves out of contention for the director’s chair, the latest name to crop up as a possible candidate to helm the DC team-up is Brett Ratner, which would certainly be a brave move on WB’s part considering the fan response to his last superhero effort, X-Men: The Last Stand. Other alleged candidates said to be in the frame by various online sources include Snyder, Lana and Andy Wachowski (Cloud Atlas), McG (Terminator: Salvation) and Ruben Fleischer (Gangster Squad), along with pretty much each and every director who’s ever helmed a movie for Warner Bros…

…In other Batman news, Warner Premiere has released the first clip from the upcoming straight-to-video animated adaptation of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1, which you can check out here, in addition to a Q&A with Michael McKean (This Is Spinal Tap), who will lend his voice to Arkham psychiatrist Dr. Wolper. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 is set for release on September 25th; check out a rundown of the artwork and special features for the two-disc DVD release over at WorldsFinestOnline

…The cast of the Jeff Wadlow-directed sequel Kick-Ass 2: Balls to the Wall continues to swell as filming prepares to get underway this month. The latest names to join the likes of Aaron Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Nicolas Cage are Andy Nyman (Dead Babies, Severance), the British actor having secured the role of villain The Tumour, and Claudia Lee (Hart of Dixie, Zeke and Luther), who will portray the character of Brooke, the ringleader of a posse of schoolgirls who make the rather foolish decision to bully Hit-Girl…

…Director James Mangold has posted an update on Twitter about The Wolverine this past weekend, announcing that Hugh Jackman and company have now moved to Tokyo, Japan for the next stage of production: “We are all enroute to Japan today. Part two of the shoot begins today [August 25th] – shooting in the land of the rising sun.” Of course, it didn’t take long for the first batch of set photos to appear, and you can check them out here

…Matthew’ Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class sequel X-Men: Days of Future Past has just landed itself some stiff competition for its July 18th, 2014 release date, with Warner Bros. announcing that the third and final instalment of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, The Hobbit: There and Back Again, will arrive that very same day. Expect Fox to shuffle its X-Men plans in the very near future…

…Ahead of its TV premiere next month, the pilot episode of The CW’s Arrow series was screened at FanExpo Canada 2012 on Sunday, along with a Q&A panel featuring stars Stephen Amell (Oliver Queen), Willa Holland (Thea Queen), Colin Donnell (Tommy Merlyn) and Katie Cassidy (Dinah Laurel Lance); you can watch a video of the Q&A here, and head on over to ComicBookMovie for a short interview with executive producer Andrew Kreisberg (Fringe)…

…And finally, in a case of what might have been, Ol’ Tiger Blood himself Charlie Sheen appeared on Jay Mohr’s Mohr Stories podcast (via THR) and revealed that he attempted to get an adaptation of The Amazing Spider-Man up off the ground in the 1980s, only to be shot down by the now defunct production company Orion Pictures: “”I had an office at Orion at the time, and I brought them Spider-Man. I said, ‘Look, in a couple of years, I’ll be too old to play Peter Parker.’ And they said, ‘Yeah, we’re just thinking that cartoons are not the future, comic books are not the future.’ And I said, ‘But it’s Spider-Man, I’m perfect.’ And they were like, ‘Nah, we’re gonna wait.’”. As for Orion’s lack of foresight with regards to the superhero genre, Sheen went on to sum it up perfectly: “They didn’t know shit.” Indeed.

Holy Franchise, Batman! Bringing the Caped Crusader to the Screen – Available now via Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

Gary Collinson