The Week in Spandex – The Avengers 2, Guardians of the Galaxy, Blade, Hellboy 3, X-Men, Fantastic Four, Powers and more

Our weekly round up of the latest news stories from the world of screen superheroes, including The Avengers 2, S.H.I.E.L.D., Guardians of the Galaxy, Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Blade, AKA Jessica Jones, The Incredible Hulk, Hellboy 3, Dark Universe, Justice League, The Wolverine, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Fantastic Four, Arrow, Amazon, Powers, Ultimate Spider-Man, Wolverine and the X-Men, Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers, DC Nation, Superman: Unbound, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 and more…

Joss Whedon Marvel The AvengersIt’s a bumper edition of The Week in Spandex this week, and we’ll get things underway with the latest comments from Joss Whedon, who’s been speaking about his role as creative consultant on Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe: “I read all the scripts and I give notes on everything. I’ll look at cuts when they’re ready to show me. I’ll talk to directors if they want to. I try to make myself useful without being intrusive. I’ve gotten to be a part of all of them. That’s a dream job for a kid like me.” Of course, Phase Two will culminate with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes assembling once again under Whedon for 2015′s The Avengers 2, and the director has revealed that he’s “a couple of months away” from finishing the script, as well as touching upon his approach to the blockbuster sequel: “Don’t go bigger; go deeper… All of these people have met, so you have that out of the way. Now you can spend your time just digging in — and by digging in, I mean with a scalpel, to cause pain….”

…As well as his various Marvel feature film duties, Whedon is also set to return to television for the studio’s first small screen offering S.H.I.E.L.D., and he went on to provide an update on the pilot, which he’s set to direct later this month for ABC: “[We start filming] a week from Tuesday. You have to bring a bit of spectacle to [S.H.I.E.L.D.]; it’s got to be bigger than your average cop show. But at the end of the day, it’s about the peripheral people. It’s about the people on the edges of the grand adventures. The whole point of the show is that even with all these big things, the little things matter. It’s about people who don’t have super powers. There will be some people with powers, there will be FX, and there will be the spectacle of science-fiction storytelling — but all played on a very human, small level. That’s the appeal of the thing…”

…Considering the apparent demise of Agent Phil Coulson in The Avengers, it came as a surprise when Clark Gregg was announced as heading up the cast of Marvel’s S.H.I.E.L.D., leading to much speculation over how the fan favourite might return from the dead. If you were thinking the prequel route would be the answer then think again, as ABC President Paul Lee has confirmed to IGN that the pilot will follow on from last summer’s epic ensemble: “There is no question that [S.H.I.E.L.D.] is part of the Marvel Universe. In fact, the story takes place after the battle for New York.” However, rather than directly tying into MCU, the emphasis on S.H.I.E.L.D. will be squarely geared towards its own roster of original characters: “There are characters in it, Coulson, who clearly comes from Avengers. So it’s part of the world, but we’re going to be very, very careful that we don’t tread on the toes of the features and build a whole new world. And that’s what Joss Whedon does better than anybody else. He’s built a world for us…”

Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy concept art

…Shifting back to Marvel’s big screen properties now and it’s been reported that filming on 2014′s Guardians of the Galaxy will get underway this summer, with the production set to follow Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor: The Dark World by shooting at Shepperton Studios in the UK. There has of course been a tonne of casting rumours surrounding the James Gunn-directed space epic over the past few weeks, although Joseph Gordon-Levitt (The Dark Knight Rises) has now pulled out of negotiations with Marvel for the role of Peter Quill / Star-Lord, having opted instead to sign on to another comic book adaptation in Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. Other candidates rumoured to be under consideration for Star-Lord include the likes of Jim Sturgess (Cloud Atlas), Zachary Levi (Thor: The Dark World), John Krasinski (The Office), Joel Edgerton (Zero Dark Thirty), Lee Pace (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey), Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville) and Eddie Redmayne (Les Miserables), while Isaiah Mustafa (The Three Stooges), Brian Patrick Wade (The Big Bang Theory) and Dave Bautista (The Man with the Iron Fists) have been linked to the role of Drax the Destroyer. Expect to hear plenty more names linked to this one as the cast starts coming together…

…In other Phase Two news, the Hindustan Times is reporting that director Shane Black is heading over to India this month to scout locations for Iron Man 3, despite the fact that the Robert Downey Jr.-headlined solo sequel is just three-and-a-half months away from release; Jaimie Alexander has been doing the press rounds to promote the release of The Last Stand, and took the opportunity to discuss her return as Lady Sif in Thor: The Dark World [see Collider and I Am Rogue]; and Anthony Mackie (Gangster Squad) spoke to MTV about his forthcoming role as Sam Wilson in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, revealing that he’s seen his costume (“I look like a bad mother-what”), as well as hinting at the possibility of further outings for Falcon after his debut next year…

…With six movies already on their forthcoming slate (including Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man), it would seem that Disney and Marvel have plenty on their hands for the time being, but looking beyond Phase Two and comic book movie regular David S. Goyer (Man of Steel) has told IGN that he expects to see Blade back on the big screen somewhere down the line: “Disney-Marvel owns Blade again. Blade is not the most Disney-fied character, but look, he was a tertiary character; very few people knew who he was. Those films, worldwide, have made a half billion dollars and spawned video games and action figures and things like that. So I think it would be crazy not to see another iteration of Blade at some point.” Asked if he’d be interested in returning to the world Daywalker following his work on the original Blade trilogy and its small-screen spin-off Blade: The Series, Goyer responded: “I’ve done so much Blade. At a certain point you’re just like, ‘How many Blade stories can I tell?’ We were scraping the bottom of the barrel even in the first iteration. It was a little hard. Probably not, but you never know… I never thought I’d do a Superman film, and that ended up happening, so…”

AKA Jessica Jones Marvel

…Despite the ABC network pulling the plug on development on Melissa Rosenberg’s (Twlight, Dexter) pilot episode for AKA Jessica Jones, the writer and producer has told IGN that she’s still hopeful that the Alias adaptation will find another home: “Marvel is trying to set it up somewhere else. They’re looking at a lot of different possibilities. I don’t know if it’s an ABC show. It might be a cable show, really. The graphic novel is the first one that Marvel did that was meant to serve an adult audience. I toned it down a little bit for network, but it’s very, very easy to translate that into cable. Very easy… The graphic novel was so phenomenal that I really just wanted to bring that to the screen. It’s so raw, and I love this character that is kind of a B-level superhero. She’s not in one world or another, she’s a borderline alcoholic. She’s just a mess, but she’s driven by a need to do something greater, you know? She’s just this delicious character. Fun, you know? I’d love to write that character more, and I hope I get the opportunity…”

…One Marvel small screen project that looks to have ground to a halt is Guillermo del Toro’s take on The Incredible Hulk, with the Pacific Rim director revealing that he’s had no contact with Marvel about the potential series since Earth’s Mightiest Heroes assembled last summer: “After The Avengers there’s been complete radio silence. I had one more meeting after Avengers with Jeph Loeb from Marvel and he said, ‘We’re working on it, we’re waiting for a writer,’ he gave me the name of the writer and their resume and I said, ‘That sounds great, let’s wait for him’ because we had delivered a teleplay and I haven’t heard since then.”Perhaps Marvel has other plans for the Green Goliath……Guillermo del Toro fans will also be disappointed to hear that the long-rumoured Hellboy 3 also seems to have failed in its bid to secure financing, with del Toro telling Latino Review: “Well, a couple of weeks ago or months ago, I did make a couple of phone calls to test, to gauge the possibility of doing that because it’s a big movie. There’s no takers for a movie of that size. The two movies made their money back and a little bit. They were financially good, but one was fifty and the other one was eighty, eighty five. This is a hundred and forty. So no one wants to do that leap, from the financial side. So unless we find a way to do the mother of all kick starters...“ 

Guillermo del Toro Justice League DarkWith both Hellboy 3 and The Incredible Hulk now looking dead in the water, del Toro has wasted little time in securing another comic book project to add to his slate, with the ever-busy filmmaker revealing that he is officially attached to the rumoured Justice League Dark adaptation Heaven Sent, which is now going by the name of Dark Universe: I’m doing it.  I’m working on it.  I’m writing the outline…and we already are in talks with a writer.  A very, very good writer. I think people are going to be happy with who we have chosen, and he accepted

Dark Universe isn’t the only DC Comics team-up in development at Warner Bros., with the studio planning to follow up this summer’s Man of Steel by having Henry Cavill’s Superman line up alongside the other members of the Justice League in 2015. Of course, that opens up a host of casting possibilities, but it doesn’t seem that Ryan Gosling (Gangster Squad) is keen to suit up for any superhero movie, judging by his response to a question from ScreenCrave about whether he’d be up for playing the likes of Green Lantern or The Flash: Well Ryan Reynolds is Green Lantern. I can get Flash basically. Here’s the thing. Drive was my attempt at the superhero movie. I had a costume and everything. The scorpion jacket. It was like my cape. It was like the idea of a guy that had seen too many superhero movies and then decided that he was going to make himself one...”

…Hugh Jackman will be back as Logan this coming July in X-Men solo spin-off The Wolverine, and director James Mangold has taken part in a lengthy interview with Entertainment Weekly to discuss the upcoming film, which is based on the 1982 Wolverine comic book series by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller: “I felt it was really important to find Logan at a moment where he was stripped clean of his duties to the X-Men, his other allegiances, and even stripped clean of his own sense of purpose. I was fascinated with the idea of portraying Logan as a ronin – the definition of which is a samurai without a master, without a purpose. Kind of a soldier who is cut loose. War is over. What does he do? What does he face? What does he believe anymore? Who are his friends? What is his reason for being here anymore? I think those questions are especially interesting when you’re dealing with a character who is essentially immortal… We find Logan in a moment of tremendous disillusionment. We find him estranged. One of the models I used working on the film was The Outlaw Josey Wales. You find Logan and his love is gone, his mentors are gone, many of his friends are gone, his own sense of purpose – what am I doing, why do I bother – and his exhaustion is high. He has lived a long time, and he’s tired. He’s tired of the pain… There is a labyrinth of intrigue he enters, but the story is very simple, which is protecting those he loves from the kind of doom that seems to surround him…”

Famke Janssen Hugh Jackman

…It’s been rumoured that Famke Janssen has shot a cameo in The Wolverine as Jean Grey, and if so, it seems she’ll be appearing in flash back form, judging by her response to a question from SuperHeroHype about whether she’ll be joining original X-Men members Jackman, Patrick Stewart (Professor X) and Ian McKellen (Magneto) and X-Men: First Class stars James McAvoy (Professor X), Michael Fassbender (Magneto), Jennifer Lawrence (Mystique) and Nicholas Hoult (Beast) in the cast of Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past: I’m sitting by the phone waiting, call me up Bryan! I think their challenge is that I died as Jean Grey and I died as the Phoenix, so what else can they do? If they bring a younger version back, they’ll have to get a younger actress, so what is there left to do..?” 

…20th Century Fox will expand its Marvel output beyond the X-Men universe in March 2015 with the release of Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four, and the studio’s creative consultant Mark Millar has provided an update on how the reboot is shaping up under the Chronicle director: “He’s contemporarising it. I think he’s just making it work for the screen – he’s a great storyteller. Chronicle, if you think about it, was similar to Fantastic Four in that it was a bunch of people who were transformed into something more than human – that turned out almost his calling card to come and do something like Fantastic Four. What I wasn’t expecting actually was just how funny and likeable he could make this as well as getting the more awesome moments on screen – I use awesome in the traditional British sense and not the California sense awesome, you know? The Ridley Scott moments, and the Fantastic Four really are jaw-dropping in the same way you feel when you saw Alien for the first time. There’s some moments in this – not to be specific – that are actually gonna be phenomenal on screen and stuff you haven’t seen in a superhero movie before…”

The CW’s hit DC Comics adaptation Arrow returns from its midseason break this coming Wednesday and star Stephen Amell has been talking to MTV about what we can expect from the remaining batch of episodes, while executive producer Andrew Kreisberg spoke to SciFiNow about the introduction of another new DC villain Count Vertigo, who will be portrayed by Seth Gamble (Fringe): “The comic-book version of him, the Count Werner von Vertigo… when your last name is Vertigo of course you’re going to grow up to be a supervillain who uses vertigo as a weapon. That concept just doesn’t exist in our world, and we’ve never been shy about saying that we’ve taken all of our cues from Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, and how he took somebody like Ra’s al Ghul, played by Liam Neeson, who was immortal in the comics and presented a realistic take on how he could be immortal, by having a frontman who could be killed and allowing him to survive… There’s some characters who for the most part have transitioned literally from the comics to the show – like Deadshot [Michael Rowe], who despite his costume is still the world’s greatest assassin – and Deathstroke [Manu Bennett], and China White [Kelly Hu], but Count Vertigo is our first real, complete overhaul. We’re really excited about it…”

Adrianne Palicki Wonder Woman costume

…The CW is also busy developing another DC project, with screenwriter Allan Heinberg (Gilmore Girls) working on a pilot script for the Wonder Woman origin series Amazon. The network will be hoping for more success than producer David E. Kelley (Boston Legal) had over at NBC with his 2011 Wonder Woman pilot, which starred Adrianne Palicki (G.I. Joe: Retaliation) as the Amazon Princess: “I still believe [Wonder Woman] is viable for a television series. I think it’s ripe to do it,” states Kelley in a recent interview. “We made mistakes with ours. My only regret is we were never given a chance to correct them. We had a lot that was right about it and a great cast. In time, we could have fixed what we had done wrong, we just didn’t get that chance… We would have gotten there and I wish we were afforded a little more time. I do believe in the potential of the series and I wish [The CW] well with it. I think it could be a great success…”

…Another pilot that failed to make it to series was that of Powers, FX’s planned adaptation of Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming’s ongoing superhero police procedural, but now FX president John Landgraf has given fans hope that the series may one day make it to the small screen, telling IGN that Powers is “still alive. We’ve been through so many incarnations. After we made the pilot, we actually developed three more [episode] scripts. So then we had a pilot plus three scripts, and we decided between the pilot and the scripts that it wasn’t quite the series that we needed it to be. When I say we, by the way, Brian Bendis is involved in every phase of this conversation and discussion. But one of the scripts was written by this guy named Charlie Huston, and he was a novelist. Both I and Brian and others thought, ‘Wow, there is actually something in the tone of this.’ So Charlie was approached, I think by Brian, and said, ‘Look, would you be interested in taking on Powers?’ And Charlie said, ‘Well, I’ve never actually adapted anything before in my life. I have only written novels and stuff of my own, but Powers is my favorite graphic novel, and yes!’ So what ended up happening was we reconstituted the whole thing around Charlie as the creator, with Brian. Charlie went up to Seattle, and they sat down and they talked, and read through all the books, and they came back with a new vision, basically. Essentially, a new pilot to begin with, which is a new, different story than the pilot that we shot. So that pilot is officially gone and dead, and the actors are all gone, but we’re developing a whole new pilot from scratch… I’m not going to put anything less than an absolutely great version of Powers on the air. That’s like remaking a great film into a good film, and I don’t want to do that…”

…We’ll close this week with a quick round-up of all the recent animated superhero news… Ultimate Spider-Man returns to Disney XD on January 21st, and you can check out a new video preview here… The Facebook page 1 Million to Save Wolverine and the X-Men has been releasing pages from the script for the first episode of the aborted second season of Wolverine and the X-Men… ComicBookMovie has a selection of behind-the-scenes videos from the Marvel Knights motion comic Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers [see here], along with clips from this weekend’s DC Nation offerings, including Young Justice and Green Lantern: The Animated Series [see here]… Having been off-limits to Green Lantern: The Animated Series due to the Ryan Reynolds-headlined feature film, Sinestro is finally set to debut in the show, where he’ll be voiced by DC animation regular Ron Perlman… We’ve had our first look at Warner Home Entertainment’s upcoming direct-to-video feature Superman: Unbound thanks to two images featuring Superman, Lois Lane and Supergirl… and finally, DC animation legend Bruce Timm and voice director Andrea Romano have taken part in an interview with Nerdy Rotten Scoundrel to promote the release of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2, which arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on January 29th.

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

Gary Collinson