The next issue of Vanity Fair will sport four variant covers spotlighting Avengers: Infinity War and itts untitles sequel, Avengers 4 – the cover story is both a jaw dropping photo shoot of the assembled talents, but also lost of gossipy bits! Let’s dig in!
Marvel head honcho Kevin Feige’s origin story is given a polished treatment, but the big story is really the end of the MCU we know. Infinity War comes out in 2018, and the untitled sequel in May 2019, and Avengers 4 will mark the end of the road for some beloved move star contracts. Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlet Johansson, Chris Hemsworth and Jeremy Renner will all have finished their contractual obligations for Marvel with this Avengers outing, so, as the Man once said, the old order changeth:
While Feige refused to reveal any details about the characters and stories Marvel has yet to introduce, he did promise a definitive end to the franchise that built Marvel. Avengers 4, he said, will “bring things you’ve never seen in superhero films: a finale.” This may mean a lot of dead Avengers at the hands of the villain Thanos, who has appeared sporadically and tantalizingly since the first Avengers movie back in 2012. But the Marvel Cinematic Universe will live on. “There will be two distinct periods. Everything before Avengers 4 and everything after. I know it will not be in ways people are expecting,” Feige teased.
Spitballing a bit, post A4 MCU will include Captain Marvel (Brie Larsen), Black Panther (Chadwick Bosemen), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland), along with probably some of the Guardians and the new fan favorites revealed in Thor: Ragnarok and Civil War – but maybe, as is Hollywood tradition, when contracts run out, some noble Avengers will die in battle to be forever memorialized in shadowy splash pages while armor and shields are doled out to new recruits. If that idea is scary, well, just ask Axel Alonso.
Meanwhile, if you’ve been reading the Beat for any amount of time, you must be asking “Is there any dirt on Ike?” and yes there is! A whole section called “Life with Ike” and some shade is thrown at both Ike and the now disbanded Marvel Creative Committee, which included (not was not necessarily limited to) Joe Quesada, Dan Buckley, Brian Bendis and the shadowy Alan Fine. It seems this group did not endear itself to Guardians director James Gunn, or, really, much of anyone.
It seems like more than happenstance that Marvel’s emphatic inclusiveness coincides with a long-overdue 2015 management re-structuring by Disney that put Feige firmly in control of the studio and quietly sidelined Isaac “Ike” Perlmutter, Marvel’s controversial chairman and former C.E.O. Perlmutter is a shadowy but essential figure in the world of Marvel. The 75-year-old mogul helped rescue Marvel Entertainment Group from bankruptcy in 1998, when he merged it with Toy Biz Inc., a company he co-owned. Though Perlmutter endorsed Marvel’s decision to make its own films, he clung to outdated opinions about casting, budgeting, and merchandising that ran counter to trends in popular culture, sources close to the studio said. For example, Perlmutter, citing his years in the toy-making business, reportedly made the decision to scale back production of Black Widow-themed merchandise in 2015 because he believed “girl” superhero products wouldn’t sell.
Director James Gunn chalked up every conflict he had making Guardians of the Galaxy to Perlmutter and the Marvel “creative committee”—a legacy of the studio’s early days—which read every script and gave writers and filmmakers feedback. Said Gunn, “They were a group of comic-book writers and toy people” who gave him “haphazard” notes. The committee, for example, suggested Guardians of the Galaxy ditch the 70s music that the film’s hero loves. (The movie’s soundtrack, featuring retro hits, would later go platinum.) Members of the creative committee declined to comment for the story. Perlmutter also declined to comment, but a person with knowledge of his approach said, “Ike Perlmutter neither discriminates nor cares about diversity, he just cares about what he thinks will make money.”
You’ll want to read the whole article, as well as a sidebar on the shoot itself, which delves into Marvel fashion and eternal mysteries such as Black Widow’s hair. The shoot, which was organized for the MCU’s 10th Anniversary, involved 83 people, including Stan the Man. It really does define an era of filmmaking the likes of which we shall never see again. Below are the photos by Jason Bell with styling by Jessica Diehl and the four variant covers.
Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Danai Gurira as Okoye, Tom Holland as Spider-Man, and Chris Evans as Captain America.
Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Letitia Wright as Shuri, Karen Gillan as Nebula, and Chris Pratt as Star-Lord.
Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan, Don Cheadle as War Machine, Vin Diesel as Groot, Dave Bautista as Drax, Paul Bettany as Vision, and Michael Douglas as Dr. Hank Pym.
Angela Bassett as Ramonda, Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, Anthony Mackie as Falcon, and Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange.
Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill, Linda Cardellini as Laura Barton, Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie, and Zoe Saldana as Gamora.
Pom Klementieff as Mantis, Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther, Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts, Paul Rudd as Ant-Man, and Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner.
Sebastian Stan as The Winter Soldier, Benedict Wong as Wong, Evangeline Lilly as The Wasp, Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, President of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige, Bradley Cooper as Rocket Raccoon, and Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee.
If you made it all the way to the end of the piece, here’s a few bonus thoughts.
• Does everyone in the MCU have to wear black and or red exclusively? Seriously, let’s mix it up a little.
• Vanity Fair – and its Conde Nast stable mate The New Yorker – represent that last gasps of the power of old print media. I’m pretty sure that this is the first time a Marvel movie has been prominently featured in its pages, let alone on the cover. It’s a spectacular, contemporary package, but that the cover line refers to a George Gershwin show tune that’s nearly a hundred years old tells you everything you need to know.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.