Many entertainment companies and franchises have a symbol that makes them immediately identifiable. For The Walt Disney Company, it’s Mickey Mouse. For Columbia Pictures, owned by Sony, it’s the lady with a torch that some say looks like Annette Bening.
So the question arises — who is the face of the Marvel Cinematic Universe? The two most obvious candidates are Spider-Man and Iron Man, but both of them have their complications. So is there a better choice?
Spider-Man has literally been the symbol for Marvel, the comics company the same way Mickey Mouse has been the symbol for Disney. If you bought Marvel Comics in the 70s or 80s, chances are Spider-Man was on the cover somewhere even if it wasn’t a Spider-Man comic.
Spider-Man wasn’t the first Marvel hero – the Fantastic Four debuted before he did – but since Spider-Man was that rare hero who actually started out as a teenager, he spoke to the core audience of comic book readers, as was creator Stan Lee’s intention. Yet when Marvel movies started coming out frequently in 2000, the X-Men got the spotlight first.
This was partly because of tricky rights issues with Spider-Man. Director James Cameron (The Terminator) had written a screenplay for Spider-Man, but for several reasons it never got out of development hell. Sony bought the rights to the character and started a very successful series of movies in 2002.
Then, Marvel Studios came along six years later, but they didn’t have the screen rights to Spidey, so they turned to a different hero.
Why Iron Man?
Iron Man kicked off the MCU with blasts from his rockets and repulsor rays, becoming the first of the studio’s many hits. His two sequels got less effusive reactions, and the third movie divides fans to this day. Regardless, there’s no question that Tony Stark became the central figure of the MCU, with him remaining central to all four Avengers movies.
Not for nothing did Avengers: Endgame end with the clanking sound of Tony forging his first Iron Man suit in the cave.
Fans debated the face of the MCU on Reddit, with some favoring the webhead and some favoring the billionaire. Many fans tried to split the difference, saying that Spider-Man should be the face of Marvel overall, and Iron Man the face of the MCU in particular.
One fan wrote, “I think it’s different for the comics and the movies. As far as comics are concerned, Spider-Man is probably one of the most popular characters (well, and Wolverine – let’s not forget the X-Men). In the movies – it’s definitely Iron Man, he is the one character tying together the entire Infinity Saga. It’s really his growing-up journey, from a very juvenile “hee, I can fly around in a cool suit,” through the first real scare of seeing the Chitauri mother ship, to really understanding what being a hero is all about.”
Does the MCU even need a face?
The Marvel Studios logo has varied over the years, but especially after the Avengers came to the fore, the logo never featured any one hero. It was a montage of the whole lot of them. N
ow, however, Marvel finds itself at a crossroads with many of the original Avengers gone. Meanwhile, the deal between Sony and Disney to share Spider-Man is anything but permanent.
So who should be the face of Marvel, if there is one? One fan said, “Since Iron Man is dead and Cap is retired, I wanna say Spider-Man for the MCU but it’s kinda hard to say with the whole Sony thing so to me it’s Thor”
And another fan shot down the whole question, writing, “There is no single face of Marvel. Your argument is beginning from a false premise …Going into 2008 there was no question that Spider-man was the most recognizable character associated with Marvel. Twelve years and billions of dollars in ticket sales later Marvel is bigger than they have ever been and there are many faces of Marvel.”
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