Why we're dying to see Marvel reload its 'Avengers' starpower at Comic-Con


Actor Kumail Nanjiani shrugs off a suggestion that he’s been working out in order to star in forthcoming Marvel superhero film “The Eternals.” (July 11)

Spoiler alert: The following mentions significant plot points in “Avengers: Endgame.” Beware if you haven’t seen it yet.

SAN DIEGO – Marvel Studios has a habit of not only taking over San Diego Comic-Con, the annual pop-culture festival of geek fandom, but invading with stars aplenty.

In 2010, the entire cast of “The Avengers” – including Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth and Scarlett Johansson – had 6,000-plus people erupting in cheers when they appeared on stage together for the first time. Tom Hiddleston “crashed” the 2013 Marvel panel in character as Loki. And three years ago, Brie Larson was introduced as Captain Marvel alongside dozens of fellow superhero thespians.

After taking last year off (mainly to keep people in the dark about “Avengers: Endgame”), Marvel returns Saturday to cavernous Hall H at the San Diego Convention Center with one of its most important presentations ever. Why? Because while the Marvel Cinematic Universe is still chock-full of stars, the galaxy needs to be reloaded.

Avengers vs. X-Men? How Marvel can maintain its super mojo after ‘Endgame’

‘Spider-Man’: How those ‘Far From Home’ end-credit scenes set up Marvel’s future

“Endgame” and “Spider-Man: Far From Home” capped off Marvel’s Phase 3 films in satisfying fashion, but left two gaping holes: Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark, who appeared in 10 of the 23 Marvel movies, sacrificed himself in “Endgame” to save the day, and Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers, formerly known as Captain America, pretty much aged out (thanks, time travel!) and passed his shield to Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie).

Here’s the other thing: There are no movies officially on Marvel’s slate, a far cry from 2014 when the studio announced its entire Phase 3 lineup. Now we’re in the unusual position of knowing there’s a path forward but a rather nebulous one.

A Black Widow solo project may (or may not) be filming right now with (or without) Johansson. (“I don’t even think I can say a single thing!” she told USA TODAY in April when asked about Hollywood’s worst-kept secret.) Marvel has nothing concrete to say about reports that Angelina Jolie and Kumail Nanjiani will co-star in the myth-heavy “The Eternals,” James Gunn and Taika Waititi are on tap to direct the third “Guardians of the Galaxy” and fourth “Thor” movies respectively, “Doctor Strange” and “Black Panther” sequels are in development and the apparent debut of Shang-Chi in an Asian-led solo movie featuring Marvel Comics’ resident master of kung fu. 

If we asked one of those Magic 8 Balls about Marvel’s future, it would read “Reply hazy, try again Saturday night.”

Comic-Con is a perfect spot for announcements, surprises and an epic superhero info dump because, as much as these films have become the mainstream, comic-book fans were the first worshippers at the Marvel altar. They’re the true believers who are dying to know when (not if) the X-Men and Fantastic Four will be coming to the MCU as a result of the Disney/Fox merger, and definitely the only people who could name at least one of the Eternals. (Probably Sersi.)

But that’s why, especially in a landscape sans Downey and Evans, Marvel needs its next wave of A-listers for the masses to get psyched about as it digs deeper into its vast canon of comic-book personalities. Jolie sounds like a pretty good choice to lead a group of god-like superbeings and she’s going to be key to making casual movie fans care about “The Eternals” the same way Downey did 11 years ago for “Iron Man.”  

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  • Jake Gyllenhaal plays the enigmatic Mysterio, a different kind of hero in Spider-Man: Far From Home.1 of 33
  • Mickey Rourke as Whiplash in Iron Man 2.2 of 33
  • Malekith of the Dark Elves (Chris Eccleston) in a scene from 'Thor: The Dark World.'3 of 33
  • The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) in a scene from the motion picture Iron Man 3.4 of 33
  • General Thunderbolt Ross (William Hurt) in Captain America: Civil War.5 of 33
  • Taserface (Chris Sullivan, right) and the Ravagers6 of 33
  • Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) has big plans for the world7 of 33
  • Ronan (Lee Pace) in a scene from the motion picture Guardians of the Galaxy.8 of 33
  • Mad scientist Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) in a scene from Iron Man 3.9 of 33
  • Crossbones (Frank Grillo) in Captain America: Civil War.10 of 33
  • The Abomination in a scene from the motion picture The Incredible Hulk.11 of 33
  • Yellowjacket (Corey Stoll) and Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) in Ant-Man.12 of 33
  • We may be seeing 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2' villainess13 of 33
  • Supreme Intelligence (Annette Bening) in Captain Marvel.14 of 33
  • Ultron (voiced by James Spader) in a scene from the motion picture Avengers: Age Of Ultron.15 of 33
  • Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) in a scene from the motion picture Iron Man16 of 33
  • Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) in Ant-Man and the Wasp.17 of 33
  • strong16. Yondu./strong The Ravagers leader (Michael Rooker, center) is a space outlaw who sacrificed himself to save his surrogate son Star-Lord yet had a definitely underhanded side in quot;Guardians of the Galaxyquot; (2014).18 of 33
  • Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) in Black Panther.19 of 33
  • Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.20 of 33
  • Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) in Thor: Ragnarok.21 of 33
  • Kurt Russell plays Ego, a living planet, in 'Guardians22 of 33
  • Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brhl) in Captain America: Civil War.23 of 33
  • Nebula (Karen Gillan) returns with a bone to pick with24 of 33
  • The Vulture (Michael Keaton) has dual roles as supervillain and family man in 'Spider-Man: Homecoming.'25 of 33
  • Hugo Weaving plays Red Skull in a scene from the motion picture Captain America: The First Avenger.26 of 33
  • Sam Rockwell, with the Drones, in a scene from the motion picture Iron Man 2.27 of 33
  • Peter Parker (Tom Holland, left, with Jake Gyllenhaal) faces a new world five years after Thanos' snap in Spider-Man: Far From Home.28 of 33
  • Hela (Cate Blanchett) in Thor: Ragnarok.29 of 33
  • Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) in a scene from Captain America: The Winter Soldier.30 of 33
  • Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in The Avengers.31 of 33
  • Thanos (Josh Brolin) leads his army against Earth's mightiest heroes in Avengers: Endgame.32 of 33
  • Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) in Black Panther.33 of 33

Florence Pugh (“Midsommar”), who’s been attached to the officially unofficial Black Widow movie, seems like the kind of up-and-coming actress who could take over the leather-clad mantle from Johansson following her character’s “Endgame” fate. If a star departs, just reload – that’s the sort of mindset that will keep Marvel fresh and relevant as Hollywood changes and generations grow up with these movies.

While you can heap a bunch of accolades on the Marvel brain trust, the most deserved has to be for their uncanny skill at casting these characters, many of whom are less iconic than a Batman or Superman when they’re introduced.

Downey was the gift that kept on giving. Evans matured from being a somewhat recognizable actor to being a cultural sensation and arguably the face of the MCU. Boseman and most everyone involved with “Black Panther” was absolute perfection. And Holland has left all the other movie Spideys in his dust. With that kind of track record, whoever they pick to be, say, in a new Fantastic Four will probably be awesome.

Marvel has earned our collective trust in that regard, and it might be more crucial than ever heading into a hazy new phase of our favorite superhero franchises.

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  • Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is alive and well again but the world needs new superheroes to step up in Spider-Man: Far From Home.1 of 24
  • Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Tony Stark (Robert2 of 24
  • The big guy on the rampage in The Incredible Hulk.3 of 24
  • Tony (Robert Downey Jr.) and Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow)4 of 24
  • Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) foster5 of 24
  • A thunder god (Chris Hemsworth) comes to Earth to prove6 of 24
  • The good guys roll out the welcome mat for a killer7 of 24
  • Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) explodes into the Marvel universe in her own solo movie a month before she has a role in Avengers: Endgame.8 of 24
  • Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and Scott Lang (Paul9 of 24
  • Thor (Chris Hemsworth, left) and Bruce Banner (Mark10 of 24
  • Benedict Cumberbatch brought magic to the Marvel world11 of 24
  • Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) steals a suit that changes his12 of 24
  • Spider-Man (Tom Holland, right) makes a new superfriend in Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) in Spider-Man: Far From Home.13 of 24
  • Robert Downey Jr. and Iron Man jumpstarted the Marvel14 of 24
  • Ned (Jacob Batalon, left) and Peter (Tom Holland) nerd15 of 24
  • Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) supports his fellow soldiers16 of 24
  • Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) hangs with his dad (Kurt17 of 24
  • Thanos (Josh Brolin) is out to smash superheroes and18 of 24
  • Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) and T'Challa/Black19 of 24
  • Marvel's A-list came together for The Avengers.20 of 24
  • It's Team Cap vs. Team Iron Man in Civil War.21 of 24
  • Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) must face an all-powerful Thanos in Avengers: Endgame.22 of 24
  • The not-quite-Avengers-yet crew has to save the universe23 of 24
  • Cap (Chris Evans) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson)24 of 24

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