Over the past 30 years, Marvel's risen meteorically. The company's gone from pawning off its most lucrative superheroes to keep the lights on to hedging untold millions on D-list characters even the most obsessive fans barely remember. And now that Black Widow's finally hitting theaters, Cracked's looking at the past (and future) of the studio that revolutionized the modern superhero narrative. Check out parts one, two, three, and four.

You know that a-hole in every music show who shouts out the name of every song, no matter how obscure, the moment the band plays a single chord? We're that a-hole, except with comics. And, after a year being denied the opportunity to impress fellow moviegoers by shouting stuff like "That guy turns bad in the comics!" or "She dies, by the way!" we're itching to share our nerd wisdom with someone, anyone. So, here's all the stuff the current Marvel movies and shows are teasing for the future of the MCU, starting with ...

WARNING: This article is basically one long spoiler.

The Young Avengers Are Pretty Much In The MCU Already

The Young Avengers are like the Avengers, but (get this) young. In the comics, each member is selected to fill-in for a different Adult Avenger after the original team disbands following Scarlet Witch's fake-baby-triggered nervous breakdown. That's actually an important detail, because those fake babies (created by Scarlet Witch's magic and loneliness) are mystically reincarnated into two Young Avengers, Wiccan and Speed -- and we already saw those same characters in WandaVision, where they even wore tinier, cheaper versions of their comic book superhero suits.

Marvel Studios

The fact that one of them can't keep his cape straight is actually a spoiler.

The twins are seemingly deleted from reality at the end of the show, but then Wanda hears them calling for help in the post-credits scene, suggesting that they'll be brought back at some point (presumably as teenagers, or 27-year-old actors playing teenagers). There's a big chance they'll at least play a role in 2022's Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, where their mom is slated to show up next.

But Wiccan and Speed are not the first Young Avengers to appear in the MCU: that distinction goes to Ant-Man's daughter, Cassie Lang, who was introduced as an adorable little girl in the first Ant-Man movie and then aged to a more Young Avengers-appropriate age in Avengers: Endgame. In the comics, Cassie becomes a size-shifting superhero called Stature after revealing that she's been micro-dosing with the Pym Particles that give her dad his powers since she was a kid. 

Marvel Comics

Marvel Studios

If she was truly Paul Rudd's kid, she wouldn't age at all.

It's been confirmed that Cassie will show up in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, which will also feature Kang, a time-traveling Avengers villain. And, as it turns out, (we already gave you a spoiler warning at the start but here's another one since no one reads the intro) Kang is the future version of another Young Avenger, Iron Lad. In fact, Iron Lad is the one who puts together the team while trying to prevent his evil future. It's kind of like if Kid Hitler was the leader of the Teen Titans.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier also introduces a Young Avenger. Remember when they go visit the Black vet who was experimented on by the U.S. government while trying to recreate Captain America? (As if Uncle Sam would ever do anything like that!) No, the old guy isn't in the Young Avengers, his grandkid Eli a.k.a. Patriot is. 

At first, Eli claims that he got Cap-like powers after his grandpa gave him a blood transfusion, but then it turns out he's actually been shooting up a mutant growth hormone (presumably derived from Wolverine's castrated and regrown balls). Later, Marvel scrapped that and made the blood transfusion story real, probably because they finally realized how "one of our few Black teen heroes is a junkie" sounded.

Marvel Comics

Marvel Studios

Hey, at least they didn't give him a skateboard.

Eli's love interest in the original Young Avengers is a young archer named Kate Bishop, a.k.a. "the better Hawkeye." Kate initially took on the name because the original Hawkeye was dead, but then he came back and became her mentor, and eventually even he admitted that, yep, she's better. And we might have just told you the entire plot of the upcoming Hawkeye show on Disney+, since it's been confirmed that Hailee Steinfeld will play Kate there.

The only one of the original Young Avengers gang who hasn't been confirmed is Hulkling, a member of both the Kree and the Skrulls, the warring alien races introduced in Captain Marvel. In the comics, Hulkling also happens to be the son of Marvel's first Captain Marvel, Mar-Vell, played by Annette Benning in Captain ... uh, the movie we just mentioned (we legally cannot say M****l again in this sentence or we'll be sued). Given that Hulking and Wiccan are currently Marvel's most prominent couple of any orientation, we don't see them introducing one without the other.

There was a second YA team that included teen hero America Chavez (also appearing in Multiverse of Madness) and Kid Loki (Loki's next phase after Lady Loki, so he might appear in his show). It would be extremely weird if Marvel went through the trouble of introducing all of these character and then didn't put them together. But this isn't the only super-team that might be forming under our noses ...

We're Probably Getting A Dark Avengers/West Coast Avengers Hybrid (Also, Thunderbolts!)

What if ... the Avengers went to bed three hours earlier? That is the question posed by the long-running West Coast Avengers comic, which was literally about some of the Avengers packing their bags and moving to LA. While that sounds like a comic about a bunch of superheroes stuck in traffic for hellishly long hours, West Coast Avengers was home to some important storylines we're already seeing or are about to see in the MCU. You know in WandaVision when Vision's body is unceremoniously disassembled and then put back together, minus all the colors (or emotions)? That's straight out of this series.

Marvel Comics

Marvel Studios

Damn, they just voided his warranty.

The whole thing about Scarlet Witch's kids with Vision being erased from reality also started in this comic, which was basically The Misadventures of Wanda Maximoff for a while. Another major character in the series was John Walker, the unstable and kinda fashy Captain America replacement who ends up assuming a separate identity called U.S. Agent, as seen in Falcon and the Winter Soldier. This means we might get an adaptation of the classic scene in which Walker tells the cold, emotionless White Vision to put some gosh dang pants on, for America's sake.

Marvel Comics

Marvel Studios

"It is highly illogical to see my finely sculpted butt and not desire to see more of it."

Other prominent West Coast Avengers who already exist in the MCU: Hawkeye, War Machine, The Wasp, original Ant-Man Hank Pym, Moon Knight (from the upcoming Disney+ show), and we know from cameos that Wonder Man and the 1940s Human Torch are also somewhere out there. And now forget all of them, because we're pretty sure Marvel Studios is putting U.S. Agent and White Vision in a completely different spin-off team with a pretty self-explanatory name: the Dark Avengers. If the Young Avengers are like specific Avengers but younger, the Dark Avengers are like specific Avengers but ... badder.

Marvel Comics

And also darker, literally.

See, the last time we saw U.S. Agent in Falcon, Etc., he was being recruited by Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), a co-worker, former lover, and occasional enemy of Nick Fury. In the comics, Conti was an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. until it was revealed that she was a Russian mole all along. Incidentally, we already know that she shows up in Black Widow (in fact, she was supposed to debut there), which introduces Yelena Belova, another Black Widow who (third spoiler alert, just in case!) ends up hating the Avengers and joining HYDRA. So, we have an anti-Nick Fury meeting an anti-Captain America and possibly an anti-Black Widow while Vision becomes an anti-Vision. Hmmm.

Oh, and we also know that Abomination, the anti-Hulk played by Tim Roth in Incredible Hulk, returns in both Shang-Chi and the She-Hulk show on Disney+. (Sadly, no word on whether Omar from The Wire is comin' back to the MCU, too.)

Another Disney+ show will be based on "Armor Wars," a storyline in which Tony Stark's technology is stolen and used for evil. Leaving aside the fact that that's also the plot of every Iron Man movie, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Spider-Man: Far From Home, this could easily result in the Contessa meeting an anti-Iron Man, too. All we need now is an anti-Thor (a guy who keeps his shirt on for the entire movie).

In the comics, the Dark Avengers are the continuation of a previous group called the Thunderbolts, which is one of the more interesting concepts to come out of the hellscape that was '90s Marvel. The Thunderbolts were introduced as a new group of superheroes, only for the end of their first issue to reveal that they were actually existing supervillains posing as good guys, under the leadership of Baron Zemo. The last time we saw Zemo in the MCU, he was in the Raft, a prison for super-people (even though his only power is owning the world's longest turtleneck), which seems like a great place to make connections if you're looking to form a supervillain team.

The Thunderbolts were promoted to (Dark) Avengers status after they got most of the credit for saving the planet during a major storyline. And, what do you know, that storyline is also coming to the MCU ...

Marvel Has Been Laying The Groundwork For Secret Invasion For A While

Secret Invasion is the story in which Marvel's heroes find out that some of their friends are aliens in disguise, and DC's heroes find out that Marvel is rehashing their old ideas (don't worry, DC got back to Marvel via trolling). It's also the name of an upcoming Disney+ series starring Nick Fury and Talos, one of the good guy Skrulls from Captain Marvel, but it's hard to see a story like this being limited to six episodes. In fact, it looks like it has already spilled out to some of the movies.

For starters, in Captain Marvel we meet the Kree and the Skrulls but, contrary to what's seen in the comics, the Skrulls turn out to be pretty chill and the Kree are genocidal bastards. At the end of Spider-Man: Far From Home, we find out that the "Nick Fury" who's been hanging out with Spidey throughout the movie is actually Talos in Fury's (bad mother)form, while the real Nick is in a spaceship with some other Skrulls as part of a mission.

Marvel Studios

The mission is finding his damn shoes.

According to Secret Invasion's official description, the bad guys are "a faction of shape-shifting Skrulls who have been infiltrating Earth for years." That said, it's interesting to note that, in Far From Home, Fury/Talon mentions to Spider-Man that there are Kree sleeper cells hiding on Earth. Since some Kree have human-like skin colors, maybe they are the ones impersonating people via wigs and fake noses. That, or they used their love of genetic experimentation (a loooooong running theme in the comics) to create Kree/Skrull hybrids who are able to shape-shift -- you know, like Hulkling of the Young Avengers. Huh. It all comes together!

It's also worth noting that, in the comics, one of the characters temporarily replaced by the Skrulls is the Contessa. Given her history with Fury, it wouldn't be weird for her to appear in this show. Maybe her Dark Avengers initiative, or whatever she recruited U.S. Agent for, is part of a larger scheme -- like, universe large. For all we know, Fury has been fighting a secret war(tm) against this alien conspiracy for decades. Some fans have pointed that the way he cuts a sandwich in Age of Ultron might indicate that Talos was standing in for him from as far back as then.

Marvel Studios

This explains the part where he goes "DAMN, Ben Mendelsohn was good in Dark Knight Rises! Give my boy an Oscar!"

The Secret Invasion show might represent the point when that cold war turns hot, which doesn't mean the conflict will end there. Another Skrull appears at the end of WandaVision to tell Monica Rambeau (who met Fury as a '90s kid in Captain Marvel) that an old friend of her mom needs her help on a mission. We know that Monica will appear in Captain Marvel's sequel, The Marvels, but apparently not in Secret Invasion, so that alone suggests that Fury's space mission will outlast the show. It could even factor into Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (the previous movies involved the Kree) and Fantastic Four ... which would be really appropriate, actually.

Why? Because not only are the FF the first to encounter the Skrulls AND the Kree in the comics, but their movie is supposed to be the last one in Phase Four, so it could represent the grand finale of the overall Secret Invasion saga. It'll be interesting to see if Marvel Studios respects the source material enough to give us an accurate adaptation of the way the FF defeated the shape-shifting invaders: by brainwashing them into thinking they're cows, then letting them get eaten as burgers.

Marvel Comics

Good opening for a McDonald's tie-in. Synergy!

Follow Maxwell Yezpitelok's heroic effort to read and comment every '90s Superman comic at Superman86to99.tumblr.com.

Top Image: Marvel Comics

For more Cracked superhero deep dives, be sure to check out:

SUPERMAN WEEK:

4 Reasons Anyone Who Says 'Superman Is A Boring Superhero' Is Full Of It

4 Reasons O.G. Superman Is Even More Relevant Today

5 Superman Stories That Are Canon Kryptonite

4 Ways 'Death Of Superman' (Accidentally) Changed Pop Culture

4 Superman Movie Scenes That Were Dumb AF In Retrospect
 

JOKER WEEK:

The Early Obstacles On Joker's Path To Comic Icon

Why Do We Even Have Batman Movies Today? The Joker.

No One Was Ready For Mark Hamill's Joker ... Least Of All Mark Hamill

 That Time DC Comics Turned The Joker Into David Bowie

A Dark Knight's Tale: How Heath Ledger Created A 21st Century Joker

The Weird Confusing Tale Of The Most 'Huh?' Movie Joker: Jared Leto

'Joker' Made A Billion Dollars, And That's Too Much Money To Ignore

Break Your Doomscrolling Habit

Sign up for the One Cracked Fact newsletter now and get exclusive knowledge + links to the best from Cracked sent directly to your inbox everyday!

Forgot Password?