The MCU Effect

How Marvel Brought People to the Nerd Side

The original Avengers, image via Marvel

For the past eleven years, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been dominant at the box office and has created a fan base that rivals that of Star Wars and Harry Potter. The characters have become global icons and are recognized by practically everyone and their mothers. But Marvel superheroes were not always this popular. In fact, they were never even close to this amount of popularity before they hit the big screen.

Previous attempts at Marvel films before the MCU was formed were nowhere close to the impact that current films have. The Fantastic Four, Daredevil, and Punisher were some of the pre-Disney Marvel movies that generated little interest from non-comic book fans, with the X-Men series and director Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy being the most successful franchises. These series did reach a larger audience, but failed to become worldwide phenomenons. In fact, many pre-2010’s Marvel films at the time underperformed and some even bombed. It wasn’t until 2008 that Marvel started to pick up steam and set an entire universe in motion.

Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk were the two first steps toward the modern MCU. Though Hulk was the lesser of the two, both played a major part in kickstarting the entire franchise. Robert Downey Jr. brought Tony Stark to life and gave comic book fans hope for more superhero movies at the same level of quality. With high praise from critics and filmgoers alike, Iron Man and the new Marvel Studios got fans and newcomers excited for what was to come.

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark in 2008’s Iron Man, image via

By the time The Avengers hit theaters in 2012, the popularity of Marvel movies had grown immensely. Millions of new fans flocked to theaters to view whatever new adventure their favorite characters are up to. These fans would likely have never become fans of comic book characters if it weren’t for the talented writers and directors at Marvel Studios. The cultural impact of the MCU is unmatched; no other film franchise has lasted for 22 movies or had numerous spin-off television shows such as ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or Netflix’s The Defenders series.

Currently, the latest of the MCU films, Avengers: Endgame, remains dominant in theaters. With numerous opening-day records under its belt and the number three spot on the list of highest-grossing movies of all time, Endgame is more than enough proof of Marvel’s power in pop culture. And Marvel isn’t slowing down anytime soon. Disney recently released their plans for future projects following their acquisition of 21st Century Fox, and the MCU is expanding with eight more movies over the course of four years. On top of that, Disney’s new upcoming streaming service, Disney+, will be producing five brand new shows based off heroes from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. These shows will revolve around fan favorite characters Hawkeye, Falcon, the Winter Soldier, Vision, Scarlet Witch, and Loki. Thanks to Disney, fans have a new source for superhero action to satisfy their cravings for more.

Promotional art for Avengers: Endgame, image via Marvel

The superhero surge has made its mark in pop culture and film history. With Disney’s future film plans becoming public, Marvel fans can expect more action-packed flicks for the foreseeable future. The “MCU effect” has fueled a resurgence of comic book craze and spawned new fans of graphic novels. It’s safe to say that superhero movies are here to stay for a while, and no one is complaining.