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This Banner Series Is STILL Exactly What The MCU Needs Right Now (But Will It Deliver?)

After 16 years, 33 movies, and an ever-growing TV slate that’s covered everything from What If…? to WandaVision, you’d expect the Marvel Cinematic Universe to have nailed the formula by now. While it’s true that we all have fond memories of the Infinity War and Endgame years, everyone knows the cracks have long been starting to show.

With Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania earning the MCU’s first Razzie and The Marvels setting a new box office low, 2023 was the year the franchise fumbled. It’s clear that something’s got to give, but fear not because Kevin Feige has a plan. The MCU overlord promised Entertainment Weekly, “They [shows and movies] all have to stand apart and stand alone to be different,” suggesting things are about to get more experimental.

Aside from the bombastic ensembles of the next two Avengers movies (formerly known as The Kang Dynasty and Secret Wars), the MCU is branching out like a real-life version of Loki’s Multiverse. Offering smaller-scale shows and more personable stories, the Marvel Spotlight banner hopes to do something different. So, let’s put Marvel Spotlight under the “spotlight”.

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From comics to the MCU

Debuting in November 1971, the original run of Marvel Spotlight ran for 33 issues until 1977. What set it aside from the publisher’s other try-out series is the fact that a number of big names made their origins here instead of just being roadtested for standalone series. 

Spotlight was enough of a hit to warrant a second run from 1979 to 1981, although this was just 11 issues, largely did away with introducing new characters, and was later called a “mistake” by editor Jim Salicrup. Still, Marvel mainstays, including Ghost Rider, Spider-Woman, and Werewolf by Night all made their debut on the pages of Spotlight.

You’ll remember Werewolf by Night made a splash when he led Disney+’s Werewolf by Night gothic horror, although that was under the Marvel Studios Special Presentations label. That project and The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special are the only two, and although there’s a rumored Mephisto outing with Sacha Baron Cohen, it’s unclear whether the banner will continue or it’s been amalgamated into Marvel Spotlight. 


Could the rumored Mephisto series be incorporated into Marvel Spotlight?


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A shaky start

Marvel Spotlight has already missed its chance to start with a bang–instead of introducing a fan-favorite from the comics into the MCU, it went with Echo, focusing on a relatively minor character from Hawkeye. While we’re not taking away the importance of diversity and its chance to tell a different kind of story with Native American mythology, Hawkeye was already a show some had skipped.

Spotlight shows have promised they’ll feel like standalones that aren’t connected to a bigger MCU story, but instead of carving out its own legacy, Echo shackled Alaqua Cox’s Maya Lopez to Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin. Not much of note happened in the five-episode series, and unfortunately, Echo still found itself feeling like Daredevil season 3.5 to cue Daredevil: Born Again. There are higher hopes for the Yahya Abdul-Mateen II-led Wonder Man, and perhaps this should’ve been the title to launch Marvel Spotlight.

Marvel Spotlight could be about to commit the cardinal sin, as it is hard to imagine a world where Wonder Man doesn’t fit into the franchise’s future. As well as having a big name like Abdu-Mateen II leading it, Wonder Man is a staple of the Avengers lineup and has ties to everyone from Vision to Kang. Similarly, there are theories that the upcoming Nova project could be a Marvel Spotlight production, which leaves a question mark over the label’s mantra — especially considering James Gunn told the Phase Zero podcast, “He’s [Nova] just too big of a character.” Both of these major players are sure to appear beyond Spotlight shows.

Brad Winderbaum, Marvel’s Head of streaming, told Marvel.com how Marvel Spotlight “gives us a platform to bring more grounded, character-driven stories to the screen,” hyping Echo as having “street-level stakes over larger MCU continuity.” It’s refreshing for those lost in a literally Multiverse of stories, and we can’t help but think of The Marvels’ Nia DaCosta telling Total Film magazine about the “trial and error” of trying to figure out how much pre-release knowledge viewers needed going into her movie. 

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Either way, Marvel Spotlight’s testing ground of ideas couldn’t come at a better time, as the middling “Phase Zero” slate is in need of a shakeup. It’s unclear whether Marvel Spotlight will keep the level of violence seen in Echo, but it could establish itself as a home for more adult MCU outings. We’d love to see more in the experimental vein of Werewolf by Night, or what about a full-blown sequel series with Gael García Bernal’s titular werewolf teaming back up with Man-Thing?


Imagining a Werewolf by Night (above) Man Thing (below) team up.


Putting Spotlight on the spot

The bones of a great distraction from the bang and wallop of the larger MCU are there, but Marvel Spotlight is still in its formative stages. It’s increasingly a problem that viewers tune into Marvel’s smaller outings to see how they connect to the wider MCU (sorry Ms. Marvel). Even bigger affairs like Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness have become guilty of franchise-shattering post-credit scenes that could take years to pay off. If Marvel Spotlight shows don’t have that hook to lure in casual fans, they could struggle for viewers. At the same time, stick a cameo of Simu Liu’s Shang-Chi in Wonder Man, and it’ll be accused of going against the Spotlight mission statement. 

Winderbaum has already name-dropped Ghost Rider, which would’ve been a logical addition even if he didn’t have his own Spotlight comic. Gabriel Luna played the Robbie Reyes iteration of Ghost Rider in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and has said he’s open to returning, while She-Hulk made a thinly veiled nod toward Johnny Blaze. There are wild rumors that Nicolas Cage will reprise his role as Blaze for an upcoming outing, but let’s imagine if we get that brilliant fan casting of The Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus, playing the character for a Spotlight series.

The Robbie Reyes iteration of Ghost Rider as seen on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

You could come up with Spotlight ideas all day, and we’re calling it now, but Krysten Ritter’s Jessica Jones perfectly fits the idea of a street-level series. In terms of newcomers, Red Wolf leading the very first Marvel Spotlight comic makes him ideal for a gritty Western with the Native American mystic. Elsewhere, it’s about time Howard the Duck got a chance to spread his wings for a cosmic-set series away from the Guardians of the Galaxy. This stuff practically writes itself, so forget HBO’s Harry Potter and imagine Strange Academy –– featuring Benedict Wong’s Sorceror Supreme training a new crop of magical wannabees.


The students of Marvel Comics’ charming Strange Academy series. Marvel Entertainment.

We know the X-Men are over the horizon, and Marvel Spotlight is a great chance to showcase some of those marvelous mutants who’d otherwise be lost in the ensemble of an X-Men movie. Way back when, Fox had plans for Multiple Man and Shadowcat movies, and elsewhere, someone needs to do justice to Jubilee or Dazzler. If anyone can make a pop star parody from the ‘80s works, it’s the MCU. We’d also like to see Fox’s proposed Alpha Flight movie reworked, with Werewolf by Night having a potential Easter egg that teased the team’s Walter Langkowski/Sasquatch. 

Alpha Flight’s Sasquatch. Marvel Entertainment.

X-Men: First Class’ Matthew Vaughn recently told BroBible he thinks Deadpool 3 will save the MCU and “bring that body back to life” by being different from what we’ve already established. While Marvel Spotlight has equally high hopes of being a gritty middle finger to the overstuffed and CGI-heavy Quantumania and company, the jury is still out. Netflix bucked the trend with its street-level heroes of the Defendersverse, and even though there were major misses like Iron Fist, there’s a reason Daredevil was such a hit. Marvel Spotlight has a real chance to give us the next WandaVision, but whether it can live up to its own lofty expectations remains to be seen. 





Based in Manchester, UK, Tom Chapman has over seven years’ experience covering everything from dragons to Demogorgons. Starting out with a stint at Movie Pilot in Berlin, Tom has since branched out to indulge his love of all things Star Wars and the MCU at Digital Spy, Den of Geek, IGN, Yahoo! and more. These days, you’ll find Tom channelling his inner Gale Weathers and ranting about how HBO did us dirty with Game of Thrones Season Eight.




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