Disney Reverses Course, Renews Canceled Marvel Disney+ Series

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MCU characters with the Disney+ logo

Credit: Disney Plus

Disney CEO Bob Iger has been hacking and slashing Marvel projects in his quest to save investors $5.5 billion, but it’s official: another Disney+ MCU series has survived his cuts.

A smiling Bob Iger is superimposed in front of a colorful montage featuring the characters from the Avengers film series.
Credit: Edited by Inside the Magic

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is still the most dominant franchise in blockbuster entertainment, far outstripping even its fellow Disney-owned properties like Star Wars and Pixar. Since Robert Downey Jr. debuted as Tony Stark in Iron Man (2008), the MCU has never dropped out of the cultural conversations; in fact, with the addition of streaming TV series on Disney+, the franchise has only saturated pop culture more.

Which might be part of the problem. In recent years, the box office grosses of films like Thor: Love and Thunder (2022), Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023), and The Marvels (2023) have all dipped far below the heights of Avengers: Endgame (2019) and Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021). Audience numbers for Disney+ series like Secret Invasion and She-Hulk: Attorney at Law have dwindled, but at the same time, production budgets for MCU projects have only gotten more and more grotesquely bloated.

Tatiana Maslany in She-Hulk: Attorney at Law
Credit: Marvel

Related: Canceled Marvel Series Moves to Rival Streaming App Amidst Disney+ Upheaval

Disney has had a few bright spots lately, like the acclaimed What If…? series and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023), but the MCU’s poor performance as of late has prompted Bob Iger to cut, cancel and shelve numerous Marvel projects.

Disney and Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige has not issued an official list of MCU films and TV shows that have been canceled so far, but Bob Iger openly said, “We’ve not been that public about it, but we’ve killed a few projects already that we just didn’t feel were strong enough.”

A muscular superhero in a dynamic pose, emanating purple energy or electricity. He wears a black and pink suit with a prominent "W" on his chest and has a determined expression. The background is a vibrant mix of purple and black hues, suggesting intense action.
Credit: Marvel Comics

Some Marvel projects rumored to have been canceled include Captain Marvel 3, Vision Quest, and Eternals 2, and for a long time, the previously announced series Wonder Man, starring Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. However, Variety now reports that Wonder Man is still good to go, but now under the “Marvel Spotlight” banner that indicates it almost certainly will be a one-off series.

Marvel Studios has been recently broken down into a feature films division, Marvel Animation, and Marvel Television. The lattermost division has been revived after being previously folded into Kevin Feige’s main production studio several years ago, which is probably a fair sign that Disney is flailing to try to find new strategies to keep its audience.

the logo for Marvel's Spotlight
Credit: Marvel

The Marvel Spotlight banner was introduced with the limited series Echo, which starred Alaqua Cox and Vincent D’Onofrio. Marvel’s head of streaming, television, and animation Brad Winderbaum previously described Marvel Spotlight as basically one-off, self-contained stories that are still connected to the MCU, saying:

“The Marvel Spotlight brand is saying, “This a complete meal in and of itself.” Just like the Spotlight comics, whether it’s Captain Marvel or Ghost Rider or Moon Knight, the characters that did well under the Spotlight banner went on to have a life in the greater comic book universe.”

A muscular man with glowing green eyes sits shirtless in a dark, industrial setting. The background features large, mechanical equipment and mysterious, suited figures in hazmat gear, adding a tense and ominous atmosphere to the scene.
Credit: DC Studios

It appears that Wonder Man is going to take the same route now that it has been saved from Bob Iger’s axe. The series will star Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Simon Williams, a Hollywood actor and stuntman who becomes a celebrity superhero. The series was created by Destin Daniel Cretton and Andrew Guest and will co-star Ben Kingsley, Demetrius Grosse, and Ed Harris will co-star.

Related: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Spinoff Survives Bob Iger MCU Cancellation

Wonder Man/Simon Williams has one of the more convoluted origin stories in Marvel Comics continuity, which is really saying something. Initially presented as a supervillain whose family company is brought to ruin by competitor Stark Industries and given ionic powers by Baron Zemo (portrayed in the MCU by Daniel Brühl), Wonder Man is apparently killed. However, his brain waves were recorded by Ant-Man Hank Pym (Michael Douglas in the MCU), which are then stolen by Ultron (James Spader) to use to create the mind of Vision (Paul Bettany), but then it turns out he wasn’t really dead, and now he’s a good guy, except when he’s being controlled by Kang the Conqueror. As we said, it’s complicated.

A male comic book character with short black hair wears red-tinted glasses and a red leather jacket over a black shirt with a large X on it. He has a confident expression and leans on a doorway with one arm. A shadowy figure is visible through the window behind him.
Credit: Marvel Comics

Brad Winderbaum further described the new Marvel Television and Marvel Spotlight, which will include the new adventures of Simon Williams, saying:

“Part of the rebranding was a signal to the general audience that we’re creating a lot of options, and you can follow your tastes within this brand. Some will be more comedic, some will be more dramatic, some will be animated, some will be live-action. Marvel is more than just one thing — it is actually many different genres that just happened to coexist in a single narrative.”

Marvel is making a big play to try to change the perception that enjoying any new MCU movie or show requires having watched 30-plus movies and a pocketful of Disney+ series. While Bob Iger may still be ditching MCU projects left and right behind the scenes, it appears Wonder Man made the cut.

Do you think that Marvel Spotlight features can help the struggling MCU? Tell us in the comments below!

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