The Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to be in flux, and Disney+ offers up the perfect platform for the studio to experiment on, but Marvel has always managed to dip their toe into every genre, whether it was the World War II epic of Captain America: The First Avenger, or the space opera spectacle of Guardians of the Galaxy.
Despite Marvel Studios launching projects within most movie categories, the straight-up comedy hasn’t really been seen quite yet besides Thor: Love & Thunder, which strayed further into the genre than most releases. Disney+’s She-Hulk is the first time that a sitcom has been properly attempted, if the efforts of WandaVision’s reality-bending narrative is ignored. Is Marvel going to be embracing more comedic properties in the near future? Should they even be going down that path? There’s definitely a lot to ponder when it comes to humor and our heroes!
The MCU’s Comedic Tone
It’s fair to say that plenty of Marvel’s properties don’t shy away from a more comedic approach. It’s been a source of discussion for some time if the more dramatic and tense moments of MCU releases are actually undermined by an out of place joke, derailing the moment. Comparisons to other superhero properties have also been made, with the light-hearted quipping of a Spider-Man often used to starkly contrast with the gritty and dark tone of a Batman.
Ignoring the rivalry between the major comic book studios, it’s absolutely plausible that Marvel Studios hasn’t invested in more sitcoms, mockumentaries or other comedy stylings simply because it’s already a feature of their main releases. Speaking of the web-head, his mini documentary of the airport battle in Captain America: Civil War is a perfect example of that comedy line being crossed.
Essentially, for a comedy to really work set within the Marvel Universe it has to have a unique component that sets it apart from the improv dialogue that most of the MCU cast already indulge in. That’s pretty difficult to do when franchises like Ant-Man move so close to the genre anyway, crossing over with a sci-fi adventure and heist situation to stack the genres on top of one another.
Regardless of the reasoning, Marvel has excelled in ensuring that each of their heroes, and some of their villains, can hold their own in a verbal joust. But the studio has definitely explored further afield in the past…
Cancelling Damage Control
Audiences are comfortably familiar with Damage Control after its involvement in the lives of both Spider-Man and Ms. Marvel respectively. While the original incarnation of the unit was designed to clean up the mess left behind by superhuman conflicts, it has now evolved into more of a security agency, tasked with keeping the peace in the vigilante community.
It may have many different facets to its operation and feature a disturbing amount of corruption, but the way Damage Control is currently portrayed is far beyond its original incarnation in the comics. It’s also not remotely close to the group that would have featured in its own comedy.
For years there was a Damage Control-based series in development that was being treated as a complete comedy. While it likely would have followed the style of sitcoms like The Office, there was something unique about the premise. The series would have seen members of the group having to deal with a new issue every week; the kinds of problems that can only arise from facing the fallout of a Marvel escapade.
The show was cancelled before it saw the light of day, although it surely would have seen some success. It was a fun premise, but DC’s Powerless, which also took quite a similar approach in its storytelling, demonstrated that perhaps the audience wasn’t quite there at the time.
The Success of She-Hulk
Times seem to be changing, as Marvel’s She-Hulk has recently moved into new territory, becoming the first sitcom from Marvel Studios. The setup is quite different to what fans are used to, with shorter episodes but a longer season allowing for the format to breathe a little easier.
There’s also a “cameo a week” structure, with different problems related to this wider fantastical landscape surfacing for lawyers like the central character of Jennifer Walters to deal with. If that sounds familiar, well, it’s not too far from the premise of Damage Control! The idea does actually seem to be working, with the execution of the show – from its writing staff to its performers – really helping to sell the idea that perhaps Marvel should experiment with more comedies.
There are of course those who have critiqued some of the creative choices of the season thus far, but considering the studio is stepping into new territory, there are sure to be some bugs to iron out. The manner in which She-Hulk has fit so comfortably into the wider universe, even with fourth-wall breaking and meta jokes, indicates that more risks can be taken. A lot of sitcoms don’t fully hit their heights until later seasons, so it will be a strong indication of Marvel’s willingness to continue on this comedy path if they were to commission She-Hulk for further series.
Groot and Thor Shorts
It’s quite literally much smaller in scale, but the chance taken with I Am Groot on Disney+ shouldn’t be overlooked. It was another attempt to move into the comedy genre, but this time using the tropes of a silent film, complete with slapstick scenarios and plenty of physical gags. It worked for the character and the short film format, demonstrating that with the right backdrop and hero, Marvel can move in unexpected directions.
The mockumentary stylings of the Team Thor and Team Darryl shorts are another example, with the very human Darryl crossing paths with the God of Thunder and the Grandmaster as each became his flatmates for a time. They resonated brilliantly with audiences, so much so that Darryl earned himself a brief cameo in Thor: Love & Thunder. These experiments work as positive reinforcement that Marvel should be able to pull this off on a much larger scale.
Is Marvel Producing More Comedies?
With the backdrop of those smaller outings and She-Hulk continuing to impress, is Marvel going to be producing more comedies? Well, right now the line-up of Marvel releases is looking quite sparse on that front, but that doesn’t mean it will stay that way considering there are more unannounced projects and gaps in the Phase 5 and 6 schedule.
Deadpool’s entry into the MCU also allows for another meta, fourth-wall breaking hero to join the roster, and the Guardians of the Galaxy: Holiday Special could be stepping into parody and spoof territory, thanks to its take on the Star Wars Holiday Special. Marvel’s animation studio might be crossing into the comedy realms with their unannounced projects, but only Wonder Man looks to be the most likely TV candidate, with the premise of the character as a washed-up actor. If Marvel were to channel series like Extras for the project, then they may be on to a winner.
The comedy genre is far deeper than many give it credit for. While not every version of the discipline is going to mesh with Marvel’s characters, there are a handful of tried and tested formats that might genuinely feature in the future of the MCU.
The sitcom, and by extension workplace comedy, has already been established in She-Hulk. But other institutions, like a whimsical school akin to that of Strange or Avengers Academy, could serve a similar purpose. A rom-com would also work perfectly with some couples of Marvel, as WandaVision proved.
Then there are comedies that heavily rely on characters interacting with one another: buddy, road trip and ensemble pieces. With so many teams to adapt from the comics, many of them would comfortably fit into these styles, like the West Coast Avengers. Plus, the Marvel Universe is an expansive place to explore; how hasn’t there been a road trip production yet, teaming up unlikely pairings from Miles Morales and Hit-Monkey, to Kate Bishop and Howard the Duck?
Finally, the comedies that could truly twist the genre on their head would entirely appeal to the bizarre nature of the MCU. Slapstick has already been seen in I Am Groot, but there are countless characters from the horror side of the comics that would appeal to the dark comedy genre like Ghost Rider, Moon Knight, Hellstrom, and Elsa Bloodstone. There’s also no telling what incredible show Marvel Studios could produce with a sketch format set in the MCU! Why can’t there be a SNL type show set within the continuity that sometimes guest stars famous heroes and villains? Couldn’t there be a fast-paced mockumentary following the lives of those on the front lines of the hero community similar to Marvel’s New Warriors?
Should Marvel Even Go Down This Path?
The concepts are endless when the opportunity is there to think outside of the box in regards to Marvel-related comedies, but should Marvel actually go down this path considering the tight grip it already has on adding humor to all of its releases?
Well, with the past releases of She-Hulk, I Am Groot and Team Thor, alongside exciting potential for new characters, worlds and creative formats to be brought into the mix, it seems like a no-brainer for the studio to continue to experiment and find out what really connects with audiences. Peacemaker was a revelation for DC, and the likes of Wonder Man may well do the same for the house of ideas!