A global pandemic might have delayed the onslaught of comic book films, but that’s a tide that could only be held back for so long. Between now and the end of next year, there are 15 major comic book-related releases coming to theatres. Due to the aforementioned global pandemic, the release dates are still a little tentative, although it seems as though the big production companies are resolved to hold the line from here on out.
Naturally, these films all have antecedents on the page and, while we don’t know all the details about these movies, we can make some reasonable guesses about the source material that the films are drawing on. These are all the upcoming comic book movies, alongside some delightful literary pairings.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings — Sept. 3, 2021
Shang-Chi Created by: Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin
First appearance: Special Marvel Edition #15 (December 1973)
Shang-Chi had a fairly convoluted beginning: Martial arts were big in the 1970s, and Marvel hoped to capitalise by licensing an adaption of the (original) Kung Fu TV series. When that fell through, the company acquired the rights to Sax Rohmer’s pulp-era villain Fu Manchu (legitimate Chinese representation being next to zero on the list of priorities) and established Shang-Chi as his son, now trying to move out of his father’s evil shadow. What the character and his book, Master of Kung Fu, did have going for it was two of the era’s best creators: Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin, who at least took the character and his background seriously, mixing action and soap-opera-style family drama with some trippy art.
Essential Reading: Master of Kung Fu Epic Collection: Weapon of the Soul
Venom: Let There Be Carnage — Oct. 14, 2021
Carnage Created by: David Michelinie and Mark Bagley
First appearance: The Amazing Spider-Man #359 (February 1992)
Venom was a late 80s creation who was meant to be the perfect badass Spider-villain. Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy in these particular movies) was a vengeful former reporter who lost his job when his big break, a serial killer’s confession, was revealed to have been phony by Spider-Man. Later, he just happened to hook up with a sentient alien symbiote that had been pulling duty as Spidey’s costume (comics!) until it was abandoned. The two began a revenge tour as Venom, which was all great for a while but, the 90s being what they were, wasn’t nearly badass enough. So along comes Cletus Kasady (created by Venom’s co-creator David Micheline and artist Mark Bagley), an entirely ruthless, utterly unredeemable serial killer who bonds with an even nastier symbiote. Kletus is played by Woody Harrelson in the new movie.
Essential Reading: Spider-Man: Maximum Carnage, by J.M. DeMatteis and David Michelinie
Eternals — Nov. 4, 2021
The Eternals Created by: Jack Kirby
First appearance: The Eternals #1 (July 1976)
In some ways, the new movie represents a collaboration between Oscar-winning director Chloé Zhao and the late, great Jack Kirby. Kirby, very much in a space-gods kinda mood, had left Marvel for DC in 1970, but didn’t find himself treated all that much better there. When he returned to Marvel, he pursued some of the same epic themes that he’d been playing with for a few years, resulting in the story of these evolutionary offshoots of mankind who had, until recently, remained in the shadows.
Essential Reading: Eternals by Jack Kirby: The Complete Collection, Eternals by Neil Gaiman
Spider-Man: No Way Home — Dec. 17, 2021
Spider-Man Created by: Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
First appearance: Amazing Fantasy #15 (Aug. 1962)
Also known as Spider-Man 3. Or maybe Spider-Man 9? It all depends on how you count your Spider-movies. This one, with help from Doctor Strange, dives into the Marvel Comics multiverse to reintroduce previous Spider-Men and Spider-Villains.
Essential Reading: Nothing matches perfectly, but Spider-Verse features multiple Spider-People jumping across dimensions.
Morbius — Jan. 20, 2022
Morbius Created by: Roy Thomas and Gil Kane
First appearance: The Amazing Spider-Man #101 (October 1971)
A biochemist, the ominously named Michael Morbius, was desperate to cure his deadly and rare blood disease. Superhero science being what it is, he made himself into a vampire, instead. Much like Venom, he began his career as a villain but eventually became more of a broody antihero.
Essential Reading: Morbius Epic Collection: The Living Vampire
The Batman — March 3, 2022
Batman Created by: Bill Finger and Bob Kane
First appearance: Detective Comics #27 (March, 1939)
Robert Pattinson takes over from Ben Affleck as the DCEU’s official Batman, and your excitement level is probably heavily dependent on your tolerance for Bat-related media (two sequels and a spin-off TV series are reportedly in the works). Details are scarce, but the movie apparently takes place during the Bat’s second year of crimefighting and involves The Riddler.
Essential Reading: Batman: Year Two 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition, Batman: The Long Halloween
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness — March 24, 2022
Doctor Strange Created by: Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
First appearance: Strange Tales #110 (July 1963)
We love a trip to the multiverse, apparently. Following the reality-bending adventures of Loki in his TV series, and of Wanda Maximoff in WandaVision, Doctor Strange sets off for adventures in various wild alternate worlds.
Essential Reading: Doctor Strange Epic Collection: A Separate Reality (The film’s probably not based on anything specific, but this collection includes some classic — and trippy — trips to another reality.)
Thor: Love and Thunder — May 6, 2022
Jane Foster Created by: Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby
First appearance: Journey into Mystery #84 (September 1962)
There’s likely to be a lot going on in Taika Waititi’s upcoming Thor movie (the fourth for those keeping track), but the big headline is, perhaps, the surprise return of Natalie Portman as Jane Foster who may well, like her comic-book counterpart, take on the power of Thor while battling cancer.
Essential Reading: Thor Vol. 1: The Goddess of Thunder, by Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, and Jorge Molina
DC League of Super-Pets — May 22, 2022
The Legion of Super-Pets Created by: Jerry Siegel and Curt Swan
First appearance: Adventure Comics #293 (February 1962)
An animated team-up par excellence: Krypto, the Superdog; Ace, the Bat-Hound; Jumpa, the kangaroo; and Streaky, the Supercat. The voice cast includes Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Kate McKinnon, Natasha Lyonne, Keanu Reeves, and several other big names.
Essential Reading: Krypto the Superdog, by Jesse Leon McCann and Min Sung Ku
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever — July 8, 2022
Riri Williams created by: Brian Michael Bendis, Mike Deodato, Eve Ewing, and Kevin Libranda
First appearance: Invincible Iron Man Vol. 2 #7 (May 2016)
Little is known about the new Black Panther, and details are particularly sparse given that the film will have to address the tragic death of Chadwick Boseman. We do know that all of the other major characters from the first movie are returning, and that the film is introducing teen tech genius Riri Williams who, in the comics, becomes Ironheart when she invents a suit of armour that rivals Tony Stark’s.
Essential Reading: Invincible Iron Man: Ironheart Vol. 1, by Stefano Caselli and Brian Michael Bendis
Black Adam — July 29, 2022
Black Adam created by: Otto Binder and C. C. Beck
First appearance: The Marvel Family #1 (December 1945)
One of the oldest comic book villains who you might never have heard of, Black Adam first appeared as a Captain Marvel (Shazam) nemesis way back in 1945 — as written, he was an ancient Egyptian who had once held the same power that Billy Batson now wields. More recently, he’s evolved into something of an antihero, which is likely the route that the Dwayne Johnson-starring film will take.
Essential Reading: The Power of Shazam! Book 1: In the Beginning, by Jerry Ordway
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse 2 — Oct. 7, 2022
Miles Morales created by: Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli
First appearance: Ultimate Fallout #4 (Aug. 2011)
There’s very little information on the 2022 return to the Spider-Verse — we don’t even have an official title. Shameik Moore and Hailee Steinfeld will return as Miles Morales and Gwen Stacy. Other than that? We just have our high expectations for the follow-up to one of the best comic book films ever.
Essential Reading: Miles Morales: Shock Waves, by Justin A. Reynolds and Pablo Leon; Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man Ultimate Collection Book 1
The Flash — Nov. 4, 2022
Barry Allen Created by: Robert Kanigher and Carmine Infantino
First appearance: Showcase #4 (October 1956)
Multiverses being a thing that we are not yet tired of but almost certainly will be by this time next year, the new Ezra Miller-starring Flash movie will apparently be based on Flashpoint, a universe resetting DC event that saw Barry Allen’s attempts to rewrite his own past backfire spectacularly and create a new dystopian reality. Other than that, we only know that the movie will bring back Ben Affleck AND Michael Keaton as Batmen, and will also introduce a new Supergirl.
Essential Reading: Flashpoint, by Geoff Johns, Andy Kubert, and Sandra Hope
The Marvels — Nov. 11, 2022
Monica Rambeau created by: Roger Stern and John Romita Jr.
First Appearance: The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #16 (October 1982)
The Marvels will expand the story of Captain Marvel to include at least two others who’ve been associated with that legacy in the comics: Monica Rambeau, who had a big role in WandaVision and who, on the page served as the official Captain Marvel for much of the 80s, as well as Kamala Khan, who, inspired by her love of Carol Danvers, becomes Ms. Marvel (and who is also getting her own TV series later this year).
Essential Reading: Captain Marvel: Monica Rambeau, by Roger Stern and David Micheline
Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom — Dec. 16, 2022
Aquaman created by: Mort Weisinger and Paul Norris
First appearance: More Fun Comics #73 (November 1941)
It’s about to get moist! We really know very little about the upcoming film, except that most of the first film’s cast is returning alongside director James Wan.
Essential Reading: Aquaman Vol. 1: The Trench, by Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, and Joe Prado (the original film was largely inspired by this series)