Disney’s Big Hero 6 film, the first cinematic animated feature to spring from their ownership of Marvel Comics, spent its first week of American release making Interstellar play second-fiddle at the box office. Big Hero 6 also cost slightly less to make than any of Marvel Studios’ Phase 2 films, so someone at the Mouse House is surely wondering what other child-friendly properties can be turned around in the near future. Here are ten possibilities.
MODOK AND THE HEADMEN
Launched: Evil head-in-a-jar MODOK arrived in Tales Of Suspense #93, 1967. The Headmen, a team of lower-tier villains, arrived in The Defenders #21, 1975.
In lieu of a straight-faced MODOK in Captain America: Civil War, this villainous team-up could be the antithesis of the Big Hero 6 - a hilarious coming-together of hugely naff villains, united by their bizarre craniums. Like the Big Hero 6, these chaps aren’t exactly comic book A-listers (they’ve never had their own series), but could be brilliantly ridiculous.
Reasons for joining the Headmen include transplanting your head onto the body of a gorilla, swapping your head for an organic shape-shifting computer, shrinking your whole skeleton (including your head!) and having your mystical noggin plonked onto loads of other people. Who wouldn’t want to see a film that saw MODOK leading this gang of amazingly-skulled evildoers in a hopeless bid for world domination?
Why kids would love it: Evidence suggests that, historically, children have always loved hapless villains and their badly thought-out plans. Pinky And The Brain and Dexter’s Laboratory are just two examples of hugely popular cartoons based on just this premise.
Launched: This, ahem, nutty character emerged from the foliage of nonexistence to make a debut appearance in Marvel Super-Heroes vol. 2 #8, 1992.
Presumed too weak and young to help the grown-up heroes, Squirrel Girl constantly surprises the citizens of the Marvel Comics universe with her usefulness and baddy-besting abilities. She’s left the MCU’s big bad Thanos quaking in her wake before. What could be a better example to children?
Her powers and enhancements include such big-hitters as retractable knuckle spikes, an enhanced sense of smell and the enviable ability to communicate with squirrels. She’s teamed up (and saved the life of) Tony Stark before, which could also make for a chuckle-inciting cameo in any potential movie adaptation.
Why kids would love it: Big things come in small packages, with Squirrel Girl being a prime example. A younger hero who always exceeds the grown-ups' expectations? Surely this would be a big hit with children, and potentially their parents too - though remember kids, don't feed the grey ones.
Launched: Frog-Man first hopped into our hearts upon his debut appearance in Marvel Team-Up #121, 1982.
On the other side of the coin, we have Frog-Man, who, unlike Squirrel Girl, is actually entirely useless. He has a certain charm, however, that could just about win the affections of junior audiences, if an effective team of comedy scriptwriters got involved.
The best thing about this young hero is how, regardless of his villainous family tree (his dad is Daredevil villain Leap-Frog), Frog-Man at least wants to do good. Occasionally, he accidentally saves the day unknowingly. This one could be riotously funny for little ones in a Penguins Of Madagascar kind of way.
Why kids would love it: Ever heard of Despicable Me? It’s not just the Minions that keep the kids coming back, reformed would-be villains failing spectacularly while trying to do what's right is a proven cash-magnet.
MS. MARVEL (KAMALA KHAN)
Launched: The version with most young-audience potential first popped up in Captain Marvel #14, 2013.
To join the likes of the Big Hero 6 in the Marvel animated world you’d need to be young, cool and noticeably different to anything else on Marvel’s movie slate. Kamala Khan’s Ms. Marvel fits all those criteria and more as a teenage Muslim bad-ass fighting crime around her hectic home-life.
Although Marvel Studios are releasing a Carol Danvers-based Captain Marvel movie in 2018, there are no plans yet to delve into the young woman she inspired, Kamala’s Ms. Marvel.
Why kids would love it: It’s the supercool black t-shirt with the signature lightning flash that does it – and offering more diversity to young people can only be a good thing, too.
NOVA (SAM ALEXANDER)
Launched: This younger Nova debuted in Marvel Point One #1, though the concept of Nova Corps (who dish out superpower-inducing helmets) dates back to the 1970s.
As with Ms. Marvel, the newest version of spacefaring hero Nova has heaps of screen potential. He’s the teenage galactic explorer Sam Alexander, who was indoctrinated into the Marvel universe by Gamora and Rocket from the Guardians Of The Galaxy.
Sam’s epic space adventures could make for undoubtedly entertaining material for younger audiences. When hooked up to the Nova-force via a nifty helmet, he gains the gifts of flight, super-strength, universal language translation and the ability to survive in deep space.
Why kids would love it: If there’s any idea that on this list that could cause Disney execs’ eyeballs to transform into dollar-signs, it would surely be little ‘uns arguing (via tie-in toys, costumes, videogames etc) whether Ms. Marvel or Nova was the better superhero. With a normal-kid-discovers-powers-and-new-worlds narrative, Disney could bring some welcome 1980s Amblin-like charm to proceedings, too.
THE INCREDIBLE HULKS
Launched: Hulks joining forces is no new feat, but this particular team launched in The Incredible Hulk #611, 2009.
This short-but-sweet team-up saw the original Hulk, his one-time wife Betty Ross (now the Red She-Hulk), rock-hard stone fella Korg, lawyer/She-Hulk Jennifer Walters, Hulk’s son Skaar and an array of other big colourful rage monsters joining forces for an string of crazy missions.
These included braving savage lands, overcoming their personality clashes and, against all odds, Hulk’s attempt at tuxedoed-espionage. Failing a live action solo-outing for Mark Ruffalo, this could be our best chance to see any Hulk action on the big screen.
Why kids would love it: There’s a pre-made audience here, as Hulk And The Agents Of S.M.A.S.H. has existed as a Disney XD cartoon since August 2013. As ever, the Hulks’ rages may need to be toned down for younger audiences, but there’s no doubt that youngsters love smashing things. If pulled off correctly, adults might not mind being dragged along either.
SHE-HULK AND THE FEARLESS DEFENDERS
Launched: She-Hulk has been knocking around since Savage She-Hulk #1, 1980. Of particular interest is Charles Soule and Javier Pulido’s 2014 iteration, though.
She-Hulk is a female hero who is respected just as much (if not more) in her role as trustworthy lawyer Jennifer Walters as she is as a big green rage monster. A film that explored this character, renowned for her brains and her brawn, could be a real inspiration for children everywhere. Chuck in the Fearless Defenders, a team of all-female superhero arse-kickers, and you could have a joyful romp of a movie on your hands.
This one is a bit of a curveball, though, seeing as the current She-Hulk comic-book run, despite focusing winningly on the courtroom side, is aimed more at adults than kids. However, a bit of tinkering could make this a film with strong female role models at its heart and the lovely life lesson that punching things hard isn’t the only way to get results.
Why kids would love it: A team of all-female heroes launched a mega kids franchise before (see, say, The Powerpuff Girls). Assuming that She-Hulk doesn’t yet feature in the plans for the live-action Marvel Cinematic Universe, an animated movie that mastered the balance between Jennifer Walters’ lawyer lifestyle and her occasional whipass distribution service with the Fearless Defenders, could be a firm favourite with youngsters.
Launched: Young Avengers vol. 2 #1, 2013, was the birth of this iteration, although the concept of Young Avengers dates back to 2005.
Again, Gillen and McKelvie’s fantastic Young Avengers run is, oddly enough, geared more towards twenty-somethings than actual children, with its foul language setting this one apart from the world of more parent-friendly kids' comics.
However, the themes of all-encompassing acceptance, missing home and learning to love your villainous parents could undoubtedly make for a brilliant animated film. A diverse team like this could really push the boundaries of U/PG entertainment too, once you take all the swearing out.
Why kids would love it: A story where the parents are the baddies and a team of motley teens have to go on a universe-jumping quest to clean up their own mistakes? It’s astounding that this story hasn’t been picked up already. The characters of Miss America and Kid Loki are definitely primed to win families’ hearts.
LOKI: AGENT OF ASGARD
Launched: Following on from Young Avengers, the God of Mischief got his standalone title, beginning with Loki: Agent Of Asgard #1.
In Young Avengers, we see Loki as a kid (in fact a reincarnated version of his former self). He’s smarmy, silly and a bit more self-analytical than before. He makes friends and does good guy stuff, despite remaining entirely unreliable.
Departing from the team after the adventures of Young Avengers, Loki, now more teenagey, starts taking missions from Odin-replacing gods-of-the-gods The All-Mothers Of Asgardia. Combining the sublime with the ridiculous, these missions include heists, speed-dating, magical swords, dungeons, Doctor Doom and, of course, shed-loads of deception and mischief.
Why kids would love it: Loki. Adorable teenage Loki. Need we say more?
HOWARD THE DUCK
Launched: This completely quackers – sorry not sorry – character first appeared in Adventure Into Fear #19, 1973.
No, really. Although he may seem like a Donald Duck lookalike in a dirty suit to the casual onlooker, Howard The Duck, in his original form, was a genre-bending, medium-mocking creation, with an existential air to his parody-like adventures.
With a keen scriptwriter onboard, an animated film for Howard The Duck could well be barrels of fun. It’s possible, in the depths of optimistic imagineering, to hope for a film that ties in with his brief appearance in Guardians Of The Galaxy – one, perhaps, that allows Marvel to get a little meta about the whole superhero thing.
Why kids would love it: Although his previous standalone cinematic effort is best forgotten, a parody-esque comic-book movie with an animated Howard The Duck might be exactly what Disney/Marvel will need in a few years. The fact Howard has just had his own standalone comic launched makes it seem like an on-screen resurgence might not be the least-likely idea ever.