It’s good to be in the superhero business.
On Dec. 10, Disney announced that it has earned $7 billion at the box office this year, not accounting for the rest of December. It’s a feat that would not have been possible without Marvel Studios’ acclaimed and dizzyingly lucrative films, as the studio’s flagship Cinematic Universe expanded its interwoven saga and proved what these movies can really do. (And that’s not including the success of non-MCU films like Deadpool 2, Venomand Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.)
But between James Gunn’s controversial firing and the great Netflix purge of 2018, this year has seen a few Giant-Man-sized setbacks, too. Let’s take a look back at all things Marvel this year, with some obvious spoilers ahead.
February 16: Marvel makes history with Black Panther. Boasting a predominantly African-American cast and making well over a billion dollars at the box office, the film proves as much a cultural movement as a box office success. (It is also Marvel’s best-reviewed movie, ever.)
The success of King T’Challa and his (fictional) Afrofuturistic nation stretched beyond dollars and cents, as “Wakanda Forever” became a real-world rallying cry and the Wakandan Salut became a fixture at sporting events, red carpets and concerts.
April 27: Marvel releases its most ambitious and most profitable film of the year: Avengers: Infinity War. The gargantuan production serves as a culmination of a decade’s worth of storytelling, featuring some 60 heroes battling one of comic book lore’s greatest villains, Thanos. Despite juggling so many characters, timelines and tones, the film manages to please critics and delivers a jaw-dropping ending.
“Infinity War begins, within the first minutes, with a huge, huge action set piece and relentlessly speeds forward to a final stretch that is guaranteed to blow minds, a darker and weightier and more finite conclusion that leaves us in a place no Marvel film has in recent years — with genuinely no idea as to what comes next,” ET’s John Boone wrote in his review.
Infinity War also set in motion some of the year’s best MCU-centric memes, like Wong’s (Benedict Wong) abrupt disappearance and countless celebrities and fictional characters turning to dust like half the film’s cast. And then there was the unexpected sex symbol status of “the internet’s favorite genocidal space daddy,” Thanos (played in mo-cap glory by Josh Brolin). Whatever floats your boat!
June 7: Marvel Television premieres its next hit TV series, Cloak & Dagger, on Freeform, telling the love story of superpowered teens (Olivia Holt and Aubrey Joseph) with the ability to summon light daggers and tap into a dimension of darkness. The series has already been renewed for a second season, with more pickups for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Legion and Runaways on the TV side.
June 29: Steve Ditko, the artist behind such superheroes as Doctor Strange and Spider-Man, dies at the age of 90. Alongside the likes of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, Ditko played a pivotal role in crafting the look and feel of the comic book company’s work as it flourished in the ’50s and ’60s. It’s the first of two tragic losses that would befall Marvel this year.
July 6:Ant-Man and the Wasp becomes the first MCU movie to be headlined by a female hero, with Evangeline Lilly’s Hope van Dyne returning alongside Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang (aka Ant-Man, notably absent from the events of Infinity War) to face off against Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) and rescue Hope’s long-lost mother, Janet (new-to-the-franchise Michelle Pfeiffer).
Although this latest chapter is certainly a romp, it leaves some opportunities on the table. “If anything, I wish the movie leaned even more into the comedy, as impressive as all the big, comic book-y action moments may be,” Boone wrote in his review. “That is Ant-Man’s sweet spot. Rudd brings a different texture to his Marvel superhero that sets him apart from the Chrises; he’s daffy and agreeable, though the movie’s gratuitous shirtlessness reminds you Paul Rudd is buff now. (You’re welcome. Love, Marvel.)”
July 12: The long-demanded Black Widow film starring Scarlett Johansson’s Russian spy in her own solo outing reportedly finds a director in Lore‘s Cate Shortland, the second female director to helm a Marvel Studios film. It’s another indication of the direction the MCU will head in Phase 4, with reports that Marvel is actively working on a big-screen adaptation of The Eternals and its first franchise fronted by an Asian superhero, Shang-Chi, to be penned by Wonder Woman 1984‘s Dave Callaham.
July 20: James Gunn, the writer and director of Guardians of the Galaxy and GotG Vol. 2 is swiftly fired after old tweets resurface containing jokes about rape and pedophilia. Although he apologizes and Chris Pratt and other key players from the film express their staunch support, Gunn remains on the outs with Marvel — in fact, he’s since joined the DC Universe, where he will pen a Suicide Squad follow-up — and Guardians 3 remains on hold, indefinitely.
September 18: Fans are introduced to Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel in the intergalactic first trailer for Marvel’s first female-fronted film, the appropriately titled Captain Marvel. The ’90s-set film follows Carol Danvers, an Air Force pilot who finds herself caught between warring alien races, and the trailer previews a cosmic adventure, villainous shapeshifters and an eye-patch-less Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, magically de-aged).
November 12: Stan Lee dies at the age of 95, leaving Marvel and its massive fandom in mourning. Not only did the industry icon create countless beloved superheroes — including the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man and X-Men — he was a pioneer of comic book storytelling. Fans of the films, meanwhile, know him as that charming old man who cameos in 28 Marvel films and shows, always popping up in the most hilarious of places.
November 29: Following the abrupt cancellation of Luke Cage and Iron Fist, Netflix pulls the plug on Daredevil, arguably its most popular Marvel series, after three seasons. Why put an end to the Avengers of the small screen? Speculation says Disney will launch its own streaming platform, Disney+, next year, boasting a smattering of Marvel shows featuring characters Loki and Scarlet Witch, which doomed Marvel’s once-bountiful partnership with Netflix.
Netflix’s remaining two Marvel properties, The Punisher and Jessica Jones, have previously been renewed for second and third seasons, respectively, that are expected to stream in 2019. But it’s hard to imagine either will be renewed again — at least not on the streaming service.
December 6: Black Panther becomes the first superhero film ever nominated for Best Drama at the Golden Globes, with nods for Ludwig Göransson’s original score and Kendrick Lamar and SZA’s “All the Stars” for Best Original Song. “Couldn’t happen to a better group of people!” Mark Ruffalo celebrates.
Shortly thereafter, the film is nominated for a whopping 12 Critics’ Choice Awards, up for Best Picture, Best Acting Ensemble, Best Action Movie and Michael B. Jordan for Best Supporting Actor. Both Black Panther and Infinity War pick up Visual Effects noms.
December 7: Black Panther: The Album picks up six GRAMMY nominations, including Album of the Year and Record and Song of the Year for “All the Stars.” Looks like it’s Cardi B versus Wakanda come the GRAMMY Awards.
December 7: The first teaser for Avengers 4 finally reveals the movie’s title: Avengers: Endgame (which is what we predicted it would be!) Considering the aforementioned Avengers: Infinity Wars cliffhanger — the astonishing death of half the galaxy’s inhabitants — it’s no wonder Endgame‘s trailer amassed a record-breaking 289 million views in its first 24 hours online. (The teaser also reintroduces Ant-Man, trapped in the Quantum Realm just as Thanos snapped his fingers, and Jeremy Renner’s MIA Hawkeye into the mix.)
December 8: Tom Holland heads to São Paulo, Brazil, to treat Comic Con Experience goers to a first look at Spider-Man: Far From Home. (Marvel has yet to debut the footage online.) Peter Parker himself was joined by his recently confirmed co-star Jake Gyllenhaal to tease what’s to come once our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is undusted: He’s heading to Europe on a class trip, where Fury will recruit both Peter and Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio (apparently not a villain, as he is in comic canon) to battle The Elementals.
December 12: The SAG Awards nominations include an Outstanding Performance by a Cast nomination for Black Panther, recognized alongside the likes of A Star Is Born and Crazy Rich Asians. (Ant-Man and the Wasp, Infinity War and Black Panther all make the cut for Best Stunt Ensemble.) The SAG Awards are historically a key harbinger of Oscar nominations, for which Black Panther is expected to be included. Starting 2019 with a Best Picture contender can only mean next year is going to be even bigger for Marvel…