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How Marvel’s Ultimate Avengers Predicted the MCU

The Ultimate Marvel Universe predicted the Marvel Cinematic Universe years before it was a reality and even gave readers made its own fan-casting.

Since its inception, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has owed a lot of inspiration to the Ultimate Marvel Universe, particularly its interpretation of Marvel’s premier team, the Avengers. The MCU took many elements of the imprint such as origins, plotlines, costumes and Ultimate interpretations of Marvel heroes over their classic Marvel Universe counterparts.

In Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s The Ultimates, the Ultimate Marvel Universe would even go onto to predict its own influence in the forthcoming film universe, six years before the first Iron Man film was released. In The Ultimates #4, the heroes themselves discussed the idea of a film about the team and even considered who would play themselves. While only one of the casting choices ended up coming true, it nonetheless provided a glimpse of what an early vision of the MCU could have been like.

Related: Ultron: How the MCU Villain Tore the Ultimate Marvel Universe Apart

After the success of Ultimate Spider-Man and Ultimate X-Men, Marvel brought in the creative team of Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch to re-imagine the Avengers for the Ultimate universe in 2002. Renaming the team, Millar and Hitch’s The Ultimates told a streamlined and compact storyline that was also grand and cinematic in its scale. Elements of the original volume would later be brought into the MCU, such as the Chitauri being the primary alien antagonists, and Bruce Banner’s Hulk origins being tied to the super-soldier serum. Black Widow and Hawkeye starting out as agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and the spy agency being responsible for bringing the superhero team together were also ideas taken from Millar and Hitch’s epic.

The Ultimates took a grounded approach to storytelling and was known for both its political commentary and contemporary pop culture references. Often name-checking or even outright showing real-life figures and celebrities, The Ultimates #4 would also go so far as imagining an in-universe film adaptation of the famous heroes when Nick Fury mentions that Betty Ross had heard rumors of Brad Pitt playing the newly resurfaced Captain America in a three-picture movie deal.

The characters then discussed who they would cast to play each other, with Fury brainstorming most of the ideas. Correctly casting Samuel L. Jackson — who his design was based on — as himself, Fury also picked Johnny Depp as Tony Stark, Matthew McConaughey as Hank Pym and the Wasp to be played by Lucy Liu. The other characters were also mocking Bruce Banner just as he entered the room before he left without saying a word right before Pym suggested Steve Buscemi would be a good fit.

Related: Captain America & His Ultimate Love Were… the Red Skull’s Parents?!

Though it is impossible nowadays to imagine anyone else playing the likes of Captain America and Iron Man other than Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr., the early-00s star power and acting prowess of both Pitt and Depp would have certainly brought some interesting interpretations to their respective roles. Pitt would go on to play war heroes not too dissimilar to Steve Rodgers in 2014’s Fury and 2016’s Allied, which hints at how he would be a natural fit for the leader of the Avengers. Much like Downey before he was cast as Iron Man, Depp has found himself at the center of numerous controversies and legal issues.

The casting of McConaughey and Liu as Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne would be massive departures from Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer’s superhero retirees and would potentially have made the two larger figures in the MCU. Whilst an offbeat choice for Bruce Banner, Buscemi’s history of playing tortured characters would make him an ideal choice for a darker and psychologically complex take on the Hulk.

Not only did the Ultimate universe predict the future of the MCU; it also influenced many of the creative decisions that would make it the success it is today. Even if Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury turned out to be the only accurate prediction, the comic’s prediction of a future franchise of Marvel’s premier superhero team came true and set the path for the wider Marvel Universe to be the cinematic phenomenon it is today.

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