Could Secret Wars Include the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

Recently, Marvel Comics announced a series of old events would be revisited as part of Secret Wars, their company-wide crossover event that will apparently pit superheroes from various alternate realities against one another.

It was not long ago that Marvel cancelled a number of comics that revolved around alternate timelines, in the run-up to Age of Ultron, an event that changed the way time travel worked in the Marvel Universe (much to the frustration of some fans who didn't feel it was explained sufficiently).

Now, the worlds of the Marvel multiverse are on a collision course, with the events of next summer's Secret Wars crossover driving them all.

But...what about the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

Their Disney XD cartoons, interconnected loosely but officially, are likely candidates to appear, since after all Ultimate Spider-Man: Web Warriors seems to be just a made-for-TV version of the Spider-Verse event. The movies (and, by extension, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) seem a harder sell to tie in, though, not least of all because it would suggest that all of the characters are likely to be "safe."

Why? Well, in a nutshell, you've got many more people watching the films than you have people buying the comics. The likelihood of a character being dramatically changed or killed on-panel, and then the other characters having to acknowledge onscreen that it happened off-camera in a tie-in comic...well, it feels pretty unlikely.

That said, there are certainly other things that can happen in a crossover to lend the characters weight -- and to give the crossover an impact on them -- that wouldn't require death or some other change that would seem jarring on film. Provided Avengers: Age of Ultron, which comes out just before Secret Wars begins, doesn't end on a cliffhanger that needs to be picked up immediately in Ant-Man or something (which seems unlikely), there's room for events to happen to the team which could be referenced in passing or even ignored in future TV and film appearances.

You could also introduce characters and concepts in Secret Wars that haven't yet appeared onscreen, but make it clear that they're from the Cinematic Universe. Then, when those characters do appear onscreen it would be with the history of having had an otherworldly experience with some of the characters s/he would meet in the film.

One problem with an idea like this was that until recently, the Cinematic Universe was fairly grounded. For all the talk about how much different it is than the DC movies, the Marvel Cinematic Universe still emphasized science over the unexplained and the world over the universe. That started to erode somewhat with the ending of Marvel's The Avengers, which saw Iron Man blow up a tear in spacetime in order to stop an alien invasion, but the lid was really blown off with this year's Guardians of the Galaxy, which gleefully embraced the insanity of the Marvel Universe in a way that's difficult to do with characters like Captain America and Iron Man.

Guardians has opened a door to a corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that had remained fairly unexplored up until now, and any film that can have Howard the Duck and the Celestials in it, implicitly brings with it the level of insanity needed to justify a multiverse.

There have been comics set in the Cinematic Universe, of course. There has also been, especially ahead of the Avengers movie, an attempt made to market them as essential reading to the films, and they've reportedly done very well in the bookstore market, where non-comics readers can see the more recognizable versions of the heroes from the big screen and buy them up.

"We'll always be working on books set in the Cinematic Universe during the window of the movies," said Marvel's Axel Alonso. "The collected editions of those comics end up being some of the best sellers of the year in the book market. So, we've already got plans for Avengers and Ant-Man next year."

Could those plans tie into Secret Wars? It's difficult to say. From a comics perspective, it would seem like a huge missed opportunity not to. From the film side, it's probably a wash. That bookstore market factor, though, could be somewhat hampered. It's hard to imagine anyone continuing to think they're fun DVD extras and accessible little stories if there are three different versions  of Thor all fighting one another in there, while Captain America and Iron Man from the main continuity try to yell at their younger/alternate selves about how stupid it was to get into Civil War.

Could be fun, though...!