It’s counter-intuitive for me to say this as an artist, but I don’t think the creators matter nearly as much for a shared universe as the editors and producers do.
Let’s face it. Artists have their own visions, their own styles, and those styles won’t always mesh well with one another. I still think that Man of Steel and BvS don’t work because they are too much of Snyder and Nolan’s viewpoint. They bring a very specific aesthetic to the screen, and while it might be pretty or spectacular or “deep”, it isn’t one that can work across multiple characters and long-term stories.
True, many of the golden age characters were created when the line between editor and artist was blurry, but much of what made that era great was a happy accident. People didn’t plan out these immense universe. They just sort of unfolded on their own.
That’s often why attempts to recreate these grand shared universes fall apart. It’s hard to play out in advance. It just sort of happens. You create a handful of characters and settings that slowly expand outward. The original Marvel Comics Universe and the Cinematic Universe both did this. Iron Man was a great jumping off point because if they’d gone right for Ant-Man or Thor or even Black Panther, they’d have most probably failed. But Iron Man is familiar enough and fantastic enough that he is a great introductory character.
And all along the way, the people behind the scenes have been keeping things on track. They’re not perfect. In much the same way I’m disgusted by BvS sacrificing Jimmy Olsen for no good reason, I’m annoyed that so far, the MCU has thrown away Crossbones, Baron Zola, and Von Strucker, all great characters that deserved to be treated better. But overall, a conscious effort is being made to create a shared continuity that holds together. And while the artists, writers, actors, etc, are a huge part of that, it’s the people behind the scenes that hold it together across multiple movie franchises.
Of course, there are already signs of fraying around the edges. Just as in the original comic book medium, stories are slowly being written that are there to advance other stories. Characters are being set up to have arcs further down the road. There’s always the risk that you’ll be looking so far down the road you won’t concentrate on making the current story satisfying. Civil War risks crossing that line, and I think (just barely) avoids it. The producers might be the thing keeping this all together, but they’re also just as likely to be the thing that tears it apart.
Will the MCU eventually become too bloated, too continuity heavy, too difficult to make work? Yes. It’s happened in comics. It will happen here. But until then, I’m willing to ride this coaster wherever it goes.
And, hey Marvel folks behind the scenes, I’m ready and able to write that Devil Dinosaur movie when you need it. You know where to find me.
Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,