ScreenCrush’s Comic Strip is a weekly roundup of the hottest superhero movie/TV news items. From Marvel to DC and points in between, if it pertains to costumed comic book heroes, we’re covering it here, bringing you our expert analysis. This week, DC and Warner Bros. get official with 'Justice League,' Marvel gets weird with Ant-Man and Dr. Strange, and Spider-Man looks to bring back J. Jonah Jameson.

Marvel's Phase 3 Movie Slate and Beyond


It's easy to forget that prior to his initial 2008 cinematic outing, Iron Man was a Marvel C-lister, a superhero who didn't exist on anyone's radar unless they were a hardcore comic book fan. That's why it's easy to look at upcoming films centered around characters like Ant-Man and Dr. Strange and not be surprised that they're getting a shot at the big screen.

Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige spent much of the past week teasing the future of the Marvel universe and talking about these two characters in particular, planting the seeds for two future unlikely blockbusters. First, he addressed the fact that the Marvel movie universe will remove Dr. Hank Pym (aka the first Ant-Man) from the story of Ultron altogether:

It was two things: a story Edgar [Wright] wanted to tell that we’ll see with Michael Douglas and Paul Rudd, and now we’re 11 films in, it’s looking at the characters we’ve already introduced who already have the technology and the brains to do… certain things. We changed, frankly, some of the MCU to accommodate this version of Ant-Man. Knowing what we wanted to do with Edgar and with 'Ant-Man,' going years and years back, helped to dictate what we did with the roster for 'Avengers' the first time. It was a bit of both in terms of his idea for the Ant-Man story influencing the birth of the MCU in the early films leading up to 'Avengers.'

It's already heavily rumored that Tony Stark will be behind the creation of the psychotic robot on the big screen and that makes a lot of sense. Ant-Man creating a monster like that carries a certain amount of weight in the comic world and it would not in the big-screen universe.

Secondly, Feige talked about the casting of the handsome/hilarious/charming/awesome Paul Rudd as Scott Lang, the petty crook who becomes the second Ant-Man. And, yes, Feige seems to love hime just s much as we do.

Look at that origin of the petty crook who comes into contact with a suit and does his best to make good, and then look at someone like Paul Rudd, who can do slightly unsavory things like break into people’s houses and still be charming and who you root for and whose redemption you will find satisfaction in.

And that brings us to Dr. Stephen Strange, the Marvel universe's Master of Mysticism who was name-dropped in 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier.' Audiences have accepted that super-soldiers and spies and gods can exist together, but are they ready for the Sorcerer Supreme? Feige says that the good doctor will open the door to the wilder side of the Marvel universe in the first place:

There’s a whole other side to the Marvel universe, which is the supernatural side. We’ve always been very interested in this aspect and this is going back to the early days of Strange Tales with Steve Ditko and Stan Lee. I love that stuff. We haven’t done anything that mind-trippy yet and for me, 'Doctor Strange' is our doorway into that.

Since Dr. Strange is this column's favorite Marvel superhero who doesn't have his own movie yet, this cannot happen fast enough.

'Justice League' Is Officially an Official Thing

Warner Bros.

While Kevin Feige and Marvel prepare to get crazy as their ever-expanding Marvel universe enters its seventh year, Warner Bros. is finally getting serious about this 'Justice League' thing and used the past few days to drop a few bombshells.

Let's start big and work small.

First, 'Justice League' will follow the still untitled Superman/Batman movie, known for the time being as 'Batman vs. Superman,' and Zack Snyder will return to direct.

Second, 'Justice League' is rumored to have a May 5, 2017 release date and it will make that tight deadline by filming back-to-back with the Superman/Batman movie (which really, really needs to be called 'World's Finest').

Third, the Superman/Batman movie will feature a cameo by stage actor Ray Fisher as Cyborg, the half-robotic superhero who is a member of the current Justice League lineup in the comic book world and is a founding member of the Teen Titans. He'll join Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman among the DC superheroes being teased in 'Batman vs. Superman' (or whatever it's going to be called), presumably so he can be called up to the majors in 'Justice League.'

And finally, a wild new rumor has once again linked 'Game of Thrones' star Jason Momoa to 'Batman vs. Superman' and 'Justice League,' with the current buzz suggesting that he's signed on to play the role of Aquaman. Although he's not our first choice for the role (why not fellow 'Game of Thrones'-er Nikolaj Coster-Waldau?), Momoa is an interesting presence ... and he maaaay be kicking himself for losing the role of Drax in 'Guardians of the Galaxy.'

Look, we're still nervous about this entire endeavor and wonder if it's being rushed to compete with the power of the 'Avengers' movies, but we'll wear our optimism hat for a little longer. After all, we count ourselves among those who really like 'Man of Steel.'

'Guardians of the Galaxy' Casts Thanos and, Uh, Stan Lee


And while the Justice League is being assembled, Marvel and director James Gunn are still hard at work on 'Guardians of the Galaxy,' which promises to be one of the biggest and craziest superhero movies ever made. A few new tidbits about Marvel's cosmic adventure have made their way online and everything sounds pretty delightful.

Let's start with the big one: the mad titan Thanos, last seen smiling evilly during the credits of 'The Avengers,' has been cast ... but no one is talking. Since Marvel isn't shy about announcing their actors well in advance of a film's production, we can only imagine that Feige and his cohorts are up to something. We have our own theories, which you can muse over HERE.

And (stop the presses on this one!) the film will definitely feature a Stan Lee cameo despite Marvel's mascot/figurehead previously claiming he'd sit this one out. Would it really be a Marvel movie without him?

Finally, we have no idea when the next trailer for 'Guardians of the Galaxy' will actually arrive, but one definitely exists and Latino Review has done the internet a service by breaking it down shot-by-shot and describing it in great detail. So if you're a total obsessive who wants to read a description of a movie trailer, you can, uh, get in line behind us. The most important takeaway? Groot and Rocket Raccoon apparently sound great.

As a bonus prize, take a look at a new still of Karen Gillan's Nebula in 'Guardians of the Galaxy':

Marvel Studios

From the Set of 'Avengers 2,' Plus Joss Whedon Talks Ultron

The Avengers officially assembled last week on the set of 'Avengers: Age of Ultron,' something that stars Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo were not shy about on social media:

Mark Ruffalo, Instagram
Mark Ruffalo, Instagram

But that wasn't the only news to come out of the production. In a movie that shouldn't be too surprising to people who keep their eye on the shifting blockbuster landscape, it was announced that the second Marvel ensemble adventure will open internationally on April 24, 2014, a full week before the American release. Considering the insane business these movies do in other territories, we don't blame 'em. Just be on total spoiler-guard for that week, citizens of America!

Marvel Studios via Empire

However, the biggest news of the week came straight from director Joss Whedon himself. When asked about how he plans to change things up for the sequel, he made it very clear that 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' will be a very different film from its predecessor and that every new character has a place in the story:

I fiercely dislike the idea of just throwing in more people for the sake of doing that. But last time I had all of Earth's Mightiest Heroes versus one British character actor, and I needed more conflict.

And, of course, he had plenty to say about the title villain:

I'm having a blast with Ultron. He's not a creature of logic - he's a robot who's genuinely disturbed. We're finding out what makes him menacing and at the same time endearing and funny and strange and unexpected, and everything a robot never is.

Look, if you're not interested in seeing a psychotic robot played by James Spader who speaks words written by Whedon, we're not sure if you're an actual superhero fan. Ultron couldn't sound more different than Loki, which, as he said before, is by design. We can't wait for this film to completely surprise us.

Harley Quinn and 'Batman Beyond' Take Back the Spotlight

As we eagerly await the lovably psychotic Harley Quinn to start gracing our televisions as a member of the "Suicide Squad" on 'Arrow,' we can tide ourselves over with this cool new poster. Sold by geeky poster boutique Mondo, the print represents "Harlequinade," a popular episode of 'Batman: The Animated Series.' Presenting the Joker's lady love in her classic (and still best) costume, the poster is the exact kind of thing you should probably have on your wall.


And while we're on the subject of 'Batman: The Animated Series,' Darwyn Cooke's submission to Batman's 75th anniversary is a brief but cool animated short, acting as a sequel to a classic episode of the early '90s series and as an entry in the beloved 'Batman Beyond' universe. It's very, very cool:

Batman: Assault on Arkham Unleashes a New Trailer

It was inevitable that the extraordinarily popular Batman: Arkham Asylum video game and its sequels would eventually make the jump to movies. The upcoming animated movie 'Batman: Assault on Arkham' is set in the same continuity as those games and should make the wait for the upcoming Batman: Arkham Knight a little easier. Once again, direct-to-DVD movies like this is an arena where DC and Warner Bros. continue to effortlessly trounce Marvel.

Spider-Man and Batman Reveal New Video Game Trailers

Speaking of video games, a trailer for the upcoming DLC pack for Batman: Arkham Origins found its way online, and it looks like a must-play for those who can't get enough of this series. Titled "Cold, Cold Heart," the new content has the player sending the Caped Crusader against Mr. Freeze, and it all looks very slick. Seeing the icy Batman villain realized like this makes 'Batman and Robin' feel all the more painful:

And then we'll jump over the aisle to Marvel and the video game adaptation of 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2,' which, like most movie tie-in games, will stray from the source material quite a bit. Thankfully, it looks like the game will stray into some pretty cool territory. A newly released trailer for the game reveals that iconic villains Carnage and Shocker will make an appearance. We fully expect Carnage to be a future part of the movie franchise with the 'Venom' spinoff, but, man, it sure is cool to see an iconic B-lister like Shocker show up.

The Necessary Return of J. Jonah Jameson

Remember how the rebooted James Bond franchise kept Judi Dench around as "M" when Daniel Craig entered the fold? The 'Amazing Spider-Man' franchise would be wise to do the same thing with J.K. Simmons and Daily Bugle editor J. Jonah Jameson.

We bring it up because 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2' director Marc Webb recently suggested that the character may return to the big screen in a future sequel, admitting that it would be tough for anyone to fill Simmons' shoes. Since the rebooted Spidey franchise is desperately lacking in Jameson and Simmons is still available, Sony and Webb should bite the bullet, write him a nice check and bring him back. We can't imagine a single fan on Earth who would complain.