What Licensees Need to Know About Marvel Phase 4

As new IP such as Shang-Chi and the Eternals enter the Marvel cinematic universe, here are some of the key thing’s for licensees.

James Dohnert

November 8, 2019

6 Min Read

The films of Marvel’s third phase of the cinematic universe collectively made more than $13 billion. What started with “Captain America: Civil War” in 2016 and ended with “Spider-Man: Far from Home,” has grown into one of the most successful entertainment franchises ever. From the highs of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” to the emotional lows of “Avengers: Endgame,” phase three was a true spectacle unlike anything the film industry has ever seen in years past.

So, how do you top one of the most successful cinematic runs of all time? Well, if you’re Marvel, you run it back with some beloved characters while introducing some new ones in multiple formats.

During a recent visit to Los Angeles Comic Con, License Global had the privilege to sit in on a panel that keyed into the superheroes expected to leave their mark in Phase Four of Marvel’s cinematic master plan. The “Marvel Phase Four: 101” panel delved into some of the lesser-known Marvel characters getting the big-screen treatment in the next three years.

With a panel including Screenrant writers Joe Deckelmeier, Tatiana Hullender and Justin Quizon, as well as comic writer Johnny Parker, the session highlighted some of the major superheroes to keep an eye on in the years to come.

Here are some of the upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase Four properties and elements to keep an eye on for licensing opporutnities in the years to come.

Who’s Coming Back?


We won’t get into spoilers here, but some members of the cinematic Avengers won’t be back to the big screen in Phase Four. However, some fan favorites will be back with sequels or spinoffs to the last phase’s favorite flicks. The superheroes include:

  • Black Widow;

  • Doctor Strange;

  • Thor;

  • Blade;

  • Loki;

  • Scarlett Witch;

  • Hawkeye;

  • Falcon;

  • Winter Solider; and

  • Spider-Man (even after a minor studio duel over the property).

Streaming vs. Cinema


Something decidedly new for the next phase of the series is the brave new world of streaming. Following a reshuffle of Marvel Studios that will see the mastermind of the Marvel Cinematic Universe oversee TV for Marvel, a slate of classic comic characters are set to join Disney’s new streaming platform Disney+.

Returning favorites such as Scarlett Witch, Hawkeye, Falcon, Winter Solider and Loki will get the streaming treatment in place of a one-off movie in the coming years. Each series will also be much more aligned with the cinematic vision of the studio and have the potential to be must-see content for Marvel fans.

New Characters Ready for Disney+


Joining the OG heroes of past phases will be new streaming series based on characters Ms. Marvel, Moon Knight and She Hulk. Each character has never received the cinematic treatment, and this will be the first time many of the characters are seen outside of the pages of comic books.

Ms. Marvel, aka Kamala Khan, is a teenage Pakistani-American girl from New Jersey who also happens to be the first Muslim superhero introduced into the Marvel universe. In the comics, Ms. Marvel is given her shapeshifting superpowers from Carol Danvers of “Captain Marvel” fame.

Just announced last August, not much is known about the Disney+ take on the character as of yet. However, we do know the series will take its lead from the G. Willow Wilson comics of the same name. “Captain Marvel” star Brie Larson has also stated she would be interested in appearing in future adaptations of the character to help pass the superpowered baton as shown in the comics.

Moon Knight is similar to the Guardians of Galaxy in some ways as the character isn’t widely known outside of comic circles. A West Coast Avenger in some iterations of the super group, Marc Knight, aka Moon Spector, was gifted special powers by the Egyptian God of the Moon and tasked with being the god’s champion in return for another chance at life. In the comics, Moon Knight has multiple personality syndrome, a condition that manifests in him taking on different personas throughout his various series.

Debuting in 1975, the character is often considered Marvel’s early answer to Batman due to his reliance on technology and the darker themes of his stories. While Marvel has yet to announce a writer or star for the series, it will be interesting to see what the Disney+ team saw in the property to take it to the new platform.

New Characters on the Big Screen


In Phase Four, Marvel will introduce two new IP to its cinematic universe in “The Eternals” and “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.”

The Eternals capitalizes on the cosmic side of the Marvel universe by focusing on an alien race of super-powered humanoids known as the Celestials. In the comics, the Eternals battle their galactic counterpart, the deviants. They are born with unique superpowers and are considered the protectors of humans.

Ancient beings, the Eternals came to earth before anything roamed the planet and basically created humans. The series shares many traits in common with DC’s “New Gods.” Both were created by writer and illustrator Jack Kirby in the 1970s. The Eternal film will star Angelina Jolie and not one but two “Game of Thrones” alums in Richard Madden and Kit Harrington. It’s slated to be the first new IP film release with a release date of November 2020.

Shang-Chi is a “master of Kung-Fu” that doesn’t necessarily have superpowers but is extremely skilled at fighting. In the comics, the character is the son of “The Mandarin” a character that was teased in “Iron Man 3.” The third Iron Man saw Ben Kingsley play a character who pretends to be the supervillain in a very meta third act turn. The Shang-Chi Mandarin will be the real villainous one creating a unique father-son dynamic for the film.

Aside from the story, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” will also be the first Marvel movie led by an Asian lead actor. Simu Liu was announced for the role of Shang-Chi at this year’s San Diego Comic Con. The little-known Canadian TV actor reportedly didn’t even have an agent when he booked the life changing part.

Marvel’s New IP: A Win for Licensees

While Marvel Phase 4 is still being worked on, the broad strokes of the plan have been laid out. With new characters and returning ones set to join the latest line up, the new phase offers a great opportunity for licensees looking to create new merchandise for 2020 and beyond. If the success of previous Marvel franchises carries over, expect massive new IP in the future.

Read more about:

DisneyDisney PlusMarvel

About the Author(s)

James Dohnert

Former Content Editor for License Global

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