Marvel is developing a Secret Wars adaptation, according to the writer of the original comic book series, Jim Shooter. Not Secret Invasion – that’s already officially coming to Disney Plus as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – but Secret Wars.
In that comic, a powerful figure called the Beyonder plucked Marvel’s heroes out of their own reality and placed them in a location called Battleworld to face off against an array of villains. It’s one of the most famous Marvel storylines of the 1980s, and debuted Spider-Man’s popular Symbiote black costume variant.
At a MegaCon Orlando panel filmed by Geekosity, Shooter details conversations he had with two Marvel employees about the rights to certain elements of Secret Wars. Bear with us, because this gets a little complicated – and some of the details have been revealed before.
First, Shooter says that he was asked to write a novelization for Secret Wars by someone at Marvel who handles their properties, which he firmly turned down – that contract apparently included an inch-thick retroactive work-for-hire element. That person’s boss, David Bogart, SVP of Operations & Procurement, Publishing at Marvel Entertainment, then apparently called Shooter to ask him to sign a work-for-hire contract covering key parts of Secret Wars for a fee.
A ‘work-for-hire’ contract essentially means the comic artist or writer in question agrees they don’t own the intellectual properties rights of the characters or worlds they create on behalf of a publisher. Hence, Marvel owns Spider-Man, and Stan Lee (RIP) and Steve Ditko don’t.
Shooter claims Marvel “didn’t have a single piece of paper that said they own the Beyonder, Titania, Volcana, other characters we put in [Secret Wars], the new Spider-Woman for that matter, the whole black costume thing, nothing. No piece of paper to say they owned it.” Beyonder, Titania and Volcana are all key parts of the Secret Wars comic.
Shooter ultimately signed the appropriate paperwork and Marvel paid him for doing so – as Marvel’s former Editor-in-Chief, he always knew the characters were created under a work-for-hire contract, so to him it didn’t make a difference. “I said, this means you’re making a movie, right?’ [Bogart] said, ‘I’m not allowed to tell you that’. I said, ‘I think you just did’.”
Shooter explains that the process was simply part of how thorough Hollywood is about covering itself legally these days. The thing is, Shooter has told this story before, back in 2015 at New York Comic Con (scroll right to the end of the panel). Where he elaborated this time is that he’s heard development has been done on the film.
Later, Shooter got more frank with what he’s heard behind-the-scenes about Secret Wars being adapted by Marvel. “…I have a couple of friends out in Hollywood, that told me they’ve done some development on it. The trouble is it’s tricky, because some of the [characters] are obligated to other companies, and there’s a little… contractual problems. So whether or not it’ll ever happen or not, I don’t know, but I do know they’re trying. I know for a fact they’re trying.”
Shooter, too, makes it clear that Marvel’s exec never told him if they’re actually making a movie or not. Check out the full panel below:
We’ve reached out to Disney to see if it has any comment on Shooter’s claims about Secret Wars being adapted by Marvel.
Analysis: Who could make Secret Wars for the MCU?
Avengers: Endgame directors Joe and Anthony Russo have previously discussed the idea of Secret Wars as an MCU movie with BroBible, which makes it sound like something they’re interested in. “It would be the biggest movie you could possibly imagine, so that’s what really excites us about the story – the ambition of it is even bigger than the ambition of the Infinity Saga,” said Anthony Russo.
That sounds positive, but Marvel hasn’t said anything official about Secret Wars coming to the MCU. Still, as Russo explains, it’d be a perfect fit way to escalate the MCU in a way that’s more ambitious than Endgame.
The story makes more sense in the wake of Loki’s ending on Disney Plus, too – we now know there is a Marvel multiverse, so the idea of the Beyonder character plucking heroes out of their universe and placing them somewhere else makes conceptual sense.
We’ll just have to wait and see on this one, then, but Shooter sounds like he knows his stuff, even if the story about contracts sounds like it happened some time ago.