This past September, a group of Marvel creatives, including studio chief Kevin Feige, assembled in Palm Springs for the studio’s annual retreat. Most years, the vibe would have been confident — even cocky — given how the premier superhero brand, owned by Disney since 2009, has remade the entertainment business in its image.
But this occasion was angst-ridden — everyone at Marvel was reeling from a series of disappointments on-screen, a legal scandal involving one of its biggest stars and questions about the viability of the studio’s ambitious strategy to extend the brand beyond movies into streaming. The most pressing issue to be discussed at the retreat was what to do about Jonathan Majors, the actor who had been poised to carry the next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe but instead is headed to a high-profile trial in New York later this month on domestic violence charges. The actor insists he is the victim, but the damage to his reputation and the chance he could lose the case has forced Marvel to reconsider its plans to center the next phase of its interlocking slate of sequels, spinoffs and series around Majors’ villainous character, Kang the Conqueror.
At the gathering in Palm Springs, executives discussed backup plans, including pivoting to another comic book adversary, like Dr. Doom. But making any shift would carry its own headaches: Majors was already a big presence in the MCU, including as the scene-stealing antagonist in February’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.” And he has been positioned as the franchise’s next big thing in this season of “Loki” — particularly in the finale, which airs on Nov. 9 and sets up Kang as the titular star of a fifth “Avengers” film in 2026.
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