What is canon and what is not to the MCU has been a topic of fervent fan debate for years. Is Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which referenced the events of Avengers, actual MCU canon? What about the former Netflix shows like Daredevil, which also made mention of Avengers like Captain America and Thor? Well, we now have an answer to that question from the guy in charge, Kevin Feige. In his introduction to the book Marvel Studios: The Marvel Cinematic Universe—An Official Timeline, he wrote the following:
On the Multiverse note, we recognize that there are stories—movies and series—that are canonical to Marvel but that were created by different storytellers during different periods of Marvel’s history. The timeline presented in this book is specific to the MCU’s Sacred Timeline through Phase 4. But, as we move forward and dive deeper into the Multiverse Saga, you never know when timelines may crash or converge (hint, hint/spoiler alert).
FYI, our own Editor-in-Chief Amy Ratcliffe cowrote that book.
So, in short, everything utilizing Marvel characters, whether produced by Marvel Studios or not, is part of a branched timeline in the overall Marvel Multiverse. Some we already knew about. The original Sam Raimi Spider-Man films, and the Marc Webb Amazing Spider-Man films? No Way Home confirmed them as Multiverse canon. Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness confirmed Patrick Stewart’s Professor X, and Deadpool 3 is set to canonize Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. Even if these are variants of the Fox X-Men films, it indicates all those movies are also Multiverse canon.
Also, with clips of Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s respective Peter Parkers in Across the Spider-Verse, not to mention the appearance of Donald Glover in his MCU role as the Prowler in that film, those animated films also exist in the overall MCU Multiverse tapestry. Will movies like Ang Lee’s Hulk, Sony’s Ghost Rider films, and others get included in Avengers: The Kang Dynasty or Secret Wars? Well, Jennifer Garner as Elektra in Deadpool 3 suggests it’s all on the table now. Heck, why not Howard the Duck? Stranger things have happened.
Right now, the MCU is the highest-grossing film franchise of all time. By a lot too, with $29 billion dollars total. By contrast, the #2 slot goes to the Star Wars franchise, which is a distant second at $10 billion. But if the MCU now includes pre-Marvel Studios films? Oh man, then does that number ever go up. The mutant franchise at Fox adds $10 billion to that sum. The non-MCU Spider-Man films? About $8 billion total. Even the Fantastic Four films have collectively made $800 million. Throw in a couple of Blade films, we’re talking about a franchise that has made some $50 billion dollars. Easily the biggest success story in Hollywood history. And a record we’re likely never going to see surpassed in our lifetimes. In the meantime, we’re just excited to see Hugh Jackman take on Tobey Maguire while Deadpool just laughs at them both.