The release of Iron Man in 2008 launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and changed the superhero movie genre forever. 20+ movies later and the MCU is the undisputed GOAT. ?
One of the great things about the MCU is the breadth of it all. At any given time 10 characters are likely on the screen, a dozen Easter eggs are in the background, and enough plot threads to rival a Chris Claremont run of comics are being juggled.
But will each character cameo get a standalone film or each plot thread grow into a major narrative? Of course not.
Yet the MCU is nowhere near done! Even as the MCU Phase 4 films have been announced, rumors continue to fly about upcoming big screen and Disney+ projects, many of those rumors swirling around a fringe Marvel comic book superhero team. Let’s investigate the Agents of Atlas and see if their brief foray into the MCU will be growing into something larger.
History: Marvel Comics’ Agents of Atlas
Comic book characters are known for their confusing origin stories, yet perhaps no origin story is more funky than the Agents of Atlas. The original team members first appeared way back in the 1940s or 50s.
Here are the characters:
- Namora, who debuted in Marvel Mystery Comics #82 (May 1947)
- Venus, who debuted in Venus #1 (Aug. 1948)
- Marvel Boy, who debuted in Marvel Boy #1 (Dec. 1950)
- Gorilla-Man, who debuted in Men’s Adventures #26 (Mar. 1954)
- M-11, who debuted in Menace #11 (May 1954) and
- Jimmy Woo, who debuted in Yellow Claw #1 (Oct. 1956)
If you noticed that none of these characters debuted together, nor ever appeared in a title named Agents of Atlas, you’d be correct. In fact, these characters had literally nothing in common nor any interaction until 1978, when some of them were paired together in What if…? #9, a comic that told alternative tales.
Decades later, Marvel editor Mark Paniccia was reading old issues of What if…?, which gave him an idea. What if Marvel could collect all these spare parts from the comics of yesteryear and form them into a team?
But the company wasn’t even named Marvel in the 40s when some of these forgotten characters appeared, it was called Timely. The company name changed to Atlas Comics in the 50s, only to become Marvel in the 60s Stan Lee and Jack Kirby made ours Marvel by creating household names like Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four.
So, Paniccia tapped writer Jeff Parker in 2006, tasking him with creating a limited series called Agents of Atlas. The kicker? Marvel retconned the whole thing, writing the series as if the Agents of Atlas had been a team the entire time, pretending they had been together for the entirely of Marvel Comics history!
Parker’s series was pretty good, but the team didn’t get a whole lot of traction. In fact, the Agents of Atlas probably only appeared in a couple dozen comic issues throughout the next decade.
But Marvel shook up the lineup in 2019. During the War of the Realms storyline, the team’s lineup was entirely revamped as a new team made up of Asian and Asian American superheroes as The New Agents of Atlas, a series written by Greg Pak, with art by Gang Hyuk Lim.
The current Agents of Atlas are:
- Jimmy Woo, the sole holdover from the previous iteration,
- Aero, The Chinese heroine with wind-based powers,
- Brawn, Amadeus Cho, the Korean-American super genius who was the Hulk for a time,
- Crescent and Io, a South Korean heroine and her magical bear,
- Luna Snow, a South Korean K-Pop star with ice-based powers,
- Silk, the Korean-American Spider-Man ally,
- Sword Master, the mystical hero from China,
- Wave, a Filipina water manipulator,
- White Fox, the South Korean super spy and
- Shang-Chi, the Master of Kung-Fu.
So, to sum up: Marvel took a gaggle of spare part characters and smushed them together into a team, pretending that had been the case forever. Then they wiped that slate clean and filled the team with a bunch of new faces. Got it?
Hearsay: What are the Rumors Surrounding Agents of Atlas?
The lone consistent member of the Agents of Atlas has already appeared in the MCU: Jimmy Woo. Former SHIELD agent Woo turned FBI agent in time to hound Scott Lang aka Ant-Man about his home confinement charge after Civil War.
Woo was played as a farcical character in Ant-Man and the Wasp but he has been confirmed to appear in the upcoming Disney+ WandaVision show, so we’ll see if that farcical take on the character persists or if WandaVision adds another element to Jimmy Woo.
When Marvel Comics revamped the Agents of Atlas lineup, they added Shang-Chi. This was obviously no accident, as Shang-Chi gets his solo movie in 2021.
This has given rise to rumors that the Agents of Atlas will be set up in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings with the plan to give them a spinoff project down the road. Whether it will be a Disney+ show or a film is currently unknown. Why it is unknown? Well, it’s all rumors after all.
How-To: How Might They Appear in the MCU?
First, although the Agents of Atlas have never been more than fringe characters, the recent relaunch stokes interest. It felt like the original Agents of Atlas had nothing in common because they literally had nothing in common. The latest reincarnation that brings together a cadre of Asian superheroes gives the team a new cohesion.
This allows threads to be pulled more easily. Dropping Sword Master into the Shang-Chi movie, for example, makes perfect sense. Or perhaps Jimmy Woo worked with another Agent of Atlas member while at SHIELD.
Second, there is a HUGE financial incentive to make this happen. The international market – particularly in China and the rest of Asia – is the #1 audience for the MCU right now.
Not only do long-time Marvel nerds like me love Shang-Chi, but Chinese audiences will go nuts for the character. His stand alone movie will be great. The kung-fu genre will be action packed and audiences will feel represented by the character.
I write fanfic in my head. I don’t think the Agents of Atlas will play a large role in the Shang-Chi movie, although I think 1-2 characters will get a cameo and a couple more will get a mention.
Jimmy Woo is already a popular side character, so I think his appearances in the MCU increase. As they do, this will present an opportunity for him to name drop a couple more potential characters.
I think this will pave the way for the MCU to simply pretend that the Agents of Atlas have always existed, pulling a trick that is right out of the comics. A Disney+ series that simply assumes that the Agents of Atlas have been operating to thwart villainy in Asia this entire time would be perfectly plausible. And audiences would love it.
Will it happen that way? Will it even happen at all? Who knows. But it would be pretty foolish for the MCU not to create amazing television and movies for their largest audience.