Everyone’s heard of the X-Men. Since Jack Kirby and Stan Lee brought them to life back in 1963, they’ve become the quintessential superhero team. Their universe is expansive, allowing for characters with a vast array of unique and interesting powers thanks in large part to way the world was constructed. With the idea of mutants as individuals capable of possessing any number of abilities, it’s made for a diverse team of heroes and villains, that in turn brought us the first ever commercial success for an adapted comic movie with Bryan Singer’s film back in 2000.
The rush for movie rights though left Marvel Studios without one of their most valuable commodities, thanks to Sony holding exclusive privileges for everything mutant-related. This led to Marvel taking an alternative yet similar route for featuring a team of naturally gifted heroes: the Inhumans. Before very recently, many of us had never even heard of them, but they in fact have been around since 1965, just two years after the first X-Men comic hit shelves.
The backstory of the Inhumans, while similar to their contemporary mutants, is arguably even more intriguing. The basic premise: Millions of years ago, an alien race called the Kree came to Earth and experimented with early homo sapiens to create superhumans to fight their war with the Skrull. The Kree eventually abandoned their experiments dubbed “Inhumans,” leaving them to create their own society. Each Inhuman is born with a different power, triggered by their exposure to what’s known as Terrigen Mist (We highly recommend thumbing through more over in this direction as it’s really a fantastic read). What this universe more serves to do though is provide Marvel with a cinematic alternative to the off-limits X-Men franchise.
Despite Marvel’s planned Inhumans movie getting pushed back to 2019, we’ve already seen them show up within the MCU. [Update, 4/11/16: Marvel Studio’s Kevin Feige told Collider that the ‘Inhumans’ movie would likely arrive later than the original planned release date of 2019, although he decline to say exactly when.]
An Agents of SHIELD Season 2 episode ended with two of our primary characters being exposed to Terrigen Mist, and teasers for the newest episode show one of those characters musing that they’ve become “something inhuman.” It’s a rich, vast franchise that has the potential to expand the Marvel Cinematic Universe out to a whole new stable of superheroes, as well as providing a unique world that possesses more depth than anything the X-Men ever could offer.
In many ways, utilizing the Inhumans works to the studio’s advantage. With a story many are unfamiliar with, it has the potential to go just about anywhere it wants without treading over the same old tired storylines. And realistically, even if Marvel still had the rights to both that and the X-Men, it would be supremely difficult to have both exist in the same universe given their similarities. This creative solution to not having the rights to a popular franchise may very well have landed Marvel Studios with a gold mine of a cinematic universe waiting to be unraveled.
With one or more of the primary Inhumans set to run wild on Agents of SHIELD, the saga will officially begin in earnest. It’ll be a few years before we get to see that come entirely to fruition, but it’s certainly one movie we’re incredibly excited see. Now we wait to see just what path Marvel will take to get us there in the meantime.