The drama at DC Studios and Warner Bros. Discovery highlights just how important Kevin Feige is to Marvel Studios’ success before and after Disney.
The tumultuous year for Warner Bros. Discovery and DC Studios continues as the new company tries to get a handle on its superhero universe. Disney is thanking its lucky stars, but not for the reason fans might think. The House of Mouse should be incredibly grateful that Marvel Studios has a leader like Kevin Feige because his job is apparently not at all easy to do.
The rivalry between DC Comics and Marvel Comics throughout the years has been bitter, but theirs is a symbiotic relationship. In fact, Feige’s praise of James Gunn shows that he understands that Marvel Studios needs a capable DC Studios. As long as fans are fighting over whether Marvel or DC heroes are cooler, they are not looking elsewhere for their mythic storytelling. Having made three (and a quarter, given his help with the Guardians on Infinity War and Endgame) films with Feige, Gunn has surely learned some of the key tricks of the trade. Still, the tumult continues. The cancelation of marquee films like Wonder Woman 3 and the box office woes of Black Adam just highlight how tough Feige’s job is at Marvel. While Marvel Studios suffered its share of tumult as well, there’s never been anything like what’s happening with the Distinguished Competition.
Kevin Feige’s start in movies came not from Marvel but from a DC legend. He worked at the Donner Company, started by Superman director Richard Donner and Lauren Shuler Donner. He worked as an assistant to Shuler Donner, who in 2000 signed on to produce the X-Men films. Due to Feige’s encyclopedic knowledge of Marvel Comics, she promoted him to associate producer. Avi Arad, the original ‘Kevin Feige’ of Marvel, immediately hired him as second in command at Marvel Studios. He would often give script notes to licensed Marvel films at Sony or Fox. Then, he got an idea for a shared universe of movies leading up to an Avengers team-up.
Feige had a front-row seat to the ‘superhero fad’ almost dying in Hollywood, but the Marvel Studios plan paid off better than anyone ever hoped. Still, there’s been problems. Edgar Wright publicly split with Marvel Studios over creative disagreements on Ant-Man in 2014. After it was announced at SDCC 2019, Scott Derrickson and writing partner C. Robert Cargill left Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, ultimately replaced by Sam Raimi and writer Michael Waldron. Feige also had frequent fights with Marvel Entertainment CEO Ike Pearlmutter, leading to Disney reorganizing Marvel Studios so that Feige reported directly to once and future CEO Bob Iger. After Endgame, Feige was given creative control over everything Marvel.
Still, despite any behind-the-scenes disagreements or spats with the now-defunct Marvel Television unit, nothing ever rose to the level of press drama Warner Bros. Discovery is currently facing. In fact, even with the critically-mixed reaction to the MCU’s Phase Four focused on grief, Marvel Studios is still delivering Disney its biggest box office and streaming wins.
The trouble throughout the WarnerMedia era and this latest iteration of the company show that what Feige and Marvel Studios did is not easy to repeat. Of course, Kevin Feige may be the face of Marvel Studios’ brain trust, but he is not the only mind at work on these stories. There’s Louis D’Esposito, co-President, and Victoria Alonso, president of physical, post-production, VFX and animation. They’re also helped by the “Marvel Studios Parliament.”
This group of producers ensures that Marvel Studios’ massive production schedule stays on track. These are names familiar to Marvel fans like Brad Winderbaum, Trinh Tran, Jonathan Schwartz, Eric Carroll and Stephen Broussard. Nate Moore is another member of the Parliament who most recently led the press push for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Even though Feige is the Chief Creative Officer for all of Marvel, he’s not the only one making moves and decisions. The decisions are Feige’s, ultimately, though to hear any Marvel Studios creatives tell it, Feige always seems to err on the “most creative” choice.
Perhaps Kevin Feige’s biggest superpower is trust. Not the trust he has in the storytellers, which is considerable. Rather, it’s that Disney seems to trust his lead, if only because he’s never once disappointed. It’s a luxury that the executive creatives never seem to have at Warners.