Now that Iron Man is officially the most successful movie with a character called "Tony" in it in the history of cinema or something like that, the movie industry's collective eyes have moved to what's next for Marvel Comics' production house. And not The Incredible Hulk, either - The Hollywood Reporter is already asking what they've got up their sleeves for 2010 and beyond. While rumors are suggesting that Ant-Man, Thor and Avengers are likely candidates for celluloid treatment, we've got five lesser-known candidates that are ready to make the jump to a theater near you.

Says Hollywood Reporter:

Some question whether the Marvel characters waiting in the wings have the appeal of previously licensed characters like "Spider-Man" and "The X-Men." But Marvel president David Maisel said that the key ingredient to make a film successful isn't "more well-known or less well-known characters but tender-loving care."

What do you suppose he'd think of giving these options a little TLC?

Doctor Strange: Created by Spider-Man's combination of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, Marvel's "Master of The Mystic Arts" has all the potential to crossover to mainstream success - The story of an arrogant famous surgeon who survives a terrible accident but without the finger dexterity to keep slicing and sewing, only to become the world's most powerful magician after a Tibetan retreat, it's Nip/Tuck meets Iron Man meets Harry Potter. Get someone like Guillermo Del Toro to direct and George Clooney to star, and your summer blockbuster is all taken care of.


Devil Dinosaur: I know, I know; the idea of taking Jack Kirby's admittedly-hokey "first boy on Earth and his pet killer dinosaur that's bright red after getting roasted like a lobster but surviving" late-70s series and making it into a movie sounds dumb, but the whole thing has multimedia written all over it. Literally; the series was initially conceived with an eye towards possible Saturday morning cartoon adaptation. We're saying that it's better than that: Ditch Moon Boy and focus on his unkillable T-Rex eponymous co-star, marauding around prehistory and killing everything he comes into contact with - It's 10,000 BC but with more death and even less need to make sense.


Captain Universe: What do audiences want to see more each summer than a wish-fulfilment fantasy that lets them put themselves in the place of the more-powerful character in the screen in front of them? That's why Captain Universe ("The hero that could be you," as the ads for the comic said) works so well - the concept that Captain Universe is the identity anyone can adopt when randomly gifted with temporary godlike cosmic powers is tailor-made not only for a public that know that it'll never be a genius arms dealer or bombarded with gamma rays, but also for Hollywood executives that don't have to worry about paying more money to stars for each successive sequel: Just replace your lead actors! That's the whole point of the idea!

Nova, The Human Rocket / Star Brand: Let's face it; DC and Warner Bros are going to want to make a Green Lantern movie someday, so why not beat them to the punch with Marvel's two rip-offs of the concept? Nova has teenager Rich Ryder given cosmic powers by a dying alien and inducted into space police force The Nova Centurion Corps, while Star Brand has asshole Ken Connell given cosmic powers by a dying alien and... well, just being more of an asshole, really. Oh, and he blew up Pittsburgh in a nuclear explosion by accident, as well. See what happens when you don't join a space police force?


US 1: Somewhat out of left field, admittedly, but the story of Ulysses Solomon Archer (U.S.A. - get it?), a trucker whose metal skull plate allows him to not only mentally control his truck but also pick up CB transmissions - I swear to you that I am not making this up - who ends up traveling the highways in the sky after aliens introduce him to the concept of space trucking is tailor made for a high concept middle-American comedy movie. Probably starring Larry The Cable Guy and someone who'd previously been on the cover of Maxim or something. Sure, it may not open as big as Iron Man, but imagine the DVD sales after it becomes a cult hit.

There you go - Just five more potential movie franchises that can keep audiences amused and amazed after even Robert Downey Jr. has grown weary of his trademark smirk. With characters like these - and I didn't even get to Alison Blaire, the Disco Dazzler - you can tell that Marvel's movies are, worryingly enough, here to stay.


Marvel looks ahead [Hollywood Reporter]