We are at a time of transition in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Avengers: Endgame closed many doors. But many other doors are opening. We have TV shows like WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Reboots such as Fantastic Four and Blade are on the way. Plus, Ryan Renolds' Deadpool is going to continue under the Disney regime. And while Deadpool 3 is in development, there is another project that could make use of the Merc With a Mouth. Namely, Thunderbolts.
Before diving in, we should note that Thunderbolts is not officially in development at Marvel Studios, either as a movie or TV show. That said, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier moved a lot of pieces into place for the group to debut in the future. With that, this could present the perfect opportunity to fold Wade Wilson into the larger MCU.
Who are the Thunderbolts?
The Thunderbolts initially made their debut in the pages of Marvel Comics back in 1997. The group first appeared in The Incredible Hulk #449 and was created by Kurt Busiek. They are akin to DC's Suicide Squad, a group of bad guys trying to do some good. But they are not merely a carbon copy. Led by Zemo, the original team of villains disguised themselves as heroes in an attempt to execute evil deeds. The group has gone through various incarnations over the years. At times, sanctioned by the government and, at times, operating independently. During that time, a rotating cast of characters has taken turns participating in their various missions.
Baron Zemo, played by Daneil Bruhl who we first met in Captain America: Civil War, is very much in play in the MCU right now following the events of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Bucky Barnes, aka the Winter Soldier, played by Sebastian Stan, has also been a member of the Thunderbolts at times, as have Punisher and, perhaps most importantly, Thunderbolt Ross. In the comics, Ross eventually becomes Red Hulk. Whether or not Marvel goes that route with William Hurt's version of the character remains to be seen. But Ross could, at the very least, be the government man behind the team. And yes, Deadpool has indeed been associated with the group before. The pieces are in place.
What's Going On With Deadpool In the MCU?
When Disney closed its deal to purchase most of Fox's media assets in early 2019, Deadpool, the X-Men and Fantastic Four franchises effectively became part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Disney owns Marvel and, as such, they put those characters in the hands of Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige. While the X-Men Fantastic Four will get reboots, Ryan Reynolds had proven to be tremendously popular as Wade Wilson. The idea was to bring him back for Deadpool 3.
But Disney is a different beast. They hadn't previously done too much in the R-rated world. Deadpool, as a franchise, depends on being R-rated. Yes, the studio and Reynolds came together and a third movie, to be written by Wendy Molyneux and Lizzie Molyneux-Loeglin of Bob's Burgers fame. That said, it still seems that the studio has struggled with the question of how to fold this character into its pre-existing universe. The answer may be staring them square in the face.
Why Deadpool Makes Sense to Lead the Thunderbolts
Deadpool is the face of a hugely successful and beloved franchise. This is not to say that Deadpool is a great leader. Sure, Deadpool 2 set up the X-Force, which we'll likely never see. At least not anytime soon. But the fact remains that Wade Wilson is more of a lone wolf much of the time. Be that as it may, having Ryan Reynolds' version of the character lead a team of villains on wild missions seems like a no-brainer in some ways. Maybe he doesn't even need to be the "leader" in a true sense, but in terms of putting a marquee name on the eventual Thunderbolts adaptation? It's hard to imagine a more effective way, that makes sense within the universe, to beef up this particular IP in the eyes of those who may not be familiar with it.
Thunderbolts is also a property that lends itself to an edge, be that as a hard PG-13 or R-rated. This is where Deadpool absolutely thrives. And it doesn't even need to be silly. Yes, we can still have those adventures in movies like Deadpool 3. But this can show us the grittier side of Wade Wilson, as well as the other characters who make up the team. It's a logical way to give Reynolds more to do in the MCU, in a setting that fits his character, while keeping the door open for solo appearances. It also adds huge star power to a lesser-known title that could set the stage for success. Imagine what an interaction between Zemo and Deadpool would look like. Imagine Thunderbolt Ross trying to keep Wade Wilson in check. There is a lot to play with here.
Is Deadpool leading Marvel's Thunderbolts realistic?
This is the big question. As a movie? Sure. It's not hard to see Marvel Studios getting Ryan Reynolds to sign on the dotted line for a Thunderbolts movie franchise. As a TV show? That is potentially more difficult. If there is a large ensemble cast, the money gets tricky. Yes, Marvel and Disney are making it work with some of these other Disney+ shows, but this would, in theory, be on another level. But this is Marvel we're talking about. Nothing is impossible at this point.