For the past month, Guardians of the Galaxy and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have been going head-to-head at the box office, taking turns besting each other for that coveted number one spot. In an interesting bit of timing, Star-Lord, played by Chris Pratt, makes a Turtles reference early in his film. Being a child of the 80s, this makes sense. But being a character within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, does it? Is it possible that Marvel Comics themselves exist within this world we're watching play out on the big screen?
Let's say Marvel Comics do not exist. Captain America can't stroll into 7-11 and pick up the latest issue of Spider-Man or X-Men (which might make sense, since those are at other studios and the characters don't currently reside in this universe as laid out by Marvel Studios). That also means that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles might not exist there, in Star-Lord's world.
Why? Well, if you watch the recent Turtle Power: The Definitive History of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles documentary released in conjunction with the theatrical film, you'll see that the TMNT universe is inspired and influenced by Marvel (as well as many other things). Rocket Raccoon himself, who appeared nearly ten years before the first black and white Turtle comics, helped usher in this new era of anthropomorphic fighting animals. Take all that history away, and not only does that make the entertainment world look vastly different within the contained Marvel Universe, it also makes the world itself a slightly askew place. Would Star-Lord even now what a Ninja Turtle is here, in this other plane of existence?
Would Star Wars exist without Marvel? Would Rocky Balboa? Would President Barack Obama? A great number of artists and other worldly individuals have been inspired by the work first laid out by Stan Lee. That might all fall away without Marvel having ever existed. But the world we see in the Marvel movies isn't that much different than our own. And a recent deleted scene in Guardians of the Galaxy hints that yes, Marvel Comics do exist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But maybe not in the same way they exist within our plane of reality, here, as we know it.
James Gunn originally wanted Stan Lee sitting in a cage inside the Collector's Museum. He would have been discovered by Groot. In the photo that was released on Instagram, it's clearly Stan Lee that has been captured. He wears his signature tan windbreaker, and looks every bit the part of Marvel's main man (though the photo is of a stand-in). But that scene never made it into the movie. So we still don't have a definitive answer.
In Captain America: The First Avenger, there is a lot of Cap propaganda flaunted about. Comic Books, T-Shirts, balloons, trinkets, dolls. In Marvel's The Avengers, Agent Coulson is revealed as a true Cap fan, and goes to get his trading card signed by the man himself. But was any of this stuff inside the movie manufactured by Marvel? Did Marvel see Captain America and get the licensing rights for Captain America and his stories?
"No...I don't think Marvel Comics exist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.That is a very Community-esque question. Very meta."
Joe Russo then went onto comment on Cap's lists of things to do in this century, which raises some interesting questions itself,
"What's funny is Captain America has that list. Honest Trailers pointed this out, on that list is Star Wars. If Cap got through the entire trilogy, he would have seen Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu. So does Samuel L. Jackson exist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Samuel L. Jackson? Who happens to look eerily similar to Nick Fury? We wanted to joke about that when we were making the movie, the meta-quality of that. There is that scene when Samuel L. Jackson is under the car, and he pulls out this ultra-intense ground cutter laser tool that he has. In post, we kept joking that we were going to change it into a lightsaber, just to freak people out. But we didn't do that."
While the two Captain America: The Winter Soldier directors don't believe Marvel as a company exists within its own movies, James Gunn seems to maybe think otherwise with his deleted Stan Lee cameo. Maybe that's the real reason it was cut from the movie? It was a little too meta?
Maybe Marvel will have a more substantial answer for this sometime down the line. But for now, it seems that Marvel's The Avengers heroes exist in a universe that is vastly different from our own. Its the butterfly effect. How that will play into future story lines is not quite certain. On the other side of the screen, there are no Marvel Comics. Which means no Marvel movies. Which means The Lego Movie and Transformers: Age of Extinction are actually the two top grossing movies of the year, not Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It also means that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is still being released in May 2016! In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, DC wins! Think about that for a minute...(And yeah, Transformers was actually a Marvel comic book, but it was not created by Marvel, so that movie probably still exists over there.)