Marvel announces 9-movie blitz
THE Marvel cinematic universe is expanding with new characters Doctor Strange, Black Panther and Captain Marvel, who will be the first female Marvel character with her own film.
The nine films, announced at a fan event on Tuesday, include both sequels to its stream of box office hits and new franchises, with Doctor Strange kicking off the newcomers in 2016.
Marvel named its first African-American lead actor, Chadwick Boseman, for Black Panther due in November 2017.
The Black Panther, an African tribal chief created in 1966 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, was the first black superhero in a mainstream American comic.
"I'm blessed to be part of this Marvel Universe and I look forward to making magic together," Boseman said at the event at Hollywood's famed El Capitan Theatre.
The 37-year-old is best known for playing baseball star Jackie Robinson in 42 and soul singer James Brown in this year's biopic Get On Up.
The character will be introduced in Captain America: Civil War in 2016 before a solo outing the following year, Marvel said.
Doctor Strange is a former neurosurgeon who loses the ability to perform surgery and turns to magic. Despite widespread reports that the character would be played by British actor Benedict Cumberbatch, Marvel did not confirm casting.
Marvel studio president Kevin Feige said: "If (casting) were confirmed, we would have introduced him today. Every single actor of a certain age has been rumoured to be Doctor Strange."
He added that there is plenty of time to find an actress to play Captain Marvel, the alter ego of a character named Carol Danvers, for the film's July 2018 release.
While Marvel has female superheroes like Black Widow, this is the first time a woman will anchor a film in what is seen as an effort to attract more women and girls to the fanboy-heavy Marvel universe.
In a surprise announcement, the studio revealed that there will be a new two-part Avengers sequel in 2018-2019 - on top of one already scheduled for next year to follow the record-breaking 2012 original.
The third and fourth instalments, dubbed Infinity War Part 1 and Infinity War Part 2, arrive in May 2018 and May 2019.
Marvel confirmed a release date for the sequel to the quirky summer smash Guardians Of The Galaxy, which is so far the top-grossing film for this year.
"I'm very overwhelmed," said Marvel fan Robert Lucero, a 24-year-old student from Pomona who said he was most excited to see Black Panther.
"It just seems there's too many good things to wait such a long time, but they have shown us they will reward our patience."
REUTERS, AFP, BLOOMBERG