Most of us will never write a billion-dollar franchise. We have to make due by coming up with conjecture as to how someone else’s story will pan out, staunchly defending the value of our headcanon online and going to our graves swearing that it was better than what made it to the screen, which we hated. In some communities, this is called “watching the Moffat years of Doctor Who.” To MCU viewers, it’s called “fan theories.”

The MCU is perfect soil for growing fan theories, thanks to the wishy-washy approach they take to using source material that stretches back almost a century. Maybe an adaptation will follow the comics panel for panel. Maybe it’ll ditch everything great about the original story, keep the name, and call itself Secret Invasion. Either way, it’ll keep the diehard fans guessing and – more importantly – keep breaking their hearts when they realize how wrong they were.

How wrong we were.

Here’s a list of example of the times when we were wrong.

8: Wanda tore a hole in reality and let the X-Men into the world in WandaVision

Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch and Evan Peters as Fake Pietro/Ralph Bohner in 'WandaVision'
Screenshot via Disney Plus/Marvel Studios

Gosh, it sure felt like all the pieces were there, didn’t it? Wanda Maximoff, always a force for weirdness and unpredictability, had seemingly warped reality itself. An entire city was wrapped around her concept of primetime domestic bliss. The dead would rise at her whim. Then, out of thin air, her long-lost brother appeared – not even the kind of lame one from her own franchise, the one that everybody loved from two production studios over. 

The appearance of Evan Peters’ Quicksilver seemed to promise so much. If Wanda really was shredding reality, it would be the perfect opportunity to bring previously-inaccessible characters – recently acquired in the purchase of 20th Century Fox – into the MCU. Maybe Wanda would be stopped by the intervention of Professor X, or through reconciliation with her multiversal papa, Magneto

Or maybe the whole thing was a setup for a joke about a guy whose name sounds like a rude word for swimsuit bits. In hindsight, we should’ve known something had gone wrong with the MCU at this point, but darned if we didn’t keep watching. It’s like we were begging for Secret Invasion.

7: The beekeeper is A.I.M. in WandaVision

the mysterious Beekeeper in WandaVision
Image via Disney Plus/Marvel Studios

It was established early on in WandaVision that anyone or anything entering the town of Westview would be transformed into a harmless caricature of itself. Helicopters became toys, and superagents became barely-aware sitcom characters, adorned in cartoonish versions of their trademark oeuvres. 

So when the question of “who’s that beekeeper?” came up around the same time that surreptitious technological bad guys poked their heads up, it sure felt to comic book fans that the obvious answer was A.I.M. Already introduced in the MCU thanks to Iron Man 3, Advanced Idea Mechanics has always been a company you could count on if you needed a bunch of faceless goons to stomp. Their go-to work attire being a bright yellow hazmat suit with a crazy distinctive headpiece, often referred to in the comics as looking like a beekeeper outfit, it just… it just… How did Marvel not make A.I.M. the bad guys here? They could have even factored Wanda’s reality-warping weirdness into the creation of M.O.D.O.K., saving audiences from seeing his little bottom in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Or, whatever. They could’ve shown his butt here, too. Chase your bliss, MCU.

6: Reed Richards (or, if you’d prefer, anyone at all) was the aerospace engineer in WandaVision

Monica Rambeau's eyes glowing in WandaVision
Image via Disney Plus/Marvel Studios

Okay, one more thing about WandaVision and then we’ll move on, I swear.

WandaVision was sweet, and as beautiful as a story about a robot trapped in his wife’s Malcolm in the Middle enslavement fantasy can be. It also had this problem that popped up often enough that it seemed suspiciously close to trolling, where the show would make a vague, sweeping, J.J. Abrams-style promise of big things to come, then let its audience down like some sort of a J.J. Abrams.

The least harsh example of this behavior came when Monica Rambeau started making noises about this “aerospace engineer” that she knew who could probably do some superscience. Speculation as to the clever clogs’ identity ran rampant, with the smart money being on Reed Richards, leader of the Fantastic Four and recent Walt Disney acquisition. In the end, it turned out that the aerospace engineer was – drumroll – someone. Someone nonspecific and unseen. What, you wanted comic book characters in your comic book adaptation? Grow up.

5: Stan Lee was Captain America all along

stan lee guardians of the galaxy
Image via Marvel Studios

Back in 2019, when the world was still young and none of us knew what our apartments smelled like after we’d spent a year inside them, the scuttlebutt was piping hot. The new Avengers movie was going to involve time travel. What a scoop. What a hoot. What a dramatic shift in dynamics.

Any opportunity to surf the waves of chronology brought with it one distinct possibility: That Captain America would go back in time and get little kisses from Peggy Carter. 

And while that half of the fan theory came true, the second half was a big, fat nothing. The thought was that Steve Rogers, after traveling back in time, would become an old man – but not just any old man, Stan Lee, or more specifically, the Stan Lee that we’d seen making cameos through the whole of the MCU. Every time that mustache and glasses combo had hit the screen, it had actually been Cap, revisiting old triumphs and defeats, keeping an eye on things from the other side of retirement. 

Instead, we got a digitally aged-up Steve Rogers who apparently spent the last 60 years of his life ignoring every preventable disaster from Three Mile Island to 9/11, all so he could slow dance with the woman whose niece he made out with one time. Excelsior, true believers!

4: Wolverine v Thanos: Claw-n of Justice

Thanos - Infinity War
Image via Marvel Studios

This one’s a classic. High-definition TV screens and CGI capable of realistically depicting whopping purple space boys came together in the days leading up to Infinity War. As a result, fans noticed that MCU bedazzling enthusiast Thanos the Mad Titan had a heck of a shaving scar running up his cheek. What’s more, that scar sure made it look like Thanos had been scratched three times at once. It’d take something mighty sharp to cut into that grape-ade mug of his. No, it’d take three somethings mighty sharp.

So fans figured that Infinity War was probably going to bring mutants into the MCU, especially everyone’s favorite Canadian with impulse control problems, Wolverine. Who else could have scarred Thanos like that? The answer, in the end, was “I dunno.”

3: Everything is Mephisto in everything, all the time

Marvel Mephisto
Image via Marvel Comics

Mephisto isn’t just a guy whose name sounds like what Mario would shout after breaking his hand while punching a wall. He’s also one of Marvel Comics’ most nefarious, powerful, and unpredictable antagonists. He’s something adjacent-to-but-not-quite the actual Devil. He rules.

So as Phase Four of the MCU commenced and things got wonkier and wonkier, the rumors started to fly hard and fast. Was Mephisto behind the events of WandaVision? Was he Ralph Boehner? Agnes? The beekeeper man? Was Mephisto behind the TVA, or the guy who bought Stark Tower? 

In order: No, no, no, no, no, and probably not. Wild that fans thought borderline Satan’s evil plan might have involved buying real estate in Manhattan, though.

2: Anyone, anyone, anyone at all is a Skrull in Secret Invasion

Rhodey Skrull in MCU in Captain America Civil War
Image via Marvel Studios

Secret Invasion held a lot of promise. The story from which the Disney Plus miniseries takes its name saw oodles of characters replaced by shapeshifting Skrull imposters. You never knew who had been taken – Spider-Woman, Black Bolt, Dum Dum Doogan, Jarvis, Captain Marvel, and more were revealed to be aliens in disguise.

So when a Secret Invasion series was announced, speculation got heated. Maybe this was how the MCU would bring back heroes who’d died in recent entries. Black Widow might come back. Maybe even Iron Man. Anything could happen. Anything. 

What did happen was that the show was a drag and the only notable Skrull imposter was one of three series regulars with a name you could remember. 

1: Iron Man takes a Cruise in Multiverse of Madness

Image via Marvel Studios

Fans’ first look at Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was tantalizing. Was that Patrick Stewart’s voice in the trailer? Were they bringing Professor X in as a member of the Illuminati? That would be huge. And if something that huge made it into the trailer, imagine all of the things that didn’t! 

With the multiverse in play and a seemingly bottomless budget to mess with, one possibility dominated the conversation online: That Tom Cruise, once the frontrunner for the role of Tony Stark, would take up the mantle of the Superior Iron Man, a variation on Stark with a bad case of the Mondays and an even worse case of Machiavellian hubris. That’d be a heck of a villain, wouldn’t it? Evil Iron Man from another universe, played by the Risky Business kid?

It didn’t pan out, and audiences had to get by on watching Jim from The Office getting forced through a telekinetic Play-Doh Fun Factory instead. 

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By mrtrv

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