Marvel is getting really, really Canadian. These stars are leading the charge

With the debuts of She-Hulk and Ms. Marvel, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is quickly becoming more Canadian than it's ever been. Here, CBC News breaks down some of those projects, and the wealth of Canadian talent you can expect to see influencing the media juggernaut in the future.

Iman Vellani, Tatiana Maslany, Simu Liu highlight recent surge of Canadians in Marvel properties

A combination image is shown. On the left is a woman with green skin smiling in front of a beach. In the middle is a young woman making a fist with a glowing purple plasma surrounding it. On the right is a man, holding a bo-staff, who appears to be mid-battle.
Tatiana Maslany's She-Hulk, Iman Vellani's Ms. Marvel and Simu Liu's Shang-Chi are just some of the many Canadians shaping the MCU's future. Here, CBC News puts together a list of the Canadian talent driving Marvel Studios' next phases. (Marvel Studios)

With She-Hulk and Ms. Marvel fresh in our minds, and new Deadpool and Shang-Chi titles on the horizon, there's one thing undeniably in the MCU's future: Canada.

With the conclusion of its fourth phase of movies — and plans for both the fifth and sixth in the works — the Marvel Cinematic Universe is quickly becoming more Canadian than it's ever been. Here, CBC News breaks down some of those projects, and the wealth of Canadian talent you can expect to see influencing the media juggernaut in the future.

Leading women

A combination image is shown. On the left, a teenage girl stands under falling confetti waving toward the camera, wearing a tiara and a leather superhero costume waves.  On the right a muscular woman with green skin holds her hands in a prayer pose as she smiles.
Canadians Iman Vellani of Ms. Marvel and Tatiana Maslany of She-Hulk appear in this combination image. Both lead new MCU series that were released in 2022. (Marvel Studios)

While Marvel fans are getting to know her as the six-foot-seven-inch, fourth-wall-breaking, lean green legal machine, others up north may know Tatiana Maslany better from her work on Orphan Black. The Regina-born actress's work on the show saw her win Canadian Screen Awards and become the first Canadian actress in a Canadian drama series to win an Emmy, but she's now playing Jennifer Walters — a.k.a. She-Hulk — in She-Hulk: Attorney at Law

The series is the MCU's latest Phase 4 production, and, after it concludes in October, will be one of its last. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever will close out the studio's current arc when it premieres in November, with The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special serving as an "epilogue," according to director James Gunn

Maslany's turn in the MCU comes just after another Canadian actress's — Markham, Ont.'s Iman Vellani. Vellani stars as the titular Ms. Marvel in the Disney+ series, becoming the first Muslim superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

WATCH | 'Hopefully this gets the ball rolling': Iman Vellani on South Asian representation: 

'Hopefully this gets the ball rolling': Iman Vellani on South Asian representation

8 months ago
Duration 1:01
The Canadian star of the upcoming Ms. Marvel series, Iman Vellani, makes her acting debut as Kamala Khan and explains how it feels to portray the MCU's first Muslim superhero.

"Film and TV literally shape how we see people in this world. And so, you know, when you're only representing Muslims in a certain type of light, it gets very one-note," she said at her Toronto red-carpet debut in June.

"I'm so glad that Marvel's providing space for a character like Kamala to exist and to just take up space and tell a very specific story about a very specific girl."

While Ms. Marvel concluded its first — and potentially only — season in mid-July, Vellani is already set to return in 2023's film The Marvels. There, Vellani's character Kamala Khan will team up with Brie Larson's Captain Marvel.

Leading men

A combination image is shown. On the left is a man wearing red and black leather combat gear and a cowl. He is holding two handguns and has two swords strapped to his back. On the right is a man in futuristic red and black clothing. He has a small cut on his cheek, is standing in a defensive position and holding a bo-staff in one hand.
Ryan Reynolds, left, appears in a scene from Deadpool, while Simu Liu appears in a scene from Shang-Chi. Both are expected to star in another instalment of their film franchises. (20th Century Studios, Marvel Studios)

Simu Liu's Shang-Chi was a first in more than one way. The Kim's Convenience alumni became the first Canadian actor to headline an MCU production (technically — more on that later) back in 2021.

Then, Shang-Chi and the Legend of Ten Rings was the first film premiering during the pandemic to make over $200 million US at the domestic box office, helping to cement the fact studios could release their movies in theatres instead of continuing to delay them

It was also the first Marvel movie to rest on the shoulders of a new superhero since Captain Marvel in 2019. After Avengers: Endgame saw the departure of Iron Man, Captain America and Black Widow, Shang-Chi's success proved that audiences were willing to stick with the MCU brand despite an inevitable shakeup in its cast.

Marvel confirmed a sequel is in the works soon after the film's release, though there isn't a premiere date yet. As an added bonus, the Shang-Chi comic books have been drawn by Toronto's Marcus To since February of this year

But before Liu, Vancouver's Ryan Reynolds was helping to make the world of Marvel more Canadian. Reynolds played Deadpool in a number of movies, though due to rights issues with 20th Century Fox he was never technically part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But since the Walt Disney Company completed its purchase of Fox in 2019, that's all set to change.

Back in January, Marvel head Kevin Feige confirmed the studio is working on a Deadpool 3 script with Reynolds, which will be rated R and finally introduce the "merc with a mouth" into the MCU.

Sidekicks, team members, dynamic duos

A combination image is shown. On the left, a woman with short blonde hair wearing a blazer smiles while holding a microphone. In the middle a woman points her phone at the camera and holds her a microphone above her head in a wave. On the right a woman in a white dress beams while holding a microphone to her mouth. All three are on a stage in front of a background that reads "San Diego Comic Con."
From left, Pom Klementieff, Evangeline Lilly and Cobie Smulders appear at presentations at the 2022 San Diego Comic-Con. Each were there to share information about their upcoming Marvel movies. (Jesse Grant/Getty Images, Kevin Winter/Getty Images, Jesse Grant/Getty Images)

Outside of the universe's eponymously named titles, a number of Canadians will support the MCU in future titles. B.C.'s Cobie Smulders is set to reprise her role as Maria Hill, supporting Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury in Secret Invasion. That series, set to debut on Disney+ in spring 2023, looks at an invasion of Earth by aliens. In an interview with EW, Smulders said the series will "really dive into the characters more" and "explore their relationships with each other."

Pom Klementieff, though sometimes brought up as a Canadian actor, is a bit of a technicality. The actress, who plays Mantis in the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, was born in Quebec City, though under a diplomatic passport. Because of that, she is a citizen of France — not Canada. She will reprise the role of Mantis in both the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special in December and Guardians of the Galaxy 3 in May 2023.

And Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania will see Alberta-born, B.C.-raised Evangeline Lilly return to her role of the Wasp in early 2023. As far as actors go, Lilly has one of the most long-running track records for Canadians — she has appeared in four mainstream Marvel productions as Hope Van Dyne already, with at least one more credit still to come.

A trailblazing series

A combination image is shown. From left, a young woman wearing a black jacket looks at the camera. An older man wearing dark aviator sunglasses looks at the camera. A young bearded man wearing a t shirt stands in front of a field. An older woman smiles at the camera.
From left, Devery Jacobs, Graham Greene, Cody Lightning and Tantoo Cardinal are shown. All four will be in the new Marvel series Echo. (Walt Disney Studios)

The upcoming Marvel series Echo will do more to add Canadian talent than any other production in the past. While the Disney+ show stars Wisconsin's Alaqua Cox — playing the titular role introduced in the Hawkeye series — she has a solid cast of Canadians supporting her.

Reservation Dogs's Devery Jacobs, born in Kahnawake Mohawk First Nation in Quebec, will play one of the leads, Julie. Alongside Jacobs, Oscar nominee Graham Greene from Six Nations Reserve in Ontario, Edmonton's Cody Lightning and member of the Order of Canada Tantoo Cardinal are also set to star. 

The show is scheduled to premiere in summer 2023.

Lesser known

A combination image is shown. On the left, a CGI image of a gelatinous alien is shown.  It has taken on the shape of Marvel character Groot. In the middle, a man wearing a suit holds a red, white and blue shield with a star emblazoned in the centre. On the right, A hooded and masked man wearing all white stands illuminated in floodlights.
Images from I Am Groot, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Moon Knight are shown here. Edmonton actor Trevor Devall voiced the character Iwua in I Am Groot, while Canadian filmmaker Kari Skogland directed The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Montreal's Gregory Middleton was director of photography on Moon Knight. (Marvel Studios)

The bigger names aside, there are other Canadians helping to make Marvel work — some behind the scenes. 

In the animated I Am Groot series of shorts, fans are treated to stand-alone adventures with their favourite baby seedling: Groot. In one of those episodes, Groot encounters a mysterious, shapeshifting alien who both takes his form, and busts a move. 

That alien is voiced by Edmonton voice-actor Trevor Devall. Devall is far from new to the world of Marvel — he's had turns in M.O.D.O.K., a Spider-Man TV series, Marvel Future Avengers as Loki, and even the Guardians of the Galaxy animated series as Rocket Raccoon — but this is his first time in the official MCU canon. 

WATCH | Canadian director on creating a hero for tomorrow: 

Canadian director on creating a hero for tomorrow

2 years ago
Duration 1:07
Speaking with CBC's Eli Glasner, Kari Skogland, director of Marvel Studios' The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, talks about using conversations around race and tolerance to define what a hero is in today's world.

Canadian filmmaker Kari Skogland also entered the MCU for the first time recently as director of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. In an interview with CBC, Skogland said she wanted to take on that series — which showed Black actor Anthony Mackie taking up the mantle of Captain America — to "put into this racially motivated and racially charged conversation some very thoughtful notions for people to come away with and chew on."

And finally, no stranger to superhero or supernatural genres, Montreal-raised, Vancouver-educated Gregory Middleton took on the job of cinematography for the Oscar Isaac-led miniseries Moon Knight. Middleton — who worked on episodes of Game of Thrones, Watchmen and Arrow — told industry news site Below the Line he closely studied related Marvel comics to get the show's distinctive, and disjointed, look. 

Behind the comics

A combination image is shown, all are drawings. On the left is a comic cover with the words 'Moon Knight' across the top. Below, a hooded and masked man scowls while standing behind a movie clapper. In the centre four people in blue spandex look toward the viewer. One has elastic arms, another is semi-translucent, another holds a fireball in his hand and the last is heavily muscled and covered in scales. In the final image a heavily muscled woman with grey skin crushes a concrete block, which is shaped into the word "Hulk."
Images from Jeff Lemire's Moon Knight, The Fantastic Four and Mariko Tamaki's run of She-Hulk (simply titled 'Hulk') are shown here. (Marvel Studios)

Outside of the studio's main continuity, there are a number of Canadians behind the comics the MCU draws from. Essex County and Sweet Tooth writer Jeff Lemire was also behind a Moon Knight comics run that the series borrows from. 

And looking forward, Toronto's Mariko Tamaki wrote one of the most popular — and divisive — She-Hulk books out there. That run introduced "grey" She-Hulk: a version of the character that includes callbacks to both the original iteration of the comics Hulk (who was originally grey, but later changed to green due to a printing issue) and a later, more vicious version of the character.

Tamaki's grey version of She-Hulk also saw the character change dramatically — motivated by fear and trauma instead of rage. While that storyline hasn't popped up yet, it could be a well for source material in the future

And finally, Dinosaur Comics, Jughead and The Unbeatable Squirrel-Girl writer Ryan North was recently announced as the new writer for the Fantastic Four comic series.

The Eisner-winning writer, who famously had lighthearted character the Unbeatable Squirrel-Girl beat up some of Marvel's greatest villains, said the Fantastic Four series will be a series of "smaller, self-contained stories." Even still, North's comics could serve as story fodder for the upcoming Fantastic Four movie, which will kick off the MCU's Phase 6 and has become one of the most anticipated series in the entirety of the MCU.


Jackson Weaver is a senior writer for CBC Entertainment News. You can reach him at jackson.weaver@cbc.ca, or follow him on Twitter at @jacksonwweaver


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?