Summary

  • Actor Jonathan Majors, who played Kang the Conqueror, was charged with domestic violence, leading Marvel Studios to cut ties with him.
  • Marvel’s “Secret Invasion” series faced backlash for using AI-generated images, seen as insensitive during the long period of writer and actor strikes.
  • Marvel Studios faced behind-the-scenes issues, including visual effects problems, delays, rewrites, and turmoil surrounding shows like “Secret Invasion” and “Daredevil: Born Again”.

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Whether it was the MCU, DCEU, or the comic book movie and television genre in general, there was quite a bit of controversy in 2023. Amid the discussions about superhero movie fatigue and whether it’s peaked, there’s also been a wide collection of actor issues, behind-the-scenes drama, and a significant surge of delays, rewrites, firings, and more. Although things are looking up in the new year, it’s interesting to look back and see how the genre was shaped by the preceding 365 days.

In 2023, the Marvel Cinematic Universe entered Phase 5 of the Multiverse Saga. Meanwhile, the DCEU concluded after 10 years with a new rebooted DC Universe on the way beginning in 2025 with James Gunn’s Superman: Legacy. However, the success of both franchises in 2023 was very much a mixed bag overall. To that end, here are 10 of the biggest comic book movie and television controversies from 2023.

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10 Jonathan Majors Trial

Marvel Cuts Ties With Kang Actor

One of the biggest controversies of 2023 was undoubtedly the criminal charges against actor Jonathan Majors. Shortly after his debut as Kang the Conqueror in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, Majors was charged with domestic violence and assault involving a woman he was romantically involved with. To that end, December 2023 saw Majors being found guilty on two misdemeanor counts of harassment and assault, a ruling which led to Marvel Studios officially cutting ties, despite Majors role as the Kang variant Victor Timely in October’s Loki season 2 which had already been filmed and completed before the dispute. As such, Kang’s future and Avengers: The Kang Dynasty is currently unknown.

9 Secret Invasion’s AI Use

Generating Frustration During Strikes

secret invasion ai title credits

8 Going beyond the series which was critically panned by critics and audiences alike, Marvel’s Secret Invasion came under fire for its use of AI-generated images in its opening credits. This was largely due to the writer and actor strikes which dominated the majority of 2023 where the use of AI in movies and shows was a major topic of debate. As such, the swirling images of human and shape-shifting alien Skrulls come across as insensitive and very tone-deaf.Secret Invasion Kills Maria Hill

Dead After A Single Episode

Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill dying with Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury in MCU Secret Invasion

Furthermore, one of the biggest frustrations with the Secret Invasion show itself was its premiere where Nick Fury’s right-hand woman Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) is killed. This meant that she only appeared for a single episode right at the very beginning of the 6-episode story. Likewise, it was felt that Hill’s only job in the show was to die as she hadn’t really done anything noteworthy ahead of being shot.

As such, it’s widely believed that Hill became a victim of “fridging”, an all-too common story trope where women characters are disproportionately injured, killed, or abused in order to progress the plot of a male protagonist, in this case Nick Fury and his ongoing battle with the Skrulls. Having had a strong supporting role in the MCU ever since 2012’s Avengers, it was believed that Maria Hill was finally going to get a much-deserved spotlight, only for her to be killed right away.

7 Marvel’s Behind-The-Scenes Issues

Visual Effects Problems, Delays, Rewrites, And More

Alaqua Cox facing the camera as Maya Lopez in Echo trailer

Marvel Studios became the subject multiple exposés and reports in 2023 regarding a number of behind-the-scenes incidents and overall turmoil. Not only was there drama regarding the departure of major Marvel executive Victor Alsonso in March, but a number of visual effects artists and studios continued speaking out about the extreme pressures and challenges of working on Marvel projects. Likewise, Secret Invasion has various shifts in writers, directors, and even executives being brought in attempts to right the ship. Likewise, the ongoing strikes resulted in several delays for a collection of movies and shows in the MCU’s near future.

6 Daredevil: Born Again’s Troubled Production & Direction

Delays and Missing Actors

Marvel’s upcoming Daredevil: Born Again series with Charlie Cox’s Matt Murdock and Vincent D’onofrio is currently in production, though its struggles were particularly brought to light by The Hollywood Reporter in 2023. Apparently, the show became the linchpin which has motivated Marvel Studios to overhaul its entire television production process going forward, hiring legitimate showrunners for their shows with Daredevil being the first to reap the rewards with more traditional TV production process.

However, this all came from Marvel Studios reportedly being displeased with the show’s progress thus far, though the shifting in methodology will hopefully lead to improvements going forward. It’s also worth mentioning that another big element to the Daredevil controversy surrounds the reveal that Deborah Ann Woll’s Karen Page and Elden Henson’s Foggy Nelson would not be reprising their roles from the original Daredevil series on Netflix. As such, it remains to be seen if the show has hired new actors or if the most crucial people in Murdock’s civilian life won’t be featured at all.

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5 Ezra Miller/Flash Controversy

Criminal Charges and Lackluster Visual Effects

Ezra Miller's Barry Allen arrives to the rescue in The Flash

Facing criminal charges of their own, actor Ezra Miller’s The Flash was still released by Warner Bros. in 2023 as the movie had already been filmed for quite some time following numerous delays. However, there was still quite a bit of backlash from those who felt compromised supporting Miller in the face of their various criminal charges and controversies surrounding the troubled actor who eventually began working on their mental health. That said, The Flash became the source of a brand-new controversy once it was finally released in June, as the visual effects were incredibly lackluster and left much to be desired.

4 Amber Heard/Aquaman Controversy

Plagued Lost Kingdom Promotions

Amber Heard's Mera in Aquaman 2 Image

Although Amber Heard’s very public defamation trial with ex-husband Johnny Depp was in 2022, the actress’s comments about her role as Mera in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom continued to plague the sequel’s promotion ahead of its December release in 2023. Despite her claims that her role was reduced due to the ongoing lawsuit with Depp, director James Wan and executives at Warner Bros. were adamantly contradicted Heard comments with the claim that her role was always intended to be smaller, a face which certainly seems to be the case based on the entirety of the actual film and its major focus on Aquaman and his half-brother Orm (rather than on Mera).

3 MCU’s Box Office Troubles

The Marvels Becomes Lowest Grossing MCU Movie

The MCU had a rather poor performance at the box office in 2023. Although James Gunn’s final MCU film Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 did well with a worldwide box office of $845.6 million, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania did worse than the first Ant-Man movie as the 8th lowest earning movie in the entire MCU at $476.1 million. However, November’s The Marvels became the lowest grossing MCU movie of all time, earning only $161.3 million before Marvel Studios stopped reporting The Marvels’ numbers altogether. That said, it’s still worth noting that The Marvels was the biggest opening weekend for a film made by a black female director.

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2 Warner Bros. Selling Coyote vs ACME

(But Not Batgirl)

Leslie Grace at Batgirl in canceled DC Batgirl movie

Just like with Batgirl which was meant to release on HBO Max in 2022, Warner Bros. originally decided to shelve Coyote vs. Acme, a new Loony Tunes movie by director Dave Green so they could get a $30 million tax write-down. However, the public backlash and controversy combined with directors reportedly canceling meetings with Warner Bros. lead to a reversal of the decision and the movie is now being shopped ot other studios, leading many to question why the same couldn’t have been done with the Batgirl movie starring Leslie Grace.

1 Martin Scorsese Doubles Down On His CBM Criticisms

Urges Directors To “Fight Back”

Martin Scorsese Marvel

While promoting his recent movie Killers of the Flower Moon in 2023, director Martin Scorsese doubled down on his comments disparaging the MCU and comic book movies in general, referring to them as nothing more than attractions that weren’t “real cinema”. Scorsese even began calling for other directors to “fight back” against the comic book movie genre in order to save cinema itself. This has naturally led to a new surge of controversy both against and in support of Scorsese, even though it would be very simple and easy to enjoy (or least respect) all genres of cinema simultaneously.

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