Stanley Kubrick is one filmmaker who we can probably say wouldn’t have much interest in the MCU were he still around. The writer and director was known for wanting control over as much of a production as possible, something totally antithetical to Marvel Studios and Disney. He’s already part of the franchise though, and we have Jack Kirby to thank.
A lot of the MCU takes influence from Kirby’s work as an artist and writer. One of Stan Lee’s great collaborators, many of the best Marvel characters and Marvel villains came from Kirby’s penmanship, including Thor, the Fantastic Four, and MODOK. Among his creations is Machine Man, who ties Kubrick to Marvel canon.
See, in the ’70s Marvel was given the rights to adapt Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey – a contender for the best science fiction movie ever – into comic book form. The agreement was part of a deal to get Kirby back to Marvel after he left to work for DC Comics, so it was a big move.
In 1976, Kirby’s version of 2001 hit shelves. Largely similar to Kubrick’s version, Kirby amalgamated elements from Arthur C Clarke’s novel (written at the same time the Stanley Kubrick movie was being made) and earlier drafts of the script.
This manifested in additional speech and some added thought bubbles, so avid fans of 2001 had something new to consider. Kirby went on to make his own sequel, under the same name, as a ten-issue monthly book. Less a follow-up and more a sidequel, he looked at the effects of the Monolith on mankind’s history, tracking us from caveman to spacefarers.
Here’s the rub: at the end of Kirby’s 2001, a new character is introduced, Machine Man, an android given greater intelligence and awareness by the Monolith. The last of his kind, whose owner dies in the book, Machine Man would go on to become part of Marvel history, having his own runs and making occasional appearances with various other teams and characters.
Kirby’s sequel adds to the events of Kubrick’s 2001. A central conceit of the MCU is that every protagonist and antagonist in Marvel is in the universe somewhere, waiting to be introduced. Therefore, Machine Man is alive somewhere within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, meaning 2001: A Space Odyssey has literally happened in one of the timelines of the multiverse.
To compound this, Arthur C Clarke’s own sequels, 2010: Odyssey Two, 2061: Odyssey Three, and 3001: The Final Odyssey, all take place within a multiverse themselves. Clarke wrote them this way to expand on the ideas of 2001 without being beholden to the story Kubrick told. In other words, 2001 exists within a multiverse to begin with, so it isn’t a leap to place it within the MCU’s.
So, keep an eye out for Machine Man in upcoming Marvel movies, then make sure to tell the Kubrick lover in your life all about the implications! To be fair, Deadpool 3 will be making any semblance of order here worthless. Check out our guide to the Echo release date if you’d prefer something more grounded.