Joanna Robinson, Dave Gonzales, and Gavin Edwards give readers the inside story of the cinematic superhero.

Do you love Marvel 3000? Then MCU: The Reign of Marvel Studios, out Nov. 7, is the book you've been waiting for.

The new tome from celebrated culture writers Joanna Robinson, Dave Gonzales, and Gavin Edwards takes readers behind the scenes of Marvel Entertainment and the cultural phenomenon of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in unprecedented fashion — and EW has your exclusive first look at the cover for MCU.

Through more than a hundred interviews with actors, producers, directors, and writers, the unauthorized story takes a look at the rise and uncertain reign of the MCU, analyzing Marvel Studios' place as a major player in Hollywood and global pop culture.

The Avengers
The Avengers
| Credit: Marvel Studios

It chronicles the many conflicts of the studio, from the contentious hiring of Robert Downey Jr. for 2008's Iron Man to 2023's disappointing box office for Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, as well as the shocking departures of major Marvel executives.

Robinson, Gonzales, and Edwards break down Marvel Studios' resuscitation of the Hollywood studio system model and the ways in which contemporary tweaks allowed that approach to flourish. Dishy and authoritative, MCU is the first book to tell the Marvel Studios story in full ― and is an essential, effervescent account of American mass culture.

Check out the cover below and read on for more from Joanna Robinson on how she and her fellow co-authors approached writing MCU.

Cover for the book 'MCU'
Cover for the book 'MCU'
| Credit: Courtesy of WW Norton

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did the idea for this book first come to be?

JOANNA ROBINSON: Norton approached us to write the book in 2019, right around the time when Game of Thrones was ending and the finale of Marvel's Infinity Saga, Endgame, was headed into theaters. It felt like a seismic moment in the monoculture. The MCU wasn't finished, of course, but with the departure of major stars like Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, and Chris Evans, it did feel like the end of an era and the perfect time to look back and see how Marvel managed to dominate Hollywood so completely. I had written the 2017 Vanity Fair cover story on Marvel Studios so I had a head start, but there was so much of the story left to be told.  

Is it written through or an oral history? How did you all decide what format made the most sense?

We originally planned to write the book as an oral history: The origin and reign of Marvel Studios in their own words. But though Marvel's parent company Disney was originally friendly about the idea of the book, they pretty quickly shut the doors on us and told current employees and former stars not to talk to us. That meant the oral history format was out the window. We still somehow managed to get over a hundred interviews from people of all walks of life who had worked for Marvel — from the biggest stars to the least-known craftsperson. We also supplemented with interviews from cultural critics and comics experts. Those interviews coupled with years of exhaustive research paint a complete portrait of the Marvel story and, to be honest, Disney circling the wagons really only made us even more curious about the story that could be told. 

You all did a ton of interviews for this. Was there one in particular that really surprised you or unlocked something about Marvel for you?

There were just so many good stories and anecdotes and revelations we couldn't even fit all of them in the book, but I will say there were two pretty key interviews. David Maisel, who was a founder of Marvel Studios, was very generous with his time and sat down with us for hours to give key, unvarnished insights into the earliest days of the studio. Then Craig Kyle, a longtime Marvel producer and friend of current Marvel chief Kevin Feige, helped us unlock Feige's movie-making method. His is a recipe a number of other studios have tried — and failed! — to emulate and one that even Feige himself is finding difficult to replicate in this new era of more and more content. Then there's the story of the purple pens, but you'll have to read the book to find out about them. 

An expanded view of the 'MCU' book jacket
An expanded view of the 'MCU' book jacket
| Credit: Courtesy of WW Norton

What has been the most challenging part of writing a book about a thing that is constantly in flux and generating more content?

We didn't know how to end it! In fact, even as I type, I am still thinking about a few more details I might cram in there. We didn't expect this to take as long as it did, but at least now we have a good answer when people ask us what we did during the pandemic. Because it took us so many years to complete, though, the book has the benefit of taking the story into the Disney+ streaming era and this current state of what I like to call a "wobble" in Marvel's long reign. It seems Marvel itself is in a state of rebuilding and the book has a lot of answers about how we got here. 

How have recent shake-ups at Marvel impacted the book, if at all?

Not unlike the way Marvel likes to constantly fine-tune their movies, we were rewriting and refining up until the last minute. The recent, shocking departure of longtime executive Victoria Alonso and former CEO Ike Perlmutter made us nervous that we might have to rewrite the entire book in order to explain what happened. But when we looked at the story we had been writing for the past four years, we found that all the clues were there and it only took a few cosmetic tweaks to weave the whole story together. In other words, those shake-ups actually reinforced our sense that we really had captured the story of Marvel in both its triumphs and its stumbling blocks. 

Has writing this changed what your favorite Marvel movie or character is? If so, why?

That's such a fun question. I polled my co-authors and we all agree none of us have changed our minds on our favorite movie, though we perhaps view some of the less-loved films a little differently. I'm ride or die for 2014's Captain America: The Winter Soldier and my co-author, Gavin, says I've convinced him to "reconsider" it and rank it higher on his list. If I've achieved nothing else with this book, I'll take that as my victory.  

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