The Only Way To See The Marvel Universe in Live-Action! (Besides the Movies)
After buying Marvel in 2009, Disney quickly moved to make as much money off the company as possible by expanding Marvel into areas that Disney had a lot of experience developing. This also meant restricting Marvel as well, as properties were brought "in-house" to Disney, such as the news of the cancellation of Spectacular Spider-Man, done with Sony, and switching to the Ultimate Spider-Man. The main strength Marvel brought to Disney was the large catalog of characters created for Marvel over the decades, and the burgeoning strength the Marvel Cinematic Universe was beginning to build with plans up to the Avengers movie already in place. However, the character catalog quickly became restricted in live-action adaptations, with Disney and Marvel now very carefully deciding what the characters could be used in. Outside the live-action movies, and mentions on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., there were no other live-action depictions of the Marvel characters by 2014. (Excluding the separate Amazing Spider-Man movies by Sony that Disney had no control over, and the X-Men and Fantastic Four movies by Fox, which then Disney had no control over as well, and the Netflix shows were a year away in 2015.) Enter Feld Entertainment
Marvel Universe LIVE! at an Arena Near You
Having produced Disney on Ice and Disney Live! for Disney, Feld Entertainment, which also owns Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, entered into an agreement with Marvel to do a giant character-based live-action arena show. Starting in 2013, production, development, and engineering for the show took place with casting starting in September of 2013, with casting finalized by February 2014 and rehearsals beginning. July 10th, 2014, Marvel Universe LIVE! premiered at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. An official world premiere was held on August 13th at New York City's Barclays Center, after which a planned 85 stop tour began in the United States. The show also featured an additional "Backstage Pass" for fans to "train" and experience everything beyond just watching the show.
The first version of the show involved motorcycle stunts, many actors in costume, additional gear audience members could buy to help the heroes during the adventure, and a more comic book centric plot tied to the Cosmic Cube (which is not an Infinity Stone in this version). The show revolves around Thor shattering the cosmic cube to prevent Loki from gaining the cube again, but in doing so, the fragments are scattered worldwide. The Avengers, Spider-Man, and the X-Men join together to get the fragments before Loki, Red Skull, Madame Hydra, Electro, the Green Goblin, and Doctor Octopus can gain them and use them. In order to promote the show, Feld Entertainment and Marvel had a prelude comic made for guests to get and for Feld Entertainment to use at other venues to promote the show: Marvel Universe LIVE! Prelude #1.
Obscure Comics: Marvel Universe LIVE! Prelude #1
Working off a mostly 616 universe style, the comic starts as the defeated Avengers rally against the Red Skull and wrest the Cosmic Cube from him. Enlisting Spider-Man to help him analyze the Cube, Iron Man works to understand its power, as Thor worries about anyone possessing that much power.
Showing up to investigate all the damage to Avengers Tower, Black Widow and Hawkeye arrive, but Hawkeye is not who he appears to be as Loki gains the Cosmic Cube!
However, the real Hawkeye arrives to help the Avengers stop Loki, who tricks them yet again, leaving a pensive Thor and Hawkeye on Asgard with the Cube, and Loki hiding among the Avengers, setting up the show for Marvel Universe LIVE!
Written by Frank Tieri, no stranger to Marvel Comics, with art by Miguel Sepulveda, and covers by Michael Ryan (Main Cover), and Tom Raney (Variant Cover), the story could possibly take place in the Marvel 616 Universe, but has many nods to the MCU movies, such as Loki and Hawkeye's interaction, Loki after the Cube, Thor taking the Cube to Asgard. For 12 pages, the comic is very well written and sets up the live show very well. The art has many great moments, though the drive to make things seem "in motion" looks odd such as Hawkeye and Black Widow's arrival on page five. In addition to advertising the show, the comic also features a great throwback activity page—an all-around good Obscure Comic.
Not Easy To Find, as the Show Continues
Marvel Universe LIVE! Prelude #1 can be found on the secondary market such as eBay or on comic book store websites ranging from $15 to $55 with the Main Cover going for far less than the Tom Raney Variant Cover. Not impossible to find, and there is still a demand for this issue as Marvel Universe LIVE! is still on tour, having gone overseas in early 2019 and scheduled as of now to return to the United States in 2021.