How Marvel can make a Nova movie work; a checklist


The Marvel Cinematic Universe is very likely going to give us a Nova movie some day, but how will it ensure he shines brightly?

When Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige recently told that a Nova movie has “immediate potential,” it was welcome but not surprising news. Nova, first introduced in 1976, is one of Marvel’s oldest and most storied cosmic heroes, and his stories have tied into the Guardians of the Galaxy, the Kree, the Skrulls, and innumerable other popular characters, even Galactus and Silver Surfer, two characters who may be coming home to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

It’s also no secret Marvel Studios recognized the character’s potential years ago. Feige told Screencrush in 2014 that Marvel cut the Richard Rider version of Nova from the first Guardians of the Galaxy to focus on Peter Quill’s story.

But now a Nova movie has waited long enough. He offers immense potential to grow the cosmic side of the MCU. The question, then, is how to best implement him. Marvel Studios will need to work through a checklist to make Nova a success.

What’s on that checklist? Glad you asked! Three things; let’s walk through them.

1. Introducing the Nova Force

In the comics, Nova, like other members of the Nova Corps, wears advanced armor that allows him to tap into the Nova Force, an immense power regulated by the Xandarian Worldmind. Flight, enhanced physical abilities and durability, energy blasts and more are among standard powers. The force is so powerful that, when Rider attained nearly unfettered access to it, he was nearly as powerful as the Silver Surfer.

That’s all to say that its apparent absence in GOTG is blaring. The Nova Corps battled against Ronan’s invasion in aircraft and showed no superhuman abilities; they were support characters and/or comic relief.

A Nova movie will have to explain why we didn’t see super-powered Nova Corpsmen fighting Ronan. Perhaps it could reveal that Xandarians have just harnessed the Nova Force or only recently figured out how to channel its powers into body armor. It would stand to reason that Ronan’s invasion prompted the Xandarians to work a little harder on R&D.

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2. Choosing the Right Nova

I love Nova’s mythos and stories, but here’s a harsh truth: Richard Rider has a boring, derivative origin. He’s a white teen from New York who, through ridiculous dumb luck, inherits Nova powers from a dying Nova Corpsman (Rhomann Dey, oddly enough played by John C. Reilly in GOTG). His origin feels like a mishmash of Spider-Man, Captain Marvel and DC’s Green Lantern, among others.

Sam Alexander, on the other hand, the new Nova, offers an excellent origin. His father is a washed-up, rogue Nova Corpsman living in Arizona and his mom is of Latina descent. He received his father’s Nova helmet, and thereby his powers, from none other than Gamora and Rocket Raccoon, and has worked to protect the Earth and other locales, often in search of his father.

Sam Alexander offers a better, fresher origin than Richard does, and, as a mixed-race youth, would bring diversity to the MCU. He also brings a true, interesting connection to Xandar, as his father served in a corrupt-turned-black-ops Nova unit called the Supernovas. Understanding and redeeming his father’s legacy would give Sam needed depth and motivation.

Here’s the harsh truth about Sam though: his stories aren’t anywhere near as good or plentiful as Richard’s. Richard is the main protagonist of the Annihilation arc, for instance, in which Annihilus, an extremely powerful insectoid-like being, leads an army that devastates Xandar and countless other worlds.

With each character having pros and cons, the Nova movie should borrow the best from each. Though Feige indicated Marvel planned to use Richard Rider in the MCU, it should use Sam instead, and substitute him for Richard in classic Nova storylines. That may offend die-hard Nova fans, but it’s still the smart play, especially since Nova’s still obscure enough that the substitution isn’t as risky as, say, substituting Miles Morales for Peter Parker.

As to how Sam gets the helmet, it could be delivered by Gamora and Rocket, as in the comics, or by Rhomann Dey, who in a slight twist on the Richard origin could come to Earth in search of Sam’s dad, prototype Nova helmet in tow.

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3. Differentiating Nova from Other Heroes

As I alluded to earlier, Nova bears similarities to numerous other Earthlings who inherited alien powers. As a teenage superhero (as Richard first was), he also has coming-of-age themes similar to Spider-Man and, to cite another prominent DC hero, Shazam.

Making Nova distinct will be important and even challenging, but not impossible.

The most urgent concern might be differentiating him from Captain Marvel, whose powerful physical abilities and energy manipulation are similar to Nova’s and who’s coming to theaters in less than a year. Fortunately, both characters’ powers have varied widely over the years, so the Marvel Cinematic Universe should be able to define and present their powers in distinctive ways. Two things that distinguish Nova are his use of and dialogue with the Worldmind, which offers him various forms of intel and regulates his powers, and his ability to survive and fight in deep space.

Then there’s the issue of differentiating Nova in terms of personality. If Marvel Studios uses Sam or a young Richard, it will be introducing another teen hero, and he can’t be like Peter Parker. Peter is the nerdy, awkward kid with a heart of gold; he’s also very mature for his age, due to the loss of his Uncle Ben.

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Nova, particularly Sam, should be more … abrasive. He’s more confrontational and aggressive than Peter, and his powers make him cocky and arrogant. I’m not saying he needs to be a jerk, but he should act more like a normal teenage boy – and he should learn the hard way that “normal” isn’t a high enough standard for heroes. It took Peter one grave lapse in judgment to grow up; Nova might need more than one.