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I realize that this isn't going to provide a straight 'yes/no' answer, but I believe it could yield a correct answer nontheless, if appropriate detail is provided...

How much of the already released Marvel Cinematic Universe films contains narrative events that are faithful to previously published canon material?

Are there any films that maintain relative fidelity to a specific narrative arc, or are they all considered original storylines?

This is obviously ruling out the 'loose' details of the character emergence/origin story, more specific plot points and narrative..

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The answer is that it is ROOTED IN AND LOOSELY BASED on Marvel canon. Here are some examples:

  • In Iron Man, for instance, Tony's injury to his heart and capture are rooted in and loosely based upon his origin story going back to Tales of Suspence #39 (1963). In the comics, however, there is an anti-communist theme and those who capture him are Asian, whereas in the movie there is more of an anti-terrorist theme and those who capture Tony look more like radical Islamic extremists (that's not a characterization of all or the majority of Islam, btw). So you see the point, the origin is rooted in the comics, but heavily adapted (perhaps even re-interpreted).

  • Iron Man 2 draws heavily from the self-destructive impulses in Tony as elaborated in the critically-acclaimed comics arc, Demon in a Bottle.

  • In Thor: The Dark World, the basic story of Malekith is adapted from Walter Simonson's run on Thor in the 1980s, which is created and introduced the character. However, Malekith is much more complex in the comics, a deceiver and schemer on par with Loki, and not the nihilist of the movie trying to destroy everything (I know that's an oversimplification, but the point is in the contrast). This fan wiki has a little info, not much but enough to see the differences.

Conclusion: I think these sufficiently demonstrate how some basic plot points are rooted in and loosely based upon comics canon. To be clear, though, they also demonstrate how the movies adapt, diverge, and even re-interpret the canonical material.

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I do know that Iron Man 3 was loosely based on the "Extremis" arc (6 issues published between 2005 and 2006). Also, it seems that the the general trajectory of the MCU will eventually include both Thanos and his quest for the Infinity Gauntlet, a staple of many Marvel story lines staring both the Avengers and the Guardians.

Sadly, my knowledge of Marvel comic canon is way too limited, but is seems that the MCU is much like the Nolan Batman franchise in that the movies blend various "canon" story arcs together into a single film, while also introducing original elements.

  • good use of the Nolanverse to demonstrate the point, I have a graphic novel called Batman: The Long Halloween, and it has an introduction by Nolan talking about his love for the story and his drawing upon its material in his films. – FoxMan2099 Jan 20 '14 at 4:21
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Most of the origin stories in the films hew very close to the comics' original tellings, with some tweaking of details to account for the many years since their original telling. Tony Stark originally built his weapons to fight in Vietnam; that was updated to Afghanistan, but the core of the origin is virtually unchanged. So too Thor and Doctor Strange.

Civil War is obviously based on the crossover event of the same name. Its tragic inspirational event is much different (a televised explosion at a public school as opposed to the events in Sokovia), but the idea of the government insisting on registration of powered individuals is largely unchanged. Captain America's origin is the one changed the least, though there are some major changes to the characters of the Red Skull and Arnim Zola.

Similarly, the events of Winter Soldier are very similar to the re-introduction of Bucky in the books.

To summarize, many, if not all of the movies are based on some facet of marvel stories, but great latitude is taken in their translation to film.

  • an interesting thing is the way they reversed the Civil War --> Winter Soldier chronology. I.E in the comics It was Civil War first. – GordonBennett Mar 13 at 11:03

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