The Marvel Cinematic Universe has become a juggernaut in our culture, with the superhero franchise spawning an ever-growing number of movies and Disney+ exclusive installments. The saga already has a surprising number of projects in the pipeline in the next few years, with Phase 5 and some key components of Phase 6 already outlined to fans. Amid the MCU’s march towards Avengers: The Kang Dynasty and Avengers: Secret Wars, it is safe to assume that the saga’s installments are only going to get more distinct, with a wider and weirder variety of stories and characters represented.
With Phase 5 about to kick off in a matter of weeks, it’s time to address one Marvel Comics character who could be one of the franchise’s oddest and most inspired additions yet — Millie the Model.
Who is Marvel’s Millie the Model?
Created by Ruth Atkinson in 1945, Millie Collins is a young woman who moves from rural Kansas to New York City to pursue a career in modeling. Once in the Big Apple and employed by the Hanover Modeling Agency, she gets up to a wide array of hijinks alongside her boyfriend Clicker Holbrook, her best friend Toni Turner, and her nemesis Chili Storm. Those resulting adventures, which were told in Millie the Model and subsequent spinoffs, have the honor of being Marvel’s longest-running humor title.
While Millie’s stories take place within the Marvel universe, they fall under a wildly different genre than much of its superhero fare, largely capitalizing on the slice-of-life style storytelling that was later popularized by Archie Comics. That being said, she has weaved in and out of the exploits of superheroes over the years, including Hellcat, She-Hulk, and Dazzler. Her most recent adventures include a short-lived Project Runway-inspired Models Inc. miniseries in the 2000s, and serving as a S.H.I.E.L.D. super-spy in a Marvel Unlimited-exclusive Infinity Comic.
Why should Millie the Model join the MCU?
On the surface, the hijinks and high fashion-filled world of Millie Collins might seem like an especially off-the-wall choice for the MCU, even as the saga has experimented more with its formats, genres, and types of protagonists. But that is precisely why her story — either in a standalone Marvel Studios Special Presentation on Disney+, or even in a supporting role in another superhero-skewed project — would be so inspired.
For one thing, Millie is one of the longest-running characters in the Marvel universe to not boast any superpowers or superhero mantle (or take on a role like that decades into her tenure, as was the case with romance heroine-turned-Avenger Hellcat). While the never-ending Marvel saga might be known for its superheroes, it’s easy to argue (as Douglas Wolk excellently does in his book All of the Marvels: A Journey to the Ends of the Biggest Story Ever Told) that the connected universe began with crossovers between seemingly-ordinary Golden Age characters like Millie and Night Nurse. Part of the increased novelty of Marvel’s superhero stories is seeing how they impact the ordinary people around them — something that MCU fans seem to have an appetite for, based on the fact that a civilian-centric installment of the franchise seems to get pitched on social media once or twice a year. Honestly, just look at the surprise success of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law‘s Madisynn King (Patty Guggenheim), a civilian woman who wants to party and binge-watch television with her new superhero friends, and who instantly became one of the most relatable and memorable characters in Phase 4.
Beyond the narrative repercussions of telling the story of the MCU’s Millie Collins, introducing her could further expand what the franchise is capable of. After years of complicated, male-gaze-friendly depictions of female heroines, Phase 4 of the MCU is gradually beginning to get more feminine. Not only is it putting more female characters in the spotlight, but it is giving them distinct approaches to their day-to-day life that go beyond half-hearted quips and inexplicably-perfect hairstyles — something that a modern take on characters like Millie and Chili could take that even further. An argument can be made that feminine, fashion-focused elements are beginning to be more unabashedly embraced on a blockbuster scale, if the hype surrounding Greta Gerwig’s Barbie movie is any indication.
It would be fun and bizarre to see how events like The Blip and The Battle of New York, and Phase 4’s recent rise of mid-level superheroes, exist on the periphery of an otherwise-normal world of modeling and celebrity culture. We started to see glimpses of that through Titania (Jameela Jamil) in She-Hulk, but an appearance from Millie Collins could provide a more earnest interpretation of it.
And come on, nothing combats the complaints of the MCU adding to “superhero fatigue” like telling one of Marvel Comics’ most anti-superhero stories — the adventures of a young woman making friends, falling in love, and wearing awesome outfits, without needing to get special powers or fancy gadgets.
Would you want to see Millie the Model join the MCU? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!