If you watched the recently-concluded X-Men ’97 on Disney+, you may have noticed the series had a small but important difference from the Marvel’s previous Disney+ series. Instead of opening with the traditional “Marvel Studios” animated logo featuring clips from previous Marvel Cinematic Universe films and series, it began with a slightly different logo for something called “Marvel Television.”

You may have simply assumed that the change was meant to indicate X-Men ’97 was animated instead of live-action, but apparently that’s not the case. A new article claims the new logo is part of a deliberate effort by Marvel to subtly indicate to fans that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has grown so large that they are no longer expected to watch every single installment past or present, nor do they need to watch it all to follow the overall narrative.

That’s what Marvel executive Brad Winderbaum, the company’s head of streaming, TV, and animation told Variety. He explains that there was “a lot of pressure post-Avengers: Endgame on the public to feel obligated to watch absolutely everything in order to watch anything.” This new “rebranding,” in Winderbaum’s words, is meant to signal ...

...to the general audience that we’re creating a lot of options, and you can follow your tastes within this brand. Some will be more comedic, some will be more dramatic, some will be animated, some will be live-action. Marvel is more than just one thing — it is actually many different genres that just happened to coexist in a single narrative.

“The characters still live and breathe in the same universe, but the interconnectivity is not so rigid that you need to watch Project A to understand Project B,” Winderbaum added.

You can expect to see that “Marvel Television” logo on more upcoming productions, including live-action ones. For example, here it is on the recently-released logo for the upcoming Disney+ show Agatha All Along.

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Winderbaum said that the company wants to “dispel the idea that you need to do any kind of setup work to watch anything else.”

“The hope,” he added, “is that, like the comics, you can just pop in anywhere and have a satisfying experience.”

After more than 15 years and dozens of movies and shows, it appears we have reached the point where the MCU’s continuity is now so large and elaborate that it is becoming a barrier of entry to new viewers. When it began, part of the MCU’s appeal was that it had no continuity; casual fans of the characters who had rarely or even never read Marvel books before could watch the movies cold and get in on the ground floor.

That ground floor was many years ago now, with Marvel currently releasing projects in the fifth “phase” of the MCU, with at least one more “phase” already in development down the line. And while Winderbaum claims Marvel Studios wants their productions to work more like its comic books, Marvel Comics has had similar issues with continuity and “setup work” through the decades.

In the early 2000s, for example, the original Marvel Universe was deemed too dense and larded with continuity for new readers. Marvel responded by introducing their line of “Ultimate” comics, with modern reinterpretations of classic characters like Spider-Man and the X-Men. These books started their central concepts back at the very beginning, with various updates to the material to suit contemporary tastes. And these “Ultimate” books then became important inspirations on the early MCU. The Samuel L. Jackson version of Nick Fury, for example, appeared first in the pages of The Ultimates (the Ultimate Universe’s equivalent of the Avengers) before Jackson himself ever played the character onscreen.

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In essence, Marvel (and and their rivals at DC as well) have been around for so long now that they have become victims of their own success. There’s so many great comics to read, neophytes are intimidated by it all and unsure where to begin. It seems as if this cycle has started anew, this time within the Marvel Cinematic Universe itself.

So what can Marvel do about it? Calling some things “Marvel Studios” productions and other things “Marvel Television” productions is certainly one option — although I feel like that distinction is so minor a lot of people won’t even notice it. Those who do, might just be confused.

I think the more important step has less to do with clearer branding and more to do with stronger storytelling. The irony of trying to let casual fans know they didn’t “need” to watch X-Men ’97 is that the series was perhaps the single best thing Marvel has produced for Disney+ to date. True, in some sense it came with what Winderbaum refers to as “setup work,” in that it was a continuation of an old cartoon show from the 1990s. But the reality was you didn’t need to know anything about X-Men: The Animated Series to enjoy X-Men ’97, beyond the most basic notion of the core concept. The show was so well-written and directed it rewarded anyone who took the time to try it.

X-Men ’97 also had the benefit of not having to connect to anyone or anything in the broader Marvel Cinematic Universe; its season finale only teased future episodes of X-Men ’97, not future shows or movies that may never even go into production (he said after recently revisiting Eternals and being reminded all over again that Marvel introduced Harry Styles and Blade to the MCU almost three years ago and so far neither has shown up again anywhere else). There is surely a lesson in that for the company as well.

Telling your audience they should just relax and enjoy what they want to enjoy is probably a smart strategy for Marvel. Comics are supposed to be fun; they’re what you read instead of homework, not as homework to enjoy other things. But making content so great the audience can’t resist watching all of it is probably an even better strategy. The next MCU movie, Deadpool & Wolverine, premieres on July 26. The next MCU series, Agatha All Along, debuts on Disney+ (from Marvel Television) on September 18.

Sign up for Disney+ here.

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