The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is an American media franchise and shared universe that is centered on a series of superhero films, independently produced by Marvel Studios and based on characters that appear in publications by Marvel Comics. The franchise has expanded to include comic books, short films, television series and digital series. The shared universe, much like the original Marvel Universe in comic books, was established by crossing over common plot elements, settings, cast, and characters. Clark Gregg has appeared the most in the franchise, portraying Phil Coulson, a character original to the MCU.
The first film released in the MCU was Iron Man (2008), which began the first phase of films culminating in the crossover film Marvel's The Avengers (2012). Phase Two began with Iron Man 3 (2013), and concluded with Ant-Man (2015). The films are currently in Phase Three, which began with the release of Captain America: Civil War (2016). Marvel Television expanded the universe further, first to network television with Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on ABC in the 2013–14 television season, followed by online streaming with Marvel's Daredevil on Netflix in 2015, and then to cable television with Marvel's Cloak and Dagger, which is scheduled to air in 2018 on Freeform. Soundtrack albums have been released for all of the films, along with many of television series, as well as the release of compilation albums containing existing music heard in the films. The MCU also includes tie-in comics published by Marvel Comics, while Marvel Studios has also produced a series of direct-to-video short films, a viral marketing campaign for its films and the universe with the faux news program WHIH Newsfront, and a digital series Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Slingshot, a supplement to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
The franchise has been commercially successful as a multimedia shared universe, though some critics have found that some of its films and television series have suffered in service of the wider universe. It has inspired other film and television studios with comic book character adaptation rights to attempt to create similar shared universes. The MCU has also been the focus of other media, outside of the shared universe, including attractions at Disneyland and Discovery Times Square, two television specials, guidebooks for each film, a Lego video game, and a commercial with Coca-Cola.