The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is a media franchise and shared fictional 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, and a television 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, an original character to the MCU. The first film released in the MCU was Iron Man (2008), which began the first phase of films, culminating in Marvel's The Avengers (2012). Phase Two began with Iron Man 3 (2013), and is expected to conclude with Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015). Marvel is also preparing Phase Three, beginning with the release of Ant-Man (2015). The universe began to expand with the release of the Marvel One-Shots direct-to-video short films in 2011, and saw further expansion with the premiere of the TV series Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the 2013–14 season. Marvel has multiple films and television projects in various stages of development. The films within the Marvel Cinematic Universe have received both critical and commercial success, and the franchise as a whole ranks as the second highest-grossing film franchise of all time.