A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away I examined 15 of Marvel’s most iconic characters that had yet to make their way into Marvel Studios’ interconnected cinematic universe. A year and some change later, 9 of the 15 characters have either debuted or have had projects officially announced. The original Captain Marvel has been hinted at by Kevin Feige, we’ve seen the Nova Corps. Adam Warlock seems like a must to go up against Thanos, though many people will argue (and understandably so) that Vision is going to take his place, leaving She-Hulk and Wonder Man on the outside looking in.
Looking back on this piece and realizing that Marvel has to eventually expand its roster of characters due to several reasons (fan demand for new properties and expiring contracts among them), I decided to think about another 15 characters who might be right to join the MCU as it expands into Phase 4 and beyond.
1. Amadeus Cho
Originally more of a sidekick-type character, the teen genius took a dramatically larger role in Jonathan Hickman’s recent Time Runs Out story line in Avengers and New Avengers were he joined the Illuminati as they tried to stop the collapse of reality and the end of the Multiverse.
Cho’s ability to mentally calculate any number of variables and gift for recognizing patterns in the world around him have made him one of Marvel’s most intelligent characters and his ability to survive adventures alongside Hulk and Hercules, two of Marvel’s strongest characters, have made him a very intriguing character.
If Kevin Feige and company decide the time is right to add Amadeus Cho to the mix, they won’t have far to go as they’ve already nicely laid the foundation. Avengers: Age of Ultron featured Dr. Helen Cho, the mother of Amadeus and an ally to the Avengers. It’s entirely possible that we might see Amadeus among the students at the New Avengers facility glimpsed at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron, working for Stark Industries or as a classmate of Peter Parker’s.
Cho’s inclusion in the Illuminati may portend an important role for the gifted youngster in the new Marvel Universe and, if a new rumor is true, it seems his role may be even larger than I thought. Cho as the new Hulk, in a series written by Greg Pak, the author of brought Cho to life, would certainly be a giant, new role. With the comics ever-changing to be more closely aligned with the films, that might mean we could see him make the jump to the MCU in the future.
2. Captain Britain
Created in 1976 (like me) by legendary Marvel writer Chris Claremont, Brian Braddock/Captain Britain is another genius-level character who has recently seen a reemergence in the comics. Braddock, like Cho, joined the Illuminati in their attempts to stop the destruction of the Multiverse.
Braddock is an interesting character because he has deep ties to the mystical folklore of Great Britain and is yet another in the long line of scientific geniuses-turned super hero in Marvel’s stable. Given the MCU’s propensity to show magic as science we don’t yet understand, Braddock’s character and his mystical Amulet of Right would fit in nicely alongside Doctor Strange.
As we are going to see in Phase 3, America can’t be the only place there are superheroes and the MCU is slowly expanding to other parts of the globe. The new rumor about Martin Freeman as the British Prime Minister could potentially lead to a side comment about MI-13 (think X-Files division of the UK government) and then we’ve got an opening to discuss Captain Britain.
The main concern with Braddock entering the MCU is that it is entirely possible that his live-action rights may not be held by Marvel Studios. Though he debuted in his own solo book and is not a mutant, his twin sister, Betsy Braddock, is the X-Man Psylocke. Though I found nothing definitive while searching, it’s believed that despite the ties to the X-Men, Captain Britain is a Marvel Studios owned property.
Captain Britain and MI-13, much like Daredevil, are characters that could be done more justice and properly explored in a TV series. The general premise of a group of super-powered heroes protecting Great Britain against supernatural threats sounds like something that could make for a pretty interesting series. That doesn’t even delve into the potential for the Multiversal Captain Britain Corps, but that’s something better left until AFTER they introduce the idea of the Multiverse.
UPDATE: We now know that the idea of bringing Captain Britain to the big screen is something that has been discussed in the Marvel Studios inner circle with Kevin Feige saying that not only have they talked about it, but actors have come to them asking about the role.
A longtime Avenger whose early days in the comics were spent on adventures with Thor, Hercules saw a surge in popularity in the 2000s during the Civil War and World War Hulk story lines before really getting the chance to shine in Greg Pak’s critically acclaimed Incredible Hercules.
In a lot of ways, Marvel’s Hercules is the Greek Pantheon’s version of Thor: he’s brash, noble, strong and has an adamatine mace that’s the equivalent of Mjolnir. In some ways, those similarities might make his addition to the MCU seem redundant; however, if Marvel has already included the Asgardian Pantheon, it’s reasonable to conceive that they might, eventually, add the Greek or any of more than dozen other ancient culture’s gods to the mix.
The inclusion of Hercules probably rests on the choices Marvel makes going forward. Chris Hemsworth could play Thor for a long time given Thor’s longevity; as Hemsworth ages, so can Thor. However, if Marvel Studios decides to put Thor on the shelf in Phase 4, maybe the time would be right to introduce Hercules, bringing the gregarious Greek god to Earth to mix with mortals. The question might be just how expansive Marvel Studios wants to make the MCU and how far they want to explore the universe.
A Guardian of the Galaxy. A Defender. An Avenger. A bi-sexual martial artist raised by monks on the moon Titan (home of Thanos) as a genius and a powerful weapon, Moondragon is just the type of character Marvel could add in Phase 3 to add diversity and to increase its number of female characters who kick butt.
While there’s no way for us to know what direction James Gunn will be taking his team in Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Moondragon is the character I most consistently think of when I hear Gunn comment on adding a female Guardian to the team. In many ways, she seems like the perfect character to help introduce the other Eternals of Titan, including Mentor, the father of Thanos, and the man who saved her and gave her to the Shao-Lom monks to be raised and trained. It certainly seems that at some point we need to learn more about Thanos and that Mentor might just be the best bet to illuminate the audience.
In the comics, Moondragon’s name was Heather Douglas, daughter of Arthur Douglas, the man whose soul would fuel the fury of Drax the Destroyer. When she was young, Thanos came to Earth and killed her parents. Mentor, following the path of Thanos’ destruction, came to Earth, found the girl whose family his son had murdered, and took her to Titan. While the origin of Drax has been altered in the MCU, we have heard reference to his daughter, believed to have been killed by Ronan. It’s within reason that Gunn could alter the origin of Moondragon and add her to the mix, providing the Guardians with a powerful new ally in his script with interesting exposition.
5. Moon Knight
One of Marvel’s darkest, most disturbing characters, Moon Knight is a character best served exploring some of the more mature, less-comfortable sides of humanity.
Former Marine (because there are no ex-Marines) Marc Spector was a mercenary double-crossed and murdered by another merc while on a mission in Egypt. While dead, Spector is visited by Konshu, the Egyptian moon god, who restores him to life under the arrangement that he acts as his avatar, protecting those who travel by night. Spector returns to America, amasses a small fortune which he uses to stockpile a crime fighting arsenal and takes to the streets as Moon Knight, avenging those done wrong under his watch.
So, to a lot of folks who don’t read the comics, you’d look superficially at Moon Knight and think, “He’s just Batman in a silver suit,” and you wouldn’t be the first person to try to point that out. However, if you do some reading you’ll see that Marc Spector is NOT Bruce Wayne.
The character of Spector tackles some pretty heavy, adult-themed societal issues. Mental health is something very rarely examined in any form of media because it leaves a lot of us feeling uncomfortable, but the statistics overwhelmingly indicate that a HUGE number of people suffer from some form of mental disorder ranging from social anxiety to eating disorders to addiction to schizophrenia. Well Marc Spector falls well into the range of an adult dealing with a mental disorder. In order to cope with the things he’s done in the past, his rebirth and his nightly crime fighting, Spector has developed no less than 3 alter egos. In some cases it isn’t clear if the stories being told are happening or just part of Spector’s mind.
Moon Knight is NOT going to be a PG-13 film and I’m not certain that a character as densely layered as he is could be fully realized in a 2-hour film. Moon Knight is another of Marvel’s characters (like Punisher and Daredevil) who would benefit greatly from the episodic nature of a series and his propensity for intense violence and the adult themes that are a part of his story make him a prime candidate for a Marvel Knights themed group of Netflix series.
I don’t know if we’ll see Moon Knight in the near future, if at all, because he is a tough nut to crack. He does, however, have much larger fan-base than some of you might think and we’ve seen that a devoted fan-base can make things happen.
6. Namor, the Sub-Mariner
Having first debuted in 1939, Namor is one of Marvel’s oldest characters and, for many, his inclusion in the MCU always seemed like a when rather than an if. However, while Marvel Studios has now reclaimed the film rights the the Prince of Atlantis, it appears that some issues with distribution of a solo Namor film may prevent the Sub-Mariner from starring in his own MCU film anytime soon.
Easter Eggs have pointed towards the existence of Namor since Iron Man 2. The MCU’s Oracle Corporation, which has appeared in a few MCU films, shares the name of the business Namor owns in the comics and Nick Fury’s infamous map seemed to have a marker in the middle of the ocean, which many of us have believed to be a potential location for Atlantis. Despite the hints, we still have yet to see Namor make the jump from page to screen.
While part of the issue may be because of the live-action rights, it’s also possible that finding the right fit for Namor’s introduction isn’t all that easy. Namor has been both hero and villain in the comics, but has truly morphed into the anti-hero role over time. His most recent turn in the comics saw him team up with Thanos and a cabal of villains to destroy worlds and prevent the destruction of Earth, a job fitting with Namor’s long-standing premise that doing what’s best for him is all that matters.
Like many out there, I see Namor eventually entering the MCU as a villain. I could see him being a perfect fit for a Black Panther sequel or even as an opponent to the Avengers in a Phase 4 film. In the absence of Dr. Doom in the MCU, Namor can provide Marvel Studios with a character capable of doing terrible, yet seemingly justifiable things. A full-fledged Wakanda vs. Atlantis film may be too much to ask for, but adding Namor to the mix in Phase 4 may be the remedy to Marvel’s lackluster list of villains.
Another character with some profoundly adult issues, the Sentry is a newer character who played a very large role during Brian Michael Bendis’ run on New Avengers. The Sentry, like Moon Knight, was originally a Marvel Knights character though he’s recently been softened a bit and could slide into the current MCU.
The Sentry’s origin story interwove him into the much richer history of the Marvel Universe but did so in a way that none of the existing characters remembered they knew him. The Sentry is Robert Reynolds, an aging, over-weight man whose powers (the true limits of which are undefined) come from a serum, is one of Earth’s great champions, protecting humanity through acts of heroism, but for each of those acts, his arch-nemesis, the Void, unleashes hell. So a nigh omnipotent hero who eternally clashes with a nigh omnipotent villain. Sounds good. Sounds cliche…except for the fact that Robert Reynolds is both the Sentry and the Void and a whole hell of a lot more powerful and important than anyone knows.
The Sentry made an appearance in the latest run of Avengers and New Avengers, but might be a tough sell for the MCU. His powers are limitless, making it kind of tough to tell an interesting story outside of his origin with the Void. Like Moon Knight, he could wrongly be mistaken for a major DC character (Superman, though that’s more Hyperion than anyone) and may be better suited to a series with the potential to crossover into the larger MCU.
A Chinese master of Kung Fu who serves as a spy for Britain’s MI-6 and is deeply connected to a great number of mystical and street-level characters, Shang-Chi simply has too much going on to NOT eventually enter the MCU.
A Shang-Chi movie went through many stages of development at Dreamworks before dying out in 2006, but the involvement of Shang-Chi in the MCU is inevitable. In 2005 when Marvel Studios was first launched, Marvel reached a 7-year deal with Merrill Lynch in which they were loaned $525 million to begin production on their independent film slate. Among the characters named in the deal were Captain America, Doctor Strange, Cloak and Dagger, Power Pack and… Shang-Chi.
While Marvel has clearly not met all the qualifications of the deal at this point, it’s safe to assume they fully intend to incorporate those other characters into the MCU in the near future. While I’m not sure Marvel Studios is going to move ahead with a Master of Kung Fu film anytime soon, Shang-Chi’s relationship with Heroes for Hire’s Luke Cage and Danny Rand makes him a prime candidate to show up on Netflix at some point. Of course Marvel could go another route and develop Shang-Chi as a 007-type spy franchise and insert him into the MCU tangentially, beginning in Phase 4.
Like most of the other characters on this list, Shang-Chi has recently been featured in the comics, a pretty good indicator that we are going to see Marvel’s Master of Kung Fu sometime in the near future.
9. Spectrum (Monica Rambeau)
If comic book movies are supposed to be a representation of the world around us, then they need to continue to expand the roles available to women and minorities. Marvel has made some strides in this regard, but adding Monica Rambeau, a one-time leader of the Avengers, is a must.
Rambeau first appeared in Spider-Man Annual #16 as a New Orleans cop who gained her incredible powers by being exposed to extra-dimensional energies while attempting to stop a crazed-genius from building yet another in a long line of evil weapons. Her super hero career launched shortly thereafter, going first by the name of Captain Marvel before moving to a host of other names including Photon and Spectrum.
Gifted with the ability to harness any of the energies along the electromagnetic spectrum, Rambeau would become an instant MCU powerhouse. It’s interesting to note that while their powers are very different, access to Rambeau’s powers and Ant-Man’s ability to shrink and grow are decidedly similar. In order to harness the energies of the EM spectrum, Rambeau sheds matter from her body to another dimension and replaces it with an equivalent amount of energy for what, so far, seems to be a indefinite period of time.
A long-standing member and one-time team leader of the Avengers, Spectrum has had a recent comic book resurgence in the pages of Al Ewing’s Mighty Avengers. Though it’s too early to tell, it certainly seems that something big was on the horizon for Monica Rambeau when All-New, All-Different Marvel launches in September. Given her extra-dimensional origins and her nominal link to Captain Marvel, Rambeau could enter into the MCU at any of several jump points. From a personal standpoint, this is one character whose continued absence from the MCU would be disappointing.
10. Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew)
One of Marvel’s most instantly recognizable characters, Jessica Drew, aka Spider-Woman, has had one of the most interesting histories of anyone. Originally intended to be a one-use only character to establish a copyright on the name “Spider-Woman”, Jessica Drew’s story has been through as many retcons as any character and is now featured in her own solo title (with a controversial new look) and has seen a surge in popularity.
Drew has been a double-agent, an Avenger, a Secret Avenger and, most notably, the centerpiece of the Skrull Secret Invasion. Despite not having any real link to Spider-Man, her live-action rights were always a topic of debate. The inclusion of the hyphenated Spider in her name seems to have been enough to convince a lot of folks that her rights were with Sony, while the fact that she was most well-known as an Avenger gave others enough evidence to claim they were at Marvel Studios. None of that should matter now, given the deal worked out between Sony and Marvel, so should we expect to see Spider-Woman in the MCU sometime soon?
If we do, it’s hard to determine just which way is the best way to introduce her. She could be an excellent fit on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but in a lot of ways Adrianne Palicki’s Bobbi Morse has filled the role in which we’d likely see Drew. Her friendship with Jessica Jones makes her a candidate to appear there and in a recurring role in the other Defenders series (and maybe she’s already there because until we know the identity of Carrie-Ann Moss’s character, those thoughts are going to be there). There’s also the chance that she might fit best into a Phase 4 world where, after having been attacked by aliens enough times, the government puts a program like S.W.O.R.D. into place and Jessica Drew is on the team.
There are certainly many more options than those I listed above, but it really seems that Jessica Drew’s expanded role and renewed interest in solving crimes in the comics could be prepping the general public for a new-look Spider-Woman in the MCU.
UPDATE: While we are still unclear just how much Sony’s Marvel Universe will share with Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, we do know that Jessica Drew is set to appear in Silver and Black ahead of an appearance in another team-up film. It looks as though her rights have always been with Sony and that she’ll exist outside the mainstream MCU continuity.
As the Cosmic portion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe expands, it grows inevitably closer to crossing over with the Earth-bound heroes. It’s a certainty that Avengers: Infinity War Part I and Part II will see Earth’s Mightiest Heroes team up with the Guardians of the Galaxy and some other Cosmic forces to take down Thanos, fully empowered by the Infinity Gauntlet.
I mentioned Mentor, father of Thanos, as one of the Eternals of Titan likely to be introduced to help give us a look at the deep and troubled past of the Mad Titan, but Starfox, the brother of Thanos, would likely have a part to play in that as well. The younger brother of Thanos, Eros lived a much different life than his power-hungry brother. A carefree womanizer, Eros used his powers to manipulate the feelings of others (mostly women) and was not too concerned about the world around him until the full brutality of his brother was realized. During an attack on his home-world, Thanos took his brother captive and revealed that he had killed their mother. Starfox began a career as a Cosmic adventurer joining the Avengers and often fighting along side the Kree champion Captain Mar-Vell.
James Gunn has promised to reveal the identity of Peter Quill’s father in the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and one very popular fan-theory is that Starfox will be the father of the Star-Lord. Of course that’s just a theory and we have no solid evidence to confirm or disprove it; however, given his ties to Thanos and the Avengers, Starfox seems like a solid bet for a future appearance in the MCU.
One of the most enigmatic characters in the Marvel Universe, Starhawk has been an integral player in both incarnations of the Guardians of the Galaxy and force for justice across the cosmos.
Starhawk is immensely powerful and immortal. Gifted with the powers of the Hawk God, one of the oldest most violent of the Cosmic entities, Starhawk lives out a long life before being reborn into his infant body to do it again. The twist is that Starhawk is able to remember his previous life and, as a result, often alters the course of events to produce a more desirable outcome. One set of circumstances manipulated by Starhawk led to the formation of the 31st Century Guardians of the Galaxy, who led the resistance against the Badoon after they had conquered most of the universe. Another time, Starhawk aligned himself with the Peter Qull-led Guardians ahead of the War of Kings.
Starhawk has been mentioned by James Gunn as a character he “loves” and it would be no surprise to see him enter the MCU in Guardians of the Galaxy 2. While I earlier mentioned that one fan-theory had Starfox as the MCU version of Peter Quill’s father, another popular theory has Starhawk filling the same role.
UPDATE: Thanks to James Gunn, we finally got a version of Starhawk in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2! While he certainly seems very different from the one we loved from the comics, Sylvester Stallone’s Stakar is a feared and respected Ravager and, according to Gunn, we can expect to see some more of him and his pals in the future.
13. Vance Astro
A Captain America analog as a “man out of time”, Vance Astro left Earth on a 1,000 year voyage in 1988 as a part of Project: Spacejump. Arriving on Centauri IV, Astro learned that his sacrifice had been for naught as advances in technology during his stasis allowed humans to reach the plant 200 years prior to his landing.
In order to endure the 1,000 year voyage, Astro’s blood was removed from his body and replaced with a preservative substance and his body was encased in a metal alloy suit to prevent exposure and subsequent decay of his body. While he was in stasis for most of his trip, Astro would occasionally wake and during this time developed incredibly strong psychokinesis.
Astro’s time in the 31st Century saw him become the leader of the Guardians of the Galaxy and fight off the Badoon. His stories almost always revolve around time travel, something Marvel Studios has not yet introduced, but his connection to both the Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America, whose shield Astro wielded after questing for it, make him a potential fit for any story involving the yet as seen Time Stone.
UPDATE: While we still hope to see Astro in the future, James Gunn indicated that it probably won’t be in Vol. 3:
What are chances of Vance Astro? "Not great, I'm done with treatment."#HASCON@JamesGunn
— MCU Exchange (@MCUExchange) September 9, 2017
A Norse warrior goddess, Brunnhilde was a one-time lover of Thor, an Avenger and a Defender and seems like a necessity if Thor: Ragnarok is the film that finally explores the realm of Asgard more thoroughly.
Brunnhilde is a fierce and excellent warrior, the finest of the female Asgardian warriors matched only by Lady Sif. If the Asgardians are going to be defending against the hordes of Surtur, Valkyrie would be a worthy ally. Her talents may be equally as useful as the inhabitants of the universe band together to fend off Thanos.
This concept art shows us that Marvel Studios may have considered using Valkyrie in Thor: The Dark World, and it does the mighty warrior a great justice. As Marvel Studios expand their roster of heroes, adding an incredibly powerful female Asgardian warrior could not be a wrong turn. Though Chris Hemsworth may step away as the Thunderer, adding Valkyrie to the mix could provide a link to Asgard while also giving Marvel Studios a character to line up as a female warrior while WB/DC puts Wonder Woman in their films.
UPDATE: Valkyrie, played by Tessa Thompson, appeared in the upcoming Thor: Ragnaork. We finally got a Valkyrie and while she wasn’t the comic book version, we can’t get enough of Thompson in the role.
15. Venom (Flash Thompson)
Of all the characters on the list, I feel that this one is both the most certain and most necessary of them all. The black and white symbiote suit worn by Spider-Man following the original Secret Wars is one of Marvel’s most instantly recognizable costumes. For a long time, Venom held a place among the most vile and terrifying villains in the comics, but as often happens, he’s found a new story to tell now.
While many traditionalists would have the old school Venom join the MCU now that Sony and Marvel have worked out a mutual deal, eventually adding the updated version of Venom that has bonded with Peter Parker’s long-time bully/buddy Flash Thompson might be the way to go. After losing both legs in the Iraq War, Flash Thompson chose to become bonded with the symbiote in order to regain the use of his legs. While it was a risk, it turned out that Thompson was one of the few people alive capable of resisting the urges of the symbiote and has proven to be able to regain control while under its influence. Agent Venom had his own series before joining the Thunderbolts and the Guardians of the Galaxy and is currently one of the more interesting characters in the latter series, having now total control of the symbiote and being the first person to wield its full power.
Of course, his introduction to the MCU would have to be down the road a bit, giving us a chance to meet Flash and allowing him to travel a bit of a redemptive arc, but this would be an interesting way to really separate this version of Venom from the really awful, icky, yucky version we saw in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3. The merchandising sales alone almost guarantee we see some version of Venom in the future and this one would really play well with audiences.
UPDATE: Well, when you’re wrong you’re wrong. We are getting Venom, but it’s not gonna be Flash and it probably never will be. However, I’m curious to see what Tom Hardy does in the role and cautiously optimistic that maybe this character will get another chance.