Nearly two years ago, Marvel and Netflix announced a partnership to unite street-level heroes Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist as the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s version of The Defenders. While the comic book Defenders (often led by Doctor Strange) usually came together to battle otherworldly threats, it seems that the MCU version may have a more superficial connection to Marvel’s Heroes for Hire.
The Defenders have always been a very dynamic group in the comics, with a roster more in flux than just about any other team. Daredevil, Luke Cage and Iron Fist have all made appearances in the various Defenders titles over the years, leaving Jessica Jones as the only title character of the Netflix crew that has not been a part of the club. As the cast lists of the individual Defenders series have grown, it’s become apparent that whatever threat our heroes unite to stop, it will be too much for the just four of them. We have already seen Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple helping out in Daredevil and we know she’s set to reappear in both Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. Patsy Walker (Hellcat), Elektra, the Punisher and Misty Knight are among what is likely to be an expanding list of allies for the Defenders. Even characters like Detective Scarfe, Misty Knight’s former partner on the NYPD and an ally to the Heroes for Hire, have made their way into the MCU, giving the streets of New York a crew straight from the comics.
But which comics? While I mentioned the superficial connection to Heroes for Hire, it’s hard to shake the feeling that the Defenders will ultimately unite against a supernatural threat (I’ve LONG said that Parker Robbins, aka the Hood, is the ideal threat for the Defenders). It’s possible that what Marvel is doing is assembling a team of Defenders that represents a fusion of The Defenders and Heroes for Hire teams, giving us an MCU version that is unlike anything the comics have produced. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some heroes that might join up with the titular characters to defend New York City.
We know Jon Bernthal has been cast as Marvel’s most beloved anti-hero in Season 2 of Daredevil. While the specifics of his role in Hell’s Kitchen have been kept under wraps, rumors have him going up against Matt Murdock over which style of vigilantism is best. Given Netflix CCO Ted Sarandos’ comments about a potential Punisher spin-off, his future in the MCU is of a great deal of interest to hardcore Punisher fans.
We have no idea what Marvel’s plans are for further Netflix series beyond finishing production on Daredevil Season 2 and Luke Cage and beginning production on Iron Fist. Additional seasons of any of the existing series could be green-lit and it might be possible that a Punisher series could go into the works at anytime, even before production begins on The Defenders. What we do know, is that Frank Castle will be under the streets of Hell’s Kitchen for Daredevil and there is no way Marvel will kill him off.
Will Frank Castle play a role in The Defenders? It’s hard to believe he won’t, despite never having been a part of Heroes for Hire or any of the Defenders teams in the comics. Castle always has his own agenda and has always come into contact with heroes, whether in conflict or on the same side, when that agenda coincides with theirs. If I had to guess, I’d say that Castle and Murdock will come to an uneasy understanding as Daredevil Season 2 concludes and that we will see Castle doling out punishment at some point in The Defenders.
If Elektra is coming to Hell’s Kitchen for Season 2 of Daredevil, it likely means The Hand won’t be far behind. We know Matt Murdock and Elektra share a past and her reintroduction to his present is going to make a mess of things in Matt’s life.
Elektra has always been a key figure in the Daredevil mythos: the lost love for whom Matt’s feelings have never waned. She’s also a powerful character in her own right and a major force, often times on both sides of the law. It’s likely we’ll see her begin her arc in Season 2 on the side of the Hand, before joining Matt to stop their take over of Hell’s Kitchen. Her ultimate fate could go a number of routes, but it’s highly unlikely she’ll be permanently removed from the MCU.
Her appearance in The Defenders seems a distinct possibility. Her life as an assassin for the Hand gives her the perfect blend of ninja bad-ass and supernatural experiences to be a wonderful ally of The Defenders.
Of all the characters showing up in this version of the Defenders, Patsy Walker may be the most surprising. A character who dates back to her appearances in the 1940’s Timely Comics, Walker doesn’t have much of a comic book connection to this Heroes for Hire group. However, her costumed alter ego, Hellcat, was a Defender and has been on some VERY interesting side trips in her time as a Marvel Comics hero.
Her appearance in Jessica Jones as the best friend of the titular private detective was surprising given the two have no shared past from the comics of which I am aware (Walker has been absent from the pages of Marvel Comics for some time now, though she is now headlining a series as part of the All-New, All-Different Marvel initiative). It will be very interesting to see just what route Walker’s character takes in the Defenders series, but her friendship with Jessica Jones might be the least interesting relationship for her.
In the pages of the comics, Hellcat is a mystical hero with ties to Doctor Strange and Moondragon and a marriage to another character on this list: Daimon Hellstrom, the Son of Satan. If Marvel TV moves towards a threat like the Hood as an antagonist, a character like Hellstrom would make for a logical and exciting addition to the Defenders. Patsy Walker’s addition to the cast, as exciting as it is by itself, could portend the addition of Hellstrom and some intense inter-dimensional threats in The Defenders.
With official confirmation coming from Marvel that Simone Missick will be playing Misty Knight in the upcoming Luke Cage series, fans of the Heroes for Hire comics know that one of Marvel’s most bad-ass female characters is going to hit the big screen.
This version of Knight promises to be very interesting as the official release explains she’s still going to be an up and comer on the NYPD, alongside her partner Rafael Scarfe. While these two will eventually be allies to The Defenders, I’m wondering if Knight and Cage might not be on opposite sides of each other early on. It’s also worth noting we probably will see the accident that leads to Knight getting her trademark Stark tech bionic arm at some point down the line.
The addition of Misty Knight certainly makes comic book fans think hard about the Heroes for Hire books and makes me wonder what role she’ll play not only in The Defenders, but also in other Netflix series. She’s likely to play a big role in the Iron Fist series (she and Danny Rand had a long relationship in the comics) but I wonder if she’s well received that she and her partner at Nightwing Restorations Ltd. might not head on to a series of their own.
This is the first of the characters on this list that has yet to be confirmed, however, with Misty Knight officially on board, it’s all but a certainty that her running mate and best friend, Colleen Wing, will show up at some point – the Daughters of the Dragon should definitely get some time on screen.
Colleen Wing first appeared in Marvel Comics in Marvel Premiere #19 when she was sent by her father to meet with Danny Rand. The two went on to work together frequently and were part of the core of Heroes for Hire. While there’s no guarantee Marvel TV will follow the same sequence, it would work well to give Wing her own intro in Iron Fist rather than reduce either her or Misty Knight by cramming them both into one series.
If and when Wing enters the world of the Defenders, it’s safe to say she and Knight will soon find themselves as friends and allies and give the Netflix series more ass-kicking female characters than currently exist over on the movie side of things. As I said before, if Wing and Knight are well-received, there may even be hope for them to have their own team-up series down the line, something about which a lot of fans would be happy.
Daimon Hellstrom’s potential introduction to the Defenders could come through a couple of doors. First, he could be brought into any series at any point as a John Constantine-esque occult investigator. If we buy the idea that the Defenders will ultimately be going up against something mystical, then we can imagine that they might want to visit somewhat of an expert on the subject. Alternately, Hellstrom could appear at first as the love interest of Patsy Walker and have his character develop over time.
Regardless of how he’s introduced, the potential uses for his character are many and the comic book connections to the Defenders are strong and many. Though NBC cancelled Constantine, the show had a pretty decent following and was quite enjoyable. Knowing how Marvel is always looking to expand, a character like Hellstrom that is introduced in another series could always find his way to his own series if fans seem to enjoy him enough.
The rumors of a Doctor Strange cameo in Iron Fist also give reason to speculate on a potential role for Hellstrom in the MCU. In addition to being a potential Sorcerer Supreme, Hellstrom also has seen his origin retconned, making Dormammu his father. IF Strange does appear at some point down the line, it’s possible Hellstrom could serve as his man on the team.
Paladin is one of any number of mercenaries in the Marvel universe that could show up in any one of the Defenders series going up against one of our heroes. Paladin is also one of my favorite mercs and the one I most closely associate with Heroes for Hire.
I like the idea of Paladin joining the team just as he has always been in the comics – as a wildcard. His past with almost everyone of the Defenders’ main players makes him a prime candidate to show up, and his past as a merc makes him a prime candidate to betray the team, a role he has often filled in the comics.
Let’s face it: if there is going to be a Moon Knight in the MCU, this is where he belongs. It’s almost impossible to think about a Moon Knight film. Much like Daredevil and the Punisher, the complexity of Marc Spector cannot be done justice in a 2-hour movie. Moon Knight is a character whose nuances must be drawn out over time and layered as he goes. Introducing Moon Knight as an ally to the Defenders would give fanboys what they’ve been clamoring for and the character a chance at being accepted by larger audiences.
If there is a Moon Knight out distributing his brand of vigilante justice to those disturbing travelers in the night, he sure as hell is going to come across Matt Murdock and Frank Castle at some point and then we’re on to something. While a straight comic book adaptation of Moon Knight might be too much for Netflix, we can certainly imagine Marvel TV making a few changes in order to bring Marc Spector to Netflix. While I’m a big fan of the character and hope he can have his own series, I’ll be happy to see him line up alongside the Defenders first and let him speak for himself.
A character from the late 90’s run of Daredevil, Maya Lopez has gathered quite a following in her time on the pages of Marvel comics. A character whose roots are bathed in the blood of her father’s murder at the hands of Wilson Fisk, Echo could be an exciting character to add to a potential 3rd season of Daredevil.
After her father was murdered by the Kingpin, Lopez spent her youth developing her incredibly rare and dangerous skill set. Later, Fisk manipulated her to attack Daredevil by telling her he was responsible for the death of her father. Her vengeful pursuit of Daredevil runs parallel to another arc in which she and Matt Murdock develop a relationship and fall in love. Eventually, Echo takes advantage of Daredevil’s weaknesses and defeats him in battle, forcing Matt to reveal himself to her and explain the Kingpin’s lies. After an attempt on the Kingpin’s life, Lopez leaves NYC and Murdock in search for herself.
The character returned later as a member of Brian Michael Bendis‘ New Avengers under the guise of Ronan and stuck around for many of the early 2000’s event series. While she doesn’t seem to be a potential player for Daredevil Season 2, it’s possible we could see her down the road given her involvement with Murdock and the New Avengers.
Ava Ayala is a legacy hero, following her brother Hector as the White Tiger – a hero whose powers are based in the mystical tiger amulet. One of five heroes to take the mantle of White Tiger, Ava Ayala is my favorite to assume the role in the MCU given her current positioning on Disney XD’s Ultimate Spider-Man.
Though she first appeared in Avengers Academy, her time as a hero began in the pages of Daredevil when her brother was murdered while escaping from prison after having been wrongly convicted of murder. Her roots in mysticism and her brother’s ties to Daredevil make her a potentially interesting addition to The Defenders.
Shang Chi, the Master of Kung Fu, has been an ally of the comic book Heroes for Hire and could easily find his way into the world of Marvel TV’s Defenders through his work as an agent of MI-6. Despite the fact that the Defenders will come together in New York, the global scope of Madame Gao’s drug ring could allow for a British secret agent to find his way to America.
Shang Chi’s background as a martial arts expert could also allow him to be introduced via the Iron Fist series, a hero with whom he has often worked in the comics. The potential introduction of Shang Chi could also open doors for other future series in which the MCU spreads overseas introducing MI-6 or even Pete Wisdom and MI-13, an X-Files analog in the MCU.
I don’t know if Marvel has plans for Jessica Drew and I know a lot of people are waiting for it to be revealed during the course of Jessica Jones that Carrie-Anne Moss’ Harper is Jessica Drew, but in every way imaginable, this is the side of the MCU in which Drew belongs. Despite her time as an Avenger, Drew’s work as a street-level PI and superhero made her a much more relatable character. Her comic book past is murky, having been retconned a time or two, and introducing her as a fellow PI to Jones and then revealing who she truly is could make for an interesting character.
The Nicolas Cage Ghost Rider movies represent a sad time in our nations’ history. While the first one can be enjoyable, the second one hardly passes as something that should have been allowed off the development table. Embedding Johnny Blaze in this darker, street-level world full of drug dealers and vigilantes is Marvel’s chance to wash that awful taste out of the mouths of fans.
Johnny Blaze has been a Defender in the past and could be an interesting and necessary addition to the TV team. Given the hinted at mysticism of Madame Gao, it’s likely that at some point there will be some mystical threat unleashed on Hell’s Kitchen that kick-starts the Defenders. Among all the horses in the stable, Ghost Rider best represents the dichotomy of these street level heroes who choose to act as heroes against their circumstances. While I know he’d be a risk and a high dollar VFX character, I’d love to see the Ghost Rider reborn to fight alongside the Defenders.
What do you think? Sound off in the comments below!