For better or worse, the Marvel Cinematic Universe train isn’t slowing down. There are already a tonne of movies and shows announced seemingly stretching into infinity, but despite that, there remain a number of fun characters that at the time of this writing are not yet slated to debut.
I said I would fill the gap between Loki and What If…? with something and never did, so you get a double-bill this week as I don’t feel like sitting on this for 10 weeks.
Quick disclaimer: I’m disqualifying all the various properties that used to be owned by Fox (X-Men, Fantastic Four, Daredevil etc.) as well as Spider-Man characters who appeared before he joined the MCU (Norman Osborn, Doc Ock etc.) They’re known entities, are all definitely coming at some stage, and would obviously fill up most of this list. Instead this is all about true newcomers.
Honourable mention: Black Cat
I generally don’t like honourable mentions on ranked lists. You set the parameters for yourself, if you really want extra people, expand them! The reason I’ve been a big giant hypocrite is that Felicia Hardy did very briefly appear in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 so could arguably be disqualified on the grounds of her hypothetically being planned to don her costume if the ‘Amazing-verse’ had continued.
If all of that were ruled out, she’d be a lay-up in my opinion. If you want to be lazy, you can call her Marvel’s version of Catwoman, but Felicia has been a consistently well-written character in her own right for a long time, generally improving any book in which she appears. I’m desperate for Spider-Man and the street level Marvel heroes to be a thing, particularly his dynamic with Daredevil, and Black Cat has history with both, which is fun. And who doesn’t like sultry thieves?
10) Elsa Bloodstone
A slightly goofy character with nebulous canonicity, Elsa Bloodstone is a British monster hunter subjected to horrific ‘training’ by her father in her youth. Enhanced by the Bloodgem, which makes her immortal, able to heal, and do all the other fun hero stuff, her weapons of choice are an obscene number of big guns. And sarcasm.
I don’t think I need to justify her case any more than that to be honest, but she’s good pals with Deadpool and could also easily slot into the mystic portion of the MCU. Need more convincing? Okay, she once teamed up with a manifestation of her own lost youth, who she named ‘Shuttup’ and they murdered an alternate version of her father and then merged. So… Yeah.
9) Captain Britain
On the surface just a British counterpart to Captain America, Brian Braddock is so much weirder than he seems… in a good way, with stories penned by the likes of Chris Claremont and Alan Moore.
In theory he’s just a man draped in the Union Flag with all the usual superpowers (he’s strong, he’s fast, he’s durable, he can fly), but thanks to heavy involvement of Merlyn and other British mythology, his corner of the comic world is dripping in quirky magic and a fun supporting cast. In fact, he’s the twin brother of popular X-Men character Psylocke (but is not a mutant himself).
Perhaps his most notable trait was introduced in 2008 when his powers became directly tied to his emotions and confidence, which could be used in a number of different ways, either down the path of outright comedy, or a dramatic exploration of the nature of courage and heroism.
Technically a Spider-Man property as the name implies, Jessica Drew came into being as nothing more than Stan Lee trying to protect future copyright issues with DC (Wonder Woman vs Wonder Man, Power Man vs Power Girl).
She proved surprisingly popular, but wasn’t historically treated all that well by Marvel until 2005 when she played an enormous role in the Secret Invasion storyline, which is due to become a live action series in the future. However it seems incredibly likely they’ll massively modify the story to omit Jess, because even though she’s spent a great deal of her time as an Avenger and secret agent… her association with Spider-Man is inescapable.
Which is a shame, because she’s so much more than a female version of a popular male character. For one thing she doesn’t use webs, and can instead fly (a bit) and fire bioelectric bolts from her hands. For another, she’s a reformed Hydra agent, master spy and detective with a lot of endearing friendships and romantic entanglements with the larger Marvel cast. Plus they kept writing her as a superhero despite being heavily pregnant, a rarity, if not a first, and that’s pretty cool.
7) The Sentry
In general I think ‘what if Superman were evil?’ stories are lame. And if you did Sentry wrong, that’s all he would be, an unhinged character with most of Supes’ powers and a comical number of extras thrown on top and a penchant for ripping people in half.
But the thing about Sentry I find the most engaging is him popping up out of nowhere in 2000 as a retired superhero, but being retroactively weaved into the history of Marvel and simply forgotten by the world after he mind-wiped everybody… including himself. He can calm an enraged Hulk. He was Reed Richards’ best friend. Basically, he did a good deed for every major hero, was beloved and saved the world a bunch.
So why make everybody forget him? Because of his cosmic horror alter ego, The Void, which may sound like a generic Big Bad, but the concept works incredibly well because of Sentry’s ongoing status as an unreliable narrator. Roughly half a dozen deliberately contradictory origin stories and assessments of the nature of his split personality have been presented, and I’m honestly not sure if one has been canonically chosen. Each persona has been asserted as the ‘real’ Bob Reynolds, and it’s even been posited he’s fully aware of his true nature and simply pretends to be oblivious or mentally ill.
All of that would be a daunting task to write for live-action, and the chances of mishandling his mental illness are extremely high. Likewise, his wife, Lindy, lives in fear of him, secretly pleading with Tony Stark to kill her husband and even taking a crack at it herself a couple of times. Women aren’t often written well in Hollywood, so this aspect could become insulting if bungled. But I’m just writing down character names on a listicle, it would be somebody else’s problem to try and get it right on screen! Legion managed it, just copy that.
5) + 6) Moondragon & Phyla-Vell
I’m not going to try and get away with two characters in one spot, but to me it is non-negotiable they come as a package deal as comics’ coolest cosmic couple. But gosh are they complicated.
Moondragon is the daughter of the man that would be reborn as Drax the Destroyer, whisked away after Thanos killed her parents and raised by space monks to become a master martial artist, a nearly unmatched telepath, the tamer of The Dragon of the Moon (hence the name) and an all-round bald baddie. There being zero mention of Drax’s human origins in the MCU makes that aspect tricky, but I think she still work without that.
Even messier, Phyla-Vell is one of two ‘children’ of the original Captain Marvel created by his lover after his death. She has all of the familiar powers (strength, flight, energy attacks) plus a dope sword. I think Marvel were absolutely right to leapfrog Mar-Vell so that Carol Danvers could be a hero in her own right rather than living in the shadow of a dead legacy character, but much like Moondragon, you’d have to completely ignore her parentage. But again, she’s just a dope space lady with silver hair and impeccable fashion sense. She was also briefly called Martyr and operated as the avatar of the cosmic entity Oblivion, giving her a goth makeover and boosted powers if that option is preferable.
As dope as they both are individually, they’re also a fantastically written power-couple, adventuring through the cosmos together and joining the Guardians of the Galaxy where they serve as two of the team’s heavier hitters. Honestly, most of this is the absolute looks they’d serve, but I also just want space to get bigger in the MCU.
Despite debuting in comics before Aquaman, Marvel’s King of Atlantis holds less cultural cache and would undoubtedly be labelled a knock-off if he were to debut in the MCU. It’s the same with Plastic Man and Mr. Fantastic. Both companies have copied each other a lot, and you’re either a weirdo who gets outraged when characters are similar, or you shrug and roll with it. There are also some weird film rights issues similar to Hulk, wherein I think they could use him, but not in a solo-movie.
Admin aside, it’s pretty clear why Namor should be on screen. He’s canonically incredibly sexy and an unrelentingly arrogant asshole. That may sound gross and off-putting, but most of the time he’s written in such an over the top manner that it becomes funny. He simply has more personality than Aquaman while still giving you all of the undersea adventures and aggressive environmentalism. Plus he’s a mutant with an undying crush on Sue Storm, perpetually tying him to the X-Men and Fantastic Four. Heck, he fought alongside Captain America in World War II and took Atlantis to war with Wakanda, so there are great deal of options for interconnectivity on the table.
For me the only hurdles are if Marvel don’t want to try and compete with Aquaman, and the casting challenge of trying to find someone hot enough to play him. Seriously, I cannot stress enough how attractive he is meant to be.
One area Marvel has a major advantage over DC is their larger number of high-powered female characters. Obviously Wonder Woman towers above all, but when you go beyond her the ranks are surprisingly thin when it comes to Justice League options, hence Gal Gadot standing next to five men. Marvel had the same with Black Widow in The Avengers, but has since added Scarlet Witch, Captain Marvel and Wasp to the equation, with Kate Bishop, Ms Marvel, She-Hulk and more on the horizon.
While they’re not hurting for strong female characters in the future, Angela would make a fine addition, assuming Todd McFarlane didn’t maintain movie rights when Neil Gaiman won legal ownership of her… and immediately sold her to Marvel. Honestly, an all-time power move.
Starting out as a Spawn supporting character, Marvel quickly bedded her into their universe as hard as possible, by making her the long-lost daughter of Odin and Freyja, ostensibly murdered but actually kidnapped by the realm of Heven, which Odin then cut from the world tree as revenge. Yes, there were once ten realms and Angels are a thing in Marvel. So yeah, she’s a statuesque Asgardian raised by Angels to become a fearsome bounty hunter/sword lady, besties with Gamora, sister of Thor, a one-time Queen of Hel, and her wife was Marvel’s first trans character. She rules, basically.
I have been desperate for James Gunn to add Richard Rider to the cast of Guardians of the Galaxy for a long time. The Nova Corps played a role in the first film as space cops but were later destroyed by Thanos off screen. How convenient for the first human member of the corps, as one of Nova’s biggest stories featured him as their sole survivor. The reason that is important is that all members access their powers by sharing ‘The Nova Force’, meaning Rider was suddenly able to operate at peak capacity indefinitely. His powers are essentially a lesser version of Captain Marvel’s, with more emphasis on how fast he can fly through space, as well as the JARVIS-esque supercomputer in his helmet.
While all of that is good and fun, it’s not why I want him in the MCU so badly, but rather because of his history with the Guardians. Star-Lord’s best friend and Gamora’s ex-lover in the comics, I’ve always envisioned his arrival sparking intense jealousy in Quill, robbing him of his status as the only human in deep space, and because he’s just a nice man, he’d likely make a better impression on the team than Peter. When we last saw Gamora she had no memory of her team, so Peter will obviously try to charm her all over again, and a rivalry (whether perceived or real) is something Chris Pratt could undoubtedly play well, as seen with Thor. That plot element probably makes my idea unlikely, but I had it years before that happened, so whatever.
Fundamentally, as I said earlier, I think Marvel needs to increase the size of its space offerings, and as the groundwork was already laid years ago and the character has come back into vogue in the comics after a spell of being dead, he seems like a simple, clean addition. Plus he’s just a dude in a costume, so one less need for intense make-up or acting to a tennis ball on a stick.
Objectively, comics are at their best when they’re full of himbos, and copyright-free Herc may just be the king of the beautiful, dumb nice boys. Superhero movies sometimes stray a little too far from the tried and tested wow factor of a very strong person lifting very heavy things and fighting big crazy monsters, so who better to keep that aspect in play than the Greek demigod?
The name value of a centuries old mythological figure shouldn’t be overlooked in terms of box office appeal, though Disney’s plans to release a live-action remake of their own 1997 animated film (helmed by MCU veterans the Russos no less!) means it’s pretty unlikely he does pop up any time soon… But Russell Crowe is playing Zeus in Thor: Love and Thunder, so maybe his enormous pansexual son won’t be far behind.
Chris Hemsworth loves an acting challenge to keep him interested in Thor, and while I would love to see him take on the past, present and future iterations seen in Jason Aaron’s comics, I also think the outrageous sexual tension between Thor and Hercules would be a tremendous amount of fun.
Check out The Matt Signal, in which I recap episodes of Batman the Animated Series every Saturday and Sunday. This weekend it’s the Mystery of the Batwoman and some final numbers on The New Batman Adventures.
There Will Be Movies continues each Wednesday, as Ben Phillips and I talk about 25 of our favourite movies from the 90s. This week you can’t handle the podcast, because it’s A Few Good Men.