In their recent Vanity Fair interview, Kevin Feige and Bob Iger hinted at a broad new direction for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And the likely new direction will present us with new heroes as Iger made a point of saying that Marvel has the rights 7,000 characters they can exploit. But, as we know, not all of the 7,000 are considered film-worthy. Even former big screen heroes such as Daredevil, Ghost Rider and Punisher are consigned to the realm of television and streaming services. And considering that the film and TV sides are currently at Cold War with one another, it’s unlikely that either side would be willing to share characters they consider to be in their domain with each other, nor are they willing to step on each others’ toes to steal characters away from each other.
So, which heroes will we be getting at the cineplex? What heroes are film worthy and have as of yet not appeared in the MCU? Using the qualifications that they have a long history at Marvel, have supported one or more series for a period of time, have not properly made their MCU debut yet, and fall into Iger’s requirement that the worlds separated geographically or in time, here is a comprehensive list of Marvel characters that fit the bill:
Namor, The Sub-Mariner
This is assuming Marvel holds the rights to the character. He was optioned by Universal for a film, but rumor has it that the rights reverted back to the parent company. He is one of Marvel’s oldest characters, first appearing in Marvel Comics #1 back in 1939. Aquaman might poison the well for this character, not only due to the similarities of the characters (both are Atlantean kings with ties to the surface world), but also because if that film does well, Marvel will look like it is cashing in on its success but if it fails, it might spoil the audience pool for any Namor film. But really, both characters succeeded in the comics at the same time, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t do the same on the big screen.
The Android Human Torch
This is cheating a bit because this character already appeared in the MCU–in an Easter Egg in Captain America:The First Avenger, seen above. While Fox might own the rights to the Johnny Storm version of the character, an android version appear way back in 1939 in Marvel Comics #1 as well and it might still be owned by Marvel. The character, along with Namor and Captain America, were the most identifiable Timely (as Marvel was then called) characters of the 1940s. Rename him the Synthetic Man but keep his origin and powers the same.
This was the superhero team composed of Marvel’s World War II heroes, the All Winners appearing in comics in the 1940s and the Invaders in the 1970s. If Marvel is planning to examine the WWII era, these three possibilities could work as films–if they can find someone to fill in for Captain America. But this might be an Avengers-like situation if Marvel Studios decides to focus a series of movies set during World War II.
Let’s face it, Ka-Zar is Tarzan with the serial numbers scratched out. He’s an man of aristocratic birth who is orphaned in a jungle called the Savage Land and is raised by the local fauna. The main difference is that the Savage Land is hidden in Antarctica and is a land that time forgot. The animal that raise Ka-Zar? A sabretooth tiger. It could be a trippy ride if done correctly, and even though the modern version of the character made his debut on an issue of X-Men, he was based on a character in the pulp novels that Timely published before getting into comics.
Another cheat, as Adam Warlock’s birthing chamber made an appearance in the end credits of Guardians of the Galaxy 2. The character is a Christ figure with cosmic overtones, and it seems likely that we will be seeing him sooner or later, either in GOTG 3, his own film, or both. He originally first appeared in the pages of Fantastic Four, but perhaps any rights issues involving Fox held Marvel characters will soon be a thing of the past.
Muck monsters have been a trend in comics for decades. Hillman Comics had The Heap back in the 1940s, and that character inspired two other things of the swamp, DC’s Swamp Thing and Marvel’s Man-Thing. The two arrived months apart in 1971, the former written by Len Wein, the latter by Gerry Conway, both who were roommates at the time. Both featured scientists working on secret formulas in a lab in a swamp whose experiments were sabotaged by rivals. Both characters were exposed to the formulas and rushed out to the swamps to save their lives, an act that turned them into muck monsters.
Marvel’s version then started to drift into its own direction. Its scientist, Ted Sallis, was working to recreate the Super Soldier Serum that gave Captain America his powers, And the accident took away Sallis’ sentience, instead turning him into a shambling monster that would attack enemies of the swamp, burning them at his hands.
The concept was made into a TV movie in 2005, which would normally exclude it from inclusion on this list. But since that film didn’t really capture the spirit of the character that well, and was prior to the Marvel Cinematic Universe existing, I’ve decided to make an exception.
Spinning off from, of all things, a Marvel adaptation of The War of the Worlds, Killraven is a freedom fighter from a dystopian future where the Martians have conquered the Earth. While some of his adventures appear to have taken place on an alternate Earth, he has crossed over with Spider-Man and the Guardians of the Galaxy, establishing him firmly in the Marvel Universe.
Since The War of the Worlds is in the public domain, there should be no legal issues with including the original text in bringing the character to the big screen in case the MCU wants to explore the far-flung future. However, it was optioned by Sony in 2005 to be made into a feature film. One would assume that those rights have reverted back to Marvel, but that might be a hiccup in bringing the character into the MCU.
We have already been introduced to the Nova Corps in Guardians of the Galaxy as the protectors of the world of Xandar. This means the door is already open for the comic book versions of Nova to reach the screen. There have been two distinct Nova’s. First was Richard Ryder, a teenager given the power of Nova by a dying Corpsman, and uses his powers to become a hero. The second was Sam Alexander, whose father was a Nova Corpsman and who inherited his father’s powers when the father appeared to die.
The main difference between the comics and the films is that the film Nova Corps do not have powers. I thought the films were going to move in that direction when Xandar was entrusted with the Power Infinity Stone at the end of GOTG. But since the trailer for Avengers: Infinity War shows Thanos with the Power Stone already in his gauntlet, this potential plot point might never be followed up on.
Marvel Studios once had an Inhumans movie planned, but then the TV branch stole it, made a critically lambasted series out of it, and killed the concept dead, dead, dead. Part of this list is offering alternatives to concepts the studio can’t use anymore. As a replacement for the Inhumans, I offer the Eternals.
This is the first Jack Kirby solo creation on the list from his brief return to Marvel in the 1970s. Like the Inhumans, the Eternals are group of superpowered individuals descended from humans who were experimented on by aliens. Also like the Inhumans, they live their lives in exile. The main difference is that the Eternals were created at the same time as a race that would become their enemies–the Deviants–and many of the earth Eternals could be confused with the Greek Gods.
Not only do the characters have a Jack Kirby pedigree, they were also once written legendary author Neil Gaiman. With those two media friendly writers in the Eternals history, them getting a film should be a no-brainer
Omega The Unknown
Steve Gerber was one of the most vibrant writers working for Marvel in the 1970s. His work on the Defenders and Man-Thing help define those titles and is the main reason why the latter is on this list. His most famous creation during his time at the company was Howard the Duck, but another cult favorite was Omega the Unknown.
Omega was an alien who came to Earth to become a superhero. He shared a mysterious psychic connection with an Earth boy named James-Michael Starling. The secret of their connection was a big part of the narrative of the comic, but the series was cancelled before the mystery could properly be explained.
Novelist Jonathan Lethem was such a fan of the character that he wrote a sequel to the 1970s series in 2006. The character was am intriguing contrast to the other comics of the day, and would definitely make a fascinating film.
Marvel Studios has had good luck bring Jack Kirby co-creations to the screen, so that’s why I’ve included two of his solo creations on this list. The second, Machine Man, spun of from Kirby’s work on Marvel’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, an ongoing series tying into the classic film that the company published in 1977. Machine Man, a.k.a. Aaron Stack, a.k.a. X-51, was a sentient robot created for the U.S. Army–the only one out of 50 that did not go insane–who rebelled against the military. He went on the run to avoid his service, all the while trying to learn how to fit in with the world of humans.
Marvel took great pains to separate the character from his film adaptation roots in future appearance, so the tie to 2001 should not stop Marvel from doing a film with the character. However, in the late 1990s, the character was featured in a number of stories tying into Marvel’s mutant properties. Whether this is enough for him to be considered part of Marvel’s deal with Fox over the mutant characters remains to be seen.
The only thing holding this film back is the distribution rights. If She-Hulk is included in the rights package given to Universal, then it faces one of the same problems as a Hulk sequel–Universal would have right of first refusal for distribution.
But if it doesn’t, then this could be a work around to get another MCU Hulk film. She-Hulk is lawyer Jennifer Walters, a cousin of Bruce Banner who is critically wounded in an assassination attempt made by a mob boss she was going after in court. Near death, she needs a blood transfusion from the visiting Banner in order to save her life. The transfusion does its job, but also passes along Banner’s curse as well. Unlike Banner, when Walters turns into the green-skinned Hulk, she retains her intelligence and personality.
She-Hulk almost made it to the big screen in 1990, portrayed by Brigitte Nielsen, but that film never saw the light of day. Law & Order actress Angie Harmon has campaigned for the role in the past.
Beta Ray Bill
Like I said above, part of this exercise is looking for replacements for the old guard who might not return to the franchise. Who better to fill in for Thor than a character that stole the power of Thor from the son of Odin in the comics.
At the start of Walter Simonson’s seminal run on the Thor comic book, the Norse God and an alien named Beta Ray Bill fought each other, mistakenly believing the other was evil. Thor got separated from his hammer and transformed back into his human identity of Donald Blake. Bill picked up the hammer, which was now in the shape of a walking stick, and gained the power of Thor by striking the stick to the ground. Being worthy of the power of Thor, Odin made Bill his own hammer which granted him the same powers that Thor’s hammer gave him.
The character was originally scheduled to get a cameo in Thor: Ragnarok, but it was thought that the character was too important for so little screen time. That makes you think he’s already being considered for a Phase 4 role.
However, if Marvel wants a replacement for Thor, maybe they’d be best served looking at another mythology for a hero to step in. Marvel. like most comic book companies, had their own version of the Greek god Hercules, but none used their version of the God of Power as extensively as Marvel did. Their Herc was a member of the Avengers and starred in a number of different series over the years, and was often portrayed as a boisterous personality that would move well to the big screen.
While other entries on this list might be for comics we’d like to see on the big screen. Power Pack WILL be coming to the big screen, sooner or later. The property was one of the ten Marvel concepts put up as collateral back in 2005 in the deal that created Marvel Studios, so it was always on Marvel’s radar. However, That Hashtag Show reported back in September that a Power Pack film tying into the MCU was put into active development. They say that the film will be a Spy Kids-esque adventure.
Long overdue, if you ask me. The comic, created by Louise Simonson and June Brigman, focused on four siblings who receive superpowers from a dying alien and use them to rescue their parents. It seems like the perfect concept for a Disney film, and while, on the surface, seems like a bit immature for the MCU as we know it, the original comic did not shy away from more mature subject matter.
If there was one current member of the current MCU that is most likely not to return, it would be Iron Man. Robert Downey Jr. is getting a bit long in the tooth and has already extended his original contract at least once. If Marvel Studios is looking to capture the Tony Stark dynamic when Downey, Jr leaves, Wonder Man might do the trick.
In the comics, Simon Williams was an industrialist in the weapons industry with a healthy rivalry with Tony Stark. However, when Stark got the upper hand, Williams embezzles money to keep his company afloat, is caught and then goes to prison. While in jail, he is contacted by the Masters of Evil, who pay his bail and give him super powers to infiltrate the Avengers as Wonder Man so he can get revenge against Stark by destroying the team from within. However, Williams has a change of heart and sacrifices himself to protect the team from Masters of Evil. Comics being comics, Williams returns from the dead to become a hero, rejoins the Avengers on good terms, and has a second career as a movie star.
Simon Williams almost had a cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 in the personage of Nathan Fillion appearing on posters of a Simon Williams film festival, but the scene was cut. Good. It will give the character a chance to have a bigger role in Phase 4.
If Marvel Studios wanted to be mean, they’d add a Squadron Supreme film to the docket in Phase 4. Why? Because the Squadron Supreme is the Justice League. See, back in February 1971, both Marvel and DC as sort of a joke decided to create thinly-veiled versions of the other company’s biggest team to face their biggest team. DC created the Champions of Angor consisting of pastiches of the Avengers’ Thor, Scarlet Witch, Yellow Jacket and Quicksilver to face off against the Justice League of America and Marvel had the Avengers face off against a team consisting of the pastiches of Superman, Batman, Green Lantern and the Flash which they called the Squadron Sinister.
The Squadron Sinister eventually spawned an alternate universe Squadron Supreme, which in future appearances would add more JLA pastiches to the roster. In 1985, Mark Gruenwald wrote his seminal Squadron Supreme series, where the team decide to take over their world in order to make it a Utopia. They are opposed by the team’s Batman analog, Nighthawk, who believes that dictators with good intentions are still dictators.
The series was one of best of the 1980s and also one of the best Justice League stories ever (albeit, not starring the Justice League). Adapting that series to film after the disappointing Justice League. would be a shot across the bow, but if done right, could be a classic entry into the MCU films.
While not part of the Marvel Universe per se, this concept was one of the best Marvel published in the 1980s. Taking place on an Earth being invaded by alien forces, scientists come up with a way to fight back by giving normal humans superpowers. There’s only one catch; the powers will kill their recipients within a year. With death always imminent, the cast was always rotating and the readers never knew when a heroes number would be up.
A film was optioned back in 2011 by Waterman Entertainment, who bought the rights from series creator Peter Gillis. However, Marvel soon after filed trademarks on the concept and started printing collections of the original series to establish that they, not Gillis, still had the copyright. Hopefully, the rights issues can be resolved so we can see an adaptation soon.
In 1986, in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the publication Fantastic Four #1, Marvel decided to do something special–create a brand-new universe, that was grounded more in reality than the Marvel Universe and was meant to examine what would happen if people in the real world started getting powers.
It failed miserably. It wasn’t as well thought out as it should have been (you had two team titles where the lead characters were on the run from agencies meant to do them harm), ran from the unique (Nightmask–a man who is able to enter a person’s dreams in order to help them out) to the ridiculous (Kickers, Inc.–a group of ex-football players who travel the world and have adventures) and, in the end, didn’t really fulfill its “set in real world’ promise.
That being said, the experiment was eventually folded into the mainstream Marvel Universe. There are several concepts that would work well as films (The aforementioned Nightmask, alien vigilante Justice, the fugitive paranormal team DP7) if Marvel Studios would choose to go in that direction.
The 1990s were a pretty grim time for comic books, a period of a outrageous boom followed by a disastrous bust. Companies created dozens of essentially disposable characters in hope to catch the interest of the speculator marked. Many of the creations were forgotten almost as soon as they were created. Other stuck around. Darkhawk was one of them.
Darkhawk was a teenager named Chris Powell who stumbled upon an alien amulet. The amulet allows Powell to swap places with and control a powerful android that he uses to fight crime.
The character was at home fight street level crime as he was soaring the spaceways. This flexibility makes him a pretty good fit for a spot on the Phase 4 line up.
Comic book legend says that then-Marvel Editor-in-chief Tom DeFalco said that Sleepwalker was “Sandman done right.” The only Sandman reference that could be found was that Sleepwalker was “Sandman done the Marvel way.” Regardless, the comparison with Neil Gaiman’s groundbreaking DC/Vertigo work did Marvel’s effort no favors. However, even though Sleepwalker was nowhere near the classic that Sandman was, that doesn’t mean that a good film couldn’t made out of it.
Sleepwalker is an alien from the Mindscape dimension who became trapped in the mind of college student Rick Sheridan. Sleepwalker could only be released when Rick slept, and the alien used his few hours of freedom to fight crime.
You get the impression that Marvel Studios will be playing up the cosmic aspect of its universe in Phase 4. If that is the case, then Quasar is all but a shoo-in for a feature film.
Many characters have held the name Quasar, most famously Wendell Vaughn. The character wore what was called Quantum Bands permanently affixed to his wrists. These bands allowed Vaughn manipulate energy to fly, shoot blasts and create solid energy constructs. He used these bands to become the protector of the universe.
Granted, the power set does resemble that of Green Lantern quite a bit, but it was Vaughn’s everyman personality that made him a great character.
There have also been a number of people who became Nomad over Marvel’s history, but the most interesting one was Jack Monroe. Monroe was a man who was part of a government operation to replace Captain America and Bucky in the 1950s in order to fight Communists. He was given a dose of a substandard Super Soldier Serum to become the new Bucky. However, the serum wasn’t the same the original Captain America received, and it eventually drove Monroe and his partner mad. The government put Monroe into suspended animation until a cure could be found.
He was eventually awakened and became a partner of the real Captain America for a while under the Nomad identity. He eventually breaks ties with Cap and wanders the country seeking adventure, helping people along the way.
There is a lot of backstory needed to introduce the character if you want to keep it close to the comics. However, if Sebastian Stan’s Winter Soldier continues on into Phase 4, Nomad would be a good foil/contrast to that character.
Another thing Marvel is good for is creating anti-heroes. Characters who would be bad guys if it wasn’t for their personal code of honor or secret heart of gold. And one of the company’s most intriguing anti-heroes is the mercenary called Terror.
Terror is a man cursed with immortal life. Centuries old, he stays alive by replacing his damaged body parts with ones he’s taken off of people he’s killed. Every time he does this, he acquires the memories, skills and abilities of his victims.
Dark? Yes, but it would definitely be a new direction for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Daimon Hellstorm/Son of Satan
If Marvel Studios is looking to shift genres for Phase 4, then supernatural horror would be one way to go. And one of Marvel’s most popular supernatural characters is Daimon Hellstorm, also known as the Son of Satan.
Nope, that is not a code name–Daimon is the actual son of Satan (or what passes as Satan in the Marvel Universe). Instead of following in his dad’s evil ways, he uses his arcane powers to stem his father’s influence on Earth.
While it is hard to see such a character in the extremely toyetic makeup of the current MCU, the trend in comic book films is the R-rating. If Disney wishes to move in that direction, this could be one way they could do it.
If you notice something in reading these blurbs, it probably will be that Marvel likes to replace its heroes with new version from time to time. This is another Thor replacement.
When Thor was banished from Earth, architect Eric Masterson was given Thor’s hammer, powers and likeness in order to take the Thunder God’s place as Earth’s protector. When Thor returned from banishment, Odin gave Masterson a mace made from the same metal and with the same properties as Thor’s hammer. He used this mace to become the hero named Thunderstrike.
There is not room for two Thor doppelgangers in the next stage of the MCU. Beta Ray Bill has more of a legacy but Thunderstrike might be the easier to introduce in the MCU.
It’s 1996. The Avengers and Fantastic Four are believed to be dead. The world looks for any superheroes to step up and take their place. Enter the Thunderbolts, a new team of heroes that burst on the scene just when everyone need them most. Slowly, they earn humanity’s trust and respect and the world starts to feel safe again. Cut to the last page of Thunderbolts #1 and we see that the team isn’t heroes at all but are instead the Masters of Evil, villains playing themselves off as heroes as part of a grand plan to take over the world.
That was me, just spoiling one of the greatest swerves in comic book history (although, after 20 years, if you were at all interested in it, it would have already been spoiled). It was also the start of one of Marvel’s best series of the 1990s, if not all time. After 20 films, there’s got to be enough bad guys that survived so they can do a version of the story. It’s a Marvel book that deserves to become a film the most.
Marvel Boy is one of Marvel’s most unique and complex characters. Many characters have gone by the name, but the version created by Grant Morrison and J.G. Jones is the one we are talking about here. He’s Noh-Varr, a Kree ensign shipwrecked on Earth who spends his exile here shifting from trying to survive on earth to trying to take it over to trying to protect it to trying to simply understand it.
If Phase 4 is trying to go cosmic, this might be a good entry level character to explore that side of the Marvel Universe.
The Sentry was marketed with one of the most inventive gimmicks of all time. Marvel claimed that the character a forgotten, never published character from the 1960s, found in a desk somewhere in Marvel’s office. The new series was presented as a revamp of the original story, a fact that fooled a lot of people.
The story itself was answered the question: what if Superman was schizophrenic. The Sentry was a hero with the power “of a million exploding suns.” He also was his own arch-enemy, the equally as powerful, The Void. The war between his two sides left The Sentry as a dangerous, unstable ally at best, one that could be easily convinced to fight for one side of the other. It’s a complex idea that could work well up on the big screen.
If Avengers 4 means the end of the MCU Avengers as we know it, why not go younger in the future? The Young Avengers were a fresh take on the Avengers concept and one of the rare modern concepts that catered to all aspects of Marvel continuity and yet still seemed fresh and new.
But it’s that tie to Marvel continuity that might make it hard to adapt. The team appear in two versions in the comics. The first has deeper continuity with Marvel’s past and ties to characters and events not introduced in the MCU yet. The second has some carry over from the first team, but has new members–including two that I mention as possible solo films in this article–which would make it easier to adapt.
Agents of Atlas
the 1950s were dead period for superhero comics. Costumed heroes fell out of flavor and concepts such as horror, war, romance and science fiction gained prominence. This isn’t to say that there weren’t concepts that could play in superhero comics. One man’s killer robot, talking ape-man and seductive siren could be another’s start of a team of heroes.
That’s the concept behind Agents of Atlas. Created by Jeff Parker and Leonard Kirk in 2006, the team was a gathering of Timely/Atlas characters from the late 1940s/1950s comics that were retroactively made into Marvel’s longest running team. The series was a blast and featured unique takes on the classic characters. It would be a fun film if Marvel chose to adapt it.
Thor: Ragnarok might have been the MCU’s next step into putting out comedy film featuring their characters. If that trend continues, then we might actually see a Nextwave film come out in our life time. The team was created by Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen to be a somewhat loving parody of superhero comics. It was such an outlandish satire of Marvel in particular that debate rages until this day whether or not the series was really in continuity or not.
With Marvel’s dominance at the box office going two decades strong and the Marvel Cinematic Universe coming into its tenth year, they are ripe for satiric parody. Marvel Studios should take the bull by the horns and poke fun at itself.
Marvel has had a great deal of success in creating teenage superheroes. I mean, they created Spider-Man, right? Well, Gravity falls right into that tradition.
He is Greg Willis, a college student who ends up with the ability to manipulate gravity after being sucked into a black hole. He tries to continue on with his life as a student at NYU while fighting crime under the guise of Gravity.
The character got quite a push from Marvel in the mid-2000s, and is still being used as a supporting character in a number of books to this very day. If Spider-Man goes back to Sony, this could be the film that taps into the same magic.
Blue Marvel’s main asset is his back story. Originally a superhero who got his powers in a lab accident in the 1960s, Adam Brashear was asked by President Kennedy to retire in the racially-charged 1962 when it was revealed that he was an African-American. He returned over 30 years later when his lab partner, thought killed in the accident that gave him his powers, returned to threaten the world with his powers.
Created by Underworld actor/writer Kevin Grevioux, the concept already has a connection to Hollywood. And since the character is one of the few old enough to have grey hair, it could appeal to an older audience and be played by an older actor. Denzel Washington, anyone?
America Chavez is an alien princess from an alternate dimension who came to Marvel’s earth to work as a superhero. She has been a member of the Young Avengers and A-Force and recently got her own comic book. She is super fast, super strong, can fly and can kick holes between dimensions.
She also has a cult following (throwing a prehistoric shark for miles will do that for you) and is one of Marvel’s newest LGBTQ characters. She might not be as established as some of the other characters on the list, but could carry a movie.
Kamala Khan, the latest Ms. Marvel, is one of Marvel’s hottest new characters. She is the first Muslim character to get her own book at Marvel, and has gained a loyal fan following over the years.
She is a teenager in Jersey City, New Jersey who discovers that she is an Inhuman when exposed to a cloud of mutagenic Terrigen Mists. She gains the power to change her shape and decides to become a superhero named Ms. Marvel.
The series is shows Kamala wrestling with her newfound powers, her obligations to her family and their religion, and the perils of a young girl coming of age. It has won numerous awards–including a Hugo. If the Marvel Studios can capture the greatness of the comic on screen, Ms. Marvel could become one of the MCU’s greatest films–if they decide to make it.