Founded in 1939, Timely Comics changed its name to Marvel Comics in 1961 and has been publishing fantasy action and sci-fi stories told with sequential art this entire time. So even if sometimes it feels like the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) — which, let’s remember, only consists of 23 films thus far — is running low on Marvel Comics characters to potentially incorporate into live-action media, that’s far from the case.
Thanks to decades-old deals with competing film studios, Marvel hasn’t been able to add some of its most famous properties into the shared cinematic continuity until recently. For instance, plans for the inaugural MCU Fantastic Four film were only announced last year. We know Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) director Jon Watts is at the helm, but as of now, nothing else. For all we know, we’re still potentially years away from the MCU versions of heavyweight FF-affiliated characters like the Silver Surfer and Galactus.
The same goes quadruple for the X-Men, who carried their mostly-profitable movie franchise with 20th Century Fox for 20 years. If the overlords of the MCU decide to give each major X-Man a movie trilogy, like they more-or-less did for the Avengers, then the MCU has enough raw material to carry on well past 2050.
But let’s take an overview of all the Marvel characters for whom the MCU has, as of this writing, no stated agenda. Get comfortable. This will take a few minutes…
We’re squishing all the mutants together, only ‘cos an “X-Men Characters Not Yet Confirmed For the MCU” list could include literally every mutant and mutant-adjacent individual except for Deadpool. That’s enough to be its feature list a few times over, at least.
As of now, just shy of two years after the Disney-Fox merger brought the X-Men and their associated IPs into the same corporate fold as Iron Man and Thor, we just learned that Deadpool 3 transpires under the MCU umbrella. But will the Merc with a Mouth encounter any of the old gang from his previous two movies? Will Deadpool 3 feature Colossus, Negasonic Teenage Warhead, Cable, or Domino?
But honestly, how likely is it that Marvel honchos roll out any major X-Men in Deadpool 3? Can you imagine if they debuted a character as famous as Wolverine in an already-crowded third movie in a series headlined by a different, not-as-famous superhero? That would be insane and exactly what they did last time they were in basically this situation.
Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and their pals
Not unlike the situation with the X-Men, it’s probably inaccurate to say Marvel has “no plans” to incorporate any characters who occupy Netflix’s erstwhile (and now dormant) division of the MCU. Rumors are circulating that Charlie Cox’s Daredevil might appear in the next Spider-Man film. But we should stress that nobody credible has confirmed that rumor, so if Matt Murdock doesn’t stop by to punch some folks in Untitled Spider-Man Sequel (2021), don’t yell at us.
But it remains the case that, technically, the MCU has no announced plans for Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, The Punisher, Elektra, The Kingpin, or any affiliated imaginary person who appears in one of their canceled Netflix shows. But because those characters are all popular and Marvel likes to make money, it’s safe to assume we’ll see some or all of them in another live-action capacity somewhere down the line.
Spider-People & Spider-Related People
The 2015 co-licensing arrangement between Sony and Marvel Studios yielded Peter Parker’s MCU premiere in Captain America: Civil War, plus Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019), and even though it almost didn’t happen, the upcoming untitled third Spidey-centric MCU installment.
But what about Venom (2018)? At first, it appeared to be a strictly-Sony project. At the time, it was understood that the studio — who bought the film rights to Spider-Man and his associated characters in the ’90s — was forging its own Marvel cinematic universe (note our deliberate use of lower-case letters there) using Spidey’s supporting cast.
But hold on a second; If the upcoming Morbius (2021) starring Jared Leto as Marvel’s resident bat-man is not, in any way, attached to the shared continuity that brought about Avengers: Endgame (2019), then what the heck is Michael Keaton, presumably as Vulture, doing in the Morbius trailer? If the MCU’s Vulture is connected to Morbius, and Morbius is connected to Venom, does that retroactively make Tom Hardy the MCU’s Venom after all?
Beta Ray Bill
The bizarre part about Beta Ray Bill’s physical absence thus far in the MCU is we know the Korbinite thunderer exists, in some form, within the fictional framework. As we see in Thor: Ragnarok (2017), someone on Sakaar saw fit to carve a likeness of Marvel’s other hammer-wielding dispenser of justice across Grandmaster Palace. That’s pretty much Sakaar’s answer to Mount Rushmore.
Beta Ray Bill, created by Walt Simonson, first appeared in comics in the early 1980s. He wears a mask-type thing that makes him look a little like a horse, and he fights with a hammer Odin gave him for being frickin’ awesome. In recent years, BRB shows up frequently in Donny Cates’ cluster of loosely-connected series, joining the Guardians of the Galaxy 2019 comics, and stopping by to help out in the presently ongoing Thor run by Cates and Nic Klein.
Someday, Chris Hemsworth will either retire or decide he’s worth more money than Disney wants to pay him. When that day comes, there’s a CG horse monster from space who’s simply itching to pick up the magic hammer.
Considering her massive spike in popularity over the last decade, the fact that we haven’t already seen a Squirrel Girl film trilogy feels downright zany.
For a while, we expected her to make her live-action debut in a New Warriors TV series, but that project fell apart shortly before Marvel Television ceased to exist in 2019.
That’s unfortunate, but with due respect to Night Thrasher and Speedball, maybe the reason the show didn’t get picked up was that they called it New Warriors instead of the intuitive choice, Squirrel Girl and The New Warriors. That’s like dropping the “Spider-Man” out of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends and acting surprised when no network wants to buy a show called Amazing Friends.
Doreen Green first appeared in 1991, but only became a certifiable marquee superhero when The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Ryan North and Erica Henderson rapidly ascended to unexpected prominence in 2015.
Unbeatable merges a kid-friendly, positive outlook with the winking self-awareness of early Howard The Duck stories from the 1970s. Kevin Feige and his associates haven’t found the right moment to merge the unique sensibility of Unbeatable with the MCU’s far less idiosyncratic approach. Squirrel Girl appears regularly in Marvel Rising animated endeavors, so at least Marvel’s not leaving all its Squirrel Girl media transfer money on the table.
Marvel Boy (Noh-Varr)
Created by Grant Morrison and J.G. Jones and first appearing in Marvel Boy #1 (2000), Noh-Varr is already pretty much a movie star without any movies. His powers include mind-control saliva, explosive fingernail clippings, superhuman strength, and reflexes, plus he’s got all sorts of space weapons with which he can laser the face-off of virtually any cosmic or terrestrial threat. He tends to use the guns and the punches a lot more than the saliva and the fingernails, to be honest. But having a ton of obviously impractical powers is kind of neat, right?
Noh-Varr’s a Kree from another dimension, so integrating him into the MCU wouldn’t be particularly complicated. We see the Kree for the first time in Captain Marvel (2019) and it kind of looks like Feige and co. plan to add alternate dimensions into the MCU’s conceptual stew with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022). So basically anytime the MCU overlords decide they need an arrogant weirdo from outer space to show up and kick everyone’s stupid butt, they need to look no further.
While his multi-solar system spanning police force had an MCU moment in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Richard Rider himself has not. This is despite being the space cop most heavily featured in the comics, and a member of the currently ongoing ink and wood pulp iteration of the Guardians. Likewise, the second-most (or maybe most?) famous and youngest human to be counted amongst the Nova Corps, Sam Alexander, has no registered or expected MCU appearances as of yet. There’s even a third Nova flying through Marvel’s outer space; Although she’s a herald of Galactus, not a member of the Nova Corps, and the shared namesake is just a coincidence.
Comics are one thing. But Marvel chief creative officer Kevin Feige hinted recently to Comicbook.com that Nova could be part of the MCU’s future. He’s even come close once or twice. Yet if Disney spends millions of dollars to film Richard Rider and/or Sam Alexander flying around space blowing things up, they’re going to want to minimize the chance the anyone in the audience saying, “Hey…Isn’t this kind of like Green Lantern?” And since the Nova Corps is essentially Felicia Hardy to the Green Lantern Corps’ Selina Kyle, that’s a tall order.
Amora The Enchantress
The first images that pop up in a search for “Enchantress, Comics,” all depict the DC baddie played by Cara Delevingne in Suicide Squad (2016), so there’s a pretty obvious reason why one of Thor’s most significant adversaries doesn’t appear in any existing or announced Thor movie. You might expect a sorceress with bedroom eyes for the Avenger’s Norse God of Handsomeness to fit into the upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder, scheduled for release in 2022, but the name “Amora the Enchantress” appears nowhere on the cast list.
However, if we take a gander over at the IMDB page for Disney+’s upcoming Loki series, we see Sophia Di Martino and Gugu Mbatha-Raw announced as cast members. Both actors would be age-appropriate to play Amora, and neither has a publicly-designated character as of the moment. But let’s be careful about wandering into speculative territory, here. From what we know, none of the fictional denizens of the MCU have ever heard of The Enchantress, and perhaps they never will.
While not the most celebrated creation of Stan Lee and Gene Colan from the 1960s, Leap-Frog makes a terrific example of a character who can be as silly or as gut-wrenchingly awful as the storytellers decide he needs to be.
Vincent Patilio dresses up as a frog, and the springs on his boots allow him to jump tremendous heights. He uses this disguise and its attached gadgetry to commit petty theft. Compared to the planet and/or galaxy-threatening types like Galactus and Doctor Doom, Leap-Frog is nothing. But in the Daredevil arc titled Wake Up by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist David Mack, we see Patilio from the perspective of his young son, who Patilio routinely abuses. From that angle, Leap-Frog easily matches the menace of the Marvel Universe’s biggest bands. In some ways, from the child’s perspective, he’s worse. At least with Victor Von Doom, you don’t have to see him at the dinner table the day after he beats you senseless.
Wake Up might be too gritty for the generally Disney-friendly Marvel to adapt directly, but then again, comic book sociopaths in ridiculous outfits have a pretty good track record when it comes to successfully transferring to other mediums.
Internet rumors regarding Heather Douglas’ future cinematic status get a little inconsistent. In the past, the star-hopping telepath has been written off as too gay for Disney’s red state-friendly sensibilities. But now we see rumors that Drax the Destroyer’s in-comics daughter might become his onscreen daughter as soon as the third Guardians movie. Marvel Studios hasn’t declared so much as a syllable regarding its publishing line’s second-most famous bald mind reader. But according to speculation, she’s either never going to be in the MCU under any circumstances, or she’s probably in the next Guardians pic. There might even be a third possibility nobody’s even thought of yet!
But it’s worth keeping in mind that the comics version of Mantis — originally a human prostitute/martial arts master/racist stereotype — is a pretty substantial departure from her movie counterpart. Meanwhile, Moondragon in the comics has always been a telepath who wears a lot of green and spends most of her time in outer space. So while Moondragon’s never directly sauntered into the MCU, she might have had an indirect influence on the movie version of Mantis.
Netflix managed to put a gritty, realistic-ish spin on The Owl and The Gladiator, but apparently, some Daredevil villains were too goofy to transfer to live-action streaming television in 2015. Among those: Stilt-Man, a ne’er-do-well whose suit enables him to become very tall. When you think about it, his monolithic metal legs can do major damage; and the prospect of somebody with his abilities picking you up and dropping you is genuinely unsettling. But despite encountering Spider-Man, Daredevil, Thor, Iron Man, and other members of the Marvel superhero roster since his debut in the late 1960s, we’ve seen no Stilt-Man in the MCU.
The most interesting thing about Stilt-Man isn’t even his singular approach to super crime. Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko co-created just about every Marvel character to emerge from the publisher’s 1960s boom period. But Stilt-Man was created by Wally Wood, making him maybe his era’s the only recognizable name for which none of the aforementioned three luminaries share any credit.
Cosmic Ghost Rider
Our basic assumption about Disney is that it primarily exists to make lots of money. But perhaps it has cryptic ulterior agendas, and we should all spend a lot of time guessing what those ulterior agendas could be, and doing stuff like looking for hidden Satanic messages in Winnie the Pooh cartoons, filming ourselves doing this, and posting the footage on YouTube, just like a completely sane person would do.
See, Disney executives want us to believe they only want more money. But if that’s true, why haven’t they started production on the first of presumably multiple Cosmic Ghost Rider films?
Willed into existence by writer Donny Cates and artist Geoff Shaw, we saw this spin of a few old favorites for the first time in 2018. Originating from an alternate universe, this version of Frank Castle sold his soul to Mephisto and became his world’s version of the Ghost Rider, then signed up to be a herald of Galactus. So he’s The Punisher mixed with Ghost Rider mixed with the Silver Surfer. Cosmic Ghost Rider dives to the absolute nadir of stupidity, then drills further down until breaking ground into “So Stupid He’s The Most Awesome Ever” status. The cinematic potential here is positively limitless.
We’re putting the whole team here to save space, but it almost feels like we’re doing the only Canadian crime-fighting squad a disservice. Puck and Sasquatch both probably have as much or more longevity and impact on Marvel Comics continuity than some of the more currently pop-culturally prominent characters on this list. Meanwhile, as of now, there’s no indigenous representation in the MCU lineup, which is an issue Snowbird, Shaman, and Talisman could help resolve.
Alpha Flight plays a significant part in the pre-X-Men phase of Wolverine’s superhero career, and the squad often includes mutant siblings Aurora and Northstar; perhaps we should also note that Marvel readers met Alpha Flight for the first time in Uncanny X-Men #120 (1979). Maybe Fox’s claim over the X-Men movie rights precluded the Knights of the Maple Leaf from ever stopping by Stark Tower to say “Eh.”
While that licensing deal no longer exists, Marvel announced no Alpha Flight-related live-action intentions.
Imagine the following hypothetical scenario: Someone at DC fills out the wrong copyright registration form, and it allows an opportunistic writer at Marvel to create a character called “Superwoman” without DC having any grounds for legal action. Let’s say Marvel’s Superwoman develops a cult following over the years, but never approaches the popularity of the publisher’s major properties. Now, with everything else in the world being the same, would we in 2021 not understand why Marvel Studios might not be in a huge hurry to make a movie about their intellectual property, Superwoman?
Of course, Simon Williams is a former businessman and sometimes professional actor-stuntman with ion-based powers who has nothing in common with Princess Diana of Themyscira. But to offer a possible explanation as to why Williams has yet to show up in the MCU, the similarity in sobriquets might be too confusing for a typical moviegoer who doesn’t arrive at the theater with tons of comics trivia preloaded into their brain. That, however, didn’t stop director James Gunn from nearly giving him a cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, with Nathan Fillion portraying Williams on a series of movie posters in a scene that was ultimately cut from the film for pacing. Still, it’s nice to know that Wonder Man does exist, somewhere, in the MCU.
If Rick Jones never wanders around Bruce Banner’s bomb testing site like an oblivious hippie, then Bruce Banner never gets exposed to the gamma rays that turn him into the Hulk. That fact alone — never mind his connections to Captain America and Captain Mar-Vell — make Rick Jones an under-discussed denizen of Marvel Comics continuity. As far as his MCU presence, it’s not entirely unlike Beta Ray Bill or Man-Thing; His name appears briefly on a computer screen in The Avengers (2012), so we know he’s off doing his thing somewhere in Marvel’s movie world. But we still haven’t seen him.
We see a trend here. Rick Jones doesn’t appear in any existing MCU movies, and DC blows Jimmy Olsen’s brains out at the beginning of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016). The movie studios simply don’t feel like utilizing teen or man-child superhero sidekicks (usually) without their own sets of powers or crime-fighting alter egos. But sometimes, Jones does have powers. So maybe when he finally saunters into the MCU, it will be in the form of A-Bomb or The Abomination or one of his other former aliases.
The notion of Gwenpool joining the ranks of the MCU raises many questions. For starters, if she began her fictional life as an alternate universe combination of Deadpool and Spider-Gwen, does she fall into the category of X-Men-affiliated characters, or Spider-Man-affiliated characters? Does the fact that her real name was eventually revealed as Gwendolyn Poole, not Gwen Stacy, make any difference? We would pretty much have to ask Marvel’s lawyers to find out if Sony has the film rights to Gwenpool, and those folks don’t return our phone calls anymore. But we think Gwenpool’s current status as a completely un-utilized live-action property should change.
Remember that shot in Avengers: Endgame (2019) when all the female characters huddle up to support whatever Captain Marvel’s doing with the Infinity Gauntlet at that moment? It accidentally showcases a serious problem. Most of the male heroes in the MCU are known for mid-battle quips and jokes. Meanwhile, except Mantis, Okoye, and Shuri — the latter two both adept at the dry sense of humor oft-associated with Wakandan comedy — none of the female heroes have any pre-existing reputation for being funny. The presence of Gwenpool in this shared movie continuity would diminish this funny-female problem instantaneously. (Assuming Scarlet Witch, She-Hulk, and/or Ms. Marvel don’t resolve the issue first on their respective Disney+ shows, which they very well might.)
In the comics nowadays, Hulkling is more widely recognized as Dorrek VIII, Emperor of the Kree-Skrull Alliance. Just think about how powerful and important the American president is, multiply that times outer space, and you get a rough idea of what the son of Mar-Vell has on his plate. He’s also noteworthy as half of one of Marvel’s most prominent LGBTQ couples, alongside Young Avengers teammate Wiccan.
The MCU’s version of the Skrulls only popped up for the first time in Captain Marvel (2019), which makes them a pretty new addition compared to other components of the MCU. Coincidentally (or not?) other members of Hulkling’s generation of Young Avengers are even more recent arrivals: Kate Bishop makes her debut in the Disney+ Hawkeye series, and America Chavez is set to premiere in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, but it doesn’t seem like either of those projects have completed filming yet. So while the MCU as an organization seems to be sliding towards Hulkling’s side of the Marvel canon, his fans hoping for a live-action version will probably have to be patient.
Spoiler warning: WandaVision has tapped into one of Wanda Maximoff’s best known and darkest storylines from the comics — the birth of her twin sons, Tommy and Billy, with the boys, at press time, aging 10 years in the space of just two episodes. We don’t exactly know yet how much of the boys’ comic book history will be utilized for the show, but it’s safe to say that their journey is probably going to be a bumpy one.
Nevertheless, both sons (or versions of them) ended up as superheroes at one point in the Marvel canon, serving with the Young Avengers. As for which one could potentially stick around in the MCU, well, Speed (Tommy) seems pretty redundant when multiple superheroes with the power to run fast have already attained household name status. But Wiccan (William) could add a new element to the Scarlet Witch’s MCU saga, plus his headgear makes him an instant hit with Naruto fans.
A handful of writers and artists, all socially acquainted and working for the same two companies (Marvel and DC), created an overwhelming majority of the prominent superhero characters and stories of the last 60 years. The actual story is confusing, but in a TL;DR sense, we can say high-level professional and creative incest is the explanation for Man-Thing mucking about the swamplands of the Marvel Universe. Much in the same way the name “Wonder Man” calls up images of a more famous DC character in the minds of casual moviegoers, a Man-Thing film would have difficulty shaking comparisons to Wes Craven and Adrienne Barbeau’s ill-fated Swamp Thing (1982).
But that hasn’t quite kept the creature formerly known as Dr. Ted Sallis out of the MCU. His likeness appears in Thor: Ragnarok, alongside tributes to Beta Ray Bill, Ares, and Bi-Beast on the GrandMaster Palace on planet Sakaar.
But wait…if Man-Thing, Beta Ray Bill, Ares, and Bi-Beast are all celebrated as champions of Sakaar’s contest, doesn’t that mean Hulk had to have defeated and possibly killed one of those fan favorites too become the current champion? Hulk didn’t kill Man-Thing…did he?
Discussions about superhero comics in the ’80s and ’90s tend to focus on the grimdark, violent, “realistic” Watchman and Dark Knight knockoffs that littered comic shops and action figure aisles at toy stores. Meanwhile, we tend to overlook the snarky self-parody that also spun out from Watchmen. Rorschach and Dr. Manhattan made a bigger splash than Nite-Owl, but that doesn’t mean Nite-Owl influenced anybody.
First seen in 1988 and created by Tom DeFalco and Spider-Man architect Steve Ditko, Robbie Baldwin has powers related to kinetic energy that allow him to bounce off stuff. He can also cause the mid-air appearance of multicolored balls similar to the plastic spheres often used to fill the so-called “ball pits” that bring delight to us all.
Baldwin changed his alias and costume to Penance following the unfortunate events that led to the original “Civil War” storyline but eventually smartened up and changed back into Speedball. Like Squirrel Girl, Speedball would have made his debut in the New Warriors TV series. Since that didn’t pan out, Marvel’s bound to give him another try, sooner or later.
While this multi-solar system society of technologically advanced humanoids is historically tangled up with X-Men mythology, we couldn’t help but notice Fox uses a lesser-known alien race to fill the Shi’ar’s role in X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019). Did that decision have anything to do with the ambiguous nature of the Shi’ar’s licensing rights? We have no idea! But it’s a speculation that’s as good as any.
The MCU pulls a lot of source material from the cosmic corner of the comics, so we have every reason to believe Majestrix Lilandra, Deathbird, Gladiator, and the rest will make their presence felt once the MCU gets rolling with the X-Men. But there are all kinds of good reasons why we haven’t seen them yet. In a context that isn’t centered on Jean Grey’s possession by an omnipotent evil firebird, the Shi’ar are Kryptonians with a home planet that hasn’t exploded. In a vacuum, they don’t win a ton of points for originality.
Let’s make sure we understand the situation correctly: Darkhawk wears a suit of armor that shoots lasers, kind of like Iron Man. That suit includes retractable claws, very similar to the claws that pop out of Wolverine’s forearms. And this suit is generated by an amulet that he discovered while being chased by thugs affiliated with organized crime, much in the way Danny Ketch stumbles upon the enchanted motorcycle that turns him into Ghost Rider. If all these things are so, then why hasn’t Marvel sued itself for copyright infringement yet? Clearly, in this case, Marvel blatantly ripped off a heap of its own best ideas and deserves to be compensated by itself for this intellectual injustice.
Joking aside, Darkhawk’s costume — though reminiscent of a similar dark-hued vigilante with a winged-animal theme — is among the most memorable to emerge from the zany early ’90s. An MCU version of Darkhawk might require a power set and origin story overhaul, but that doesn’t make it an inherently bad idea.