As the Marvel Cinematic Universe progresses, it's slowly leaving a huge backlog of characters and concepts floating in its wake. At this point, it’s truly reached comic book levels of random s**t floating around, just waiting for some new writer to pick it up. But a lot of the characters – especially the villains – are pretty done and gone.
The history of comic book movies springs from the history of action movies, and action movies have a pretty distinct pattern of the villain dying at the end of the film. Iron Monger dies at the end of Iron Man (2008) because The Joker died at the end of Batman (1989) because Hans Gruber died at the end of Die Hard. It's all the same pattern.
But a handful of MCU villains pulled off a miracle and survived their first appearances. Some have returned, some probably never will, but the chance is always there, and we should try not to miss out on getting more mileage out of them. So, if we're picking villains to make nice big surprise returns, I can think of a few good contenders.
WARNING: THIS LIST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR. DO NOT PRETEND I DIDN'T WARN YOU, BECAUSE I’M WARNING YOU RIGHT NOW, IN ALL CAPS, BOLD, AND EVERYTHING.
10. The Vulture
Speaking of Batman '89"¦Michael Keaton rules so hard.
Keaton’s work made Adrian Toomes one of the best recent Marvel Cinematic Universe villains. He's both sympathetic and a total tool. He has some good points, but he’s wrong about his solutions. Plus, he's the perfect depiction of a hypocritical revolutionary. Yeah, he has a point about the rich not caring about the poor, but the dude lives in a mansion and drives a luxury car. He literally complains that Tony Stark is too rich to do anything for the people other than fly around in an armored suit for his own benefit"¦At the same time, he’s too rich to do anything for people other than fly around in an armored suit for his own benefit.
And it’s a terrifying flying armored suit. That vulture helmet is creepy as all get out, and I want to see waaaayyyyy more of it. How in the hell did they make the Vulture scary? I don’t know, but they did. And he ends that movie still alive and in jail. And while it sounds like he might be over his feud with Spider-Man, that doesn't preclude him from taking on some other heroes.
I have an idea of where I'd like to see him next, and while I won't say now because I want to get into it in a future article, let's just say it involves justice like lightning.
9. Red Skull
Well, I already warned you about Infinity War spoilers. So if you're still here, I'm not taking the blame.
But that was crazy, right? Red Skull is still alive. I mean, he's a sad space hermit living on a rock and protecting a smaller, more important rock, so he's not exactly the universe's greatest threat. But, hey, he's alive. And while Hugo Weaving ain't coming back any time soon, they compensated incredibly well for that! I wish Marvel still did One-Shots, because I would absolutely love to see one about what the Red Skull does with all his free time on that lonely-ass planet.
Does he have to stay there now? And just tell people, "Sorry, dude, you're too late. Somebody already got the Soul Stone. Could you please give me a ride to a planet with Wifi? I wanna see how that whole World War II thing went."
I may be the only one who wants that.
Lol, bet you forgot about this guy.
Depending on how you're counting, Tim Roth's Abomination is like the second or third-ever Marvel Cinematic Universe villain, and no one remembers him! Blonsky got pumped up on a serum that was trying to remake Captain America but it"¦uh"¦it didn’t do that. Instead, it made him look like someone vacuum-sealed a Stretch Armstrong after filling it with gears. It’s pretty gross.
But he lived through the end of his movie! It was mentioned on Agents of SHIELD that he was doing hard time in an Alaskan facility. But that was some time ago – before SHIELD fell, if my memory’s correct. I know we don't exactly have a new Hulk movie on the horizon, but he's a big, burly villain for anyone else to punch around whenever they want.
As always, it’s on the table if they want it.
Not all MCU villains got to wear neat costumes in their film debuts. Some of ’em just showed up and were punched into unconsciousness, and then the credits rolled.
Mac Gargan, aka Scorpion, was one of those. He popped up in Spider-Man: Homecoming as a known criminal who was preparing to do a deal with the Vulture for superpowerful villain tech. But before he could get his hands on a cool tail or some claws, Spider-Man hopped in and beat them all up.
He’s mostly played as a pretty crazy dude in the film, and the Prowler even specified that he was too crazy to work with. The Prowler does business with a guy who flies around on huge turbined wings and a guy who shoots lightning.
Scorpion is a special case. It would be awesome to see him make a comeback as a badass member of Spider-Man's rogues gallery.
Give that guy a mech suit and let him play.
6. The Leader
Samuel Sterns was a scientist waaaaayyyyyy back in The Incredible Hulk (2008). He used the online handle Mr. Blue to communicate with Bruce Banner, who was Mr. Green (Get it? Lol.). But when Bruce eventually found Samuel, it became clear that the scientist did not exactly want to help out.
No, he wanted to see what made the Hulk tick, and maybe take advantage of it a bit. That"¦That did not go so well for him. He got smacked around and gained one hell of an open head wound. And then some Hulk juice landed in it, and his head started to grow and mutate and…We never saw him again.
Look, I know it's a longshot, but the dude is out there, ripe for the picking for any writer who wants him.
5. Justin Hammer
Sam Rockwell rules in movies. He's so great. And he's even super great in Iron Man 2, a movie that isn't very good.
But his performance as Justin Hammer is pretty killer. A knock-off imitation Tony Stark is a great idea, and the specific pieces in play here really do work. Dear Lord, I love his bad fake tan. It's such genius character work.
Again, Hammer’s one of the few MCU villains who escape death at the end of their movies. Instead, he was arrested for his crimes involving Whiplash and the Hammer Tech drones, and wound up in Seagate Prison.
We actually saw him again after that! He popped up in the All Hail the King Marvel One-Shot, still an inmate in the prison. It's very likely that he's being kept out of general population, since his presence in the jail seemed more like a rumor during Luke Cage flashbacks.
4. Batroc the Leaper
And here’s yet another villain who was denied his time to shine. Georges Batroc, aka Batroc the Leaper, is the master of the French kickboxing art of savate. Plus, he owns both the best mustache and worst accent in all of comic bookdom. In fact, he did get a filmed appearance.
That's right! Remember that Algerian mercenary from the beginning of Winter Soldier? The dude on the boat? That was Batroc!!! Also, the boat was the Lemurian Star, a reference to Lemuria, Attuma’s underwater city from the comics. Neat little reference, there.
Anyway, Batroc put up a fight against Cap, but he did wind up the loser. SHIELD arrested him, but he's still out there.
Maybe Batroc, Scorpion, and the Leader can go have a party and be real villains.
3. The Prowler
Man, Spider-Man: Homecoming is just chock-full of villains who don't live up to their full potential, isn't it?
At one point in the film, Spider-Man disrupts an arms deal between the Vulture's crew and burglar Aaron Davis. He traces Davis and interrogates him a bit before leaving him be.
In the Ultimate Universe (and ours, too – I guess maybe Secret Wars did weird things to the timeline), Davis is better known as The Prowler, uncle of Miles Morales, the Spider-Man. Miles even gets a mention in the movie. But Davis is still out there, ready to get his hands on some tech and Prowler up. They could even take cues from the Hobie Brown Prowler, and let him redeem himself as a hero if they wanted.
Look, all I’m saying is that with a rising star like Donald Glover playing him, Marvel might wanna give The Prowler a bigger role in the future of the franchise.
2. The Grandmaster
More Jeff Goldblum, please. I would like much more of that, if at all possible.
The Grandmaster is an incredibly weird character, and Taika Watiti leaned into that hard in Thor: Ragnarok. An Elder of the Universe who enjoys contests and competitions more than anything else, he's peak idle rich.
I'm a little that we didn't get to see him hanging out with his bro the Collector. Del Toro and Goldblum together is just too much weird to fit on one screen. True, the Grandmaster is in a pretty bad spot at the end of Ragnarok, but he's not dead. He's almost definitely in prison on Sakaar, but that just gives him time to plan his revenge on Hulk and Thor.
And maybe he'll draw even more heroes into his game next time.
1. Baron Zemo
Baron Zemo is a phenomenal villain. Thankfully, they left him alive at the end of Captain America: Civil War.
Although he’s locked up under heavy lock and key, the Sokovian baddie still has the ability to do some damage. I’m hoping that if that happens, he’ll put on that sweet purple mask.
Or maybe a different costume? Maybe he can come back as Citizen V. Maybe we can get some Justice Like Lightning. MCU Thunderbolts would make up for every flaw in the film series. Plus, it might mean that we’d see a good Thunderbolts comic again, something that hasn't happened since, like, 2014. Charles Soule's run, I think? Yeah, that sounds about right. Anyway, Zemo and Thunderbolts would be a match made in heaven.
So there you have it: ten villains who could return if Marvel wanted to do that sorta thing. Hopefully, some of them will pop up sooner rather than later.