There’s a finite number of actors in this world of ours. And a seemingly infinite amount of comic book movies for them to be in. Therein lies the problem. Sometimes, actors get to double up (or sometimes triple/quadruple up) on comic book character roles. So here are some (just some) of the most notable examples of professionals bringing multiple four-color characters to the silver screen.
Honorable Mention 1: Will Smith
(Deadshot, Suicide Squad/Agent Jay, Men in Black 1-3)
As we progress into the new Willennium (as he referred to it), Will Smith's career seems to be on a downturn. He starred in the two worst movies of 2016 (Collateral Beauty and Suicide Squad), and one only hopes he'll get back to more fun movies. Movies like Men in Black, for instance.
MIB is one of those movies most people don't know was based on a comic book. But it was! The Men in Black comic is a lot darker and more insane than the film. For instance, in the films, Agent Jay only handled alien life. His comic book counterpart was responsible for handling aliens, demons, zombies, mutants, werewolves, and a buncha other weirdness. Also, Jay and Kay (and comic book-only characters Zed and Ecks) are kinda creepily authoritarian in the comics. They aren't the good guys.
The comic book MIB didn't merely neuralize those who witnessed their actions. They executed them. FUN!
Smith's other comic book role was that of Floyd Lawton, aka Deadshot, in 2016's Suicide Squad. While he's less aloof than, and lacks the charm of, his Ostrander and Yale-written comics counterpart, he's still detached and loves murder, so there we go. Smith's performance actually isn't bad, one just wishes he was written a little better.
Honorable Mention 2: Natalie Portman
(Evey, V For Vendetta/Jane Foster, Thor 1 and 2)
Man, I wish we could get Natalie Portman back into those Thor movies. Hell, give her the hammer for a bit; I'm sure she'd be up for it.
Of late, Portman has played the wonderful Jane Foster, a researcher who falls for and assists the God of Thunder, the mighty Thor. I like Foster a lot in those movies, even Thor: The Dark World, which is the worst movie in the MCU. She has a talent for playing great parts in not-awesome movies.
Speaking of which, V for Vendetta. The adaptation may miss everything about the original comic, right down to casting Evey as being way too old, but Portman gives her an innocence that strikes a chord with the comic. It's a weird movie, and there's a lot to hate about it, but Evey is not one of those hate-able things.
Plus, Portman got to be in the first Thor, a fantastic movie in which she does a great job. As the straight man to Thor's charm, she helps to strike a great balance for their relationship.
15. Mickey Rourke
(Marv, Sin City 1 and 2/Whiplash, Iron Man 2)
Man, Mickey Rourke's a good actor. He gives crazy solid performances in pretty much everything he's in. Unfortunately, his turn as Whiplash in Iron Man 2 is the exception to that rule.
Look, Iron Man 2 isn't a great movie. It's a fine movie at best, and a mediocre movie at worst. And Rourke has nothing to do in it. He barely appears and he’s overshadowed at every turn by Sam Rockwell's performance as Justin Hammer. Seriously, close your eyes and try to remember the climax of that movie. It's difficult. And not just because I haven't seen it in seven years. It's a very forgettable movie.
But you know what isn't? Sin City. Sin City is awesome. The first one. And Marv is a big part of what's so great about it. Rourke's plot line, adapted from the first ever Sin City volume, The Hard Goodbye, follows the story of Marv, a big dumb lug who gets in over his head and has to punch his way out of it.
Great performance. Great movie.
14. Ray Stevenson
(Volstagg, Thor 1 and 2/Punisher, Punisher: War Zone)
When people think The Punisher, they usually think of either Thomas Jane or Jon Bernthal. Or some weirdos think of Dolph Lundgren. But everyone forgets that Ray Stevenson also did a great job with the role in 2009's Punisher: War Zone. Solid Punisher and the film is a fun time.
Lexi Alexander's direction creates an awesome experience that depressingly didn't receive much credit or money. People do not like this movie, but it's really great. Give it a second shot; you'll like it. But Stevenson played more roles than just Frank Castle.
He's also notable for his MCU appearances as Volstagg the Voluminous in the Thor films. The Warriors Three are the bomb-dot-net, and Stevenson is excellently cast as everyone's favorite member. He has great chemistry with Fandrall, Hogun, and Sif, and he fights with the best of them.
SPECIAL BONUS: Also, he didn't originate in the comics, but Stevenson played the G.I. Joe version of Firefly in G.I. Joe: Retaliation, another fun movie people don't give the time of day. And pretty much all of Firefly's characterization comes from the Marvel GI Joe comics. So I feel he half-counts.
13. Ben Affleck
(Daredevil, Daredevil/Batman, DCEU)
He's such a great director, and a solid actor as well. Guy just makes bad choices. Daredevil was one of those. Ben not only didn't look the part of Matt Murdock, he was also backed by an awful script and a supporting cast that, for the most part, did him no favors. It's sad that his first opportunity got screwed up as hard as this one did.
Affleck certainly looks the part as Batman, and I don't mind his bat-voice. Plus, he captures the air of an older Bruce Wayne very well.
SPECIAL BONUS: While this one doesn't really count, Ben sorta got to play Superman in a good movie that came out a long time ago! 2006's Hollywoodland was about the real unsolved death of 50's Superman actor George Reeves. Affleck played Reeves, and we got a couple scenes of him in the suit that make him look damn good.
12. Doug Jones
(Abe Sapian, Hellboy 1 and 2/Silver Surfer, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer)
Doug Jones is an actor who is absolutely incredible.
His physicality in every role is impossible to look away from. Like, The Gentlemen from Buffy? That's Doug Jones. The Pale Man from Pan's Labyrinth? Also Doug Jones. And, of course, Abe Sapian. Hellboy's pal is one of the more memorable parts of both films, with his fishy charm making him a great supporting character. And he's even better in the second film.
Jones also performed the physicality (if not the voice acting) for the Silver Surfer in Tim Story's second Fantastic Four film. The Surfer certainly does look the part, and it's a shame that Jones didn't get more time to embody the sentinel of the spaceways.
SPECIAL BONUS: Jones also plays the Yeti in Henry Sellick's Monkeybone, based on the graphic novel Dark Town. The only reason this is a bonus and not an official entry is that I can't find anything saying whether or not the Yeti was in the original comic and it is seemingly impossible to actually buy a copy of Dark Town to check. That thing is hell of rare.
11. Hugo Weaving
(Red Skull, Captain America: The First Avenger/V, V For Vendetta)
I like Hugo Weaving.
Even when he's in stuff I don't like, I always like his performances. Take, for example, his role as V in V for Vendetta. That movie may be a severely misguided adaptation, but Weaving is a solid V, through and through. His acting radiates through the mask, which is a near impossible task. You can read his emotions without seeing his face, a thing we as humans are literally not programmed to do.
He also kills it as the most underappreciated MCU villain. Yeah, the Red Skull is awesome. So awesome. And again, Weaving is acting with a handicap; this time it’s what must be a couple pounds of makeup. That's a lot to work through. But again, stellar performance.
SPECIAL BONUS: While neither of these roles are strict comic book adaptations, I felt they warranted a mention. Weaving voiced Megatron in the first Transformers film, a character who, though originally a toy and later a cartoon, had a significant amount of comic book appearances both through Marvel and IDW. Also, Agent Smith from The Matrix. No, he didn't appear in any comics himself, but enough of the Matrix was cribbed from Morrison's The Invisibles that I feel he counts too.
Shots fired? I guess?
10. Jon Bernthal
(The Punisher, Daredevil/Shane Walsh, The Walking Dead/Trigon, Justice League vs. Teen Titans)
Man, Baby Driver's great. I know it has nothing to do with comics, but Jon Bernthal's in it, and I’ll never get to talk about how rad it is otherwise. Bernthal's great in that.
As he is, I assume, in the Walking Dead. He was good in the one episode I saw to write this column. Walking Dead's not my thing.
But you know what he's great in?
Daredevil Season 2. He's a phenomenal Punisher, and one I wasn't super into at first. But they nailed his appearance and characterization. I'm super duper looking forward to that Punisher Netflix series. I'm sure it'll be awesome!
Bernthal also took a turn at voicing the Demonic overlord Trigon in the animated Justice League vs. Teen Titans movie. Solid casting choice. Bernthal can be scary as hell, and his voice coming out of a giant demon's mouth is pretty rad. Good lineup of roles, psyched for Punisher.
9. Jim Carrey
(Colonel Stars and Stripes, Kick-Ass 2/Stanley Ipkiss, The Mask/The Riddler, Batman Forever)
Jim Carrey is a solid actor, especially in his dramatic roles. However, he's also a dude whose comic book roles are evenly divisible along specific lines.
First, there's the good one, as Stanley Ipkiss in The Mask. Unlike his comic book counterpart, movie Stanley was not a scary murderous psycho. Instead, he was a hilarious charmer, and that was why the movie was great. Like, if he'd straight-up been the Big Head Killer in that movie, it would have been way more of a downer. But they went wackier, and we’re all grateful for it.
His turn as the Riddler in Batman Forever fell on the meh end of the spectrum. That movie wasn't great, but he was trying his best and doing a solid Frank Gorshin impression. I might prefer a smarter Riddler, but crazy Riddler was also a valid interpretation.
And of course, on the bad end was his role as Colonel Stars and Stripes in the woeful Kick-Ass 2, which was based on the even more woeful comic book. But hey, The Mask made up for both of those lesser roles. The Mask was great.
8. Samuel L. Jackson
(Nick Fury, MCU/Richmond Valentine, Kingsman: The Secret Service/The Octopus, The Spirit)
I friggin' love Samuel L. Jackson. He just looks like he is having THE MOST fun in every movie he's in. Like, I've never had that much fun doing anything in my entire life.
Most of you know him as Nick Fury from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a role that was literally designed for him back in Mark Millar's The Ultimates. And he knocked that role out of the park; from his first cameo to his future performance in Captain Marvel, we can be assured. My favorite performance of his is either in the first Avengers film or in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Both gave him a greater amount of screen time than his normal cameo allotment.
But the role where Jackson seemed to have the most fun was as the villainous Richmond Valentine in Kingsman: The Secret Service. That movie was awesome. And Valentine was absolutely hilarious as the millennial version of a James Bond villain. His bold, lisping, joyous performance still makes me smile.
I don't want to talk about his part in The Spirit as The Octopus. It was bad, let's leave it at that.
7. Nicolas Cage
(Ghost Rider, Ghost Rider 1 and 2/Big Daddy, Kick-Ass/Dr. Tenma, Astro Boy)
I love Nicolas Cage. I love him so much.
Like, if you're bored and you need a trash movie that is SO MUCH FUN to watch, go check out Knowing. It's awesome and bad and on Netflix. You have nothing to lose. But in film, Cage has only given great performances.
He was the best part of both Ghost Rider movies. Those movies weren't the best, but he was so great in them. Especially Spirit of Vengeance, which was an actual fun movie that still I kind of like a lot.
He was also the best part of Kick-Ass, giving a faux-Adam West turn as Big Daddy, a big improvement over the original. Also, the film leaving out the twist of his origin was a smart move, as it would have made him totally unlikable.
He also popped up as Dr. Tenma, Astro Boy's father/inventor in his 2009 animated movie.
SPECIAL BONUS: This movie fell apart, but Cage was also supposed to be Superman in Tim Burton's Superman Lives. Too bad about that; I kinda would have wanted to see this one happen. It would have been weird as hell, but probably pretty fascinating too.
6. Jeffrey Dean Morgan
(The Comedian, Watchmen/Thomas Wayne, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice/Franklin Clay, The Losers/Negan, The Walking Dead)
Jeffrey Dean Morgan! I like him!
And I especially like him in his comic book roles. Unfortunately, his part in Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice was kind of a nothing role, but he looked the part of a young Thomas Wayne. Given more of a chance to do something, I think he'd be a truly great part of a better movie.
He was the best part of Watchmen for certain. Seriously, Morgan as The Comedian was one of the best casting decisions of all time. He looked like he just stepped off the page.
He was also wonderful AF as Franklin Clay, the leader of the titular squad in The Losers.
And I’ve heard that he's awesome as Negan, and nailed his big scene from the comics. Swing for the fences, dude. I'm sorry for how insensitive that joke may be to viewers of the show, but I read the comics, my dude, and that death happened years ago for me. Read that issue over Christmas at my grandparents house. I made a yelping noise.
5. Brandon Routh
(Superman, Superman Returns/Todd Ingram, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World/Dylan Dog, Dylan Dog: Dead of Night/The Atom, CW-Verse)
I love Brandon Routh. Guy is an immensely fun actor. Super underrated.
Routh's biggest role of note was as Superman in the underrated but not THAT underrated Superman Returns. It's a good movie with the best Lex Luthor casting of all time, and Routh is a good match. Seriously, great Superman performance that captured the quiet heroism very well.
On the villainous side, Routh also played the most memorable of Ramona Flowers's evil exes as the telekinetic vegan Todd Ingram in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. That movie was rad as hell, and Routh nailed the goofy tone with a hilarious performance.
However, the Italian horror comic-based Dylan Dog: Dead of Night, with Routh as the titular paranormal detective, was an unfortunate misstep that disappointed fans and non-fans alike. Not a great movie, and in fact, one of the most forgettable.
But of late he's stepped up into the role of the Atom in the DC CW-verse, first on Arrow and then in Legends of Tomorrow. Having only seen him in his Flash appearances (I'm not an Arrow fan, and haven't gotten to LoT yet), I'd say he makes a fantastic Atom, even though he starts off a little too Iron Man-y.
4. Ryan Reynolds
(Deadpool, Deadpool and X-Men Origins: Wolverine/Green Lantern, Green Lantern/Nick Walker, R.I.P.D./Hannibal King, Blade: Trinity)
Thank God for Wade Wilson. I love Ryan Reynolds, but he has the worst luck with comic book adaptations.
2011's Green Lantern almost shuttered the DCEU in its infancy and killed off any Warner executive's desire to make a fun movie. It was also awful. And while he did his best, Reynolds was the wrong choice for Hal Jordan, and no CGI costume was gonna save him.
He also co-starred in the graphic novel-based R.I.P.D., another critical flop and box office bomb that you probably don't even remember existed. He played Nick Walker, a dead NYPD officer who becomes a ghost cop with his cowboy ghost cop partner.
Reynolds also popped up in the least-liked Blade movie, Blade Trinity, as vampire hunter Hannibal King. Even his first turn as Deadpool was in the dreadful X-Men Origins: Wolverine, a movie that, to quote my girlfriend, "Nobody asked for, but everybody got."
But all was redeemed by 2016's Deadpool, a movie that was awesome and let Reynolds finally have some fun in the performance he always deserved to give.
3. Scarlett Johansson
(Black Widow, MCU/Motoko Kusanagi, Ghost in the Shell/Rebecca, Ghost World/Silken Floss, The Spirit)
Another person with way more comic book character performances on record than I'd originally thought!
The most notable is Johansson's signature role as Black Widow, a part she's played since Iron Man 2. Widow is one of the most loyal Avengers, and has been right there with the team since the beginning. She's also racked up quite a few performances with her supporting roles in the aforementioned Iron Man 2 and the two Captain America sequels.
On the other end of the spectrum was her controversial turn as Motoko Kusanagi in the American film based on anime and manga. While her casting was the source of much uproar, that wasn’t really her fault. Yes, she shouldn't have been offered the role, but she did the best she could with it.
Rebecca in the adaptation of Daniel Clowes' comic Ghost World was a better role. Clowes' stuff may not be for me, but I see its importance. And Rebecca has struck a chord with a generation of disaffected youths.
But back on the negative end, we have Johansson's turn as Silken Floss in The Spirit. Floss was the surgeon/nuclear physicist partner of The Spirit's archnemesis, The Octopus, and that’s all I'm gonna say. Not a great movie.
2. Josh Brolin
(Cable, Deadpool 2/Jonah Hex, Jonah Hex/Dwight McCarthy, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For/Thanos, MCU/Agent K, Men in Black 3)
I like Josh Brolin. He’s good in many things.
Unfortunately, this poor dude has been in some dreck. He signed to play Cable in the upcoming Deadpool 2, which should be a great role. Brolin playing up the straight man thing to Ryan Reynolds' wackier Deadpool will be a good time. And while he hasn't had much of a chance to show it off, his limited appearances tell me he'll be a pretty rad Thanos. I'm looking forward to watching him in the upcoming Avengers film. It'll be great!!
Buuuuuuut his other two parts have been lesser than. Jonah Hex was one of the forgotten pre-DCEU DC movies that managed to screw up so much at such a deep level by giving its protagonist superpowers for literally no reason. Just make him Jonah Hex. People like Jonah Hex. People don't need him to talk to the dead or whatever.
Also, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For was a boring, deeply uninteresting slog. Brolin was cast as Dwight, by far the least interesting of Sin City's revolving band of protagonists. The combination wasn't pretty.
He also played a young Agent Kay in the lackluster, but still better than the second one, Men in Black threequel. But hey, Cable and Thanos are great roles!
1. Chris Evans
(Captain America, MCU/Jensen, The Losers/Curtis Everett, Snowpiercer/Lucas Lee, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World/Human Torch, Fantastic Four 1 and 2/Casey Jones, TMNT)
Woof. SIX characters. Ok, let's break them down.
First we have Casey Jones in 2007's TMNT. Casey was from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics, and first appeared in the Raphael Micro Series #1 in 1985. The animated film was arguably the best Turtles movie, and Chris Evans made a fantastic Casey Jones, acting as a partner to Raphael's nighttime vigilante activities as The Nightwatcher. Casey fought crime, and was the first to realize Raphael was going solo.
In 2010's The Losers (based on 2003-2006’s Vertigo series), Evans played the team's resident hacker Jensen. Both the comic and the movie were criminally underrated, so do check them out. And Evans had the all-time best scene in that film. You'll know it when you see it.
Evan's second-most famous role as a comic book character was most likely that of Johnny Storm, the Human Torch, in the 2005 Fantastic Four movie and its 2007 sequel. While the movies were sub-par, Evans was well cast and had fun as the hot-headed character.
In Bong Joon-ho's 2013 film Snowpiercer (based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige), Evans played Curtis Everett, the leader of the Shoe revolution on board the Snowpiercer, a constantly traveling train that kept humanity safe from an apocalyptic ice age. The movie was also great as hell; check it out, especially if you liked Okja, Joon-ho's most recent film.
In 2010's Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (based on Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim series of graphic novels) Evans played Scott's second opponent and Ramona's second evil ex Lucas Lee, a star actor and action hero who battled Scott using his rad skateboarding skills. It’s hilarious, and director Edgar Wright just made the awesome Baby Driver, so go back if you missed this one.
Finally, we have Steve Rogers, Captain America. The role to end all roles. Evans absolutely owned this part. He embodied the spirit of the brave and kind hero. I love Chris Evans. Captain America is one hell of a part, and he knocked it out of the park.
And there you have it. This list could have been twice or even three times as long as it is, but I had to end it somewhere. I'm sure you all can come up with a bunch that I left out, so let me know! Maybe I'll do another one of these!