Clockwise from bottom left: Mr. Sinister (Powers of X/Artist: R.B. Silva), Captain Britain (Excalibur/Artists: Mahmud Asrar and Matthew Wilson ), Miles Morales (Marvel Tales/Artist: Joshua “Sway” Swayby), and Spider-Woman (Spider-Woman/Artist: Jung-Geun Yoon)
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been expanding ever since Tony Stark first put on his Mark I armor, and it shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. With plans for Phase Five and beyond recently announced at San Diego Comic-Con, the shared universe based on the world of Marvel Comics is set to release multiple films and interconnected Disney+ TV series each year for the foreseeable future. So if you like the MCU, it feels like the ride is still gaining speed.
Each new project, of course, brings the opportunity for new characters to join the MCU and, in many cases, enter a live-action adaptation for the first time. Marvel characters were leaping to the big and small screens even before the dawn of the MCU, but Marvel Comics has been telling stories continuously since the debut of the Fantastic Four in 1961. That means decades of stories, and thousands of characters with live-action potential, are still on the horizon.
With the recently announced Secret Wars, The Kang Dynasty, and Thunderbolts films on the way, we can’t help but wonder: Which other comic book characters are a good fit for the MCU, and how could they suit the expanding narrative as it weaves new threads into bigger stories? The possibilities are endless, but The A.V. Club has some ideas. From a hulked-out teenage supergenius to an underrated villain team, we’ve assembled a list of 15 Marvel characters who are worthy of a live-action debut in the MCU.
Awesome Hulk #1 (Artist: Frank Cho)
It’s pretty clear from shows like Hawkeye, Ms. Marvel, and the upcoming Ironheart that the MCU is focused on beefing up its roster of younger heroes after years of focusing on a core group of adults. There are, of course, plenty of characters who fit this bill (one of which we’ll get to in a moment), but one of the most exciting is Amadeus Cho. His time in the Marvel Universe is still less than two decades, but in just a few years he’s made a big impact and done a lot of cool stuff.
A supergenius Korean-American teenager who gets wrapped up in superhero affairs, Amadeus is best known initially as a sidekick, partnering with heroes like the Hulk and Hercules for his early adventures before eventually becoming a Hulk himself. In his time as the “Totally Awesome Hulk,” Amadeus distinguishes himself as a character who truly loves being big and green and isn’t afraid to flirt as often as possible even while battling supervillains. He’s a blast to read about, he’d fit right into a show like She-Hulk or a film featuring the recently introduced Hercules, and perhaps best of all, he’s highly adaptable. So even if he’s not a Hulk, Amadeus Cho could be one of the MCU’s next great teen heroes. And while he’s reportedly set to debut in the Spider-Man: Freshman Year animated series, a live-action version of the character would be a welcome addition.
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 5) #20 (Artists: Cory Smith, Mark Morales, and Erick Arciniega)
Not every supervillain can set out to level a city or wipe out trillions of lives across the universe. Sometimes you need the smaller guys to remind you that individual heroes have something worth fighting for too, and sometimes, you just want villains to be more fun. Enter Arcade, the amusement park-themed supervillain who’s battled everyone from Spider-Man to the X-Men with a wide variety of elaborate, often silly death traps.
Created in 1978 by the legendary team of Chris Claremont and John Byrne, Arcade often focuses on kidnapping various superheroes and forcing them to play potentially deadly games in his own private amusement park known as Murderworld. The heroes usually escape, of course, cementing Arcade’s place as a B-list villain at best, but that doesn’t make him any less entertaining. Plus, thanks to stories like Avengers Arena, he’s proven that he can be truly deadly when he wants to be, making him more adaptable for any number of stories. Whether he shows up to fight the eventual Young Avengers team or joins up with the Thunderbolts, Arcade’s got a lot to offer, particularly on the Disney+ side of things where his games could take center stage in a streaming series.
Beta Ray Bill
Unworthy Thor (Vol. 1) #3 (Artists: Kim Jacinto, Olivier Coipel, and Matthew Wilson)
Any list of the most-wished-for new MCU additions over the last decade has to include Beta Ray Bill, the alien warrior who won hearts in Asgard when he proved himself worthy of wielding Thor’s hammer and was given his own version of the weapon by none other than Odin the All-Father. Bill’s head was featured on the Grandmaster’s palace in Thor: Ragnarok, hinting that he’s out there somewhere, and it’s about time for him to finally make his grand debut.
Bill is everything the MCU needs in terms of heroic characters. He’s brave, he’s loyal, he’s often darkly funny, and he carries with him a tragic backstory that adds a layer of depth to everything he does. Plus, he just looks awesome in battle, particularly when he gets to don the cape and the helmet and fight alongside Thor. A fifth Thor film would be a great place to introduce him, but he could also pop up in numerous other cosmic adventures, particularly once an Eternals sequel starts to flesh out more of Marvel’s outer space roster. He could even replace Thor when Chris Hemsworth finally decides to hang up the hammer. Just get him out there. It’s long past time.
Excalibur (Vol. 4) #15 (Artists: Mahmud Asrar and Matthew Wilson)
Though there are a few notable exceptions, the MCU has understandably kept much of its storytelling firmly focused on North America to this point. That’s gradually changing, though, and that means it could soon be time to head across the pond, where Britain has its own decidedly different national heroes. Captain Britain isn’t a soldier endowed with a powerful serum to give him muscles. Instead, he’s a guy imbued with the power of Merlyn (yes, that Merlyn) to defend Britain and her people. That gives him both a cool set of powers and a very extensive mystical backstory with ties to Arthurian myths and other dimensions that look more like magic kingdoms than versions of our world.
Plus, like Captain America, Captain Britain is a title that can change hands, shifting from original hero Brian Braddock to his sister Betsy, and even to the Muslim hero Faiza Hussain, who picked up Excalibur (oh yeah, Excalibur’s a part of this too) and became the new Captain Britain at one point. That makes Captain Britain both extremely malleable and a great potential entry point for more fantasy-driven MCU stories. He could be a new Avenger, star in his own series of solo adventures, or all the above, and if the MCU takes on the 2015 version of the Secret Wars event as its movie source material, putting Captain Britain in charge of the Battleground realm of Higher Avalon could be great fun.
Captain Universe (Tamara Devoux)
Avengers (Vol. 5) #6 (Artist: Dustin Weaver)
Like the Phoenix Force of the X-Men comics, Captain Universe is more entity than single hero, a cosmic force known as the Uni-Power that will possess an individual during a dark time for the universe, transforming that person into “Captain Universe.” That means that several heroes have taken the moniker in Marvel Comics, but among them all, Tamara Devoux is the most interesting for our purposes.
Why? Well, Tamara emerged in Avengers comics in the lead-up to the Secret Wars event. An amnesiac woman with very little sense of her own identity, she was chosen by the Uni-Power because she, like the universe at that time, understood what it meant to be broken. She then went on to be a key player in both the Avengers and the all-female team A-Force, as well as an important harbinger of the dark events to come in the multiversal incursions leading up to Secret Wars. That means this particular incarnation of Captain Universe could be an excellent MCU addition in the build-up to Secret Wars, serving as a kind of living embodiment of the strife all of existence is about to face.
The Champion of the Universe (Tryco Slatterus)
Thanos (Vol. 2) #1 (Artists: Mike Deodato Jr. and Frank Martin)
Like the Collector and the Grandmaster, Tryco Slatterus (aka the Champion) is one of the immortal “Elders of the Universe” in Marvel Comics, a being with eons of history behind him who’s chosen to spend his endless life battling other warriors across the universe in an effort to prove himself the greatest fighter in all of existence. It’s a pursuit that’s taken him everywhere from the deepest reaches of the cosmos to Madison Square Garden and put him in conflict with everyone from the Thing to the Hulk to his fellow Elders.
So, where does he fit into the MCU? Pretty much anywhere. He’s done some work with Thanos’ brother Starfox (introduced in the Eternals film), so he could have a role to play in that character’s future adventures. He could show up and do battle with Bruce Banner or Jennifer Walters, or even eventually face down Ben Grimm (still uncast, but arriving in the new Fantastic Four film) in some future adventure. Because he’s been everywhere and existed forever, the possibilities are endless, and The Champion could inject some drama into just about any story if used properly.
Death of Doctor Strange: Bloodstone #1 (Artist: David Nakayama)
There are persistent rumors that Elsa Bloodstone, a monster hunter with attitude to spare, will make her MCU debut in the upcoming Disney+ Halloween special. But until that’s confirmed, we’re keeping her near the top of our wishlist, because she’s a blast of a character who could add a lot of depth to the MCU’s supernatural bench.
Originally introduced as a Buffy-esque character in a self-titled series in 2001, Elsa really came into her own in the comedy-action event series Nextwave, where her penchant for British-isms and brutal fighting techniques came to the fore. Since then she’s popped up all over the Marvel Comics universe, but she works particularly well when paired with monster characters like Werewolf by Night and Morbius, and other tough women like Misty Knight. That means she could show up as a street-level hero in a streaming series, pop up next to Moon Knight in supernatural battles, or even join up with Blade and Ghost Rider to form the MCU’s version of the Midnight Sons. She’s adaptable and brilliant, and the right actor would make her into an immediate star.
Franklin and Valeria Richards
Fantastic Four (Vol. 6) #22 (Artists: Paco Medina and Jesus Aburtov)
Though the Fantastic Four have been featured in three big-budget films so far, their kids have not, and the MCU could just be the place for the offspring of Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman to make their live-action debut. Why include them in the FF’s upcoming adventures? Well, Franklin Richards is a mutant with enormous power potential that includes the ability to create whole mini universes, while Valeria is a supergenius who Reed Richards suspects will be smarter even than him someday.
They’re fun to be around, they add a layer of emotion to the FF’s adventures, but perhaps most importantly, they both play major roles in the 2015 comic book version of Secret Wars. In fact, Franklin’s ability to generate universes is eventually used to rebuild the entire Marvel multiverse in the wake of that event, making him a truly invaluable part of Marvel Comics as it exists right now. Introducing them along with their parents and uncles in the Fantastic Four film could pave the way for a lot of interesting MCU stuff going forward.
Miles Morales: Marvel Tales #1 (Artist: Joshua “Sway” Swaby)
Let’s be clear for a second: Miles Morales doesn’t need the MCU. The ultra-popular alternate universe version of Spider-Man already has his own hit, Oscar-winning franchise with the Spider-Verse series of animated films, and he’s now a video game superstar. But that doesn’t mean the MCU shouldn’t also make use of him. An Afro-Latinx teenager who takes over for his universe’s Peter Parker after that Spider-Man dies, Miles proved so popular that even when Marvel killed the entire line of comics that birthed him, they kept him around and just moved him over to the main universe, where he exists alongside Peter Parker as one of two Spider-Men.
It’s a dynamic that’s worked very well, particularly when Miles gets to hang out with teen heroes like Kamala Khan (who just made her own MCU debut), and it could work just as well on the live-action stage. As Tom Holland gets older, introducing another spider-hero who could take over for him when the actor decides it’s time to go makes perfect sense, and Miles’ presence was already hinted at in Spider-Man: Homecoming. We already got three webslingers at once in Spider-Man: No Way Home, so what’s one more?
Powers Of X #5 (Artist: R.B. Silva)
Though his presence was teased at the end of X-Men: Apocalypse, Fox’s take on Marvel’s mutants wrapped up a little too quickly for Mr. Sinister to make his live-action debut. That leaves the MCU and whatever it eventually does with the X-Men. And while Magneto and Apocalypse are tried-and-true X-villains, Sinister deserves his time in the spotlight.
He’s a cloning expert with a history of dark genetic experiments, which could make him the perfect villain to introduce an offshoot of humanity with their own strange DNA. He has a major role to play in the 2015 Secret Wars comic book event, which primes him for a presence in the film crossover. And most importantly, he’s just plain fun, like Tim Curry’s Dr. Frank-N-Furter crossed with Dr. Moreau. If Marvel’s hoping to shake up the X-Men for their eventual MCU incarnation, having a villain like Sinister along for the ride could be just what the doctor ordered.
Avengers: No Road Home #3 (Artists: Paco Medina, Juan Vlasco, and Jesus Aburtov)
With Dormammu and Baron Mordo already introduced as antagonists for Doctor Strange in the MCU, the villain known as Nightmare seems like the next step in the Master of the Mystic Arts’ trippy odyssey across the darkest dimensions Marvel Comics has to offer. Ruler of the Dream Realm, Nightmare functions as a kind of evil Sandman, imposing his will and his darkest ideas upon sleeping humans, sometimes to dangerous effect.
As for how he could work in the MCU… well, we know that Doctor Strange is heading off with Clea to work on the problem of incursions, which seems like a lead-in to Secret Wars. Nightmare could be a major player in some of these incursions, or the powers at Marvel Studios could save him for a more horror-tinged adventure starring, say, Blade, or a new incarnation of Ghost Rider. However he’s used, Nightmare has the potential to be an absolutely terrifying foe, bumping up the horror elements of the MCU to another level for the right audience.
The Serpent Society
Captain America: Sam Wilson #4 (Artists: Paul Renaud and Romulo Fajardo Jr.)
Famously used as a joke title for the third Captain America movie for a few minutes before studio head Kevin Feige unveiled Captain America: Civil War, the Serpent Society are far more than a group of gag villains. Though they certainly have the potential for a lot of comedy, the collective of snake-themed characters is also one of the fascinating centerpieces of legendary writer Mark Gruenwald’s decade-long Captain America run, which also netted us The Falcon And The Winter Soldier’s John Walker, the Flag Smashers, and the Power Broker. Watching them try to determine how to function as an actual team with a hierarchy and even a pay structure is fascinating and funny, but perhaps more importantly, they actually are quite dangerous when they put their minds to it.
The Society could finally be deployed in the MCU soon, thanks to the confirmation that we’re getting a new Captain America film starring Anthony Mackie in the title role. They could join that film, they could fight Bucky Barnes in a Disney+ series, or individual members of the Society could be dropped into everything from She-Hulk to the upcoming Thunderbolts film.
Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew)
Spider-Woman (Vol. 7) #11 (Artist: Jung-Geun Yoon)
Spider-Woman’s origins are complex, but her place in the Marvel Comics universe is firm and steadfastly entertaining thanks to years of great storytelling. Though the tale of how she got her powers has been modified several times, her story boils down to this: She was the product of experimentation that left her ostracized, ended up working for the wrong people, eventually realized she was wrong, and ended up a superhero.
Since then, she’s become best pals with Captain Marvel (thriving in the MCU), joined agencies like S.W.O.R.D. (just getting started in the MCU), and joined teams like the Avengers to further her heroic career, all while carrying on her own solo adventures as a hero with a troubled past and, recently, a new mom. Throwing her into the MCU mix could spice up the next incarnation of the Avengers considerably, even as she gets a new set of animated adventures in the upcoming Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.
Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (Vol. 2) #7 (Artist: Colleen Doran)
We came very close to a live-action Squirrel Girl a few years back, with Milana Vayntrub in the role, when Marvel Television developed a New Warriors TV series that never saw the light of day. Vayntrub got to voice the character in animated movies and shows despite her live-action stumble, but now that the MCU is entering yet another period of great expansion, it feels like the right time to consider the leap once again.
Doreen Green has always been a fun superhero, but recent comics like Unbeatable Squirrel Girl have really amplified exactly what she’s capable of within the wider Marvel Universe. What started as a joke—that Squirrel Girl can beat villains like Doctor Doom and Thanos by overwhelming them with her furry friends—eventually became a complex exploration of a metafictional character which also remained a story full of great jokes. Now that She-Hulk: Attorney At Law is on the verge of giving us almost outright sitcoms in the MCU, and WandaVision played with the format, giving Squirrel Girl a show of her very own in which she gets to make the universe her playground feels like a very logical next step.
Superior Carnage #1 (Artists: Stephen Segovia and Jay David Ramos)
The Fantastic Four are coming to the MCU, and they need villains to fight. While Doctor Doom will almost certainly show up eventually, he might not be the entry-level antagonist the characters need. Our suggestion? Bentley Whittman, aka the Wizard, one-time member of the Frightful Four, and longtime enemy of Reed Richards.
Like Richards, Wittman was a child prodigy with an intense, deep fascination with science that he later parlayed into a career as an inventor. When he got bored with that, he started to use his creations to build a persona as a professional criminal, and while he’s often been treated as a lower-level FF foe, he’s capable of some very frightening things. During Jonathan Hickman’s seminal Fantastic Four run, he emerged as a dark mirror of Mr. Fantastic Four, a scientist almost as gifted as the hero, but with his own grim visions of the Marvel Universe’s future. He might not be an A-list villain on the screen, and he’s also set to appear in the Spider-Man: Freshman Year animated series, but re-introducing him as the avatar for what Reed Richards doesn’t want to be, but fears he might be, could be a powerful way to underline exactly what the Fantastic Four are all about.