One of the things fans like about Marvel’s cinematic universe is trying to guess which familiar faces will show up next in a film or TV show. After all, if certified C-listers like Ant-Man and the Guardians of the Galaxy can score their own successful big-budget movies, then anything’s possible, right?
But while the Avengers franchise would appear to be the perfect vehicle for introducing a huge number of Marvel’s characters to the movie-going masses, the sad fact is not all of the team’s past members are ready for prime time (or any other time, for that matter).
Exhibit A: Starfox a.k.a. Eros of Titan. Introduced to Iron Man readers in 1973, Starfox — a godlike being from a race of superhumans living on one of Saturn’s moons — joined the Avengers in the early ’80s as a reservist before becoming a full-fledged member, using his superhuman strength, flight and agility against the likes of Annihilus, Maelstrom and the Wizard. The problem? See the section of his Wikipedia entry titled “Allegations of sexual assault.” Or the fact there’s a section in his Wikipedia entry titled “Allegations of sexual assault.” Among his powers is the ability to stimulate the pleasure centre of the brain — always a handy trait for a planet-hopping hedonist and/or date rapist on the go. A recent She-Hulk story in which Shulkie discovers she herself was once manipulated by Starfox’s mental powers (albeit without his knowledge) underlined the inherent challenges the Avengers — and Marvel Studios — would have in allowing a living, walking Roofie to join their team.
Why no Avengers appearance? See “living, walking Roofie” above. Also, good luck finding an actor willing to style his hair into those silly little tufts of hair and walk around in that cutesy unitard while calling himself “Starfox.”
More than any other team, the Avengers has a reputation for offering second chances to costumed types who run afoul of the law. The Swordsman follows in that tradition, debuting as an adversary for Hawkeye (himself a reformed ex-villain type) before signing on with the team. His history as an Avenger can be summed up as “I’m good/I’m bad/I’m good/I’m bad/I’m good/I need to prove myself/I’m dead.” He’s basically a surplus Hawkeye except with a sword, and he ended his membership by sacrificing himself to protect a teammate from an enemy’s energy blast — and let’s be honest, that’s really the best outcome a guy like him could have hoped for.
Why no Avengers appearance? He’s a guy. With a sword. A tricked-up sword with some fancy features, perhaps, but still. It’s a sword. Even Hawkeye can feel good knowing he can take out a Chitauri or three from a safe distance with his antiquated weaponry of choice. Then there’s this line from the Swordsman’s biography: “Mantis soon after married the eldest of Earth’s alien Cotati, who had resurrected and possessed the Swordsman’s corpse and infused a portion of its own consciousness into it.” Try imagining that scene on the side of a Burger King cup.
The early ’70s was a time when comic publishers, desperate to shore up slumping sales numbers, hopped on every bandwagon they could. The Vietnam War, the martial-arts craze, the pursuit of consciousness-expanding activities to, like, see the universe as it really is, man… all these trends came together in Mantis, one of several offbeat characters introduced during Steve Englehart’s Avengers run. Which is not to say the half-Vietnamese/half-white woman eventually revealed as the “Celestial Madonna” would stay permanently trapped in the Me Decade; she carved a decent career for herself as a space-faring object of everyone’s affection, hanging out with the Silver Surfer and (more recently) the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Why no Avengers appearance? I’ll give her the best odds of all the characters on this list of ever appearing in a Marvel movie — “hot female Asian martial artist” hits all the sweet spots when it comes to wooing Marvel’s key audiences. But even putting aside recent comic appearances that make it possible she would appear in any future Guardians films, her grab-bag of powers (martial arts, telepathy, control over plant life, etc.) and convoluted origins might make her a tough character to sell to a movie-going audience not versed in 40 years of Marvel lore. Plus, she had this annoying habit of referring to herself as “this one,” as in “This one might have to punch someone in the throat if this one has to read another story about a certain someone who refers to herself as ‘this one’ all the bloody time.”
4. Black Knight
Marvel has had a handful of Black Knights over the years. The first was the star of his own short-lived comic in the 1950s; the second was a villainous descendant of that medieval hero who showed up to pester Giant-Man and the Wasp in old issues of Tales to Astonish. The third Black Knight took his uncle’s name and donned his costume to redeem the family’s honor, a plan that went about as well as you might expect when he first showed up for the audition. After a long stint with the team through the ’80s and early ’90s, he joined the Defenders, Heroes for Hire, UltraForce — anyone who would take him, really.
Why no Avengers appearance? He’s the master of an antiquated form of combat, just like Hawkeye. He’s a brilliant tactician and skilled fighter, just like Captain America. His magic sword and connection to Arthurian legends gives him a solid footing in the world of fantasy, just like Thor. He’s a brilliant scientist, just like Tony Stark and Bruce Banner. In the dictionary under “redundant,” it says: “See redundant.”
Oh, Tigra. She started out as The Cat, one of a number of brand-new female superheroes created in the ’70s to court the female demographic; when that didn’t work out, the writers stuck her in a bikini and turned her into a literal cat-woman, no doubt causing many pubescent boys to feel very confused about their family pets. With the Internet and its many fetish websites still several years away, she decided to go into the second-most logical line of work open to someone with her skills, baring her razor-sharp claws for both East and West Coast versions of the Avengers.
Why no Avengers appearance? Even with Marvel’s film properties expanding to include alien dimensions and cities full of genetically enhanced super-humans, a hidden tribe of cat-people that uses science and magic to confer cat-like powers on humans might be too much of a stretch for movie-going audiences to believe. And given how the people building up the MCU are going out of their way to present strong female characters in their stories (think Black Widow, Peggy Carter, or Agent May from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), it’s hard to imagine them giving the green light to a character who dives into battle wearing a string bikini. Hell, even Halle Berry’s Catwoman was allowed to romp in ripped-up leather pants.
6. Doctor Druid
Like the Black Knight, this guy — a low-rent Doctor Strange wannabe — actually debuted in the comics a few years before the Sorcerer Supreme showed up, showing up in a Lee/Kirby anthology title five months before Fantastic Four #1 hit the stands. He didn’t have whatever magic (pun intended) Doctor Strange possessed and stayed low on the radar for a long time, joining the Avengers only when someone needed an expendable patsy for a mind-control storyline. He resigned in disgrace from the team and later ended up dead at the end of his only solo series a few years later. Harsh.
Why no Avengers appearance? Style-wise, he’s nothing to write home about — just another older dude with a Van Dyke beard trying to make the cape-and-tights look work for him. And there’s the whole issue of what to do with him if, say, a future Avengers instalment features a cameo by Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange. And let’s not even get started on how the fundamentalist Christians might freak out. I mean, let an ancient Norse god join the team, sure… but an actual pagan?
7. Gilgamesh (The Forgotten One)
Gilgamesh, Dragon-Slayer, Hero, Hercules, Samson, Atlas — he’s been known by all these names and more throughout the ages. He’s a super-strong member of the Eternals, a hidden race of near-immortal beings, and… well, that’s pretty much it, really.
Why no Avengers appearance? Given how the MCU has just recently introduced the idea of Inhumans existing among us normal human types, it might be too much to ask audiences to believe there are two hidden cities full of superhumans whose ancestors were genetically modified by alien beings. His stint with the Avengers was short and appropriately forgettable. In recent years, he’s returned to comics in favour of a sleeker look that ditches the bulls-head helmet and short tunic seen here — but for the most part he lives up to his name, and then some.
Desperate? Deranged? Delusional? So many possibilities. Actually, he’s Dennis Dunphy, the Demolition Man. He’s a professional wrestler who took an experimental steroid that increased his strength while damaging his heart and turning him into a drug addict (something that had never, ever been seen in the world of professional wrestling up to that point). After helping the Thing and Captain America on a few cases, he was briefly inducted into the Avengers at a time when Cap really wasn’t in a position to be picky. A plane crash, suspended animation, recurring episodes of mental instability, and lack of any respect soon followed.
Why no Avengers appearance? Let’s overlook the fact his one super-power (superhuman strength and durability) is highly unremarkable in the Marvel universe, not to mention his costume makes him look like a cosplayer who couldn’t choose between an early Daredevil and a Byrne-era Wolverine look when he was down at the costume thrift shop. The sad fact is D-Man is one of the biggest jokes in comics, lacking even the self-awareness of Squirrel Girl that would make her so adorkable in real life.
9. Moon Knight
Debuting as an antagonist for the title character in Marvel’s Werewolf by Night, Moon Knight proved popular enough to gain his own title a few years later — and several more since — as well as a spot on the West Coast Avengers team for a while. A mercenary by trade, Marc Spector adopts his Moon Knight persona after a near-death experience leads to a vision of Khonshu, the Egyptian moon god, asking him to be his avatar on Earth. (The jury is out on whether it actually was a god who approached Spector or if it was all just in his addled mind.) Fast forward to him adopting a new identity as a playboy millionaire who uses his fighting skills and high-tech gadgets — along with his faithful manservant and a bitchin’ nocturnal-themed outfit — to beat on the criminals of the land. O…kay, then.
Why no Avengers appearance? “Sir, I have a lawyer representing Warner Brothers and the ghost of Bob Kane on Line 1…”
Okay, so back in the ’80s there was a storyline in Captain America’s book — a rather good one, as I recall — that saw Steve Rogers give up his uniform and shield rather than submit to the authority of a government commission. His identity, shield and uniform were then issued to John Walker, a man whose right-leaning politics were more in line with the Reagan-era attitudes of the day, but a far cry from the ideals that Rogers tried to uphold. Long story short: Rogers eventually gets his old identity back and Walker continues as a government operative named USAgent, wearing a variation of the costume that Rogers adopted during his short career as The Captain. He’s been a government stooge and/or hotheaded team member type ever since.
Why no Avengers appearance? We’ll let the man himself explain it: “The power of a tank, and I still get treated like the Captain America stand-in I used to be.” Well… because you are, dude. In a franchise that’s already threatening to burst with too many characters to keep track of, there’s not much point in adding one more whose sole reason for existing is to remind people of another character who’s better than him in every way. Besides, if he has to appear on the big screen, he’d probably work better as a villain — or a severely misguided pawn of a villain — in a Captain America film based on that “Captain America: No More” storyline I just mentioned (seriously, go check it out).
Eric Masterson was an average architect who once helped a wounded Thor, picking up Mjolnir (and proving himself worthy of holding it) while doing so. He later took a blast that was meant for Thor, and Thor (with Odin’s permission) shared his godlike powers with him to save his life. Masterson took over as Thor when the real Thor went missing, and he continued his adventuring ways as Thunderstrike (naming himself after his battle mace) after Thor returned.
Why no Avengers appearance? Because whatever branding problems USAgent causes with his look goes double for this guy. Another product of a decade when Marvel pumped out dozens of new titles without rhyme or reason, Thunderstrike has a hopelessly dated take on the classic Thor look (hey, a ponytail and ripped leather jacket! So Nineties! To the EX-treeeeme!) and a backstory that only highlights how confusing Marvel’s continuity can be.
Walter Newell didn’t want much out of life, just a chance to explore the oceans and learn their mysteries… even though he could have just asked guys like Namor and Triton to tell him. So he designed a battlesuit specially designed to withstand the crushing pressures of the deep… even though Iron Man and a few dozen other geniuses could have given him a loaner suit if he had asked nicely. Usually depicted as a reluctant superhero who’s more passionate about his research than busting heads, he joined the Avengers as a reserve member when they took over the floating Hydro-Base as their temporary headquarters.
Why no Avengers appearance? You see this image? It’s from an Iron Man comic where Iron man beat his ass underwater. When your entire shtick is having the ultimate in underwater battlesuits and you still get your ass handed to you by a guy whose own battlesuit works just fine underwater (and in the air and in deep space and pretty much everywhere else)… well, you’ve pretty much mastered the definition of useless.
No, not that one, the other one. No, the other one. This lady is Julia Carpenter, and she first appeared in that Secret Wars mini-series that sold a bazillion copies in the ’80s. Created by the same commission that tried to bully Steve Rogers into doing their dirty work, her powers (super-strength, healing factor, ability to create a psionic “web”) came from a serum created from spider venom and plant extracts (and was obviously never used again to create any other super-agents or in any pharmaceutical research because… reasons). Exciting adventures as a government operative and/or Avenger ensued.
Why no Avengers appearance? Because if any Spider-Woman is going to leap onto the silver screen next to her comrades, it’s going to be the first one, the Jessica Drew version who appeared in the comics first and whose far more memorable time with the New Avengers team pretty much rendered poor Ms. Carpenter a footnote in Avengers history.
Apparently because nobody learned a damn thing when a young Matt Murdock took a header into a few barrels of toxic sludge, 13-year-old Elvin Haliday was exposed to toxic waste on his way home from basketball practice. But don’t worry, it was the good kind of toxic waste — the kind that gives a kid superhuman strength and durability, while instantly maturing him into an adult as a bonus. After donning a wrestler’s mask and leather jacket, he called himself Rage and demanded membership in the Avengers on account of the severe lack of non-white faces around the table — and to be fair, the dude had a point about that. He became a probationary member but left after it was revealed he was actually a teenager, and not the fully grown adult his powers made him appear to be.
Why no Avengers appearance? If there’s a lazier way to explain away a superhero’s origins than toxic waste, I’ve yet to hear of it. (Well, okay, “radiation.” And “because he’s a mutant, is all.” Fair enough — but “toxic waste” is definitely in the top three.) And while it wouldn’t be a bad thing, in the books or the movies, to have an African-American superhero who can voice the concerns of the poor and forgotten, it kind of feels like that position has already been filled by the far more photogenic Luke Cage. And let’s not even talk about his choice of name and costume, which should have pegged him as the product of a 15-year-old mind right from the start.
The early ’90s was a weird time in Marvel’s history. The collectible market hadn’t yet crashed, prices for “hot” issues like Spider-Man #1 climbed to ridiculous heights, and fans were buying everything that Marvel pumped out, especially if it had a big “First issue!” plastered across the cover. Throwing caution right out the window, Marvel pumped out dozens of new books starring untested superheroes, including this fellow in 1991. It was a familiar story to anyone who knew the Marvel template (teenager finds object of power, uses it to fight crime as a superhero, complications to home/love life ensue), and Marvel managed to squeeze four angst-filled years out of him before he moved on to a somewhat steady career as angst-filled cannon fodder.
Why no Avengers appearance? For starters, he was an Avenger for only a short time; he’s more closely associated with groups like the New Warriors and the Loners, a group composed of former kid heroes and sidekicks with personal issues related to their superhero careers. And really, that’s the biggest mark against him, even bigger than his generic strength and energy-blast powers: we don’t mind our heroes being a little mopey before the big climax, but this guy’s long face makes Peter Parker look like Pee-Wee Herman on speed.
All right, let’s get out our Obvious Nineties Character checklist. Compound name with some form of “death” or “blood” in the title? Check. Ridiculously exaggerated hairstyle? Check. Bad attitude that makes you wonder why anyone would spend more than five seconds in their company? Check. Legs, thighs and breasts ludicrously out of proportion with other body parts? Check. Spinal column clearly removed to achieve impossible poses? Oh yeah. A member of the Shi’ar Empire, Deathcry was sent to Earth by her queen to protect the Avengers from a Kree attack, but all she really did was sulk and pose and come off as a really bad imitation of Wolverine, only with feathers and facial tattoos instead of muttonchops and claws. Pretty useless, all things considered — but at least she knew how to make children cry.
Why no Avengers appearance? No. Just… no.
Maria De Guadalupe Santiago — or “Lupe” to her friends — was born to a South American father who swore her were-animal powers came from her volcano-goddess mother. After her father’s death, she was taken in by a church-run orphanage that saw her powers as blasphemous, and when a certain butler to the superheroes was looking for a Third World child to sponsor, the sisters at the orphanage gave him Lupe, hoping Jarvis’s connections to the Avengers might come in handy should her powers ever get out of control. As it turned out, her flight to New York to meet her “Tio Edwin” for the first time turns into a hostage crisis and she’s forced to help the terrorists by fighting the Avengers, but everything’s cool in the end and they ask her to join the team.
Why no Avengers appearance? You’re kidding, right? Aside from the many only-in-the-comics coincidences in her origin story, Silverclaw has the ability to mimic the shapes and powers of animals found in the South American jungle, including (if I can trust my sources) the jaguar, anaconda, cockatoo, monkey, sloth, puma, and crocodile. Or even a llama, if the occasion calls for one. Okay, jaguar and crocodile I can understand… but a cockatoo? A sloth??? What self-respecting bank-robbing super-villain is going to cower at the sight of a woman with the proportionate speed and strength of a sloth?
18+. Great Lakes Avengers
When Mr. Immortal realized his unique can’t-be-killed power didn’t help him fight crime, he placed an ad in the newspaper seeking superheroes to join a new team. Answering the call were Flatman (who can make himself two-dimensional), Big Bertha (a model who could become morbidly obese at will), Doorman (a guy who could create portals through inanimate objects, like walls) and Dinah Soar (a flying pteranodon-human hybrid who spoke in high-pitched squeals). Other unlikely heroes like Squirrel Girl (who controls squirrels) soon followed. They actually did a lot of good despite their… ah, unique powers, such as saving St. Louis from extraterrestrial attack and saving Christmas in a Wisconsin suburb. No, really.
Why no Avengers appearance? To be fair, this Milwaukee-based team wwas meant as a joke from the start. But while having a few goofy heroes on the big screen might bring a bit of levity to the proceedings, they might be considered a bit too wacky for the tone that Marvel Studios seems to be aiming for these days. Though I’ll never give up hope of seeing Squirrel Girl make a cameo.