It’s a great time to be a comic book fan isn’t it? With Marvel and DC both expanding their own cinematic universes and other publishers preparing to bring their characters to life, we’re not short of live action versions of our favorite characters. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has become so large that there are scores of well-known actors and actresses that have taken on comic book roles, spanning many different genres. The DC Extended Universe is slowly finding its footing, but is also beginning to branch out. There’s always been a friendly divide between ‘”he big two”, and it’s sometimes seen by fans as “Marvel v DC”. Who would win in a fight, Captain America or Superman? Wait, don’t answer that.
Let’s be honest, everyone’s a winner because we get more comic book movies. The genre isn’t showing any signs of stagnating just yet, as each film only rakes in more money. There’ve been some truly incredible performances to come out of comic book movies. It’s brought actors and actresses flocking to these huge productions for years. But what about the ones who have walked between worlds? We’ve compiled a list of 15 actors who were in both Marvel and DC movies.
15. BEN AFFLECK
Long before we got the critically acclaimed Daredevil series on Netflix, Ben Affleck played the blind lawyer and protector of Hell’s Kitchen back in 2003. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite get the character and story right and was panned by critics, fans and even Affleck himself. Maybe it was that cheesy playground fight scene that pushed it too far.
Affleck even went as far as to say he hated the film. Luckily, when Batman v Superman was released, the main thing that fans and critics found was that Ben Affleck managed to get both Bruce Wayne and Batman spot on. With the Arkham Knight style combat, and the almost horror-like entrance of Bats at the beginning of the film, Affleck proved that he can get a dark vigilante right sometimes.
14. MICHAEL FASSBENDER
Michael Fassbender is no stranger to big budget franchises, and that includes comic book adaptations too. He starred in DC’s Jonah Hex alongside Josh Brolin back in 2010, playing Burke — a bowler hat-wearing psychopath that goes up against Hex. And stepping back into a villainous role, Fassbender also stars as Magneto in Fox’s prequel X-Men series.
His performance as Erik Lehnsherr. He didn’t attempt to copy Ian McKellen’s character in the original X-Men series, but instead tried to work with what the comics gave him. Luckily, the two performances do match up in a creative way. Fassbender proves that Magneto isn’t solely an evil person, but has had a tortured background that’s warped his personality and outlook on life. He’ll be returning to the role in X-Men: Dark Phoenix.
13. DANNY HUSTON
Some actors seem to get type cast as villains quite a lot, Danny Huston is one of those people. He made his comic book debut in X-Men Origins as Colonel William Stryker, the man who brought Wolverine into the Weapon X program and led a military black ops team (let’s not even touch the timeline continuity issues with him). The character is also the one responsible for giving us the awful version of Deadpool, giving audiences more reasons to hate him.
Huston came over to the DC Extended Universe in Wonder Woman, playing the main villain role of General Ludendorff throughout the film, until a puppet master is revealed. His performance is quite ham-fisted, and doesn’t have much to do apart from cackle when murdering German officers or be angry quite a lot. Not the best part of Wonder Woman, for sure.
12. HALLE BERRY
Yeah, we’re going to have to talk about the Catwoman film. Unfortunately, back in 2005, Halle Berry starred in her own comic book movie as Patience Phillips. Wait, who? The film didn’t really take many aspects of the character into consideration aside from the visual of a catsuit and whip. But aside from that, it’s not Selina Kyle.
Luckily, her performance as Storm was part of the successful X-Men franchise and she’s appeared in four of the films so far. Ororo Munroe is initially shown to be scared of what humanity could be capable of, but slowly comes to learn that protecting the world is the bigger thing to worry about instead. If only the X-Men had been part of the MCU so we could’ve seen her relationship with Black Panther. Shame.
11. MICHAEL KEATON
The first person to bring Batman to life in a Hollywood film, Michael Keaton worked with Tim Burton to bring Bruce Wayne to life. At the time, Keaton was known as a comedic actor, but Batman proved that he could take on serious roles with ease. The film brought plenty of the comic book elements into the plot (the Batwing!) but also made Batman gritty and dark with the introduction of Jack Nicholson’s Joker.
Fast forward 28 years, and Keaton takes on the role of Adrian Toomes, aka The Vulture in Marvel’s Spider-Man: Homecoming — talk about winging it. Keaton gave a brilliant performance in the MCU film, mainly because his villain was actually interesting. The writers made him relatable, and developed his character in a different way than we’ve seen before in the MCU.
10. MICHAEL CLARKE DUNCAN
The Daredevil film starring Ben Affleck pitted Matt Murdock against the Kingpin, played by the late Michael Clarke Duncan. He was the one who hired Bullseye to come take out the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen, but it’s also revealed that he killed Matt’s father, bringing the connection between the two a little deeper. His performance as the Kingpin was incredibly intimidating.
He even returned to voice the villain on the small screen during Spider-Man: The New Animated Series. He later crossed over into the DC Universe, voicing the Green Lantern Kilowog — a CGI character who trains Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) in the 2011 Green Lantern film. Kilowog trains all the recruits in the Corps, and puts Jordan through his paces before he’s a fully-fledged member.
9. JAMES MARSDEN
Marsden made his mark back in 2000 by donning the iconic visor worn by Cyclops aka Scott Summers in X-Men. Since the film chose to put the team in leather black outfits rather than blue and yellow, we didn’t get to see him in the iconic look from the comics. Tye Sheriden would take on the younger role in X-Men: Apocalypse.
But James Marsden also appeared in 2006’s Superman Returns (also directed by Bryan Singer), as Lois Lane’s new fiance, Richard White, Perry White’s nephew. He’s a character with many qualities similar to a superhero without actually having any powers of his own. Although in the film it turns out that Lois’ son isn’t Richards, but Superman’s, he still proves vital in saving Superman, Lois and their son towards the end of the film.
8. TOMMY LEE JONES
Whilst Billy Dee Williams was initially meant to star as Two-Face after appearing as Harvey Dent previously, Joel Schumacher cast Tommy Lee Jones instead. His appearance is very different from the Aaron Eckhart iteration in The Dark Knight, with the evil side of him portrayed through purple make-up and a crazy colored half-suit.
He crossed over to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2011 to star in Captain America as Colonel Phillips. His role alongside Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) was to train a group of recruits to find the right man for the Super Soldier Program run by Dr. Erskine. Although the Colonel is initially dismissive of Rogers, he comes to respect him after he goes behind enemy lines to save a squad of soldiers.
7. NATALIE PORTMAN
Here’s one actress that doesn’t shy away from appearing in indie films one year, then jumping to huge franchises the next. She’s known in the MCU as playing Jane Foster, Thor’s romantic interest across the two films Portman appears in and is mentioned in the first two Avengers films. Sadly, she doesn’t take on Jane’s role as Thor like in the current comics, but is a scientist helping the God of Thunder. But before this, she appeared in the film adaptation of V For Vendetta.
Set in a dystopian future, her character Evey becomes embroiled in a revolution by the vigilante, V. Her performance was highly praised, and the scene where her head is forcibly shaved is incredibly powerful. The relationship between V and Evey becomes warped, and the performances from Hugo Weaving and Portman are the best they’ve ever been.
6. LAURENCE FISHBURNE
One of the most prolific actors in Hollywood, Laurence Fishburne has starred in many big name franchises, but many don’t realize that in Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Fishburne actually voiced the herald of Galactus, the Silver Surfer. Then in 2013, Fishburne starred in Man of Steel as Perry White, Lois Lane and Clark Kent’s editor at The Daily Planet.
This is a role that he reprised in Batman v Superman. His sarcastic humor in the film provided some much needed comic relief across Snyder’s dark DCEU movies. Fishburne said that he based his portrayal of the late journalist, Ed Bradley, who he was friends with. The actor will also be making a return to the Marvel Universe, as he’ll be appearing in Ant-Man and The Wasp as Bill Foster.
5. RYAN REYNOLDS
He’s one of the most famous instances of an actor that walks between the two big comic book worlds. One of the best parts of 2016s Deadpool was Ryan Reynolds making fun of Ryan Reynolds. Wade asks his captors not to make his super suit “green or animated” clearly referencing the CGI costume from his time as Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern.
Reynolds previously said that he was “unhirable” after the Green Lantern film, and that he represented “the death of the superhero”. Luckily the actor found extreme success with the solo Deadpool film (let’s not even delve into the X-Men Origins treatment of Wade), and with a second film in production, maybe going through the drama of Green Lantern was necessary before hitting the superhero big time.
4. TILDA SWINTON
Tilda Swinton has starred in many films in her career spanning 30 years, but she appeared in her first comic book movie back in 2005. She played the angel Gabriel in Constantine (based on DC’s Hellblazer comics) directed by Francis Lawrence and starring Keanu Reeves as John Constantine. Whilst Reeves’ performance as Constantine wasn’t comic book accurate, Swinton’s performance as the betrayer Gabriel was a clever part of the film.
And in 2016, Swinton joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe as The Ancient One in Doctor Strange. Her performance drew controversy due to white washing, as the character in the comics is an elderly Asian man, whereas Swinton’s version was of Celtic descent. She taught Stephen Strange the skills he needed to fight Kaecilius and to stop Dormammu from bringing his “Dark Dimension” to Earth.
3. JOSH BROLIN
The big bad of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is more than used to being in comic book movies now. He’s played Thanos during Guardians of the Galaxy and the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War. But before he was the Mad Titan, he played one DC’s gruffest cowboy, Jonah Hex. The film sugarcoated some of its violence to get the PG-13 rating, and it suffered for it.
If the film had been made more recently with an R rating, it could have actually been quite good. Brolin managed to portray Jonah Hex well, but the supporting cast, alongside some plot issues saw the film fail. Don’t feel bad for Josh Brolin though, along with playing Thanos, he’s taken on the role of Cable in Deadpool 2. It won’t be long before DC try snatch him up again.
2. CHRIS EVANS
Before Chris Evans took on the role of the star spangled man with a plan, he’d been in a few other comic book movies., one of which being The Losers. Based on the Vertigo title of the same name, the film saw a team of black ops soldiers betrayed by their superior officer and left for dead.
Evans played Jake Jensen, and is the comedic relief of the team whilst also being a little awkward. He’s the nerdy tech guy, a little different from his role as Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Evans apparently loved playing the role because he doesn’t get to play the awkward, nerdy characters too often. The goofy “finger-guns” scene will always be a favorite of ours.
1. JON FAVREAU
Jon Favreau is known in the mainstream for appearing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Happy Hogan, Tony Stark’s bodyguard and friend through the Iron Man films and in Spider-Man: Homecoming, but he’s also a director and actually helmed the first two Iron Man films. Along with acting and directing, he’s also got a producer credit for The Avengers.
But before his time in the MCU, did you know that Jon Favreau actually appeared in Batman Forever? No, we’re not joking. When Bruce Wayne is being shown around Ed Nygma’s lab, he’s flanked by several assistants, one of which is a much younger Jon Favreau. Imagine being an assistant to two of the biggest superheroes in history — he’ll either have the best self-esteem, or the worst.
We know we left some actors off the list. Let us know who in the comments!
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