When Iron Man hit theaters in 2008, nobody could have guessed it was the start of something bigger. Despite the stinger at the end with a tease of The Avengers, it still felt like it was all a lifetime away. Now, nearly a decade later, the landscape has changed radically. Marvel is preparing to release the 18th entry of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, while DC Comics prepares their own series of films with releases like Wonder Woman and Justice League. We’ve finally reached peak comic book movie; it almost feels as if the end will never arrive.
There is but a limited pool of actors who could be pulled to cast in these films. Eighteen films in and it almost feels like Marvel has cast every actor available, especially when factoring in upcoming releases like Captain Marvel and its Netflix wing, while DC continues to flourish as it adds new films and prepares a live-action Teen Titans series for release. A little double-dipping is only natural, and it can actually be pretty interesting to see where some of these actors wound up after they shuffled around. Here are 15 Marvel Comics and DC Comics actors who jumped ship to work for the other team.
15 CLANCY BROWN
It’s really no surprise that Clancy Brown played for both teams. After all, he’s one of the most recognizable “that guy” actors there is today. Known to many fans early on for roles such as The Kurgan in Highlander or as prison guard Byron Hadley in The Shawshank Redemption, he’s had more than his fair share of comic movie roles -- albeit as a voice actor.
Brown turned up in 2011 flop Green Lantern for a bit part, voicing Parallax for the film’s finale. For the Marvel side of things, he lent his voice talents to the vicious Surtur for 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok, a role which many fans didn’t even catch on to because of the voice distortion applied. He’s had plenty of other notable comic book roles too, turning up in Daredevil as the manipulative Colonel Schoonover and regular appearances in the DC Animated Universe as Lex Luthor.
14 ZACHARY LEVI
Well known for his role on Chuck and for voicing Flynn in Disney’s Tangled, Zachary Levi has quite the nerd following behind him. And now he’s begun to make the transition to comic book star, already being cast as the title character in the upcoming Shazam! film as part of DC’s cinematic universe.
Levi is no stranger to comic book movies, however. He was the original choice to play Fandral of The Warriors Three but dropped out because of filming obligations for Chuck. When Josh Dallas had to drop out of the sequels because of his Once Upon A Time commitments, Levi was brought back into the fold as Fandral for Thor: The Dark World. Though Fandral died in Thor: Ragnarok, it wouldn’t surprise long time Thor fans if The Warriors Three made their return soon.
13 CHRIS EVANS, ZOE SALDANA & IDRIS ELBA
The Losers dropped at a weird time in comic book movie history. Based on the Vertigo title of the same name, The Losers followed a black ops team out for revenge. It’s a fairly light-hearted affair, and while it failed to make much of a splash at the box office it was still a notable film in 2010 and obtained a lot of crossover appeal.
Where do you even start? Detonation expert Roque was played by Idris Elba, who joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Thor the following year. The mysterious Aisha was played by Zoe Saldana, who was still relatively new to fame and just a few years away from her role as Gamora. And of course, Chris Evans joined the fray as Jensen just a year before he became the MCU’s tentpole character, Captain America.
12 CALLAN MULVEY
Callan Mulvey is a face you recognize without being really sure of where you can place it. With roles in popular films such as Zero Dark Thirty and Warcraft, he’s pretty quickly recognizable to moviegoers. But Mulvey managed to turn in two great performances in two of the biggest comic book movies of the past decade.
As Jack Rollins, Mulvey brought a classic character from Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. to the big screen in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Though Rollins in this instance was eventually revealed as a Hydra traitor, it was still a memorable role. Just a few short years later, Mulvey joined the cast of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice as Anatoli Knyazev, marking the film debut of popular The KGBeast, though the character never donned his comic book attire and died in the film’s finale.
11 SCOOT MCNAIRY
It’s easy to forget that there was a lot of buzz about Scott McNairy’s casting in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Spotted on set with his feet in neon green stockings, there was speculation that he was cast as The Flash and the green screen stockings were a part of the super speed effect, but this ultimately proved to be untrue.
McNairy instead played Wallace Keefe, a Waynetech employee who lost his legs in the Metropolis battle from Man of Steel’s finale, ultimately dying as part of Luthor’s plan. But prior to that, McNairy appeared in 2014's Marvel One-Shot: All Hail The King, a short on the Iron Man 3 DVD, which featured McNairy as a Ten Rings terrorist posing as a filmmaker to turn Trevor Slattery over to the real Mandarin, though this sudden twist has yet to have a proper payoff in the film series.
10 CIARAN HINDS
Ciaran Hinds is a popular Irish actor who has appeared in some pretty big films. Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part 2, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, even graphic novel adaptation Road to Perdition. In 2011 he appeared in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, replacing Peter Fonda as Mephistopheles in the sequel to the 2007 Nicolas Cage vehicle.
But Hinds would jump ship to the DC Universe for a much bigger role. Hinds served as the facial model and voice actor for Steppenwolf, Hinds was the first major threat the heroes of DC’s cinematic universe had faced off against in Justice League. Unfortunately for Hinds, the Steppenwolf role doesn’t look like it’ll go down as fondly remembered as Loki or the Chitauri, with many reviewers dismissing Steppenwolf as a generic villain without much of a motivation.
9 SCARLETT JOHANSSON & SAMUEL L. JACKSON
Maybe Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L. Jackson just like working together. The two have been a cornerstone of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, appearing together in Iron Man 2, The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Avengers: Age of Ultron. It makes sense, to a degree. After all, Natasha is Nick’s right-hand gal.
But she was also the right-hand gal to Jackson’s The Octopus in the 2008 film The Spirit. A loose adaptation of the classic Will Eisner character, the Frank Miller-written and directed film was meant to cash in on the success of 300 and Sin City. Instead, the film, which featured Suits star Gabriel Macht as the titular Spirit as well as Eva Mendes, Penelope Cruz, and Sarah Paulson, was a box office flop and routinely makes lists of the worst films ever made.
8 ADEWALE AKINNUOYE-AGBAJE
London born Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje is a busy dude. He’s made a number of TV appearances, as well as appeared in well-known films like The Bourne Identity, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and more. In 2013, he appeared in Thor: The Dark World as Kurse, a role in which he was practically unrecognizable thanks to the heavy make-up he wore.
Perhaps that’s a trend because his DC film appearance was similar. As Suicide Squad's Killer Croc, Akinnuoye-Agbaje is under thick, prosthetic makeup for the entire film. As an actor, he’s spectacular and well-known, but you wouldn’t know it from these appearances, which are ultimately just bit roles where he’s in the movie for a very brief period and under such heavy makeup that you’d never know it was him.
7 JOSH BROLIN
Josh Brolin might be the most integrated actor in the Marvel Universe. He joined up with the MCU following The Avengers as the voice and motion capture actor for Thanos, a role which he brought to life in Guardians of the Galaxy, and in the upcoming Infinity War. On the newly acquired Fox Studios side, Brolin’s finishing up his role as Cable for Deadpool 2, bringing the telepathic powerhouse to the big screen for the first time.
But in 2010, with comic book movies enjoying a new era thanks to the MCU and the success of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, Brolin appeared in a DC property as well. Jonah Hex featured Brolin in the lead, co-starring Megan Fox and pitting him against John Malkovich’s Quentin Turnbull. Despite solid casting and a few fun surprises, though, Jonah Hex failed to catch fire at the box office.
6 HUGO WEAVING
Hugo Weaving was already a well-known actor among geek circles for his turn as Elrond in The Lord of The Rings, as well as the sadistic Agent Smith in The Matrix trilogy. But Weaving ventured valiantly into comic book films in 2005’s V For Vendetta, joining the film after James Purefoy dropped out due to creative differences.
In 2011, Weaving would jump ship to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as The Red Skull for Captain America: The First Avenger. Weaving’s performance was praised, bringing the menacing visage of the Skull to the big screen for the first time. Weaving himself, however, was critical of the role, disliking the long make-up sessions the film required. As a result, The Red Skull has been noticeably absent from the MCU, seemingly dying for real when he grabbed the Tesseract.
5 JON BERNTHAL
Jon Bernthal came out of nowhere in the last few years. After a series of bit parts and small roles, Bernthal exploded onto the scene for his portrayal of Shane on The Walking Dead, a character who had been a blip in the long-running history of the comic series but got substantially more attention in his two seasons worth of appearances on television.
Bernthal made a brief foray into the DC Universe, albeit in animated form, voicing Trigon for 2016’s direct to DVD Justice League vs. Teen Titans film. Shortly after, Bernthal debuted on the Netflix arm of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, becoming the fourth actor to portray The Punisher in live-action. Bernthal’s performance was so well-received that he received his own Netflix series a year later, which was recently renewed for a second season.
4 TILDA SWINTON
It has been a long and varied career for Tilda Swinton. With a bevy of appearances under her belt, she became first known to comic book movie fans as the archangel Gabriel in the 2005 Keanu Reeves film Constantine. Ultimately the film’s central villain, Swinton’s unique appearance lent itself to the story of an androgynous, half-human angel.
Swinton would appear in a number of films over the next decade before finally appearing as The Ancient One in 2016’s Doctor Strange. Rewritten to be an Irish woman instead of an Asian caricature, the casting of Swinton drew ire from as it was viewed as whitewashing a role in a film that already had delicately handled subject matter regarding Asian mysticism. Still, Swinton’s performance was well-regarded, with Doctor Strange drawing critical acclaim for its incredible visual effects.
3 JOE MANGANIELLO
If you left during the credits for Justice League, well, you only have yourself to blame. But you missed the anticipated debut of Joe Manganello as Slade Wilson, also known as Deathstroke the Terminator. Appearing in a stinger to hype a future film, Manganiello’s Wilson has been anticipated for some time now, rumored to be a major player in an early draft of the upcoming Batman solo film.
But Manganiello is no stranger to comic book films, making his feature film debut in 2002’s Spider-Man as Peter’s jock nemesis Flash Thompson. Thompson was only briefly in the film, disappearing once the plot moved Peter outside of high school, but he did cameo in Spider-Man 3, appearing at Harry’s funeral. Though Manganiello wouldn’t appear in a comic movie again until Justice League, it is worth noting he was once in the running to play Superman.
2 FLORENCE KASUMBA
Florence Kasumba hasn’t had a large presence in American films, appearing largely in foreign films. But the Ugandan actress has started to make her mark, appearing in the modern Wizard of Oz updated Emerald City during its one season run. In 2016, she made the leap to superhero movies, with an appearance in Captain America: Civil War.
As Ayo, Kasumba was a member of Black Panther’s Dora Mijae, one of his elite bodyguards. While she’ll be reprising the role in Black Panther and the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War, she did take a brief jaunt to DC’s film universe. As Senator Acantha, you may have missed her in the phenomenal Wonder Woman, a role that was largely in the background. Kasumba appears to have thrown all her chips in on Marvel though, as the role was not revived for Justice League.
1 BEN AFFLECK
It almost feels stupid to include this one. But it also feels like not mentioning it is an even more glaring omission. Ben Affleck was, for a while, the biggest name to jump ship from Marvel films to DC films. And arguably, he may still be, only usurped by the surprise casting of prior Batman Michael Keaton in Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Affleck starred in 2003’s Daredevil, opposite Jennifer Garner and Colin Farrell. Though the film gained a following on DVD, it failed to impress at the box office. In 2013, Affleck jumped to the DC Universe to play Batman, a role he’d been trying to get since the ‘90s. Affleck is regarded by many as one of the best Batmen in recent years, a shining spot in DC’s otherwise unimpressive film slate. However, he still remains the center of controversy as many fans wonder just how much longer he’ll be playing the role.