When Marvel and Netflix brought the first season of Daredevil to the small screen, they ended up taking the world by storm. Of all the heroes to bring front and center, Matt Murdock, attorney by day and masked vigilante by night, was an odd, but incredibly well received choice. To this day, Daredevil Season One is considered one of the best superhero shows of all time. From there, once Marvel had cemented its foothold (and fanbase) with Netflix, they felt confident to add other heroes to their television line.
Following the Man Without Fear came Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, the eagerly awaited The Defenders, and finally The Punisher. Some shows were received better than others; inconsistent writing was responsible for much of the damage to the brand. Yet the success of the programs and the fan appeal far outweighed the negative issues. Like with any TV show, movie, etc. not only do you need a compelling hero, but captivating villains are just as, if not more, important. With multiple superhero TV shows, there was room to include a ton of villains too. Today at CBR we’re looking at 15 Marvel Netflix villains and seeing which of them looked like their comic book counterparts and which appeared totally different.
15 LOOKS WORSE: ELEKTRA
As an actress, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with Elodie Yung. She’s done fine in whatever movies she’s in, even if the films themselves are mildly disappointing. An actress with great screen presence and charisma, she should have been the perfect Elektra Natchios. She wasn’t. Not only did she fail to capture the female assassin’s raw animalistic intimidating nature, but the costume was just atrocious.
Yung’s Elektra took away the character’s complexity; everything that made her intriguing and captivating for readers was gone. Yet it’s the costume we’re here to talk about. Wrapping a red scarf around your face and then going out to fight ninjas on rooftops does not Elektra make. The character’s costume is iconic, but to change it so haphazardly was almost an insult. The final nail in the coffin was when Marvel tried making Elektra comics featuring the assassin in the horrible Netflix garb.
14 LOOKS GOOD: HAND NINJAS
The Hand and its army of ninjas were making appearances even in the first season of Daredevil. As a whole, the Hand and all the many plots that revolved around them became oftentimes tedious. Initially, it was neat to think about all the storytelling possibilities. Playing an extremely critical role in Daredevil’s comic history, they made for exciting viewing.
Through their inclusion, we also saw Daredevil’s teacher, Stick, who made for an excellent addition. As far as the ninjas went, they were everything one would expect from ninjas. Initially, they appeared like cannon fodder for Daredevil to take on, but there was more to them than met the eye. In seconds they adjusted to Daredevil and his abilities, forcing the hero to push himself. The only downside was that they didn’t disappear into plumes of smoke whenever they died. Oh well, can’t win ‘em all!
13 LOOKS WORSE: LELAND OWLSLEY
Daredevil has a lot of villains, and while he might not be the strongest or the deadliest of the bunch, the Owl is high among them. Incredibly vicious, there’s a reason why Leland Owlsley has remained a prominent bad guy. With a green cape, metal talons, and a funky hairstyle that would make an ‘80s hair metal band jealous, the gliding supervillain is always a fun addition to Daredevil stories.
In the Netflix Daredevil, not only did we not get to see the Owl as he ought to look, but Leland Owlsley was just a little old man. Granted, there’s nothing wrong with Bob Gunton, he’s an astounding character actor, but his portrayal of Leland was underwhelming.
Furthermore, the tone used with Leland throughout the series was especially inconsistent and just ended up not working.
12 LOOKS GOOD: THE KINGPIN
When once he was a classic foe of Spider-Man, the Kingpin grew into one of Daredevil’s most iconic villains. Forever scheming and formulating plans within plans, the Kingpin’s intelligence was only matched by his raw strength. There were presumably many actors who were considered to play the Machiavellian crime boss, but it was Vicnent D’Onofrio who got the role and breathed life into the character. A phenomenal actor, there was perhaps no one better to play the part, forcing raw will and intimidation through the screen.
Watching D’Onofrio as Marvel’s premiere street-level villain is fascinating. There’s some genuine character work displayed and heck, he just looks like the Kingpin. Nowadays it’s hard to imagine anyone other than D’Onofrio as Fisk. He’s one of the best villains in the MCU.
11 LOOKS WORSE: SCYTHE
One of the many problems that plagued Iron Fist revolved around the villains. Firstly, many of the characters and actors who played them weren’t given substantial instruction and/or much to work with when it came to character development. Secondly, they just didn’t look like their comic book counterparts. If you’re going to have a show about supernatural martial artists, then why not dress them appropriately and stop trying to make them all wear dark designer clothing. We now come to Scythe, who was Danny Rand's final opponent in the Da Jue Zhan.
He was introduced in a hilariously morbid fashion, singing A-Ha's "Take On Me" to a room of men he's just murdered. Additionally, he was a super tough opponent and forced Danny to use the Iron Fist to win. Regardless, Scythe, like many Iron Fist baddies, was easily forgettable.
10 LOOKS GOOD: BAKUTO
Occasionally, at least where superheroes movies and TV shows are concerned, there will be a tradeoff between a hero or villain’s appearance and their overall character. With the Iron Fist baddie Bakuto, one of the leaders of the Hand, that exact thing happen. Bakuto looks about as canonically accurate as you could probably hope for, but he still had a long way to go before becoming a truly great villain.
Originally introduced as a potential ally to Danny Rand, it didn’t take much to realize that he had some insidious motives. Aside from being predictable, Bakuto wasn't entertaining. On the flipside, his rivalry with Colleen Wing, which carried over into The Defenders, made for reasonably decent television. Regardless, we’re here to talk about whether he looked the part and look the part he did.
9 LOOKS WORSE: STEEL SERPENT
Iron Fist and the comics, among other things, are known for their terrific lore and wonderfully bizarre assortment of villains. Taking front in center in a kung-fu comic, most of Iron Fist’s enemies are evil martial artists and one of his most prominent enemies goes by the name Steel Serpent. Davos, aka Steel Serpent, is the dark reflection and main foil to Iron First. He’s what Danny Rand could have become had the hero maintained different views on life.
In the comics, Davos possesses supernatural fighting abilities of his own. There’s no reason for this character not to be electric on-screen. A vindictive villain that can go toe-to-toe with Iron Fist should be the easiest thing for audiences who aren’t familiar with the source material to understand. Unfortunately Sacha Dhawan seemed just as perplexed about his role as the audience was and created an antagonist who didn’t seem half-bad.
8 LOOKS GOOD: BRIDE OF THE NINE SPIDERS
Many of Iron Fist's villains are peculiar -- the Bride of Nine Spiders is such a villain. Like most characters on Iron Fist and in the Marvel Netflix universe, many heroes and bad guys have histories that are departures from the comic books. Working for the enigmatic Madame Gao, Da Jue Zhan was one of the few highlights of Iron Fist’s first season. After the Veznikov Brothers failed to make any lasting or meaningful impact, their successor in the tournament was the Bride of Nine Spiders. She was far more memorable. Even though millions of spiders didn’t burst out of her chest like what happens in the comics, she was still looked the part.
Sure, she may be an archetypal seductress, but Jane Kim clearly had fun with the role and it showed. Overall, despite being on-screen for only a few minutes, she completely outshone Finn Jones as Danny Rand.
7 LOOKS WORSE: NUKE
Jessica Jones is typically praised as one of Marvel Netflix’s best series. That said, there were some underwhelming subplots woven in that didn’t quite work or could have turned out better. One of those involved the character Will Simpson, a stand in for the character comic book fans known as, Nuke. While Wil Travel might be a good actor in anything else, in Jessica Jones it seemed like he was instructed to act like a ultraviolent jock.
In the comics, Nuke is an amazing character. His personal story touched on the pain brought on by PTSD and the divergence between blind patriotism and pragmatism; none of that exists with on TV. While Simpson’s inclusion was certainly a wonderful easter egg, there wasn’t anything about his overall arc that left the audience emotionally invested. A character with wonderful potential, it also hurt that he looked almost nothing like the Nuke people know.
6 LOOKS GOOD: BLACK MARIAH
Black Mariah not only had the best character arc in Luke Cage, but she was the most fun to watch. At the end of the day, her endgame was to do whatever it took to make Harlem a better pace through her position of political power, even if that meant teaming up with her rascally cousin, Cottonmouth. Like her cousin, she was haunted by her upbringing in crime lord Mama Mabel's household. Though he originally wanted to leave the crime lifestyle behind her, she realized it was all she knew and what she excelled at.
Upon this epiphany, Mariah came into her own as a proper villain. This was a slight departure from her comic book origin, as she wasn’t necessarily the smartest, plus she looked about the size of a sumo wrestler. Luke Cage found a good way to balance her character and give her a distinguished appearance.
5 LOOKS WORSE: COTTONMOUTH
Cottonmouth is a weird villain in the comic books. Knows for his sharpened teeth, massive mouth, and propensity for biting people, Cottonmouth definitely made for a unique Luke Cage villain. In the TV show, Mahershala Ali decided to take a serious approach with his on-screen interpretation of the villainous crime lord, Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes.
He took the silly, gaudy Cottonmouth as seen in the Luke Cage: Hero For Hire comics and turned Cottonmouth into a crime boss with serious ambition and respectability. There was something captivating with the way Ali played the violent gangster and Cottonmouth’s quest for power felt like it came out of a Shakespearean tragedy. Even so, as kooky as it would’ve been, having a dude with an overstretched mouth trying to take a bite out of Luke Cage would have made for groovy television.
4 LOOKS GOOD: THE PUNISHER
While yes, we know the Punisher is technically a good guy, tell that to all the people he murdered. Wrath incarnate when he first appeared in the second season of Daredevil, Frank Castle and his brutish and unwavering righteous indignation helped him carve through a wide swath of bodies over the course of both the season and his own series. When Jon Bernthal stepped into the role, audiences received a Punisher far different, and arguably much better, than any we’d seen before.
Bernthal’s Castle was focused, dedicated to wiping out the scum and villainy that were responsible for murdering his family. This defines the Punisher in the comic; his endless war on crime. Though it took a while for him to don the iconic Punisher vest, his embodiment of the character was so profound, that audiences didn’t care whether he wore the traditional garb or not.
3 LOOKS WORSE: PURPLE MAN
There is something to be said for the majesty of David Tennant. The role he’s in doesn’t matter, as people love him regardless. When it was announced the actor, known for playing the Tenth Doctor on Doctor Who, would be assuming the role of the overly sadistic Killgrave in Jessica Jones, fans of the actor couldn’t have been happier. The man is known for his delightful charm and witty banter; he brought those exact things to the part of Purple Man. Yet while he might have embodied the role perfectly, he looked nothing like the Purple Man from the comic books.
Yes, we realize that Marvel and Netflix have strived to make their stories grounded and gritty, but their characters already live in a universe full of magic hammers, ninjas, and dudes with glowing fists. The Purple Man is supposed to be purple, so make him purple!
2 LOOKS GOOD: JAMES WESLEY
Even bad guys like the Kingpin, for all their intimidation and intelligence, can’t do everything by themselves. We all need a little help sometimes, which is why many superheroes have sidekicks or work on teams, and James Wesley was that extra bit of assistance for Wilson Fisk. Subtle and reserved, Wesley made a fantastic right-hand man to the Kingpin
With nerves of steel, Wesley was in charge eliminating anyone who might pose a threat to Fisks’ empire. Smart and capable of holding his own side-by-side with seasoned criminals, Wesley was a delight to watch. One of the great things about Wesley is that he doesn’t have a specific or iconic look in the comics. He’s a character who’s supposed to blend in, so he can look like anything. He not memorable in the source material, but that might be because he does his job really well.
1 LOOKS WORSE: DIAMONDBACK
There’s nothing inherently wrong with characters acting over the top. After all, if you’re making a TV show about superheroes, then it stands to reason there will be the occasional comic book silliness. The trick is walking the tightrope of knowing when to have your villain cackling like a psychopathic madman and when to reign it in for more grounded storytelling. When it came Erik LaRay Harvey’s portrayal of Willis “Diamondback” Stryker in Luke Cage, it’s as though the director(s) told him to act like a kid on too much sugar with a gun-complex and a mad-on for the show’s hero.
Because of Harvey’s nutty performance, the entire show almost crashed and burned. In a show that plays things pretty realistically, everything Harvey says is hyperbolic and becomes exhausting for the audience; having to deal with a less-than-interesting insanity shtick.