The wonderful world of comic books is stuffed with so many characters that are crammed into numerous storylines and spread across multiple universes; it’s no wonder that time and again, screens big and small decide to showcase the entities that are sure to be recognizable. Even the layperson unfamiliar with comics recognizes Superman’s “S,” and the most uninitiated among superhero aficionados can spy the bat symbol in the sky and know what it stands for. Comic book fans are loyal to the characters they love, and with so many to choose from, they often have to wait years to see their favorites make their debuts in film and/or television. The studios that crank out Marvel and DC movies do so at a rapid pace and base their releases on audience and consumer trends, all while trying to predict new ones (often times, at the expense of loyal fanbases).
Now, finally, as the superhero genre picks up steam in its second decade of earnest screen releases, it begins to showcase all those other characters fans want to see. You’ve heard of Aquaman, meet his brother, Ocean Master! You’ve heard of Black Panther, meet his sister, Shuri! You’ve heard of Deadpool, meet his latest nemesis, Cable! And where some big names are making their mark known, lesser known superheroes and supervillains are being showcased by actors that make them stand up and get noticed. From a big, meaty part, to a small cameo with a few scenes, here are the 20 Biggest Debuts On Screen Of 2018.
Ever since the buzz erupted about Black Panther getting his own movie in 2018, there was speculation of how many characters from his franchise would make it into the film. The breakout star ended up being M’Baku (known in the comics as Man-Ape), one of T’Challa’s biggest rivals for the throne, but turned strongest ally in the movie.
As the leader of the White Gorilla clan that lives in the mountains of Wakanda, M’Baku proved to be a fierce warrior, as well as a charismatic leader with a unique sense of humor. He may have only been in a few scenes, but he left a big impression and was essential in giving the upper hand to T’Challa in the final battle.
19 DOCTOR DESTINY
Elseworlds, the epic annual Arrowverse crossover event, brought two villains to the small screen who were never seen before, one of which was Doctor Destiny. He is known as Dr. John Deegan, head of Arkham Asylum, he drew Green Arrow, The Flash, and Supergirl to Gotham City and into a dangerous game of cat and mouse amidst the unstable inmates he governs.
Doctor Destiny has the power to manipulate people’s dreams and alter their reality, often playing on their worst fears and anxieties. In the series of Justice League comics, he’s originally a sinister scientist, but making him the head of Arkham Asylum and specializing in pathologies is a unique way to emphasize his powers.
As exciting as it was to see Black Panther burst onto the big screen this year, it was T’Challa’s younger sister, Shuri, that had everyone talking; not her esteemed older brother. Shuri was the teenage tech-genius that outfitted Black Panther with all the latest gadgets and wheels; acting as the Q to his James Bond with a unique fashion sense.
Comic fans will know that Shuri took over the Black Panther mantle at one point and protected Wakanda when T’Challa was forced to step down. It was great to see her given so much screen time in the film, especially as a role model to women.
Deadpool 2 was loaded with more explicit language, obscene hand gestures, and gore than its predecessor Deadpool, much to the delight of its fanbase everywhere. It also marked the big screen debut for Cable, a noted adversary to the X-Men and now mercenary hunter after Wade Wilson.
Cable was a highly skilled walking weapon, whose indefatigable nature combined with his penchant for violence created some of the best high-speed fight scenes in the film. He was also a great lead weight to balance Deadpool’s frenetic energy. His set up in the film, especially via time travel, opened up a lot of possibilities for future crossovers.
One of the high points of Deadpool 2 was watching Wade Wilson assemble his own X-Men-like team of misfits, the most popular and anticipated being Domino. Domino is a highly trained assassin who tells it like it is and has luck on her side, dazzling the other members of X-Force with her ability to always gets out of perilous situations because things “always work out.” That, and she psionically affects probability outcomes.
In the comics, Domino is a part of X-Force under Cable, and Deadpool is their adversary. But, in typical zany fashion, that little origin detail has been inverted to Deadpool and Domino fighting side by side.
Bushmaster made his debut in Luke Cage, season 2, appearing as a charismatic businessman and suave community leader named John McIver. Like Daredevil’s Wilson Fisk, he is a prominent crime boss, though slightly more adept at interacting with people. Up until now, Luke Cage had never encountered someone that could match his strength and agility.
Big plans were in development for the character of Bushmaster, who was featured in the comics concerning Iron Fist and Power Man (Luke Cage’s superhero identity) as one of their biggest adversaries. Unfortunately, season 2 would be the last of the series, truncating any further chance at Bushmaster’s character development.
14 CLOAK AND DAGGER
Added to the list of superhero series that share continuity with their big screen counterparts in the MCU, Cloak & Dagger premiered in 2018, debuting the characters of Tandy Bowen (Dagger) and Tyrone Johnson (Cloak). Dagger is a street thief that can channel the Lightforce, while Cloak is a former student and basketball athlete that can channel Darkforce.
Cloak & Dagger works as a compelling coming-of-age series, particularly because the young superheroes realize that their superpowers work better when they’re together. This complicates their lives significantly when they realize that they have feelings for one another.
13 HAWK AND DOVE
Titans began its first season in 2018, boasting a gritty take on the Teen Titans, the group of young superheroes Starfire, Beast Boy, and Raven led by Dick Grayson, a.k.a Nightwing. Hawk and Dove premiered in the series as newer versions of their Silver Age counterparts, who want to retire as vigilantes and join forces with the crew.
Hawk and Dove began their comic book career as brothers, but Titans opted to make the pair a romantic couple featuring Dove II (Dawn Granger), as the first Dove (Don Hall) lost his life during the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths. The banter between them is well suited, with Hawk being brash and Dove being a temperate counterweight to his recklessness.
12 JASON TODD
Dick Grayson is the common choice to represent Robin whenever movies or series need to showcase Batman’s greatest sidekick. He was the first and most recognizable, especially after he went on to become Nightwing. But, Titans decided to debut an equally popular Robin, Jason Todd, known for his much more bombastic role as the Boy Wonder.
The Jason Todd of Titans is depicted as having an understanding of Bruce Wayne/Batman that Dick Grayson never did. He’s eager and capable, and views becoming Robin as the best thing ever. He is also able to bond with his mentor over the mutual passing of their respective parents.
The Arrowverse Elseworld’s crossover event boasted multiple debuts for a variety of characters never before seen on screen in a major way. From heroes to villains, there were characters across multiple franchises to make fans excited, but one seemed to garner more attention than the others: the long-awaited appearance of Batwoman.
Batwoman is set to get her own series in 2019, but aside from costume teases, the Elseworld’s event was the chance to see Batwoman join The Flash, Supergirl, and Green Arrow in taking on Dr. Deegan and Anti-Monitor. If her debut was to be any indication, fans can expect nothing but good things when her series arrives next year.
10 DOOM PATROL
Titans’ auspicious first season gave several noteworthy debuts to beloved fan favorites, including Jason Todd and Doom Patrol. Doom Patrol is a similar DC superhero team to the Justice League, though its members are not quite so well-known. It consists of Elasti-Girl, Crazy Jane, Cyborg, Robotman, Mr. Nobody, The Chief, and Negative Man.
A great response to clean-cut superhero teams with famous names, Doom Patrol is more like the X-Men, right down to being led by a brilliant man in a wheelchair. The group proved so popular that they’re getting their own spin-off series on DC Universe’s streaming service, coming out next year.
As the original member of Doom Patrol, Robotman has the distinction of having served in every incarnation of the team yet. He first appeared in Titans this year, along with other notable members of the team like Cyborg and Elasti-Girl. After a race car accident, Cliff Steele had his human brain put into a robotic body, granting him super strength, agility, and stamina.
As one of the most prominent and recognizable members of Doom Patrol, it will be interesting to see how Robotman’s character is handled when the Doom Patrol live-action series premiers on DC’s new streaming service in 2019, but it’s good to see Brendan Fraser acting again.
8 THE BLACK ORDER
A supervillain team comprised of nefarious agents of Thanos, The Black Order (also known as the Cull Obsidian) made their debut in Avengers: Infinity War as Thanos planned his invasion of Earth. They helped Thanos secure all the stones needed for the Infinity Gauntlet and his ability to wipe out half of Earth’s population.
Ebony Maw, Black Dwarf, Proxima Midnight, and Corvus Glaive all appear in the film as the “Children of Thanos.” They each have objectives to steal certain Infinity Stones, even going so far as to capture Doctor Strange and challenge Vision in combat, but they are each defeated by the superhero they face and sadly don’t get much screen time.
One of Marvel's most complex supervillains, Ghost made her live action debut in Ant-Man and the Wasp. Originally Iron Man’s adversary, Ghost believes all organizations are inherently corrupt, and Stark Industries was just one of the many corporations that was attacked. Whether the organization belonged to a superhero or villain, it didn’t matter to Ghost.
Ghost wasn’t after anything so gloat-worthy as world domination or material wealth, but merely moral payback. Her hacking and programming skills allowed her to build a special suit to commit corporate espionage, as well as walk through walls. Though she is often touted as a villain, her main role these days is more of a mercenary and anti-hero.
6 JANET VAN DYNE
When it was explained in Ant-Man that Hank Pym’s wife, the original Wasp, had been lost to the Quantum Realm while trying to shrink down and stop a missile, Hope van Dyne thought she’d never see her mother again. She was gifted her mother’s original supersuit and was given the chance to fight alongside the new Ant-Man in her place.
Janet van Dyne does manage to return in Ant-Man and the Wasp, though not without a high concentration of quantum energy inside her body. She once again helps her husband in trying to stop a new threat, but while Scott Lang is in the Quantum Realm, she is ended by Thanos in the events of Infinity War.
5 MILES MORALES
The newest person to take up the Spider-Man mantle has been Miles Morales, a streetwise teenager from Brooklyn. Following the demise of Peter Parker in Ultimate Fallout #4 in 2011, it was up to Miles, who had been bitten by a radioactive spider on the subway, to fight crime in New York City. His storylines may exist in the Ultimate Marvel Universe, and therefore, separate from the mainstream Marvel Universe, but they proved so popular that an animated feature film was released this year called Into the Spider-Verse.
Miles teams up with the estranged Peter Parker, now a broken man, who shows him the Spider-Verse (all universes to have a Spider-Man), which contains Spider-Gwen and even a Spider-Ham.
Known for her pink and white costume that comes with a hood, Gwen Stacy became the Spider-Man of her reality on Earth-65. Her character proved so popular after her debut in Edge of the Spider-Verse #2 that she’s since received her own series based on fighting crime on her alternate Earth, as well as joining the adventures of other members of the Spider-Verse.
Spider-Gwen was one of the most highly anticipated characters to debut in Into the Spider-Verse, besides maybe Spider-Ham. A washed-up Peter Parker introduces the current Spider-Man (Miles Morales) to all of the other members of the Spider-Verse so they can take on Kingpin.
3 OCEAN MASTER
Aquaman's half brother has been getting a lot of attention in 2018, and with the arrival of the Aquaman movie, it won’t just be in comics. The perpetually jealous ruler of Atlantis, keen on wielding his brother’s superpowers, puts a bid to not only crush his kin, but also humanity in general for poisoning his oceans.
The film literally turned the tide for DC Studios, separating it from Batman v. Superman and Wonder Woman by focusing it on the big beef between Earth’s landlubbers and its Atlantean neighbors. Making Ocean Master an eco-warrior with a personal vendetta against humans for polluting his oceans was poignant and pertinent to modern environmental conundrums.
Ninjak is one of the most popular series published by Valiant Comics. Ninjak vs. the Valiant Universe has proved itself a welcome alternative for fans of comics that aren’t produced by publishing companies like Marvel, DC, or Image. In the six-episode arc of the web series created for Comicbook.com, it chronicled MI-6 special agent Ninjak as he went toe-to-toe against his former allies: superheroes in the Valiant Universe.
His main threat is Roku, an assassin who helped turn him into an enemy of his own agency. He is forced to fight for his survival against one-time friends and clear his name if he can.
Boasting an all-star cast, stunning visuals, and compelling action sequences, Black Panther was the breakout superhero movie of 2018. One of its greatest accomplishments was improving on the Marvel formula by having a complex villain.
In the past, Marvel films had experienced a lack of villains that left an impression, but Erik Killmonger changed that with his motivations. Taking the Wakandan throne and double-crossing his brother were not done simply out of entitlement and the lust for power, but out of a pursuit of equal representation. Unfortunately, he felt this pursuit could only be done with violence and he was proved too dangerous to be left alive.