Before Guardians of the Galaxy hit theaters in 2014, characters like Rocket Racoon and Groot were footnotes in the larger scope of the Marvel Universe. But after that movie turned an angry raccoon and a talking tree into household names, Marvel cemented its status as a truly unstoppable cultural juggernaut. Since then, Marvel’s movies and TV shows have plucked characters from the most obscure corners of the Marvel Universe. Even if these characters didn’t seem ready for the limelight, Marvel’s deep bench has played an increasingly important role in the sustained success and evolution of superheroes on film. Marvel owns an estimated 8,000 characters, and the breadth of that deep bench helped Marvel’s productions thrive in 2017.
Now, CBR is taking a look back at some of the most bizarre Marvel characters who debuted on screen in 2017. In this list, we’ll be counting down some of the strangest characters who made their live-action debuts in Marvel’s movies of TV shows in 2017. While the weirder aspects of these superheroes and villains were toned down on screen, some of them appeared in all of their truly strange glory. We’ll also be looking at how these live-action characters size up next to their comic book counterparts.
SPOILER WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Thor: Ragnarok and Legion. It also contains mild spoilers for The Gifted, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Spider-Man: Homecoming and Runaways.
In one of the most memorable moments from James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Chris Sullivan’s Taserface led the Ravagers in a rebellion against their leader Yondu. Despite his imposing look, Taserface’s wonderfully ridiculous name was a continual source of ridicule for the character. Although Gunn once mocked Taserface on social media, the Ravager was turned into a Funko! Pop and featured in the film’s other merchandise.
Although Taserface was introduced in 1990’s Guardians of the Galaxy #1, by Jim Valentino, he was named by Valentino’s young son, Aaron. After his second appearance, Taserface’s name was changed to the slightly less awesome Overkill. In the alternate reality 31st century of that series, the alien has battled the original Guardians of the Galaxy on behalf of aliens who worshiped the memory of Tony Stark.
While the X-Men’s movies have given most of Marvel’s most famous moments a moment in the spotlight, Fox’s The Gifted has built its Mutant Underground out of the franchise’s lesser-known mutants. Along with well-established X-Men like Thunderbird and Polaris, the relatively obscure mutant Dreamer has had a surprisingly big role on the show’s surrogate X-team. Using her memory-altering dream smoke, Elena Satine’s character has served as the team’s resident telepath for most of the show’s first season.
In comics, Dreamer was a drastically different character called Beautiful Dreamer. She was created by Louise Simonson and June Brigman in 1985’s Power Pack #12, and the mutant was a minor member of the sewer-dwelling Morlocks. After being abducted by anti-mutant forces, her powers were weaponized by a mutated version of the Legacy Virus. In 2009, Dreamer died after her powers went into overdrive and killed over 1,000 anti-mutant activists.
13. OLD LACE
Thanks to Runaways, there’s a dinosaur in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Old Lace, a genetically-engineered velociraptor, has filled her usual role as Gert Yorkes’ reptilian companion on Hulu’s Runaways. In the show, Dale and Stacey Yorkes, portrayed by Kevin Weisman and Brigid Brannagh, created the dinosaur to protect their family from the other members of the Pride. After hearing Ariela Barer’s Gert singing, Old Lace has responded to her commands as the Runaways have investigated their parents’ secrets.
In comics, Old Lace was created by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona in 2003’s Runaways #2. Named after the play Arsenic & Old Lace, the dinosaur has been referred to as both a raptor and a Deinonychus. This version of Old Lace was originally created in the future and brought back to the present by Gert’s time-traveling parents. Other than Gert, another Runaway, Chase Stein, also gained control over Old Lace.
By any measure, Legion, David Haller, is one of the most powerful, complex mutants the X-Men have ever encountered. Originally created by Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz in 1985’s New Mutants #25, Haller was the previously-unseen son of Charles Xavier, who suffered from severe mental illness. In addition to the ability to spontaneously generate new powers, Legion has hundreds of split personalities, each with its own set of powers.
Despite that daunting reputation, Legion took on a starring role in Fox’s Legion. In the show, Dan Stevens plays a streamlined version of Haller, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia and has telekinetic and telepathic powers. Although Legion has been largely independent from the rest of Fox’s X-Men adaptations, it’ has dropped hints about Legion’s connection to Xavier. Even though it’s consistently pushed the boundaries of the superhero genre, the critically-acclaimed series still hasn’t tackled the most outlandish aspects of the character.
11. ORIGINAL GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
Before the modern Guardians of the Galaxy formed in the wake of Marvel’s “Annihilation” crossovers, the original Guardians of the Galaxy protected an alternate reality’s version of the 31st century. After being created by Arnold Drake and Gene Colan in 1969’s Marvel Super-Heroes #18, the heroic group fought aliens like the Badoon in the 1960s. During their 1990s revival, the team’s extraterrestrial members developed a number of connections to the modern Marvel Universe. For instance, Krugarr, a snakelike alien, became Sorcerer Supreme after Doctor Strange’s death.
In James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2, the original Guardians made a cameo as Ravagers, a group of cosmic thieves originally led by Sylvester Stallone’s Starhawk. In a post-credits scene, Starkhawk, Michelle Yeoh’s Aleta, Ving Rhames’s Charlie-27, Michael Rosenbaum’s Martinex, Miley Cyrus’ Mainframe and a CGI-generated Krugarr agreed to reunite after the death of their old teammate, Michael Rooker’s Yondu.
10. BRIDE OF NINE SPIDERS
Even though Netflix’s Iron Fist didn’t receive the warmest reception from critics or fans, it still brought a few characters from the world of the Marvel martial arts master to the screen for the first time. One of those characters was Jane Kim’s Bride of Nine Spiders. In the show, she was one of the Hand’s better assassins, who used her expertise in poisons to disorient the Iron Fist during their battle.
In comics, the Bride of Nine Spiders had a considerably more important role as the protector of the ancient mystical Kingdom of Spiders. Created by Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction and David Aja in 2007’s Immortal Iron Fist #8, the Bride could harness her chi to release a swarm of spiders from her chest. With her ally and fellow Immortal Weapon, Iron Fist, this martial arts master played roles in a few storylines in the years following her creation.
Although Korg was one of the most charming parts of Thor: Ragnarok, his comic book counterpart tried to invade Earth twice. Korg was created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby in 1962’s Journey Into Mystery #83. After the Kronans were defeated by Thor, Korg reappeared decades later as a gladiator on the planet Sakaar in 2006’s “Planet Hulk.” After an exiled Hulk conquered that world, Korg became one of his closest allies and joined his revenge-fueled return to Earth in 2007’s “World War Hulk.”
In Ragnarok, director Taika Waititi lent his voice to a soft-spoken Korg, who became a gladiator after launching a failed revolution. After leading a revolt against Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster on Sakarr, he joined Thor and the Asgardians on their earthbound ship. Although he’s more good-natured than his comic counterpart, Korg was one of biggest parts of “Planet Hulk” that was adapted in this well-received film.
8. AHAB/DR. RODERICK CAMPBELL
In one of the Marvel Universe’s darkest possible futures, Ahab was a cyborg who used Hounds — mind-controlled mutants — to hunt other mutants down for his Sentinel masters. Created by Walter Simonson and Jackson Guice in 1990’s Fantastic Four Annual #23, Ahab lived up to his literary namesake by using energy harpoons and a robotic peg leg. In the present-day Marvel Universe, Roderick Campbell, Ahab’s human precursor, was a psychologist who worked with mutants before being turned into one of Apocalypse’s super-powered Horsemen.
While he’s still human, Dr. Roderick Campbell has already acted like a monster on The Gifted. Like his comic book counterpart, Garret Dillahunt’s Trask Industries scientist hunts mutants with the Hound program. Although he doesn’t have a robotic peg leg yet, Campbell already has the same scar that runs across Ahab’s face in the comics and has distinguished himself as the show’s first major villain.
7. THE TINKERER
Even though he debuted in 1963’s Amazing Spider-Man #2, by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, the Tinkerer has never really been one of Spider-Man’s A-list bad guys. Thanks to his expertise in science and engineering, Phineas Mason has served as a supporting character who’s mainly built or redesigned weapons for Marvel’s other supervillains. Along with his Spider-Man: Homecoming co-star, the Vulture, the Tinkerer is also usually portrayed as one of Spider-Man’s most elderly foes.
Like the Vulture, the Tinkerer got a new lease on life in Jon Watts’ Spider-Man: Homecoming. In the movie, Michael Chernus’ Tinkerer was a member of a salvage crew led by Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes. This Tinkerer developed a number of weapons and tools using alien debris left after the climax of 2012’s The Avengers. Like his comics counterpart, he mainly stuck to the sidelines when the actual fighting started.
6. THE SHADOW KING
Instead of focusing on familiar mutants from the world of the X-Men, Legion features a cast of almost entirely new characters. Other than the show’s titular mutant, the only other comic book character on the show is the Shadow King. Created by Chris Claremont and John Byrne in 1979’s X-Men #117, the Shadow King is an ancient, formless evil psychic entity and one of the X-Men’s most powerful foes.
On Legion, the Shadow King took several forms as it tried to twist and infect Legion’s telepathic mind. In addition to appearing as Aubrey Plaza’s Lenny Busker, the Shadow King appeared as the monstrous Devil with the Yellow Eyes, an evil children’s book character and a dog. While the show hinted at its fierce rivalry with Charles Xavier, the Shadow King was a deeply disturbing villain who was a formidable match for the ultra-powerful Legion.
When Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. premiered for its fifth season, the first MCU TV series disoriented viewers with a few shocking reveals. The S.H.I.E.L.D. heroes found themselves floating through space in a future where the Earth had been totally destroyed. While the alien Kree looked after the remnants of humanity, the planet was overrun by insect-like Vrellnexian aliens. These ferocious “Roaches” have the intimidating abilities to survive in the vacuum of space and consume energy blasts.
Despite those considerable abilities, the Vrellnexians have an aggressively obscure comic book history. The aliens were created by Gerry Conway and John Buscema in 1973’s Thor #212, where they launched a failed invasion of Asgard in their only meaningful storyline. These aliens also share a collective hive mind that helps the insects act together in their ruthless, but unseen, campaigns of conquest across Marvel’s galaxies.
When the Strucker siblings were revealed to be main characters in The Gifted, longtime X-Men fans wondered if those teen mutants had a connection to the semi-obscure X-villains, Fenris. Created by Chris Claremont and John Romita Jr. in 1985’s Uncanny X-Men #194, Andreas and Andrea von Strucker were the children of Hydra leader Baron von Strucker. When they touched each other’s skin, they could generate concussive energy blasts. After bouncing around the Marvel Universe in the 1990s, Andrea died and Andreas became the Swordsman and joined the New Thunderbolts.
On The Gifted, the original Fenris were revealed to be the ancestors of the show’s Strucker family. As revealed in a 1950s flashback, Paul Cooper and Caitlin Mehner’s duo of mutant terrorists used their explosive abilities to carve a path of destruction across Europe. Unfortunately, Natalie Alyn Lind’s Lauren and Percy Hynes White’s Andy Stucker inherited their great-grandparents’ explosive powers.
3. THE WATCHERS
Since they were introduced by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1963’s Fantastic Four #13, the big-headed alien race has silently recorded the ongoing history of the Marvel Universe. Despite their pledge to never interfere with events, Uatu the Watcher broke his vow over 400 times, usually helping the Fantastic Four defeat powerful foes like Galactus or the Molecule Man.
Since the Watchers are so closely related to the Fantastic Four, many fans assumed that they couldn’t appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since the FF’s movie rights were held by Fox. James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 proved that wasn’t the case and confirmed another fan theory in one of the film’s most surprising moments. In two short scenes that tie together all of Stan Lee’s cinematic cameos, Lee gave an unnamed group of Watchers a report on all of the happenings of Marvel’s movies.
2. THE INHUMAN ROYAL FAMILY
Despite a solid comic book history, the Inhumans were ultimately too weird to work for most audiences. Although they were created as supporting characters by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1965’s Fantastic Four #45, the Terrigen Mist-empowered humans became a powerful force in the Marvel Universe. Led by their silent king Black Bolt, the Inhuman Royal Family even starred in a few stories, especially over the past few years.
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Inhumans were introduced on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., where they essentially filled the traditional role of mutants. In Inhumans, the Inhuman Royal Family took center stage in their own live-action series. Headlined by Anson Mount’s Black Bolt, Serinda Swan’s Medusa and Iwan Rheon’s Maximus the Mad, the show received negative reviews and tepid ratings. In the show’s most talked-about moment, the hair-controlling Medusa’s head was shaved in what many described as a budget-driven plotline.
Ego The Living Planet is one of the strangest characters in the Marvel Universe. Created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee in 1966’s Thor #132, the sentient planet was originally a scientist named Ergos who merged with his planet during a star explosion. As one of the most noteworthy forces in Marvel’s cosmos, Ego has battled and helped several Marvel heroes over the years.
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Kurt Russell’s Ego was one of the Celestials, an immensely powerful group of ancient aliens. While in his human form, this Ego traveled to Earth and fathered Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord. Although Star-Lord initially embraced his long-lost dad and their shared fantastic abilities, he turned against his dad when he discovered his villainous plans. During their final battle, this Ego took on the form of a planet, bringing the classic version of this utterly strange character to screen for a few moments.
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