Have you ever stopped and thought about how impressive the Marvel Cinematic Universe is? Disney and the creative teams behind these movies must constantly walk a creative tightrope, as they need to put out movies that are able to please general audiences while also keeping most comics fans happy about how their favorite characters and storylines have been adapted. No matter how faithful they try to be, though, changes are inevitable. Sometimes, superhero origins are updated to better reflect modern cultures and attitudes, other times, supervillains are drastically changed so that they can seem actually menacing instead of as colorful jokes. So, are these changes for better or for worse? It all depends on who you ask. Some of the changes have been quite popular and they’ve been popular enough to inspire retconned changes to these characters in the Marvel Comics Universe.
However, other changes have been wildly unpopular. These are the kinds of changes where even the most casual fans put their heads in their hands and ask a simple question: “why couldn’t they just have stuck with the original idea?” As for us? Well, as befitting the fan community, we are split pretty evenly down the middle. Perfectly balanced, as all things should be. We think some of the changes have been transcendentally brilliant, while others should have been tossed out with the first draft. Wondering where your favorite characters and stories landed? Or do you just want to learn more about the MCU? Just keep scrolling to discover 10 Huge Changes Disney made To Marvel For The MCU That Worked (And 10 That Didn’t)!
20 BETTER: THE OUTLAW STAR-LORD
It’s safe to say that Star-Lord is one of the most popular MCU characters. After all, he’s cut from the same mold as Han Solo what with him being a rogue outlaw with a heart of gold. However, this is very different from Star-Lord’s comic origins.
The Star-Lord of the comics was much more of a straight-shooting authority figure. In fact, his job and original costume basically scream “sarcastic space cop.” However, James Gunn wisely realized that audiences were likelier to root for a kind of underdog anti-hero, which is how we got the Star-Lord we all know and love, and the rest is history.
19 WORSE: WHEREFORE ART THOU, MANDARIN?
Arguably, the biggest change that Disney ever made to Marvel’s character was the change they made to the Mandarin, and bad news for them is that most fans agree that this was the worst change they ever made. It's something that the most hardcore Iron Man fans still haven’t gotten over.
Basically, the Mandarin of the comics was very real. With his Ten Rings, he had the kind of magical edge necessary to pose a big threat to Iron Man. In the MCU, however, “the Mandarin” is a fictional character who is portrayed by a wasted and harmless actor named Trevor. This was both a huge misstep and a missed opportunity.
18 BETTER: FROM A TO ZEMO
Fortunately, not all of the changes to Marvel villains were bad. For instance, the character of Baron Zemo was dramatically changed between page and screen, and in our humble opinion, the entire narrative of Captain America: Civil War was all the stronger for it.
In the comics, Baron Zemo is a villain who looks like he is cosplaying as Cobra Commander. In the MCU, however, he is a normal man who is devastated by the loss of his family and blames the Avengers for his loss. His story ended up being poignant and sympathetic in a way that “yet another villain” would simply not have been.
17 WORSE: FAST, WEIRD, AND CONFUSING
If you followed the behind the scenes legal drama, then you know that Disney had a hell of a time with Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. These characters were famous Avengers in the comics (owned by Disney) but were also mutants (effectively owned by Fox). The solution was to explain their powers as a result of Hydra manipulating the Mind Stone.
Except that this explanation seems very weak. How did they even figure out how to make the Stone do that, and why would the two characters get very different powers? It’s enough to make you wonder why Thanos has a small honor guard when even a single Stone could let him create a super-army.
16 BETTER: FUNNY MAN THOR
For the most part, the Thor of the comics has never been a funny character. He mostly yells things in vaguely old-timey language and then hits stuff with his hammer. That’s why Thor’s dialogue has been like “Shakespeare on a bender” for most of the MCU.
In Thor: Ragnarok, though, director Taika Waititi let actor Chris Hemsworth lean into his humorous instincts as a comedic actor. This was an immense game-changer, as Thor was cooler and funnier than ever before. You may think that the old Thor is better, to which we can only channel the meme-worthy question of the new Thor: “Is he, though?”
15 WORSE: COSMIC RED SKULL
Hands down, the weirdest cameo in Avengers: Infinity War was Red Skull. The character was previously thought gone, only to pop up again as a kind of mystic guardian of the Soul Stone. While it seemed cool at the time, this didn’t really make sense.
The Red Skull of the comics was not really a cosmic figure, and making him one in the MCU is a bit weird. We are supposed to believe that he was actually hunting Infinity Stones the entire time he was working during World War II and that he somehow knows exactly how to get the Soul Stone even though it seems like no one has succeeded before. Sorry, Skull, but this is silly!
14 BETTER: THE KILLMONGER 180
Killmonger ended up being one of the coolest villains in recent MCU history. His motivations were the perfect intersection of revenge and intersectional complexity. However, this was actually a good change from his comics motives -- which were the complete opposite.
In those comics, Killmonger ends up at the head of his own Wakandan tribe. His mission? To preserve the old ways and stop Wakanda from becoming too much like the modern world. In the MCU, Wakanda was highly traditional, and Killmonger was upset at their refusal to change in the ways he saw fit. While both motivations are cool, we feel the MCU change was for the best.
13 WORSE: ULTRON’S DADDY ISSUES
Another major villain change concerned the character of Ultron. In the comics, Ultron was created by Hank Pym (the original Ant-Man), and this decision haunted him. In the MCU, Ultron was created by Tony Stark, and he got over it pretty damn quickly.
We felt this change was bad for a number of reasons. First, it robs MCU Hank Pym of some needed complexity. Second, it makes Tony Stark seem foolish and that super-genius “the mechanic” Tony Stark couldn’t see the danger of playing god with a machine intelligence is really stupid. Finally, these movies didn’t really need another excuse to put Tony Stark at the center of everything.
12 BETTER: HOLA, ZOLA
In Captain America: The First Avenger, we are introduced to Arnim Zola in his human form as one of Red Skull’s scientists. When we see him again in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, his brain had been preserved by some ancient tech into a kind of early artificial intelligence.
Did this look a little goofy? Sure. But we’re really happy for the change, as the comic Arnim Zola is basically a face that exists in the stomach of a robot. Ultimately, the MCU could have had a villain that looked like Krang from the Ninja Turtles, but we all dodged that particular bullet.
11 WORSE: A MAN, A PLAN, A BOW
It’s no secret that Hawkeye is the most boring Avenger in the MCU. Despite Renner giving a fun performance, there’s only so much he can do when the only characterization is “shoots people with a bow.” However, this is the only characterization because they changed him significantly from his comics incarnation.
In the comics, Hawkeye has had a rich history. He’s been a thief and super-villain, a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, a masked ninja, and a millionaire hero of the people. In the movies, he is just a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, and even that character history is glossed over except to explain how he knows Black Widow.
10 BETTER: MEDIA VULTURE
When Vulture was announced as the villain for Spider-Man: Homecoming, many fans were skeptical -- after all, the comic design is that he is an old man in a bird costume. No matter how evil he was, it was going to be awkward watching a teenage Spider-Man beating up an old man.
The MCU Vulture ended up being completely different. He’s younger, and powered by stolen technology instead of a goofy bird suit. Finally, he has a compelling reason to become a villain. Overall, this ended up being one of the best supervillain upgrades that the MCU had ever seen.
9 WORSE: S.H.I.E.L.D. ORIGINS
S.H.I.E.L.D. has played a major role in the MCU, and through various movies, TV shows, and flashbacks, we get a pretty comprehensive view of how it all started. Long story short? It all began with Peggy Carter and Howard Stark teaming up, and movies like Ant-Man showed how they continued to shape the organization over time.
This is a pretty cool origin, but the comic origin is much richer and deeper. In addition to seeing all of Nick Fury’s old exploits, comic readers can read about how S.H.I.E.L.D. started centuries ago (sort of) and had agents including Galileo and Leonardo da Vinci. Call us crazy, but that’s a movie we’d pay double to see.
8 BETTER: HELA’S FAMILY DRAMA
Thor: Ragnarok is arguably the best entry in the Thor franchise. A large part of this is due to the character of Hela, who brings an appropriate mixture of menace and power, and she also boasts a wild revelation: she is the long lost, long-forgotten sister of Thor and Loki.
In the comics, it was quite different. Hela was sometimes portrayed as the daughter of Loki rather than his sister, though this has been changed in various stories. Suffice it to say that the comic Hela has no claim to the throne, but we really enjoyed this change, as it showed us a deeper and darker side to both Asgard and Odin.
7 WORSE: CIVIL “MEH”
Captain America: Civil War was a movie that had pretty high expectations. In addition to the general public wanting to see heroes fight, comics readers were looking forward to an adaptation of the famous comics event. Ultimately, though, this event was changed, mostly for the worse.
In the comics, young superheroes got innocent children killed, and the public cried out for superheros to be trained by the government. Thus, all heroes everywhere were forced to give up secret identities and become S.H.I.E.L.D. agents or go on the run. In the MCU, this was changed to simply be about whether or not the Avengers (whose identities were all public) had to be government agents -- a much lower-stakes conflict that was ultimately less rewarding for fans.
6 BETTER: LINEUP CHANGES
In 2012, we finally saw the Avengers assemble on the big screen. However, the lineup was a bit different from the original comics. In those early issues, the founding members of the superteam were Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Ant-Man, and Wasp. Ultimately, we’re glad the movies changed things up.
It’s almost impossible to imagine that first “assemble” without Captain America, and as much as we love Ant-Man and Wasp, it would have been much harder to sell their movies to the public back in Phase One. Finally, we’re happy that Black Widow and Hawkeye got a chance to shine so soon on the big screen together.
5 WORSE: THANOS HISTORY
Thanos is quite possibly the MCU’s greatest villain yet, and he’s certainly the most powerful. However, despite Infinity War translating one of his most famous comic adventures to the silver screen, the Thanos that we see is quite different from the comics.
In the comics, Thanos was an outcast on his own planet due to looking different from everyone else. Over time, this turned into a kind of hatred for his fellow man, setting him down the road to becoming a supervillain. We’re a little sad to lose this background for the MCU version because it gave the character additional context and even pathos.
4 BETTER: STAR-LORD’S SIRE
Like we said before, Star-Lord experienced many changes between panel and film. In addition to his own character changes, his parentage was changed. In the comics, his dad is basically an evil Emperor -- powerful, but just a man. In the movies, of course, his father is Ego: a living planet who is basically a god.
We thought this was actually a very positive change. Not only did it raise the stakes for Star-Lord’s personal “man vs. father story” into something epic, but it provided an explanation (albeit belated) as to how the hero could do things like hold an Infinity Stone without being destroyed.
3 WORSE: THE STORMBREAKER STORY
In a nice bit of continuity, the Thor of Infinity War must forge a new weapon because Mjolnir was destroyed in Thor: Ragnarok. What he ends up creating is Stormbreaker, a weapon very different from its comics incarnation. In fact, Thor never wielded it in the comics.
Stormbreaker was a weapon used by Beta Ray Bill, a horsefaced alien who proved himself worthy enough to lift Mjolnir. We’re a bit sad about the changes made to Stormbreaker’s story, but that’s mostly because it seemed to confirm that we are never going to see Bill in the MCU (and no, nitpickers, his face on a statue doesn’t count).
2 BETTER: THANOS MOTIVATION
You know how the MCU Thanos is obsessed with death? As in, snapping his fingers and wiping out half of all life in the universe? In the comics, this is much more literal. Thanos is in love with Lady Death, who is the actual manifestation of death within that universe, and all his created mayhem is intended to impress her.
Obviously, Lady Death is not part of the MCU, and we’re glad. While the universe has slowly expanded our idea of mythology and mysticism, it might be a tough sell to make audiences believe the toughest guy in the universe is doing it all to get a date with the Grim Reaper.
1 WORSE: MAW? WE KNEW HIM WELL
Ebony Maw was one of the more memorable “Children of Thanos.” If the name doesn’t ring a bell, he’s the “Squidward” looking guy that gets sucked out into space thanks to Spider-Man being a huge Aliens fan. In these ways, he is memorable... but he’s also been changed from the comics, mostly for the worst.
In the comics, Ebony Maw is part of a much larger story in which Thanos is trying to hunt down his son, Thane. To find the younger man, Maw is able to mentally manipulate Doctor Strange. Thus, while it was cool to see them duke it out on-screen, we’d rather see the more cunning and manipulative Ebony Maw brought to life.