After months of rumors and uncertainty, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four and hundreds of other classic Marvel characters can finally join the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While the film rights to those characters have been controlled by Fox since the 1990s, Disney and Fox’s recently approved $71.3 billion merger means that those characters can now be used by Marvel Studios. The larger effects of this deal will be felt across the media landscape over the next several decades, but it will eventually unlock the full potential of the MCU. Now, CBR is taking a look at some of the biggest, best and most important Marvel characters and teams Marvel Studios will get after the Disney-Fox deal, in no particular order.
At one point or another, roughly 300 characters served in the X-Men or on one of its affiliate teams. From iconic characters like Beast, Bishop and Psylocke to more obscure mutants like Maggott, Mimic and Zeitgeist, every X-Man is someone’s favorite, and all of them have storytelling potential in the MCU. On a similar note, the Fantastic Four’s adventures have introduced dozens of heroes, villains and alien races from all corners of the Marvel Universe. Since we can’t possibly go through the hundreds, if not thousands, of characters affected by the deal, we’ll be focusing on characters who already have ties to other MCU characters or could fill narrative needs within the MCU. We’ll also be checking in with some of Fox’s in-development projects featuring these characters. While most of these characters have already appeared on screen, they’re still well-positioned for success under the Marvel Studios banner.
Wolverine might be the most important single character impacted by this deal. In 2000, Fox’s X-Men kickstarted the modern superhero movie boom, made Hugh Jackman an international celebrity and cemented Wolverine as one of the world’s most iconic superheroes. After 10 films, Jackman gave his Wolverine a fitting send-off in 2017’s critically-acclaimed blockbuster Logan.
However, Jackman has publicly expressed interest about returning to the role if it meant that his Wolverine could join the Avengers like his comic book counterpart. Wolverine was created by Roy Thomas, Len Wein, John Romita in Incredible Hulk #180, and an on-screen brawl between the X-Man and the Hulk is long overdue. While eventually recasting the part won’t be easy, it’s tough to imagine an MCU X-Men franchise without Wolverine.
24. THE THING
For years, the Fantastic Four were the center of the Marvel Universe. During Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s iconic 1960s Fantastic Four run, the team’s stories sketched out the scope Marvel’s worlds. While the FF’s adventures might’ve been filled with crazy cosmic action, they were always emotionally grounded by the deep humanity of Ben Grimm, the Thing.
While he’s strong enough to clobber the Hulk, the Thing is also one of Marvel’s most tragic heroes.
Michael Chiklis wasn’t terribly cast as the Thing in the mid-2000s FF movies, but his costume left something to be desired. With CGI that’s able to make Thanos and Groot look real, the technology is finally there to believably bring this rocky hero and occasional Avenger to life.
Even though Gambit showed up in X-Men Origins: Wolverine for a few minutes, the Cajun mutant hasn’t even appeared on-screen as a member of the X-Men yet. Shortly after he was created by Chris Claremont and Jim Lee in 1990’s Uncanny X-Men #266, Remy LeBeau was one of the team’s most popular members. While he can work fairly well as a solo character, the card-throwing, semi-reformed thief really excels in the X-Men, especially with his longtime off-and-on romantic partner Rogue.
While Fox has tried to make a solo Gambit movie for years, the project faced numerous difficulties. Although Channing Tatum was cast as Gambit in 2014, the film has already gone through three directors and faces an uncertain future after the Disney/Fox deal.
22. SILVER SURFER
In addition to getting the X-Men and the Fantastic Four, Marvel Studios will also get access to some huge missing pieces of the cosmic universe through the deal, including Marvel’s most famous space hero, the Silver Surfer. Although he was originally the Herald for the planet-eating Galactus, the Surfer has proven himself to be a true hero.
As an omen of doom or a beacon of hope, the Silver Surfer casts an iconic profile across Marvel’s galaxies.
Since he was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1966’s Fantastic Four #48, the Surfer has been the main link between Earth’s heroes and the wider universe. His numerous solo adventures have included introspection and the kind of psychedelic adventure that the MCU made famous.
21. JEAN GREY/PHOENIX
As one of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s original five X-Men, Jean Grey is a cornerstone of the X-Men’s universe. Whether she’s wielding the cosmic power of the Phoenix Force or just her own formidable telekinetic powers, Jean is one of the X-Men’s strongest members. Plus, the love triangle between Jean, her husband Cyclops and Wolverine is one of the X-Men’s most well-known storylines.
Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey is set to be the center of Fox’s next X-Men movie, X-Men: Dark Phoenix. That movie is set to adapt one of the X-Men’s greatest storylines, Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s “The Dark Phoenix Saga.” While Dark Phoenix still has to go through reshoots, it’s still scheduled for release in February 2019.
Even though Kang the Conqueror is one of the Avengers’ greatest villains, he was tied up in Fox’s Fantastic Four rights thanks to his time-traveling antics. While Nathaniel Richards first appeared as Kang in 1964’s Avengers #8, he had already debuted as the Pharaoh Rama-Tut in 1963’s Fantastic Four #19. That means that he was still technically a Fantastic Four character, even though he starred in classic Avengers tales.
After conquering the future, this time-traveling villain turned his attention to the present day.
Along with Loki and Ultron, Kang is one of the definitive Avengers villains. Since Infinity Stone-based time-travel has already been teased in the MCU, it’s not tough to imagine Kang taking his rightful place as one of the next big Avengers villains.
19. MISTER FANTASTIC
Most of the time, Mister Fantastic is the smartest human in the Marvel Universe. While the MCU is already filled with geniuses like Tony Stark, Bruce Banner and Shuri, Reed Richards usually outclasses them all with an intellectual might that’s more imposing than his superpowers. When big things happen in the Marvel Universe, the super-stretchy leader of the Fantastic Four is there, usually with a solution or an invention that can save the day.
While he might not win any popularity contests, Reed Richards is a morally complex character who’s struggled to balance his icy intellectualism with his roles as a friend and family man. When a younger version of Reed failed to do that, he became a truly terrifying villain in the Ultimate Universe.
Since Storm was introduced in Len Wein and Dave Cockrum’s Giant-Size X-Men #1, Ororo Munroe has been one of the X-Men’s most powerful members and most capable leaders. For someone who could arguably be called Marvel’s biggest female hero, Storm hasn’t had the most illustrious cinematic history. While she’s been capably portrayed on-screen by Halle Berry and Alexandra Shipp, Storm has usually faded into the background of the X-Men’s movies.
However, Storm could be the key to connecting the X-Men to Wakanda.
In a slightly controversial comic book storyline, Storm and Black Panther were married from 2006 to 2012. Since both T’Challa and the X-Men will probably be central to the MCU’s future, a prominent role for Storm seems like a safe bet.
17. INVISIBLE WOMAN
More than any other member of the Fantastic Four, the Invisible Woman has evolved into a far more complex character since she was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1961. While she originally could only turn invisible, Sue Storm has always served as the emotional core and most level-headed member of the team. Although she was once defined by her marriage to Reed Richards, Sue is fiercely protective of her children and the rest of her family.
As she developed more ingenious uses for her invisible force fields, the Invisible Woman grew into a formidable powerhouse fighter. While she’s had stints in S.H.I.E.L.D. and with the Avengers, recent reinventions of the Sue have also made her a brilliant scientist in her own right.
Between his complex morality and mind-boggling powers, it’s easy to understand why Magneto is the X-Men’s most famous foe and one of Marvel’s greatest villains. In comics and film, he’s shown his conceptual versatility by working with the X-Men almost as much as he’s fought them.
Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender have both given beloved performances as Magneto on screen.
Even though Magneto has had a huge role in the X-Men’s movies, there’s still a big place for him in the MCU. Traditionally, Magneto has been the father of Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. While that relationship has been downplayed and erased in recent comics, it was a central part of those two Avengers’ lives for decades. In the MCU, it could enrich all three characters.
Annihilus might not be the most well-known Marvel villain, but he’s already played a big role in bringing the Guardians of the Galaxy to life. As the ruler of the desolate Negative Zone, Annihilus has battled the Fantastic Four since he was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1968’s Fantastic Four Annual #6.
In the fan-favorite 2006 crossover Annihilation, Annihilus turned into an even greater threat when he led an invasion that devastated a huge chunk of the Marvel Universe. This story and its sequel reinvigorated Star-Lord other obscure cosmic heroes and led to the formation of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Since Ant-Man and the Wasp teased the Negative Zone, Annihilus could easily be the next major cosmic MCU threat after Thanos.
14. THE NEW MUTANTS
Over the course of the X-Men’s history, there have been a half-dozen teams of teenage mutants. With titles like New Mutants, Generation X and Young X-Men, these teams have consistently injected new blood into the Marvel Universe and could provide the MCU a similar stream of young mutants and future X-Men in the universe.
If things had gone according to plan, you would’ve seen already the New Mutants on screen.
Originally, The New Mutants was set to debut in 2018 and star a group of young mutants including Magik, Cannonball and Wolfsbane. The superhero horror film was pushed to August 2019 to accommodate extensive reshoots to make the movie scarier. It’s unclear how or if the film will be affected by the Fox/Disney merger.
13. DOCTOR DOOM
Doctor Doom might be the best villain in the Marvel Universe. Since Victor Von Doom was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1962’s Fantastic Four #5, he’s been the Fantastic Four’s chief nemesis and occasional ally. Besides ruling Latveria, Doom is a super-genius inventor with a suit of armor that rivals Iron Man and a magical knowledge that’s on par with Doctor Strange. With all of that at his disposal, Doom’s greatest enemy is usually his own hubris.
Besides battling the Fantastic Four, Doom has appeared in major storylines involving Iron Man, Black Panther and the Avengers. Since he’s also taken over the universe on occasion, this iconic villain has a narrative versatility that could make him the MCU’s definitive bad guy.
12. HUMAN TORCH
The Human Torch usually lives up to his name by being the Fantastic Four’s resident hothead. Despite his perpetual immaturity, Johnny Storm is still an indispensable part of Marvel’s First Family. While his time on the Avengers wasn’t too memorable, the Torch’s easy-going, jokey demeanor is already perfectly in line with the MCU’s humor.
The Human Torch’s best superhero friend, Spider-Man, is already well-established in the MCU.
Spider-Man and the FF have such a long-standing friendship in comics, and the MCU could finally give fans the chance to see it unfold on the big screen. Ironically, both actors who played the Torch on-screen, Chris Evans and Michael B. Jordan, have already appeared in the MCU as Captain America and Black Panther’s Erik Killmonger, respectively.
After a pair of highly profitable and critically-acclaimed R-rated solo films, Deadpool has become the unlikely center of Fox’s X-Men movie universe. Thanks to Ryan Reynolds’ career-defining role as Wade Wilson, the Merc With a Mouth is a household name. Even though his films are filled with adults-only humor, he’s at the center of a merchandising bonanza and has fans of all ages.
After he debuted in 1991’s New Mutants #98, by Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza, Wade spent years having relatively kid-friendly adventures. While the antihero can work in that kind of PG-13 context, his cinematic humor and ultra-violence could still work at Marvel Studios. In 2017, Disney CEO Bob Iger said that there was room for an R-rated Deadpool in the MCU.
10. THE SHI’AR
In 2019, Captain Marvel will involve two of Marvel’s biggest alien races, the Kree and the shape-shifting Skrulls. Thanks to the Disney/Fox merger, Marvel’s third major intergalactic race, the Shi’ar, could eventually join them in the MCU. The bird-like Shi’Ar were created by Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum during “The Phoenix Saga” in 1976.
Usually led by Lilandra, these aliens are protected by the Imperial Guard, a group of alien warriors.
The majority of Shi’ar stories usually involve the X-Men in some capacity. Given their deep ties to the Phoenix Force, there’s a very real chance the Shi’ar might play a role in X-Men: Dark Phoenix. Still, it’s probably only a matter of time before the Shi’ar help round out the MCU’s cosmic order.
9. PROFESSOR X
As the founder and mentor of the X-Men, Professor X will undoubtedly show up in the MCU at some point. While Patrick Stewart embodied the platonic ideal of Charles Xavier in several X-Men movies, James McAvoy has also delivered a solid take on a younger version of the world’s most powerful telepath. Even though he founded the X-Men, Xavier and his thoroughly well-explored friendship with Magneto have already taken up plenty of screen time.
Still, there are new ways to explore Xavier in the MCU. The darker aspects of his personality have been ignored on-screen, including his comic book role in Marvel’s Illuminati. Along with MCU heroes like Iron Man, Black Panther and Doctor Strange, Xavier secretly shaped the Marvel Universe from behind the scenes.
In 2018, Josh Brolin portrayed two equally iconic but totally different Marvel characters on the big screen. While Thanos has already left a lasting impression on the MCU, his Cable seems destined for more adventures after his debut in Deadpool 2. Since the adult Nathan Summers debuted in Rob Liefeld and Louise Simonson’s New Mutants #86, the time-traveling mutant has developed an aggressively complex backstory.
In Deadpool 2, Brolin’s Cable had a no-nonsense attitude that was the perfect balance to Deadpool’s antics.
Even though he’s had memorable stints with the X-Men and a less memorable stint with the Avengers, Cable’s cinematic destiny is likely tied to Deadpool’s fortunes. If the long-rumored X-Force movie still happens after the Fox/Disney deal, Cable and Deadpool would almost certainly show up there.
If the X-Force movie does come to fruition, Domino would almost certainly be a part of it too. The supernaturally lucky mutant has been associated with X-Force since it was formed. While Domino was seemingly introduced by Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza in New Mutants #98, the real Neena Thurman didn’t technically debut until 1992’s X-Force #8. While Domino has had a few adventures on her own, as an X-Man and with Wolverine, she’s always worked best with Cable and X-Force.
After making her movie debut in Deadpool 2, Zazie Beetz’s Domino also seems intrinsically tied to Cable and Deadpool’s X-Force. Beetz’s Domino was one of the movie’s many highlights, and it would be surprising if we never saw that version of her on-screen again.
Even though he’s the X-Men’s most famous leader, Cyclops hasn’t had the best luck on film. James Marsden’s Cyclops was underserved by roles that saw him play second fiddle to Wolverine, fall under mind control and ultimately perish off-screen. While Tye Sheridan’s Cyclops has had more to do, he’s still been a far cry from the traditionally reserved, responsible hero.
Like Storm, Cyclops’s cinematic history pales in comparison to his comic book adventures.
After leading X-Men teams for years, Cyclops flourished as the central character in a decade of critically-acclaimed, fan-favorite X-Men stories in the 2000s. In the crossover Avengers vs. X-Men, Cyclops became a morally complex character who blurred the line between hero and villain in a twist that still encourages passionate debate among fans.
5. THE FUTURE FOUNDATION
For the past several years, the Fantastic Four has really focused on nurturing the next generation of super-geniuses in the Future Foundation. The FF already have plenty of child-raising experience, since the team has collectively been raising the frighteningly powerful and perpetually young Franklin Richards since he was born in 1968. On a similar note, the team has been raising his sister, the frighteningly smart Valeria Richards, since she was born in 2002.
With the children of Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman at the helm, the Future Foundation starred in several light-hearted adventures in the 2010s. Since young geniuses like Shuri and Peter Parker have already excelled in the MCU, the Future Foundation could start laying the groundwork for years of future MCU plots.
While Rogue wasn’t the first X-Man to join the Avengers, the power-absorbing mutant has several connections to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Before she spent decades as an X-Man, Rogue debuted as a villain in Chris Claremont and Michael Golden’s Avengers Annual #10.
More recently, Rogue has consistently served as the leader of the Uncanny Avengers for years.
Rogue also has deep ties to Carol Danvers, the current Captain Marvel. When she was a young mutant, she absorbed all of Carol’s powers and part of her psyche. Rogue kept Carol’s powers and part of her personality for years, even on the 90s’ X-Men cartoon. While the two have a tense truce these days, their complicated history could be the basis for the MCU’s next big superhero rivalry.
3. THE GIFTED
While the MCU already has a robust TV and streaming line-up with shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Cloak and Dagger and its Netflix series, the Fox/Disney merger could see Fox’s X-Men shows join that line-up. While the trippy psychological drama Legion stands on its own, The Gifted has successfully fashioned several disparate elements of the X-Men’s world into a promising new series.
While the show features some familiar X-Men like Polaris and Blink, the real focus of The Gifted is the mutant population in a world without the X-Men. While the series will begin its second season in September, the show still has fairly high ratings and solid buzz. If those hold up, The Gifted will probably still be on the air for the next few years.
In 2017, Logan took Fox’s X-Men franchise to new heights of critical acclaim that ultimately got the film an Academy Award nomination. While this somber, R-rated epic gave Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine a fitting farewell, it also introduced an exciting new mutant in Dafne Keen’s X-23.
After her breakout role in Logan, Fox began teasing future plans for the savage young Wolverine clone.
While it’s not clear how the MCU will deal with the continuity of Fox’s X-Men films, X-23 could help bridge the narrative gap between the two studios. X-23 has been a member of young X-Men and Avengers teams in comics and could serve as a familiar face on either of those kinds of teams in the MCU.
Galactus is one of the biggest threats in the Marvel Universe… literally. Since he was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1966’s classic Fantastic Four #48, the mammoth Devourer of Worlds has eaten a decent chunk of the Marvel Universe. Whenever the planet-eater has set his sights on Earth, it’s usually taken the combined might of the Fantastic Four, the Silver Surfer and the Avengers to turn him away.
After Thanos is dealt with in Avengers 4, the MCU will probably need a new cosmic foe that can unite all of its various heroes against a common threat, and Galactus is the ideal candidate for that role. At this point, it’s only a matter of time before Galactus shows up in the MCU.
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