Have superheroes reached their saturation point on the big screen? Some critics and moviegoers might have actually sided with Thanos, not knowing what to do with the sheer number of superheroes to keep up with in the age of cinematic universes and wishing to snap those numbers in half. To their frustration and many others' joy, it will take a lot more than an Infinity Gauntlet to stop the parade of new superhero movies in 2019. Next year brings us three new Marvel Cinematic Universe entries, two DC movies, two FOX X-Men films and even more independent comic book adaptations as well as movie-original superhero films like Glass.
Some of these new films might be focused primarily or entirely on characters already familiar to moviegoers. No new characters have been announced yet for Avengers: Endgame, and Glass appears to be centered entirely around the one hero and two villains previously introduced in Unbreakable and Split. Other films, like Captain Marvel and The New Mutants, promise to introduce mainstream audiences to whole hosts of heroes and villains never before seen in cinemas. Still more films, like Spider-Man: Far From Home and the Hellboy reboot, might have recognizable faces as the focus but are also confirmed to include the cinematic introductions of other characters from the comics. This list should get comic fans hyped and movie fans up to speed on which characters you'll need to keep track of in the year to come. Both superheroes and supervillains get equal time in the spotlight here, with 10 entries per category.
20 HERO: CAPTAIN MARVEL
Captain Marvel hits theaters on March 8, 2019, and practically everyone's hyped for it. Played by Brie Larson, Carol Danvers' debut in the MCU is kind of a huge deal. The post-credits scene in Infinity War implies she may very well be the key to undoing Thanos' crimes in the next Avengers.
Before she stops Thanos, we're getting her origin story. The basic summary is that she used to be a human Air Force pilot, but had her memories erased and new abilities granted to her by the alien Kree Empire. Her movie, set in 1995, finds her returning to Earth while at war with the Skrulls.
19 VILLAIN: TALOS
So what are the Skrulls? As a young Nick Fury helpfully explains in the second Captain Marvel trailer, "Skrulls are the bad guys." Not the only bad guys in the movie, but the ones Captain Marvel is initially focused on fighting. Skrulls are alien shapeshifters, able to impersonate anyone. Who knows how many characters in the MCU have secretly been Skrulls all along.
Talos, played by Ben Mendelsohn, is the leader of the Skrull's invasion of Earth. Working undercover in his disguised human form, he serves undercover as Nick Fury's boss at S.H.I.E.L.D. Seriously, between H.Y.D.R.A. and the Skrulls, which evil groups haven't invaded S.H.I.E.L.D.?
18 VILLAIN: MINN-ERVA
Is it a spoiler when it's obvious even if you haven't read the comics? Spoilers are a weird thing with prequels, as prequels presume the audience knows how certain things end. People who've never picked up a comic in their lives but have seen Guardians of the Galaxy will watch Captain Marvel and know instantly that Ronan and Korath end up villains, casting doubt on the morality of the whole Star Force.
Those who are familiar with the Star Force from the comics know that Minn-Erva, played by Gemma Chan in the movie, is the most evil of them all. Who knows if the movie will surprise everyone and completely change up her character to be less evil, but she's not one to be trusted.
17 HERO: SHAZAM
On the DC side of things, Shazam! is the big new superhero movie for 2019. Opening on April 5, it's a funny coincidence this movie comes out so close to Captain Marvel, given that Captain Marvel was Shazam's original name. Long complicated copyright reasons as to why the name changed.
The powers of Shazam are granted by the Wizard Shazam to 14-year-old orphan Billy Batson. In his adult superhero body, he has extraordinary strength, super speed and the power of flight, among other exceptional abilities. If those powers sound similar to Superman's to you, they also did to DC's lawyers in the '50s (back before DC acquired the character from Fawcett). Asher Angel plays Billy, while Zachary Levi plays Shazam. Djimon Honsou's the Wizard.
16 VILLAIN: DOCTOR SIVANA
Facing off against Shazam in the upcoming movie is his longtime comic nemesis Doctor Sivana, here played by Mark Strong. Sivana is still a mad scientist in the film, but his motivations have changed drastically from previous characterizations in the comics.
Originally, Silvana's villainy was driven by revenge against a society that rejected his scientific advances. Reboots have changed him to Batson's uncle and a Lex Luthor-esque tycoon. The new movie backstory, however, casts him as someone who almost could have become Shazam but got rejected by the Wizard. It sounds similar to the MCU's many "failed evil version of the hero" antagonists, but potentially could stand out.
15 VILLAIN: MYSTERIO
Rumors abound regarding new characters, both heroic and villainous, who might make their debuts in Spider-Man: Far From Home. One debut that's actually confirmed is for the villain Mysterio, who is being played in the July 5 theatrical release by Jake Gyllenhaal.
Multiple incarnations of Mysterio exist, but presumably Far From Home is sticking with the original and most famous version, Quentin Beck. Beck's a stuntman and special effects artist who decides there's more profit in supervillainy than in Hollywood. The naturally cinematic nature of his powers makes it surprising Mysterio somehow never showed up in the last six Spider-Man films.
14 HERO: BEN DAIMIO
One of the ways Neil Marshall's Hellboy reboot, hitting theaters April 12, is distinguishing itself from the Guillermo Del Toro movies is by focusing on a different supporting cast. Abe Sapien and Liz Sherman, the two regulars from the previous series, might not appear at all. One B.R.P.D. member who will feature this time is the undead werejaguar Ben Daimio.
Daimio's film debut was subject to controversy. Initially Ed Skrein, an Austrian-English actor, was set to play the Japanese-American character. Fortunately, Skrein did the responsible thing and stepped down from the role, allowing Daniel Dae Kim to play a non-whitewashed Daimio.
13 HERO: LOBSTER JOHNSON
One of Mike Mignola's most popular creations other than Big Red himself, Lobster Johnson first appeared in the Hellboy: Box of Evil series before getting his own spin-off comics. A violent vigilante from the '30s who is now one of the world's strongest ghosts, he's a favorite for fans of old school pulp anti-heroes.
Lobster Johnson almost appeared in Hellboy II: The Golden Army, but didn't make the cut due to lacking time to a faithful origin story. He would have been played by Bruce Campbell in Del Toro's canceled Hellboy 3. In the new Hellboy movie, he's rumored to be played by Thomas Hayden Church.
12 VILLAIN: THE BLOOD QUEEN
The early working title for the new Hellboy movie, as announced at Cannes 2017, was Hellboy: Rise of the Blood Queen. So who is this Blood Queen? Only the most powerful witch in the history of England. Like many Hellboy characters, she's lifted from mythology, though not without some creative reimaginings.
Her name is Nimue, though she's best known as the Lady of the Lake (yep, the strange woman lying in ponds distributing swords as a system of government). She was driven to madness by the influence of the ancient one Ogdru Jahad, and her resurrection fortells the end of the world. Milla Jovovich plays her in the movie.
11 HERO: ALITA
James Cameron's been trying to bring the manga Battle Angel Alita to the big screen for decades. After handing the film to Robert Rodriguez and going through several delays (it was first scheduled to release last summer), the manga adaptation Alita: Battle Angel finally hits theaters on February 14. Rose Salazar does the motion capture work for the CGI heroine.
The cyborg Alita's advanced technological capabilities stand out in a post-apocalyptic 26th century. She's a renmant of a more advanced civilization 300 years in the past. While she lacks memories of life before the fall, she is still an expert in the martial art of Panzer Kunst.
10 VILLAIN: VECTOR
Mahershalla Ali is supposedly playing two roles in Alita: Battle Angel, but the only one that's been officially announced is the villain Vector. In the manga, he runs the Scrapyard's black market, while in the description of the movie, his main hustle is rigging matches in the popular Motorball sport. Trailers feature him commanding other cyborgs to hunt Alita down.
While he's a scammer and generally a bad guy, the manga portrays Vector with something of a sense of honor and a willingness to sometimes do the right thing for selfish reasons. Ali can play both sympathetic and monstrous equally well so it'll be interesting to see where his portrayal of Vector lies on that spectrum.
9 VILLAIN: "SMITH"
Jessica Chastain's new villain in X-Men: Dark Phoenix goes by "Smith," but her actual identity is a mystery. We know that she's a shapeshifter, and not from the planet Earth, but theories that she was playing Lilandra, Majestrix of the Shi’ar Empire, have been shot down.
Supposedly she's written as something of a composite character, combining aspects of multiple villains including Mastermind. She's a corrupting influence on Jean Grey in this new adaptation of the classic "Dark Phoenix" storyline. X-Men fans will continue to speculate on the specifics of her identity, possibly up until the movie's June 7 release date.
8 HERO: MAGIK
So The New Mutants is finally coming to theaters on August 2, 2019... hopefully. This teen horror film take on the X-Men was originally set for release in April 2018 and even had a trailer, but got delayed first to January and now to August. There are even rumors Disney might be burying the film on a streaming service post-merger. Hopefully it doesn't come to that and the much-delayed movie lives up to its trailer's promise.
The Josh Boone-directed film introduces four heroes never before seen on-screen (one team member, Sunspot, was already in Days of Future Past). Anna Taylor-Joy is playing Magik, a Russian mutant with teleportation abilities and the younger sister of Colossus (opportunity for a Deadpool crossover in the future?).
7 HERO: WOLFSBANE
With New Mutants coming out after the conclusion of Game of Thrones, Maisie Williams goes from being a member of the Direwolf-themed House Stark to actually becoming a wolf herself. Wolfsbane isn't exactly a werewolf, but rather a mutant who can shapeshift into either an anthroporphic or full-on wolf at will.
Raised by an abusive pastor in the Scottish highlands, Wolfsbane's main internal struggle in the movie is said to deal with reconciling her religious beliefs with her identity and self-worth as a lycanthrope mutant. In the comics, she later joins other superhero teams including X-Factor, Excalibur and the X-Force.
6 HERO: CANNONBALL
In the comics, Cannonball becomes one of two co-leaders for the New Mutants team following the departure of Karma, the orginal leader of the group who does not appear to be in the movie. His mutant powers involve being able to propel himself into the air while making himself invulnerable with a "blast shield." Charlie Heaton plays him in the movie.
Hailing from a Kentucky mining family, Cannonball has many younger siblings who are also mutants, including Husk, Aero, Icarus and Jeb. If New Mutants is a hit and Disney's plans for the X-Men don't completely destroy these spin-off film projects, perhaps we'll see more of his family in the future.
5 HERO: MIRAGE
The other co-leader of the comic New Mutants alongside Cannonball is Mirage, originally codenamed Psyche and often referred to by her actual name, Dani Moonstar. A Cheyenne Native American, her father in the comics had ties with Professor X, who is rumored to possibly appear in New Mutants. Over the course of her life, Mirage develops a wide range of psychic powers.
The movie portrayal of Mirage is played by Blu Hunt. The New Mutants will focus primarily on her original mutant ability of being able to create telepathic illusions from the wishes and fears of other people's minds. Of all of the New Mutants team, it's her power that sounds the most naturally suited towards frightening imagery in a horror movie.
4 VILLAIN: MYSTERY ANTONIO BANDERAS VILLAIN
It's no secret that part of the reason behind The New Mutants' long delays has been the film going through reshoots. One confirmed change in the reshoots is to the film's post-credits scene. Originally, the stinger was set to introduce Jon Hamm playing Mister Sinister, but you can forget about seeing that in the theater.
Now, Antonio Banderas is set to be the film's secret villain reveal and hook for a potential sequel in what FOX was originally hoping to be a trilogy (again, we'll wait and see how Disney handles this series' future). John Sublime is one convincing theory if they want to use a villain similar to Mister Sinister.
3 HERO: AGENTS H AND M
Men in Black, the sci-fi comedy movie series based on Lowell Cunningham's comic book, returns on June 14, with a twist. Agents J and K's story has been thoroughly exhausted after three films, so the new entry in the series is going to be about different agents in the same world. The movie's title is Men in Black International, and is focused on the United Kingdom's branch of the alien-tracking organization.
The new protagonists, Agent H and Agent M, are being played by Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson respectively. This should excite anyone looking for a Thor: Ragnarok reunion. Details about the characters are scarce at the moment, which is why they're both grouped together in one entry on this list.
2 VILLAIN: ARTHUR FLECK
We've seen The Joker on-screen many times before, but Joaquin Phoenix's version of the character in Todd Phillips' Joker, set for release on October 4, seems different enough to essentially be considered a new character. While not the first screen Joker to have a backstory and a secret identity (Jack Nicholson's Jack Napier says hello), Arthur Fleck's background is decidedly distinct.
Rather than a criminal from the start like Napier, Fleck is a failing stand-up comedian slowly being driven insane. The description sounds like it's taking cues from The Killing Joke, but a feature film will almost certainly elaborate on The Joker's origins far beyond the level of detail given in Alan Moore's classic story.
1 VILLAIN: THOMAS WAYNE
Moviegoers have seen Thomas and Martha Wayne get gunned down countless times. The Joker movie, however, will feature Bruce Wayne's father in a much bigger role than previous films did. From the sound of things, this may very well be the first movie to get audiences rooting for Thomas Wayne to get shot.
Unlike his traditional portrayals as a gentleman, this version of Thomas Wayne is described as an unsympathetic slick 1980s businessman archetype. Character actor Brett Cullen is playing him. To get a good idea of the vibe this portrayal is going for, remember that the first choice for the role was Alec Baldwin.