As soon as the Walt Disney Company bought Marvel Entertainment in 2009, Disney proclaimed that it now had access to Marvel’s “treasure trove” of over 5,000 characters. That ever-growing library of characters has been the beating heart of the Marvel Universe for decades. With the announcement that Miles Morales’ Spider-Man will be headlining his own feature film, one more character is set to come to life on the big screen.
Despite that, most of those 5,000 characters still haven’t had a starring role. Now, CBR is taking a look at some Marvel characters that should have their own films. For this hardly comprehensive list, we’ll be looking at characters and teams from Marvel’s comics and movies that have either never been adapted or have never starred in a solo adventure.
15. NICK FURY
Although he’s been absent from some of the more recent Marvel films, Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury was the nucleus of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in its earliest years. Since his debut at the end of 2008’s “Iron Man,” Jackson’s Fury has given Marvel’s films a sense of gravitas as the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Thanks in part to Jackson’s commanding performance as the manipulative spymaster, the MCU is a world that can cohesively mix espionage and Asgardians without coming apart at the seams.
While Fury’s excelled as a supporting player, he hasn’t had a starring role since David Hasselhoff’s ill-fated 1998 “Nick Fury” TV movie. Jackson’s Fury would be an ideal candidate to star in a gritty, high-octane action thriller. Even after five seasons, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” still hasn’t introduced some major S.H.I.E.L.D. players like Jimmy Woo, G.W. Bridge and Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine. With those kinds of characters on the table, a stylish Fury-focused film could draw from Jim Steranko’s iconic run on the character, flesh out the early days of the MCU and maybe even show just how he lost the eye.
14. THE INVADERS
While “Captain America: The First Avenger” and “Agent Carter” both spent time exploring the World War II-era MCU, the Invaders, that era’s premiere superhero squad, still haven’t made an appearance. Created by Roy Thomas and Sal Buscema in 1969, the Invaders brought Captain America, Namor the Sub-Mariner and the original robotic Human Torch together for WWII adventures. While that team was known as the All-Winner’s Squad in the 1940s, the Invaders have an expansive roster that has included characters like Winter Soldier, U.S. Agent and Union Jack over its various incarnations.
With characters like the Howling Commandos already established, an Invaders movie could give Hayley Atwell’s Agent Carter a new home and introduce Namor and the android Human Torch to the MCU. Between Atlantis and his famous flooding of Manhattan, Namor could bring an unparalleled spectacle to Marvel’s films. In addition to tying up loose ends from “Agent Carter,” an Invaders movie could be the perfect venue to introduce some of the early ill-fated attempts to recreate the Super Soldier formula and set up future Captain America plotlines.
13. SILVER SURFER
While “Guardians of the Galaxy” has opened up the cosmic side of the MCU, Fox’s Fantastic Four and X-Men franchises have remained distinctly earthbound. While that may change soon, the Silver Surfer could help expand Fox’s Marvel Universe in a major way. Created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee in 1966, the Silver Surfer has a conceptual elasticity and complexity that makes him one of Marvel’s richest characters. Whether he’s racked with guilt from serving as the Herald of Galactus or riding the spaceways in a psychedelic romp, the cosmically-powered Surfer is a compelling character who can easily hold down a stand-alone adventure.
While the Silver Surfer appeared in 2007’s “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer,” he’s conspicuous by his absence in the MCU. If Fox continues to hold on to the Fantastic Four rights, a Silver Surfer movie would be the first logical extension of the franchise. By embracing Dan Slott and Mike Allred’s lighter “Doctor Who”-esque take on the Silver Surfer, Fox could rebuild the Fantastic Four universe with a much-needed tonal shift.
Thanks to the fortuitous casting of a pre-superstar Jennifer Lawrence, Mystique has taken on a surprisingly large role in Fox’s three most recent X-Men movies. While Rebecca Romijn’s Mystique was more of a silent supporting villain in the first X-Men trilogy, Lawrence’s Mystique has literalized the philosophical conflict between Charles Xavier and Magneto. While this focus has added some unique wrinkles to the familiar character, the continued emphasis on the character has taken screen time away from underserved X-Men like Cyclops and Storm.
While Mystique doesn’t have an extensive history as a solo character, the 2003 series “Mystique” provided a solid template for a more heroic interpretation of her. In that series, which was partially written by Brian K. Vaughan, Mystique was cast as a secret agent who worked for Xavier. While the idea of a shape-shifting spy is a fairly compelling idea in its own right, this could be a convenient way to tease some less flashy pieces of X-Men lore like Genosha or the Legacy Virus.
11. MARVEL BOY
With the blockbuster success of Fox’s “Deadpool,” audiences seem willing to embrace a different, more violent kind of superhero. While Marvel’s Netflix shows have fulfilled that role in the MCU so far, Marvel could shake up its reputation for relatively safe, predictable fare by adapting “Marvel Boy.” Created by Grant Morrison and J.G. Jones in 2000, “Marvel Boy” follows Noh-Varr, a young Kree alien, as he viciously wages war against the trillionaire Doctor Midas and the sentient corporation known as Hexus.
While Marvel Boy would eventually become more traditionally heroic and join the Young Avengers, that initial miniseries was filled with a cosmic punk aesthetic that would be a shocking change of pace for the MCU. With all of the power and none of the responsibility, Marvel Boy could offer a dramatic counterpoint to fellow teen superhero Spider-Man. A Marvel Boy solo film might finally give Cobie Smulders’ S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, Maria Hill, something to do, and could begin to set up a Young Avengers film.
While audiences got to make an extended visit to Hawkeye’s farm in 2015’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” the Avengers’ archer still feels like a far cry from his comic book counterpart. Jeremy Renner has done what he could with a fairly thankless role, but Hawkeye’s trademark charm has gotten lost in some overcrowded MCU outings. A Hawkeye solo film could give Renner’s character a chance to breathe in between all of the Civil Wars and Infinity Wars.
Along with several other modern comics masters, Matt Fraction and David Aja perfected this kind of low-key Hawkeye with their 2012 run on “Hawkeye.” By following Hawkeye on his days off from the Avengers, the creators had the room to innovate and flesh out Hawkeye’s supporting cast, especially Kate Bishop, the younger Hawkeye. Given the prominence of teen superheroes in comics, there’s a surprising lack of them on screen. Introducing Kate could help remedy that while also setting up a Young Avengers movie. Although that comic starred a single, city-dwelling Hawkeye, a movie focusing on Renner’s rural, married hero could unearth some new depths for the character.
In 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War,” Tom Holland’s Spider-Man joined the MCU to great fanfare. While that newfound cooperation between Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios has let Spider-Man swing alongside the Avengers, it could also pave the way for a Spider-Woman film. Since her 1977 debut by Archie Goodwin and Marie Severin, Spider-Woman has lived in an occasionally macabre world of espionage and lies that could help connect the desperate points of the MCU.
Given Spider-Woman’s history of working for both Hydra and S.H.I.E.L.D., a dark Spider-Woman solo film could dig into the complex psychology of what it’s like working for these impossibly massive organizations. In addition to serving as a new potential Avenger, Spider-Woman could act as a sustainable link between Sony’s Spider-Man movies and the larger MCU. Spider-Woman’s nemesis, Morgan le Fay, could make an obvious foil for Doctor Strange and help establish the role of magic in the Marvel movies. Given the character’s prominent role in the 2008 crossover “Secret Invasion,” a Spider-Woman solo film could almost single-handedly set-up a major storyline for a future Avengers movie.
In 1977, Dave Cockrum created the Starjammers as an independent feature. When there wasn’t any room for them in any of Marvel’s anthology titles, he and Chris Claremont introduced them to “Uncanny X-Men” in the middle of the landmark “The Phoenix Saga.” While Corsair, Raza, Hepzibah and Ch’od have always been close X-Men allies, Fox could easily give the ragtag team of space pirates their own X-Men-free adventure. Even though the characters have only appeared irregularly since their debut, they could overcome the inevitable comparisons to “Guardians of the Galaxy” and thrive on film in a light-hearted space romp.
Thanks to Fox’s control of the X-Men and Fantastic Four rights, a Starjammers film could feature some tantalizing match-ups. The Starjammers could watch as the Shi’ar Imperial Guard make a desperate last stand against Galactus or fight off Annihilus’ Annihilation Wave filled with the Brood and the Phalanx. By introducing some of these more science-fiction elements, a Starjammers film could also pave the way for the X-Men and Fantastic Four’s intergalactic adventures.
7. MOON KNIGHT
While Marvel has had tremendous success with its solo character films, none of them have been the same kind of grand urban epic that Christopher Nolan perfected with the “Dark Knight” trilogy. With its dark premise and a strong library of underrated source material, Moon Knight could be Marvel’s celluloid answer to Batman. While most of Marvel’s street-level heroes have a home on Netflix, the earthy avatar of Khonshu would make a striking image on the big screen with his eerie all-white ensemble.
With the character’s relatively complex premise, a Moon Knight feature could mix the grimy heroics of Marvel’s Netflix shows with the magic of Doctor Strange and the mythology of Thor. While Moon Knight could bridge all of these worlds, it could also serve as a spiritual sequel to the Blade franchise. By drawing on Bill Sienkiewicz’s depiction of Moon Knight or Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey’s recent run on the character, Moon Knight could also work as a thrilling standalone psychological horror film.
In comics, Bishop’s history is hopelessly tied to the X-Men’s convoluted possible future timelines. Without the minutia of X-Men continuity, Bishop makes a compelling protagonist with a brilliant high-concept. Created by Whilce Portacio, Jim Lee and John Byrne in 1991, Bishop is a time-traveling policeman who comes back to the past to hunt an energy vampire named Trevor Fitzroy. While Omar Sy only had a few moments as the character in 2014’s overcrowded “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” that kind of time-traveling fugitive tale is the perfect set-up for non-stop sci-fi action in the vein of “Timecop” and “The Terminator.”
A Bishop film could also take a more grounded approach and adapt the short-lived crime series “District X.” In that comic by David Hine, David Yardin and Lan Medina, Bishop served as a policeman in the mutant-haven known as District X. Either one of those premises can stand on its own merits with a loose connection to the X-franchise, or could establish a number of plotlines for further X-Men movies equally well.
5. SUPERIOR FOES OF SPIDER-MAN
Even after five movies, most of Spider-Man’s villains still haven’t appeared on the big screen. While Spider-Man’s iconic villains should make their debuts fighting the wall-crawler, some of Spider-Man’s less lethal foes could build up his rogues gallery in their own feature. As “Suicide Squad” proved, a villain-focused film can succeed with nothing but cameos from established heroes. With that in mind, Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber’s “Superior Foes of Spider-Man” could be the perfect basis for a different kind of Spider-Man movie.
While most Spider-Man films have been fairly kid-friendly, a Superior Foes movie could exhibit the world-weariness and desperation of blue-collar criminals like the Shocker or Boomerang. A Superior Foes movie could make Spider-Man’s New York feel more expansive and lived in. Like Spencer and Lieber’s comic, the movie could be a light-hearted comedy of errors or more cynical look at the psychological toll of getting repeatedly beat up by a teenager in tights.
Outside of Deadpool, the X-Men doesn’t lend itself terribly well to the world of comedy. While X-Statix doesn’t share “Deadpool’s” violently absurd sense of humor, the team could star in a solo film with vicious social satire. Created by Peter Milligan and Mike Allred as a later incarnation of “X-Force” in 2001, “X-Statix” cast its young mutant team as immensely popular reality TV celebrities. While that concept lends itself well to parody, the book was equally noteworthy for its sudden bouts of extreme violence and expendable team members.
Beyond tonally pushing Fox’s X-Men franchise in a drastically new direction, an X-Statix movie could offer a glimpse of how the world views mutants outside of the X-Men. Along with the compelling romance between Mister Sensitive and U-Go Girl and the commercial appeal of Doop, the team’s floating potato-like videographer, some of the comic’s less satiric elements could also translate to the big screen fairly well. Given the role of media in the series, the X-Statix movie could also be the ideal place to introduce the media-obsessed X-Men villain Mojo.
3. SPIDER-MAN 2099
Since Miles Morales is finally headed to the big screen, Spider-Man 2099 could add a whole new dimension to Sony’s Spider-Man franchise. Created by Peter David and Rick Leonardi for Marvel’s 2099 imprint in 1992, “Spider-Man 2099” showed how a future Spider-Man could operate in a corporately-owned dystopia that’s unlike anything Marvel has put on screen. While that line folded in the mid-1990s, Spider-Man 2099 has lingered long after the imprint’s cancellation and still stars in an ongoing title today.
Thanks to his appearance in a few Spider-Man video games and cartoons, some of the general public would already be familiar with Miguel O’Hara and the world of 2099. By clearly establishing the legacy of Peter Parker, a Spider-Man 2099 film could help set Tom Holland’s Spider-Man apart from his predecessors and offer audiences their first glimpse of the future of the MCU. Along with Spider-Man’s other film incarnations, a Spider-Man 2099 film could also help set-up a potential “Spider-Verse” crossover movie.
While the MCU has many strengths, an expansive roster of well-defined villains hasn’t been one of them yet. A Thunderbolts movie could go a long way to changing that. Created by Kurt Busiek and Mark Bagley in 1997, “Thunderbolts” originally followed a group of villains who were posing as heroes. As the series progressed, some of those characters actually reformed and the title morphed into a work release program for super-criminals akin to DC’s “Suicide Squad.”
While many of the classic Avengers originally started out as villains, those origins haven’t really been reflected in the MCU. Although “Suicide Squad” relished in its characters’ misdeeds, a Thunderbolts movie could be a sincere underdog story about redemption. The Winter Soldier could find a home in a Thunderbolts movie, and longtime Thunderbolt Songbird could be a logical choice to join a future film incarnation of the Avengers. With its focus on villains, a Thunderbolts film could draw from Marvel’s Netflix shows, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and older MCU movies, and serve as a regrouping point for the larger MCU.
1. BLACK WIDOW
At this point, it’s absolutely ridiculous that Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow hasn’t starred in a solo feature. While the character doesn’t have the most extensive history as a solo character in comics, Johansson’s super-spy has been a consistently engaging part of the MCU since her debut in 2010’s “Iron Man 2.” Thanks to her continued presence in Marvel’s movies, the Black Widow has unexpectedly risen from Marvel’s B-list to become one of the most visible superheroes in the world.
With Johansson’s proven box office appeal and experience headlining action thrillers like “Lucy,” the Black Widow could easily carry a Bourne-esque action-packed spy thriller in the espionage-rich MCU. As the rest of the Avengers movies continue to grow in size and scope, a Black Widow thriller could offer a necessary re-grounding after “Avengers: Infinity War.” Over the past few years, creators like Mark Waid and Chris Samnee have given the character several standalone comic stories that could model for the character’s solo cinematic outing. Even “The Avengers” director Joss Whedon has expressed interest in giving the Widow her first stand-alone starring role.
For all the latest Marvel Comics features, stay tuned to CBR! Let us know what Marvel character you want to see on the big screen in the comments below!
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