Marvel has a difficult job when it comes to the MCU. When bringing its characters to the big screen, they have to decide how they want to tell the origin story. On one hand, diehard fans of the comics could get angry if the origins of their favorite characters are altered in any way. On the other, some of the characters’ stories wouldn’t fit with the MCU and need to be altered. As such, Marvel is faced with a decision every time they introduce a new character in its films when it comes to how much of the source material do they change. With some of their more obscure characters, Marvel has completely altered their origins to tell a new and fresh story for audiences to enjoy. At their best, these altered stories have made some of the most ridiculous superheroes become household names. No one outside of us comic readers knew who Drax the Destroyer was until Guardians of the Galaxy.
That said, while trying to fit their characters into the MCU, Marvel can alter its origins to the point where they become generic or forgettable, lacking the impact that they had in the comics. It has been extremely successful, but that doesn’t mean that it has always told great origin stories when compared to the comics. Marvel needed to change how their characters came to be to fit in live-action. Sometimes it worked well and other times, it failed harshly. With that in mind, we’re going to explore 10 Marvel characters with origins that were changed on-screen for the better and 10 whose origins were changed on-screen for the worse.
20. BETTER – DRAX
Drax the Destroyer had a weird origin in the comics. He began his life as a man with a wife and daughter on Earth, until one unlucky day, Thanos’s ship passed over and he destroyed them. However, Thanos’s father witnessed this and revived Arthur Douglas as an alien with a new body.
In Guardians of the Galaxy, Drax was always in space and witnessed his family taken out by Ronan the Accuser. This moment sent him down a path of violence where he worked for years to get revenge. This origin is much more concise and believable, making Drax a much more sympathetic character than a ridiculous one.
19. WORSE – MANTIS
Mantis was introduced to the MCU in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, where she was employed by Ego. Her only power was reading and affecting the emotions of others. She ended up being the butt of many jokes in that movie and Avengers: Infinity War. In the comics, she had those emotion-reading abilities, but she was trained by a group of Kree soldiers in the ways of fighting.
She became an expert in martial arts, which is where she got her name. Not only was she much more capable in the comics, but she was more integrated in the world, having ties with the Avengers and the Defenders.
18. BETTER – THANOS
In the comics, Thanos was a son of the Eternals and pined after Lady Death, which sent him on his quest to gather the Infinity Stones and wipe out half the universe. In Avengers: Infinity War, the Mad Titan watched as his planet was destroyed from overpopulation. Wanting to prevent the same thing from happening to the rest of the universe, he set out to gather the Infinity Stones.
17. WORSE – SCARLET WITCH
Known in the comics as one of the strongest mutants in the world, Scarlet Witch was the daughter of Magneto. Emotionally unstable, she rewrote reality once and caused severe ramifications in the rest of the universe. In the MCU, she was created through the power of Loki’s Scepter, motivated by the desire to take out Tony Stark.
Without the connection to Magneto and her functioning as a secondary character, there wasn’t enough room to explore her powers or instability in the MCU. As a result, she loses a lot of the presence she had in the comics. Her origin, without Magneto, takes a severe hit and is forgettable.
16. BETTER – STAR-LORD
Star-Lord was always not entirely of Earth. In the comics, his father was the emperor of Spartoi, who was trying to win a war. He left Earth in order to fight with his people, but some of his foes came to the planet to end Peter Quill’s mother.
Quill spent the rest of his days trying to find a way to get to space. In Guardians of the Galaxy, Peter’s mother was taken out by his father, and he was taken by bloodthirsty Ravagers, forced to learn the ways of the stars. The film version is not only more emotionally moving, but sets up Quill as more of a tragic character.
15. WORSE – HAWKEYE
When we first meet Hawkeye in The Avengers, there’s not a lot about him we know. We understand that he is a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and happens to be good with a bow and arrow, but that’s about it. His story in the comics is much more interesting, involving growing up in a family where his father was physically abusive.
After being orphaned, he joined the circus, where he was taught archery. He became a star attraction, and he would later use those skills to fight crime. While it might be a bit ridiculous, Hawkeye’s origin in the comics provides him with more reason and motivation than the MCU ever did.
14. BETTER – HANK PYM
Hank Pym is one of Marvel’s oldest characters, but didn’t have that exciting of an origin. He discovered the Pym Particle and applied it to a suit that he could use for experimenting, but when the Russian government decided to attack him and his fellow scientists, Pym used the suit to fight them off, becoming the Ant-Man.
When we meet Pym in the MCU, he is jaded and worn. He was operating as Ant-Man shortly after the days of Captain America, developing the suit for philanthropic reasons. S.H.I.E.L.D. knocked at his door, to which he turned away, sensing their corruptness. We get a better sense of Hank’s personality in the films, and it doesn’t frame him as a bad husband either.
13. WORSE – DOCTOR STRANGE
Embracing magic was never going to be an easy task for the MCU, so they compensated by playing it extremely safe. Doctor Strange is shown as a haughty neurosurgeon before getting into an accident that would change his life and prompt him to study the mystic arts. In the comics, he was always destined to become the Sorcerer Supreme, and was haunted by Mordo from an early age because of it.
However, he still managed to have a fascination with saving lives, but would be haunted by failure after losing his sister. This frames his character better than the MCU version, giving him more motivation to protect the world.
12. BETTER – IRON MAN
There aren’t many differences between Iron Man’s origin story in the comics and the films. The differences come in the smaller events, like how Stark was adopted by Howard and Maria in the comics rather than being their biological son in the films.
He also didn’t meet Rhodey until after he became Iron Man, while the two were best friends in the film. Ultimately, it’s the film version that wins out, as it does a better job of portraying Stark as a man in need of redemption. On top of that, having Rhodey so close to him gives him someone to steer him on the right path.
11. WORSE – ULTRON
Having not properly introduced Hank Pym by the time Avengers: Age of Ultron released, the robot was created by Tony Stark and Bruce Banner instead. The robot quickly went rogue for trying to cleanse the world of the Avengers. We can’t fault Marvel for not using Pym in the movies, as that alone isn’t a bad decision.
Where things go downhill is how Ultron is reduced to a quippy bad guy with a questionable plan and little impact on the Marvel Universe. In the comics, he spent a lot of time upgrading his own body and was constantly evolving. In the films, he upgraded a few times but ultimately fell flat.
10. BETTER – THOR
Thor was an iconic Marvel hero, but many didn’t think that would be interesting enough to work on film. Based on Norse mythology, Thor’s origin consisted of destiny, having a hammer forged specifically for him, and not being the biological son of Frigga. Mjolnir was give to him, but he had to earn it from a young age.
In the film, we’re shown how Thor lets all his power go to his head. In inciting conflict with the Frost Giants, he is stripped of his title and his hammer and forced to learn his lesson the hard way. By the time he becomes the God of Thunder again, he grew as a person, ready to face any conflict.
9. WORSE – HELA
Hela has always been a dark force to the Asgardians. Being the Goddess of Death and ruler of the Underworld, she desired to take her fight straight to Asgard. On top of that, she was the daughter of Loki and had a knack for fighting Thor and Odin as a result. She spent years building her army, trying desperately to begin Ragnarok.
In the comics, she was the secret first-born daughter of Odin despite never having any build-up prior to Thor: Ragnarok. Furthermore, she was little more than an angry Asgardian with crazy powers, compared to the otherworldly nightmare she was in the comics.
8. BETTER – CAPTAIN AMERICA
Both the comic and MCU versions of Captain America started as scrawny men who wanted to fight in the war but couldn’t. After being selected to become a super soldier, that’s where things started to diverge. In the comics, Rogers was trained in combat and how to use just about any weapon numerous times.
After that, he was thrust into war to fight the Red Skull, but in Captain America: The First Avenger, we get to see how Rogers develops as a hero. He was used just to sell bonds, and was uncomfortable but happy he could do something for his country. When he finally goes to war, it’s much more satisfying to see him take the leadership role.
7. WORSE – THE MANDARIN
The Mandarin is the arch-nemesis of Iron Man. He was the one pulling the strings behind Stark’s capture on the other side of the world. Wielding his mystical Ten Rings, he was a ruthless and unstoppable force. From childhood, he had the worst life, which motivated him to take control.
In Iron Man 3, the Mandarin is a fake persona created by Trevor Slattery to throw Iron Man off of Aldrich Killian’s trail. For those counting Killian as the Mandarin, he was a nerdy guy who became bitter at Stark after he ditched him on a business proposition. There’s a clear winner here.
6. BETTER – FALCON
Comics can be weird sometimes, and there is no better example than with Falcon. While his time as a criminal is certainly interesting, that’s not how he got his powers. He was controlled by the Red Skull with the help of the Cosmic Cube, and gained the ability to talk to birds in the process.
After Captain America freed Falcon from the mind control, the two ended up working together. In the films, Sam Wilson used an experimental piece of tech in the military. After HYDRA took over S.H.I.E.L.D., he donned the wings once more and fought with Cap to save the day. Counseling people with PTSD, he had a similar background to Cap, thus bonding the two better.
5. WORSE – HULK
Hulk, for the most part, didn’t have a lot changed to his origin on a surface level. Both versions experimented with radiation and let it get to them. In the films, Banner was trying to recreate the Super Soldier serum that turned Steve Rogers into Captain America but in the comics, he was putting together a Gamma Bomb.
However, Banner’s path leading to becoming a physicist was explored and much more interesting. He struggled with a bad father and was taken in by his aunt. He grew up isolated from the rest of the world, which fostered his intelligence and reliance on himself.
4. BETTER – BLACK PANTHER
T’Challa was always born to rule Wakanda. In the comics, his father was taken away by Ulysses Klaw, giving the two a personal conflict. Before he took over as king, though, he was sent to America to study. Eventually he returned and had to challenge his uncle for the throne. It becomes a widespread, complex origin.
In the films, T’Challa has to deal with his own grief and rage after his father was removed by Zemo. His origin story is him learning how to be the king and Black Panther at the same time. His first real challenge comes when his cousin challenges him for the throne. His story in Black Panther is much more impactful.
3. WORSE – VISION
Vision was created by Ultron to destroy the Avengers. In Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ultron used an Infinity Stone to power a new body that Thor gave life after being stuck in a vision at a pool. In the comics, Vision was created using the robotic body of the classic Human Torch with the consciousness of Wonder Man.
This version succeeded in attacking the Avengers. However, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes were able to talk to the robot, who slowly gained more control and decided to rebel against his creator. Not only was there more depth to Vision going against Ultron in the comics, but it was more poignant, considering the movie immediately made him a good guy.
2. BETTER – SPIDER-MAN
Bringing Spider-Man to the MCU was simultaneously a blessing and a curse. While it was nice to have such an iconic character with the rest of Marvel’s heroes, it was challenging to adapt the third live-action incarnation of the character. Marvel did something smart, though, and decided to play into their universe more.
Peter Parker largely has a familiar origin, but it’s not heavily discussed. Where the paths start to diverge is when Tony Stark enters the mix and teaches Peter his big lessons, as well as giving him the new suit. It connects Spidey to the rest of the world while still making him feel iconic.
1. WORSE – YELLOWJACKET
In the comics, Darren Cross was a brilliant businessman who was dealt a bad hand. He suffered from heart problems that nearly brought his end, but cryogenic sleep caused him to reawaken. To bring Cross back to the conscious world, one of his employees tried to take the heart of Cassie Lang, which prompted Scott’s arrival.
This led to a personal conflict between Ant-Man and Yellowjacket that wasn’t present in the film. Cross was little more than an evil businessman who had bad blood with Hank Pym. The battle between him and Lang lacked the emotional weight of the comics. It also made Cross seem one-dimensional.
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