Whether or not you are a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you can’t deny that it has been a huge success. Despite the outcry from fans of the comics, some of that success comes from not sticking too rigidly to the original source material. Character origins, relationships, history and moral alignment are all up for grabs when it comes to translating a character from paper to screen. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a perfect example of how characters are changed from their original roles in the comics, particularly with regards to how supervillains are portrayed. Sometimes the show presents heroes as villains, and sometimes it portrays comic book villains as heroes; either way, the show is notorious for taking characters, both well known and the insignificant, and changing them to fit the narrative. In this list, we look at How 15 Supervillains That Have Appeared On The Show Compare To The Comics. If you’re not caught up on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., beware SPOILERS from the end of the third season and the beginning of the fourth!
15. Dr. Holden Radcliffe
Dr. Holden Radcliffe is a new addition to the S.H.I.E.L.D. family. Despite being coerced by Hive at the end of season 3 to help make an entire world of Inhumans, Radcliffe has always dreamed of making humanity better by augmenting it with technology. In the season 4 premiere we see that his drive for creating doesn’t always come with good judgment as he breaks his parole agreement and builds a prototype Life Model Decoy. This portrayal of Radcliffe is nice, but it is a far cry from his villainous origins we see in the Machine Teen mini-series. Originally Radcliffe was a power hungry businessman and scientist who was obsessed with developing androids for combat. When Dr. Aaron Isaacs, a scientist who was working for him at the time, created the first successful “Autonomously Decisive Automated Mechanism” or A.D.A.M. for short, Radcliffe would stop at nothing to obtain it. The series ends poorly for pretty much everyone involved, especially Radcliffe who is blown up by the detonating chassis of Adam.
Gordon, the eyeless teleporting Inhuman from the first half of season 3, met a tragic end. While, at first, he didn’t seem like a bad guy – even coming to the rescue of Daisy in her time of need – his decision to team up with Daisy’s mother, Jiaying, puts him firmly in the role of an evil henchman. This is a case where the writers of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. liked parts of a character but not all of him. Gordon is loosely based on the Inhuman named Reader. At first glance they are very similar, an Inhuman with no eyes who can teleport and has helped new Inhumans, but the similarities stop there. First off, Reader’s power is technically Literary Manifestation, not teleportation. What this means is that anything he reads he can manifest as a power; because of this the people in the community he grew up in cut his eyes out to stop him from reading. Of course he learned how to read braille and this allowed him to once again access his powers. He carries cards with him that have single words on them which allow him to do things like teleport or create fire, or travel back in time. All in all, his comic incarnation was a much more interesting character than the one we got on the show.
13. David Angar
Introducing David Angar, the man who can put anyone to sleep with the sound of his voice; a “real life” jigglypuff if you will. At least, that is what his powers did on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. David Angar on the show was a cancer patient who volunteered for a radical procedure that eliminated his cancer, but with the side effect that his voice would then put anyone who heard it into a catatonic state. On the other hand, his comic counterpart, better known as Angar the Screamer, was a radical activist who volunteered for this experimental procedure in order to get powers. He was put through the procedure by the hero known as Moondragon (who was trying to create people with powers in order to fight Thanos the mad Titan). The result of this procedure was that anyone who heard his voice began hallucinating. The Hallucinations were different for each person since they were the product of each person’s own subconscious. After being fatally wounded in a failed bank robbery attempt, Angar was turned into a being of living sound known as Scream.
12. Daniel Whitehall
The Daniel Whitehall (one of the heads of Hydra after the defeat of Red Skull) of the television show was a dedicated, methodical, and sadistic scientist. Experimenting on any Inhuman he can find, he gained the ability to regenerate his body after dissecting Daisy’s mom, Jiaying. The Daniel Whitehall of the comics is vastly different. Originally a part of British Intelligence before becoming an elite Hydra agent known as the Kraken, he was recruited by Leonardo DaVinci (yes THAT DaVInci) to be among the world’s most elite spies, forming a secret group called the Great Wheel of the Zodiac. Members of this group included Nick Fury, Dum Dum Dugan, Baron von Strucker, and other master spies who would later go on to form Hydra, S.H.I.E.L.D., the Hand and Leviathan. Whitehall saw it as his goal to help people reach their fullest potential, all for the glory of Hydra. He was responsible for creating Hive and the Japanese assassin Gorgon.
11. John Garrett
John Garrett is a character who is completely focused on his duty to what he believes in. It just so happens that what he believes in on the show and the comic are completely different from each other. On the show, Garrett was revealed to be a Hydra agent that had infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D. and worked his way up the ranks. He was not portrayed as devoted to the Hydra of World War 2, but rather to the modern version of Hydra, or at least what he believes it to be. To say that he was sadistic, delusional and psychotic would be an understatement. The comic character was never a member of Hydra, and had a great deal of respect and devotion to S.H.I.E.L.D. and especially Nick Fury. Garrett was a field-tested S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who was often injured in the line of duty, so much so, that the majority of his body is now artificial (something that the show did actually get fairly accurate before Coulson blew Garrett away with the plasma particle beam).
10. Werner von Strucker
When the show runners of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. decided to bring in one of Baron von Strucker’s kids from the comics, they had a couple of options. Either they could go with the crazy, quasi incestuous, super powered twins, Andrea and Andreas, or they could go with the normal one: Werner. Of course, they couldn’t do a direct translation of the character and make him the new head of Hydra in his father’s place – that is what Ward was trying to be. Instead, they decided to reduce the character to a pampered rich kid with anger and daddy issues. Werner on the show was just a throwaway character whose sole purpose was to better connect Grant Ward and Gideon Malick. He was downgraded from a head of Hydra to a trust fund kid! His father would be so disappointed. Maybe the writers should have gone with the crazy twins instead.
When Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. started promoting the Secret Warriors coming in season 3, comic fans everywhere were excited by all the possible characters the show would now have the option to introduce. With the exception of Yo-Yo, the only other character introduced that season from the team in the comics was James Taylor James aka Hellfire (yes, his first and last name are James). In the comics, he is the grandson of the Phantom Rider and can manipulate hellfire through his chain. On the show, he was an Australian version of Gambit without the bo staff. While in both cases he does work for Hydra, the comics gives him a little more credit and makes his story a little more complicated than a brain-controlled Inhuman. While his whereabouts in the TV universe are unknown, in the comics he sells out his team, betraying them to Hydra before being discovered by Nick Fury and dropped off a cliff. You could say that he let Fury down, but really it’s the other way around!
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. took a very interesting approach when bringing the character of Lash to the show. They had him ping pong from being portrayed as a bloodthirsty hulk-like creature to a character who had some sort of divine purpose. Lash was a complex (if perhaps slightly bipolar) character. His comic counterpart has less of a noble purpose and was more of an egotistical jerk. He was one of the chosen few in his tribe to undergo Terrigenesis because he was found to be worthy. So, when Black Bolt, the king of the Inhumans, set off the terrigen bomb spreading Terrigenesis around the world, Lash was appalled. After that, he made it his mission to judge all new Inhumans to see if he felt they were worthy. If they were not, he would kill them. As similar as they may seem at first glance, the show described the process of Terrigenesis as a person changing and coming out with abilities to fill a need: in Lash’s case it was helping fight Hive. Lash from the comics has no noble purpose given to him from something greater than himself; he is just full of himself.
7. Absorbing Man
Carl “Crusher” Creel, aka the Absorbing Man, is one of Marvel’s most famous B-list villains. Having gone toe to toe with heroes like Thor, Hulk, and Spider-Man, Absorbing Man can take a hit. The character on the TV show shares a similar origin to his written history in that they both were boxers. They also both have the ability to absorb the material makeup of whatever they touch and transform their body, but that is where the similarities end. The Creel of the TV show was brainwashed by Garrett to work for Hydra and got his powers from some mystery experiment. The Creel from the comics was pretty much always just a bad guy and was given his powers by Loki in a scheme to try and defeat Thor. For such a straightforward character, the show really missed some fun story lines to borrow from the comic. Who wouldn’t want to see Creel absorb an entire Island in an attempt to take over the world?
Every so often, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. attempts an episode that can tie into the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. Most of these episodes have failed. One that didn’t fail, but actually really stood out in a positive way, was the episode featuring the Asgardian Lorelei. Lorelei is an Asgardian sorceress who could bend the will of men to obey her every command. In the comics Lorelei is content to use her powers just for her own amorous purposes; nothing too major. The writers of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., however, decided to take her mischievous side to another level by casting her as a would-be conqueror. Unlike her comic counterpart, the Lorelei of the TV show was imprisoned for using her powers to raise an army of mind controlled men to help her take over the nine realms. The TV show version is also an accomplished warrior able to stand her ground when fighting with Lady Sif, one of the finest Asgardian warriors ever. The only issue with the episode is what a huge insult that is to Sif, considering the comic book version of Lorelei would never be bothered to train in combat that intensely.
5. The Kree
When trying to portray one of the most iconic alien species in Marvel Comics, Agents of SHIELD stayed remarkably true to the comics. For the most part, Kree appear very similar to humans, although they come in either blue skin, pink skin, or grey skin tones. They also are responsible for the creation of the Inhumans, an aspect of the Kree’s history that has been revealed on the show over time. From the little we actually know about the Kree from the show, the biggest difference between the Kree of the comics and the Kree of the show is in their physical abilities. In the comics, an average Kree soldier was about twice as strong as a human. In the TV show, Vin-Tak (an average soldier) is as strong as an Asgardian warrior. To put that in context: a typical Asgardian can lift 25-30 tons. The strength gap is huge, and pretty much every Kree physical characteristic translated from comic to screen has that large of a leap: from stamina and endurance to durability.
In the case of Donnie Gill, the comics and the show could not be further apart. In the comics, Donnie was always a bad guy who took on the guise of Blizzard when he received the weapons and costume of the original Blizzard. He had no real ice powers himself;the powers always came from his suit. Ironically, it turned out that Donnie was an Inhuman and, after undergoing terrigenesis, he emerged not with ice powers, but with electrical powers. After years of failing as a bad guy, Donnie has turned himself over to S.H.I.E.L.D. custody and is currently in stasis in the comics. The Donnie Gill of the show, however, was a disgruntled S.H.I.E.L.D. cadet at their science and technology academy. After a failed attempt to make some quick cash by selling a weather weapon to the villainous Ian Quinn, Donnie is electrocuted while touching the device: giving him ice powers. Of course, things don’t end well for Donnie. After being brainwashed by Hydra, Donnie was shot in a failed rescue attempt in Season 2.
How do you take one of Marvel’s most powerful villains and translate him to a show where normal humans would have a chance of stopping him? Good question. In the case of Graviton, the answer was simple: do a character origin story that never pays off to distract everybody. Franklin Hall was a brilliant scientist in both the show and the comics. The comics had him working on matter transportation when he was given the ability to control gravity. The show must have wanted everyone to be absolutely sure who he was supposed to be, and had him experimenting with gravitonium. The comics version of Franklin Hall would go on to be a constant threat to the Avengers and the world by wielding the ability of gravitikinesis. On the show, he was sucked into a mass of liquid gravitonium and was never heard from again (except for a couple teases that have yet to pay off).
For a character to be the head of Hydra and the main bad guy for season 3, you would think they might have been a major character from the comics. In the case of Hive, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The show portrayed Hive as an ancient Inhuman that had the ability to control any other Inhuman it could infect. It was so powerful that Hydra developed over the centuries as a quasi cult worshipping Hive. Meanwhile, in comic land, Hive is a glorified henchman that was given a seat at the leadership table of Hydra. Not an Inhuman and definitely not a god, Hive was a mass of parasites that took over a host body and would gain that host’s strengths, as well as its weaknesses. Due to the limitations of TV production schedules we didn’t even really ever get to see Hive in all his squid head looking glory. Instead we got just a glimpse of him in the last few minutes of season 3; such a disappointment!
1. Mr. Hyde
Hands down, the greatest adaptation from the comics to the TV show has to be Calvin Zabo aka Mr. Hyde. In the “things they got right” department there is: creating a formula to turn him into a massive hulking monster, making him the father of S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Daisy Johnson (aka Quake), and casting the amazing actor Kyle MacLachlan. They also managed to make him accurately strong despite the atrocious make-up. Where the show got things wrong is in his motivations and his personal life. In the show, Calvin Zabo is a committed husband who has pushed himself into becoming a monster both literally and figuratively in order to put his family back together (he literally put his wife, Jiaying, back together after Daniel Whitehall cut her to pieces). In the comics, he isn’t married – but does have a daughter with a prostitute named Kim Johnson. Additionally, the Calvin Zabo from the comics created his serum to see if he could accomplish what was put forth in the Robert Louis Stevenson book Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: unleashing man’s full bestial nature. After succeeding, he then decided to use the formula for revenge on Donald Blake and Thor.