This weekend, the Mighty Marvel Machine once again lands on the shores of the United States with Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Already the subject of incredible buzz and scores of positive reviews, The Winter Soldier is being billed as the true lead-in to 2015's The Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Buoyed by the guaranteed success of the movie, Marvel has already announced that Captain America 3 (subtitle yet to come) is currently slated to go head-to-head with Batman vs. Superman in the summer of 2016. While this box office showdown is reason enough be excited about the film, the simple fact that we're getting another movie headlined by Chris Evans' likeable, charismatic version of Steve Rogers already has the staff of Screen Rant eagerly chomping at the bit.
Of course, no one is certain (beyond a few small hints) what Captain America 3 has in store for our red, white, and blue protagonist. With more than 70 years worth of comics stories to draw from, the movie could be anything from a grim political allegory to a slick action-thriller to an insane science-fiction adventure. No matter the overall content, any good superhero flick needs a great villain to succeed. In that spirit, Screen Rant presents 8 comic book villains we'd like to see show up in Captain America 3.
8 Baron Zemo
Our primary candidate for the main heavy of Captain America 3, Baron Zemo has long been one of the major nemeses of both Captain America and the Avengers. Like many of Cap's antagonists, Zemo started his career as a high-ranking Nazi commander, eventually moving on to found the supervillain collective known as the Masters of Evil. The first Zemo would eventually meet his demise via an avalanche, but his son Helmut eventually took up the mask and title to continue his family's legacy of terror.
A master in hand-to-hand combat, expert marksman, cunning strategist, and relentlessly obsessed enemy, Zemo could step ably into a role similar to that of the Red Skull. Since the original Zemo was credited with killing Bucky Barnes for many years, one could also tie a modern Baron back to some variation of that history – thus bringing a natural entrance point for the return of a certain titular character of the second Cap movie.
7 2. Doctor Faustus
Not every one of Steve Rogers' enemies is a Nazi – Doctor Faustus, for instance, simply hangs out with Nazis because he figures they have the best chance at taking over the world. Essentially an evil Sigmund Freud, Faustus fancies himself "The Master of Men's Minds." Unlike most of the characters on this list, Faustus has no natural superpowers. Rather, he's a master manipulator and expert at psychological warfare, using hallucinogens, special effects, and a cadre of loyal henchmen to prey upon his victims' most intimate fears.
While such a man would probably not work well as the primary antagonist of a feature film, Faustus could be integrated into the movie's narrative clockwork as a secondary or background villain quite nicely. Indeed, several recent comics storylines have seen Faustus as a prime mover from behind the scenes – most notably "The Death of Captain America."
6 3. The Secret Empire
HYDRA is far from the only secret society actively trying to reshape the Earth in the Marvel Universe. Originally created by the untouchable super-team of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the Secret Empire are a worldwide criminal organization devoted to maintaining its individual members' anonymity. They have gone toe-to-toe with Captain America, the X-Men, the Avengers, and many others, many times over the years.
Since the Empire's purple masks and robes are a bit camp for a modern Marvel movie, perhaps they can be tweaked somewhat for the silver screen. After all, Iron Man 3 changed Advanced Idea Mechanics from a horde of mad scientists in beekeeper suits into a private army of regenerating super-soldiers. Perhaps the Secret Empire can be played as a splinter faction of HYDRA headed by Baron Zemo – divorced from their Nazi roots, but still quite active in their agenda to subvert and control the nations of the world.
5 4. Nuke
Every evil mastermind needs a physically imposing henchman or two, and Nuke would fit the bill perfectly. Originally debuting in the pages of Frank Miller's iconic Daredevil run, Nuke nonetheless slots in quite well as a foil for the Sentinel of Liberty.
As the product of weapons research attempting to recreate the success of Captain America, Nuke is a deranged cyborg eternally fixated on the mistakes of the Vietnam War. Sporting an American flag tattoo, an immunity to pain, boundless strength, and vials of red, white, and blue pills to regulate his psychosis, Nuke could be both a memorable screen presence and a harrowing opponent for Cap.
Additionally, the Ultimate Comics version of Nuke (who went without that particular codename) would fit very nicely into the role of "psychotic 1950s Captain America" teased by Captain America 3's writers. The thematic symmetry alone might be hard to resist.
5. The Swordsman (Andreas von Strucker)
Another strong candidate for Chief Henchman, the Swordsman is a young German nobleman with an array of deadly skills, a technologically enhanced blade, and an obsession with his twin sister so unhealthy that it would make Jaime Lannister blush. Like Baron Zemo, Andreas von Strucker comes from a background where villainy was the family business – he's the son of Count Wolfgang von Strucker, one of the founding members of HYDRA.
The groundwork for the introduction of Andreas has already been constructed, with his father (played by Thomas Kretschmann) appearing during the first button scene during the credits of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The HYDRA heavy will be up front and center during The Avengers: Age of Ultron – so who's to say whether his son won't be far behind?
4 6. MODOK
MODOK – a.k.a. the Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing – was once just a human test subject in the thrall of amoral AIM scientists. Their ministrations transformed him into a creature able to use his mind as a weapon.
MODOK is a tough villain to take seriously even on the comics page – so much so that he and his variants have been largely played for laughs in their last two decades' worth of appearances. That said, his powers (telekinesis, shield projection, and telepathy, among others) are no joke, and a screen adaptation of the villain could look unsettlingly grotesque.
There is rampant speculation that the current behind-the-scenes villain of Agents of SHIELD, The Clairvoyant, could turn out to be a version of MODOK. If this turns out to be the case, it's unlikely that he will end up in Captain America 3 – unless, of course, the revealed television version of MODOK ends up becoming a fan-favorite. When it comes to such popular characters, anything goes.
3 7. Hate-Monger
Another creation of Lee and Kirby, the Hate-Monger is a racist demagogue with the power to project fear, intolerance, and mass hysteria on others. More than one evildoer has gone by the name Hate-Monger, but the most famous was eventually revealed to be a genetically enhanced clone of Adolf Hitler.
Admittedly, the Hate-Monger is more than an a bit of an offbeat villain, seeming to sprout more from Castle Wolfenstein than a modern superhero movie. Given how quietly and elegantly Captain America: The First Avenger sidestepped "the Nazi issue," it's unlikely that another film would place the subject front and center. That said, the idea of Cap going up against a racist ideologue is an interesting one, and could be adapted to fit into a story pitting him against the likes of Baron Zemo and the Secret Empire.
2 8. Doctor Mindbubble
And now for the goofy dark-horse pick. Billed as "The Psychedelic Super-Soldier," Doctor Mindbubble is a very recent addition to Captain America's rogues' gallery. First teased in the background of Rick Remender's Uncanny X-Force series, Mindbubble is the product of the Weapon Minus program – a SHIELD project intended to counter the Weapon Plus initiative, which created such figures as Wolverine, Nuke, and Deadpool.
Mindbubble himself is a genial, dapper hippie who just happens to be able to read minds and project indestructible spheres of energy. His stated goal is to assassinate humanely and with a smile.
While Mindbubble's comic book backstory is far too complicated for a feature film (not to mention tied directly into the Fox-owned X-Men wing of the Marvel Universe), his design, personality, and power set are so fun that an early battle with the tripped-out villain could provide a necessary dose of levity before diving face-first into a darker and twistier plot.
The major issue hanging over the production of Captain America 3 – indeed, over the entire Marvel cinematic universe – is Chris Evans' recent comments about bowing out of the franchise and acting altogether. Initially, we approached this article as if Captain America 3 was going to be his final film – thus spurring speculation that the movie could be an adaptation of "The Winter Soldier" scribe Ed Brubaker's "The Death of Captain America" storyline. However, it looks as if Evans will in fact be back for The Avengers 3, indicating that Steve Rogers will be appearing in cinemas until at least 2017.
Thus, we will end on this caveat: If Cap 3 is indeed Evans' final standalone film as Captain America, it would make quite a bit of sense for Hugo Weaving to reprise his role as Johann Schmidt – the Red Skull (or some other actor, if not Weaving). No one believes that the Skull actually died at the end of The First Avenger, and multiple comics storylines have featured him returning as a being made ascendant by the Cosmic Cube (or Tesseract, as it were).
If this is the case, Captain America 3 could function as a lead-in to The Avengers 3 in the same way that Captain America: The Winter Soldier opens the door to 2015's superhero team-up. Perhaps Schmidt will come home from his dimension-spanning journey with a new ideology in tow – the death-worshipping religious fervor of Thanos. If that's the case, then even the likes of Baron Zemo and the Hate-Monger will have something to fear.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier storms into theaters today, April 4th, 2014.
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