15 Superheroes And Villains Rescued By Their Appearance In TV And Movies

Guardians-of-the-Galaxy group shot

Whether it comes from reading countless comic books, or being captivated by the characters appearing on the big screen, everyone has their favorite superhero or supervillain. But sometimes comic book TV shows and movies can go terribly wrong and ruin the audience's thoughts and feelings toward our favorite characters (looking at you, Green Lantern). In these 15 cases, whether it was redeeming a previous failure or their first time in the spotlight, appearing in a TV show or movie actually helped the characters gain popularity and even adoration from first time viewers and long time fans alike. Some characters we now think of as classic only got there thanks to an especially popular turn on screen. Here are 15 Comic Book Characters Rescued By Their Appearance In TV And Movies.

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15 Groot

How a Groot Solo Movie Could Work

Originally appearing in Tales of Astonish #13 as an alien tree trying to capture humans for testing, Groot has always been a bizarre character. After disappearing in the comics for a while, he returned better than ever as a hero and member of the Guardians of the Galaxy.

It’s hard to imagine the Guardians of the Galaxy team without the funny, tree-like character. However, before the multimillion dollar film’s release in 2014, the extraterrestrial was rather unknown. Vin Diesel voiced the character in the film and did wonders, with Groot’s three words “I am Groot” instantly becoming a rallying cry for fans.   

Now Groot is a household name and beloved, adorable character. Previews of 2017 film Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 shows a baby Groot, somehow even more loveable than before. Apparently Marvel Comics is keeping with the theme, announcing Baby Groot’s very own comic series I Am Groot to be released this May.

14 Damien Darhk

Arrow Neal McDonough Damien Darhk

Making his first appearance in Devin Grayson’s 1999 comic Titans #1 as the Titans' antagonist, Damien Darhk is a fairly unknown character with little to no backstory. In fact, Darhk has only appeared in a handful of comic books throughout history.

Neal McDonough, who also had a small role in Captain America: The First Avenger, takes the role in season 4 of the CW’s Arrow and becomes a creepy, threatening, and all around menacing match for Oliver Queen and the gang. However, the H.I.V.E member’s appearance had fans everywhere searching the web and asking their comic book savvy friends the same question: who exactly is Damien Darhk?  His villainous appearance on Arrow had a lot of fans even considering whether or not he was created just for the show. Even though we may not see Darhk again on Arrow, fans can expect to see him play a part in Season 2 of DC's Legends of Tomorrow.

13 The Purple Man

Jessica Jones - David Tennant as Kilgrave

Before the Netflix original series Jessica Jones premiered in 2015, Zebediah Kilgrave, the purple skinned manipulator, only had two other small on-screen appearances in the animated series X-Men and The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

First appearing in 1964, originally as the enemy of Daredevil, Kilgrave is now most commonly known as Jessica Jones' antagonist. Doctor Who’s David Tennant's portrayal of Zebediah Kilgrave grounded the character a bit more than expected. Instead of coming off as a sex-crazed, evil villain, viewers saw a side of Killgrave that was almost relatable and understandable but still creepy and twisted as hell. Tennant did such a good job with the character that Rolling Stone’s included him in their list of the "40 Greatest TV Villains Of All Time."

Tennant’s Kilgrave was such a good match for Ritter’s Jones that a lot of fans are wondering if he could possibly make an appearance in season 2 of Jessica Jones or pop up in The Defenders. Seeing The Defenders take on Kilgrave would be a nice nod to the Purple Man’s history as a Daredevil villain. We’ll just have to wait and see.

12 Malcolm Merlyn

Arrow John Barrowman Dark Archer CW

Another Arrowverse character making the list is Malcolm Merlyn also known as the Dark Archer. First appearing as Arthur King in Justice League of America #94 and later as Thomas Merlyn in Green Arrow #0. Merlyn is also known for being a Batman villain, however his appearance on the CW’s series Arrow as a nemesis (and sometimes ally) for the Arrow Team has seriously boosted the tactical genius’s popularity.

Merlyn doesn’t have a lot of television background, appearing in only one episode of the animated television series Justice League Unlimited and in just two episodes of The WB/CW’s Smallville. But when John Barrowman took the role in 2012, he become a recurring villain for the Arrow team, a main cast member, and a fan favorite.

The bow and arrow wielding villain has also popped up in a few video games, such as Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham, since his arrival on the show. Merlyn does not just mess with the Arrow team; he has also appeared in episodes of The Flash and is now a main cast member of DC's Legends of Tomorrow.

11 Pepper Potts

Pepper Potts Gwenyth Paltrow Iron Man

First appearing in 1963 Tales of Suspense #45, Pepper was most commonly known as Tony Stark’s redheaded secretary and love interest. Despite her wit and intelligence, Potts never really got the chance to stand in the spotlight on her own and was widely considered to be a secondary character.

Potts first appeared on the big screen in the 2008 film Iron Man, played by Gwyneth Paltrow. Paltrow and Robert Downey Jr’s on screen chemistry as Potts and Stark was undeniable and immediately made her stand out. Since, Paltrow has portrayed Potts in Iron Man 2, The Avengers, and Iron Man 3, and her role changed from background character to big player in Phase 2, even donning an Iron Man suit.

In the 2009 The Invincible Iron Man #10, Pepper made her first appearance as a suit wearing hero called Rescue and CEO of Stark Industries. She is also now playable character in video games such as LEGO Marvel’s Avengers. Although we missed out on Potts in Captain America: Civil War, she is still making appearances in the comics.

10 Mr. Freeze

Mr. Freeze in Batman The Animated Series

Dr. Victor Fries first appeared in Batman #121 in 1959 as Mister Zero, and eventually became known as the mad scientist, Mr. Freeze, while trying to save his dying wife, Nora.

Today, Mr. Freeze is a pretty well known villain of Batman's. He appeared a few times in the 60s Batman TV series, but got his real television start (and widespread recognition) in the '90s animated series Batman: The Animated Series as a regular villain. The first episode featuring him, "Heart Of Ice," won an Emmy for its outstanding writing, painting him as a sympathetic villain. Unfortunately, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s performance of Mr. Freeze in the 1997 Batman & Robin film majorly hurt viewers' concept of the character. He became a joke, with puns and jokes galore.  

Fortunately, Nathan Darrow’s awesome portrayal of Victor Fries in the Fox TV show Gotham is definitely boosting the ice man's popularity. Freeze has also been gaining popularity and recovering from the Batman & Robin humiliation by appearing as a villain in the 2012 video game Batman: Arkham City. The graphic novel Batman Arkham: Mister Freeze is scheduled to release in May 2017, so you can catch more of Mr. Freeze.

9 The Riddler

Fox Gotham Riddler Stephen Amell Casting

The puzzling genius also known as Edward Nigma got his start in Detective Comics #140 all the way back in 1948, becoming a self-sabotaging Batman villain. Always incorporating a puzzle or riddle into his plans, it’s no surprise how The Riddler got his name and reputation.  

Much like Mr. Freeze before him, the Riddler had some clout with fans until he appeared on the big screen. Jim Carrey’s portrayal of The Riddler in 1995 film Batman Forever is almost as cringe-worthy and devastating as Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze.

However, Cory Michael Smith’s portrayal of the Riddler in Fox’s Gotham has stirred up a lot of positivity around the character again. He’s less colorful, campy, and Jim Carrey-esque and instead much more creepy and mind boggling. The Season 3 Episode 15 “How The Riddler Got His Name” promos of Smith donning The Riddler’s green suit is giving us chills. Catch the episode on FOX in April 2017.

8 Black Canary

Arrow - Sara and Laurel Lance as Black Canary

Black Canary, created by Robert Kanigher and Carmine Infantino, debuted in Flash Comics #86 and is one of the earliest superwomen of the DC Universe. The blonde haired, master martial artist with a supersonic canary cry quickly made her way to animated television show Justice League Unlimited in the mid-2000’s and Young Justice in the early 2010’s. She also played a role in the one season long 2002 WB show Birds of Prey.

However, Black Canary’s recent increase in popularity is stemming from the CW television series Arrow, and boy have they explored all the Black Canary options they could get their hands on. Sara Lance, played by Caity Lotz, started as the original Black Canary in the show with a completely different origin than her comic book counterpart. In fact, Sara Lance isn’t even a known name for Black Canary in the comics. The show quickly retconned the character and brought the story a little closer to the source material, but fans of Lotz can see her in her role on DC's Legends of Tomorrow as White Canary.

Next, Katie Cassidy’s Laurel Lance stepped up to the plate as Black Canary, which was short lived, and followed quite quickly by yet another Black Canary named Dinah (Tina) Drake played by The Walking Dead’s Juliana Harkavy. All of this canary mess is upsetting a lot of fans, so let's hope they stick with Drake to avoid even more confusion. Only time will tell how fans take to Dinah, but either way there’s no denying that this character was brought into the spotlight by her role on Arrow.

7 Green Arrow

Stephen Amell in Arrow

The final Arrowverse character to make this list is none other than Green Arrow himself: Oliver Queen. First appearing in More Fun Comics #73 the human weapon and mastermind Oliver Queen has always had a place in the spotlight. From being a successful billionaire businessman to fighting crime alongside the Justice League, it’s no question why he is a comic fan favorite. However, the character remained somewhat unknown to the average television viewer.  

Ollie appeared on the WB/CW’s Smallville played by Justin Hartley, and the character also had a recurring role on the animated television series Justice League Unlimited as a beard-bearing bad ass. But the show that really brought him into the spotlight was the CW’s series Arrow premiering in 2012. That was the show that made Green Arrow a household name.

Now it’s hard to think about Green Arrow without picturing Stephen Amell or the Arrow Team. Amell’s version of Oliver Queen became an instant fan favorite influencing the shows massive popularity. Because of the groundwork this show set into place, The CW even launched The Flash in in 2014 and Legends of Tomorrow in 2016, and Amell’s Oliver Queen appears in both. Catch more of Green Arrow Wednesdays on the CW 8/7c or in Benjamin Percy’s new 2016 comic Green Arrow.

6 Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones Stare

Jones is a relatively newer character first appearing in Alias #1 in 2001 with one of the more tragic hero backstories. After discovering her superhuman strength and ability to fly, Jessica Jones decided to dip her toes into heroism as the lesser known hero Jewel. After being controlled, manipulated, and tortured by The Purple Man, Jones decided she wasn’t fit to be a hero and instead became a private investigator, continually dealing with her depression along the way.

Jones is commonly known as the love interest for Ant-Man and Luke Cage, however Krysten Ritter’s portrayal of the super strong, alcohol guzzling, failed superhero in the 2015 Netflix series Jessica Jones has forced the character to stand in her own well deserved spotlight.

Shortly after the Netflix series release, Jones got a new comic series titled Jessica Jones in late 2016 from writer Brian Michael Bendis. They’re up to issue #5 and it is a highly suggested read. Netflix has not yet set a release date for the much anticipated Season 2, however we can expect Ritter to reprise her role in Netflix series The Defenders alongside Luke Cage, Daredevil, and Iron Fist in 2017.


5 Black Widow

Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow from Avengers: Age of Ultron

Russian Spy turned superhero, Natasha Romanova, got her start in Tales of Suspense #52 in 1964. Natasha started her career as a superhero as a freelance agent for S.H.I.E.L.D and eventually became a member of the Avengers. Widow got the opportunity to shine on her own in Marjorie Liu’s 2010 comic series Black Widow which was released just one month before the release of Iron Man 2.

Scarlett Johansson’s portrayal of Black Widow in Iron Man 2 launched an enormous amount of interest around the character. Reprising her role as Widow in The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Captain America: Civil War, Black Widow has undoubtedly become a crucial part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Gaining a new comic series in early 2016 from Nick Spencer titled Black Widow, the character’s popularity is at an all time high. Apparently Marvel Studios’ President Kevin Feige is listening to fans demands and commented in 2016 that Marvel definitely wants to give Widow her very own stand alone film. Fans can only sit back with unwavering anticipation and wait, but at least they’ll be able to catch more of Widow in 2018 Avengers: Infinity War.


4 Thanos

Thanos in Avengers Age of Ultron

Debuting in Iron Man #55 created by Jim Starlin, Thanos is a God-like super villain originating from Saturn’s moon Titan. The character has taken on The Avengers, X-Men, Guardians of the Galaxy, and more, appearing to be a suitable match for anyone he comes into contact with.  

After the post credits scene in the 2012 blockbuster The Avengers, the talk around Thanos has not stopped. Everyone wants to know exactly who Thanos is since seeing that short teaser. In 2016, the character even got his own comic series from Jeff Lemire titled Thanos, which has its 4th issue set to release on February 22, 2017.

The buzz around Thanos keeps building in preparation for for Avengers: Infinity Wars. Fans are digging up everything they can about Thanos’ backstory, trying to figure out exactly what they can expect to see of him in the upcoming film. With superhuman strength, telekinesis, and god-like powers, Thanos is certainly going to be a fair match for the team.

3 Star Lord

Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) HD - Guardians of the Galaxy

Peter Quill first appeared in Marvel Preview #4 where the space defending hero dons a spacesuit that allows him to survive in space, fight bad guys, and of course look damn good while doing it.

When Chris Pratt was announced as Star Lord for The Guardians of the Galaxy in early 2013, fans were a bit concerned that the Parks and Recreation funnyman could handle the part. However, Pratt won everyone’s hearts as the leading role in the 2014 James Gunn film. He even transformed the character to make him appear more lighthearted and less brooding.

Since the release of Guardians of the Galaxy in 2014 Star Lord has had 2 different comic series released: David Johnson’s 2015 Star-Lord and Chip Zdarsky’s 2016 Star-Lord. Fans are now bursting with anticipation to see Pratt reprise his role in Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 2 in May 2017. We can also expect to see Pratt as Peter Quill in Avengers: Infinity Wars.

2 Loki

Tom Hiddleston as Loki - talks Kong: Skull Island

First appearing in Venus #6 and later in his first modern appearance in Journey into Mystery #85, the master manipulator has always been a fantastically interesting character.

Thor’s evil adopted brother has always had a bit of a buzz around him, but Tom Hiddleston's portrayal of Loki has skyrocketed his popularity to an all time high. An explosion of fans immediately emerged after his appearance in the 2011 Thor film, all loving Hiddleston's portrayal of the bad guy and adamant that he’s the absolute perfect fit for the role.

Since Hiddleston's appearance as Loki in Thor, Thor: The Dark World, and The Avengers, he has become a playable character in a ton of video games such as Lego Marvel Super Heros and Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth. Fans can expect to see Hiddleston reprise his role in Thor: Ragnarok coming out November of this year and in Avengers: Infinity War.

1 Iron Man

Iron Man In Captain America: Civil War

Iron Man first appeared in Tales of Suspense #39 and continued to be a huge name in Marvel Comics long before the movies were released. However, Tony Stark gets the top spot because his role in the Iron Man and Marvel movies created such a huge boom for the studio and superhero movie industry.

Before the premiere of Iron Man in 2008, the general viewing audience were nowhere near as familiar with Marvel’s characters as they were with DC’s long list of iconic superheros. So it’s fair to say that a lot of the non-comic book reading audience had no clue what they were getting into with Iron Man. Marvel Studios arguably took a huge risk on Iron Man by picking a character rather unknown to the general audience to kick off the Marvel Cinematic Universe.   

The result was the best superhero movie ever made up to that point. By enlisting the help of some of the greatest visual effects artists in film, Industrial Light & Magic, the effects turned out more incredible than ever expected. Robert Downey JR’s performance was absolutely spot on and the multimillion dollar film launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe into a long continuous stream of successful films. Catch RDJ’s Tony Stark in Spider-Man: Homecoming this July.

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