By all accounts, Marvel had an excellent 2016. While Daredevil and Luke Cage further built on the studio’s impressive Netflix collection, Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange were both met with praise for their impact on the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Even before the big screen disappointment that was X-Men: Apocalypse, Deadpool knocked it out of the park for Fox’s Marvel universe, becoming the highest-grossing R-rated movie ever made. Meanwhile in the world of comic books, Captain America was brainwashed by Hydra, while Iron Man and Captain Marvel faced off in a second Civil War.
Despite all this, 2017 promises to be an even busier year for Marvel, as a new Avengers team forms in the comics, Netflix airs its first team-up, and the MCU increases in scale. Whether you’re a fan of the source materials or simply a casual movie goer, there will be plenty of fresh characters to get to know in the upcoming year, and we’ve singled out 15 that we have a feeling are going to set the superhero world alight. Here are 15 Marvel Superheroes Who Are About to Become Huge.
15 Iron Fist
Iron Fist has a lot to live up to if its predecessors are anything to go by, but Netflix hasn’t let us down yet. Finn Jones (Game of Thrones) stars as Danny Rand, who returns to New York after 15 years to uphold his family legacy. One of the greatest martial artists in Marvel, Danny must (ahem) defend his city by drawing power from the legendary Iron Fist.
The fourth Defender to be introduced before the main event, Iron Fist has all the right attributes to succeed on Netflix. Daredevil’s action set pieces made waves in the genre, and considering Iron Fist’s hand-to-hand prowess, we see no reason that the character shouldn’t follow the example set by The Man Without Fear. What’s more, Miguel Sapochnik, director of Game of Thrones’ infamous “Battle of the Bastards”, is set to direct an episode, while Dexter executive producer Scott Buck is on board as showrunner.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 drops in May, and with it comes a character whose backstory is far too bizarre for any other Marvel property. Mantis has fought alongside the Avengers, temporarily transferred to the Justice League, and fallen in love with a tree. If that’s not a Guardians of the Galaxy character we don’t know what is. The tree, by the way, is not Groot. She falls in love with a different tree. There’s a sentence you never thought you’d read today.
Pom Klementieff (Hacker's Game) will portray Mantis, who certainly maintains her antennae and ability to sense emotions in others, though no word yet as to whether her origins will be quite as strange (or indeed if she will also make an appearance in Zack Snyder’s Justice League movie). Mantis joined DC only briefly, when her run in Marvel’s “Celestial Madonna” arc had settled down, and she had married an alien tree that took the form of Swordsman (the Avenger who saved her from a life of prostitution). Whichever route Guardians decides to take with Mantis, it’s almost certainly going to get people talking.
13 Ghost Rider
The original incarnation of Ghost Rider, Johnny Blaze, was last seen on screen in the 2012 bomb that was Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, as played by Nicolas Cage. It’s no wonder, then, that Agents of SHIELD has introduced the Robbie Reyes version of Ghost Rider, who is by far the biggest name to appear on the ABC show. SHIELD has even subtitled its ongoing fourth season Ghost Rider, while actor Gabriel Luna has hinted that there may be a spin-off in the works.
It’s shaping up to be a huge year for Reyes, but that’s not to say that the original host of the Ghost Rider doesn’t exist within the MCU. In fact, Johnny Blaze makes a brief appearance in SHIELD, in Reyes’ origin episode “The Good Samaritan”, as well as being mentioned directly by name in the first season of Luke Cage. If Reyes remains a hit with fans, Spirit of Vengeance will be all but forgotten, and Blaze could be given the opportunity to reappear in full. Either way, 2017 promises to be an exciting year for Ghost Rider fans.
12 New Mutants
The New Mutants have had several names since their 1982 debut, including X-Force and the New X-Men, but they will go by their original title as they suit up for a movie adaptation this year. The film itself is not expected to release until 2018, but if the rumors are to be believed, 2017 is going to see some big names join the live-action X-Men universe. Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch), Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones) and Nat Wolff (Paper Towns) are all but confirmed to star, while James McAvoy and Alexandra Shipp are expected to reprise their roles as Professor X and Storm respectively.
Josh Boone will direct, while his The Fault in Our Stars writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber will pen the script, and Boone recently announced to his Instagram followers which members of the team will appear in the movie. Wolfsbane, Cannonball, Sunspot, and Mirage will represent the original New Mutants, who break away from the X-Men to make a name for themselves, while later recruits Magik and Warlock will also feature.
Deadpool 2 is another slated for a 2018 release, but with leading man Ryan Reynolds recently claiming that the movie is not yet ready for production, it could well be pushed back to later in the year. The potential hold-up is down to this guy right here. Cable is a vital character in Deadpool’s story and in Marvel's, being the time-travelling telepath son of Scott Summers and Jean Grey’s clone, so it’s no wonder that he is proving difficult to cast.
Expect Cable to be at the center of all Deadpool 2 news in the coming months. Reports suggests that filming is due to commence in June, so speculation will be rife for Cable to be cast in time. If we don’t get a Cable announcement in the next five months, we can assume that the film has indeed been pushed back. Meanwhile, casting rumors will continue to appear until Fox makes any official announcement.
10 Colleen Wing
Luke Cage dropped a not-so subtle hint that Colleen Wing does exist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and she will indeed appear across the Netflix shows in 2017. Colleen will debut in Iron Fist, which sees Jessica Henwick reunite with Game of Thrones co-star Finn Jones as the Daughter of the Dragon. Henwick will reprise her role as a Defender, when Marvel’s small screen team-up hits Netflix.
Colleen’s introduction to the Netflix universe means she will likely cross paths with Misty Knight, a regular through Luke Cage season 1. The Harlem cop will also appear in The Defenders, which may use Colleen as a way of introducing Misty to Danny Rand, as they are a recurring couple in the comics. Colleen and Misty are comic book partners, founders of Nightwing Restoration and the second Heroes for Hire. Colleen, specifically, will fit right in among her Netflix contemporaries, being the master samurai that she is, but expect both women to enjoy plenty of success in the upcoming year.
The third entry in the Thor saga, Ragnarok is expected to have a universal impact on the Marvel Cinematic Universe. To save Asgard from extinction, the God of Thunder must face off against Hela (Cate Blanchett) and Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), as well as the returning Loki, and an angry Hulk. Doctor Strange is showing up to lend a hand, but Thor will not be the only Asgardian to fight for his realm.
Valkyrie is a Norse Goddess, chosen by Odin to lead the Valkyrior, a warrior tribe who watch over the Gods of Asgard and decide which of the dead deserve a place in Valhalla. As well as in Thor comics, Valkyrie has appeared in her own publications, joining the Defenders early on and the Secret Avengers some time later. She makes her MCU debut in 2017, as played by Creed star Tessa Thompson, and she will certainly be a worthy ally (and possibly even successor) to Thor.
Jon Bernthal’s Punisher is already one of Marvel’s most popular characters, after his recurring role in the second season of Daredevil. The Walking Dead actor’s performance was met with such positive reviews that Netflix ordered a Punisher spin-off almost immediately after his debut, with production beginning as early as October 2016. The series is set for a 2017 release, and is almost certainly going to lift the character to new heights.
The plot for the show is still under wraps, but it seems as though the cast and crew are all in place. Steve Lightfoot (executive producer, Hannibal) is attached as showrunner, while Bernthal and Deborah Ann Woll (Karen Page) are reprising their Daredevil roles. Ben Barnes (The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian) will co-star as Frank Castle’s best friend, while Ebon Moss-Bachrach (Girls) will lend the Punisher his analytic skills and Amber Rose Revah (Son of God) is on board as a DHS agent and potential love interest for Castle.
7 Danielle Cage
The daughter of Luke Cage and Jessica Jones, Danielle is (for now) a character exclusive to the comic books. Doctor Strange acted as midwife for the birth of Danielle, who was named for their friend and Luke’s fellow Hero for Hire, Danny Rand. Present-Danielle shows signs that she has inherited her parents’ powers, exhibiting superhuman strength, flight and unbreakable skin, but future-Danielle is where things start to get really interesting.
In the year 20XX, where she is married to Black Panther’s son T’Chaka, Danielle is the current Captain America. Pulled back in time originally by Doctor Doom, Danielle has now settled in the present, joining the U.S.Avengers in the current timeline. Also in the team are New Mutants Cannonball and Sunspot (now going by Citizen V), present-Danielle’s babysitter Squirrel Girl, as well as Red Hulk, Enigma, and Iron Patriot. The U.S.Avengers series kicks off this January, and is certainly one for comic book readers to look out for as the year unfolds.
A name fans of the X-Men comics will know all too well, Legion (alter ego David Haller) is an Omega-level mutant, which makes a lot of sense considering he is the son of Charles Xavier. Whether or not the upcoming FX drama will reference Professor X in any way is unclear; the producers, including Fargo creator Noah Hawley, as well as X-Men veterans Bryan Singer and Simon Kinberg, have changed their stance on its connection to the X-Men movie universe.
Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens stars as Haller, who is in and out of psychiatric hospitals from an early age, having been diagnosed with schizophrenia (while each of his personalities has a different superpower). It’s certainly a risky show to take on, and one that could easily spiral out of control, but early signs are positive, and we’re confident that the names involved are more than capable of turning Legion into one of Marvel’s standout properties.
The last we saw of Nebula, she had amputated her own hand and spun off into outer space à la Darth Vader to avoid the impact of a crashing spaceship. One wonders whether she might get a Vader-level redemption story in May, when she returns for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Karen Gillan reprises her role as Thanos’ supposedly evil step-daughter, but the Doctor Who actress promises a more fleshed-out relationship with her adopted sister Gamora in the upcoming sequel.
Nebula was always outshone by Gamora, and was shown as more than willing to battle her sister to the death in the original movie. What she really wants, however, is to see Thanos destroyed. She plays a massive role in the Infinity Gauntlet comic book arc, even possessing the Gauntlet herself at one stage. It’s not out of the question that she might work alongside her sister to defeat Thanos, whether in this movie or in the lead up to Infinity War. Either way, Nebula is definitely one to keep your eye on as Phase Three reaches its end.
4 Black Panther
After his live-action debut in Captain America: Civil War, it’s probably fair to say that Black Panther is already edging on huge. The fact is, with his solo movie due to release in February 2018, T’Challa’s stock is only going to rise over the coming year. Now King of Wakanda, T’Challa’s leadership is threatened by a pair of enemies, and Black Panther must unite the country’s C.I.A. against the coming threat, revealed co-star Lupita Nyong’o.
Chadwick Boseman reprises his role as the title character, alongside Nyong’o (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) as a member of the Wakandan elite Special Forces unit – the Dora Milaje. Creed director Ryan Coogler will co-write and direct, while Adonis Creed himself, Michael B. Jordan, will play long-time Black Panther foe Erik Killmonger. Forest Whitaker (Rogue One) and Sterling K. Brown (This is Us) have also been confirmed to star. Production begins this January, with casting announcements, plot details, and trailers guaranteed to appear over the coming year.
3 Black Bolt
Blackagar Boltagon holds two titles within the Marvel universe. Besides having arguably the greatest name in all of comic books, he is the leader of the Inhumans, who are all set to debut on ABC in September. Originally on Marvel’s Phase Three movie slate, Black Bolt will instead lead the Inhumans in the eight-part television series, although the opening two episodes will premiere in IMAX in a television first.
The team’s line-up is likely to include original members Medusa, Maximus, Karnak, Gorgon, Triton, and Crystal, but Black Bolt’s reputation separates him from the rest. Born to Inhuman parents whose experiments made him more powerful still, it took Bolt 19 years to control his abilities. Mostly mute, because the vibrations from his voice are powerful enough to split the planet in two, Bolt has held his own against a rampaging Hulk, and even taken on Thanos. Iron Fist showrunner Scott Buck once more acts as head honcho, and we only hope that he and ABC can do the character justice.
2 Squirrel Girl
Ever since Anna Kendrick announced her desire to play Squirrel Girl, fans the world over have been desperate to see her join the MCU, and it looks as though they are about to get their wish. ABC is currently developing a half-hour comedy series based on Marvel’s New Warriors, the “junior version of the Avengers”, with Doreen Green set to feature. The bad news for Anna Kendrick supporters is that she will likely appear as a teenager, and therefore just out of the Pitch Perfect actress’s age range.
All we know about the New Warriors series is that it will include Squirrel Girl and is part of the MCU. We don’t even know if it will release this year, but where Squirrel Girl is involved, we at Screen Rant will be hot on the tail of any casting announcements. Even if we do end up going another excruciating year without a live-action Doreen Green, then we at least have the U.S.Avengers to look forward to.
X-23, aka Laura Kinney, is one of the rare Marvel characters not to have debuted in comic books, having first appeared on the X-Men: Evolution television series. Laura became an overnight success, and we have no reason to believe that her turn in the upcoming Logan will do anything to threaten her popularity. She quickly spun off into her own comic miniseries before joining the X-Men for good, later becoming Marvel’s new Wolverine.
If the little girl in the Logan trailer is indeed X-23 (and it would be a Shyamalan-level twist if she weren’t), the chances are she will be following in the footsteps of her comic book counterpart. She has the exact same powers, having been created in an attempt to clone Wolverine, while Logan marks Hugh Jackman’s ninth and final appearance in the X-Men franchise. Not many actors have given more to the comic book movie genre, and anyone who might replace him is guaranteed to become a household name.
Which Marvel superheroes would you like to see take the spotlight? Let us know in the comments!