Marvel Cinematic Universe: 16 Characters Who Disappeared And Need To Come Back

Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer in Iron Man 2

With 14 movies, five television shows, five short films (well, four that are still in continuity), and, now, a webisode series, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has not only become the first modern shared cinematic meta-franchise, but also the biggest and the most complex – and that says nothing of all the scores of future projects that are due to arrive in 2017 and beyond.

Such a huge helping of materials, of course, also brings with it a vast array of characters. And while many of them manage to proceed along with the larger MCU they’re part of – we’re thinking here of the Iron Mans (Robert Downey, Jr.) and Captain Americas (Chris Evans) of the universe – there’s quite a few more who don’t.

Yes, yes – last year’s Captain America: Civil War managed to revive the long-lost General Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt), and this summer’s Spider-Man: Homecoming will save Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) from whatever abyss he fell in. But what about the scores of others who have no long-awaited return currently scheduled on the horizon?

Let’s honor these fallen comrades by counting down the 16 Characters Who Disappeared And Need To Come Back.

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Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) in Iron Man 2
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16 Justin Hammer

Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) in Iron Man 2

First appearance: Iron Man 2 (2010)

Last appearance: “All Hail the King” (2014)

Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) was initially meant to simply be both a business and personal rival to Tony Stark in the second Iron Man, and, as such, he’s never had any kind of real extension to the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe; once he played his role, he was disposed of by being left to rot in prison. Case closed.

What makes the character stand out so much is the sheer brilliance Sam Rockwell displayed in bringing the minor part to life – Hammer just exudes personality, and that’s saying a lot, given the eclectic (and, at times, melodramatic) mix that Marvel continues to bring to bear across all its properties. This is the sole reason why Justin was brought back for a quick cameo in the Marvel One-Shot “All Hail the King,” and it’s why we’re so desperate to see him come back yet again.

And lest you think it might be too difficult to reintegrate such a minor character, it turns out that Luke Cage has already done the preliminary work: Hammer Industries has been secretly reverse-engineering leftover Chitauri technology from the Battle of New York and designing brand-new Terran weaponry with it. That’s a pretty good foundation for future (mis)adventures.

15 Bennie Pollack/Claire Wise

Lizzy Caplan in Marvel's Item 47

First appearance: “Item 47” (2012)

Last appearance: “Item 47” (2012)

Forget Justin Hammer – Bennie Pollack (Jesse Bradford) and Claire West (Lizzy Caplan) are the ultimate throw-away characters, created for the One-Shot “Item 47” and nothing else (at least Sam Rockwell got an entire movie to shine in instead of just 10 minutes). But the few moments we get to spend with the young couple is more than intriguing – and charming! – enough to get us interested in seeing more.

Bennie is (apparently) an out-of-work scientist who is the only person in the country who is able to make the Chitauri weaponry the aliens left behind work, and Claire convinces him they should use it to rob banks and become financially solvent again. SHIELD Agent Felix Blake (Titus Welliver) orders their deaths – they’re a rampant security threat, after all. But Agent Jasper Sitwell (Maximiliano Hernández) instead recruits Mr. Pollack into the organization’s R&D Think Tank, promising big things for the loser kid – a nice riff on the prototypical Marvel hero, ranging from Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) to Peter Parker (Tom Holland) and, to a certain extent, Tony Stark himself.

The duo’s appearance in an episode of Agents of SHIELD is such a no-brainer, it’s mystifying why it hasn’t yet occurred.

14 Emil Blonsky

Abomination The Incredible Hulk

First appearance: The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Last appearance: The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) has two things going for him. First and foremost, he’s an interesting wrinkle on the cliché Special Forces archetype – rather than a young, jingoistic uber-patriot, the Russian-born British Royal Marine is some 45-years-old, making him a grizzled vet whose experience more than compensates for his declining physical prowess. It’s this intensity that makes him such a compelling villain, and it’s enough to almost instantly make him stand out against all the other cardboard-cutout baddies that Marvel manages to stuff into its films.

Secondly, above and beyond his quirky personality, he’s the only other denizen of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that has been exposed to the military’s new, Gamma-irradiated take on Captain America’s supersoldier serum, transforming him into the Hulk-like Abomination. As Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) continues to narratively develop his rage-monster alter-ego, there seems to be the potential for the commensurate development for Blonksy’s own “big guy.” All we need now is to actually see it.

13 Daniel Sousa

Agent Carter Finale Review Peggy Daniel Sousa

First appearance: Agent Carter, season one (2015)

Last appearance: Agent Carter, season two (2016)

Here is where we start to bring in the small-but-wonderfully-drawn cast of Agent Carter, the second television series to be set in the MCU (and the first to be cancelled). The show was only on for 18 episodes, but during that short amount of time, it managed to establish a number of supporting players to the titular Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) that are now fully-fledged members of Marvel’s world, and, as such, deserve some sort of closure for their various arcs – resolution which, we’re sure, Peg herself will likely get in a future movie, most likely starting with next year’s The Avengers: Infinity War.

So, what makes West Coast SSR Chief Daniel Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) so endearing? Beyond his humble-yet-resolute fortitude that served him well in World War II and allows him to continue to preserve with a permanent disability, it’s his slow-burning, high-passion romance with Carter that takes the entire show to realize. Ever since audiences discovered that the future SHIELD director got married in Steve Rogers’s absence (in Captain America: The Winter Soldier), they’ve wanted to know who the mysterious individual is. Three years later, we still don’t know – but certainly deserve to.

And both Sousa and Carter deserve some measure of happiness, to boot.

12 Leonard Samson

Ty Burrell in The Incredible Hulk

First appearance: The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Last appearance: The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Like many of the other entries in this list, Leonard Samson (Ty Burrell) is here because of the sheer amount of potentiality that resides within his character; unlike a number of them, however, he has far more than what the non-comic-reading movie-goer would think.

A psychiatrist working with Dr. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) during one of his brief “cured of Hulk” phases, Doc Samson becomes flirtatious with Betty Ross (Liv Tyler), which begins a decades-long relationship with Bruce that is equally and alternatively friendly and antagonistic. In the process, he also becomes exposed to Gamma radiation, giving him a Captain America-like physique and supersoldier-esque abilities.

Since his first appearance 46 years ago, Samson has become a near-ubiquitous part of the Marvel Universe, serving as counselor to nearly every single superhero on the planet (including Iron Man and the members of X-Force); joining with Tony Stark during the enhanced community’s Civil War; and, most recently, being killed and subsequently brought back to life (but of course!). There’s plenty here for the Marvel Cinematic Universe to pick up on, and Ty Burrell is just the actor to bring it all to life on the big (and, possibly, small) screen.

11 Edwin Jarvis

James DArcy as Edwin Jarvis in Agent Carter S2

First appearance: Agent Carter, season one (2015)

Last appearance: Agent Carter, season two (2016)

There is more than enough to warrant seeing Edwin Jarvis (James D’Arcy), the butler to the legendary Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper), somewhere – anywhere – in the MCU once again just by keeping our focus narrowed on the character himself. Deadpan and droll, he is a flavor that is actually rare in the shared universe, and his pairing with his wife, Ana (Lotte Verbeek), is one of the strongest relationships yet depicted in any of the Marvel media.

But it’s when we expand our perspective to include his influence on the whole rest of the continuity that we start to see just how imperative Edwin’s return is. The steadying force behind the Starks, both Howard and Tony, it is this mild-mannered English butler’s hand that deserves a lot of the credit for keeping SHIELD on track and in form – and as the inspiration for the AI JARVIS (Paul Bettany), he is the godfather to none other than the Vision, the most powerful denizen of the universe yet.

10 Dottie Underwood

Dottie in Agent Carter

First appearance: Agent Carter, season one (2015)

Last appearance: Agent Carter, season two (2016)

Although largely left to deal with its own narrative set in the late ‘40s, Agent Carter still managed to have several small-but-important bridges to the present-day MCU. Easily the most intriguing of these was the Red Room, the official name of what would ultimately come to be known as the Black Widow program.

The Red Room operative known only as Dottie Underwood (Bridget Regan) is the WWII-era posterchild for the program, just as Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is its very embodiment today. The two characters have much in common, from their combat prowess to their espionage capabilities, but they differ in one key aspect: whereas Natasha Romanoff renounced her ex-Soviet ways and is currently seeking redemption through her actions as an Avenger, Dottie goes underground once her cover is blown and opts instead to be mercenary, going whichever way the winds blow her. Marvel absolutely needs its own Alex Krycek (Nicholas Lea) from The X-Files – in fact, if done properly, Ms. Underwood could easily carry her own TV series, whether that be broadcast or webisode.

9 Deathlok

Mike Peterson AKA Deathlok

First appearance: Agents of SHIELD, season one (2013-2014)

Last appearance: Agents of SHIELD, season two (2014-2015)

A long-lived persona in the comic book source material that has seen several individuals take up the mantle (including, most recently, the comics version of Agent Jemma Simmons herself), the Deathlok program on the cinematic side has a history that is intrinsically tied to Hydra and its constant efforts to revive the World War II supersoldier initiative that resulted in the creation of Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) and the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan).

Once Hydra got its hands on young SHIELD recruit Mike Peterson (J. August Richards), severely wounding him in the process, they began his systematic transformation into the near-unstoppable cyborg Deathlok, directing him to become a Winter Soldier-esque master assassin. After Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) and his team are able to free him from his programming, Peterson agrees to become a SHIELD agent, after all, and is routinely placed on some of the organization’s most dangerous missions.

Deathlok only resurfaced for a small handful of Agents of SHIELD episodes two years ago and hasn’t been seen since. We need not only to see how the machine part of him continues to be upgraded, but also how the man in the machine continues to evolve, and if he’ll ever find the solace he’s looking for.

8 Howard the Duck

Howard the Duck in Guardians of the Galaxy

First appearance: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Last appearance: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Let’s be upfront about this one: Howard the Duck (Seth Green) has, by far, the least amount of screen time of any character on this list, appearing only in Guardians of the Galaxy’s post-credits scene – and that’s it.

And while that singular scene wasn’t the most memorable introduction of a new character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it did instantly establish the walking, talking, drinking duck as the single most unique character in all of the meta-franchise’s various properties. This is, in short, the closest thing Marvel has to Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) in Fox’s X-Men cinematic universe – irreverent, wise-cracking, and even, at times, fourth-wall-breaking.

To deploy him in future stories is to play with fire, as such a character could easily shatter the viewer’s willing suspense of disbelief, but utilizing Howard could also be to some of the greatest possible dramatic effect. As the MCU continues to mature in its now-middle age, it’s important for it to keep challenging and reinventing itself. How better than with Seth Green’s strange abomination?

7 Red Skull

The Red Skull

First appearance: Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Last appearance: Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

The fifth big-screen nemesis in Marvel’s slate of films, Red Skull didn’t start the MCU’s villain problem, but he certainly is emblematic of it: he’s a more-or-less one-dimensional baddie that’s meant to serve as a dark reflection of the protagonist (the literal Nazi version of the Captain America supersoldier) and whose sole motivation throughout the movie is the acquiring of power solely for power’s sake, whether that be the mystical energies of the Tesseract or as the sole leader of Nazi Germany – and the whole world.

Still, the man formerly known as SS General Johann Schmidt has a number of potentially redeeming qualities going for him, including the fact that the actor portraying him (Hugo Weaving) is one of the most talented performers yet to star on Marvel’s screen – which isn’t to mention the extremely large role the character has played in the comic book Marvel Universe over the past four decades. A suddenly-returned Red Skull, then, could offer a lot to the MCU, and could even help bring the meta-franchise into a bold, new future starting in 2019 with Phase 4.

6 Taneleer Tivan

The Collector in Guardians

First appearance: Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Last appearance: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

The Collector (Benicio del Toro) reads exactly like what his 1966 introduction in the comics was meant to be: a standard take on the Star Trek sci-fi of its day, an individual who, well, collects various artifacts – both material and biological – from across the galaxy and puts them proudly on display for his own satisfaction. The fact that he’s among the oldest living sentient beings in the cosmos, and that his hobby is meant to pass the eons after his wife dies, is just icing on the fantastical cake.

The on-screen incarnation of the alien Taneleer Tivan has a suspiciously wide-open backstory, so part of the appeal in seeing him come back is to learn just how closely he hews to his perhaps-now-quaint source material. But the rest is seeing how this wild card who is now obsessed with tracking down and possessing the Infinity Stones continues to react to the changing interstellar situation around him – and vice versa. (He just has to be in Infinity War, right?)

5 Felix Blake

Titus Welliver retuns as Felix Blake in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode 'Watchdogs'

First appearance: “Item 47” (2012)

Last appearance: Agents of SHIELD, season three (2015-2016)

When we discuss the possibilities of Marvel taking an essentially one-off character and transforming him into a more interesting entity who has connections that run deeply throughout the larger cinematic universe, former SHIELD Agent Felix Blake is the perfect example of what we’re talking about. Introduced alongside Bennie Pollack and Claire Wise in the “Item 47” short film, Blake was left hanging in the narrative winds… until Agent Coulson was revived (both literally and figuratively) for Agents of SHIELD, prompting that series’s showrunners to bring Felix back.

What SHIELD has managed to do with him since then is nothing short of fascinating, even if his screen time has, overall, still been rather limited. Seriously injured in the line of duty, Agent Blake emerges from his convalescence horrified to learn of Hydra’s grand reintroduction on the world stage and the sudden rise of the Inhumans, whom he views as humanity’s greatest threat. He helps to fund – or, at least, to organize – the Watchdogs, an anti-alien militant group, and begins a worldwide purge of the part-Kree descendants.

His ideological drive and his personal connections to Coulson make him the best type of villain, one who is sorely missed on the show – if the Watchdogs continue to expand their reach (and their terror), where is ex-Agent Blake in all this?

4 Trevor Slattery/Jackson Norriss

Iron Man 3 The Mandarin Ben Kingsley

First appearance: Iron Man 3 (2013)

Last appearance: “All Hail the King” (2014)

Originally introduced as the Mandarin, a long-time antagonist of Iron Man’s in the comics, Trevor Slattery (Ben Kingsley) is a breath of fresh air in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – a thoroughly silly, inept buffoon, which makes him less cookie-cutter than, say, the Red Skull, but it still has its severe limitations as a cinematic terror.

But as a character, pure and simple, Slattery has much promise. Just how much is reveled in “All Hail the King,” the fifth and final Marvel One-Shot, where he is interviewed by a documentarian, Jackson Norriss (Scoot McNairy), and ends up talking about “chocky milk” and Caged Heat, his failed CBS series from the ‘80s.

“All Hail the King” packs a second punch, however, and it has to do with the bombshell revelation that there really is a Mandarin out there, and that he wants Trevor’s hide for what he did to his good name. That Norriss works for him – and that Norriss is, in the comics, the part-hero/part-anti-hero Nighthawk – is a nice bonus, showing just how much legs this particular storyline could have. It’s arguably the most exciting dangling thread that Marvel yet has.

3 Jane Foster

Thor and Jane kiss on Asgard

First appearance: Thor (2011)

Last appearance: Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is one of the oddest ducks on this list (no offense to Howard). She is, on the one hand, a rather bland – even banal – character, a lifeless figure meant to be a beautiful love interest to Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and nothing more. (Sadly, her distinction of being one of the smartest characters in the MCU doesn’t really do much to actually differentiate her or to give her any more depth, either dramatically or emotionally.)

On the other hand, there is just something immensely appealing about Jane. Whether it’s precisely her everyday-ness or the natural charisma that Natalie Portman exudes on the screen, being exposed to Dr. Foster, one of the most preeminent astrophysicists in the world, typically results in wanting to see more of her in the future.

It’s massively disappointing that Portman opted to turn down a possible role in this November’s Thor: Ragnarok, as the film could’ve finally begun to rehabilitate her character, but rumors have been swirling that she’ll appear next in Infinity War. We had better hope so – in the comics, Foster is the newest individual to wield Mjolnir and carry the mantle of Thor, Goddess of Thunder. The cinematic version needs to carry her own weight, as well.

2 Bobbi Morse/Lance Hunter

Agents of SHIELD - Bobbi and Lance headed to Marvel's Most Wanted

First appearance: Agents of SHIELD, season two (2014-2015)

Last appearance: Agents of SHIELD, season three (2015-2016)

A large part of the reason that Agents of SHIELD was able to break out of a sometimes-struggling first season and burst unto narrative easy street was its expanded cast, and this, in turn, was anchored by Lance Hunter (Nick Blood), a sardonic British mercenary on long-term contract with SHIELD, and Bobbi Morse (Adrian Palicki), one of the best agents in the organization’s history. The two are divorced but quickly start up their on-again, off-again romance shortly into season two, and this dynamic, coupled with the actors’ brilliant performances, instantly made them the best couple in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe.

In retrospect, this dynamic was a little too good, and it proved to be the characters’ downfall – ABC quickly tried to spin them off into their own television show, Most Wanted, which meant that SHIELD had to write them off for good. Once the spinoff was cancelled before reaching the air, the pair has never been heard from again.

But that series’s loss can be the movies’ gain: there’s no reason why Bobbi can’t take her place as Mockingbird on the Avengers, just as she has done in the comics, or why Hunter can’t work his way into, say, Spider-Man: Homecoming or Black Panther as the living weapon that he is. Marvel’s world is definitely lessened by their absence, and making them into players that are just as integral as the Hulk or Black Widow should be one of Marvel Studios’s most pressing jobs.

1 Pepper Potts

Iron Man 2 - Iron Man and Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts

First appearance: Iron Man (2008)

Last appearance: Iron Man 3 (2013)

One of the longest-lived characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Virginia “Pepper” Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) carries much dramatic resonance – which can also be attributed to her ever-changing relationship with Tony Stark, making them the second most-interesting couple in the meta-franchise.

Her constant desire to ground Tony, to make him more real than grandiose and more man than Iron Man, is fascinating to watch play out on screen, as is her personal trajectory from a mere assistant to the CEO of Stark Industries. Her absence has been keenly felt these past four years, but the weight of the revelation that Stark makes in Civil War – that Pepper has left him – is nonetheless tremendous, proving how vital she has become to the universe’s ongoing mythology.

Should Gwyneth Paltrow not wish to be in these films anymore – something which Natalie Portman herself has been wrestling with for the past few years – then the producers and writers need to sit down and give her a sendoff that is befitting her narrative rank, and to allow both Tony and the audience to begin mourning her.

Just so long as they bring her back one final time.


Did we miss your favorite recurring character who has no guarantee to come back in the future, near or otherwise? Be sure to chime in in the comments.

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