Every time a new comic book movie comes out in theaters, fidelity to the source material is always a big topic amongst fans. But sometimes, too much faithfulness isn’t a good thing. As tempting as it is to say that the “comics were better,” the truth is that that’s not always the case. Since superhero movies first boomed, the relationship between comics and film has been a symbiotic one, with new movies inspiring the latest comics just as much as comics once inspired them. It’s a fascinating dynamic.
And sometimes — yes, sometimes — the movies improve upon a character, making them way better than they ever were in the source material.
Nowhere has this been more true than in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the most ambitious experiment of its kind in modern film history. While reaching back through decades of four-colored history, the MCU has elevated some characters to heights they never experienced in the past. On the other hand, some MCU character adaptations have lost all the flavor, quirks, and characterization that made their comic book counterparts so fun. It’s a tough balance, and not even the mighty MCU can get it right all of the time — though they’ve done a pretty awesome job for the most part. So to be fair, let’s look at both sides of the seesaw. Here are 8 MCU Characters WAY Better Than the Comics Versions (and 7 That Are Way Worse).
15. Better: Iron Man
Comics fans always loved Iron Man, but before 2008, he was a B-lister. Today, he’s arguably the world’s favorite superhero. What happened? The answer is Robert Downey Jr., and it’s no wonder the comics character has evolved to become more like the cinematic version.
The MCU didn’t change the basic shape of Iron Man: he’s still the same brilliant, arrogant, emotionally withdrawn, morally-conflicted character he’s been since the 1960s. But the MCU took the outlines from the comics and filled them in with a lot more character. The MCU Tony is a person who is sometimes right, sometimes wrong, and often falls prey to his own personal weaknesses, but he’s always trying to help the world the best that he can.
The other thing that makes this Tony so fantastic? Character progression. Since 2008, we’ve watched Iron Man age in real time, and seen him grow, change, and evolve into a person he never thought he’d become. If he doesn’t survive the Infinity War, he’ll have had a good run.
14. Worse: Iron Fist
Not all “iron” heroes have the same luck. Hear us out on this one: in the comics, Danny Rand is actually an awesome character with a lot of depth, grit, and determination. Seriously, if you think we’re kidding, read the recent comics he’s featured in. He also has an awesome mask.
But Iron Fist in the MCU might be one of the least-liked superheroes around. He’s immature, entitled, and takes himself way too seriously much of the time — which is amusing, since no one else takes him very seriously at all. The Defenders did do a lot of good work in redeeming this flawed adaptation of the character, but it’s hard to see where he could go next. Which is a shame, because Iron Fist is a character brimming with cinematic potential, who could’ve really shined.
We mean, hey, they could have at least gotten the mask right.
13. Better: Luke Cage
In all fairness, the comic book version of Luke Cage has always been a seriously underrated character, particularly after his revival by writer Brian Michael Bendis. But the Luke Cage that Mike Colter plays in the MCU has quickly become one of our favorite superheroes of all time. His Netflix series, the show about a “bulletproof black man,” hit a cultural zeitgeist at exactly the right time, and inspired numerous think pieces.
Though the comic book character took a while to find his niche, the MCU Luke Cage has been flat out awesome from the start. Subtle, intelligent, gruffly compassionate, and wonderfully understated — even when he’s walking right through a brick wall — this Luke is like the big brother of the Defenders, serving as the moral compass of the team. He doesn’t hide behind costumes, a mask, or even a silly codename like “Power Man.” Instead, Luke is Luke, and he puts his face right out there as a symbol of everything he believes in.
12. Worse: Malekith
Thor: The Dark World is widely regarded as one of the most forgettable MCU movies so far, and unfortunately, that same fate befell the film’s villain, Malekith the Accursed, played by Christopher Eccleston. Who would have ever thought that a dark elf, flying around in a spaceship with other dark elves, could ever be so boring?
It’s not Eccleston’s fault, because he’s actually perfectly cast. It’s just that the film never does anything that makes Malekith stand out; not his personality, nor his motivations, nor even his powers. So really, you can’t really blame viewers for forgetting his name the second they leave the cinema.
11. Better: Ego the Living Planet
Conversely, here’s a different cosmic character who fared a hell of a lot better. It’s hard to imagine a wackier, sillier villain than the comics version of Ego the Living Planet, a… well, a living planet, who was traditionally represented as a big purple sphere with a bearded face on its surface. No one ever expected to see Ego in a movie, that’s for sure.
But leave it to James Gunn to take that concept, blow it up, and turn Ego into one of the most compelling, unique, and treacherous villains in comic book movie history. And he even got Kurt Russell, to boot! Truly, we live in the golden age of superhero cinema.
The Ego that is portrayed in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 is a thousand times more interesting than the comics version, and we have Gunn to thank for it.
10. Worse: Deathlok
To be fair, the Mike Peterson incarnation of Deathlok, played by J. August Richards in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., is an interesting character. We’d even go so far as to say he’s probably one of the best parts of the show.
The problem is just that the whole thing is a waste of potential. Deathlok the Demolisher is one of Marvel’s most fascinating, unique, and underrated characters, and he could have easily held a movie — or a Netflix series — to himself. The Deathlok comics of the 1970s were cutting edge stuff, way ahead of their time. Deathlok predated both Terminator and Robocop, and arguably might have inspired both of them.
The comics Deathlok, Luther Manning, is a soldier and family man torn between his human side and the killer machine inside him. After becoming Deathlok, Manning is abandoned by his family, and wakes up in a post-apocalyptic world that fell to pieces while he was brainwashed. While the MCU character is cool, he just doesn’t compare to the original.
9. Better: Kilgrave
Kilgrave, as played by David Tennant, is a horrific force of nature throughout the first half of Jessica Jones. He’s mysterious, seemingly unstoppable, and capable of causing scenes straight out of a horror movie. The second half of the season then delves into his traumatic childhood, revealing a character all too human, but also completely unrepentant. He’s one of the scariest villains to ever appear in any superhero media ever.
The comic book version, who usually calls himself the Purple Man, languished in obscurity for decades until he was revived in the 2000s as the murderous monster we know today. The Netflix adaptation had the advantage of discarding the more cartoonish Silver Age aspects of the character — ie actual purple skin — and starting fresh. The MCU Kilgrave also has a more sympathetic back story, and frankly, this added dose of humanity only makes him even scarier. That’s why, overall, we have to give the nod to the MCU version.
8. Worse: Korath the Pursuer
Wait, who’s Korath? Yeah, exactly.
This guy was an extremely minor villain in the first Guardians of the Galaxy, one who got to have a couple cool battles before he got wasted by Drax. Though he’s played by brilliant Academy Award Winner Djimon Hounsou, the only time the character stands out at all is in his first scene, where he’s totally bewildered by who this weird “Star-Lord” character is… and after that, he doesn’t do a whole lot.
Thr comic book version of Korath the Pursuer, meanwhile, has a lot more going on. He’s a cyber-geneticist who has fought the Shi’ar, the Avengers, and Captain America. But in all fairness, he is something of an obscure character, so we’re probably lucky that we got to see Korath on the big screen at all.
7. Better: Star-Lord
C’mon, you saw this one coming from a mile away. Just take everything that we said about Iron Man, and multiply it by a million. Before the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie, no one knew about Star-Lord. Seriously, even comic book devotees would have had to scratch their heads to figure out who this guy was. But thanks to the performance of Chris Pratt, Star-Lord is now a household name.
The MCU version of Star-Lord is a lovable, scrappy underdog with a big heart, yearning with nostalgia for the life he left behind, but open to embracing his new family with arms wide open. He’s an awesome character, and within a few decades, we wouldn’t be surprised if the MCU version of Star-Lord is as iconic as Han Solo. Since the movies came out, the comic book Star-Lord has become a lot more like the movie version, and we’re happy for it.
6. Worse: Baron Strucker
Here we have another case of total wasted potential. Baron Wolfgang Von Strucker is a major villain in the comic books, often portrayed as an important leader within HYDRA. Many would argue that he’s Nick Fury’s most hated archenemy. When he was first introduced in a mid-credits stinger at the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, fans were foaming at the mouth. Thomas Kretschmann seemed perfectly cast, and he clearly had diabolical plans for Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. Especially after the fall of HYDRA, the film incarnation of Strucker looked like he was on track to being one of the MCU’s new big bads.
Then Avengers: Age of Ultron came out, and…
5. Better: Peggy Carter
Back when Captain America: The First Avenger came out, it’s doubtful that anyone ever foresaw what a big deal Hayley Atwell’s Agent Peggy Carter was going to become. Seriously, the comic book Peggy was a minor character, usually relegated to being little more than Cap’s WWII girlfriend who occasionally popped up in flashbacks.
But Atwell’s performance won a lot of acclaim, and the MCU recreated Agent Carter as a force to be reckoned with. This Peggy is no damsel in distress: she’s a power player who can hold her own, and doesn’t back down. After her debut in The First Avenger, Peggy went on to star as the heroine of her own spin-off series. The cinematic Peggy is also one of the founders of S.H.I.E.L.D., making her one of the single most important people in MCU history. It’s certainly a massive improvement over the comics version.
4. Worse: Ronan the Accuser
In Guardians of the Galaxy, Ronan the Accuser isn’t a bad villain. He’s certainly threatening, he’s hungry for power, and he proves himself dangerous enough to make us actually worry about whether the Guardians are going to make it. Lee Pace gives the character an egotistical megalomania that’s enjoyable to watch. So, within the course of the film, he works really well.
But the original version of Ronan has a lot more depth. The comic book baddie is pretty far from being just a power-hungry warlord, and he’s even been depicted as something of a noble (though violent) antihero at times. There are some hints of this in the movie, but realistically, the film would have had to delve into the Kree Empire quite a bit more to properly portray Ronan’s character.
3. Better: Loki
Loki has always been a great villain. Comics, movies, cartoons, ancient mythology, you name it; he’s one of the all-time classics. But the character has never been better than when he’s played by Tom Hiddleston.
What makes Loki so great is that despite the fact that he’s a murderous megalomaniac, he’s also insanely likable. You want him to be hero, and he’s so brilliantly clever and deceptive that he almost fools you into believing he could become one. But Loki’s more than just smiles and games. He’s also a tragic figure, with a deeply pained past and a motivation that’s easy to understand, even if we can’t support it.
2. Worse: All of the Inhumans
Poor Inhumans. We can’t help but feel sorry for this property. Not that long ago, Marvel was planning to put an Inhumans film in theaters by 2018, and these weird and wacky Lee/Kirby wonders were even being proclaimed as the X-Men of the MCU.
For whatever reason, the Inhumans were dropped from the film schedule, and switched to a TV series on ABC. While The Inhumans does have some good things going on, particularly Iwan Rheon’s Maximus, for the most part, it’s already being deemed a failure. The Inhumans are some of Marvel’s strangest characters, every bit as bizarre as the now-beloved Guardians of the Galaxy, and it’s really astonishing that they managed to get adapted in such a bland, uninteresting manner.
1. Better: Yondu
Just a few years ago, would anyone have ever believed that this blue-skinned, fin-headed, Z-list superhero would become a fan-favorite? Over the course of two Guardians of the Galaxy movies, the new version of Yondu that is played by Michael Rooker has become so beloved that people have even pushed for an Oscar nod. Seriously, it doesn’t get much better than that for a supporting character in a comic book movie.
In the comics, the amount of people who ever really thought much about Yondu probably could’ve been counted on one hand. But the gruff, arrow-whistling, tough love character in the movies is unforgettable. Once again, this is another film adaptation that has so surpassed the original character that in recent years, the comics have created a new Yondu modeled after the movie version. Way to go, blue guy. We miss you already.
What other character adaptations did we miss? Let us know in the comments!
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