With a decade's worth of material, it's no wonder that the MCU would have a collection of forgotten characters. In Phase One alone, there were roughly 25 non-Avenger characters introduced—including everyone from Heimdall to Happy Hogan—and keeping tabs on all of them isn't easy business. Over time, some characters ultimately fell by the wayside, despite the integral roles they played within the franchise.
From the get-go, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige has more than proven his capabilities in taking on such a massive undertaking. Essentially breaking the mold in seamless comic book adaptations, as well as reinventing the superhero genre for a modern audience, his overall mission with the MCU has been a through-and-through success. That said, there have been some casualties along the way, namely with characters introduced in Phase One. And though the strength of these movies isn't necessarily predicated on their involvement, it's curious as to why they've been neglected.
Killing off a character is typically the go-to mode of action for writing someone out of a story, but that wasn't the case in these instances. In a universe as epic as the MCU, these characters somehow managed to disappear. So, where are they? And how can Marvel Studios reintegrate them into the franchise?
Even though Edward Norton was ultimately recast with Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner in the MCU, the events from The Incredible Hulk are still canon. So, why then did Liv Tyler's Betty Ross—Banner's best friend, lover, and confidant—essentially disappear? While it's common knowledge that Banner ended up fleeing to parts unknown in order to tame his inner beast, that shouldn't change the fact that Betty played a major role in his life; not just emotionally, but professionally. In fact, not only does Betty play a major role in Banner's life, she's the daughter of General Thaddeus Ross, who, incidentally, does show in the MCU after the events of The Incredible Hulk. Given these facts, it's reasonable to assume that her presence in the franchise would make narrative sense; but, unfortunately, she's been MIA since 2008.
Though there hasn't been any official talk on Betty making a return, there are still ways for the MCU to bring her back into the mix. Marvel Studios could toy with their own interpretation of Betty's transfiguration into Red She-Hulk. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo have explicitly stated that they aren't creating direct adaptations of the comics, so this evolution of Betty's character could be factored into the MCU. It might be jarring, but it would certainly lend to an explanation of her decade-long absence, while also adding closure to some loose ends.
In the final act of The Incredible Hulk, Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) is infused with Bruce Banner's blood. Having already undergone the process of physical enhancements similar to that of Steve Rogers in Captain America: The First Avenger, the result is catastrophic, transforming him into the Hulk-like monster known as Abomination. Hulk and Abomination battle in the streets of Harlem, New York, and though Hulk is more than happy to strangle his enemy to death, Blonsky's life is spared.
According to The Consultant, one of the MCU's Marvel One-Shot short films, it's revealed that Blonsky is held in captivity after the fight—which is where's been ever since. So, aside from the fact that his tame fate doesn't really complement his aggressive traits, keeping him alive makes it seem as though Marvel Studios may have wanted to keep around for future outings. So, why ignore him for so long?
As it turns out, Roth was offered a role in Avengers: Age of Ultron, but turned it down. Whether it was meant to be a cameo or something bigger is impossible to say, but assuming Roth was interested in returning to the MCU, Feige and Co. could easily find a way to bring him back. The prison escape angle was already utilized at the end of Captain America: Civil War, so Marvel Studios could easily flip that on its head and give the same leg-up to imprisoned villains within the MCU.
Speaking of imprisoned villains within the MCU, Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) is another neglected member of the MCU who could potentially make a comeback. After funding terrorism in Iron Man 2, Hammer was ultimately arrested, thanks to Natasha Romanoff and Pepper Potts, and has more than likely remained there up until Avengers: Infinity War (though his official sentence hasn't been revealed). Now, even though Rockwell has shown interest in returning to the MCU, there haven't been any updates on where Marvel Studios stands on any potential involvement for his character in the future.
As it so happens, if Marvel Studios decides to bring him back into the mix, there is one interesting way to do it while adding connective tissue between the Iron Man and Spider-Man movies. Seeing as the name of the prison in which Michael Keaton's Adrian Toomes/Vulture was sent was never officially mentioned, a future film in the MCU could reveal that Toomes and Hammer are both residing in Seagate Prison (which would make sense, considering the fact that that's where all of the MCU villains have been sent thus far). Given the setup at the end of Spider-Man: Homecoming hinting at the birth of the Sinister Six, Hammer's technology and skills could be utilized in order to orchestrate a breakout, thus giving Hammer more of a presence in the franchise.
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 release date: Nov 14, 2018
- The Avengers 4 / Untitled Avengers Movie (2019) release date: May 03, 2019
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 05, 2019