The Marvel Cinematic Universe already has its slate full for practically the next decade. While storylines get wrapped up and new ones begin, one thing that Marvel films and television series will never struggle with is new characters. There are hundreds of characters ripe for the MCU and that’s only scratching the surface.
Marvel hits a lot of home runs with their creative takes of classic characters. Not only that, but they’re also doing an exceptional job at turning C-List comic book characters into A-Listers. It’s hard to believe that there are children’s lunchboxes with Ant-Man or Groot on them now, as if they’re Spider-Man. Many of the interpretation of characters within the Marvel Cinematic Universe are so popular that they’ve even become the new model in the comics too.
The MCU continues to bring classic characters to the screen with much love and excitement, but there are also occasions where new characters are created to mesh with these established worlds. These creations range from inconsequential supporting characters to drastic presences. Thor: Ragnarok continues its dominance at the box office and acts as proof that inventive, new takes on old characters can pay off in big ways.
Accordingly, here are the 8 Best (And 8 Worst) Original Marvel Cinematic Universe Characters.
16 Worst: Trevor Slattery
Behold the most contentious character in the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe, including both old and original creations. Shane Black’s Iron Man 3 deserves tremendous credit for its incredibly ambitious twist regarding the Mandarin.
It’s certainly the biggest gambit that the MCU has pulled off to date and the results sill see the fandom split on the maneuver. Slattery just as easily could be the top pick in the “best” category. People either absolutely love his shtick or think it’s the worst thing ever.
The big rug pull in Iron Man 3 is that the Mandarin isn’t really the Mandarin. Aldrich Killian is the film’s real villain and he’s simply hired a lookalike actor, Trevor Slattery, to appear as the Mandarin and intimidate the nation.
Slattery is a clueless, unaffected British actor whose main concerns are over how low his drug supply is running. Slattery later winds up in prison, where he finally finds the level of notoriety that he’s always been striving towards.
It’s easy to see why a posh actor that simply looks like a bigger villain could be such a waste, but it also marks some wild experimentation within the MCU, for better or worse.
15 Best: Phil Coulson
Somehow arguably the most famous original MCU character is a simple man in a suit who complains a lot about his job. Agent Phil Coulson is designed to be the everyman in this world that’s full of increasing superhuman presences.
Coulson is instrumental in working with Nick Fury to assemble the Avengers in the first place, which is no small feat. Coulson’s passion for S.H.I.E.L.D. never wavers and he’s the anchor to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
While the face of the organization and the threats that they encounter are consistently in flux, Coulson is the one constant. He’s even come back from the dead and lost an arm (in that order) as proof of his devotion to his work.
Coulson is a character that was never expected to grow in such monumental ways, but he continues to be one of the most surprising characters in the MCU and has seen as much development as any of the Avengers. He even shows up in the animated Ultimate Spider-Man, complete with Clark Gregg providing the voice.
Oh, and he also briefly acts as the host of Ghost Rider. It doesn’t get much more awesome than that.
14 Worst: Darcy Lewis
Darcy Lewis is a strong, original female character that joins the Marvel Cinematic Universe for the first two Thor films. The only problem is that she really doesn’t serve much of a purpose at all.
Both Darcy and Jane are Erik Selvig’s pupils, but clearly Jane is the favorite. In fact, Darcy gets a few good moments in across her two films (like introducing Thor to a taser), but everything she does could just as easily be done by Jane.
Darcy encounters Lady Sif and the Warriors Three, but has no real impact on them. Later on she helps in the battle against Malekith and the Dark Elves, but it's more in the moral support capacity.
Lewis does make some breakthroughs regarding Asgardian lore and the Bifrost Bridge, but it's still hard to not be frustrated over the lost potential here. Why not turn Darcy into a formidable force rather than a watered down version of an already problematic character?
Obviously these films want to do something with Darcy, but they just struggle to make her feel important. It’s for that reason that Darcy’s likely been “removed” from the MCU (but hey, so has Jane Foster for that matter).
13 Best: Raina
Raina is a particularly nasty presence that plagues Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. for an admirable amount of time. Raina is an Inhuman scientist who shacks up with HYDRA with nefarious intentions.
Her main focus is on the Centipede Project, which is responsible for such horrible human experiments like the Deathlok debacle. What's worse is that Raina acts as a recruiter for HYDRA and callously manipulates people to become her guinea pigs.
Raina becomes particularly problematic when she locates a Diviner as well as the transformative Terrigen Crystals that are inside of it. After Raina unlocks the Terrigen Mist, her physical appearance gains a lot of intimidating quills and she now has the power to see into the future.
She shoots for the moon with her plans to eliminate all humans before she's killed by a fellow Inhuman, Jiaying. Raina gets tons of points for ambition, but is still ultimately small potatoes on the MCU scale. In spite of this and as a testament to her popularity, not only does Raina pop up in Inhumans comics after her Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. arc, but she’s also in the video game Marvel: Future Fight.
12 Worst: Dr. List
Dr. List might not be one of the more recognizable faces from the MCU, but he’s made a considerable impact through his human experiment trials. List is the biggest sort of scoundrel who has no use for things like loyalty or ethics.
He’s been a former double agent for S.H.I.E.L.D. before he turns into one of HYDRA’s highest-ranking scientists. List reports directly to Wolfgang von Strucker and is a huge asset in not only advancing HYDRA's weaponry, but also cracking the science behind Loki's Scepter.
List’s experiments with the Scepter are also ultimately what lead to Pietro and Wanda Maximoff getting their superpowers. List continues to channel his talents for Daniel Whitehall and his Diviners research.
It's with this that List hopes to create weapons of mass destruction but he’s fortunately taken out by Iron Man and the Avengers before he gets too far. There are just too many evil scientists with grudges out there for List to make that much of an impact in the end.
11 Best: Gideon Malick
Gideon Malick is a fascinating character in the sense that he is both instrumental to HYDRA’s rise as well as its defeat. It’s hard to address the villainous shadow organization and not have Gideon Malick come to mind. Malick originates in The Avengers, but at the time he curiously has no name, just the title of “World Security Council.”
The character then crosses over to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in a very big way and that really shouldn’t be a surprise when Powers Boothe is the one that plays the power-hungry tyrant.
Malick begins as one of HYDRA's secret infiltrators before the organization reveals itself. He even helps out Nick Fury in the Battle of New York and later advises for President Ellis. After Malick has HYDRA in full swing, he's instrumental in locating many Inhumans which are then used by HYDRA to try to dismantle S.H.I.E.L.D.
He gets quite close to achieving his goal before he learns that he's been disillusioned and that the Inhuman Hive's vision of a new tomorrow is drastically different than his own. In his final efforts, Malick helps S.H.I.E.L.D. locate and take down the remaining Hydra cells before he's executed by Hive’s orders.
10 Worst: Mitchell Ellison
Picture a less interesting, more downtrodden J. Jonah Jameson and that’s essentially Mitchell Ellison. The MCU’s take on Spider-Man might not be involved in journalism yet, which means that the majority of newspaper scoops are coming from the New York Bulletin over on Daredevil.
Ben Urich is the Bulletin’s big reporter, but after frequent inquiries into Wilson Fisk result in his death, Karen Page steps in to carry on his torch. Ellison plays the role of cautious editor and never manages to make much of an impression.
He constantly tells Urich to kill his stories on Fisk and his attitude isn’t much different towards Karen Page’s story on Frank Castle, although he does eventually come around.
Mitchell Ellison comes off as more of an obstacle than a character, but he realizes the error of his ways with Urich, maybe he’ll develop into more of an ally for Karen Page. The two of them certainly could be useful in the upcoming Punisher series.
After his incorporation into the MCU, Ellison has since become the editor-in-chief of the New York Bulletin in Marvel's comics' continuity, too
9 Best: Melinda May
Melinda May is a fundamental pillar of S.H.I.E.L.D. that’s arguably as important to the organization as Nick Fury and Phil Coulson. It should be no surprise to then hear that May is frequently at Coulson’s and Fury’s side as well as apart of some of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s most historic battles.
In fact, May’s legendary reputation amongst the newer generation of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents leads to her nickname, “The Cavalry.” May is without superpowers, but she’s still an absolute force on the battlefield. She also knows when it’s necessary to sacrifice a life for the greater good and make S.H.I.E.L.D.’s more difficult decisions.
May’s reputation within S.H.I.E.L.D. goes hot and cold throughout Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s run. She’s a character that leads the group, then defects, then runs another agency entirely, but she always has Coulson’s interests at heart.
The two may not always see eye-to-eye, but there’s no one that he trusts more. May has become such a popular force within S.H.I.E.L.D. and an inspiring example for their future agents that her addition to Marvel comics canon is a no-brainer.
8 Worst: President Matthew Ellis
There’s nothing wrong with President Ellis per se, it’s just that he’s a completely forgettable character. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but finding a bit more of purpose for this figurehead wouldn’t be the worst idea.
The MCU’s decision to address who its president is and how they feel about superheroes is actually a pretty reasonable idea. As matters continue to escalate there should be someone from the “real world” that continues to address these unbelievable attacks.
Matthew Ellis first appears in Iron Man 3 and pops up elsewhere in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (including Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), but he’s mostly just a rube in need of saving.
Both Iron Man and Captain America save the president from Aldrich Killian and HYDRA’s Project Insight, respectively. He might be the one responsible for forming the Advanced Threat Containment Unit for Inhuman capture, but he still feels like more of a victim than a leader.
7 Best: Luis
When superhero fans think about famous duos, they always talk about Batman and Robin or Power Man and Iron Fist. Where’s all of the Ant-Man and Luis love? There’s not a whole lot to Luis, but that’s sort of what makes him so great.
The small-time thief first appears in Ant-Man as one of Scott Lang’s criminal cohorts. Lang and Luis were cellmates together back in the day and Luis is even plays a large part in Lang’s theft of Hank Pym’s Ant-Man suit.
Luis is a constant reminder of the more grounded side of Scott Lang and that he’s still just a person under these crazy powers. Thankfully he’s already confirmed to appear in Ant-Man & The Wasp.
Luis is an especially successful example of an original character that makes the transition over to Marvel comics. Michael Peña's Luis finds his way into Astonishing Ant-Man comics and he's still just a regular guy in them. If someone resonates enough with an audience, then they'll find a new home.
Who knows, maybe some writer will decide to give superpowers to the Luis from the comics. Hell, maybe someone will even have him take up the mantle as the new Ant-Man.
6 Worst: Senator Stern
Senator Stern appears in the sequels to both Iron Man and Captain America and it’s hard to not look at the minor character as a bit of a joke. Stern amounts to a reasonable antagonist to Tony Stark who effectively uses his influence as a senator to sway the public’s opinion on Iron Man.
The fact that comedian Garry Shandling plays Stern and that the political figure delivers a bunch of humorous asides should make it clear that this character shouldn’t be taken so seriously. If there were any doubts, he’s even named after Howard Stern.
Stern has a long history of trying to take down Iron Man. He openly backs Rhodes as a replacement to the volatile Stark and after Whiplash’s initial attack he outright says that Iron Man is a danger to society.
Of course, Stern secretly works for HYDRA and does all of this to help bring the organization to power. After Captain America exposes all of this, Stern winds up in prison along with the rest of the traitors.
5 Best: Harley Keener
Harley Keener is one of the more inspirational original characters to crop up in the MCU. The young boy is basically living proof that everyone can be a superhero, whether they have special powers, strength, or just a good attitude. Harley Keener is the rabid fanboy in every person that sees a Marvel movie, cheers, and wishes that they were the sidekick along for the ride.
Keener’s role may be small, but it certainly leaves an impact on both audiences as well as the disenfranchised Tony Stark of Iron Man 3. Stark finds his suit temporarily out of commission and so he breaks into the garage of a suburban home so he can repair and power it up.
Stark encounters Harley Keener, a boy genius with an absentee father, who he can’t help but take a shine to. The two help each other out and Keener proves to be a considerable asset to Stark.
Ever since his appearance there have been rumors that Keener could re-appear as someone like Iron Lad. With the character set to return in some capacity in Avengers 4, maybe he’ll get to help Tony out one last time.
4 Worst: Katya Belyakov
Katya Belyakov is more a cautionary tale than anything else. She's technically an Inhuman, but she goes through the Terrigenesis process at such a young age that the transformation is a mess as a result.
Due to Katya's underdeveloped faculties, the Inhuman version of her becomes insane and unpredictable. Katya is exposed to Terrigen Mist prematurely because her mother believes she’s ready to “receive her birthright,” but she clearly is not.
Katya is able to control and manipulate other's senses (including pain) to the point where she has complete control over their body and mind. The most extreme application of this ability sees her able to totally shut down the human body, killing the person in the process.
She eventually needs to be put down because her new powers make her too much of a risk. Even though Katya is only in one episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., her character still manages to transition over to Marvel comics as an inevitable threat.
3 Best: Erik Selvig
Erik Selvig actually plays a rather crucial role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but his less flashy skills are often swept under the carpet in favor of superpowers. Selvig is a professor of astrophysics that handles the more cosmic operations in the MCU’s first two phases before people like Dr. Strange were around to lend a magical hand.
Selvig is an expert on wormholes and cosmic energy, and S.H.I.E.L.D. eventually taps him to unlock the secrets of the Tesseract. If not for Selvig’s abilities, a lot of the dimensional gateways from the earlier Marvel films would not be possible. He also suffers an unfortunate mental breakdown after Loki takes control of his mind.
Selvig is Jane Foster and Darcy Lewis’ professor, but the astrophysicist also has prior relationships with Bruce Banner and Hank Pym, too. He's apparently pretty connected amongst the circuit of MCU professors and scientists. Selvig’s presence has cooled down since Age of Ultron, but that hasn’t stopped the character from showing up in Marvel comics.
2 Worst: Dr. Yao Wu
Iron Man 3 features a lot of new and reinvented characters for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Dr. Yao Wu is surely nobody’s favorite original character from the third Iron Man film, but he’s still an interesting addition that’s weirdly crucial to the universe.
Wu is a specialist in both Chinese and Western medicine who has a friendly relationship with Tony Stark. During the attacks of the Mandarin, Wu makes it clear to Stark that he’s still on his side and that he has China’s support.
Eventually Wu becomes a very important person in Stark’s life when he removes the shrapnel from his chest and makes it so he longer has to rely on the Arc Reactor. That’s pretty huge, but it feels like Stark forgets all about the doctor after this point.
Wu might be gone from the MCU films for now, but he takes up residence in Amazing Spider-Man comics as the new head of Parker Industries’ bio-tech division. Maybe one day Parker will get shrapnel in his heart and need a helping hand…
1 Best: J.A.R.V.I.S.
Just A Rather Very Intelligent System-- J.A.R.V.I.S. is this, but also so much more. The disembodied artificial intelligence almost becomes akin to Tony Stark’s conscience. He’s that voice that nags away in the back of Stark’s head and pushes him to do the right thing. He can also control like a thousand robots at once.
J.A.R.V.I.S goes on a poetic journey where he graduates from humble AI system to a genuine asset to the Avengers. Unfortunately, Ultron’s attack leads to J.A.R.V.I.S.’ destruction, but Stark is able to provide an unusual resurrection.
With the help of the Infinity Stone and a body made out of vibranium, Stark manages to upload what’s left of J.A.R.V.I.S. into this shell and Vision is born in the process. After this transformation, F.R.I.D.A.Y. becomes Stark’s new AI system, but nothing is able to properly replace J.A.R.V.I.S. The system was named after Howard Stark’s faithful butler, after all.
Are there any other original Marvel Cinematic Universe characters that we overlooked? Let us know who your favorites are and sound off in the comments!