Since the unification of the Avengers in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, all comic book movies, or superhero movies, have started to aim toward film franchises; producing several films along the same character lines, and connecting them together in a long narrative that ratchets up suspense at the end of each movie.
To aid them in their task, the creative teams behind these projects have decades of source material and a million directions to go and a million fans who all want their favorite story told. For audiences, this presents a television style serial format that rewards close watching. Fans can go to the movies and check in on their favorite team and see full backstories for each of their favorite characters. Behind the scenes, producers, directors and screenwriters are stitching the story together piece by piece as they go, simultaneously constructing the connective tissue, taking hints, clues and ideas from the comic book canon and inserting them into the cinematic retelling.
Not every loose end gets tied however, so every allusion to hidden powers or comics lore doesn’t pay off in a faithful, or even any, on screen representation. Here are 15 times easter eggs like those were inserted into superhero movies, but they just went absolutely nowhere.
15 The Wolverine - Classic, Brown and Yellow Uniform
Before Robert Downey Jr. showed the world that superheroes really did exist in real life, Hugh Jackman was blazing the trail as the Wolverine since the year 2000, in X-Men. The best part of seeing the Wolverine on screen is how much life Jackman was able to breath into the character without ever wearing the costume he’s most known for. In a deleted scene from 2013’s The Wolverine, it looks like director James Mangold at least thought about revealing the old costume.
A deleted scene only shows the retired X-Man opening up a case to show the uniform, then falling into reminiscent reverie, but even that didn’t quite fit into the on screen version. Fans hoped that the costume would make another appearance in Mangold’s 2017 follow up, Logan, but to no avail.
14 Thor - Donald Blake
In the first Thor movie, audiences are introduced to the God of Thunder in his first visit to Earth, where he eventually meets Jane Foster (played by Natalie Portman). The transition into humanity wasn’t too much of a problem for Thor, except for when he’s captured by S.H.I.E.L.D. the first time. To ensure his release, Dr. Selvig, (Stellan Skarsgård), employs the identity of Donald Blake to explain Thor’s mysterious appearance.
The movie leaves the name drop there, but fans of the Thor comic will recognize “Dr. Donald Blake” as the far better developed alter ego that Thor assumed for many years on the page. So far in the MCU, Thor has been bouncing between planets, trying to rule realms and conquer villains, but if he ever tries to settle down, Natalie Portman may have moved on, but the Donald Blake alias will be waiting for him here on Earth.
13 Guardians of the Galaxy - Howard the Duck
James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy bucked a lot of tropes of superhero cinema in 2012. Guardians was one of the first movies to embrace the absurdity of people zooming around in space, in multicolored costumes, battling alien warlords. Audiences were rewarded with a fun, frolicking, superhero movie that made laughing at itself priority one. The inclusion of Howard the Duck in the post credits scene was keeping with that tone.
Howard reprised his role in Guardians 2, voiced by Seth Green, but the character still hasn’t played a big role or, even been explained at all. Making his comic book debut back in 1973, Howard has never really been about explaining himself anyway, he’s just a Duck from outer space, trying to make his way in this crazy Marvelized world, just like us all.
12 X-Men Apocalypse - Essex Corporation
A young Colonel William Stryker heads up the 'Weapon X' program in 2016’s X-Men Apocalypse, capturing Wolverine in the film before eventually being overshadowed by the title villain. In the post credits scene, agents from an "Essex Corporation" ominously clean up the destroyed laboratory on Alkali Lake.
The Essex Corporation is the front for the supervillain Mister Sinister, also known as Nathaniel Essex. In the comics, Mister Sinister is an evil super genius obsessed with genetic engineering and experimenting on mutants alongside frequent collaborator, Apocalypse. It seems like that scene left audiences hanging on purpose, so even if it’s taking longer than expected, we haven’t seen the last of the Essex Corporation.
11 Green Lantern - Carol Ferris, aka Star Sapphire
When Green Lantern came out it 2011, it may not have resonated with mainstream audiences or been a critical success, but there’s a lot for the Green Lantern fan in that movie. Ryan Reynolds, who played Hal Jordan, is a noted comic book fan, but also, the screenplay was written by Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim, two guys who would go on to construct the Arrowverse on the CW, so the story makes no compromises on DC lore.
One of those nods to the great Green Lantern legacy is a hint that Carol Ferris, played by Blake Lively in the movie, will later become the super powered Star Sapphire. The movie just shows a purple decal on her flight helmet, but that’s the symbol she’ll go on to adopt in her later career. Maybe we’ll see more of Carol Ferris, Star Sapphire, and how she makes the transformation once DC works up the courage to revisit the film franchise.
10 The Incredible Hulk - Weapons PLUS
2008’s The Incredible Hulk, starring Edward Norton, in the end, didn’t offer a take on the character that stuck, but it gave fans some great easter eggs. Early in the movie, when they’re transporting the Super Serum, the case indicates that it belongs to the “Weapons PLUS” program. It's never explained on screen, but the Weapons Plus program connects a lot of the MCU.
Explained by the comics, Weapons PLUS is a secret government program that lay behind, not only the Super Serum that goes on to create Captain America, but also projects that create Wolverine and Deadpool. Weapons PLUS and its subsidiaries aim to create super soldiers for government use, but in most cases, complications arise and villains take advantage of the serum's more nefarious applications.
9 The Avengers - Appearance of Hugin and Munin
Central to 2012’s The Avengers was the family dynamic that continued to be teased out between Thor and his Asgardian royal family. Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston, did his harshest heel turn, acting the outright villain this time in his mission to control the Tesseract. Early in the film when he’s first confronted by Thor, they have a raging battle. Behind them, two Ravens are conspicuously inserted into the frame. This easter egg actually may compound the family drama in that scene.
Hugin and Munin are the names of two ravens, inspired by Norse mythology, in Marvel comics canon. They act as the agents of Odin, brothers, surveying the nine realms. They’ve popped up here and again in the MCU, but are never explained or served any plot points; just vigilantly keeping watch.
8 Captain America: The First Avenger - The Original Human Torch
A lot of people are coming to comic books and superheroes for the first time with the MCU movies, which is great, and a huge part of the point of developing these characters. With so many new fans, it's easy to forget just how long these heroes have been around and how long these characters have really been in development. In Captain America: The First Avenger, a certain easter egg reveals the history of comic book heroes. During the Stark Expo scene, a display case holds a fire suit, an homage to the original Human Torch.
Before Johnny Storm was the sparky little brother of the Fantastic Four, the Human Torch was created in 1939, back when Marvel was still called Timely Comics. This is one of the first superheroes Marvel ever created. Now, that hero is referenced in a movie that stars Chris Evans, currently as Captain America, but who formerly played Johnny Storm in a Fantastic Four movie, a franchise that Marvel struggled to keep control of. It’s perfect cinematic symbolism for just how much depth the our favorite superhero characters come from.
7 Guardians of the Galaxy - Cosmo: The Telepathic Dog
In 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy brought together an unlikely space team and set the whole adventure to 80s music while audiences were introduced to characters most had never heard of before. In addition to the characters already on the MCU Guardians team, the comic source material has several rotating members leaving and joining the team as needed. Cosmo the Spacedog is one of these members.
Cosmo appears in the first movie as part of The Collector’s collection and then just as an image in the second. This may indicate his appearance in future films and he’d certainly be a fun addition to the team. Cosmo is a sentient dog (along the lines of Rocket Raccoon) originally launched into space in the 1960s by the Soviet space program, but he’s a good guy now and he’s a telepathic genius, so, super useful to have around.
6 Man of Steel - Empty Pod
In 2014, audiences believed a man could be made of steel when they watched Zach Snyder’s Superman take. Audiences once again met Superman, this time in the form of Henry Cavill and his super chin. In one scene in the ambitious origin story, Superman is investigating the ship that crash landed in the Arctic. He happens upon a bay of cryogenic beds. Most of the pods hold the remains of Kyptonians who came to scout Earth in the earlier mission, but in the background, one pod is ajar and empty.
The empty cryo-chamber is never explained later in the movie. It’s possible that there just happened to be one extra pod on the ship that the crew wasn’t using or it’s possible that another Kryptonian has been on Earth all along...
5 Iron Man - Roxxon Corporation
At the end of Iron Man, back in 2008, during the final battle between Stane and Stark, the Roxxon Corporation brand name can be scene in the background on one of the buildings. Roxxon pops up repeatedly in the MCU, on the big and small screen. Later in the Iron Man sequels, Roxxon is connected to energy and oil tankers, but that’s the extent of the allusions so far.
In the comic universe, Roxxon is a frequently antagonistic corporation, bent on energy domination and superhero creation. In pursuit of these goals, they frequently cross purposes with Marvel heroes regarding the nuclear, alien, or supernatural power sources they safeguard. Iron Man comes into conflict with Roxxon the most, operating, as they both do, in the industrial business arena, but also because, according to comics canon, the Roxxon corporation is responsible for the death of his parents.
4 The Avengers - Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S. and Project 42
In the first Avengers movie, Joss Whedon got the opportunity to bring all six characters together to form the super team on screen for the first time. A self proclaimed nerd himself, Whedon included no lack of fan service in the first film. In the beginning of the movie, when Agent Coulson and S.H.I.E.L.D. are being introduced to Tony Stark, Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S. and Project 42 are both name dropped.
Later in the movie, the purpose of Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S. is alluded to, being the temporary Earth laboratory to study the Tesseract. In the comics, it’s expanded to research all forms of alternative energy. It’s a common target of villains and a great place for heroes to track down information or get into scrapes. Project 42 is a little bit more devious and even more subtly referenced in the movies. During a comic book event called 'Civil War', in which Marvel’s heroes battled each other, a prison was created to detain super powered dissidents. That prison, housed in negative space, was codenamed Project 42.
3 X2 - Remy Lebeau
The first live action X-Men movie brought superheroes to 21st century, and the sequel, released in 2003, continued the story of Xavier’s mutants. The school and its mutant students come under attack when a crazy General William Stryker resumes a black ops government program, Weapon X. Elsewhere Mystique is attempting to break Magneto out of prison and resurrect the Brotherhood of Mutants. In one scene, Mystique is infiltrating a Pentagon computer system to find out how to locate Magneto. As she’s copying files, a file for a mutant named “Remy Lebeau” scrolls past the screen. There's other interesting names on the lsit too, like the Maximoff twins, but they do end up making an appearance.
Remy Lebeau is the given name of the mutant Gambit, a mutant and frequent X-Man from the comics, created in 1990. Gambit has become a fan favorite probably because of his New Orleans accent, suave demeanor, and some pretty on-brand card throwing powers. Gambit has not yet made it to the silver screen, but the fan support is there, and rumors have circulated, on and off, about a Channing Tatum led project.
2 The Amazing Spider-Man 2 - Felicia Hardy
In 2014’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Andrew Garfield squares off against Jamie Foxx’s Electro. Harry Osborn returns in this movie also, played by Dane Dehaan, eventually resuming the mantle of the Green Goblin. As Harry guides Oscorp through the scandal of creating Electro, audiences are introduced to his assistant, Felicia Hardy. In the movie, Felicia plays a key role in the eventual scheme, but the character, played by the great Felicity Jones (Rogue One), doesn’t get much else to do.
In the comics, Hardy develops into a superhero of her own kind, prowling through the night as Black Cat. She’s not the straight and narrow hero archetype like Peter Parker, often dancing with ethically questionable methods. Spider-Man crosses paths, teams up, and even is tempted by a forbidden romance with Black Cat, but none of this has been covered on screen. At least not yet; fans can expect many more Spider-Man movies and we're hoping Felicia Hardy will have bigger role in future adaptations.
1 Avengers: Age of Ultron - Jocasta
In Avengers: Age of Ultron, the primary villain, Ultron, comes to sentience when his programming infects the JARVIS AI that Tony Stark uses to power every moment of his life. After JARVIS broke bad, Tony Stark is trying to replace him; as he's flipping through storage drives, one labeled "Jocasta" is seen near the edge of the frame.
In the comics, Jocasta is the wife of Ultron, another fully fledged AI character in her own right. She has yet to make her debut in the MCU. Even though Ultron’s character felt a little bit too robotic on screen, exploring more artificial intelligence based themes may be an interesting direction for Marvel villainy. Maybe someday soon audiences will see the Avengers battling two robots who are just struggling for domestic bliss and world domination.
Which of these would you like to see get picked up into something more important? Let us know in the comments!