It all started with Iron Man. That Nick Fury post-credits scene was fun, but nobody could have imagined what the Marvel Cinematic Universe would become. While each individual phase has culminated in an Avengers team-up, there has been a bigger threat hinted at for quite some time. That’s right, Avengers: Infinity War will pit heroes against the Mad Titan Thanos, their greatest opponent yet. We do not know exactly how this will play out, but it is safe to say that Thanos will ultimately be defeated on some level. There will be sacrifices and consequences, but what will our heroes face next that could be a comparable threat with the same stakes?
There are exciting things on the horizon for the MCU but the next big bad remains to be seen. Assuming Marvel continues the idea of a looming uber villain, there are a number of possible directions in which Marvel could go. One major challenge is finding a villain that is an equal threat to Thanos, but different in fundamental ways so they don't retread territory. Below are 15 possible big bads that could follow Thanos and could fit into the current MCU. Note that the Sony deal has set a new precedent and while there are currently no plans for a similar deal with Fox, it is not out of the realm of possibility. That said, the list will include characters that may technically be part of the Fox family or that are in a grey area. These are 15 Supervillains Marvel's Avengers Could Face After Thanos.
15 Red Skull
Other than Loki, Red Skull is probably the most compelling MCU villain we've seen. This is largely due to Hugo Weaving’s acting chops, and it's a shame that we never saw him again. Despite rumors that he was originally supposed to be in The Avengers, they left the door wide open when he got sucked into a wormhole at the end of Captain America: The First Avenger and there was no confirmed death. Anyone who has read comics knows that no body means no death - and sometimes even with a body, nothing is permanent.
In fact, it would make total sense if he was lying in wait across the universe, perhaps as the secret right hand man of Thanos. He could be an adviser to Thanos about all things human after Loki's shocking defeat in New York, or even be waiting for the right time to double cross Thanos altogether. Regardless of the reason, it seems like a total waste to have a definitively villainous actor disappear after only one film and before the larger MCU got rolling. It would definitely be cause for Steve Rogers to pick the shield back up, that’s for sure.
14 14. The Beyonder
The Beyonder is a nearly omnipotent cosmic entity that, at one point, collected many of the heroes and villains of Earth and had them to battle to see which was stronger in the Secret Wars event. While Thanos is quite powerful, he is not omnipotent. In fact, gaining that status is part of why he is searching for the Infinity Stones in the first place. What if there was a being for which this wasn’t an issue? Instead of getting his plans foiled, it may not even matter to The Beyonder who wins and losses each small battle. He is not concerned with the matters of humans, just their nature. They are not threats to him.
After the defeat of Thanos, individuals in the MCU could start disappearing one by one. Secret Wars could be the next Infinity War as Marvel does likes to reinvent themselves and put the MCU spin on beloved comic book storylines. The Beyonder would be a natural fit for this next movement and it would make total sense for him to slowly build his collection. This could ultimately lead to a multi-film war that would allow the creative talent to bring back both living and dead members of the MCU in the ultimate war film of good vs. evil.
M.O.D.O.K. is an acronym that stands for Mental/Mobile/Mechanized Organism Designed Only for Killing. He's been an enemy to the Avengers for years. In particular, due to his own hideous form, he has long hated Captain America’s physical perfection, and this is an area that has not only been touched upon in the MCU as it stands today. How can these larger than life heroes understand the plight of the common man? M.O.D.O.K. could theoretically embody these views and even galvanize followers who feel the same way. Additionally, he has strong ties to AIM and Captain Marvel, and could use her upcoming appearance as an entry point. He also has relationships with interesting villains such as the Serpent Society and The Abomination, the latter of which fans have often mentioned the desire to revisit. With further comic book connections to the Cosmic Cube and the creation of the Red Hulk, it seems like all the pieces are in place for this new puppet master to step in. If nothing else, he would be cool to look at.
Yes, Galactus falls into that annoying Fox/Marvel black hole, but if a deal were struck he would fit in nicely. The Collector essentially referred to him already when talking about the ancient beings that originally possessed the Infinity Stones in Guardians of the Galaxy. Perhaps he was awoken from a deep slumber or gained entry to this universe by the use and activations of his stone. Regardless of the reason, he is one of the villains in the Marvel universe that is physically more threatening than Thanos based solely on his size and ability. He is concerned with devouring the life force of our planet, not a few small heroes buzzing around him. The threat level and mystique of the character alone would make him fit quite nicely into the role that Thanos now occupies. He also has many connections to the larger universe that could open up many storytelling paths. Unlike Giant-Man, it will take much more than Spidey’s wrap-up move from that “really old movie” to take him down.
11 Norman Osborn
Now that Spider-Man is finally being done right as part of the MCU (thank you, Sony), this also means his rogues gallery is fair game as well. Some say that Spidey’s villains are second only to Batman's, and one thing that the MCU does not yet have is the villainous business man in the vein of Lex Luthor. Norman Osborn could fill this role, especially because many people feel that the DC films have missed the mark in this area. He has already been the Green Goblin in other iterations of the wall crawler’s story, but the business and political aspects of the MCU have yet to be explored in depth. Furthermore, attacking the heroes from their own home planet would be much more personal than a looming space tyrant, even if he is operating mostly behind the scenes. Osborn could spend the next several phases putting together the Thunderbolts, or observing each hero and identifying his or her weaknesses. As many feel that the character has yet to be done right, the MCU has proven they can do it with Spider-Man, so Osborn should be a piece of cake.
10 The Enchantress (and Loki?)
Here is what we know: Loki is currently sitting on the throne of Asgard having usurped Odin and cast him out. Enchantress plays a role in the comic book Ragnorok storyline, which also happens to be the title of the next Thor film. Loki has never seen himself to have an equal, which is part of the reason he tried to take over New York in The Avengers. While we do not know what will happen to Loki after the next Thor film, it is hard to believe that he would ride off into the sunset. That said, he is just too good to kill off. Pairing with him with a female sorceress that is his equal in every way would put a new spin on what is thought of as the MCU’s strongest villain. The Enchantress has been known to enjoy imparting others with power, which would make sense for someone behind a larger scheme. It also stands to reason that she exists in the MCU as her sister Lorelei has appeared on Marvel’s Agents of Shield. The Enchantress could provide a partner for Loki and provide him with a new motivation through something he has never experienced: love. And this would make the betrayal that much more compelling.
9 Dr. Doom
As far as villains go, Victor Von Doom is perhaps the biggest casualty in the division of properties. Additionally, the characterizations of him on film have been among the furthest from their comic origins. While this is by no means mandatory for success, it is glaringly obvious with Dr. Doom that he has suffered from not including a closer link to his homeland and original persona. Most importantly though, Doom often feels that he is the hero of his own story which makes him one of the most compelling villains. He also has been included in Dr. Strange storylines and has a connection to Ragnorok. He has even stolen the powers of other greater beings for his own nefarious purposes. Could The Avengers have had a messy battle in Latveria that caused his disfigurement? Perhaps he is the ruler of a country that comes in direct conflict with Wakanda. His lust for power and obsession with intellect make him prime to cross over properties and unite the more fantastical with the grounded elements of the MCU.
8 The Collector
Benicio Del Toro put his own spin on The Collector in Guardians of the Galaxy. Many fans rejoiced when he was cast as he was the latest example of top talent to enter the MCU. That said, when such a skilled and high profile actor takes such a part, it is surprising when he or she is limited to a handful of scenes. Fans expected to see more of The Collector, especially with all the eater eggs in his home and the connection he has to other Marvel characters. But what if his defeat and the destruction of his menagerie was simply a misdirect? We know from GOTG and the post-credit sequence of Thor: The Dark World that he is interested in collecting all of the Infinity Stones, and there have been comic book story lines where he has tried to collect the Avengers as well. Perhaps something he has collected along the way has made him more powerful than even Thanos, or somehow he may get his hands on more Infinity Stones after the Avengers defeat Thanos. Is he The Beyonder in disguise? Either way, knowing that he won't appear in GOTG 2, it is surprising that a star as big as Del Toro would sign on to a role in the MCU without something interesting on the horizon.
7 The Skrulls
While MCU fans have become familiar with the Kree through Guardians of the Galaxy and Marvel’s Agents of Shield, one of their chief rivals in the Marvel universe may have been tied up in the complicated rights issues. The Skrulls are one of the oldest and most powerful empires in their galaxy. They have the ability to take on the forms of others and this could provide an interesting plot device in the MCU. Earth is already on the Kree’s radar and could easily be established moving forward as an interesting new home of powerful beings or a way station for cosmic conflicts. Furthermore, their life spans are very long and it could raise suspicion around certain characters and shuffle allegiances. Who can we trust? Were any of our heroes actually Skrull operatives this entire time? Howard Stark, perhaps? Certain elements of the MCU could be shaken to the core if these villains rear their ugly green heads.
6 The "True" Mandarin
Many fans around the world gave a collective “ugh” when it was revealed that the Mandarin in Iron Man 3 was simply a patsy of Aldrich Killian. While Killian himself claimed to be the real Mandarin, this idea was essentially retconned in a Marvel One Shot short. The fake Mandarin, also known as Trevor Slattery, was scolded and broken out of prison by operatives of the “true” Mandarin. This was the last we had heard from him, but we now know he is out there somewhere.
What has the Mandarin been up to this whole time? Do his 10 rings hold the same power as they do in the comics? Perhaps they are even connected to the infinity stones that are so important to so many people, and the war with Thanos gets his attention. Based on the little we know, his reach is clearly wide and it is hard to believe that the real Mandarin will stand by as his reputation is sullied. One of Iron Man’s most formidable foes, this is a thread in the MCU that is begging to be picked up.
5 The X-Men
Yes we know, the X-Men are not in the MCU due to rights issues. Frankly, it has probably been a blessing in disguise - necessity is the mother of inventio, after all, and it caused Marvel studios to promote characters deeper on their bench. That said, after the lukewarm reception of X-Men Apocalypse and the possibilities that the Sony deal opened up, anything is possible. There has recently been an Avengers vs. X-Men comic book storyline which may have been testing the waters. Magneto himself would not be a great choice as a big bad given this more conflicted characterization in the recent films. The most recent film ended wrapping up the first 6 films in many ways and leaving it open for a new jumping off point. With the world being introduced to different dimensions soon in Dr. Strange and the different Infinity Stones having unpredictable effects, it is entirely possible that the MCU could be opened up to new unknown threats from another world. Could this take the form of a school full of powered individuals trying to protect their own world from being torn apart? Would this cause Magneto to retreat to an asteroid with all of his mutant brothers? It stands to reason that Marvel would go to great lengths to get a Deadpool cameo but then again, shouldn’t everyone?
4 Kang the Conqueror
Born in the 30th century, Kang becomes fascinated with history and travels back in time. His advanced technology makes him seem like a god to those living in the present, and it definitely goes to his head. Time travel is popular sci-fi and comic book concept with which the MCU has yet to address and could introduce some interesting elements. What if Tony’s vision of the future in Avengers: Age of Ultron was a premonition instead of a nightmare? What is the long-term legacy of the Avengers? What do their decendents look like? Can the future be changed? The MCU has entered space and will soon breach the mystical, so time could be a natural next step. The time gem could be an easy entry point to Kang after Thanos is done with it. The battles have pulled the Avengers across time, which could be visually stunning on film. Kang’s unique perspective could alter the way the audience views the characters in the MCU and traces of him throughout time could change the way audiences rewatch the older films. A villain with ultimate foresight that can manipulate time could prove to be an unbeatable challenge that the Avengers cannot overcome.
3 The Masters of Evil
The Masters of Evil are essentially the anti-Avengers. Consisting of rotating villains that match the abilities of each avenger, this one is a no brainer. Instead of one major villain pulling the strings, two groups fighting each other would be unlike anything we have seen on screen. Each post-credit sting could mirror the original MCU phases by having a mysterious ring leader recruiting those to be members of this new team. It could also constantly be in flux, similar to the Avengers themselves. It could even eventually lead to their own franchise due to the financial success of DC's Suicide Squad. Not only would you get the battles, but the team itself would have its own dynamic. What if this team functioned better than the Avengers? After all, they
do not need to be concerned with government oversight or collateral damage. It would also be an excuse to bring back long forgotten villains. With a world so rich and populated, this seems like this one is only a matter of time.
2 "Dark" Tony Stark
While Robert Downey Jr. is only signed on through the next two Avengers movies, Captain America: Civil War and Spider-man: Homecoming proved that with the right talent and compelling story, he is willing to add to his contract. Furthermore, he is a talented actor and surely has aspirations to stretch his wings, despite how good the MCU has been to him. By turning the character on his head, it may be the creative jolt needed in order to keep him on for a few more films, especially if they are small appearances that pack a punch. There are a number of compelling reasons for Tony to go dark and change his perspective on the “heroes” of the MCU and frankly, Civil War did not resolve a lot of issues that may have set him on this path. There could be additional causes pulled from the comic such as alcoholism. Being a former arms dealer he may have recognized that the opposing forces are stronger and may try to harness them. His relationship with Pepper falling apart or even her death could result in a drastic shift in his perspective, and RDJ is definitely a skilled enough actor to make us all buy it. It all began with RDJ and it would be hard to imagine the MCU without its biggest champion and ambassador.
Kevin Feige has expressed his delight in the MCU’s entrance into the mystical with Dr. Strange. One major goal of the first 3 MCU phases was to extend the stories beyond Earth and out into the stars to create a universe. With this now up and running, it may be time to look somewhere else for the next big threat. Dr. Strange could be this jumping off point that bleeds into the next several phases. Another support to this idea is the fact that Benedict Cumberbatch is debatably as charismatic as RDJ and could theoretically act as the focal point of the MCU moving forward if RJD bows out. We know that Baron Mordo is in the film, but not as a villain, and if appears that Mads Mikkelson’s Kaecilius will be filling that role. But where is Dormammu? Lord of the Realm of Darkness, we know that Dormammu has close ties to Dr. Strange, and his niece Clea has been tied to Strange romantically. It seems like a glaring oversight not to include this character on some level, but perhaps being the ruler of an entire realm, he was deemed too big for a single franchise. Of course his role in the movie is yet to be seen but between this and the potential larger role for Cumberbatch in the MCU, it could all be a set up for a bigger picture.
Doctor Strange opens November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man: Homecoming– July 7, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Black Panther – February 16, 2018; Avengers: Infinity War – May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp – July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel– March 8, 2019; Untitled Avengers – May 3, 2019; and as-yet untitled Marvel movies on July 12, 2019, and on May 1, July 10, and November 6 in 2020.