BY GREGORY CRUIKSHANK, ART BY SEAN HARTTER
By this point, most, if not all of us have seen Marvel’s latest film, The Avengers, co-written and directed by Joss Whedon. Seen the movie—and seen its mid-credits epilogue. If you are one of the two people who still have not seen the film, I ask that you stop reading. Major spoilers follow.
As if finally seeing the Hulk done right, getting the Black Widow properly rounded out as a character, and showing the most glorious superheroes-versus-aliens battle brought to life on the big screen wasn’t enough for us, the folks at Marvel Studios gave us a brief glimpse at the next big foe the Avengers will be fighting:
This was a sight that had me, as a fan, gasping in my seat with surprise and excitement. Thanos is arguably one of the most powerful and dangerous villains in the Marvel Universe, and the fact that Marvel Studios are going to be including him in future movies is nothing less than exhilarating. In fact, it has apparently been confirmed that Thanos will be the villain if and when Avengers II comes about.
Yet there is a certain disappointment which accompanies this news. For as awesome as it will be to see the Avengers combatting Thanos on the big screen, Thanos is not necessarily the villain most Avengers fans were hoping to see next. Sure, Thanos has fought the Avengers in the comics a number of times, and whenever his actions pose a threat to the entire universe—as when he briefly wielded the Infinity Gauntlet, which gave him control over pretty much all of reality—Earth’s Mightiest are often among the first to combat him. After all, part of why they gathered was “to fight the foes no single superhero could withstand”, and Thanos certainly fits that bill.
So does Doctor Doom, a Fantastic Four villain. And Magneto, an X-Men villain. And the Red Skull, a Captain America villain. The Avengers have faced off against plenty of major-league supervillains, none of whom could truly be exclusively called “their villains”. Even Loki, the fiend responsible for bringing the Avengers together (intentionally or not, in comics or in movies) is usually regarded as being Thor’s villain, not the team’s. For all that he is dangerous enough to warrant the Avengers as enemies, for fans, Thanos isn’t the first villain that comes to mind.
The Avengers have had a fairly large number of enemies over the years, ranging from petty crooks to would-be conquerors, most of whom have posed a threat either to the world at large or to the team themselves. Perhaps their reasons for pursuing villainy are tied directly to the team, making the rivalry personal for them; perhaps they’ve done something during one particular battle that earned them the Avengers’ long-lasting enmity; perhaps they’ve simply battled the Avengers more often than any other heroes. Whatever the connection, they are the supervillains who readers of the comics first think of, when they consider Avengers villains.
Make no mistake, I relish the prospect of seeing the Avengers and Thanos clashing on the silver screen; but for a moment, let’s take a look at some of the other candidates.
This list is not complete in its expanse of Avengers adversaries, so if I leave anybody out, I apologize. Similarly, I realize that one or two of the villains included here are not necessarily “huge” threats, and might not be enough to warrant inclusion in an Avengers film… at least, not on their own. In these instances, I ask you to consider them as part of a larger group devoted to combatting the team: a Lethal Legion, or a Masters of Evil. And while I mentioned Doctor Doom and Magneto, I will not be including major threats who are connected to heroes tied up with other studios at the moment.
Keep an open mind: if not in the immediately-anticipated next Avengers movie, Marvel Studios could still employ them at some point down the line, if they so chose.
Who he is: A simple bank-robber with the ability to move and spin at superhuman speeds (all without suffering any physical trauma such as nausea, blurred vision, etc), David Cannon began his criminal career as the Human Top, before donning a new suit of bladed armour and assuming the moniker of Whirlwind. He has most frequently clashed with longtime Avengers Henry Pym and the Wasp, even briefly serving as the Wasp’s chauffeur as a cover, and over time, has developed an intensely obsessive love-hate relationship with the two: love for the latter, hate for former.
Why he’d make the cut: Joss Whedon frequently stated that he’d want the sequel’s story to be “smaller, more personal”, and truly exploring the characters. Whirlwind would offer the potential for that kind of story, having a very personal connection to/obsession with some of the team’s members (in the comics at least, though who the object of his fixation is could be altered), while also offering a somewhat smaller-scale threat. In the comics, he is also distinguished as a recognized member of at least two Masters of Evil teams, which ensures his chances of at least being a part of the movie’s incarnation of said group.
Why he wouldn’t: Let’s be honest, as potential Avengers movie villains go, Whirlwind is probably not very high on anyone’s list. He’s not a world-conqueror, his powers aren’t the most devastating, and even in the comics, he isn’t really much of a threat. (Hell, in the first comic I read featuring him, he was taken down off-panel by newbie Avengers Justice and Firestar—and if you’re asking “who are they?”, then my point is made.) Additionally, although the source of his powers could be changed to suit the studios, Whirlwind is a mutant—and, based solely upon that, technically falls under the jurisdiction of the X-Men films and Fox. Most importantly, however, is that neither of his major nemeses—Henry Pym or the Wasp—has yet to be seen in the Marvel Movie Universe, which severely hinders his chances.
Who could play him: The most potentially interesting choice for playing Whirlwind would be James Marsden (Cyclops from the X-Men films), whose history of roles tends to include jilted lovers and “other men” (including Cyclops, if you think about it), and would allow him to break free slightly from the mold of “nice guy” those characters usually fill.
Who he is: A scientist influenced by the writings of Robert Louis Stevenson, Calvin Zabo developed a formula which, in addition to increasing his size and strength, allowed him to unleash his more savage nature. Though he has the ability to return to his human form, he rarely does, preferring to spend his time as the ruthlessly monstrous Mister Hyde.
Why he’d make the cut: I’ll concede, Hyde isn’t exclusively an Avengers villain, as he’s fought off a number of superheroes in his time, from Spider-Man to Thor. What ties him in to the Avengers is his inclusion in Baron Helmut Zemo’s Masters of Evil and their takeover of Avenger’s Mansion, during which Hyde beat the Avengers’ faithful butler Jarvis half to death. For those who don’t read comics, some context: up to that point, Jarvis had never been seriously injured by one of their adversaries. Ever. He was off-limits. And that’s what makes Hyde such an ideal candidate for movie villainy: there are no lengths he will not go to, no unwritten rules which he will not break, in order to harm/demoralize his opponents. This means that the writers would have free rein to make Hyde do whatever nasty things they wanted him to. It would also allow filmmakers the chance to indulge in a mix of horror and action tropes, as they did with the Hulk in the first, and his powers would hardly be taxing to replicate. Throw in the prospect of seeing Hyde going one-on-one with one of the team powerhouses (Thor and/or Hulk), as well as a volatile personality as part of a Masters of Evil, and you’ve got a potential winner on your hands.
Why he wouldn’t: Dangerous as he is, Hyde has never been a “world-stage” supervillain, so while it would be fun to see him, he might not be considered a big enough threat on his own to warrant the entire team. Plus, Hyde’s appearance would probably result in a debate of whether to use motion capture or prosthetics, with the final result meaning mixed reactions from fans.
Who could play him: Jason Flemyng (Azazel in X-Men: First Class) played Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde in the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen film. That movie was, to put it mildly, a disappointing adaptation of Alan Moore’s graphic novel, but Flemyng made for a remarkably effective choice, and it would be interesting to see him tackle the role of a man called Hyde again. (Though perhaps without the prosthetic Popeye-arms this time…)
The Absorbing Man
Who he is: A boxer who was thrown in jail after killing a man in the ring, Carl “Crusher” Creel had his drink spiked with Asgardian ingredients by Loki. Gaining the ability to absorb the properties of whatever he touches, Creel broke out of prison and, armed with his ball-and-chain from his time, has gone on to hold a long and illustrious criminal career as the Absorbing Man.
Why he’d make the cut: The Absorbing Man offers a potentially-interesting villain to see on-screen: a thug who stumbles upon some powers which make him more dangerous. These sorts of “everyman” supervillains haven’t had much of a presence in film as yet (OK, maybe the Sandman), and where better to establish a presence than in one of the highest-profile films? There’s also the opportunity for spectacle, as the nature of the Absorbing Man’s powers would mean a lot of cool visuals as he takes on the characteristics of steel, stone, water, and who knows what else (Ang Lee gave us a glimpse of the visual opportunities for that power-set near the end of his Hulk film—bet you’d forgotten that, hadn’t you?), and the kinds of brawls that would result—look me in the eye and tell me you would not be excited to see Captain America and/or the Hulk duking it out with a guy made out of solid steel. Yes, granted, a thug with powers isn’t exactly the sort of world-threatening villain that would warrant bringing together Earth’s Mightiest Heroes—except when you consider the possibilities, something which writers have done over the years. Just imagine how dangerous Creel could be if he absorbed the properties of certain extremely powerful items, like Mjolnir, or the Tesseract…
Why he wouldn’t: Like Hyde, the Absorbing Man isn’t exactly an Avengers exclusive villain—having fought every other Marvel hero at least once—and while his criminal career has been a long and illustrious one, it has also been decidedly lacking in scope, and marked by numerous defeats. One could also argue the technicality that he debuted as a Thor villain, and owes his origins to another Thor villain, making him one too, and thus would be reserved for a Thor sequel.
Who could play him: Since he’s a powerhouse, odds are Hollywood would opt for someone who matches the appearance, but whose acting credibility is debatable—ie, a former wrestler. In that vein, I nominate Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson; he’s made a name for himself as an actor the last few years, and while his body of work hasn’t been much-loved, an opportunity to work on this big of a movie might push him to another level of talent, particularly if Whedon directs. (Because, let’s face it, Whedon gets the best out of his actors, no matter who they are.)
Who she is: Karla Sofen, a psychiatrist with a taste for manipulating other people, used her skills to trick a failed supervillain into giving her the source of his powers: an alien gemstone. Merging with the gem, Karla gained superhuman strength, the ability to fly, energy-projection, and intangibility. She has occasionally fought on the side of the angels, but has no interest in being a hero herself: Moonstone does whatever best benefits her, and will manipulate whoever she has to in order to get what she wants.
Why she’d make the cut: If The Dark Knight Rises did nothing else, it let people know that the door is open for more supervilainesses onscreen, including Moonstone. Like the Absorbing Man, she’s usually just been a bank-robber, or a pawn in the schemes of other villains (one of whom we’ll get to later), but definitely has the potential to be a major threat on her own: consider her power-set, and imagine how much trouble she could be to the Avengers. But the most dangerous thing about her—what earns her placement in this list of candidates—is her mind. Moonstone is a master manipulator, whose time as a psychiatrist means that she knows how to get inside her opponents’ heads, how to exploit their weaknesses—and possibly even turn them against each other, leaving her the chance either to attack or retreat. If Whedon really wants to make the next movie a more personal one for the characters, just make Moonstone a SHIELD shrink responsible for profiling Avengers candidates, and you’ve got a serious threat on your hands.
Why she wouldn’t: To use terminology coined by acclaimed fanfiction scribe Meriades Rai, Moonstone has been “Thunderbolted”—meaning, she has been largely associated with the villains-turned-heroes called the Thunderbolts, and as a result, fewer and fewer writers are likely to use her character. This isn’t necessarily completely true, as the last few years have seen Moonstone lean more towards her villainous roots, but that rounding-out of her character, coupled with her associations with that team, hinder her chances of selection.
Who could play her: Though she’s a little older than what I suspect the studios would be looking for, it would be interesting to see Elisabeth Shue (Mysterious Skin, CSI) portray the sinister psychiatrist. Similarly, Olivia Williams (Adele from Dollhouse) would doubtless be able to capture the manipulative, controlling nature of Sofen to a T.
Who he is: Dirk Garthwaite was a manual labourer who turned to crime after being laid off for his violent tendencies. Following one such spree, he unwittingly intercepted a Norn enchantment intended for Loki, becoming its recipient. Endowed with superhuman strength, durability, and an enchanted crowbar that can shatter anything, the Wrecker has continued in his criminal career, often with his similarly-powered fellows in the Wrecking Crew at his side.
Why he’d make the cut: In some ways, the Wrecker is the prototypical bank-robbing-thug—except he has superpowers. This gives him a similar appeal as the Absorbing Man, in the sense of being an “everyman” vilain, and practically guarantees a few half-decent brawls with Thor or Cap. Plus, it’ll save the studios some money on effects—really, how tough is it to create a magic crowbar?
Why he wouldn’t: If you know comics, you know why he’d be discounted. The Wrecker is, for lack of a better term, the Marvel Universe’s go-to whuppin’ boy. Whenever ANY comic needs a villain to pit our hero(es) against before the REAL threat shows up, just to show them in action, the Wrecker (and/or at least one other Crew member) is there. Occasionally, he and the Wrecking Crew have been involved in a story-arc that finds him in a much more formidable position than usual, but these instances are rare. If you’re more of a DC person, think the Royal Flush Gang—he’s that beatable. Mind you, that does help his odds of making an appearance in a film—just not as the major antagonist.
Who could play him: There are so few actors who actually look like muscle-bound pug-ugly thugs (damn Hollywood’s obsession with “beautiful” people), but one character actor who could probably do the part justice would be Lee Arenberg (one of the two goofball pirates from Pirates of the Caribbean).
Who she is: An accomplished magic-user and seductress from the realm of Asgard, whose beauty is unparalleled in all the Nine Worlds, Amora the Enchantress has sought many times over the years to claim the heart of the mighty Thor. Though often a pawn in the schemes of others, Amora has displayed an ambition for conquest all her own, coming into conflict with Thor and his allies in the Avengers many times.
Why she’d make the cut: Once again, we have an instance of a female villain who would be warmly welcomed to the screen, and one just as deserving as Moonstone, if not moreso. To start, thanks to the Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes cartoons, the Enchantress has had a higher visible profile beyond just comic books recently (never mind that she’s already a fan-favourite); and just as much thanks to that series, people have gotten to see just how nasty a witch she can be. Additionally, her powers lie not just in the arts of magic—which practically guarantees some pretty spectacular fireworks in any fights she gets—but in hypnosis and seduction and trickery: she could trick the Avengers into fighting each other, or simply take control of their minds and make them fight for her, allowing the chance to see some more awesome hero-versus-hero battles. She could also use those abilities/skills to bring together others to aid her in her efforts to destroy/conquer the world, offering the possibility of seeing a Masters of Evil brought together under her leadership/control. Then there’s a point that needs to be addressed: despite her usually being garbed in a curve-emphasizing green mini-skirt, the Enchantress is one of but a sadly-few female villains who don’t NEED to get others (ie male henchmen) to fight her battles for her. Sure, the comics have usually allied her with a male partner/bodyguard/flunkie like the Executioner or Power Man/Atlas, and sure, she usually just makes her enemies fight each other, saving her some time—but the Enchantress is just as capable and willing to get her own hands dirty, slinging a few offensive spells around to take out the competition.
Why she wouldn’t: While I, personally, would love to see the Enchantress as the main villain of an Avengers movie (possibly accompanied by the Masters of Evil), there are a few factors which could prevent that. To begin with, she’s primarily a Thor villain, and despite news that his next movie will primarily involve the denizens of Svartalfheim, rumour continually suggests that she may be serving as a major antagonist. In the second place, despite her raised profile in animation, she’s still not the most well-known of comic book villains; studios and fans may prefer to see one of the Avengers’ more well-known villains employed instead of her. The last factor is a big one: the first Avengers movie has already played out the “Asgardian exile bent on revenge/world domination” angle through Loki, and while the story would undoubtedly have differences, fans may be reluctant to see a repeat of that.
Who could play her: Hollywood is hardly bereft of attractive, blonde, young actresses, so there’s a lot to choose from (for better or worse), but I’d cast my vote for Game of Thrones’ Mother of Dragons, Emilia Clarke, who already has some experience displaying a powerful beauty not to be reckoned with.
Check back next week when we look at the second half of our foe list!