BY GREGORY CRUIKSHANK, ART BY SEAN HARTTER
Let’s continue our look at potential villains for the sequel to the Avengers, you can read part one here.
Who he is: A wartime adversary of Captain America, Baron Heinrich Zemo blamed the Captain for an accident which permanently fused his mask to his face; upon learning of the Captain’s apparent return from the dead, he founded the Masters of Evil in order to destroy both the Captain and his newfound allies. Years later, long after Heinrich died, his son Helmut took up the mantle of Baron, and followed in his father’s footsteps in search of revenge upon the Avengers and world-domination.
Why he’d make the cut: The first Baron Zemo is one of the first supervillains created uniquely for the Avengers, as well as being responsible for founding the first ever Masters of Evil; featuring him as the next Avengers antagonist after Loki would not only be a loving tribute to the comic books, but would also allow for a smaller-scale Avengers’ story to be told, practically guarantee the debut of the Masters of Evil on the big screen, and supply a villain with a personal motivation for attacking them. The same things can be said of his son, Helmut, with the added caveat that the younger Zemo is a brilliantly cruel tactician whose schemes have ranged from unearthing mystical gems for his efforts, to creating armies of genetic monstrosities, to deceiving the world into believing a new supervillain team was actually a new group of heroes to be idolized. The biggest factor in why Helmut Zemo would be used instead of Heinrich is that, where the first Baron was bested time and again by the Avengers multiple times, his son nearly succeeded in destroying them his first time out, making him a much more dangerous opponent. In one of the most famous Avengers stories, “Under Siege”, Helmut Zemo led the fourth incarnation of the Masters of Evil—the largest grouping to date—in an attack on Avengers’ Mansion which saw several Avengers captured or neutralized (including the beating of demi-god Hercules to within an inch of death), the team’s faithful butler Edwin Jarvis physically brutalized for the first time ever, and ultimately resulted in the destruction of the Avengers’ longtime headquarters and many of their most personal belongings. This was one of the first times in comic book history that it looked like the Avengers would actually lose, upping the stakes for the team more than they’d ever been. Now, imagine just how real Joss Whedon made the stakes during the Chitauri invasion in the first movie, and apply it to an adaptation of “Under Siege”. Right there, you have an attack on the Avengers that’s of a smaller scale than an alien invasion, but personally devastating enough that there’d be plenty to invest in; after all, replace Hercules with Thor or the Hulk, and it’s still a sign of just how dangerous the Masters under Helmut Zemo would be.
Why he wouldn’t: In the case of Heinrich, it’s the simple matter that the movies would need to plausibly (even by comic book logic) explain how a man who would have to be well past 100 years old by now could still be in fit enough shape to take part in superbattles. In Helmut’s case, the reasoning revolves more around how, in the last decade, Helmut was Thunderbolted, and made into a slightly more benevolent character—softening his once-definitive credibility as a villain. His motivations for “saving the world” have still fallen into the shades of gray, and more recent comics have seen attempts made at returning the younger Zemo to his villainous roots, but that softening has definitely hurt his chances.
Who could play him: Character-actor and frequent Whedon-collaborator Alan Tudyk (Firefly, Dollhouse) may be a little young to play Heinrich, but would undoubtedly make an interesting choice, given how only his eyes would be visible—and Tudyk’s got some expressive eyes. As for Helmut, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau has displayed a talent for swordplay and dastardly evil acts in his role of Jaime Lannister on Game of Thrones, so he’d probably be well-suited for the younger Baron.
Who he is: A small-time hoodlum from New York City, Parker Robbins’ rotten luck took a turn for the better when he came into possession of a daemonically-possessed hooded cloak. Armed with his twin pistols, and now imbued with numerous demonic abilities—not the least of them including the manifestation of a vicious demon-form—Robbins assumed the identity of the Hood, and went about establishing his rep as a somebody, eventually becoming the kingpin of the superhuman criminal set, organizing every supervillain in New York City into an army of crooks under his command, and making it damned clear to anyone who crossed him—or double-crossed him—that he was not to be trifled with.
Why he’d make the cut: One could potentially make the argument that, if the Masters of Evil see the light of day in movies, it will be the Hood who leads the charge. Unlike several others on this list, the Hood is a relative newcomer to comics—introduced in an early-2000s limited series, and then never seen again until just before Secret Invasion—and has enjoyed a high-profile in comics that guarantees his longevity. Like some of the others on this list, he offers the chance to see an everyman-supervilain, but with decidedly more ambition than the likes of the Absorbing Man or the Wrecker. The source of his powers has fluctuated to numerous sources—from a nameless minor demon, to the Dread Dormammu, to the Norn Stones of Asgard, to the Infinity Gems—connecting him to numerous regions/characters of the Marvel Universe, and offering the possible introduction of said concepts in film. (Though Dormammu would probably be saved for a Doctor Strange movie, but still…..)
Why he wouldn’t: As said, the Hood is still a relatively new character in comics, and so, while he is popular and well-recognized, he is also not at the top of the queue for placement in a big-screen Marvel movie. At least, not compared to some of the other villains here. Additionally, compared to some of the threats listed here—and to the already-promised Thanos—a guy in a cape with guns, no matter how powerful demonically, is not going to be the most spectacular threat the Avengers could face. Lastly, the fact that the Hood’s source of power has so many potential sources robs the character himself of any particularly distinct identity, and reduces him to little more than a minor player who sets the stage for the REAL threat. (And again, let’s be real here, they’re going to be saving Dormammu for Doctor Strange…..)
Who could play him: Though Whedon-fans will know him best as generally-good-person Paul on Dollhouse, Tahmoh Penikett recently displayed a villainous streak to his acting chops on an episode of Castle, and frankly, I’d like to see this villainous portrayal expanded upon to an even greater degree.
What they are: The Skrulls are a race of extraterrestrial shapeshifters, whose sole interest lies in expanding their empire until none remain but them. Though they are more than willing to engage in open warfare with their enemies, the Skrulls often prefer to conquer their foes from within, using their innate shapeshifting abilities to act as spies or saboteurs among whatever species they seek to conquer. Though their homeworld has been destroyed and their species largely scattered, the Skrull persevere in their efforts, not only to reunite, but to rebuild their once-glorious empire.
Key characters: The Skrulls are presently leaderless; yet amongst their people, a fairly large number have named an influential cultist named Veranke as their queen. Veranke believes an age-old prophecy that the planet Earth is the “promised land” for the Skrull people, and that it must be conquered and claimed at all costs. Of those few Skrulls who have encountered humanity, the most infamous is the Super-Skrull, a soldier who was genetically-engineered to possess all the abilities of the Fantastic Four.
Why they’d make the cut: There’s no denying that the Avengers have a history of fighting the Skrulls in the comics, most notably the Kree/Skrull War, and more recently, Secret Invasion, which revealed one of writer Brian Michael Bendis’ pet Avengers, Spider-Woman, to have been Queen Veranke the whole time. It would not be completely out of line to rule out their inclusion in an Avengers movie given this history—hell, most believed the aliens the Avengers were fighting would turn out to be the Skrulls—and there is certainly storytelling and characterization potential to be had in terms of introducing the possibility of a traitor existing in the team itself. That being said…
Why they wouldn’t: Because nobody wants them to be the villains in an Avengers movie. And I mean NOBODY. Leading up to the release of the film, every person I talked to about who they hoped the villains would be would immediately reply: “Not the Skrulls.” Perhaps this only represents a small percentage of fans, and the demand for the ridged-chinned shapeshifters is greater than I suspect, but the fact remains that they are not the popular choice. Besides which, despite recent comic book events such as Secret Invasion, the Skrulls are primarily antagonists of the Fantastic Four, as evidenced by the powers of their most famous citizen, and those characters fall under 20th Century Fox’s perview (for now). Besides, Marvel already played the “alien invasion” card in the first movie, and might not want to play it again so soon without risking becoming repetitive and unoriginal in devising threats.
Who could play them: For the part of Queen Veranke, probably the most recognizable Skrull villain outside of the Super-Skrull and the most likely one to be used in an Avengers movie, Olivia Wilde (Thirteen from House) would probably be able to pull off the imperial arrogance, and there is a certain otherworldly quality to her appearance. (Look deep into her eyes and tell me I’m wrong.) As for the Super-Skrull, Adam Baldwin (Jayne from Firefly) would suit the role just fine.
What they are: The Kree are an ancient alien race whose technological prowess long ago led them to a state of evolutionary stagnation. Largely oblivious to this, and in spite of numerous setbacks (not the least of them having most of their population destroyed in a Nega-Bomb explosion during a war with the Shi’Ar), the Kree have continued to follow a sort of cosmic “manifest destiny”, expanding their empire and exterminating all who oppose them.
Key characters: The Kree have long been ruled by the Intelligence Supreme, an artificial intelligence created from the minds of the most brilliant scientists of the time. The IS possesses all the knowledge and memories of the Kree people in its memory-banks, and is a brilliant strategist and tactician, willing to follow whatever course of action it deems necessary to better the Kree people. Second only to the IS in terms of political command is the Supreme Accuser Ronan, a powerful warrior armed with a “Universal Weapon” who acts as judge, jury, and executioner of his people. He has often acted against the wishes of the IS, for better or for worse, and has come into conflict with Earth’s superhumans many times. These superhumans have also encountered Kree Sentries—highly advanced robots designed to survey, study, and if necessary pacify all species the Kree encounter.
Why they’d make the cut: Of the various major alien races in the Marvel Universe, the Kree would be the ones most closely affiliated with the Avengers, having had the Avengers involved in their affairs more often than any other superheroes in the Marvel Universe (TWO of the space-wars the Avengers got caught up in involved the Kree), and having several Kree citizens (Captain Mar-Vell, Noh-Var the Protector) or people empowered by their technologies (Carol Danvers) becoming members of the Avengers. Factor in that their long-term goals involved control of the entire universe; that their forces include soldiers with ray-guns, heavily-armed spacecraft, and giant robots; and that among their technologies is a communications device which, if placed in the wrong hands (or if reconstructed just so), it could make Hiroshima look like the striking of a match-flame, and that’s a pretty serious threat worthy of the Avengers’ involvement, and worthy of inclusion in a summer blockbuster.
Why they wouldn’t: Again, the fact that the Avengers already fought off alien invaders on the big screen comes in, and doing so two movies in a row would be a little bland. But just as well, Marvel may be more inclined to save the Kree for a solo movie introducing one or both of the Kree-based heroes famously associated with the Avengers. (I’m thinking a Captain Marvelmovie with Carol Danvers in the titular lead role. Who’s with me?)
Who could play them: The Intelligence Supreme would largely be a creation of CGI—it is just a floating head in a jar—but in terms of a voice befitting such a presence, Christopher Lee (Lord of the Rings) would be a fantastic choice. And who else but Michael Dorn (Worf from Star Trek TNG) would you want to see behind the Accuser’s mask of Ronan?
The High Evolutionary
Who he is: Herbert Edgar Wyndham was a geneticist in the early half of the 20th Century who discovered the secret to the genetic code of all life on Earth. Secluding himself in the shadows of Mount Wundagore in Transia, Wyndham experimented on plants, animals, and even himself in his efforts to fully realize the potential of humankind, eventually “evolving” himself to a point where he needed to wear a specialized armoured suit to contain his essence. So powerful and so distanced from his own humanity that he may as well be a god, the High Evolutionary forever continues his experiments in evolution, on Earth, to the stars and beyond.
Why he’d make the cut: The Marvel Cinematic Universe has already displayed a penchant for blurring the lines between science and magic in its interpretation of Thor, even directly citing Arthur C. Clarke’s claim the magic is simply science too advanced for us to understand: the High Evolutionary is a character who has pretty much spent his life developing such a science, so he’d be right at home in the Marvel movies. More than anything though is the sheer scope of the character: the Evolutionary’s schemes have ranged from simply evolving animals into more humanoid forms, developing bombs that would reduce humanity to its most primordial-oozy state just to see what would happen, to actually building another planet on the opposite side of the sun. Best of all, his very status as a being of godlike power makes him the best kind of villain to have: one who is either completely indifferent to the suffering his actions cause, or who simply believes the benefits of his experiments outweigh the risks. This means that, while there would be plentiful opportunity for the Avengers to debate ethics with him, there would be just as many chances to see them duking it out because those debates have completely broken down, ensuring fight-scenes aplenty. There are, of course, added benefits, in that the Evolutionary would be accompanied by an army of evolved animals, or at least a select few animal-man henchmen—you’re telling me you DON’T want to see the Hulk fighting a genetically-evolved bear?!?—and that his usual base of operations is Mount Wundagore, which would strengthen the chances of seeing the Scarlet Witch and/or Quicksilver being included in the movie Avengers…
Why he wouldn’t: Alas, while his primary adversaries have tended to be the Avengers, or at least members of the Avengers like Thor, the Evolutionary is a villain with connections to numerous other Marvel teams, including both the X-Men AND the Fantastic Four, who are currently linked to Fox, which could hurt his chances of being featured in a Marvel Studios movie. The fact that he isn’t quite as recognizable as some of the other villains on this list doesn’t help things.
Who could play him: The easy answer would be Billy Crudup, whose credits already include a godlike scientist out of touch with humanity as Doctor Manhattan in Watchmen. However, I’d be more interested in seeing William Petersen—CSI’s Gil Grissom—taking a stab at the role, taking his somewhat-socially-awkward-scientist character to its most logical extreme. (Yes, I know he’s not exactly in “godlike” physical shape—that’s what motion-capture and CGI and/or Doug Jones are for.)
The Grim Reaper
Who he is: The younger brother of Simon Williams (also known as the Avenger called Wonder Man), Eric Williams was the bad seed of the family, eventually falling into heavy debt with the mob. When his brother—who embezzled funds from his company to pay Eric’s debts—died, Eric blamed the Avengers, and vowed revenge upon them. Armed with a mechanical scythe in place of his right hand, Eric operates as the Grim Reaper, sometimes simply in the interests of money or power, but invariably driven by a hatred of the Avengers which not even the stillness of the grave can quiet.
Why he’d make the cut: Unlike a number of the villains on this list, the Grim Reaper exists as a supervillain for one reason, and one reason only: to destroy the Avengers. As mentioned, his schemes over the years have involved some level of monetary gain or magickally-derived-power, but more often than not, he’s trying to destroy the people he blames for his brother’s death. And unlike a number of villains on this list, his personal hatred isn’t limited to just one Avenger—but to the team as a whole. This means that, as with Loki in the first movie, there would be plentiful opportunity for numerous two-hander scenes between the Reaper and the team’s various members; and the reasoning for this hatred is one which has motivated both heroes and villains in countless films, meaning that it would not be out of place. (“You dirty rats, you killed my brother!”) The Reaper’s general power-set of a scythe-for-a-hand would also be fairly cost-effective, but given how his powers have often found a supernatural twist—such as how, when reanimated by a voodoo spell, the Reaper must kill a person every 24 hours to survive—the character himself does not preclude the possibility of some serious big budget action. (We’ve seen the Avengers fight an army of aliens, now how about an army of demons?) That same supernatural twist also means that, not only could Marvel Studios sneak the Reaper’s frequent partner-in-crime Nekra into the story, they would also have an opportunity to explore and/or expand upon the elements of magic which exist in their cinematic universe, and let audiences see some magics which can’t simply be written off as “science we can’t explain yet”.
Why he wouldn’t: The only proper way to satisfactorily bring in the Grim Reaper would be to set up the arc of his brother, Wonder Man, first. This could certainly be done, but it would take time, possibly two or three movies (discounting the possibility of setting it up in solo hero films). They could introduce the Reaper simply as an assassin, bad-to-the-bone without need of the revenge-for-his-brother thing, but it would rob the Reaper of his personal connection to the team, ultimately making him far less interesting.
Who could play him: Whedon alumnae Sean Maher already has experience playing the sweet-natured, responsible sibling as Firefly’s Simon Tan—so it would be interesting to see him take a stab at being the more troublesome, evil sibling. Also worthy of consideration is Alfie Allen, whose tenure as Theon Greyjoy on Game of Thrones has bestowed him experience playing a character driven to less-than-noble actions by a twisted sense of family devotion.
Who he is: Michael Korvac was a computer technician in the year 3007 AD, who collaborated with the alien Brotherhood of Badoon in enslaving mankind, whose upper body was grafted to a machine as punishment for falling asleep on the job. Korvac eventually fought back against his alien masters and sought to conquer the universe, only to be thwarted by a time-travelling Thor and the Guardians of the Galaxy. Korvac fled into the past (specifically, our era), and in the midst of gathering information, became imbued with the Power Cosmic, essentially becoming like unto a god. He then recreated himself in a more perfect body, and came to Earth with the intent of reshaping our world into a utopia.
Why he’d make the cut: The simplest answer is because Korvac is insanely powerful (as well as just plain insane), and could destroy the entire universe just by blinking if he wanted to, AND because in the comics, the only reason the Avengers beat him is because he gave up—AFTER successfully killing and resuscitating the entire team. That’s a pretty serious threat. There’s also a certain appeal to be had in a somewhat different godlike character: whereas most have either become disconnected from their humanity, Korvac has simply been overwhelmed and corrupted by the power; he’s still driven by his emotions rather than shunning or dismissing them, and that’s not something you often see in such characters. And if that semi-convoluted origin story seems off-putting, comic scribes Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning actually developed a simplified version of his origin for the Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes cartoons: he is simply a guy who was abducted and experimented on by aliens, driven mad by the powers those experiments endowed him with. All-in-all, Korvac has the potential to be a great on-screen villain.
Why he wouldn’t: Powerful as he is, Korvac is virtually unknown outside of devout comic book readers, and his somewhat complicated origins could be a bit of a hurdle for studios to get past, not least due to the Power Cosmic connection. (The Power Cosmic is connected to Galactus, who is a villain of the Fantastic Four, who are under the per-view of 20th Century Fox, ergo…) Additionally, that revised DnA origin used in the Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes series factored in a connection to the Guardians of the Galaxy—which could mean that Korvac is destined for another Marvel super-team movie in the offing…
Who could play him: With a history of playing figures of paranormal significance, Mark Pellegrino (Lost, Supernatural) seems like a good fit for Korvac, though he’d need to be a little less quietly menacing than usual. Since Korvac is not a quiet person.
Who he is: Physicist Franklin Hall was caught in an accident which caused the molecules of his body to become merged with graviton particles, allowing him the ability to mentally manipulate the forces of gravity. Hall adopted the identity of Graviton, and in the years since, he has used these powers for various goals, most often revenge, world-domination, and in one or two instances, in an attempt to win the heart of a woman he longs for.
Why he’d make the cut: Although hardly one of the Avengers’ most famous adversaries, Graviton is definitely among their most powerful. At his least impressive, Graviton has created islands in the sky and shown off in an effort to impress a girl; at his most, he lifted every major city and superhero on Earth, and suspended them in the air, all simultaneously while he literally reshaped the planet in his image, just because he could. That kind of power guarantees a pretty epic super-battle in the making, with the entire planet at stake. At the same time, from the perspective of Whedon’s desire of a smaller, more character-centric piece, Graviton fits that bill as well, given how his motivations invariably revolve around impressing other people, and women he’s attracted to in particular. Simply give him an infatuation with the Black Widow, or another female character they introduce like the Wasp or Captain Marvel, and there’s your humanizing of your Earth-based supervillain right there. (It is also worth noting that Graviton was featured as the first major supervillain to unite the team in the Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes animated series, which definitely helps raise his profile.)
Why he wouldn’t: Like Korvac, Graviton suffers from being a character who, while powerful enough to be a planet-wide threat in his own right, isn’t very well known. Like Moonstone, he also has a connection to the Thunderbolts, not as a member, but as having his most epic and ambitious plays for world conquest taking place within that title as opposed to the Avengers.
Who could play him: I’d actually be interested to see Robin Williams take on this part. Nolan-fans were already clamoring for him to play Hugo Strange in The Dark Knight Rises, so this would give us the chance to see him as another comic book villain: imagine his character from Nolan’s Insomnia or the vastly-underappreciated One-Hour Photo with superpowers. I’d pay to see that. Plus, if need be, he could go a little over-the-top for some of it.
Who he is: Fomerly the leader of the international criminal organization, the Maggia, Count Lucino Nefaria (yes, that’s his real last name) was stripped of his title for the first time ever by the Avengers. Funding several other criminal endeavours, Nefaria finally underwent a procedure which bestowed him numerous superhuman powers. Though he was briefly killed (death is rarely permanent in comics), he has since returned, with two simple goals in mind: the reclamation of his status as a nobleman and a crimelord, and the destruction of all who stand in his way.
Why he’d make the cut: While perhaps not their greatest villain, Count Nefaria is unquestionably one of their most powerful: the man has sustained direct blows from Mjolnir and barely flinched. To say that any fight sequence on film between him and the Avengers would be gloriously epic would be an understatement: imagine the Superman fight scene you’ve hoped and prayed would finally be in a Superman movie, except Superman is the bad guy, and you’re about halfway to visualizing what that fight would be like. There is also something to be said for the guy’s character: perhaps being motivated by a need to be respected—even worshipped—is a fairly generic villain motive, but every now and again, it’s okay to have a villain who’s evil just for the sake of being evil. (Besides, with Joss Whedon on script duties, you know the character would be a lot more fleshed out than that…)
Why he wouldn’t: Pretty much the same reasons as Graviton and Korvac: nobody outside the comics community knows who he is. That whole “evil for the sake of being evil” thing also works against the character’s appeal, as “moustache-twirling” in villain portrayals has oft been spoken of poorly, by fans and actors alike, and given that his actual last name is “Nefaria” and he used to wear a waistcoat and a monocle in the comics, this guy is about as “moustache-twirling” as you can get.
Who could play him: A middle-aged-to-elderly nobleman bent on maintaining his reputation as a powerful figure worthy of respect, even if it means crushing anyone and everyone that gets in his way? Bring on Game of Thrones’ own Tywin Lannister, Charles Dance.
Kang the Conqueror
Who he is: The time-travelling ruler of a vast intergalactic empire in the 30th Century, the man called Kang has been active in events throughout history, ranging from Ancient Egypt, to the early 20th Century, to as far into the future as the 40th Century, and even outside of time itself. A cunning strategist, brilliant tactician, and ruthless warrior, Kang relies as much on his own skills as he does on his futuristic technology and armies numbering in the millions, never backing down from a challenge. Events ranging from the prevention of his empire’s eradication, to simply desiring an end to his boredom have frequently brought him to our time period, where his efforts of conquest have been repeatedly thwarted by our era’s mightiest champions: the Avengers.
Why he’d make the cut: Kang is among the Avengers’ most popular, most recognizable, and most dangerous enemies. Over the years, his schemes have ranged from simply adding territory to his already-expansive empire, to building a fortress outside of time itself in order to conquer every timeline that is, was, or could/will be, to actually attempting to recruit his younger self—or battle against his possible future self, the temporal scholar Immortus—in his efforts to gain a tactical advantage over his enemies; in short, lacking for nothing in terms of sheer scope, and offering some very high-end concepts to be explored in film. The fact that he commands a technologically-advanced barbarian army opens up the possibility of seeing the Avengers nearly overwhelmed by enemy forces again, and the fact that Kang himself is a skilled warrior with access to advanced technology means we would also get to see some pretty intense one-on-one battle scenes. Seriously, people, this is a guy who could duke it out with Captain America and Iron Man at the same time, and not lose any ground to either one. There is one event in comics’ history that almost seems to guarantee his place in an Avengers’ movie: during Kurt Busiek’s penultimate Avengers story-arc, “The Kang Dynasty”, Kang took over the world. No, you didn’t misread that: Kang is one of the only supervillains in the history of supervillains who tried to take over the world, AND ACTUALLY SUCCEEDED. Even if it was only briefly, that’s a pretty big claim to fame; and it offers a good old-fashioned underdog story for the Avengers. Whedon has already shown how he can makes the stakes in Avengers’ mega-battles very real and very dire: just imagine how high those stakes would be in a story where the heroes actually lose. That, my friends, is a truly great movie waiting to be made
Why he wouldn’t: At this point, the only justifiable reason why Kang wouldn’t be considered for placement as the main villain in the next film is because of Thanos’ cameo. Yes, there’s also the concern of confusing audiences with the whole chronal duplicate Kang/Immortus/Rama-Tut/Iron Lad thing, but that could just as easily be ignored in favour of a Kang-exclusive story.
Who could play him: Chiwetel Ejiofor. Nuts to the fact that Kang is a white guy in the comics, he’s a damned good actor, and if you saw him in Joss Whedon’s Serenity, you’ll know that he makes for a damned good villain, and would suit this part very well.
Who it is: An android developed by the Avenger Henry Pym which immediately turned on its creator, Ultron continued to develop itself into more advanced bodies, until it achieved a form it deemed acceptable: a shell of indestructible adamantium, armed with various energy weapons. Its initial motivations for attacking the Avengers lay in a sort of Oedipal fixation on Pym—an obsession which persists to this day—but in the years since its inception, the scope of Ultron’s schemes has expanded into a desire to exterminate all biological life, and replace it with machine life.
Why it’d make the cut: Ask any Avengers fan who their greatest enemies are, and invariably, Ultron’s name will come up. So anyone who would deny the inclusion of Ultron as a villain in the Avengers’ movie based on having no support base would be wrong. The biggest draw of bringing Ultron in, however, as opposed to any of the other characters on this list, is that it embodies both the smaller, character-driven story that Joss Whedon would want to tell, and the massive, big-budget-spectacle threat studios and fans would want. In terms of the latter, Ultron alone would be a spectacle to behold in terms of effects, but the possibilities of what he could do is staggering: in recent comics, he took control of the world’s nuclear arsenal and planned to use it to wipe out humankind; in a story I read growing up, he actually wiped out the entire human population of a small country, and briefly claimed it for himself; factor in the possibility of watching the Avengers doing battle with an army of killer robots while trying to stop him/avenge his actions, and the fact that, no matter how many bodies you wreck, Ultron always—ALWAYS—comes back, you’ve got some major league actioning and adventuring. But unlike some of the other villains on this list, Ultron is also the Avengers’ foe with the most personal connection to the team, having actually been created by one of their members. Odds are high that Henry Pym would be in the movies before Ultron, and part of the Avengers, so just consider the storytelling potential in that: a robot trying to destroy the world, created by one of the heroes sworn to defend it. And if you think that diminshes the potential characterization to just Henry Pym, think of Tony Stark’s reaction to the existence of a sentient weapon, or Captain America’s to the death and devastation wrought by it, or even just the inter-team debate over how responsible Pym is for what Ultron does, or what course of action to take in stopping it. And then there’s that last little connection I have to make: Ultron created the Vision, arguably the most powerful and beloved member the Avengers have ever had. Which would almost guarantee his cinematic presence, if not in the same movie as Ultron, then definitely in the one that followed. And once again, just think of the storytelling potential in the introduction of the Vision, in their reactions to his original purpose, in the Vision’s interactions with his creator. Ultron offers far too much to the Avengers for them to ignore him; and with the promised Brian Bendis/Bryan Hitch Avengers comic event somewhere in the near future, his profile will be raised enough that the studios would be unwise not to bring him in.
Why it wouldn’t: See the main reason Kang wouldn’t, with the additional caveat that its creator, Henry Pym, has yet to be seen in the Marvel Movie Universe, and providing its origins without Pym would rob Ultron of that personal connection to the Avengers that truly makes him a terrifying opponent. And maybe the fact that, until Fox returns the Wolverine film rights to Marvel, they can’t make Ultron out of adamantium.
Who could play it: This is a difficult one to cast, as Ultron’s body would most likely end up the product of CGI, and it’s well-recognized Jack O’Lantern-like face isn’t famous for visible expression beyond the intensity of the red glow in its eyes. This would ultimately be a part in need of solid voice-acting—someone who can pull of the droning mechanical monotone of a machine, while sounding menacing at the same time. In the animated Avengers: Earths Mightiest Heroes cartoon, this has been done successfully by voice-actor Tom Kane, and the movies could just as easily call on him. But in terms of A-list talent, the most fitting choice would be the man behind the voice of Darth Vader back when he was cool, Mr. James Earl Jones.
Again, this conjecture and reasoning may be all for naught. The Avengers will, in all likelihood, be travelling into space to prevent a Mad Titan from using a certain jewel-encrusted mitten to rewrite all of reality in his ongoing efforts to impress a girl. Fans may not see any of the villains listed above before that movie comes out, or afterwards for years, if at all. But we can dream. By the gods, we can dream; and isn’t there some old expression about Hollywood being a place where such things eventually come true…?