Unless you've been living under a rock you're well aware that the Marvel movies and the cinematic universe they've built around them are the biggest things on the planet right now. The films have amassed billions of dollars and even the least popular of the lot have been some of the biggest money making films of all time.
Marvel wasn't always making money like this. There was a time when they had to sell the licensing of a lot of their properties to other studios. Some of those properties remain with those studios, such is the case with Fox having the rights to X-Men and Fantastic Four characters, and Sony having the rights to Spider-Man characters. As a result, Marvel has had to dig a little deeper into their character library to build a shared cinematic universe similar to what they've accomplished in the comics. Here are ten of the characters you will need to know going into the next phase of Marvel's blockbusters.
Warning: This list may contain spoilers.
10 The Guardians of the Galaxy
The Guardians are the perfect anti-heroes and a formidable line of defense against threats to the universe. The team is composed of a human (Quill) who ends up in space at a very early age and has thus never had any real discipline; he does whatever he wants. Drax was a former human, killed by Thanos (we'll get to him), and then resurrected with the sole purpose to destroy Thanos. Gamora was the adopted daughter of Thanos who has since rebelled after a violent upbringing. Next, we have Rocket, a raccoon that is also an intergalactic outlaw. Finally, there is Rocket's faithful companion Groot, a giant talking tree who acts as Rocket's muscle.
These are your Guardians of the Galaxy! Who calls them that, you ask? They do!
Guardians of the Galaxy will hit theaters in August of 2014.
9 Stephen Strange
Stephen Strange, better known as Dr. Strange, isn't the most popular Marvel character but he is representative of the magic and sorcery in the Marvel universe. He was even name-dropped as a possible threat to S.H.I.E.L.D. in the latest Marvel film, Captain America: The Winter Soldier. His name has also been tossed around by Marvel as one of the most likely films in Marvel's phase three.
Strange is a former neurosurgeon who experienced much death in his life and usually reacted to it selfishly. After the nerves in his hands were severely damaged in an accident, Strange sought out any and every possible cure, finally coming across sorcery. At first the Ancient One refused to teach Strange, but after Strange proved he wished to protect the world, he was given his shot to become the Sorcerer Supreme.
Marvel is currently looking for directors for this project.
Quicksilver (real name, Pietro Maximoff) is actually a mutant gifted with the power of super-speed. In the comic books he is Magneto's child but due to weird licensing rules, Marvel can still use Quicksilver in a Marvel movie even though Fox has rights to the character as part of the X-Men franchise. Since Quicksilver and his sister The Scarlet Witch were both well known Avengers, Marvel can still use the characters so long as there is no mention of Magneto or the fact that they are mutants. There isn't much information yet on exactly what changes will be made to their origins going into The Avengers sequel but their roles have been confirmed.
7 The Scarlet Witch
Wanda Maximoff, Pietro's sister, has the power to use mystical forces to effectively alter reality. At one time this came in the form of simple hexes that could combust or deflect objects. She has since been able to create whole armies from nothing and has eradicated nearly all mutant life with a few simple words. She of course won't be doing the latter in Marvel's new films as mutants don't exist in Marvel's cinematic universe.
Wanda and her brother have already appeared in a Marvel movie so their inclusion is guaranteed. They are seen in the mid-credit sequence of The Winter Soldier, being held in containment by Baron Von Strucker. Wanda is seen holding objects in the air and then making them spontaneously combust. We won't know until Avengers 2 to what extent her abilities will transfer from the comics too film.
6 Hank Pym
Dr. Hank Pym is the original Ant-Man of the comic books and has taken on many different super-hero identities using his "Pym Particles", which allow him to shrink to microscopic sizes or grow as large as buildings. When Pym used his particles to grow he took on the name Giant-Man. When he used them to shrink in conjunction with a helmet that allowed him to communicate with ants, he called himself Ant-Man. These are just two of the identities Pym has used over the years.
5 Scott Lang/Ant-Man
Scott Lang is the man behind the mask as Ant-Man in a Marvel film due out as part of Marvel's Phase Three set of films.
Scott Lang was a former thief who actually stole Dr. Pym's Ant-Man costume and shrinking gas in an attempt to save a woman being held hostage. The woman was a renowned surgeon named Erica Sonheim who Scott believed could save his daughter. Once Scott finished what he had set out to do, he went to return the costume to Dr. Pym who decided Scott should keep the gear and continue doing good.
With Edgar Wright directing and Paul Rudd playing the role of Scott Lang, there is a chance this film could be more comedic in tone than other Marvel films.
4 Baron Wolfgang von Strucker
Von Strucker was teased during the mid-credit sequence following The Winter Soldier. It is this character (whose name we weren't given yet) that had the twins Pietro and Wanda Maximoff in containment. He was also in possession of some very powerful items we've seen in past Marvel movies, such as the staff used by Loki in The Avengers.
Strucker is an ex-Nazi and member of the international terrorist organization known as Hydra. If you've seen The Winter Soldier and you've been keeping up with ABC's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (which is a great companion to these movies), you should be well aware of what Hydra is.
3 The Black Panther
We only have rumours to go off of (an off-handed comment made by Stan Lee) but there is an extremely good chance that The Black Panther will be one of the future characters to get their own Marvel studios film. Why?
Marvel needs to diversify. They've done well with peripheral characters but not yet has their been a minority or female lead hero. The character has often times been referred to as a "black Batman" which doesn't exactly scream "box-office flop."
The Black Panther aka T'Challa, is the King of Wakanda, a technologically advanced (and fictional) African country that was mentioned in Iron Man 2. So we know Wakanda does in fact exist in the cinematic universe and it was mentioned after Marvel decided to link their movies together in a shared universe. Wakanda also has connections to Captain America. Vibranium, the fictional metal Captain America's shield is composed of, has a large deposit in Wakanda. This could prove a useful plot device in other Marvel films as well.
Ultron is an android created by Dr. Pym as part of his experiments with artificial intelligence. It has been stated that this part of Ultron's origins will be changed to being created by Tony Stark for the films.
Ultron, like most artificially intelligent robots or androids do, turns on his creators and becomes a genocidal megalomaniac. He is totally free of his creators, constantly upgrading himself to become even more deadly, and has faced off against The Avengers several times.
At one point, Ultron gave himself an adamantium body, which will probably have to be changed to vibranium for the Marvel films since Fox has the film rights to adamantium. Where, oh where, could Ultron get vibranium? (Hint: See #3).
He's that purple fellow we saw smile back at the camera during the mid-credit sequence after The Avengers. It was Thanos who was really pulling the strings behind the Chitauri invasion of Earth. What comic fan could be surprised by this? Invasion is kind of his thing.
This is a guy who killed his mother, was terrible to his children, nuked his own home-world, and is in love with Death herself. There was a time when Thanos and Death weren't on great terms, so he tried to destroy everything that lives just to get back into her good graces. On top of being pure absolute evil, he has a vast array of incredible powers and abilities, the likes of which we have yet to see in a Marvel film. In other words, don't get too attached to your favorite Marvel hero.