The Marvel Cinematic Universe has actually been really good about adapting the characters from the comics into the films. Some characters have been lifted from their original material and moved to more interesting places (like Ultimate Spider-Man’s best friend Ganke being repurposed as Peter’s best friend Ned in Spider-Man: Homecoming) or modified to fit the aesthetic and tone of the movie (like Mandarin being a joke villain in Iron Man 3). Some characters have even been restructured and rebuilt to the point that their comic versions have morphed to reflect the movie version (like Star-Lord transforming from an angry space vet into basically just Chris Pratt). The people behind the Marvel movies have been pretty good about turning their comic characters into three-dimensional cinematic roles… usually.
Sometimes, though, comic book characters that have been brought to the films just don’t have the kind of magic that their comic incarnations possess. Sometimes it’s just because the movie versions of the characters just didn’t have the room to grow like they did in the more expansive comics. Sometimes it’s because the movie incarnation is strong, but the comic book characters have pulled off incredibly bigger scenes and moments. And sometimes, it’s just because comics are willing to go bigger than the movies ever could. And that includes one of Captain America’s buddies going toe to toe with the actual Godzilla. Here are fifteen characters who’ve appeared in the MCU who ended up being way better in the original comic books.
Ultron is one of the biggest bad guys that the Avengers ever usually fight. He’s been a recurring threat across all kinds of Avengers stories, throwing a lot of problems at the heroes on a regular basis. But while movie Ultron is a bit predictable and boring, dropping the same kind of jokes that Iron Man usually uses, the comic book Ultron is significantly creepier and more frightening. He’s completely inhuman, and hates emotion in any way or form. It attempts to assimilate humanity on a regular basis, and we’ve seen what happens when Ultron succeeds. It’s not pretty. The actual story Age of Ultron is about what happens when Ultron wins, and it ends with pretty much every hero from your childhood being disintegrated. Comic Ultron is a way bigger threat than the version we get in the movie.
14 Iron Monger
Look, Robert Downey Jr. is one of the most perfect comic-to-screen castings ever done. But in theory, Jeff Bridges as Obadiah Stane should have been just as good. In the comics, the character figures heavily into some of Iron Man’s most engaging Bronze Age stories as a chess master moving people around to break Tony Stark. He frames Iron Man for murder, undermines his business dealings, and hires a woman to spy on Tony under the guise of his girlfriend. He proves to be one of the most dangerous foes Tony ever confronts, who ultimately chooses to kill himself via a repulsor to the head rather than go to jail. Bridges could have made that villain amazing on screen, but the movie never goes full-out with him and instead just has him as a jealous former partner of his father’s. Bridges deserved better.
Drax in the movies has been quite good, despite high expectations. Dave Bautista has given the character a wonderful amount of life in the Guardians of the Galaxy films. He’s literal and seemingly incapable of holding anything back, but kindhearted and well meaning. But comics Drax is so much better. Comics Drax has gotten a sidekick in the form of Cammi, an orphan girl he teaches the ways of the universe too. Imagine the Peter Quill/Yondu relationship, but starring Drax. He has jumped head long into an invading army of insect monsters invading from a destructive universe with nothing but two knives and he survived. He even at one point straight-up punches the heart out of Thanos – he comes back to life of course because, well, they're comics, but it’s a good attempt. We give them stars for effort. The comics have even been willing to show Drax trying a Zen approach and attempting to abandon violence. It goes as well as you’d think. Movie Drax is pretty good, but he’s even better in the comics.
If you haven’t read 1980s Thor comics, then you don’t know why the 250lbs nerd down the aisle from you started sobbing in Thor: Ragnarok when Skurge – as played by Karl Urban – stays behind to hold back the demon army. It’s because the scene is drawing visuals from a specific scene in the comics, and repurposing it from the original material. Skurge, who got a small character arc throughout the movie before sacrificing himself for the rest of Asgard, actually had a great deal of growth during the Walt Simonson run on the Thor comics. He grows from a villainous henchman to a man seeking redemption. And his final death comes in a similar manner – using M16’s to shoot and then beat down zombie warriors on a bridge while the other heroes escape. But the comic gives the sequence some beautifully written prose alongside the moment, and there was no way the movie was going to match the emotional power of that scene. It’s actually an argument in the comics community as to whether or not superhero movies lifting visuals but not intent from comics is a good idea. And while it was nice to see Skurge fighting undead warriors with machine guns because, of course, that's awesome, but it just couldn’t match the strength of source comics.
11 Dum Dum Dugan
Remember the team of colorful soldiers that Captain America ended up teaming up within the second half of Captain America: First Avenger? It’s okay if you don’t, because most people don’t. They appear briefly and besides their basic WWII tropes, they don’t make much of an impact on the story. But with the comics having more time to explore the side-characters, the Howling Commandos get time to shine, especially Dum Dum Dugan, the one rocking a bowler hat and red moustache. He ends up becoming Nick Fury’s second in command, and serves a major role in S.H.I.E.L.D. This includes a stint chasing down Godzilla (seriously) with a hele-carrier that also turned into a giant Pacific Rim-style robot, because comics are amazing. You guys, Dum Dum Dugan actually gets a bunch to do in the comics, and is in some of the crazier sides of the Marvel universe.
Ronan is one of the biggest wastes of opportunity in the entire MCU. Ronan in the comics is actually one of the more fascinating space characters, serving as a champion for a cold Kree race that we see often in the early days of Marvel. In recent years, he’s been explored more and more as a man bound by duty, even when it forces him to commit evil acts. He actually becomes something of a good guy, fighting alongside the Guardians and even the Avengers against intergalactic threats. His duty has even come at the cost of his only chance for love in the form of the Inhuman Crystal. Comics Ronan is fantastic, and one of the most interesting villains in Marvel. So seeing Lee Pace as a dollar store Darth Vader in an otherwise excellent Guardians of the Galaxy was extremely disappointing.
9 The Warriors Three
The Warriors Three – the charmer Fandral, the boisterous Volstag, and the taciturn Hogun – have been side characters within the Thor comics since the early days of Marvel Comics. They’ve been reliable and fun friends for Thor for over fifty years, and have had plenty of extra adventures across the cosmos, which is a much better run of luck then what they got in the Thor films. Each of them got a solid moment in the spotlight (Fandral helping Thor and Loki escape Asgard and Volstag holding back an entire army in Thor: Dark World, and Hogun standing up to Hela in Ragnarok) before they’re unceremoniously murdered in the early stages of Hela’s invasion. While it’s nice that the characters got the chance to show up, it’s a shame their grander adventures (especially Volstag, who even gets his own Hammer and becomes known as the War Thor) won’t get to appear on film now.
It’s exciting as hell to see Donald Glover in everything he wants to be in, especially if it means some superhero appearances. And this might even come back as some spoilers in the future Spider-Man movies, where we see Donald Glover go full on evil. In the comics, Aaron ends up becoming a much more high profile criminal known as the Prowler. He even ends up getting his then-teenage nephew, Miles, bitten with a genetically altered spider and turning him into a new Spider-Man. He becomes one of the best villains that Miles Morales has had to go head to head with, using stolen super villain gear and even getting a version of the Iron Spider suit (think of an even crazier version of the suit Tony offered Spidey at the end of Homecoming). He’s a great villain, and hopefully we get to see more of that character appear down the line. Or they could take more from the original Prowler, who ended up becoming a friend of Spider-Man’s and a fellow hero. Either way, let’s have more Donald Glover in the MCU.
7 Sharon Carter
Sharon Carter has popped up occasionally throughout the Marvel movies. Her biggest role being in Winter Soldier as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent willing to work alongside the heroes to try and stop HYRDA. Here’s the thing, though: she gets WAY more to do in the comics. Instead of the brief appearances she’s made in the movies, she instead is a high-up S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who works alongside Captain America in the field. She goes by the codename Agent 13, and has done some impressive things over the years. Maybe her coolest moment actually came recently, when she was forced to survive for years on her own in a crazy alternate universe that's Blade Runner meets Mad Max, before nuking the entire world and riding a jet pack back to our reality.
Defenders wasn’t exactly the best thing in the world. The series wasted a lot of potential for exciting adventures and instead chose to push the heroes into a boring and predictable series of dimly lit fights in hallways because that’s all the Netflix Marvel shows can really do. And that’s a shame, as the seemingly immortal ballet assassin Elektra in the comic books is way more interesting. She’s gotten into a lot of exciting fights and story lines, including a recent (beautiful) comic that saw her fight against every single assassin in the world in about four issues. Comics Elektra is an exciting bada*s, whereas TV Elektra is a dull assassin who keeps making kissy faces at Daredevil. Comics Elektra is able to single-handedly fight an entire army of ninjas and get Wolverine super excited.
5 Ben Urich
Poor Ben Urich. The well-intentioned reporter tried his best to help out the Murdock & Nelson offices, and he ends up getting just straight-up murdered by Kingpin for his work. But comics Ben Urich, while he’s had a rough time of it, has managed to survive all the events of the stories. He even finds out that Daredevil is actually Matt Murdock, but sits on the story to keep Daredevil on the streets and kicking criminals in the face. His dedication to helping Daredevil gets his arm broken and his wife almost killed, but he manages to pull through and help bring criminal charges to Kingpin. His early death is going to shift stories for the future of the Daredevil mythos, and not for the better.
4 Doc Samson
The Incredible Hulk may be the forgotten MCU flick, but it’s actually not all that bad at the end of the day. It has a lot of fun with the concept of Hulk going toe to toe with the army, and even showcasing a scene where Hulk turns a car into boxing gloves, which is really cool, come on. But one of the biggest disappointments with the movie is with Doc Samson, a therapist love interest for Hulk’s ex, Betty. But in the comics, Doc Samson is actually a really interesting utility player in the Marvel universe. He’s a therapist who’s been hit by some of the same gamma power that transformed Bruce Banner into the Hulk, giving him super strength and endurance. He’s a really fun side character to see in various adventures, and completely wasted as the boring disposable love interest.
3 Maria Hill
Cobie Smulders is awesome. She’s funny, she’s got dramatic chops, and she’s always 110% committed to whatever role she does. So it’s incredibly sad to never get the chance to see Smulders going all out with Maria Hill. In the comics, Maria Hill is the replacement for Nick Fury when he goes on the run and immediately NOT in a good relationship with the superheroes. She plays a major role in Civil War as a direct enemy to Captain America, and has proven to be one of the best Avengers characters of the new century. She’s willing to go places the heroes won’t, and it’s never played as an emphatically good or bad call, except when it is, but those stories aren’t fun at all.
2 Iron Fist
Guys, we are going to level with you: this writer loves comics Iron Fist. Iron Fist is a well-meaning idiot who just wants to be friends with everyone but usually ends up having to beat the hell out of people. Comics Iron Fist fights ninjas on the regular, beat a dragon to death to even get his super powers, and once punched out a train. Comics Iron Fist has to deal with the promise (and problems) his parents left behind for him, being torn between the normal world and his adopted home, and tries to deal with the fact that as Iron Fist, he’s living on borrowed time. All of that is amazing. And then we got the Netflix Iron Fist, which made him a preachy and flat wannabe Green Arrow, who himself is a wannabe Batman. Netflix made Iron Fist into the C-lister most people assume he is, instead of embracing his crazy kung-fu aesthetic and making him the best in the world.
1 The Wasp
Wasp appeared for all of a minute in Ant-Man. The partner and wife to Hank Pym, she’s a size-shifting heroine and helps save the world before having to shrink herself to subatomic size and disappear forever, which, compared to her comics version, is ridiculous. Wasp is actually very important in the comics, and is even a founding member of the Avengers. She’s a staple of that franchise in the comics, to the point that her death in Secret Invasion was considered a massive loss by every single Marvel hero. She came back to life by revealing she shrunk to subatomic sizes, but unlike the upcoming Ant-Man and Wasp probably just making her really small, comics Wasp had to go live among sorcery and warriors for a bit.