These characters are everybody’s favorites that nobody has heard of.
Let’s review – we’ve got hit movies about a space team that includes a talking raccoon, a dude that can shrink and talk to ants, and now an invulnerable mercenary who breaks the fourth wall and makes dick jokes. If you’re new to superheroes thanks to the work of the Marvel cinematic universe, you’re probably thinking “Holy crap, how many characters ARE THERE? And how is it that every nerd I know loves these things I’ve never heard of?” It’s a sentiment lots of people are expressing in the wake of Deadpool’s popularity – so we’ve named it “The Deadpool Conundrum.”
You’re not wrong to feel confused. See, as comic book nerds, we know that you can only tolerate so much comic book jibber jabber. Talking about Vision (“It’s so cool – it’s like a sentient robot that Ultron created to get back at Hank Pym, but in the movies it’s Tony Stark’s J.A.R.V.I.S. AI in a body empowered by Thor and an Infinity gem…”) or Hawkeye (“He’s like a kid from a circus, right? Except the guys that were training him were like super villain level dudes, but Hawkeye was trying to be a good guy but he fell in love with Black Widow, who was a Russian spy, and so he was a bad guy for a while before becoming a good guy, but now Black Widow is a good guy too…“) isn’t going to make us the most popular person at any party, so we just don’t bring it up. Honestly, we’re as baffled as you are when everybody suddenly likes these guys (or Jessica Jones, or Star Lord, etc etc). Still, we understand that you’re probably confused by all these characters coming out of the woodwork, so here’s a primer for non-comic-book-nerds about some characters you’ll soon see in action.
Where you’ll see him: A self-title movie in November 2016, played by Benedict Cumberbatch.
What you need to know: “Marvel’s Mystical Merlin.”
Stephen Strange was born destined to inherit the role of Sorcerer Supreme, a magical protector of Earth’s dimension. Before he knows anything about that, though, he’s a smart kid who grows up to be a gifted surgeon. His natural talent and a bunch of personal tragedy conspire to create a rich but greedy and darkly arrogant guy. He gets in a car accident that ruins his hands, and after spending a fortune in wasted efforts to repair them, he turns in desperation to a mystical guru in Tibet, who teaches him ancient magic.
Why nerds are excited: Magic, man! The MCU teased us with magic once already by introducing and then neutering the Mandarin in Iron Man 3, so if you’re into weird magical craziness, this is right up your alley. Plus Cumberbatch! MAGICAL CUMBERBATCH! Sorry, I’ll calm down.
Where you’ll see him: Self-titled Netflix series, currently scheduled for November, 2016
What you need to know: “Magical martial arts Batman.”
This story will probably sound a little familar – a young kid loses his rich parents, inherits their fortune, and becomes a crime fighter to sate his desire for vengence. Here’s where it’s different – instead of an alley outside a movie theater, Daniel Rand loses his parents on an expedition to the mystical city of K’un L’un. Recently orphaned, he’s taken in and trained there, eventually besting an ancient dragon to gain the power of the Iron Fist. He’s got crazy cool mystical kung-fu, some healing powers, a touch of telepathic talent, and can (with some effort that can leave him sapped) concentrate his chi into glowing fists for extra punching awesomeness.
Why nerds are excited: First, Iron Fist is the last member of the Marvel team called “the Defenders” which also features Daredevil, Luke Cage, and Jessica Jones. That gritty team up series is a highly anticipated possibility. Second, there’s a chance we’ll get an Asian actor to portray Iron Fist, which despite being a retcon, is wholly appropriate for 2016. That means his history might juggle around a little (though not much would be required) – and that always gets us fired up.
Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers)
Where you’ll see her: Self-titled 2019 film
What you need to know: “Super powered and socially progressive.”
Carol Danvers was an Air Force officer at a restriced military base when some alien technology exploded. A super-powered alien in disguise was hanging around (the original Captain Mar-Vell) and her DNA becomes fused with his, giving her the basic Superman run-down of powers – strength, speed, toughness, energy beams, and flight. She went by the name Ms. Marvel for a while, but eventually assumed the title of Captain Marvel.
Why nerds are excited: Carol Danvers was originally conceived as a forward-thinking female character, grabbing hold of the feminist movement of the late 70s. Since then, there’s been a lot of controversial plot lines with the character, causing some fans to wonder if Marvel was undermining her legacy. But the 2019 film is positioned to lead the way of the next-phase Marvel movies, and Captain Marvel is positioned to be a strong female character central to the newly introduced stories.
Where you’ll see her: Marvel’s Most Wanted, a new TV series in development at ABC (release TBD), played by Adrianne Palicki
What you need to know: “Bad-ass baton-wielding Black Widow, kinda.”
There are some minor differences between the comics and the MCU, but we’ll stick to the cinematic stuff. Mockingbird has already appeared on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – and she’s made a splash a scientist and killer spy. It’s never quite clear who she’s working for or what she’s playing at (her allegiances are twisted and often called into question in the comics and in the show). Current canon has her on the level, but that could take a turn given she’s going to be a featured character in a series called Marvel’s Most Wanted. She has a signature skill with “battle-stave weaponry”, which means she fights with two cool looking batons.
Why nerds are excited: When Mockingbird shows up in a story, stuff gets done. She’s a wise-cracking version of Black Widow, and helps drive a lot of corruption-inside-S.H.I.E.L.D story lines. A show based around this character has the potential to be a sexy, action-packed spy thriller serial – and who isn’t into that?
Where you’ll see her: We’re not sure, we just really hope you will sometime soon.
What you need to know: “Way better than Spider-Man with a bow on her head.”
Jessica Drew was born with spider powers thanks to some unintended in utero exposure to experiments by her scientist parents. She’s unusally strong, tough as nails, can cling to stuff like spider (her hands and feet sweat some kind of special fluid), and has super hearing and smell. She’s recruited to HYDRA under sketchy pretenses, and learns hand-to-hand combat and a bunch of weapons skills from the Taskmaster (a Marvel bad-guy who is basically what he sounds like). She later leaves HYDRA and joins S.H.I.E.L.D., where she completes her training in all sort of espionage disciplines.
Why nerds are excited: While there’s some warming between Disney and Sony that may allow some Spider-Man appearances in MCU properties, it’s hard to know how much Spidey goodness we’ll actually get out of the deal. Drew is not frequently associated with Spidey in the comics, and isn’t a mutant, meaning she’s probably free and clear for Marvel to use. And more than just a stand-in for the glaring omission, Drew has connections with the Defenders, some run-ins with magical baddies that overlap with Dr. Strange, and a long-time friendship with Carol Danvers – so she’ll fit in just about any story Marvel is trying to tell.