HEAT VISION

Which Marvel Characters Could Return Via Disney+?

A number of abandoned MCU characters are returning, so why not Liv Tyler's Betty Ross or Sam Rockwell's Justin Hammer?
Jaimie Alexander as Sif; Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer   |   Courtesy of Photofest
A number of abandoned MCU characters are returning, so why not Liv Tyler's Betty Ross or Sam Rockwell's Justin Hammer?

Marvel Studios is no longer changing the game in just the film world. As studio president Kevin Feige laid out at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con and D23, its Disney+ streaming series will have just as much impact on the Marvel Cinematic Universe as the films do. While Marvel Television has paid lip service to the idea of “it’s all connected” for years with its Netflix shows and ABC's Agents of SHIELD, the upcoming series featured on Disney+ will fully commit to that idea, with films and shows feeding into one another and creating stories even more intricate than what we saw play out in The Infinity Saga of the past 11 years.

One of the more promising aspects to come out of Marvel Studios’ Disney+ reveals is the return of familiar supporting characters, a number of whom seemed to be forgotten about or at least put in the back drawer. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp), last seen in Captain America: Civil War (2016), and WandaVision has Jimmy Woo (Randall Park), last seen in Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018), Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) last seen in Captain Marvel (2019) as a child, and Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings), who hasn’t been around since what now feels like the ages-old Thor: The Dark World (2013). With casting announcements still to come for the impending Loki, Hawkeye, Ms. Marvel, Moon Knight, and She-Hulk, there are a number of supporting characters I'd love to see return to tie up loose ends and receive greater development.

Betty Ross

Betty Ross (Liv Tyler), the one-time love of Bruce Banner’s life, has not been seen or made mention of since The Incredible Hulk (2008). While the MCU has distanced itself from the film in order to create a sense of continuity that omits Edward Norton’s time as Banner, it’s ties can’t be avoided. With William Hurt reprising his role as Thaddeus Ross in Civil War and Infinity War (2018), it stands to reason that his daughter is still out there. The MCU doesn’t have a great track record with keeping love interests around, but given Natalie Portman’s upcoming return to the Thor franchise as Jane Foster, anything seems possible. And while the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) is single, and maybe ready to mingle following the death of Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Betty doesn’t have to be relegated to the role of romantic interest. In fact, in the time since her appearance in The Incredible Hulk, Betty’s comic book story has become more interesting. She first became the anti-hero, Red She-Hulk, and later returned as the horrific Harpy (she rips the Hulk’s heart out and eats it). Regardless of whether there’s a gamma-irradiated transformation in her future or not, Tyler’s Betty Ross feels long overdue for a comeback, and there could be no better place than in She-Hulk.

Sif

Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander) has never gotten a real moment to shine in the MCU. Despite showing up in Thor (2011), The Dark World, and Agents of SHIELD, she was conspicuously, and maybe thankfully, given the death toll, missing from Thor: Ragnarok (2017). While the films tried to adapt the love triangle between Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Jane Foster, and Sif, it never went anywhere. Nor did the idea that she is one of the best combat fighters in the universe. Alexander has been eager to return to the role, even tweeting that she’d be down to be Valkyrie’s (Tessa Thompson) love interest in the upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder. That film would undoubtedly be a great place to have her show up, but prior to that, Loki could be an opportunity to see the further adventures of Sif, both in the past and the present. The two have a long history in the comics, with Loki trapping her in the body of a dying elderly woman and disguising her from Thor for some time. That could be a way to explain her absence, and to see her return in full fury.

Dr. Helen Cho

Although a minor character in the MCU and the comics, Helen Cho (Claudia Kim) is deserving of a return, especially since it was her synthetic-tissue technology that led to the creation of Vision (Paul Bettany) in Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015). In the comics, Cho is the mother of the Hulk’s sidekick and the eventual Kid-Hulk, Amadeus Cho. With Marvel Studios seeming to have some notion for the Young Avengers or the Champions in the future, with Cassie Lang (Emma Fuhrmann) already introduced and Ms. Marvel and Kate Bishop on the way, Amadeus Cho seems destined to show up. And given the five-year time jump in Avengers: Endgame, he could be right around the age where he starts considering a life in superheroics for himself. But before we get to him, Helen Cho needs a more prominent place in the MCU, and given her lack of comic book material, there are a bunch of places where she could show up. She-Hulk is an obvious choice, but Hawkeye might be more interesting, considering the rapport she developed with Clint Barton in Age of Ultron. It could be interesting to her working alongside Barton and Bishop should AIM take interest in her technological innovations.

The Tinkerer

Phineas Mason (Michael Chernus) last appeared in Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), where he modified Chitauri tech to make weapons for the Vulture (Michael Keaton) and the Shocker (Logan-Marshall Green and Bokeem Woodbine). Although the Tinkerer is originally a Spider-Man villain, and the fate of Spidey characters introduced in the MCU is still unknown, he has also become a threat to the Avengers and SHIELD as one of the Masters of Evil and the supplier for Doctor Doom’s terrorist efforts. Although Homecoming gave us a more comedic depiction of the character, there’s still something interesting within that and the potential to explore the culpability of a genius who isn’t necessary evil but directly benefits from the evil of others. If he can no longer act as a threat to Spider-Man, then perhaps Ms. Marvel would be a fitting place for the New York-based villain to show up and “help” Kamala Khan build up her rogues' gallery.

Dum Dum Dugan

Dugan (Neal McDonough), one of the Howling Commandos, only appeared in one MCU film, Captain America: The First Avenger, though he did later show up in an episode of Agent Carter. In the comics, Dugan received the Infinity Formula, which kept him and several other members of the Howling Commandos young and active in present day. While an Infinity Formula has yet to be introduced, it easily could be. With SHIELD on the mend and trying to get back in the swing of things, as established in Spider-Man: Far From Home, it would make sense for Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to reach out to one of the guys who was there in the organization’s infancy. With Fury off-world and the Skrulls managing to botch his record of being in the know, Dugan could be the face of SHIELD on Earth. Moon Knight could be an interesting place for Dugan to show up, given the hero's mercenary background, and the fact that a modern incarnation of the Howling Commandos included a werewolf who could easily be Moon Knight’s original adversary Werewolf by Night.

The Warriors Three

Few supporting characters as key as the Warriors Three have gotten the level of disrespect in the MCU that they have endured. Fandral (Josh Dallas and Zachary Levi), Hogun (Tadanobu Asano) and Volstagg (Ray Stevenson) got their moment in the spotlight in Thor, but less so in The Dark World, and were unceremoniously killed off by Hela in Ragnarok. They're supposedly Thor’s closest friends since childhood, but he doesn’t even mourn their deaths or make mention of them when he counts the dead in the following Avengers films. As comic characters, the Warriors Three, along with Lady Sif, added to the fantasy-quest approach of Thor’s series and helped humanize the God of Thunder with their good-natured ribbing. Volstagg eventually became the Asgardian Ambassador once Asgard re-entered the political sphere of the ten realms, and was key in helping Jane Foster come to terms with her role as Thor. The nine realms of the MCU still feel like uncharted territory, and given that it was the Warriors Three’s role to explore them, their deaths have resulted in a significant amount of Thor lore being lost. But with Loki following the God of Mischief through time, there’s a way to revisit the exploits of the Three in the past and perhaps bring them into the present dimension with more depth and prominence.

Justin Hammer

One of the most requested returns in the MCU is Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell). The villain behind Iron Man 2 (2010) last appeared in the Marvel One-Shot All Hail the King, in which he was imprisoned. Iron Man may be dead, and the MCU’s Hammer may be very different from his comic book counterpart, but there’s still room for him to make his mark and attempt to put Hammer Industries back on the map. Any of the upcoming Disney+ series would be a realistic place for Hammer to return. But given his government ties, Falcon & Winter Soldier may be the most fitting place, especially if Zemo’s (Daniel Brühl) return leads to the creation of the Thunderbolts. In the comics, Hammer’s daughter, Justine Hammer, joined Zemo’s Thunderbolts as the Crimson Cowl. But given that Hammer doesn’t have a daughter, as far as we know, he could easily take her spot on the team of supervillains posing as superheroes and help Zemo get an edge on Sam Wilson, Bucky Barnes, and Sharon Carter.

As the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to grow, far larger than fans could have even imagined when Iron Man landed in theaters in 2008, it’s important that Marvel Studios remember the characters they already have floating around out there and find new and clever ways to reintroduce them and surprise invested audiences.

  • Richard Newby
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