Marvel’s line-up for the Thunderbolts is weird. It’s been bugging me ever since it was announced this past weekend. U.S. Agent and Bucky Barnes? Three characters from the Black Widow movie? Hell, only three of the six (Ghost, Taskmaster, and U.S. Agent) could technically be called villains in their latest Marvel Cinematic Universe appearances, and that’s what the Thunderbolts are all about — villains pretending to be heroes and becoming heroes in the process.
The problem is, the MCU doesn’t have many of those around who are both living and human until you look at the TV series… and not just Marvel Studios’ shows. Here are some characters from the MCU and beyond that would make a good fit for the Thunderbolts. Hey, if Anson Mount’s Black Bolt from the even worse Inhumans mini-series got to be in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, there’s no reason these guys are off-limits.
If Marvel is grabbing Charlie Cox’s Daredevil and Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin from the Netflix series for its own Disney+ TV show, why not bring Wilson Bethel’s Ben Poindexter, a.k.a. the assassin Bullseye? Daredevil season three ended with the master marksman getting his broken spine reinforced with “cogmium steel” which also, uh, turned his irises into bullseyes, so he should be ready for action. Plus, Bullseye was on the Thunderbolts a few times in the comics.
For as small a role as Aaron Davis has in Spider-Man: Homecoming, you wouldn’t think that star Donald Glover would bother to take the role… unless you know that Davis, who moonlights as a criminal called the Prowler, is also the uncle of Miles Morales. The MCU’s Prowler is exactly the sort of bad guy-with-a-heart-of-gold that fill the ranks of the Thunderbolts, and his inclusion could pave the way for the arrival of the inevitable second Spider-Man.
While the entire Hawkeye miniseries was a lot of fun, there’s one thing it could have used more of: the affable socialite and sword master Jack Duquesne, played by Tony Dalton. He’s a wonderful character that can empathise deeply with others but somehow also can disarm two-time state fencing champ Kate Bishop in about half a second without looking. While the MCU’s Swordsman doesn’t seem to be a criminal like the character was in the comics before being reformed, Jack is such a blank slate there’s a massive opportunity to upgrade him to a villain… and then a hero.
This one’s a gimme. The third season of Jessica Jones ended with Jess’ sister Trish Walker getting super-powers, becoming a vigilante, losing her way, killing a guy, going to prison, and feeling remorse. That’s a prime candidate for the Thunderbolts, and besides, we never got to see actor Rachael Taylor in a superhero costume that wasn’t purposefully goofy. Plus, in the comics, Hellcat eventually made her way to the Avengers, and the Thunderbolts would be an excellent stepping stone.
Does it make a ton of sense for a centuries-old witch to join a government super-group? No. Would we all like to see more of Kathryn Hahn’s WandaVision scene-stealer, despite the fact she has her own series, Coven of Chaos, coming next year? Yes. Now, moving on…
If you’re wondering why there are so many entries in this list from Marvel’s various TV series, that’s because the MCU has a bad habit of killing off its villains instead of, well, saving them for movies like Thunderbolts. Both Crossbones and Batroc the Leaper were members of the team in the comics, but both are dead in the MCU. Yellowjacket could have given the team its equivalent of Ant-Man, but he got squished. So bringing back Erik LaRay Harvey as Luke Cage’s evil half-brother Willis Stryker is by no means a bad idea as long as they give him the super-suit that grants him strength and durability.
In the comics, Titania was a frequent member of the Masters of Evil, the villain team that went on to pretend to be heroes in the first incarnation of the Thunderbolts. She never, however, was a ‘Bolt even though she’s also become more of an anti-hero over the years. Stealing Jameela Jamil from She-Hulk and sticking her superpowered social-media-ite would give the team a lot of style and personality. Now, I suspect that She-Hulk’s next episode, which will be highly Titania-centric after she sued Jen Walters over the right to use the name She-Hulk, will instantly render the character too silly to be a Thunderbolt. But, man, the movie team would instantly be 200 per cent better if Jamil was standing next to Julia Louis-Dreyfuss in the concept art.
It’s not a bold statement to claim that Iron Fist’s season was much better than its first, and one of the reasons for that is Alice Eve’s portrayal of Mary Walker, a former mercenary who developed dissociative identity disorder when captured as a prisoner of war. The first is Mary, a kind, timid woman; the second is Walker, the badass mercenary; and there’s a third we barely get to glimpse who’s a terrifying killer. Not that we needed a third season of Iron Fist, but it would be cool to explore Mary in the MCU… especially if she starts to develop her comics counterpart’s mutant powers…
It’s a shame Sam Rockwell plays one of the most fun villains in one of the MCU’s movies, and it’s even a bigger shame that he’s overshadowed in the movie by Mickey Rourke’s Whiplash just because he has electro-whips and that weird-arse parrot. Rockwell’s smarmy, entitled Justin Hammer is a delight every time he’s on screen as he goes to moronic lengths to show up his rival Tony Stark. Give him his own janky suit of H.A.M.M.E.R. Industries-designed power armour and let him be the cut-rate Iron Man he deserves to be.
Who, you ask? The half-human daughter of a demon who you almost certainly don’t remember from Hulu’s terrible Helstrom TV series. Why, you ask? Sure, no one liked or even saw Helstrom, and the show didn’t even spell the character’s last name correctly (it’s Satana Hellstrom), but there are a few reasons: 1) Satana was a member of the Thunderbolts in the comics; 2) she could give the MCU team some powers that aren’t just based in physical combat; 3) unlike Agatha Harkness, Satana’s character isn’t that defined which makes her an excellent team player; and 4) it would be an incredible pull for Marvel Studios to make. Even if fans didn’t care about the show (and they don’t, let me make that abundantly clear), Black Bolt’s appearance in the Doctor Strange sequel proved even tenuous a connection to other content, no matter how terrible, drives fans crazy.
All of the entries in the list have been pulled from the Marvel Cinematic Universe or other modern Marvel entertainment, but there’s one Thunderbolt who hasn’t made it on screen and deserves to be a part of the movie: Songbird. Formerly the very silly, c-level villain/pro wrestler Screaming Mimi, Melissa Gold took the identity of Songbird when joining the Thunderbolts due to her vocal abilities which allowed her to create sonic blasts, fly, and more. She became the heart and soul of the Thunderbolts, being one of the first villains to fully embrace life as a hero and try to stop her fellow teammates if they reverted to their evil ways. Introduce her in Echo or Daredevil: Born Again, and add her to the movie roster. And again, it would be great to have a Thunderbolt whose power isn’t more running, punching, and shooting.
It is a crime that Daniel Bruhl’s Zemo, one of, if not the, most fascinating villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe isn’t part of the Thunderbolts, especially when Bucky Barnes somehow is. In the comics, Zemo formed the Thunderbolts out of his Masters of Evil to gain access to SHIELD and various tech. Admittedly, in the comics, Zemo has been a Nazi shithead for most of his career as well, and the MCU’s Zemo is neither of those things. But he has an agenda, a way he thinks he can protect the world and will do anything to achieve those goals — which would include, certainly, working with a bunch of bad guys and Russian assassins to stop something he deemed a threat. I know the movie Thunderbolts have been/will be assembled by the Contessa Valentina de Fontaine in the MCU, but Zemo could be their leader. The Contessa could free him from his cell in the Raft to use his tactical genius to guide her band of misfits. It writes itself!
Want more Gizmodo news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel and Star Wars releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about House of the Dragon and Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.
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