The Underused Characters of The Marvel Cinematic Universe

The expanding Marvel cinematic universe has brought loads of beloved characters to life, but some just don't get enough screentime

Like its comic book counterpart, the Marvel cinematic universe is stuffed full of characters, all of whom might be someone’s favorite. From the biggest superstar leads to the smallest cameo appearances, Marvel puts great care into getting its characters right – not least because it ended up building an entire TV show around a guy who started life making cameo appearances one level above Stan Lee’s.

Of course, there are only so many movies a year, and that means some characters never quite get their time in the spotlight. With that in mind, we’ve gone through the Marvel movies to date and picked out our favourite under-used characters and explained why seeing more of them could only be a good thing for the Marvel cinematic universe.

The Howling Commandos

Introduced for a brief montage during the middle act of Captain America, the Howling Commandos formed the basis of SHIELD and, given the cameo two of them had at the start of Agents of SHIELD‘s second season, we probably will see more of these guys in Agent Carter.

But until that happens, the fact remains that there are loads of Howling Commandos missions that we haven’t yet seen – those set during the timeline of Captain America: The First Avenger (which had a large, intentionally vague gap in the middle) and those set after Cap’s disappearance. We know they stayed active

during and beyond the war, and we know that the SSR evolved into SHIELD. We’re going to see Agent Carter’s side of the story – let’s see the others’ too.

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Of course, there’s another direction this could go in. In the comics, the Howling Commandos were Nick Fury’s team. The comic Nick Fury was a World War II veteran who was surprisingly long-lived thanks to the Infinity Formula which slowed his aging. The Marvel cinematic universe hasn’t really addressed this idea yet (and a revised version of the story holds that Samuel L Jackson’s Nick Fury might be the son of the original) but a Howling Commandos series might be a good excuse to see Nick Fury in his younger days and learn exactly how he became the feared & respected embodiment of SHIELD that he was until its collapse.

If nothing else, it’d be a shame if Howling Commando Dum Dum Dugan never got to fulfil his destiny as one of Fury’s best friends and most reliable agents.

[related article: Complete Marvel Movie Schedule and Calendar]

Sif & The Warriors Three

Forget bringing these guys back as cameos. Sif, Fandral, Volstagg and Hogun are a team of Asgardian warriors with enough personality and history to star in their own film. The concept of the nine worlds has already been set up sufficiently strongly that you could do an adventure

within that framework and not need Thor around to star. You could even make that the hook of the film: who protects Asgard when Thor’s off palling around with his Midgardian mates?

In terms of storyline potential, these characters have a lot of backstory that remains unexplored. They’re almost as powerful as Thor, they’re all from different backgrounds, and yet they all came together as some of Asgard’s fiercest warriors. We saw a little of Hogun’s home world in Thor: The Dark World, but they’re largely unexplored. Let’s see more of Volstagg’s family, Sif’s Berserker rage, Fandral’s swashbuckling and maybe learn why Hogun deserves the epitaph Hogun the Grim.

Of course, even if they don’t get their own spin-off, there’s a good chance we’ll see more of them in Thor: Ragnarok anyway. With a title like that, you can bet that Asgard’s going to need everyone who can hold a weapon to join the fight, and rumours that Natalie Portman will be checking out of the franchise leave the door wide open to Sif to resolve her long-established romantic tension with Thor.

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And let’s face it: the Avengers can’t guest-star in everyone’s solo movies. Keeping Thor’s own team around would put paid to the frequently-unresolved question “why isn’t he calling the Avengers for help?”

[related article: Why Thor 3 is More Important Than You Think]

Darcy Lewis

Considering that the Thor movies tend as much towards romantic-comedy as superhero fantasy, it’s a stroke of good fortune that they star a pair of actors who are charming and personable, with impeccable comic timing. The only small problem is that one’s playing the male romantic lead, and the other’s playing the female romantic lead’s sidekick.

Yes, as the heading suggests, we’re talking about Kat Dennings’s Darcy Lewis – the perpetually unfazed Gen Y research intern who assists Jane Foster in both Thor movies. Love her or hate her (and we know some people are firmly in the latter camp, but we’re not) it’s hard to argue that she doesn’t display more chemistry with Hemsworth’s Thor in their brief interactions than Portman does over hours of screentime. In an alternative universe, Dennings was the one playing Jane Foster instead of an often visibly uninterested Natalie Portman.

In fact, of all the characters in the Marvel cinematic universe, Darcy might be the one whose presence could cheer up any movie. It’s little wonder that it’s been speculated in the past that she actually might be the Enchantress, or Hela, or any number of other Marvel characters in disguise. People want to see more of her. At the very least, she’s exactly the kind of B-list character who’s crying out for a Sif-style crossover into Agents of SHIELD.

Ultimately though, the interesting thing about Darcy is that her perspective on the Marvel cinematic universe is unique, because she’s the only person there who acts like the audience would if they were in the movies: bemused, over-familiar and generally enjoying the experience even when things are getting quite dire. Darcy’s personality is so vivid that you can perfectly imagine how she’d interact with any other character in the Marvel cinematic universe – whether explaining Pokemon to Steve Rogers, reacting to Tony Stark like he’s someone’s creepy uncle or asking whether the Black Widow has to stay away from cake so she can fit into her uniform, we can’t deny that we want to see more of her.

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[related article: What to Expect From Avengers: Infinity War]

Nova Prime

One of the biggest and most valid criticisms of the Marvel cinematic universe is that it’s a bit of a sausage-fest, where men are allowed to grow old naturally but women apparently disappear as soon as they get a wrinkle or grey hair. In that sense, it only reflects the worse aspects of the Hollywood studio system (and the double-standards of society at large), but the unintended result is that when Glenn Close turned up as Nova Prime, comfortably in her 60s and sporting the best hair of the entire extended franchise, she instantly became a character you want to know more about.

As Irani Rael, the Nova Prime, Close is in charge of a vast and benevolent interplanetary police force. If they’re anything like their comic book counterparts, this means she also possesses a large portion of the Nova Force, making her a superhero as strong as the likes of Iron Man and Thor. If you don’t want to see Glenn Close duke it out with those guys over the stewardship of an Infinity Gem, your imagination’s clearly missing out.

Unfortunately, James Gunn has ruled out any explicit introduction of (Earth’s) Nova in Guardians Of The Galaxy 2, and there’s no Nova film on the slate for Phase 3, so any development of Nova Prime is a considerable distance away. But then, with the Nova Corps’ power and resources, she could become the cosmic equivalent of Nick Fury. Either way, one thing is certain: you don’t cast a name like Close’s unless you’re planning to bring the character back in the future. The sooner they do, the better.

[related article: A Movie Fan’s Guide to the Guardians of the Galaxy Comics]

Thunderbolt Ross & Betty Ross

Marvel Studios may do its level best to disassociate itself from Ed Norton’s version of Bruce Banner in The Incredible Hulk, but the fact remains that the film he starred in is undeniably part of Marvel cinematic universe continuity. That means there are plenty of supporting characters to mine for future material. We imagine that very few people want to see the return of Marvel cinematic universe Doc Samson (played by an expertly miscast Ty Burrell, of Modern Family fame) but Liv Tyler and William Hurt as Betty and Thunderbolt Ross? Those guys we’d like to see again.

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After all, Thunderbolt Ross has always been Captain Ahab to the Hulk’s White Whale. Few things would upset him more than seeing Banner and the Hulk gain any level of acceptance, and the fact that he’s part of the Avengers and hanging out with superheroes is going to make Ross hate them by extension. We’ve already seen Ross’ long-time subordinate Glenn Talbot butting heads with SHIELD, so reintroducing Ross as an antagonist wouldn’t be at all difficult, and would give the Marvel cinematic universe the well-meaning but antagonistic authority figure it lacks now that Nick Fury’s vacated the position.

Admittedly, Betty is more fixed in her position as a Hulk supporting character, but the good thing about reintroducing General Ross is that there are bigger stories to mine with him and his daughter, not least because both Rosses have the distinction of becoming Red Hulks in the comics.

With nothing announced for Phase 3, it seems like a new Hulk film is a long way off, but if you were going to do one then the Red Hulks storyline is a strong candidate for adaptation (even if we’d all rather see Planet Hulk!).

Whether you could coax William Hurt and Liv Tyler back to play that type of role is debatable, but the Marvel cinematic universe isn’t above re-casting and the characters, at least, are integral to the Hulk mythos.