The MCU has been offering stories based on some of the most recognizable comic characters ever created. These characters have rich lore, and many comic fans can recognize them as they are portrayed in the comics. In reality, many of these characters are based on the basic concepts established by the comic lore, as many of what we see on the screen can be pretty different from what we see in the books.
In this ranking, we aim to highlight some of the most popular characters in the MCU and how much they have changed compared to their comic counterparts. Many characters’ backstories are similar, but their characterization, personalities, and relationships vastly differ from what we see in comic books. It’s a significant differentiation, as people expect real characters to evolve and change, while comic characters can have the luxury of stagnation for many years.
If you feel other characters deserve the spotlight in this ranking, let us know in the comments section!
King Namor was the first mutant in Marvel Comics. The son of a commoner and an Atlantean princess, he adopts a human identity and becomes an ally to Captain America and the original Human Torch during World War II. After being an amnesiac for many years and living as Namor Mackenzie, he regains his memories and reclaims his title as the King of Atlantis and Emperor of the seven seas.
In the MCU, Namor is the emperor of the Kingdom of Talokan, an ancient civilization of water-dwelling people with Mayan heritage. He’s also the first mutant of the MCU, with his unique physiology resulting from exposure to vibranium-laced herbs. He’s been around for almost 500 years, and he has a beef with humanity as they are trying to lay claim to underwater resources that are rightfully his people’s
19 Carol Danvers
Carol Danvers has had a wild ride in the comics. As the original Ms. Marvel, she gained her powers after fusing her DNA with the Kree warrior Mar-Vell. Carol served as an Avenger for a long time, with her powers fluctuating numerous times. She lost all her skills after the mutant Rogue drained her. Carol didn’t let this incident shape her being and went back to service in the military until her abilities resurfaced; this time, she took the mantle of Captain Marvel.
In the MCU, Carol is revealed to be an American pilot kidnapped and trained by the Kree race. Her powers result from being exposed to the energy of an experimental engine developed to channel the energies of the Tesseract. As a result, she loses her memories and believes herself to be a Kree who knows too well the extent of her skills and has placed control systems to keep her Binary powers in check.
18 Jane Foster
In the comics, Jane Foster is a nurse working for Donald Blake, Thor’s alter ego. She was also the perpetual damsel in distress of the series, being kidnapped multiple times. After Thor ditched the Blake persona, Jane went to do her own thing. She became a doctor and lived her best life until she got sick with terminal Cancer. In a time when Mjlnoir deemed Thor unworthy, she became the new Thor until she passed away to become the new Valkyrie.
Jane Foster in the MCU is an astrophysicist who studies strange behaviors in the stars. She’s the one to realize the existence of multiple realms within our reality. Jane also bridges Thor to Earth life after Odin banishes him from Asgard to learn humility. She becomes the vessel for the Aether, which eventually makes her sick with Cancer. Mjlnoir would reform after being destroyed by Hela to protect her life, making her the new Mighty Thor.
17 The Skrulls
This alien race is one of the worst pests in the comics. As an invading force, The Skrulls rely on guile and deception to infiltrate the planets they target. Their shapeshifting skills help them infiltrate government, agencies, and society to take hold of the Earth and make things go their way. Once they have weakened all institutions, they reveal themselves fully, submitting the planet and its people by force. They forced the cycle indefinitely after Galactus devoured their home world.
In the MCU, the Skrulls are a benevolent race of shapeshifters seeking refuge on the Earth after The Kree waged war in their home world, forcing them to flee their planet. Led by Talos, the Skrulls strike a deal with Nick Fury to help them find a new planet to live, while some of their trained operatives remain on Earth to assist the former head of SHIELD in keeping all superhero factions in check. They are currently set to play a significant role in the Secret Wars miniseries by Marvel Studios.
Whiplash’s original name is Mark Scarlotti, an electrician technician under Tony Stark’s employment. Jealous for being constantly overlooked as a weapon designer, he decided to go on his own and become a career criminal. Whiplash has faced Iron Man numerous times and served many masters, such as The Maggia, AIM, Justin Hammer, and many more. After his death, two more people would assume the mantle but play a similar role.
In the MCU, Whiplash is a much more complex character. Ivan Vanko is the son of former Stark employee Anton Vanko, who helped develop the Arc Reactor. Anton saw the potential of weaponized technology, while Howard Stark wanted to use it to provide safe energy. Dismissed by Stark, Anton dies bitter and resentful, while his son picks up the pieces for him and recreates the technology to destroy everything Tony Stark has.
The lord of lies and mischief has been the primordial enemy of the Avengers since its first appearance, something honored by Marvel Studios as Loki was the foe to beat in Phase One. Loki’s lies and machinations have no significant purpose; he likes to mess with people because that’s his thing. He plots, misdirects, and deceives because it’s fun to him. Loki has been entangled in multiple games and never seems to learn anything, even when the tables are turned against him.
MCU Loki is an entirely different character. His bold ambition is born from the desire to be accepted and recognized as his brother’s equal. Loki is mostly a tragic figure, as he discovers his origins as a member of the Jotunheim race, which forfeits his chance of becoming Asgard’s ruler. Despite having a strained relationship with his brother Thor, he’s willing to work alongside him as long as it suits his agenda. He meets a hero’s death, but a variant of him still roams after time-traveling shenanigans in Avengers Endgame.
14 Wanda Maximoff
In the comics, Wanda is sister to Pietro Maximoff and daughter to Erik Lensher, also known as the mutant Magneto. Wanda has the mutant ability to manipulate chaotic magic using Hexes; she can harness this power naturally, unlike other mystic beings in the Marvel Universe who must learn to do so by spending years honing their craft. She marries Vision and forms a family with him, only to lose her senses and wipe out the Avengers after a mental breakdown.
Wanda is still Pietro’s sister in the MCU, but she’s been retconned to be an enhanced human through Hydra experiments. Just like her comic counterpart, she can control chaos magic naturally, which she uses to manipulate matter and blast people away. Her sorrow and grief after losing Vision drove her insane and expanded her powers. She takes hold of The Darkholm, a book that teaches how to harness her powers, making her one of the most powerful characters in the MCU.
13 Yelena Belova
Yelena Belova is the second Black Widow in the comics, she has no real relationship with Natasha Romanoff, but she was trained by the Red Room, just like her. Deployed by the GRU to kill Natasha after she becomes an Avenger, Yelena manages to break her programming with the help of Natasha’s and would go on to have a life of her own. She’s been an agent for SHIELD, Vanguard, and HYDRA at one point, even sitting in the high council of AIM as a cybernetically enhanced Super Adaptoid.
Yelena has a much more personal relationship with Natasha in the MCU. She was raised with Natasha as a family with super soldier Alexei Shostakov and spy Melina Vostokoff posing as their father and mother. She grows to become an efficient assassin, highly unapologetic about her line of work, and very confident in her skills. Yelena understands the nuances of her line of work but doesn’t understand too much about how to function as a human being after ditching her Red Room programming.
12 The Guardians of the Galaxy
The original Guardians of the Galaxy was a guerrilla team fighting an ongoing war against the Badoon race in the 31st Century while protecting the Earth and Humanity. The original lineup included members Vance Astro, Martinex T’Naga, Captain Charlie-27, and Yondu Udonta. While the lineup held its own for 29 issues, it was the 2008 incarnation that proved to be more popular, including many of the characters you know and love from the films. The team’s dynamics are similar to the MCU: a ragtag crew of misfits banded together to protect the universe.
Things changed quite a bit in the MCU with the team consisting of Starlord, Gamora, Draxx, Rocket Raccoon, and Groot. The group came to be almost by accident as they were all bounty hunters chasing the Power Stone while Gamora was hunting it to give it to her father, the warlord Thanos. Their unique family dynamic made the team popular, as their inner turmoil fuels their relationships. They finally gathered for one final run in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.3, James Gunn sawn song to the MCU.
The terrorist organization was formed as the remnants of Nazism in the Marvel Universe. Notable members include The Red Skull, Baron Zemo, Arnim Zolla, and many more. While their story is complex and their achievements mixed, HYDRA peaked with Operation Secret Empire. This storyline proved highly controversial, as a recently reshaped Steve Rogers was revealed to be a HYDRA sleeper agent planted by the Red Skull in the US Army. Cap would become the Supreme Hydra and take over America while keeping every hero in a stalemate.
In the MCU, HYDRA has a similar origin, but after failing in World War II, they became a sleeper organization, experimenting on human beings to create enhanced soldiers. Their plan to overtake America nearly came to fruition during Captain America: The Winter Soldier, as they sprinted into action, taking out Nick Fury, Steve, and Natasha with the help of The Winter Soldier. Their goal was to use the newly designed set of helicarriers to wipe out every superhero or person of interest, representing a menace to their long-term plans.
10 Nick Fury
Nick Fury was the premiere super spy of the Marvel Universe during the Cold War era. He eventually became the man in charge behind SHIELD, funding multiple shadow agencies to keep the powers-to-be in check. Nick Fury is a master strategist that never lets himself be blinded by anyone. He’s always two steps ahead in the game from everyone else. He eventually relinquishes control to his younger son, Nick Fury Jr., and Maria Hill to become the new Watcher.
In the MCU, Nick Fury started as a field agent for SHIELD assigned to Vers (later revealed to be Carol Danvers). He learns enough about shadow operations to earn a station as the lead SHIELD operative in Colombia, where he rescues the daughter of then-director Alexander Pierce, prompting Pierce to make Fury director of SHIELD. Nick is the man who knows all the bodies are in the MCU; he’s above any security clearance as he’s likely the one setting them up in the first place. The only time he’s been caught off guard was during the HYDRA takeover.
9 Tony Stark
In the comics, Tony Stark is a womanizer and alcoholic but an incredibly talented weapon designer and inventor. Tony can improve and enhance any technological design. His pursuit of knowledge is usually motivated by profits. However, he does have a philanthropic side to his endeavors. From the start, he’s the sole financial backer of the Avengers, establishing the Maria Stark Foundation to manage the team’s operations.
In the MCU, Tony Stark is the leading weapon supplier to the US Army. He retires the company from the weapon’s race after getting shrapnel in his chest from one of his missiles. Tony is a playboy, womanizer, and somewhat selfish billionaire who slowly embraces his demons to become better. Of all the original Avengers, Tony has some of the best character development, eventually overcoming his selfish nature to become a husband and father, willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to ensure the world’s survival.
8 Bruce Banner
Bruce Banner endured a life of abuse at the hands of his father until he managed to find the strength to run away. The mild-mannered man grew up to become an exceptional scientist while withholding all his rage and feelings of unease as well as all his insecurities. While testing the Gamma bomb, his maximum achievement, he saved Rick Jones from the test site. The radiation unleashed the monster within him, and The Hulk became the embodiment of power and rage personified in the Marvel Universe for years.
In the MCU, Bruce Banner has a similar background, but Banner seems more in control of the beast. He is still prone to lose control due to external forces, as seen in Avengers: Age of Ultron, but Banner is self-aware enough to understand he’s a menace to society. The Hulk reflects these feelings by exiling himself to the planet Sakaar to become a Gladiator. Driven to Asgard during the events of Thor Ragnarok, Hulk learns what fear is after Thanos beats him to a pulp. Years later, Banner would learn how to blend both personalities into the Smart Hulk persona.
In the comics, Thor was banished from Asgard by his father, Odin, to learn humility after a show of arrogance. Thor was a founding Avenger and has been with the team for most of their story. The God of Thunder belongs to the Asgardian pantheon, and he’s been alive for thousands of years. However, his human physiology works similarly to ours, with him having a vague recollection of events that transpired hundreds of years ago. He’s had multiple alter egos over the years, with Donald Blake being his most recurring disguise.
The MCU Thor has a similar background, but his story is wild. After learning humility thanks to a beating from the Destroyer, Thor mourns his dead brother Loki, only to find out he’s alive and working as the hired muscle for Thanos. During the events of Dark World, he loses his mother to Malekith. He loses his hammer, his father, and his sister to Surtur, the God who ends Asgard following the prophecy of Ragnarok. He fails to defeat Thanos in time, allowing the blip to happen. He barely manages to get a hold of himself after exploring the Galaxy with the Guardians and becoming a dad after the events of Thor: Love & Thunder.
6 Steve Rogers
In the comics, Steve Rogers was the meek kid who wanted to serve but didn’t have what it takes to become a soldier. His persistence, however, is noticed by the Army, who enroll him as one of the candidates for “Project Rebirth.” The Super Soldier serum would enhance Steve to become the perfect soldier. The longtime career of Cap in the comics has seen him take multiple political stances while providing social commentary about the issues affecting the American people.
MCU Steve has a similar origin, but he’s always portrayed as the man out of time. The gap of time lost for him in the film is wider, frozen for nearly 70 years. Steve struggles to understand our world and loses himself in his orders. He finally takes a stand after the events of the Civil War when the registration act is passed. Steve fights for what he believes is correct, but he’s given a chance to return the Infinity Stones after Endgame; he chooses to stay in his time and live the life he was denied at the service of his country.
5 Bucky Barnes
The original Bucky Barnes was a young sidekick given to Captain America in his debut in 1941 simply because every hero of the time was expected to have a young sidekick. Retroactive continuity has made Bucky a complex character, but his primary origin remains as depicted in Avengers #4, cover dated March of 1964. He’s a young soldier who joins Captain America in multiple adventures after discovering this secret identity. Baron Zemo would shoot him down after the villain attempted to launch a nuclear strike in the USA.
In the MCU, Bucky Banner was Steve’s best friend and the campus Jock, as he was everything Steve wished to be: handsome, tall, and a hit with the ladies. He was deployed in the 107th Infantry Regiment but was captured by HYDRA. After falling to his death during an operation, he was rescued by the Soviet Army and restrained by Hydra to become the Winter Soldier. While this took place in the comics as well, Bucky didn’t overcome his brainwashing with the help of Wakandan technology as he did in the films.
4 Scott Lang
The debut of Scott Lang in the MCU is close to his comic counterpart. Scott is a former convict and electronic expert working for Stark International. Needing to secure funding to treat an unknown illness affecting his daughter, Scott seems tempted to turn back to crime after stealing the Ant-Man technology. Hank Pym discovers this and offers to make him an Avenger instead. He served in the team for a long time until The Scarlet Witch killed him during the events of Avengers Disassembled.
In the MCU, Scott is a hustler who finds the Ant-Man suit almost accidentally. After Hank Pym finds out, he offers to train him. As a former convict, Lang does his best to lead an honest life. He’s estranged from his wife but keeps a close relationship with his daughter, who eventually grows to become the new hero Stature, with powers similar to his dad. His narrow path leads him to join Cap’s side during the Civil War, only to find himself lost in the quantum realm for five years after the blip.
Stephen Strange has few differences from his comic counterpart to be much notable on this list. However, his manservant Wong it’s a different character from the one we see in the comics. In the regular Marvel Universe, Wong stems from a family of monks living in Kamar-Taj. His lineage trains in the occult arts to serve the Sorcerer Supreme. In the comics, Wong has had a few adventures of his own, usually family-related business, which Stephen helps him resolve.
In the MCU, Wong takes over the mantle of the Sorcerer Supreme after Stephen is lost in the blip. He’s the principal librarian in the temple of Kamar-Taj and the safe keeper of the relics in the Sancto Santorum. The MCU Wong is also a total party animal, as he has to appear in court for reforming The Abomination and having a friendship with Madisynn King after Donny Blaze victimized her.
2 Peter Parker
Marvel’s flagship character is the perpetual punching bag of creatives in comic books. Orphaned since childhood, Peter grew up with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben. Being the perpetual nerd in high school didn’t do him any favors until a radioactive Spider bit him in a science exposition. As Spider-Man, he has one of the most notorious rogue galleries in comics while managing to have one of the worst personal lives in comic-dome, yet scoring a marriage to hot super-model Mary Jane Watson.
MCU Peter begins his life as a high school senior who similarly gets his powers. Tony Stark recruits him to take the pro-registration side. After that, he goes on to have adventures, always under the tutelage of Tony Stark. Happy Hogan took over for Tony after the events of Endgame. Peter has to endure a massive loss after Spider-Man’s No Way Home, by losing his aunt May and having Dr. Strange erase him from the world’s memories after enemies from another dimension start to invade his reality.
The mad titan is very different from the one we see in the comics. In the Marvel Universe, Thanos is an eternal deviant warlord from Titan; He’s madly in love with Death, who always appears before him as an anthropomorphic representation of a woman, demanding tribute to love him back. In his long comic book tenure, Thanos has been the architect of multiple schemes, but he’s best known for gathering the Infinity Gems and using their power to erase half the universe’s life to prove his love to death.
MCU Thanos has a more altruistic approach to his scheme (if you can call them that). He plans to wipe out half the universe’s population to ensure the continued existence of life. His plan has sparked numerous debates, with real-life personalities taking his side and reasoning his position. Thanos in the MCU is no empath. He’s a bloodthirsty warrior with a convenient goal, which he manages to fulfill until Earth’s heroes find a way to revert his accomplishments.
In conclusion, this film has captivated audiences with its mesmerizing storytelling, compelling performances, and stunning visuals. It has transported us to worlds both familiar and unknown, evoking a range of emotions that have left a lasting impact. The director’s artistic vision and the collaborative efforts of the cast and crew have brought this story to life in a truly extraordinary way. From the gripping plot twists to the heartfelt moments of connection, this film has reminded us of the power of cinema to inspire, entertain, and provoke thought.
Whether you’re a fan of the genre or simply a lover of great storytelling , this film is not to be missed. It’s a testament to the magic of filmmaking and serves as a reminder of the profound impact that movies can have on our lives. So grab your popcorn, sit back, and immerse yourself in this cinematic masterpiece.