With the upcoming release of “Doctor Strange,” Marvel will yet again be tapping into the unknown in hopes of creating mainstream success from lesser-known characters, a strategy that has worked well for the company, as evidenced by “Ant-Man” and “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
Here is a list of 10 heroes figuring into Marvel's and DC's future plans who mainstream audiences may not know as well as Batman, Superman, Iron Man and Captain America.
Marvel Cinematic Universe
Here are five lesser-known heroes scheduled for major future roles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Dr. Stephen Strange, known simply as Doctor Strange, is a neurosurgeon who was in a car crash, severely damaging his hands. In an effort to fix his hands, he comes across the Ancient One, who teaches him how to use magic and enables him to become known as the Sorcerer Supreme, the primary protector of Earth from magical and mystical threats.
Doctor Strange made his first comic book appearance in “Strange Tales, No. 111." He is played by Benedict Cumberbatch in the film, out Nov. 4. This is the first time the Marvel Cinematic Universe has ventured into magic.
Yondu is a blue-skinned mercenary in “Guardians of the Galaxy” and leader of the Ravagers, a group that spends much of the film hunting an orb the Star-Lord has. In the comics, starting with "Marvel Super-Heroes, Vol. 1, No. 18," Yondu was one of the founding members of the Guardians of the Galaxy and is set to play a larger role with the group in “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2,” scheduled for a May 5 release.
Director James Gunn said in a post on his Facebook page that the Ravagers play a major role in the upcoming sequel and are upset at Yondu for letting Star-Lord go without any reprisal. Michael Rooker, who plays Yondu, made an appearance with the cast at the 2016 San Diego Comic Con and was heavily featured in footage shown there, according to collider.com.
T’Challa, known by his superhero name Black Panther, made his Marvel Cinematic Universe debut in “Captain America: Civil War" and was played by Chadwick Boseman. In the movie, he is out for revenge against Bucky Barnes after T’Challa’s father, the king of the fictional African nation of Wakanda, is killed. His Black Panther suit is made of vibranium, the same metal as Captain America’s shield.
In the comics, Black Panther is the leader of Wakanda and first made his comic book appearance in “Fantastic Four, No. 52." The “Black Panther” movie is scheduled for a Feb. 16, 2018, release and will be directed by Ryan Coogler.
In the Ant-Man comics, Janet van Dyne was the romantic partner of Hank Pym, and the two formed the superhero duo of Ant-Man (Pym) and the Wasp (van Dyne). In the comic book, “The Avengers, No. 1," the two characters are founding members of the Avengers, along with Iron Man, Thor and Hulk.
The film version of “Ant-Man” featured an older Hank Pym recruiting Scott Lang, played by Paul Rudd, as the new Ant-Man after Janet van Dyne had been missing and presumed dead following one of their missions. Hank’s daughter, Hope van Dyne, played by Evangeline Lilly, is teased to take on the mantle of the Wasp in a post-credits scene. Lilly and Rudd will reprise their roles in the sequel “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” scheduled for release July 6, 2018.
The first female-led superhero movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be “Captain Marvel,” scheduled for release March 8, 2019. Carol Danvers is Captain Marvel, who has been known by several different names over the years, including Ms. Marvel (“Ms. Marvel, No. 1”), Binary (“Uncanny X-Men, No. 164”) and Warbird (“The Avengers, No. 4”) before being referred to as Captain Marvel for the first time in “Avenging Spider-Man, Vol. 1 No. 9” in 2012.
Captain Marvel has superhuman strength, endurance, stamina, the ability to fly, physical durability, a precognitive sixth sense and is resistant to most toxins and poisons. She will be played by Brie Larson, who recently won an Oscar for best actress for her performance in “Room.” The character is sheduled to show up in “Avengers: Infinity War” in 2018 before her solo movie debuts.
DC Extended Universe
While there are fewer films in the DC Extended Universe than the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a long list of upcoming movies about DC characters have more than the typical Batman and Superman. Here are five lesser known heroes making their way to the big screen.
While the name and appearance of Wonder Woman are recognizable to many, her history is a mystery to many outside the comic book realm. Wonder Woman first showed up in 1941 in “All Star Comics, No. 8” as an Amazonian princess and demigoddess named Princess Diana of Themyscira. She is around 5,000 years old and possesses superhuman abilities in addition to having been trained in many forms of modern and ancient combat.
Wonder Woman goes by her secret identity of Diana Prince and, despite her age, has only been introduced to non-Amazonian culture within the last few hundred years. She is portrayed by Gal Gadot in the DC Extended Universe and showed up in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” earlier this year. Her first live-action solo film, "Wonder Woman," is scheduled to debut next summer on June 2.
Arthur Curry, known as Aquaman, debuted in “More Fun Comics, No. 73.” Aquaman’s origins have been told a few different ways in the comics, but the common theme is he is able to live and thrive under water as well as communicate and control underwater wildlife. He is associated with the mythical city of Atlantis.
Aquaman made a brief cameo in the movie “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and will be officially introduced in next year’s “Justice League,” which is scheduled for release Nov. 17, 2017. He will be played by Jason Momoa. His solo movie, "Aquaman" is scheduled to be released July 27, 2018.
Victor Stone, known as Cyborg, is a founding member of the Justice League in the New 52 comics re-launch of the Justice League. In this iteration, which began with “Justice League, Vol. 2, No. 2,” Victor Stone is a high school football star who gets caught in an explosion, killing many scientists and destroying most of Victor's body. He is experimentally put together as a cyborg, where he gains a unique skill set useful to the Justice League.
Cyborg made a brief cameo in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” He is scheduled to appear in “Justice League” next year as well as in Rick Famuylwa’s “The Flash,” scheduled for March 16, 2018, before appearing in his solo film, "Cyborg" scheduled for April 3, 2020.
Billy Batson was known as Captain Marvel for many years before DC switched his name to Shazam in 2012 to avoid legal issues with Marvel’s character of the same name, according to newsarama.com. In the New 52 version of the story, "Justice League, Vol. 2, No. 0," Billy is a kid who gets magical powers from a dying wizard after most of the Council of Wizards are killed by a villain named Black Adams. Billy just has to speak the word “Shazam” to enable his powers.
“Shazam!” is scheduled for release April 5, 2019. While the character of Billy Batson has not been cast, Dwayne Johnson has been cast to play Black Adams.
John Constantine, sometimes known as Hellblazer, is a hero who fights supernatural forces from heaven and hell, using powerful sorcery when he has to but mostly his cunning wit and trickery to defeat opponents.
Constantine first showed up in “The Saga of the Swamp Thing, No. 37" in 1985 before getting his own series of comics a few years later. He was portrayed by Keanu Reeves in the 2005 film “Constantine” and in 2014 by Matt Ryan in the NBC TV series “Constantine,” which lasted one season before being canceled.
In 2013, director Guillermo del Toro announced plans for a "Justice League Dark" film that would be led by Constantine, which was later accepted by Warner Bros. into the DC Extended Universe. After del Toro left the project, Variety reported in August that Doug Liman had been hired to direct the film, which would include John Constantine, Swamp Thing, Deadman, Zatanna and Etrigan the Demon. A release date for the movie has not been set.