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How to Solve Marvel's Villain Problem

Yes, you read that correctly. As the title suggests, I believe that the idea I am about to share with you COULD fix Marvel's infamous villain problem. A bold claim, I know, but if you read on, I will explain. For as beloved and lorded over as the Disney-made Marvel Cinematic Universe is, even its most dedicated fans have criticised it for some of its antagonists. Don't get me wrong, some are great: Loki, Vulture, Killmonger, and even on the TV side we have Kingpin, Killgrave, and Cottonmouth.


However these are exceptional characters, in every sense of the word, because for every Loki there are five Ronans, for every Killgrave there's a Jessica Jones's mum, and for some reason they keep repeating The Hand. Every bad baddy is bad for a number of good reasons, like they aren't interesting, or they're just an evil version of the hero, or whatever it may be; but arguably the main insult levelled against the poorer of the Marvel Menaces is that they aren't relatable. All the most compelling crooks, even outside of comics, are people that the audience can empathise with on some level, and see where they're coming from, even if that doesn't necessarily justify their heinous acts. And yes, you could say, "well just write them better, simple as!" But often times that's not an option. These big tent pole blockbusters need to establish a hero and supporting cast that can carry not only their first solo movie, but a further two after that, as well as featuring in ensemble films. Development for a villain who we'll never see again tends to fall by the wayside, but therein lies the solution: don't kill them!


Almost every enemy the heroes of Marvel have come up against have died doing so, regardless of how compelling they were to watch. The MCU has shown a one-and-done attitude when it comes to evil-doers, when they should be taking the comic book approach of recycling. When a villain is thwarted in a comic, they usually go to a prison of some description, swearing their revenge on the hero for doing them wrong, and more often than not, getting the chance a few issues later.


In Captain America: Civil War the ultra-maximum-security prison the Raft was introduced and said to have been specifically designed to house enhanced individuals. But the thing is (spoilers for that movie), Cap breaks his mates out at the end so it’s left me wondering: who’s in the bloody thing? It can’t be the other villains we’ve seen because they’re all dead or incarcerated elsewhere. Why build the deficit tripling, submersible superjail if there are no Supers to put in it?


I understand the reluctance to retread old ground, but you can bring existing characters back in a different context to the one they first appeared in, and add a bit more to them; flesh them out piece by piece until they're interesting, do some retcons if you have to. Which brings me to how I would recommend rectifying this. Two words: The Thunderbolts!


For anyone who doesn't know (and I imagine that's most of you), the T-bolts are effectively Marvel's Suicide Squad: a team of bad guys, doing good. In the case of the original team, it was a handful of bottom-tier bad guys, pretending to be a new superhero team for the ultimate goal of taking advantage of the public trust and the access afforded to the superhero community, to take over the world.


A lofty ambition, to be sure, but they almost pull it off, the only thing that stopped them was their consciences. Doing heroic deeds and being praised instead of persecuted for once in their sorry lives actually reformed this bunch of misfits, so much so that it stuck and they turned against their wicked leader in order to save the world.


It also did wonders for their history in print. Characters like The Beetle, Screaming Mimi, and The Fixer were one dimensional at best, even their names were unimpressive. But in The Thunderbolts they were shown the care and attention necessary to form unique thoughts and ambitions.


Admittedly the MCU does seem to be making strides in this direction, having Ronan the Accuser show up in Captain Marvel this year, after he was an benign and prosaic foil to the Guardians of the Galaxy, which does inspire hope, but there's still a long way to go. My point is that sparing the Malakeths and Ultrons of this universe from their untimely demises would be good, but throwing a few of them together, along with some new characters, in their own films might add that extra layer of depth needed to turn critics around on them… also money!


Trucks full of money, in case Marvel/Disney need any more motivation to make this incredibly logical move.

So that's my pitch for a Thunderbolts movie. I hope you all enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I still have so much more left to say on the subject, but for the purpose of not boring my editor to death, I implore anyone who wants to hear more to tweet @Mooscittles and share with me your thoughts. And of course, make sure to follow @superinkarts as well.


Written by Kyle J.