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Will We Ever See Wonder Man In A Marvel Movie?

In spite of all the superheroes we've seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and those we expect to be introduced to in the not-too-distant future, one of the earliest Avengers remains absent from the big screen. The ionic hero Simon Williams, aka Wonder Man, has yet to make an appearance in the MCU. 

Honestly, Wonder Man's absence isn't a huge surprise. When it comes to more casual fans who know the movies better than the source material, Wonder Man might not even be a blip on their radar screen. And even in the comics, Wonder Man doesn't have a huge presence. He tends to show up as a regular in Avengers titles every few years, and then he disappears for another year or two without any resounding fan outcry for his return. 

But due largely to a near-miss cameo in one of Marvel Studios' more popular franchises, the idea of Wonder Man joining the big-screen mythology became a possibility fans couldn't ignore. We don't have a crystal ball, but we think we might have a few insights into whether or not we'll ever see Wonder Man in a Marvel movie.

Who is Wonder Man?

Simon Williams starts his life in the comics in 1964's Avengers #9 as a man thrust into the family business after his father's death. Still young and inexperienced, Simon isn't as adept at running Williams Innovations as his father was, and it doesn't take long for the company to get into trouble. Things go from bad to worse when Simon takes his brother Eric's advice and steals money from the company to invest in illegal enterprises. Simon escapes a jail sentence only because of the intervention of the Masters of Evil, and he agrees to undergo experiments that give him his incredible abilities. 

As a result of the experiments, Simon is infused with ionic energy. Initially his main powers are super strength and invulnerability, though later, he gains the ability to fly. In more recent comics, his ionic energy has proven much more versatile. He's been able to use it to teleport, to change his size and physical shape, and to quickly heal himself. 

Wonder Man was a staple of the Avengers comics for years. He was one of the founding members of the West Coast Avengers and Force Works. He was also an early addition to the Avengers Unity Division (aka the Uncanny Avengers), a team comprised of half-mutants and half-non-mutants in the wake of the 2012 event Avengers vs. X-Men

Wonder Man almost had a cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Before the release of 2017's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, fans were excited about the set photos that had surfaced showing Gunn's friend and frequent collaborator Nathan Fillion as Simon Williams. Specifically, he appeared in posters for movies on the wall outside a theater where the marquee announced a "Simon Williams Film Festival." Among the posters was what appeared to be a biopic titled Tony Stark, with Simon Williams playing the titular billionaire. 

Since the theater appears to be on Earth while most of Vol. 2 is set in space and on other planets, it seems likely the Guardians of the Galaxy Easter egg would've shown up later in the film when we see Ego's seedlings rapidly grow and start to overtake other planets, Earth among them. Sadly, the shots of the movie posters were cut because they interrupted the flow of the story. Still, Gunn has told fans that until they hear different, they should consider it canon that Simon Williams exists in the MCU. Although, that begs the question of whether or not the MCU's Simon Williams is Wonder Man.

Nathan Fillion is game to play Simon Williams

While his cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was left on the cutting room floor, Nathan Fillion does seem more than willing to pick up the phone if/when Marvel calls him to play the ionic Avenger. 

Speaking on the Canadian radio program The Ara Show on KISS FM in June 2017 (via Screen Rant), Fillion hinted at the possibility of taking a crack at the role in the future for something more substantial than movie posters. "[The Easter egg] didn't get into the movie," Fillion said. "That's fine. That happens all the time. I still had the same wonderful experience. But moving forward, I don't know, let me see what we can do with this opportunity. That's just a cleverly disguised opportunity. Am I right?"

Of course, Fillion's willingness to play the role doesn't make it a lock. And even if Wonder Man is brought into the MCU, there's no guarantee Fillion would still be playing him. But knowing that a high-profile actor like Fillion is interested in playing the Avenger certainly doesn't hurt his chances in making it to the big screen. Plus, there's no doubt plenty of fans of the cult favorite show Firefly — in which Fillion starred as Captain Malcolm Reynolds — would be thrilled to see the actor in a prominent Marvel role. 

He could debut as a bad guy

One potential way to bring Wonder Man into the MCU is to handle him the same way 2015's Avengers: Age of Ultron introduced us to Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver — to start him out as a bad guy who eventually redeems himself.

In fact, that's exactly how Simon Williams premieres in the comics. After Baron Zemo of the Masters of Evil gives Simon Williams his new ionic powers, he orders Williams to infiltrate the Avengers. To secure Williams' loyalty, he reveals that the energy flowing through him will kill him without regular treatments administered by Zemo. Wonder Man does as he's told and wins the trust of the Avengers. But after leading them into an ambush, Simon decides his life isn't worth such a betrayal, and he turns on Zemo. The Masters of Evil's plans are defeated, and as promised, Wonder Man dies ... but not really. 

Years later, it's revealed that without the benefit of Zemo's treatments, Wonder Man fell into a deep coma rather than dying. Simon's brother, Eric, takes on the villainous identity of the Grim Reaper and — with the help of the voodoo-flavored villain Black Talon — revives Wonder Man. Simon rejoins the Avengers soon afterward, though his experience leaves him wracked with fear over the possibility of dying.

Wonder Man could lead a new team of Revengers

If you saw 2017's Thor: Ragnarok, then you may remember "the Revengers" — the name Thor improvises for his team-up with Hulk, Valkyrie, and Loki. Well, it isn't just a name the thunder god came up with on the fly. There have actually been a few incarnations of the Revengers. The first team to call itself the Revengers were villains of an alternate reality in 1999's A-Next #12. The next version of the Revengers — evil versions of the Avengers from a universe called the Cancerverse — show up in the 2009 line-wide event War of Kings. But the first version of the team to show up in Marvel's prime reality is led by Wonder Man.

Suffering from mental illness and blaming the Avengers for the destruction caused by the superhero Civil War, Scarlet Witch, the Hulk, and others, Wonder Man forms the Revengers to shut down the Avengers for good. Simon finds allies in heroes who feel ignored by the Avengers, some who want revenge and a few who agree the team does more harm than good. In 2011's New Avengers Annual #1, the Revengers surprise and overwhelm the Avengers Mansion and its resident heroes. The story continues in Avengers Annual #1, when Wonder Man calls a press conference in front of Avengers Tower to publicly accuse the heroes of deception and ineptitude. The combined might of the Avengers and New Avengers easily overwhelms the Revengers, but Simon succeeds in injecting doubt about the Earth's mightiest heroes into the public discourse.

He's a reluctant hero

One aspect of Wonder Man that could be interesting to explore in the films is the fact that, for one reason or another, he often winds up not wanting to be a hero. 

In some instances, he's been lured away from full-time crimefighting by the fame and fortune of Hollywood. A couple of years after he's revived from his coma, Simon decides to try his hand at acting. He leaves the Avengers eventually and moves to Los Angeles. His ionically powered body makes him a great fit for stunt work, and he starts getting acting gigs as well. In fact, he's working on the set of a movie when Fantastic Four's Thing finds him and the villainous alien Xemnu in 1981's Marvel Two-In-One #78. He agrees to become part of Hawkeye's new West Coast Avengers, but he still continues acting. Of course, the premiere of one of his films is interrupted by a brawl with the Abomination in 1987's West Coast Avengers #25.

Besides the temptation of Hollywood, Wonder Man often finds himself wrestling with something we don't often see superheroes working very hard to overcome — fear. After "dying" in his first appearance and being revived, Wonder Man often finds himself frozen by the fear of once again succumbing to the inevitable. It's a very human and very understandable response to physical danger, yet it's something we almost never see in the world of masked heroes. Seeing it on the big screen could be refreshing.

Wonder Man missed his chance to help make Vision

In Avengers: Age of Ultron, we see the efforts of the sentient robot Ultron and the Avengers to bring the Vision to life. But compared to the comics, the android's creation is missing one key ingredient — Simon Williams' brain. 

In 1968's Avengers #57, Ultron sends the Vision after the Avengers. However, the android exerts his own free will and turns on Ultron. Then in an interesting turn of events, in the following issue, we learn that Ultron used the presumed-dead Wonder Man to help bring Vision to life. After Wonder Man's "death" back in Avengers #9, Hank Pym and Iron Man preserved the hero's brain patterns in memory banks. Ultron got his hands on the memory banks and imprinted Simon Williams' brain patterns onto his robotic creation.

This revelation has made the relationship between Wonder Man and Vision strained at times, including a bitter love triangle between Vision, Simon, and Scarlet Witch. It's also made Vision and Scarlet Witch regular targets of Simon's twisted brother, the Grim Reaper.

WandaVision could be a possible entry point for Wonder Man

The Disney+ miniseries WandaVision is scheduled to be released in December 2020. While there's no word about his involvement, there are some reasons to think it would be the perfect way to introduce Simon Williams to the MCU. 

For one, a story focusing on Scarlet Witch and Vision would be ideal for Wonder Man's introduction because of his strong ties to the pair. Since Vision's brain patterns are based on Simon's in the comics, Wonder Man might have something to do with how Vision has been resurrected in WandaVision. Simon also has strong ties to Wanda. Simon is killed in 1994's Force Works #1, and it's Wanda's love for the ionic hero that allows her powers to bring him back to life in 1998's Avengers #11.

There's also the bizarre setting of WandaVision. We don't know a lot yet about the series, but we know that Vision and Wanda are apparently going to appear in different settings reminiscent of television sitcoms from different eras. Considering Simon Williams' acting career, there might not be any better doorway for the Avenger into the Marvel Studios narrative.

Wonder Man is doubly derivative

One thing that could stand in the way of Wonder Man entering the MCU is that he feels derivative of not one but two of DC's most popular characters. 

First, there's the name. For those not familiar with the character, just reading the name "Wonder Man" is a little strange. You might even think someone made a typo and meant to write the name of the much more popular Wonder Woman. Second, there's his power set. While the ionic source of his abilities allows for more versatility like shape-shifting and teleporting, it can be tough to not see Wonder Man as a poor man's Superman. He's an invulnerable, super strong, flying guy whose eyes constantly glow either red or purple.

With this in mind — and the fact that James Gunn cast Nathan Fillion as Simon Williams in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2's cut cameo — it seems possible and perhaps even likely that if Wonder Man does ever show up in the MCU, it will be mainly as a joke. To more contemporary ears, the name "Wonder Man" sounds not only derivative of Wonder Woman but like a name someone would come up with for a superhero parody. And Fillion's already played a number of memorable superhero goofs. He played the Christian-themed Holy Avenger in James Gunn's Super and the obnoxious Captain Hammer in Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog.

A hero who doesn't think with his fists

In his most recent appearances, Wonder Man has taken a unique approach to the superhero lifestyle. When Simon agrees to join the Avengers Unity Division in 2013's Uncanny Avengers #5, he does so with the understanding that he's now a pacifist.

It's a philosophy Simon sticks to even when under extreme threat. In 2018's Avengers #685-86, Wonder Man stands firm against the newly resurrected Immortal Hulk on his way to tear into a vault. Simon takes a savage beating from the Hulk and never lifts a finger to defend himself, trying instead to talk the man-monster down. Thor, Hercules, and Rogue eventually show up and attack the Hulk, and even then, Simon protests that he could "reach" Banner without his teammates' help.

If Wonder Man does show up in the movies, he won't necessarily be a pacifist. After all, even in the comics, it takes decades for Simon Williams to walk down that particular path. However, it could be an interesting direction to take. We've never seen a pacifist superhero on the big screen, and you could argue the idea makes a lot of sense. Who better to be a pacifist than someone who bullets can't hurt? 

If Wonder Man comes to the MCU, he probably won't be a headliner

If Wonder Man does show up in the MCU, don't expect him to take the place by the storm. 

Wonder Man's rarely been very popular for very long. The ionic Avenger had an ongoing series that didn't quite make it to its 30th issue in the early '90s. Besides that, he had his own one-shot in 1986 and a 2006-2007 five-issue miniseries. There tend to be long absences between his regular appearances in the Avengers titles. 

He almost was the hero of one of Marvel's darkest fan-favorite stories. In a 2006 foreword written for trade paperback collections of Kraven's Last Hunt — a story in which Kraven the Hunter puts Spider-Man in a coma, buries him, and takes his place — writer J.M. DeMatteis claimed the original concept was meant for a Wonder Man miniseries. The Marvel executive editor at the time, Tom DeFalco, rejected it, and the story eventually evolved to be about Spider-Man. Who knows if Simon Williams would be as popular in the real world as he is in Marvel's fictional Hollywood if he'd remained the focus of that classic tale?

But we could be wrong. After all, some of the MCU's most popular properties are led by heroes whose comic books have rarely been great sellers. Black Panther, Doctor Strange, and the Guardians of the Galaxy were all low on the sales list before their movies made millions.