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The real reason why we haven't seen these Marvel characters in the MCU yet

Most comic book fans have a favorite superhero or at least a favorite superhero group. For example, you might love the Avengers and Spider-Man, but your heart belongs to the X-Men. And you might've been happy with the announcement of every MCU project, but you may still find yourself asking, "Hey, where's my favorite?" Where's the Silver Surfer, Alpha Flight, or the Fantastic Four?

Marvel Comics boasts a deep well of characters to adapt from decades of publication, so Marvel Studios already had hundreds of characters to choose from for future films. Disney's 2019 acquisition of 20th Century Fox — including the film rights to the X-Men and the Fantastic Four — opened up even more possibilities. But even if Marvel Studios sees potential in a particular character, that doesn't mean they're going to adapt it right away. There are only so many movies Marvel Studios can make in any given year, and even with its slate of Disney+ mini-series, there are plenty of characters we'll have to wait for. And there are some characters that, sadly, may never show up in the MCU at all. 

Whether they're heroes or villains, whether their absence has more to do with creative reasons or film rights, here are the real reasons we haven't seen the following characters in the MCU. 

Silver Surfer will have to wait for the Fantastic Four

Norrin Radd, aka the Silver Surfer, is one of Marvel's more deeply tragic heroes. In order to save his homeworld from the planet-devouring Galactus, Radd agrees to become his herald — searching the spaceways for other planets to sate Galactus' hunger. He later stands up to Galactus in order to save the Earth, and he's forced to confront the immeasurable death and destruction he enabled as a herald. 

Silver Surfer made his live-action debut in the 2007 bomb Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer, a year before the MCU was born with Iron Man. There were widespread rumors the space hero would make an appearance in 2018's Avengers: Infinity War. But as it turned out, both Infinity War and 2019's Avengers: Endgame came and went without any sign of the Surfer. 

The first and most obvious reason for Surfer's MCU absence is that until Disney's acquisition of Fox, Marvel Studios didn't have the film rights. While the acquisition began in 2018, it wasn't finalized until March 2019. And in most likelihood  Silver Surfer is going to have to wait in line until after the introduction of the Fantastic Four. Unless Marvel Studios plans to drastically change his origin, Silver Surfer can't be introduced without Galactus. While Galactus could be featured without the Fantastic Four, it seems unlikely. Galactus is very much tied to the FF's story. Introducing him to the MCU outside a Fantastic Four film would be like premiering Loki outside Thor or the Red Skull in a Spider-Man flick. 

Adam Warlock needs the right time to appear in the MCU

To Marvel Comics fans, one of the most conspicuous absences from the MCU's Infinity Saga is the cosmic savior Adam Warlock. Warlock is referenced a couple of times in the films — most notably in one of the many mid-credits scenes for 2017's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 — but so far, Warlock is a no-show. In fact, in spite of the big hint dropped in the second Guardians film, writer/director James Gunn has gone on record to say Adam isn't a lock for the third movie. 

Warlock is one of the most pivotal figures of the 1991 mini-series Infinity Gauntlet, upon which Infinity War and Endgame take much of their inspiration. In fact, after the events of Infinity Gauntlet, it's Adam Warlock who takes ownership of the Infinity Gems and forms a new team — the Infinity Watch — to help him responsibly act as steward to the powerful artifacts.

While Warlock's absence from the Infinity Saga is regrettable, it's understandable. Warlock's prominence in Infinity Gauntlet is based on a long history of conflict between Warlock and Thanos. But when the MCU's Thanos struck in Infinity War, all we'd seen of Adam Warlock were Easter eggs. Bringing Warlock into that already crowded film would mean making time for another origin story. Regardless of the source material, the time just wasn't right for Warlock. Here's hoping we'll finally see him in the third Guardians film. 

Namor's film rights are complicated

Namor the Sub-Mariner is one of Marvel's earliest heroes. The aquatic hero first shows up in 1939's Marvel Comics #1 and his battle with the original Human Torch — spanning 1940's Marvel Mystery Comics #8-#10 — is often considered the moment the Marvel Universe was created, since it established that two heroes from two different comics existed in the same narrative.

The main reason Namor hasn't shown up in the MCU has to do with film rights. Universal Studios acquired the film rights to Namor in the '90s. While we don't know exactly when it happened, in 2014, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige confirmed that by that point, the film rights to the Sub-Mariner had reverted back to Marvel, but the situation was still complicated. No one has confirmed it, but it seems likely that Namor's situation is similar to the Hulk's — i.e., it may be that while Marvel Studios has the film rights to Namor, Universal still holds the distribution rights. Meaning that, just as it's been with the Hulk, Marvel could include Namor in a movie but not in a solo film. 

It's seeming more and more likely that Namor is on the way, though it will probably be a while before we know for sure. There are some persistent rumors that Namor will be the villain of the upcoming Black Panther 2, and in April 2020, Avengers: Endgame co-writer Christopher Markus confirmed the mention of an underwater Earthquake in the film was a reference to Namor. 

The X-Men may need more time

Once Disney's acquisition of Fox was announced, a lot of fans seemed to think the X-Men's MCU debut would come relatively quickly, with some even posting crazy theories about the mutants being introduced with the release of Avengers: Endgame.

Unfortunately, it seems likely it will be a while before the X-Men take their place in the MCU. Marvel unveiled their plans for Phase 4 at the 2019 San Diego Comic Con, with no X-Men related projects among the announced films and TV shows. And this was before the COVID-19 pandemic pushed back theatrical releases for all the major film studios. Part of the problem is that Marvel Studios has done well playing the long game, and they intend to keep doing that. In April 2019, Kevin Feige told io9 that the next five years of MCU projects had been mapped out before Disney's acquisition of Fox, making it unlikely Marvel's uncanniest heroes would be introduced before those five years were up.

If you find that news frustrating, you're not alone. In May 2020, Deadpool creator Rob Liefeld made headlines after publicly doubting that Deadpool 3 would ever happen. Liefeld told io9 inside sources had assured him there was no movement on either Deadpool 3 or on any of the X-Men properties at Marvel Studios. Considering all this, while on one hand it seems inevitable we'll see the X-Men in the MCU, it also doesn't look like we'll be seeing them in the very near future.

The Fantastic Four are coming to the MCU, but we don't know when

Disney's acquisition of 20th Century Fox opened the doors to bring Marvel's First Family home. While the team aren't Marvel's first superheroes, 1961's Fantastic Four #1 is the comic that paved the way for Marvel's successful superhero comics and drastically changed the comic book industry. An MCU without a Fantastic Four is arguably something like a DCEU without a Superman or a Batman. 

So far, there's no firm word on when we'll see the FF in the MCU or if they'll premiere in their own film or someone else's. Among the more popular rumors are the casting of John Krasinski as Reed Richards, aka Mister Fantastic, and the intriguing fan theory that the team will premiere in Ant-Man 3, and that it will be shown that they're stuck in the same quantum realm where Hank Pym found his long-lost love, Janet van Dyne, in 2018's Ant-Man and The Wasp

However, it would be surprising to see a new Fantastic Four movie as part of the MCU any time within the next few years. On one hand, there's the simple fact that no Fantastic Four projects were a part of Marvel's Phase 4 announcement. On the other, Marvel Studios will likely want to make sure the time is right for the quartet. There have been three Fantastic Four films in the 21st century, and two of them were bombs. It might make more sense for the studio to focus on new properties or successful ones than one that's disappointed fans twice already.

Wonder Man has a lot going against him

Simon Williams, aka Wonder Man, almost had a cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. For scenes set on Earth, Nathan Fillion posed as the actor/hero in movie posters advertising a Simon Williams film festival. Sadly, no shots of the posters made it into the finished product. 

There are a few good reasons why the ionic-powered Avenger has failed to show up in the MCU thus far. For one thing, one of the big comic book moments he's best known for — Ultron's creation of the Vision — happened in 2015's Avengers: Age of Ultron without Wonder Man's help. For another, he has a reputation for being doubly derivative. His name sounds close to the more well-known Wonder Woman, and his power set and physical appearance — he's a super strong, invulnerable guy who flies and whose eyes constantly glow either purple or red — makes him seem like a Superman knock-off. 

Finally, there's simply been no great clamor for Wonder Man's inclusion, and he's never been perceived as a marquee character. There was a Wonder Man one-shot in 1986, an ongoing solo series in the '90s that was cancelled before its 30th issue, and a 2006-07 mini-series. That's not to say it couldn't happen. Neither Black Panther nor Guardians of the Galaxy comics were breaking sales records before they became movies. But for the time being, it would be surprising if Wonder Man was even on Marvel Studios' radar.

The Thunderbolts may have lost their chance with James Gunn's firing

There have been a number of different incarnations of the Thunderbolts in the comics since they were introduced in the '90s, with the common thread being the line-ups are almost always made up of former or current bad guys or heroes who prefer more lethal tactics. Things looked bright for a Thunderbolts entry into the MCU when James Gunn said that he'd made it known to Kevin Feige that he wanted to make a Thunderbolts film. But so far, the team hasn't appeared. 

There are likely a couple of reasons for that. Since the interview where Gunn said he'd pitched the Thunderbolts, Gunn was fired from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 for offensive tweets from years earlier, hired by Warner Bros to write and direct The Suicide Squad, and eventually rehired by Marvel. So if Gunn planted any seeds for a Thunderbolts film, they would've likely been uprooted with his initial firing. Not to mention that 2016's Suicide Squad and the upcoming The Suicide Squad prominently feature supervillains acting as heroes, and it could be that Marvel's apprehensive about being seen as ripping off their Distinguished Competition. 

But you never know. While Marvel hasn't announced any upcoming Thunderbolts movies, there are rumors the team will be featured in the upcoming The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Disney+ mini-series. 

The Great Lakes Avengers almost made it to TV

One of the lesser-known Avengers teams remains the Great Lakes Avengers (GLA). First appearing in 1989's West Coast Avengers #46, the parody Avengers team is a collection of misfits boasting super powers that don't always seem the most effective. Their roster includes the constantly resurrecting Mister Immortal, the Mister Fantastic lookalike Flatman, and for a time, the unbeatable Squirrel Girl. Among other hilarious distinctions, the team boasts one of the shortest time spans between recruitment and violent death — namely, in the form of the hero Grasshopper who, in 2005's G.L.A. #2, joins the team on one page and is murdered on the next.

While so far there have been no great strides to bring the GLA into the MCU, in 2017, it was announced Marvel was developing a live-action New Warriors sitcom for Freeform which would've included two GLA members — Milana Vayntrub as Squirrel Girl and Derek Theler as Mister Immortal. In spite of an extremely successful pilot, Freeform didn't have a slot available for New Warriors. There was talk of the series possibly joining Disney+'s schedule, but so far, it seems that hasn't happened. 

Alpha Flight are in the same boat as the X-Men

They may not be Marvel's most popular group, but the Canadian super team Alpha Flight is an important part of Marvel's mythos. Originally conceived as a team of superheroes sponsored by the Canadian government, Alpha Flight premiered in 1979's The Uncanny X-Men #120 when they clashed with Professor Xavier's mutants in hopes of recapturing Wolverine, who they originally counted in their roster. Team members included the powerhouse Sasquatch, the mystic shapeshifter Snowbird, and the brother/sister mutant pair of Northstar and Aurora. In 1983, an Alpha Flight ongoing series began, lasting to the mid-'90s. There have been a number of attempts since to revive the comic, but nothing has stuck.

The first and most obvious reason Alpha Flight hasn't appeared in the MCU is that for the first decade of the MCU's existence, Marvel Studios didn't have the film rights. Fox's ownership of the X-Men film rights included Alpha Flight. In fact, in 2017, X-Men producer Simon Kinberg talked about plans to expand Fox's X-Men line, including the possibility of an Alpha Flight film. Now that Alpha Flight is available to the MCU, time will tell if Canada's favorite super team eventually makes an appearance. Rumors surfaced in June 2020 that something involving the group was in development, but considering the wealth of rumors revolving around the MCU, it's best to file that under "believe it when you see it."

Hercules is a little too similar to another MCU character

In the comics, one of the most powerful members of the Avengers is Hercules — the super strong hero of Greco-Roman myth. Physically, he's in the same class as Marvel powerhouses like Thor and the Hulk, and just as he does in his legendary stories, he often finds himself in conflict with the gods who make up his family. 

Hercules is an infectiously fun character, and ironically, a lot of the ways in which he's fun offer some insight into the most likely reason for his absence in the MCU. He's overconfident, he parties hard, he sees himself as the gods' literal gift to women, he thinks with his fists, has vicious rivalries with his siblings, and he doesn't listen to his extremely powerful father who happens to be the leader of the gods. In other words, you can easily make the argument that if you want to see a Hercules movie, just watch the first half hour or so of 2011's Thor and pretend everyone's wearing different clothing and calling each other different names. 

Whether he's redundant or not, it's possible Hercules could debut in the MCU. In June 2020, The Cinema Spot said unnamed sources had revealed Hercules was on his way to a live-action Marvel Studios project. There was no indication of whether this would be a film or one of Disney+'s Marvel mini-series, or whether he would appear in his own project. Marvel's offered no confirmation so far.

Before they can show up in the MCU, the Masters of Evil need surviving members

As successful as they've been, a Marvel Comics fan could easily complain that the Avengers films have been missing one big component — the Masters of Evil. The villainous team is one of the Avengers' earliest enemies, first showing up in 1964's Avengers #6. The Masters had plenty of different incarnations, including a version from the popular 1986-87 "Under Siege" storyline that included over a dozen members who demolished Avengers Mansion, beat Hercules into a coma, and hospitalized the team's loyal butler, Jarvis.  

One of the likely reasons we haven't seen the Masters of Evil on the big screen is that the foundation for the group isn't there. Most versions of the Masters of Evil involve a collection of Avengers villains, and so far, few Avengers villains have actually survived their clashes with the MCU's heroes. In order for an MCU version of the Masters of Evil to form, we would need enough bad guys to survive long enough to form an alliance. 

Even if we do eventually see an MCU version of the Masters of Evil, they probably won't use that name. We're all the heroes of our own story, and the name "Masters of Evil" comes from a time when comic book writers like Stan Lee weren't concerned with such nuance. Just as the early X-Men films shortened "The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants" to "The Brotherhood," the Masters of Evil would likely find their name shortened to "The Masters" or changed entirely.