With Thanos (Josh Brolin) presumably neutralized at the conclusion of Avengers: Endgame, it will be time to introduce a new Big Bad for the surviving members of the team to confront in two-to-four years time. And if Marvel Studios continues to import things from the comics, it is possible that character will appear in an Endgame stinger scene, much the same way Thanos flashed his winning smile at the conclusion of the first Avengers film.
Considering the studio has trained us so well to anticipate the next big thing before the current story’s end, let’s take a look at some potential foes the Avengers — in what ever form they take after Endgame — may face. Some may be familiar faces while others are only possible thanks to Disney’s purchase of 20th Century Fox. But all would be formidable foes in Phase 4.
First Comic Book Appearance: Strange Tales #111
First MCU Appearance: Doctor Strange
Big Bad Potential: Like Loki (Tom Hiddleston) before him, Mordo could emerge as a much larger player in the MCU thanks to the talents of actor Chiwetel Ejiofor and Mordo’s brand of binary justice. Those sorts of characters inevitably clash with funky teams like the Avengers. As seen in the Doctor Strange post-credit scene, he has determined the mystic arts corrupt all who use them and that he must eliminate all remaining sorcerers. Of course, that suggests he will come after Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) sooner than later, like in the Doctor Strange sequel. But complete defeat may not be in his future and his use of the Living Tribunal’s staff may lead him to amass more power to further to his cause. At that point, he would be an Avengers-level opponent.
First Comic Book Appearance: Journey Into Mystery #101
First MCU Appearance: Thor: Ragnarok
Big Bad Potential: Continuing with the Loki theory of Big Bads emerging from established antagonists, Hela (Cate Blanchett) is a worthy adversary for the team — particularly if Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is not around to help them defeat her. She’s an accomplished fighter who wiped out the Warriors Three and most of the Asgardian defense forces with hardly a sweat. She is also powerful enough to destroy Mjolnir. Of course, there is one pesky problem with this potential Big Bad: she’s dead. Killed by Surtur during the final battle in Asgard, she would seemingly be unavailable. But then, consider the way the gods of Asgard experience death and rebirth. Loki regularly cheats death and he’s but a mere trickster. She is the god of death, and presumably has a say in how long she rests in peace outside the nine realms.
Considering it took destroying one of those realms to stop her last time, the Avengers would need a lot of extra strength to even hold her in a stalemate.
First Comic Book Appearance: Fantastic Four #5
First MCU Appearance: N/A, but he has debuted three times in three different attempts at starting a Fantastic Four film series.
Big Bad Potential: With Disney’s recent purchase of the 20th Century Fox film studio, the film rights to The Fantastic Four revert to Marvel. And even though Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has said they will not use the X-Men for a long time, that does not mean there isn’t room for one of the greatest Marvel villains to make his way into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. For instance, there is a Doctor Doom film script written by Legion executive producer Noah Hawley while Fox was still in control of the character. Hawley even recently said that Feige asked about the script in the run-up to the Disney/Fox deal closing. He described the story as a something of a political thriller with Doom already established as the ruler of Latveria. Which would make him a markedly different threat than any other that the Avengers have faced. What do you do when your enemy is not only a world leader, but one beloved by his people? The team would have to fight a war of perception as much as fight with their powers. And that’s a pretty appealing reason to integrate the character into the MCU, even if the other former Fox-controlled properties sit on the bench.
First Comic Book Appearance: Strange Tales #89 (Foom), Tales of Suspense #50 (The Mandarin)
First MCU Appearance: N/A, though an image of Foom appears in Iron Man. Trevor Slattery (Ben Kingsley) and Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) both claimed to be the Mandarin in Iron Man 3, but as the Marvel One-Shot released with the film on Blu-ray revealed, the true Mandarin has yet to be seen.
Big Bad Potential: Predating Marvel Comics superheroes by a handful of years, Foom was one of the monsters created by Jack Kirby and he is just a delight to behold. Initially presented as a dragon of Chinese legend, Foom was later revealed to be an alien shapeshifter after he was finally integrated into the Marvel Universe in the 1970s. While the rest of his alien brethren set out to conquer the world early in human history, Foom, as the navigator of their starship, laid dormant for centuries. Eventually, his ship was discovered by a man who stole 10 sophisticated control rings from the ship and set himself up as The Mandarin. Foom eventually woke up and caused plenty of trouble for superheroes across the planet.
The Mandarin entered MCU history in Iron Man 3 while the Ten Rings debuted as a terrorist organization in the first Iron Man film. But Foom represents a much larger threat should a defeated Mandarin awaken him from his long slumber to challenge the Avengers. It is the kind of villain team-up we’ve always wanted to see. But it also implies the Mandarin is a foe worthy of the team’s attention. We’re already convinced he will be the villain in Shang-Chi, so it is entirely possible he will pose a worldwide threat in the not-too distant future. Provided, of course, Marvel wants a more human Big Bad with a pet dragon.
First Comic Book Appearance: Fantastic Four #66-67 (as “Him”), Marvel Premiere #1 (as Adam Warlock)
First MCU Appearance: The cocoon seen at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is probably a gestating Adam Warlock. He was supposed to appear in the film at one point.
Big Bad Potential: Hear us out. While typically presented as a protagonist, Adam Warlock has made some questionable choices in the pages of Marvel Comics, particularly when in possession of the Infinity Stones. And presuming the Infinity Stones are not destroyed by the conclusion of Endgame, it is possible he will end up with them and attempt to purge the universe of evil, as he once attempted to purge the evil within his own soul, creating a version of himself known as the Magus, in the comics. The consequences on a universal scale could be disastrous. And perhaps, unlike Thanos, this change will be initially imperceptible to our heroes. It would be something of a slow burn for the overall MCU film series, which may be a nice change of pace after Endgame.
First Comic Book Appearance: Eternals #2
First MCU Appearance: Guardians of the Galaxy
Big Bad Potential: Thanos has set the precedent for Big Bads in the MCU, but there is always the possibility for Marvel Studios to go bigger. How does one go bigger than the Mad Titan? Well, there are the Celestials. These are beings of immense power. One is shown wielding the Power Stone when Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) visit the Collector (Benicio Del Toro) in Guardians of the Galaxy. Peter’s own father Ego (Kurt Russell) lists himself as a member of the cosmic-level race.
Back in the comics, the Celestials are a key component of the Marvel Universe’s secret origin. They went from planet to planet creating beings like the Eternals — soon to be featured in their own Marvel Studios film — Deviants, and others. Their tinkering led to the Skrull ability to shapeshift and, ultimately, the appearance of superheroes on Earth.
Though humanoid, they tend to appear around 2,000 feet tall to human eyes. And in the pages of Marvel Comics, they are said to be indestructible, with the few who have been defeated instantly regenerating. That power may make them too absurd of an opponent for the Avengers, but then again, Ego was defeated and Knowhere, the space port where the Collector kept his collection, is said to be the skull of a dead Celestial. So while they may be more vulnerable in the MCU, just one of their number would post quite a challenge to the Avengers.
First Comic Book Appearance: Fantastic Four #48
First MCU Appearance: N/A, though he did make an appearance as an alien death cloud in Fox’s Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.
Big Bad Potential: If there is one certainty in big budget studio filmmaking, it is this: Galactus will be a MCU Big Bad in the fullness of time. It is only a matter of when.
One of the early cosmic-level entities devised by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, Galactus famously came to Earth to consume all its energies to satiate his enormous appetite. But in a curious twist, this does not make him inherently evil. Like all sentient life in the universe, he must consume other life to survive. Unfortunately for the rest of us, he exists on such a massive scale that a planet like Earth is a good dinner. This definitely sets him apart from Thanos as the Avengers — and likely the Fantastic Four — would have to weigh their consciences between stopping him and respecting the right for such a being to survive. Also, as with his comic book appearances, the heroes will have to come up with a pretty clever reason for him to skip his Earth-sized meal.
But will all of that compel Feige to steer a MCU Galactus toward Earth in the near-future? That remains to be seen. As with the X-Men, Galactus may be a character not included in the five-year plan the studio will reveal after the release of Endgame. At the same time, he is the sort of character who could be seeded as early as Endgame’s stinger scenes and lay in wait, like Thanos, across the span of six years. As we said before, Galactus is an eventuality.