On the whole, Marvel Studios has done a great job of appealing to longtime comic book enthusiasts and general audiences alike .
Their movies didn’t dive into the more complex areas of the source material right away, but since the beginning, they’ve taken elements of many classic comic stories and crafted them to fit the MCU, and have included plenty of smaller nods to various comic stories as well.
But of course, the main thing that comic fans look forward to seeing in superhero movies (and often tend to be very particular about) is how their favorite characters translate from page to screen. Some characterizations of iconic comic book characters in the MCU have been heralded by fans as pitch-perfect recreations of the ones they had known in the comics for so many years.
However, many others have seen drastic changes between their comic book origins and MCU counterparts. These changes have occurred for a variety of reasons, but in general, they’ve been made in order for a smoother placement into the pre-established world of the MCU or to give them the “shot in the arm” they need in order to resonate with modern audiences.
For the most part, Phase 1 was pretty straightforward in adapting its characters from the comics to the movies and there were very few major changes in terms of personalities and dynamics between them. The most notable exception to this is probably Bucky Barnes in Captain America: The First Avenger .
In the film, he is portrayed as the lifelong best friend of Steve Rogers who helps stand up for him against bullies and is killed towards the end of World War II, which becomes a source of angst and regret for Steve in the rest of the film and its sequel. But in the comics, he is a teenaged orphan who becomes the unofficial mascot of the training camp where his father was killed just before World War II. This is where he meets Steve Rogers, and he later becomes his sidekick when he discovers he is the man behind the Captain America mask.
It’s important to note that the dramatic changes to the character made in the MCU are specific to Bucky and not his time as the Winter Soldier. That side of the character debuted in a Captain America comic storyline in the 2000s and the MCU’s adaptation of it was actually pretty similar to the source material. In the comics, Bucky is killed near the end of World War II and for a long time was known as one of the select few characters in comics who stay dead (as opposed to the frequent deaths and resurrections of so many other characters).
The organization that captures and brainwashes Bucky in the comics isn’t HYDRA (he is taken to Moscow and becomes an assassin as part of a unit known as Department X) but much of the story beats of Captain America: The Winter Soldier - including the involvement of SHIELD, Steve trying to revive Bucky’s memories, and the iconic “who the hell is Bucky” line and shot - were lifted right from the arc in the comics.
The most likely reason for the aging up of Bucky in the movies is that it made things easier for the filmmakers. Steve having a relationship with Bucky established before the war meant time didn’t need to be taken out of the movie to have them develop one from the get-go. It’s also possible Marvel was considering incorporating the Winter Soldier storyline into the MCU and wanted to allow audiences to see the same actor in the role beforehand so that seeing the big reveal of his survival and status as a brainwashed villain would have more of an emotional impact.
THE GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
At the time of its 2012 announcement as part of Phase 2, Guardians of the Galaxy was the most obscure comic book property to be introduced in the MCU to date.
Characters like the Hulk, Iron Man, and Captain America were fairly familiar to a lot of people even before they appeared on the big screen, but the Guardians were another story entirely. While this put an increased amount of pressure on the marketing team to persuade audiences to give the movie a chance, it gave more freedom to the filmmakers; they weren’t dealing with widely-beloved classic characters, so there would be less fan backlash to any changes they chose to make.
It’s important to note that Guardians of the Galaxy isn’t an adaptation of the team’s original lineup in the comics, but the one first seen in 2008, though the characters making up the team in the movie all made their comic debuts in the 1970s (with the exception of Groot, who first appeared in 1960).
Some notable changes to the characters include Peter Quill staying on Earth after the death of his mother and working for NASA before getting stranded in space, Groot wanting to capture and study humans on Earth, and Drax being the spirit of a human being put into a new body for the sole purpose of defeating Thanos.
However, the Guardian who changed the most between the page and screen is undoubtedly Mantis. The character was born in Vietnam and trained under the Kree in the comics, later going on to work with the likes of the Avengers and the Silver Surfer. She is initially best known for her strong martial arts abilities, but later develops powers of invulnerability and splits into multiple versions of herself due to stress and trauma, each with different memories.
Eventually, she joins the Guardians of the Galaxy and acts as a counselor and mediator for the team. All of this is a far cry from the Mantis we see in the MCU, who is a very naive creature whose background we don’t know (but she’s definitely not human, at least not fully) with empath powers.
Steve Englehart, the creator of Mantis, actually voiced his unhappiness with her portrayal in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 , saying:
“Well, I was not happy with Mantis’ portrayal. That character has nothing to do with Mantis. I will say that I liked the film quite a bit overall, they’re doing good stuff and I enjoyed my night at the movies so long as I turned my brain off to the fact that that’s not Mantis up there. I really don’t know why you would take a character who is as distinctive as Mantis is and do a completely different character and still call her Mantis. That I do not know.”
It’s difficult to see exactly why the character of Mantis was changed so much in the movies, or really, why she was called “Mantis” at all. It’s possible that we’ll learn more about the MCU’s Mantis in a future project that will show she has some ties to her comic counterpart, but right now it really does feel like this should have been an original character for the movies without the awkwardness of giving her the name of a character from the comics for the sake of it.
KORG AND MIEK
First introduced in Thor: Ragnarok , Korg and Miek provide some fun comic relief to the film. But there are some big differences between their comic origins and MCU portrayals.
The page and screen versions of Korg actually share more similarities than most characters on this list; both versions were taken prisoner on Sakaar and forced to partake in gladiatorial battles on the planet. In the famous Planet Hulk comic arc, Korg was an ally to the titular character, just as the two fought together against Hela in Thor: Ragnarok , which borrowed elements of that storyline.
However, one big difference between the two incarnations of Korg is the character’s relationship with Thor. In Ragnarok , the two get along quite well and end up becoming friends, with Avengers: Endgame depicting them playing video games together roughly five years after their first meeting. In the comics, however, Korg fights (and is defeated by) Thor as part of an army of Kronan soldiers attempting to invade Earth, and in a later comic, it is revealed that his worst fear is the God of Thunder himself.
The Miek we see in the MCU, on the other hand, is much more different from his comic counterpart than Korg is. Of course, the biggest difference between the two is that he is an insectoid and roach-like in appearance in the comics, but in the films is more of a larva-esque being. He is also much more cunning than we see in the MCU, manipulating Hulk to work against his best interests. One thing they may prove to have in common is changing from being biologically male to female if laying eggs at the end of Thor: Ragnarok is any indication.
The Wasp, along with Ant-Man, was part of the very first Avengers comic book lineup back in the 1960s, but neither of them debuted in the MCU until after the original lineup of the team’s onscreen iteration had already been established. The characters working under these mantles in the MCU were also different from the ones part of the original comic book Avengers team; in the comics, Hank Pym was the original Ant-Man and Janet Van Dyne was the original Wasp.
Of course, Hank and Janet appear in the MCU, just not as the “current” holders of their respective mantles. The title of Ant-Man is held by Scott Lang — who also held it in the comics — and the Wasp is Hope Van Dyne, the daughter of Janet and Hank. Unlike Scott, Hope didn’t appear in comics under her MCU superhero alias prior to the movies, but instead as a villain.
Hope originally had her father’s last name of Pym in the comics, as well as a twin brother. The two of them were upset that they weren’t the ones considered the “next generation” of the Avengers, so they founded a team called the Revengers (referenced by the formation of a group with the same name in Thor: Ragnarok ). She ends up as a villain called the Red Queen and has similar powers to her MCU counterpart.
Given the choice of Scott Lang as the MCU’s Ant-Man and Hank Pym as his mentor of sorts, it only made sense for them to cast a character around the same age as Scott as his Wasp teammate, and having it be Hope allowed Hank and Janet to still be important characters in the story.
The origin story of Carol Danvers is greatly influenced by Mar-Vell in both the comics and MCU, but the respective origin stories of the two iterations of the character are quite different.
The Mar-Vell from the comics is a Kree soldier who was the first of several characters to hold the mantle of Captain Marvel. He saves Carol’s life as Mar-Vell while working undercover as scientist Dr. Walter Lawson. He acted as a mentor to her under his Dr. Lawson alias, which eventually led to Carol’s own Kree powers being unlocked when Yon-Rogg took her as bait to lure Mar-Vell in for a showdown (Carol soon became known as the original Ms. Marvel).
The MCU’s Mar-Vell was also a Kree scientist, but she was a woman and went by Wendy Lawson rather than Walter. Her mentorship of Carol still resulted in the latter gaining her powers, but this version of Mar-Vell was never a superhero in her own right and ended up dying during the MCU’s version of these events, while the original lived on afterward and eventually died of cancer.
The decision to pare down Mar-Vell’s history and omit the character’s history as Captain Marvel from the MCU was likely to keep the focus on Carol’s own origin story. Still, it’s a little sad that we likely won’t see the original comic Captain Marvel in the movies, though it may be possible now that the multiverse is set to become a factor in them. In fact, the multiverse opens up the possibility of seeing any version of a character mentioned on this list in the movies.