Disney recently acquired the streaming rights to all the Marvel shows that were produced by Netflix, including Daredevil, The Punisher, and The Defenders. All these projects were much more mature than the typical MCU flick, so Disney+ introduced new TV-MA restrictions that can allow Marvel to continue to stream mature content on the streaming service without having to worry about their younger fan base stumbling across any of it.
This presents a great advantage for Marvel Studios as it begins to push the PG-13 boundary in projects like Eternals and Moon Knight. It may even allow Marvel to produce projects they otherwise wouldn’t consider, like another season of Daredevil that matches the dark tone of the previous seasons or a raunchy Deadpool spin-off show.
With that in mind, The Direct has compiled a list of 6 Marvel characters that need the R-rated treatment now that the MCU has this new Disney+ avenue for producing content.
1. Ghost Rider
Despite its PG-13 rating, perhaps one of the darkest Marvel movies ever made is 2007’s Ghost Rider. Starring Nicolas Cage as the cursed Johnny Blaze, the film followed a motorcycle stuntman who sold his soul to save the life of a loved one and was overtaken by the Spirit of Vengeance as a result.
Much like his comic book counterpart, the movie largely consisted of Ghost Rider hunting down bad guys and sending their souls to hell. The Ghost Rider franchise was ultimately a disappointment, and the character was shelved until ABC’s Agents of SHIELD used the Robbie Reyes version of Ghost Rider. The Reyes take received a much more positive response from fans than the 2007 theatrical attempt.
Robbie appeared angrier, and even tormented by the Spirit of Vengeance that lived within him; however, the show’s TV-PG rating mostly limited Ghost Rider to punching bad guys in the face over-and-over-again.
It’s difficult to say whether Ghost Rider already exists in the MCU due to his inclusion in Agents of SHIELD, but Marvel Studios has proven twice in the past several months that they’re willing to bring certain characters into the MCU from other, older Marvel properties like Netflix’s Daredevil. With those new inclusions, so it wouldn’t be all that difficult to reintroduce Robbie.
Alternatively, Marvel could decide to introduce Johnny Blaze again and correct his history with a TV-MA Disney+ series that spends more time fleshing out the character.
A limited series introducing a hero as intricate and tragic as Ghost Rider could easily earn a TV-MA rating if it were to dive deep into the origins of the Spirit of Vengeance and the MCU’s iteration of hell. This could be the most fantastical project that Marvel has attempted, possibly aligning in tone with Netflix’s smash-hit series The Witcher. Henry Cavill has found a lot of success appealing to audiences as a guy slaying goblins and demons, so Marvel may be looking for something to rival The Witcher in the everlasting streaming wars.
Not long after the Ghost Rider Hulu series was canceled in 2019, The Direct exclusively reported that a Ghost Rider project is rumored to be in development at Marvel Studios. If the initial plan was to launch the series on Hulu before pulling it back, then it's likely that the series would have been too mature to add to Disney+ (see Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. and Hit-Monkey on Hulu). If Marvel was waiting for the right moment to release a truly mature Ghost Rider project without taking the same risks at the box office like the Nicolas Cage films, then the new TV-MA settings on Disney+ are a good indication of this being that long-awaited moment.
There’s also the potential for the Midnight Sons to be on Marvel Studios’ radar following Oscar Isaac’s talk of wanting to form the core Marvel group with “Punisher, Ghost Rider, Daredevil, (and) Blade.” Punisher and Daredevil have already joined the ranks of Disney+’s TV-MA content, and the upcoming Blade movie will likely fit into that mold as well.
If Moon Knight walks the line of earning a mature rating on TV (and it seems like it will, given its more-restrictive rating in some countries), then the MCU’s Ghost Rider will likely follow suit so he can fit into the mature Midnight Sons.
Sabretooth is a Marvel character that’s been featured several times in Fox’s X-Men movies but never resonated with audiences in the way that he could as a character. Victor Creed is a tortured soul, born with a mutation that seemingly set him up for nothing but pain and grief. Victor has regenerative healing and superhuman senses, as well as other superhuman abilities and a set of claws instead of fingernails. He's a lot like Wolverine, but much more violent and much less moral.
His mutation led him to kill several members of his family when he was just a boy—some by accident, others out of anger. Victor’s parents raised him like an animal out of fear, but he escaped at the age of thirteen and proceeded to live a life of chaos and terror, pillaging towns and killing anything he could.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine opened with a similar scene introducing Sabretooth alongside Wolverine as young boys, but Victor’s vicious upbringing was watered down to just being the unfavorable son in the family.
A series with a TV-MA rating for Sabretooth can allow Marvel Studios to properly introduce Victor Creed with all of his flaws and damage by exploring his backstory and what made him into the animal that he became. In doing so, the MCU would be able to create a greater appreciation for a character like Wolverine by showing the contrast of what a mutant can become if someone like Professor X doesn’t step in to steer them in the right direction before it’s too late.
The increased violence and thrill that Sabretooth brings to the table would certainly add a new element to the MCU and make it feel a bit less campy than it's been as of late. A truly pained and broken character that's shown enduring that suffering at length could work wonders for Marvel’s recent rut of churning out the same feel-good hero story in almost every project.
Victor Creed can be that character for Marvel, both because he’s pained and because he’s unpredictable. For instance, Victor was accused of massacring a small town while fighting the flesh-eating giant who actually did it. But another time, Sabretooth’s urge to kill once took such great control of his mind that Wolverine had to pin him against a wall and lobotomize him with his claws in order to stop him.
Disney+’s new TV-MA section can provide a unique medium for Marvel to explore their seldom-used blood and gore, and it won't feel unnecessary coming from a character like Sabretooth. And since it can be produced as a limited series, Marvel doesn’t have to produce a full-fledged production that likely wouldn’t receive the same turnout as a typical MCU flick would at a theater.
3. Xialing, The Ten Rings
A lesser-talked-about MCU project in the works is the Ten Rings spin-off show following Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, but that’s mostly because no one knows what to expect from the series.
Meng'er Zhang's Xialing is rumored to be leading the series, but virtually nothing else is known about the show other than the fact that it's likely a comedic story.
Zhang told The Direct that her MCU character is “like her father in many ways,” possibly teasing that Xialing has a more sinister plan for the Ten Rings organization than fans expected. If so, then audiences could see Xialing follow in Wenwu’s footsteps and become a ruthless leader that will stop at nothing to grow her empire.
This may include confronting more of her father’s old enemies now that Wenwu is gone, which may force Xialing to resort to some serious violence. Granting the Ten Rings series a mature rating would allow the producers to convey Xialing’s nature without limits, giving her the space she needs to bash a couple of guys’ faces in if need be.
Also worth mentioning is the potential of a new-and-improved Golden Daggers Club with Xialing’s new resources, potentially improving her reach tenfold and creating an even bigger stage for her superhuman fight club.
It seems as though Marvel has some fun ideas for the Golden Dagger Club, so Xialing’s inclusion of a Black Widow and an Extremis fighter is likely just the beginning. Deadpool was even featured in some early concept art for the club, and even though the Marvel artist claimed the Merc with a Mouth was never meant to debut in Shang-Chi, including Deadpool in such a violent scene certainly calls for a more mature rating.
Hyperion is still a lesser-known name in Marvel Comics, largely due to his long list of similarities to DC’s Superman. Even so, Hyperion becomes increasingly more relevant with the arrival of the MCU’s Eternals.
There are several iterations of Hyperion throughout Marvel history (some versions even living in the same universe), but the most recent gives the character a dark spin that could fit well under Marvel's new TV-MA umbrella. Much like Superman’s story, Hyperion was sent to Earth by a doomed race of Eternals. The difference between Superman and Hyperion is that Hyperion wasn’t discovered in a field by an unassuming family in Kansas; no, Hyperion was picked up by the United States government.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier recently teased fans about what the US government is willing to do in the name of science and research. Sam Wilson met Isaiah Bradley, who revealed that the United States kept him locked up and experimented on him because he had been injected with the Super Soldier Serum.
If the US treated Isaiah as less of a human, then imagine how the government would treat an alien that crash-landed in their country without warning. a TV-MA rating would allow the series to explore the ways that Hyperion was affected by the cruel treatment and provide a greater sympathetic understanding
Valentina Allegra de Fontaine — or “Val”— was also introduced in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier with some mysterious plans to build her own mock Avengers team, further alluding to the US government doing more behind the scenes than they let people believe. Perhaps Val also knows of a secret government program dubbed “Hyperion?”
This idea would allow for one of the more tragic backstories in the MCU, rivaling that of Wanda Maximoff and the Winter Soldier. This idea is also relevant to the MCU’s Eternals, as the remaining members from their titular film are beginning to encounter others of their own kind.
Eternals has already begun pushing the boundaries of rating a Marvel project with its LGBTQ+ inclusion and its especially risqué romance between Sersi and Ikaris, but it did so for the sake of the story. With that in mind, Marvel could introduce a series that explores a government’s vicious and nefarious reaction to encountering an Eternal, which would provide another tragic character, this time for the Eternals franchise.
Hyperion struggles with understanding the concept of humanity even more so than some of the Eternals did in their 2021 debut film. Providing a TV-MA series on Hyperion's upbringing can dive deep into how humans react to an alien falling from the sky, and create a new, serious dialogue on Earth to make the Eternals more relevant to the greater MCU.
Also, Hyperion occasionally gets super violent with his laser eyes -- similar to Homelander from The Boys on Amazon Prime -- and a TV-MA rating would allow Hyperion to slice through some foes without catching anyone totally off-guard. The MCU needs more laser eyes and Cyclops won't answer his phone.
Potentially the top project on every fan’s TV-MA wishlist is another round of Daredevil. The Charlie Cox-led series ran for three seasons on Netflix where Matt Murdock spent his nights in a bloodbath of bad guys.
Whether it’s a reboot or not, bringing back Charlie Cox to play the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen is a good indication that Marvel’s continuation of the Daredevil story will carry the same tone as the Netflix series.
With this in mind, a new season of Daredevil with a TV-MA rating can actually serve as a selling point for other R-rated Marvel content on Disney+. If Marvel were to steer away from the mature rating, it may be interpreted as Marvel not having confidence in the TV-MA rating. Keeping the Disney+ update in mind, this likely means the new Daredevil project will keep its TV-MA rating.
It may not be that big of a coincidence that Moon Knight is debuting while Disney+ is introducing TV-MA content. Perhaps Moon Knight matches the tone of the Netflix shows in a greater sense than expected, and could remind fans of all the TV-MA content that was just added to Disney+, including Daredevil.
6. X-Force (as seen in Deadpool 2)
Similar to how Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is rumored to produce a spin-off series for the Ten Rings, the upcoming Deadpool 3 can do the same for the X-Force. Why is that? Because that’s what Deadpool 2 was supposed to do before Disney bought 20th Century Fox.
The big-screen iteration of the X-Force as seen in Deadpool 2 is essentially an expedited version of DC’s The Suicide Squad. But at one point, Josh Brolin and Zazie Beetz were set to reprise their roles as Cable and Domino in an X-Force spin-off project that would see the duo rebuild the team.
Disney put the project on hold following their acquisition of 20th Century Fox in March 2019. Oddly enough, some of the only official words on the X-Force project's cancellation come from the X-Force’s comic book creator, Rob Liefeld, meaning plans for the project have hardly been acknowledged publicly since the acquisition.
Does this mean Disney is sitting on these plans, hoping to put them back into motion once they’re able to integrate Deadpool 3 into the MCU? A project with the same tone as Deadpool 2 certainly doesn’t fit anywhere in the MCU’s current state, so it wouldn’t have made sense to move forward with those plans back in 2019. With Disney+’s new guidelines, Fox’s old X-Force plans can be reformatted as a spin-off series while keeping the same tone from Deadpool 2 through the streamer’s new TV-MA addition.
This would allow for a hilarious, over-the-top violent MCU outlet that features a ragtag team of mutant misfits. They can continue to rotate popular names into the X-Force lineup, like Terry Crews’ Bedlam and Brad Pitt’s Vanisher, while still focusing on the bigger picture through Cable and Domino.
Fox had been trying to introduce the X-Force for years—even before Deadpool was greenlit. The darker, grittier tone of X-Force has proven to be one of Marvel’s highest-grossing comic books ever, and the team’s inclusion in Deadpool 2 proved their worth on the big screen, too. Disney+’s new TV-MA guidelines open a door for Marvel that was previously closed; extreme violence coupled with raunchy comedy could be next up on the House of Mouse's streaming service.