5 Marvel Movie Characters That Most Differ From Their Comic Book Inspiration

Seth Eislund
Movies Comics
Movies Comics Marvel MCU

Beginning with the release of Iron Man in 2008, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is one of the most popular film franchises in history. The MCU has garnered billions of dollars in profits while staying loyal to its fans. Generally, its depiction of characters from the Marvel comics has been admirable. However, the movies aren’t always perfect in this regard. The MCU has often represented Marvel characters in ways that differ wildly from the source material. Here are five of the worst offenders.

Juggernaut (Deadpool 2)

No matter how intimidating he may seem in Deadpool 2, Juggernaut is not a complete facsimile of his comic book self. In the comics, he wears a trademark suit of red armor, which he noticeably lacks in the film. Additionally, his backstory isn’t explained. In the comics, Juggernaut was born Cain Marko and is revealed to be the stepbrother of Charles Francis Xavier, Professor X. While fighting in the Korean War, Marko discovers an enchanted gem. Grasping the gem, Marko is granted superhuman strength and transforms into the Juggernaut, vowing to kill his stepbrother.

In the movie, however, the only reference to Juggernaut’s origins is a tongue-in-cheek jab at Professor X. Russell Collins, better known as Firefist, converses with Juggernaut while they walk towards the orphanage. Russell says, “So, you wear that helmet because your brother tries to read your mind?” Juggernaut responds, “Yeah, but he’s in a wheelchair, so even-steven.” Deadpool 2 barely incorporates Juggernaut’s backstory from the comics, but it still does an admirable job of portraying the character. His superhuman strength provides a serious challenge for Colossus, a fight which will be etched into the minds of Marvel fans forever.

Arnim Zola (Captain America: The First Avenger, Winter Soldier)

To fans of the Captain America comic book series, Arnim Zola is a household name. He is one of Steve Rogers’ most powerful adversaries, possessing a genius-level intellect. In the comics, Zola was a genetic engineer and a Nazi, collaborating with the Red Skull during World War II. He created a device that allowed himself to transplant his consciousness from his frail body into a robotic one. Zola’s new body was capable of remarkable feats of strength and agility, among other abilities.

In the MCU’s Captain America films, however, Arnim Zola is depicted rather differently. The First Avenger ditches Zola’s comic book portrayal, presenting him as a meek scientist who reluctantly collaborates with the Red Skull. When the Howling Commandos capture him, Zola betrays the Red Skull. He tells them everything about Hydra’s plans for world domination. In Winter Soldier, the scientist’s consciousness is stored within a network of computer databases, not a robotic body. The only similarity between the comics and the film is that Zola’s face appears on a computer monitor. Otherwise, the MCU’s Zola possesses virtually none of his original traits.

Aunt May (Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man: Homecoming)

In virtually every depiction of Aunt May in Marvel media, her character has remained remarkably consistent. May Parker is an elderly woman with white hair, a skinny body, and frail health. However, the MCU’s version of Aunt May in Captain America: Civil War and Spider-Man: Homecoming discards that interpretation. Instead, she is depicted as a brown-haired, middle-aged woman, played by Marisa Tomei. Tony Stark flirts with her considerably, which is absent from the comics. He even calls May “your unusually attractive aunt” in front of Peter Parker.

Nevertheless, in both the movies and the comics, Aunt May still displays her undying love and support for Peter. When she finds out that her nephew is Spider-Man, May Parker is surprised at first, even shocked. However, she continues to be the dominant parental figure in Peter’s life.

Ego (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2)

Ego the Living Planet is a bizarre yet unique character. Not only is he obviously “a living planet,” but he is one of the most powerful characters in the Marvel universe. He can change his form, has unmatchable strength, and possesses cosmic abilities. He even has a brain-like organ housed beneath his rocky exterior.

However, the cinematic depiction of Ego has virtually nothing in common with his comic book version. Firstly, the MCU’s Ego bears little resemblance to Kurt Russell, the actor who plays him in the film. Additionally, in a big break from Marvel continuity, Ego is both a Celestial and the father of Peter Quill. But, in the comics, all of those traits are inverted. A Screenrant article explains:

“In the comics, intergalactic emperor Jason of Spartax is Star-Lord’s real father. For Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, his father is instead Ego the Living Planet — an ancient Celestial being with crazy cosmic powers… What’s worse than trying to relate to a deadbeat dad who is also a space king? A deadbeat dad that is basically a god. Oh, and he’s also a planet — so yeah, unrelatable.”

Mandarin (Iron Man 3)

In the comics, the Mandarin is perhaps Iron Man’s fiercest nemesis. He is a scientific genius who wields ten alien rings of incredible power, aiming to subjugate the entire world. It was the Mandarin who captured Tony Stark and Ho Yinsen, the scientist responsible for helping Stark craft the first suit of Iron Man armor. After Stark escaped captivity, the Mandarin fought him numerous times, ultimately perishing in a final, climactic battle.

In Iron Man 3, however, the Mandarin assumes a neutered persona. At first, he appears to be a criminal mastermind and the main antagonist of the film. However, “the Mandarin” is actually the alias of British actor Trevor Slattery. Slattery is employed by Aldrich Killian to serve as a front for his scheme to dominate the War on Terror. Ultimately, Tony Stark confronts Slattery at gunpoint. He confesses, revealing his past as an actor, a drug addict, and how Killian manipulated him. Ben Kingsley beautifully portrays Trevor’s comedic personality and dubious morality. However, Slattery is an entirely different character than the Mandarin, thus forfeiting any similarities whatsoever.

Seth Eislund
Seth Eislund is currently a student at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. He is interested in history, religion, and politics, as well as Monty Python. He blogs at https://medium.com/@seislund.