They say a hero is only as good as their villain. That certainly rings true when it comes to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Since the MCU began with &Iron Man &in 2008, there have been over 20 installments of the massively popular franchise, each with their own unique villain(s). From Iron Monger to Thanos, it’s become a staple in the MCU formula to include a distinct villain to rival the hero. While &Avengers: Endgame& and &Spider-Man: Far From Home&may have closed the book on the current era of the MCU, there’s still a lot more to come. Here’s a brief history of every villain that’s been confirmed for the MCU’s upcoming Phase Four.
Taskmaster (First Appearance: The Avengers #195, May 1980)
It’s been nearly two years since &Spider-Man: Far From Home &premiered in theaters across the world, concluding Phase Three of ‘The Infinity Saga’ of the MCU. Since then, fans have eagerly been awaiting Marvel’s return to the silver screen starting with &Black Widow&, which is set to be released in select theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access on July 9th. Scarlett Johansson will reprise her role as the titular Avenger for the eighth time alongside MCU newcomers Florence Pugh, David Harbour, and Rachel Weisz. &Black Widow &picks up after the events of 2016’s &Captain America: Civil War&, and finds Natasha Romanoff, now a fugitive from the law, returning home to confront her mysterious past, and a deadly enemy known as Taskmaster.
Taskmaster (Anthony Masters) has been a fan favorite ever since he first appeared in Marvel Comics as an adversary of The Avengers. At an early age, Masters discovered that he had what he calls ‘photographic reflexes’, which allow him to perfectly mimic the skills and fighting techniques of anyone he witnesses. This ability also makes Taskmaster capable of anticipating the moves of his opponents, which is why many heroes, including Spider-Man and Captain America, have often failed to defeat him in combat. After years of observing and studying various superheroes, Taskmaster began selling his skills as a mercenary-for-hire and has since been sought after by many criminal organizations. He even founded several supervillain training academies across the United States. While often depicted as a villain, Taskmaster has no ulterior motive other than that of his employer and will do whatever necessary to carry out the task that he’s been hired for.
&Taskmaster will make his live-action debut in Black Widow, where he serves as an operative of the Red Room, a secret training program that brainwashes young women into becoming some of the world’s deadliest assassins. The Red Room was seen briefly during a flashback sequence in Avengers: Age of Ultron but has yet to be fully explored within the MCU and given Taskmaster’s history in the comics, it’s no surprise that the character would be involved.
Footage of the upcoming film has already shown Taskmaster to be sporting a more contemporary version of his familiar skull mask and cowl, along with an arsenal of weapons similar to Cap’s shield, Hawkeye’s bow, and Black Panther’s claws. Meanwhile, Marvel has kept the actor portraying Taskmaster a mystery. Whoever it is behind the mask, it will take all of Natasha’s cunning to defeat an enemy with the skills of her fellow Avengers.
Razor Fist (First Appearances: Master of Kung Fu #29, June 1975 / Master of Kung Fu #105, October 1981)
&’Razor Fist’ is an alias used by three separate characters appearing in Marvel Comics. The original Razor Fist was an enforcer named William Young, who worked as a bodyguard for the drug dealer Carlton Velcro, and was subsequently killed shortly after his introduction. Years later, the title was given to brothers William and Douglas Scott. Despite their differences, each Razor Fist is depicted as a lethal martial artist with hands that have been surgically replaced with sharp, steel blades. Florian Munteanu (Creed II) will portray Razor Fist in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. In the upcoming film, Razor Fist is hired by the terrorist organization known as the ‘Ten Rings’ to assassinate Shang-Chi.
Death Dealer (First Appearance: Master of Kung Fu #115, August 1982)
&Without a doubt the most enigmatic villain to be featured on this list, Death Dealer appeared as an antagonist in only four issues of Marvel Comics, before ultimately meeting his demise at the hands of Shang-Chi. In the comics, Death Dealer was an MI6 operative named Li Ching-Lin, who served as a double agent for Shang-Chi’s father, the crime lord Zheng Zu. The brutality of Death Dealer’s methods quickly gained the attention of MI6, and Shang-Chi was tasked with eliminating him. A live-action version of Death Dealer will appear in this year’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, although an actor has not yet been revealed.
The Mandarin (First Appearance: Tales of Suspense #50, February 1964)
&Fans of this classic Iron Man villain were thrilled to find out that a live-action version would be appearing in 2013’s &Iron Man 3&, portrayed by Ben Kingsley. &However, they were left underwhelmed when the final chapter in the Iron Man trilogy revealed The Mandarin to be nothing but a persona used by British actor Trevor Slattery to cover-up Aldrich Killian’s ‘Extremis’ program. Recently, it was confirmed that a more comic-accurate version of The Mandarin will be featured in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, portrayed by Tony Leung Chiu-wai. The Mandarin is said to be the father of Shang-Chi, and the leader of the terrorist organization the Ten Rings.
Like so many comic book characters, The Mandarin’s history has been altered several times in the years since his first appearance in Marvel Comics. The version of The Mandarin first depicted in 1964 was born in a small village in pre-communist China, and is a descendant of Genghis Khan. One day, while exploring a place forbidden by the villagers called the Valley of Spirits, The Mandarin stumbled upon the ruins of a crashed alien ship. The Mandarin spent years studying the secrets held aboard the ship, obtaining a vast knowledge of alien sciences, and began wearing the ten crystals that powered the vessel as rings, each one granting him a unique and awesome power. Shrouded in mysticism and hellbent on world domination, The Mandarin has feuded with Iron Man and many other Marvel heroes on countless occasions.
Doctor Octopus & Electro (First Appearances: The Amazing Spider-Man #3, July 1963 / The Amazing Spider-Man #9, February 1964)
&Rumors and fan theories have been surrounding &Spider-Man: No Way Home& since the movie was announced as a part of Phase Four, with many speculating that the multiverse, or ‘spider-verse’, will play a major role. Despite a December 17th release date, Marvel has kept the specifics of the third chapter in the MCU’s &Spider-Man &trilogy even more of a secret than usual. However, a few details have &surfaced, including the return of villains from Sony’s previous Spidey films. It has been confirmed that Alfred Molina and Jamie Foxx will reprise their roles as Doctor Otto Octavius and Electro, respectively. Both characters are from alternate Earths throughout the multiverse, marking the first time that the MCU has crossed over with different franchises.
Despite earning over $700 Million at the box office, Sony’s &The Amazing Spider-Man 2&, starring Andrew Garfield as the titular web-head, received mixed reception from fans and critics alike. However, a saving grace was definitely Jamie Foxx’s portrayal of Max Dillion, who became the villainous Electro after falling into a container of experimental eels.
Perhaps an even more surprising addition to the cast is the return of Alfred Molina as Doctor Otto Octavius, a brilliant scientist who had four mechanical tentacle-like arms fused to his body during a freak accident, therefore becoming the menacing Doctor Octopus. Molina portrayed Doc Ock in 2004’s &Spider-Man 2&, still seen by many as the epitome of Spider-Man flicks. Molina stated that he was surprised by this approach, considering he’s aged in the years since Sam Raimi’s original &Spider-Man&trilogy. Digital de-aging will reportedly be used to make Molina appear as he did in 2004.
Baron Mordo (First Appearance: Strange Tales #111, August 1963)
&Not only did 2016’s Doctor Strange introduce us to Benedict Cumberbatch as the Sorcerer Supreme, but also longtime Marvel villain Baron Karl Mordo, played in the film by Chiwetel Ejiofor. Originally a mentor and friend to Stephen Strange, and a fellow disciple of the Ancient One, Mordo was last seen in a post-credits scene, setting out to rid the world of sorcerers and steal their powers for himself. Ejiofor will return as Mordo in 2022’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, directed by Sam Raimi.
In the comics, Karl Amadeus Mordo was born the son of Transylvanian nobleman Baron Nikolai Mordo and his wife Sara. Mordo showed an aptitude for black magic and at the age of 18, went to study under the Ancient One in the mountains of Tibet. Though proving to be an exceptionally gifted sorcerer, the Ancient One could not ignore Mordo’s lust for power. Shortly after Stephen Strange arrived at the monastery, he thwarted Mordo’s plan to kill the Ancient One and strip him of his power, leading them to become bitter rivals. While Mordo likely won’t serve as the main antagonist in the upcoming Doctor Strange sequel, he certainly won’t make things any easier for the Sorcerer Supreme.
Gorr the God Butcher (First Appearance: Thor: God of Thunder #1, January 2013)
&Since Chris Hemsworth picked up the hammer for the first time in 2011’s &Thor&, the God of Thunder has gone toe-to-toe with some of the MCU’s most powerful villains including Loki, Hela, and the Mad Titan himself, Thanos. In Phase Four’s &Thor: Love and Thunder,&which is set to be released on May 6th 2022, Thor will go up against perhaps his most formidable adversary yet: Gorr the God Butcher, who will be brought to life by Christian Bale, the latest actor to make the leap from DC to Marvel. But who is Gorr the God Butcher?
Gorr was born on a nameless and desolate planet. Despite spending each day on the brink of starvation, Gorr was taught by his mother and father to always have faith that the gods were watching over them. While Gorr was still young, his parents were killed, leaving him to fend for himself in the harsh and unforgiving environment. Years later, Gorr married and fathered children with Arra, but they all met the same fate as his mother and father, including Arra, who was killed during an earthquake while she was pregnant with Gorr’s child. Fueled with rage and realizing that gods did nothing to protect them, Gorr set out to kill every last god he could find, eventually leading him to cross paths with Thor.
Gorr should fit easily into the MCU, especially if the film intends to deal with the consequences of Asgard’s destruction in &Thor: Ragnarok&. For thousands of years, Asgard provided peace and protection throughout the Nine Realms, and its destruction has presumably left plenty of worlds, including Gorr’s, vulnerable. Of course, this is all speculation as no official plot details have been announced.
&&Production has recently wrapped on &&Thor: Love and Thunder&, meaning that our first look at Christian Bale as the God Butcher may be arriving shortly. Bale stars alongside Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, and Natalie Portman, with &Thor: Ragnarok &director Taika Waititi returning to helm the film.
Kang the Conqueror (Fantastic Four #19, October 1963)
&Though perhaps not as powerful as the likes of Thanos or Galactus, Kang the Conqueror is still one of the mightiest foes to appear in the pages of Marvel Comics. Believed by some to be a distant descendant of Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic), Kang is a brilliant but power-hungry historian that comes from an alternate version of Earth where civilization never fell into the dark ages, thus allowing technology to be far more advanced than our own. Having grown bored of the peaceful world he lived in, Kang began using technology created by Doctor Doom to travel through time and enslave all of humankind.
The Fantastic Four first encountered Kang after using Doom’s machine to travel back in time to ancient Egypt, where Kang reigned as a merciless pharaoh named Rama-Tut. Having come from the distant future, Rama-Tut knew all about the Fantastic Four and was easily able to capture them. However, the heroes quickly escaped and forced Rama-Tut to flee in his ship. After his defeat at the hands of the Four, Kang tried returning to his own time but was caught in a time storm, crash landing him instead in the wartorn 41st century. By possessing a superior knowledge of the weapons that humanity was now using to ravage the planet, Kang was able to conquer yet another version of Earth. Though it was never enough to satisfy Kang’s insatiable yearn for conquest. Since his first appearance, Kang has battled (and nearly defeated) many members of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes: The Avengers.
The time-traversing tyrant will make his MCU debut in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, where he will be portrayed by Jonathan Majors (Da 5 Bloods, Lovecraft Country). Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, and Michelle Pfeiffer are all set to reprise their roles alongside Majors in the third Ant-Man movie.
Since Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania isn’t scheduled to be released until February 2023, official plot details are still under wraps, but what we can assume is that the Quantum Realm will be fully explored. The microscopic dimension was seen briefly in the first two Ant-Man movies, and played a key role in reversing Thanos’ snap in Avengers: Endgame, officially introducing time travel to the MCU. Whether Quantumania will keep true to Kang’s origins from the comics remains to be seen, but an easter egg pointed out by fans in 2018’s Ant-Man and the Wasp suggests that Kang may already exist in the Quantum Realm.
The clue in question was spotted during a scene where Scott Lang and Hank Pym retrieve Janet Van Dyne, the original Wasp, from the Quantum Realm. Some fans noticed a floating city in the background, which resembles the domed city of Chronopolis; a city that Kang rules over in the comics. If that is the case, then the stage has long been set for Kang’s triumphant debut in the MCU. Either way, it will be exciting to see how the MCU’s tiniest heroes fare against one of its biggest villains.