Less than three full months on from the release of Avengers: Endgame, the next chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is beginning to take shape. Unveiled at last weekend’s San Diego Comic-Convention, Kevin Feige and the executive behind the cinematic powerhouse have given us a fresh batch of information to whet the appetite. The announcement confirmed all of the rumours of a Black Widow standalone film as well as new instalments in the sagas of Doctor Strange and Thor that’ll arrive within “phase four.” Subtitled as “The Multiverse Of Madness” and “Love And Thunder” respectively, they will provide audiences with the disarming sight of familiar faces in between getting acquainted with new heroes in Shang-Chi: Legend Of The Ten Rings & The Eternals.

Away from the world of celluloid, Disney + subscribers will also be treated to prestige episodic adventures from WandaVision, The Winter Soldier & Falcon, Hawkeye and the resurrected Loki before undated new movies from Guardians Of The Galaxy, Black Panther, Captain Marvel and Mahershala Ali’s debut outing as austere vampire killer Blade will arrive some ways down the line. To sweeten the deal, Feige has also promised to give Fantastic Four the film “they deserve” before salvaging X-Men from the wreckage of their last outing along the way.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase Four is announced with cast members durin 2019 Comic-Con International - Kevin Winter/Getty Images

As the anticipation and hypothesizing begins, it’s important to remember that these heroes that have their names emblazoned across the top banner need equally enthralling villains in order for these films to be a success. From Thanos to Michael B. Jordan’s liberation-minded mercenary Erik Killmonger, the past few years have upturned the fortunes of the MCU when it comes to antagonists. While the past had been beset by uninspiringly disposable threats such as Thor: The Dark World’s Malkith or Mickey Rourke’s similarly apathetic take on Whiplash from Iron Man 2, Feige and co appear to have mastered the formula for serving up foes that instil the balance of deplorable actions and well-established motives that makes a great bad guy.

With this in mind, it seems a fine time to run down some of the most maniacal villains from the comic book pages that are ripe for a fully-fledged live action adaptation or, in some cases, another chance to redeem themselves.


Dr Doom

Although we may have seen a film version of Victor Von Doom in Tim Story’s Fantastic Four from 2005, it’s safe to say that a reinterpretation under the MCU umbrella may be a more fortuitous endeavour. Initially portrayed by Julian McMahon of Charmed and Nip/Tuck fame, the Australian actor has been forthcoming about his desire to don the armoured mask once more but there’d be plenty of options should they wish to recast. An adversary and occasional ally of F4, Doctor Strange, X-Men and Spider Man among others, his mixture of sorcery and supreme intellect even led to a fantastic series known as “Doomwar” that pitted him against Black Panther in a struggle over Wakanda’s treasured vibranium. The self-appointed ruler of the fictional kingdom of Latvaria, Dr Doom originally turned to the forces of magic as a way to try and rescue his mother from the throes of death before his desire for power and his ravaging hatred for the Fantastic Four’s Reed Richards led him down a more devious path.

Toeing the line between diabolical and misunderstood, the comic book character that inspired a young Daniel Dumile to don a mask of his own and become one of rap’s most prolific enigmas has endless upside potential as an on-screen foil to any number of heroes.


Kang The Conqueror

A key player in some of the most praised comic book runs of all time such as Secret Wars and The Kang Dynasty, the 31st century interdimensional traveller known as Kang The Conqueror could be embedded into any number of the MCU properties. Regarded as a storied adversary of The Avengers, the celestial being otherwise known as Immortus, Iron Lad and Nathaniel Richards has made his presence felt amongst numerous timelines and the introduction of intersecting realities in Endgame has led fans to believe that his arrival is imminent. As far as who he should be pitted against, he actually constitutes such an imposing threat on his own that he may just be the force that coaxes the far-flung remnants of The Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to band together for the good of mankind.


Bullseye

Although he’s unlikely to become the focal point of any of top-tier movie, the marksmanship of Bullseye would act as a stellar secondary villain for any hero or as a recurring irritant on any New York-based TV series’. Brought to life to middling returns by Colin Farrell in Daredevil and with a great deal more tact by Wilson Bethel in the beloved Netflix series, the mysterious assassin boasts lightning quick speed, martial arts expertise and deadly accuracy that allows him to use even the most innocuous of objects to execute his target. Enduringly popular ever since he first appeared— and at least temporarily died-- in 1969’s Nick Fury: Agent Of Shield Vol 1 #15, this perpetual thorn in Daredevil’s side has also had run-ins with countless other heroes and could fit seamlessly into any live action instalment.


Enchantress

If Thor: Ragnarok taught us anything—aside from that Taika Waititi is a comedic genius—it’s that powerful female nemeses can work wonders in the MCU. Following in the footsteps of the devilish Hela, it would make perfect sense if the aptly named Love and Thunder ushered in the arrival of Enchantress on our screens. Although they may be bound by  matrimony within one timeline, the traditional dynamic is that Enchantress, otherwise known as Amora, is a formidable and beautiful sorceress that can turn even the noblest of heroes into her slave with a kiss. Now that Thor is moving in a more jovial direction, a character such as this alluring Asgardian could be the perfect fit for a movie that’s almost predestined to wear its farcical nature on its sleeve.


M.O.D.O.K

Initially pencilled in for a tertiary appearance during Infinity War, Marvel writer and long-term M.O.D.O.K fan Christopher Markus relayed both his desire to bring the character to life and the inherent difficulties in doing so on Kevin Smith’s Fatman On Batman podcast:

“I’ve wanted to put M.O.D.O.K. in, and it’s very hard to go ‘here’s the supporting character the giant head.’ And then we’re going to get on with the story. We just came to him for information,” he explained. “Like, you kind of have to design the whole movie around the guy with the giant head.”

Absurd as that image may sound on paper, it’s a pretty fitting description for the frenzied being whose moniker literally stands for Mental Organism Designed Only For Killing. The end product of heinous genetic experiments by Advanced Idea Mechanics (AIM), the man once known as bumbling lab hand George Tarleton had hyper-intelligence bestowed upon him, developing mind-melding psychic powers along the way. Capable of emitting a devastating blast of energy from his head, this bizarre anomaly of a character could be used for levity as a hapless villain or as an enemy with destructive capabilities in a way that’s in keeping with his comic book origins.


Lilith 

Now that the return of Blade has went from wishful thinking to a reality, there is no better time to bolster the MCU’s ranks of female antagonists than with the omnipresent mother of all demons herself, Lilith. Although she shares a name with Dracula’s eldest daughter in the MCU, the immortal being has a horde of evil offspring known as “The Lilin” that submissively do her bidding and she’s weathered the storm of run-ins with Dr Strange, Ghost Rider, Vengeance and even the demure vampire slayer himself, Blade. A bit-part player in the Secret Invasion storyline that saw nearly every marquee name in the Marvel universe band together, this force of malevolence could work as an antagonist in any franchise that dips its oar into the mystic or wiccan side of the multiverse.


Annihilus

Distinguished as the unchallenged ruler of The Negative Zone, the MCU’s shift in focus from the insular battles of earth and into the vast expanse of the cosmos would provide a clear-cut window of opportunity for Annihilus to make his presence felt. Among the few entities that can rival the power of Thanos, this Stan Lee and Jack Kirby creation has done battle with the Fantastic 4, The Avengers and The Guardians Of The Galaxy to name just a few. An interloper in the universe whose primary motivation is to eradicate every last shred of life, he’s been the catalyst behind massive crossover events such as Annihilation and The War Of Kings. A monolithic figure in Marvel history, his modus operandi and the power he commands makes him perfect to step into the shoes of “The Mad Titan’ as the MCU’s most dangerous force for extinction.


Grim Reaper

Positioned as one of Hydra’s most ruthless assets in The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes animated series, Grim Reaper is the epitome of a villain that you find yourself empathizing with no matter how much havoc he may wreak. The brother of The Avengers staple Wonder Man—who remains as yet unaccounted for in the MCU himself—the would-be miscreant named Eric Williams is shunned by his family while Simon gets all the affection. Conditioned into believing that he was somehow fundamentally evil from birth, His primary offense all hinges around a technologically-advanced scythe that extracts the life force of his would-be combatants. If that isn’t tailormade to be brought into stunning technicolor, nothing is. A character that’s synonymous with The Avengers, it would be excellent fan service to see him become a staple of WandaVision.


The Beyonder

If all of the rampant fan speculation is true and that the next big cataclysmic event which brings the heroes together will be The Secret Wars, then bringing The Beyonder into the cinematic fold is all but a pre-requisite. Built up as a cosmic lifeform that teeters towards being all-knowing and all-powerful, he grows increasingly intrigued by the human race and opts to assume their form as a means of intensifying his studies. But before long, his predilection for earth’s inhabitants mutates into far more invasive and he soon kidnaps an array of Marvel’s heroes and villains to force them to fight on a newly minted planet known solely as “battleworld.” Incentivized by the promise of “anything their heart’s desire,” the concept of the action sequences alone should implore Marvel to greenlight this plan and The Beyonder is the spark that’s needed for all of these combustible egos and tenuous allegiances to explode before our eyes.


Galactus

Cheerfully dubbed “The Devourer Of Worlds,” the speculation around introducing Galactus to the MCU has taken on many forms over the years. One minute, he’s hidden in the power stone. The next, Tom Hiddleston is foregoing his commitments as Loki to throw his hat in the ring to play the purple colossus. Wherever the truth lies, it seems academic that the cosmic force that uses planets for his sustenance will be making an appearance sooner rather than later.

The last relic from the universe that served as a precursor to our big bang, Marvel lore teaches us that his true form can’t even be fathomed by most living things, his army of heralds are deployed to find an ecosystem that he can subject to his feeding frenzy and notable characters who’ve served this purpose include Ant Man, Doctor Strange and his most enduring subordinate, The Silver Surfer. Seldom weakened if not for the combined might of The Fantastic Four and The Avengers, Kevin Feige’s “five year plan” for the MCU may remain under lock and key for now but it’s nigh on impossible that Galactus hasn’t factored into his schematics somewhere along the line.