The world of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is constantly expanding. With new movies coming out every year and new characters seemingly appearing out of nowhere, it’s easy for a casual movie goer to get lost in the capes and robot armies. But how much do the movie heroes and the original comic book heroes actually relate?
Before you get confused by the big screen, here’s a crash course in superheroes:
The Invincible Iron Man is one of the original characters created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Although he was created in 1963, Tony Stark proved to be one of the most popular tech-based heroes in comic books. While testing weapons in Vietnam, Tony was injured in an explosion and captured by warlord Wong-Chu. Tony created the Iron Man armor to save himself from not only his captors but also from shrapnel lodged near his heart.
Robert Downey Jr.’s fun and sarcastic Iron Man was one of the first heroes introduced to the theatre. When introduced in 2008, Tony Stark was a self-declared “genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist” and owner of the futuristic weapons manufacturer, Stark Industries. Similar to the comic book origins, becoming a victim of Iraqi terrorists that were sold Stark Industries weapons forced Tony to create the Arc Reactor that glows in his chest to keep shrapnel from killing him. Using the Arc Reactor as a power source, Tony built the Iron Man suit to escape terrorist capture and later fight crime across the world.
Captain America was created by a backstory that is hard to get wrong. A patriot during the Second World War, Steve Rogers was considered too small and weak to enlist in the army and join the fight. Unwilling to give up, Steve took part in the top secret experiment testing the Super Soldier Serum. Created in 1941, Captain America did not see the end of the war but instead was frozen in ice until the Avengers discovered him 1964. He has been a prominent member of the Avengers line up ever since.
Released in July 2011, Chris Evans’s Captain America was the last character added to the team before the first Avengers movie. Steve Roger’s story of patriot-turned-hero remains the same as the comics, the only difference being that he was found frozen by S.H.I.E.L.D. in 2011.
Thor the Thunderer and his mighty hammer Mjolnir were based of the Asgardian of Norse mythology. Stan Lee created The Mighty Thor in 1962 because he believed that the only thing that could stop The Hulk was a god. To keep his true identity a mystery, Thor transforms into Dr. Donald Blake and makes his hammer Mjolnir look like a cane that he walks with. Thor comes with plenty of family to cause trouble for the Marvel Universe, including his imposing father Odin, the King of Asgard, and his adopted brother Loki, the God of Mischief. In recent years, though, Thor has become a female hero; this is a direction the film adaptations will probably not be following.
Unlike Captain America and Iron Man, who each have small changes to their story that draw them closer to today’s audience, Thor needs little to relate the God of Thunder to the big screen. The only real difference is his lack of secret identity. Although Donald Blake mentioned as a joke in the 2011 film, Chris Hemsworth’s Thor seems like the last Avenger anyone would want to be their doctor.
Another Stan Lee creation, The Incredible Hulk was added to the Marvel Comics repertoire in 1962 and was originally intended to be grey. When it was found that Bruce Banner’s monstrous alter-ego’s color was difficult to keep consistent when printing, he was changed to his iconic green. When saving the life of a teenager during the testing of a gamma bomb, scientist Bruce Banner was accidently exposed to unnatural amounts of gamma radiation. This 7-foot 1,000 lb hero grows stronger with his anger and often creates a question of his actual intentions and merit to the Avengers.
The Incredible Hulk, released in 2008, is a movie often forgotten by the Marvel community. It did not change much of the hero’s story but did feature Edward Norton as Bruce Banner. The scientist was later recast with Mark Ruffalo for The Avengers in 2011.
The purple ace archer of the Avengers is one of the most popular characters in the comic books but he is often viewed as useless in the general public and film community. Created in 1964, Clint Barton is one of the sassiest and most stubborn characters in comics. He developed his unflinching, don’t-mess-with-me attitude when his abusive father and quiet mother were killed in a car accident and Clint and his brother did what any orphan would do: join the circus. There, Clint learned from multiple mentors many skills with not only the bow, but many other weapons.
Little is known of Clint Barton in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With only 12 minutes of total screen time throughout the entirety of The Avengers, only some conclusions can be drawn in regards to Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye. Apart from his small cameo in Thor, Hawkeye was introduced as little more than a S.H.I.E.L.D. field agent and partner to Black Widow. Comic fans will recognize that his costume is close to that of the Hawkeye featured in the Ultimates story and series. Until his much deeper character development in Age of Ultron (which won’t be spoiled for you here, don’t worry), Clint is only a mysterious and skilled archer.
The first lady of the Avengers, Black Widow received the Russian attempt at the Super Soldier Serum when she was created in 1964. Natasha Romanoff—or Natalia Romanova, as she is known in Russian—originally used her beauty to trick Hawkeye into helping her and her endeavors as a Soviet spy. She later changed sides and joined the Avengers. Since the only other woman on the Avengers—Wasp—was in a relationship with Ant-Man, Natasha became known for her love triangles with Iron Man, Hawkeye, Captain America, and many other Avengers.
Similar to Hawkeye, Black Widow is given little back story in The Avengers. Also appearing in Iron Man 2, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow is the perfect S.H.I.E.L.D. super spy. Comments are made to Natasha’s prior involvements and negative past deeds but no real facts are presented in the films.
Created by in 1968, Vision was an android created by Ultron with the remains of the Human Torch (not the one in the Fantastic Four, another Human Torch) and programmed with Wonder Man’s brain patterns. With a solar cell mounted on his forehead, allowing him to emit a beam of microwave radiation, Vision was sent to destroy the Avengers. Rather than fulfilling his mission, he became a trusted member of the Avengers and even went on to marry the Scarlet Witch.
The Vision in the films was introduced in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Ultron used advanced technology to create this Vibranium, android body that he planned to download himself into. Ultron creates his consciousness using the Mind Stone (one of the six Infinity Gems) that was hidden inside of Loki’s scepter from the first Avengers movie. When the body was stolen by the Avengers, Tony Stark and Bruce Banner download J.A.R.V.I.S.’s base code into the body and Thor brings him to life with a Frankenstein-style bolt of lightning. Paul Bettany’s Vision can use the Mind Stone to attack and is the only other Avenger able to wield Mjolnir.
SCARLET WITCH AND QUICKSILVER
Wanda Maximoff and Pietro Maximoff
First created in 1964 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are mutants and twin siblings of Magneto. Wanda’s powers are hard to explain but she has reshaped reality multiple times; she can bring characters back to life or totally remove them from the time stream. Wanda is known to lash out when experiencing extreme emotional trauma, causing damage to Avengers and Mansion and even some Avengers. Quicksilver, on the other hand is a classic comic book-style speedster: brash, rude, and always quick. He has gone back and forth between the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and the Avengers, fighting both with and against his sister.
Wanda and Pietro are new to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch and Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Quicksilver were orphaned during bombings in their home country of Sokovia. They then volunteered for experimentation with Wolfgang von Strucker’s Hydra facility. Neither of these characters can be called mutants or children of Magneto simply because Marvel does not own the rights. This explains why Evan Peter’s Quicksilver appeared in X-Men: Days of Future Past as a mutant.