Sure, movies like Avengers: Infinity War bring together dozens of Marvel characters, ranging from superheroes to their supporting casts to that guy who played Galaga on his computer...but there simply is not enough time in any given Marvel movie to follow back up with every potentially-significant player from previous films.
This is a bit of a difference from the comics, where characters who aren't being used may still be spotted hanging around the Avengers mansion or in the background of a crowded fight scene, saying essentially "yeah, that person still exists."
That is a little more difficult to do when you are dealing with actors -- especially as Marvel becomes more successful and either helps bolster the career of their cast members or just simply hires more famous people along the way. The idea of Sam Rockwell or Jaimie Alexander taking a couple of days off of what they're doing to stand around in the background of a single Endgame shot is hard to figure. So, sometimes, when a character's one big story is done, they are essentially gone forever.
Enter the Marvel Cinematic Universe Reddit, where detail-oriented fans mean nothing is ever really gone forever -- especially not if there's a good joke to be made about it.
Redditor tr7272 put together a Brady Bunch-style grid of characters that he figures the fans will likely never see again, even though their stories were, to varying degrees, left unresolved.
Who did he pick? And which addition did we make becuase our anal-retentive brains wanted ten instead of nine? Well, read on...!
It is possible that by dropping a quick reference to Justin Hammer in an episode of Luke Cage, Marvel simply picked at the scab of fans having forgotten that Sam Rockwell's Iron Man 2 character was ever a thing.
In the film, he was the lead bad guy -- kind of the anti-Tony Stark. In the first movie, Stark was facing strife from within his company, but it was really a question of whether his philosophy would win out over those of his detractors. Hammer used Stark's philosophy against him, and along the way dredged up some physical threats to help out.
So -- where is he?
The short version is, he's in prison.
If you'll remember, Hammer first tried to use legal means -- the influence of Senator Stern, who later turned out ot be a Hydra agent -- and then illegal means to take down Tony Stark, his business rival. Ultimately, his illegal means (which centered on recruiting Ivan Vanko) backfired when Vanko betrayed Hammer. At the end of the day, Hammer got sent to Seagate Prison.
He has been referenced in several comics tied into movies like Age of Ultron and Iron Man 3, but he has not appeared onscreen again since Iron Man 2.
Betty's father, General Thunderbolt Ross (William Hurt), has appeared in later MCU installments, but Betty herself (played by Liv Tyler) vanished after Louis Letterier's The Incredible Hulk ten years ago.
Besides some offhand references and a littie bit of stock footage, most of the characters from the Hulk franchise have been essentially erased from existence (we'll talk about that more in a bit), but really it's Betty who seems like the most obvious omission given that both the last pre-Marvel Studios film and the first post-Marvel Studios one centered almost entirely around the relationships between Bruce and Betty.
This one is a little wonky: The Abomination is documented as having been locked away in Alaska at the end of the film in a cryo-cell.
Villains in general saunter off into the sunset (or, rather, spend time in jail) after most superhero movies, so the reason for including the Abomination is likely twofold: one, that something that powerful seems like it might have been useful to pop up in-story somewhere else over the years, and two, a quiet acknowledgment (again) that Marvel likes to forget The Incredible Hulk was a thing that happened.
The last time we saw Abomination onscreen was in a photo from the Hulk movie -- which has popped up in episodes of Daredevil, The Defenders, and The Punisher.
So, apparently, guys who are TECHNICALLY MCU but not actually used in the MCU stick together.
Rhomann Dey (John C. Reilly) was a major player in Guardians of the Galaxy, and was key to ensuring that the Nova Corps embraced the help of the Guardians, thus saving Xandar from the wrath of Ronan the Accuser.
Despite the number of movies set in space jumping since Guardians, Dey (and most of his fellow Nova Corps members) hasn't been seen in quite some time.
Since Xandar was "decimated" by Thanos en route to getting the Power Stone (that's Thanos speak for kiling half of everyone), we're going to hope for the best -- after all, Dey is a father to that adorable little pink girl -- but it is hardly guaranteed.
Helen Cho's (Claudia Kim) appearance in Avengers: Age of Ultron wasn't a major part of the plot, but it caught fans' attention for largely the sdame reason that Aaron Davis's appearance in Spider-Man: Homecoming did. It is less about the character themself and more about what it could imply down the line.
While her son Amadeus is the more "exciting" contept that could come to the MCU, Helen Cho is in her own right a world-class scientist who has proven herself useful to the Avengers...so maybe she'll pop back up some day?
But the changes made to The Mandarin were one of the biggest alterations made to the Marvel Cinematic Universe from the source material of a major character.
(In fact, Iron Man 3 in general had several characters who felt a bit like one of those old superhero movies from pre-Nolan, where characters just pop up in name only and do stuff that has nothing to do with who or what they are in the comics.)
Given the vocal objections of a small portion of the fan community, it should not be much of a surprise that the official Marvel line for a while was that there was more to the Mandarin twist than meets the eye.
Those unofficial hints were made manifest, at least a little in a short dedicated to Slattery and released on the Thor: The Dark World Blu-ray, when it was implied that the "real" Mandarin was out there, and wasn't happy with Slattery...!
Speaking of which -- what's the deal with The Mandarin? The whole thing of the Ten Rings was being built up subtly in background shots and such from the very first film, and whether or not you liked the Slattery reveal, it seems like a bit of a damp squib in terms of a sendoff for a subplot that had been around for years.
There were both on- and off-screen implications that there was another Mandarin who was a bigger threat, so it seems like a legitimate question, even if we don't have an actor to attach it to, to wonder whatever happened to that.
...well, you can stop them right there. The two most common answers are "SHIELD collapsed, so that person is probably managing a Target now," or "They're on Agents of SHIELD."
Neither of these apply to Mitchell Carson, who was last seen in Ant-Man -- in other words, after the fall of SHIELD.
This one has been left intentionally vague, according to Ant-Man director Peyton Reed, who said during an interview with CinemaBlend that Carson was originally going to be caught by Ant-Man at the end of the movie, but that it felt like it was better to "leave those particles [that Carson had stolen] out there."
Lady Sif is probably the character on this list with whom fans have shared the most screen time. Besides two Thor movies, Jaimie Alexander's character has appeared in a couple of episodes of Agents of SHIELD.
Alexander had a Blindspot filming commitment that made appearing in Thor: Ragnarok impossible, and the Russo brothers have told HuffPost that she was killed as a result of Thanos's finger-snap.
...Of course, the theory is, most of the snapped folks will return one day soon anyway...!
Samuel Sterns/Mister Blue is a character who was obviously really over his most significant moment -- but that does not mean he could not, as a scientific genius, still be a valuable player in a future story.
Per the Marvel Cinematic Universe Wiki, who puts this more concisely than I would, "Doctor Samuel Sterns is a cellular biologist and Grayburn College professor who was finding a cure for Bruce Banner. Sterns managed to engineer a temporary antidote for Banner's condition, but was also forced to repeat this process with Emil Blonsky, transforming him into the Abomination. When he was affected by Banner's blood on his head's open wound, his mind suffered a rapid mutation, greatly increasing his mental abilities. However, Natasha Romanoff arrived and subdued him, handing him into S.H.I.E.L.D.'s custody."
So...what happens to somebody like this, if they're in SHIELD custody, when SHIELD crumbles?
We have seen some of SHIELD's prisoners killed when facilities were compromised, some likely escaped, some were integrated into Hydra, and of course a healthy chunk of them likely got the wrong end of the odds and died when Thanos did his thing.
...But what of Sterns? We'll see...if it ever comes up again.
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