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The Avengers is now a media titan, a billion dollar conglomerate of movie franchises built on the backs of characters that a mere 10 years ago largely weren't considered viable as movies. Perennial second-stringer Black Panther starred in one of the highest grossing movies of all time, yet not long ago people were dubious of even Thor and Captain America working as movies.
(Things turned out alright for them, if you're wondering).
And yet, there are still some characters that, despite being stalwart members of the Avengers in comic books for decades now, are unlikely to make that leap to big screen success. Here are just a few of the unlucky heroes.
Debuting in the late 90s renaissance of the Avengers comic, Triathlon was initially a rival to the team. Although working as a super-hero in his own right, he was supported by and a member of the shady Triune Understanding religious order. Eventually, Triathlon joined the team, while keeping his religious affiliation, until the organisation's nefarious schemes came to fruition and Triathlon chose the Avengers over them. Since then (and the exit of his creator Kurt Busiek), Triathlon has had only minor appearances and been rebranded as a legacy version of the 50s hero the 3D Man.
So why wouldn't he make the cut? Well, for a start there's the religious aspects. The Triune Understanding storyline was, across a few years, well-written and nuanced, with the group appearing as more than just a one-dimensionally villainous cult. That texture and depth would be hard to make create in the more limited space available to the movies. Religion is a dicey topic all round for a mainstream movie franchise that has global appeal, so even a fictitious group would stray in dangerous territory (even if you strip away the Scientology parallels) not least because it starts to lead you towards questioning whether people worship Thor as a god anymore in the MCU, which isn't something Disney wants its more religious audience members worrying about.
Plus, all that aside, Triathlon's powers are not the most original or cinematic. As you may guess from the name, disgraced former athlete Delroy Garrett is given thrice the normal peak human abilities, which means he's three times as fast, agile, strong etc. Which is fine, but when you've got Captain America running around, with less strictly defined improvements on the peak human abilities, he's not really bringing much new to the equation.
After the success of reworking hoary old Norse god Thor as a super-hero, ancient mythology became a rich vein to mined for, well, Thor stand-ins and opponents mainly. Some have been more successful than others—Hercules has been a Marvel mainstay since the late 60s now. Gilgamesh, less so.
A member of the Eternals—arguably Jack Kirby's combined second draft of the Inhumans and New Gods—Gilgamesh (also known as the Forgotten One) joined the Avengers in the 1989, when the team was particularly desperate for members (so desperate in fact that they took on Gilgamesh despite having Thor already around). His joining was the idea of writer Walter Simonson, whose unconventional run on Avengers (he also had Mr Fantastic and the Invisible Woman join the team at the same time, a blurring of team lines not usually done) happened to end with that issue. This didn't bode well for ol' Gil and, as so often happens, any long term plans for him left with Simonson. Gilgamesh was (sort-of) killed off within a year and has barely been seen with the Avengers since.
There's not a particularly compelling case to put Gilgamesh on screen then (outside of a full-on Eternals project and even then, he'd likely take a backseat to the likes of Sersi and Ikaris). Sure the original mythological entity has the cred of being the ur-myth of ancient heroes, but that doesn't really balance against lack of modern name recognition and having a cow-hide costume while Thor has a bad ass hammer. Gilgamesh has nothing desperately appealing in his power set either, just the bog standard "stronger than a human" schtick.
Any attempt to bring in new mythological heroes threatens to undermine the MCU's balancing act of Thor's historical legacy and godhood with the sci-fi elements of its Asgard, so if that's going to be done for anyone, it'll be for Hercules (hopefully in a Thor and Hercules buddy movie, with Liam Hemsworth as Herc), rather than Gilgamesh.
Let's clear something up right now. Stingray is awesome. I won't have a word said against the amazing aquatic Avenger. But I can accept he's not going to be troubling the cinema any time soon.
When the US government came to oceanographer Walter Newell and told him to capture Namor, the Sub-Mariner (who was firmly in anti-hero territory at the time), Newell set about building a powerful suit of scuba armour, because it was the late 60s and scientists in comics were taken to be accomplished polymaths that could do anything (see biologist Hank Pym creating killer robot Ultron). Not only did a sea-watching civil servant build a working suit of armour, capable of firing electric bolts, but he did indeed manage to take down Namor. Because Stingray is awesome.
And that's one of Stingray's enduring character traits in his sporadic appearances through the years—he is actually incredibly competent at being a superhero, he's just not that interested in it. His Avengers membership was initially a pity invite of sorts, as he owned and ran the artificial island, Hydrobase, that the team was operating out of for a few years and given reserve status. He was a full time member of the team for about six issues, before being quietly rotated out again, but still pops up for the odd "every Avenger ever" story.
Why wouldn't Stingray work on screen? He's certainly got an interesting design that would pop. But, it's a fair point that you can look at him and just label him "undersea Iron Man," which isn't a role that's really needed when you've already got both Iron Man and War Machine on your team. An underwater specialist isn't going to be in much demand (especially when Namor's off limits due to rights issues) and though Stingray's suit works well enough above ground (the "fins" allowing him to glide) there's always going to be the same problem Aquaman has of having to justify that to narrow-minded viewers.
Which is a shame, because, say it with me now, Stingray is awesome. I wouldn't rule out him appearing as just regular Dr Walter Newell in some capacity one day though, maybe along with Hydrobase.
Picture the scene. It's the mythical Marvel Bullpen in the late 60s. Fresh-faced and eager writer Roy Thomas, is pitching a new Avengers character to his boss and editor, Stan Lee.
Roy: I've got this great idea for a hero, Stan. The Black Knight.
Stan: Black Knight. Black Knight. That sounds familiar. Didn't we do that already?
Roy: There was a book in the 50s about a Black Knight, but that was a historical. I want this to be a modern hero, joining the Avengers.
Stan: No, I'm sure I had the Black Knight as a villain, in the Masters of Evil. And we've already done the villain-as-hero thing loads of times on the Avengers.
Roy: This is his nephew, determined to redeem his legacy!
Stan: What are his powers?
Roy: Well, he's got a flying horse. And a magic sword!
Stan: That's not too bad, I guess.
Roy: That he can't use, because it'll unleash a curse on him! But it's ok, because he's an inventor. He's got all kinds of gadgets that he can use to fight crime, like a lance that fire energy blasts.
Stan: Let me get this straight. He's a guy with no powers, in a suit of armour and with loads of gadgets and who can sort of fly?
Stan: Roy, you know we already publish Iron Man, right?
Two Gun Kid
Before the super-hero boom of the 60s, Marvel (then Atlas) would see whatever genre seemed popular at the time and flood the market with it. In 1961, that was monster anthology books, which gradually developed into the homes for the burgeoning super-hero line. But other genres had strong showings in Marvel's catalogue and while these would eventually wilt away in favour of only super-heroes, they became involved with the coalescing of the Marvel universe.
This gave us Patsy Walker, originally a teen romance comic star, who would join the Avengers and Defenders as Hellcat (and currently appears in Netflix's Jessica Jones). It also gave us the Two Gun Kid, one of a number of Western characters that were placed into the Marvel Universe's history. The Western heroes eventually crossed over in a time-travelling Avengers story featuring Kang the Conqueror deciding to take on the 19th century rather than the 20th for once. All this led to the Two Gun Kid ending up in the present day and, for a while, joining the Avengers.
Yep, Avengers membership was extending to a time-travelling cowboy whose only claim to anything close to super-powers was a quick draw and, crucially, two guns. Not just one, two.
Presumably he always lived in fear of the Three Gun Kid appearing.
Snarkiness aside, Two Gun's a perfectly fun character (and it'd be nice to see Marvel's comics division do more with their Western characters). But the Western as a genre has struggled as much on screen as it has in comics in recent decades. What was once a genre so dominant that it was practically the default for the American TV and movie industry now squeaks by with the odd passion project here and there. Comparisons are frequently drawn between the size and popularity of the Western in its heyday and the super-hero genre (which usually undersells just how big the Western was in the 50s. Superheroes will never dominate the market to that degree, regardless of how much DC tries to the flood TV with its characters), often as a way of predicting the impending burst bubble of the superhero boom.
All of which means putting a cowboy front and centre in an Avengers movie isn't all that likely, as much fun as it would be. We may have to just live with the Kid Colt easter egg in Agent Carter season 2.