Marvel made a lot of news yesterday in announcing its lineup of blockbuster superhero movies for something like the next twenty-five years. All of comic book fandom let out what can only be described as a collective groan of climax as names like Captain Marvel and the Infinity Gauntlet were tweeted and posted seemingly devoid of any context at all. It was like that famous daytime TV scene where Opera gave everyone in the crowd a car, but instead of a studio full of soccer moms, it was a bunch of fictional men and women in spandex and leather, and instead of cars, it was, “You’re getting a movie! And you’re getting a movie! Everyone’s getting a movie!”
But not everybody. And that’s the reason why I’m just not on board. Because none of my favorite Marvel superheroes made the cut. Dr. Strange? Sorry, I don’t care about Dr. Strange. Civil War? Civil War was one of the biggest comic book cash grabs since The Secret Wars of the 1980s, and almost made me renounce Marvel Comics for good. The Inhumans? Man, I just momentarily fell asleep thinking about how boring the Inhumans are. Come on, even Ant-Man is getting a movie. Ant-Man! No, if I had it my way, the Marvel cinematic universe would look a lot different. Here are five Marvel characters that deserve their own feature films. (And if you’re about to point out the bullshit legalities of why the Fantastic Four can’t star in the same movies as the Incredible Hulk, just save it. I have no time for any of that movie studio nonsense.)
Speedball was one of the coolest Marvel characters that you’ve probably never heard of. He’s a dorky teenager who gets caught up in some heavy-tech science experiment and, as a result, gains some pretty unique abilities. Whenever he gets pushed around, that is, whenever his body experiences anything more than a slight physical trauma, like falling down the stairs, or getting punched in the face, his superpowers kick in. His scrawny adolescent body turns into that of a strong adult man, complete with built in costume. Seriously, how awesome is that? Unlike, say, Spider-Man, who always has to worry about people accidentally catching a look at the webbed red-and-blues underneath his shirt, Speedball’s costume materializes out of nowhere. And that’s not all, his regular short, blonde haircut turns into a wild mane of golden locks, and his voice takes on an otherworldly echo.
And I haven’t even gotten to his powers yet. He bounces around. Speedball can bounce off of anything. The greater the speed behind his movement, the greater the bounce. And while he’s in his bouncy form, he can’t get hurt. So you’ll often see him curled up into a ball, bouncing around, knocking bad guys out like a pinball with his unlimited bouncing powers. How cool is that? I always thought Speedball was the pinnacle of cool. And his secret identity is named Robbie, just like my name used to be Robbie when I was a little kid. I can remember being in second grade and getting lost in Speedball comics. It was like reading an awesome comic book adventure about myself. Speedball is super cool, and he deserves his own multi-million dollar movie franchise. (By the way, I don’t like being called Robbie anymore, so do me a favor and never call me Robbie.)
2. Alpha Flight
America has the Avengers, but Canada has Alpha Flight. That’s right, a team of Canadian superheroes. And the series doesn’t rest on goofy stereotypes or silly misrepresentations, no, you won’t find any hockey-themed superpowers, or villains charged with threatening the nation’s reserves of maple syrup and Labatt Blue. This is a group of national superheroes, who probably each deserve their own movies individually. There’s Major Mapleleaf. He’s like a superhero version of a mounted police officer, only, in a unique twist, he doesn’t have any superpowers. He’s just a regular guy, with a regular sense of patriotic duty, and a super-powered horse named Thunder.
The best of all is Puck, a really short dude from Saskatchewan with a hipster moustache and black unitard adorned with a giant P on the chest. Kind of like Speedball, Puck bounces around a lot also. Only he’s shorter, and he looks like a puck … wait, I’m just making the hockey connection now. OK, I take back what I said earlier, about the no hockey stuff. Whatever, Puck is awesome. Alpha Flight is awesome. And on a side note, one of the team’s support characters was a Canadian government agent named Gunther. Just like my last name! I hope you don’t think I’ll just fall behind anything that validates my name in print. But come on, isn’t that pretty cool?
3. Stilt Man
Stilt Man is a bad guy, but wouldn’t it be refreshing to have a Marvel movie set from a villain’s perspective? I think that Stilt Man would be the perfect choice for a darker take on the Marvel Universe. Stilt Man is a genius inventor who built himself a bulletproof mechanical suit. Sounds like Iron Man, right? Wrong. He’s nothing like Iron Man. Stilt Man can’t fly. And he doesn’t do the whole laser-beams-out-of-the-hands thing either. Stilt Man’s unique robotic abilities rest on his telescopic legs.
It’s totally original, because where most other boring heroes and villains fly or jump or teleport, Stilt Man has these robot legs that get really, really long. And so he’s just this regular super-genius, but one terrorizing the city atop a giant pair of mechanical stilts. The heroes have such a hard time catching up with him. After he robs a jewelry store or hits up a bank, he activates his stilts, and suddenly he’s gliding through the night sky, his giant legs giving him the powers of even gianter steps. He’s like a power-walker on speed. His look is visually stunning. And in subsequent appearances, he even has a girlfriend, Lady Stilt-Man. Seriously, this movie seems like a no-brainer.
I’ve been saying this for as long as I’ve been able to make over-the-top arguments about comic book characters: Ice Man is the most powerful person in the history of superheroes. And I know that he’s been featured in the X-Men movies, but Iceman needs his own film completely apart from everyone else. For real, Wolverine got a bunch of his own boring movies. And if you ask me, in choosing any character to give a standalone franchise, Wolverine was a mistake. It should have been Iceman.
There isn’t anything that Iceman can’t do. He could freeze you in your tracks. Talk about cool, he’ll fight crime while saying apropos catchphrases like, “Why don’t you chill out,” or, “Freeze!” Iceman always wins because, in the end, everything’s got to cool off. The molten core of our planet has eventually got to run out of juice. Our sun is set to one day fizzle up and die off. The very nature of the universe is that of a giant cool-down, entropy, everything getting further apart and closer to absolute zero. That is, everything except for Iceman. He’ll be the only one left. And for that, he deserves at least one standalone film, if not a whole trilogy.
5. Aunt May
Does anybody else ever feel bad that comic book movies are mainly geared toward young guys? Sure, there’s a lot being done by the industry to appeal to a broader audience, but there’s no denying that the world of superheroes is mostly a huge boys club. You try to reach out to women, you try to get past the typical prime market of men aged nineteen to thirty-five, and that’s commendable. But what about old people? What efforts are being made to incorporate senior citizens into the broader Marvel cinematic universe?
The obvious answer is to have a movie all about Spider-Man’s elderly Aunt May. We’ll watch her make pancakes in the morning, and go to the bank to run errands in the afternoon. I’m saying it wrong. The point’s not going to be a movie about old people doing only old people things. Aunt May hasn’t exactly lived a boring life. No, at one point she was romantically involved with one of Spider-Man’s arch-foes, Doctor Octopus. Are you telling me that kind of tension wouldn’t translate spectacularly to the big screen? One time Aunt May died. Only, it turned out that it wasn’t Aunt May, it was a clone. That could be part of the movie. Another time she was gunned down, but Spider-Man chose to make a deal with the devil in order to bring her back to life. Actually, that was a pretty dumb story, maybe we’ll keep that part out of the movie. But while an Aunt May movie might not immediately strike you as a potential blockbuster, it absolutely could be, as long as it’s marketed correctly. Because isn’t this country majority old people? Cranky old men in pleated pants have been running the show for as long as I’ve been around. And as the baby-boomers settle into retirement, America’s only going to get greyer. We need senior citizen Aunt May based Marvel movies, if only to subsidize the growing costs of the ever-expanding regular Marvel movies. If we could get people over sixty-five to watch even one Marvel movie a year, that’s big business. And then DC could follow suit and make a movie all about Batman’s butler, Alfred.
I’m just saying, the Marvel universe is so much more than just the Avengers. While the future of comic book movies might appear comprehensive, we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of superhero source material. Marvel, you should call me up. You should call me up and say, “Rob, get your ass to Hollywood and start cranking out scripts. You’re a genius! Let’s get to work. And believe us, we’re going to pay you, big time. Yes sir, you’re going to be a very rich and famous man, Mr. Gunther.” And I’ll totally say yes. Seriously, I can start tomorrow.