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Major MCU Characters That Are Long Since Dead In The Comics

Updated February 5, 2021 118.2k views14 items

As any dedicated consumer of both Marvel Comics and the Marvel Cinematic Universe can attest to, the two franchises are similar in many ways, yet vastly different in others. Not only are the plotlines loosely adapted at best, the characters themselves are often much different in the MCU than they are in the comics. Sometimes, heroes and villains of the MCU have entirely alternate origins - and other times, they’re adaptations of characters who have been deceased in the source material for years.

The creative minds at Marvel Studios have shown a willingness to pull from each and every decade of Marvel Comics history, which means that sometimes they’re reaching back to what modern readers might consider a bygone era. Occasionally, that’s led to characters like Happy Hogan who were once considered long gone getting to live a new life on the big screen - proving once again that old adage that people in superhero comics never really stay dead.

  • Tony Stark Had To Pull The Plug On Happy Hogan

    By portraying Harold “Happy” Hogan and directing 2008’s Iron Man, Jon Favreau kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe and, more than a decade later, he’s still very much a part of it with Hogan filling the role of safeguarding Tony Stark’s legacy.

    In the pages of Marvel Comics, however, Hogan has been deceased since before the MCU even came into existence. During the events of the comic book Civil War, Hogan fends off an onslaught on Stark Industries by the Spymaster, but ends up with grievous injuries that leave him comatose and in danger of permanent brain damage. In Iron Man Vol. 4 #14, at the request of Pepper Potts - Hogan’s wife at the time - Stark uses his mastery over machinery to “pull the plug” on Hogan from afar. It is, in essence, the superhero version of fulfilling a DNR.

  • The Hank Pym of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a very different character than the one he’s based on from the annals of Marvel Comics. Rather than a retired member of a past generation of heroes offering support from the sidelines, the comic book Pym is a founding Avenger who’s gone by codenames ranging from Giant-Man to Yellowjacket. On the downside, he’s also solely responsible for the creation of Ultron - and, as of Avengers: Rage of Ultron, he’s quite literally become one with the genocidal robot.

    That story involves the Avengers confronting Ultron on Thanos’s home planet of Titan, and the final clash sees Ultron strike Pym while the Vision attempts to phase through him. As a result, Ultron and Pym “merge” into one being. Though for a time it was thought that Pym survived the experience and now shared a body with his robot son, Stark eventually discovers that the human side of the amalgamation is in fact quite dead - and that Ultron has essentially taken to wearing his creator’s cadaver around like a meat puppet. 

  • Agent Phil Coulson is an interesting case when it comes to discussing his adaptation, in that he debuted in the Marvel Cinematic Universe long before he appeared in any Marvel Comics. Fans of Marvel Television know that Coulson perishes in Avengers only to be resurrected through alien technology for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - throughout which he comes back to life again approximately seven times. Having been ported over to the publishing side of things after his post-Iron Man popularity, Coulson quickly establishes himself, fittingly enough, as one of SHIELD’s best agents - which, unfortunately, leads directly to his demise.

    The events of Secret Empire see Captain America replaced with an alternate reality version of himself that has been inculcated in HYDRA from a young age. Coulson is one of the few individuals to catch on to the switch, but, before he could report his findings, HYDRA Cap puts out a hit on him and hires the Merc with the Mouth. Thinking he is taking orders from the real Cap, Wade Wilson has no qualms about hunting down Coulson in Deadpool #31 and putting a bullet in him - though Deadpool would eventually discover the truth and attempt to take his own revenge on “Stevil” Rogers.

    Since then, a version of Coulson has returned to the pages of Marvel Comics, but is revealed to be entirely under the thrall of Mephisto - so it’s hard to believe that that’s the same old Coulson we all know and love. 

  • The Marvel Cinematic Universe's take on Ned Leeds is really an adaptation in name only. In the comics, Leeds meets Peter Parker as an adult while the two are coworkers at the Daily Bugle. A diligent reporter, Leeds strikes up a romance with Betty Brant - really the only thing he has in common with the MCU Ned - and becomes friends, but not best friends, with Parker. And then he perishes in a bloody and troubling fashion.

    The one-shot Spider-Man vs. Wolverine sees the titular heroes traveling to Germany, where Leeds’s body has been found in his hotel room after he is supposedly outed as the Hobgoblin. The entire thing turns out to be a scheme by the real Hobgoblin to leak a false identity to his enemies, have them take out the stand-in, and thus fake his own demise - and Ned just happens to be the most convenient substitute.