Small MCU Moments That Have Major Comic Backstories

List Rules
Vote up the small MCU moments that make you want to find out more.

Without the wonderful world of Marvel Comics, there would be no Marvel Cinematic Universe. The latter is, after all, an adaptation of the former, and the MCU has adapted not just the heroes and villains of Marvel Comics lore, but also several of its most notable storylines, too. But there is more than a half-century’s worth of source material to choose from, and not every comic book arc or plot can be crammed into the film franchise.

Some classic storylines, inevitably, will never be adapted into the MCU. Others, meanwhile, are relegated to being referenced or hinted at in some way, and many of those references are rather subtle. The reality is that there’s attention to detail, subtext, and nuance lurking in nearly every second of the MCU. Sometimes, it takes a deep understanding of comic book history to understand exactly what Marvel Studios is trying to pull off on-screen.

  • 1
    70 VOTES

    Betty Ross’s Psychiatrist Boyfriend In ‘The Incredible Hulk’ Becomes A Gamma-Powered Superhero Shrink In The Comics

    When Bruce Banner first tracks down Betty Ross in The Incredible Hulk, he’s initially distraught to find out that Betty has moved on to a new boyfriend in psychiatrist Leonard Samson. But it’s not as bad as it seems, because Samson turns out to actually be a pretty cool guy - and because it takes approximately 15 minutes for Betty to leave him for Bruce anyway. 

    In his couple of minutes of screen time, Dr. Samson psychoanalyzes everyone he comes into contact with, from Betty to Bruce to Thunderbolt Ross. That should really come as no surprise, given that he's a psychiatrist - and given that, in the pages of Marvel Comics, providing psychoanalysis to his fellow comic book characters is basically Leonard Samson’s whole thing.

    In the comics, Samson did start out as an ordinary shrink with a connection to Ross, but a gamma accident resulted in him gaining a lesser, but permanent, form of Hulk-like strength. Even powered up, however, Leonard remained dedicated to his craft, and specifically to his quest of “fixing” Bruce Banner’s fractured psyche. Samson succeeded to a degree in Incredible Hulk #377, bringing all of Banner’s various personas into one singular, content, impossibly strong individual - but that didn’t last long, and Samson has since moved on to other pursuits. 

    70 votes
  • 2
    84 VOTES

    Beta Ray Bill Exists Only As A Statue In ‘Thor: Ragnarok’

    In what can only really be considered an Easter egg at best, the equine face of Beta Ray Bill is briefly glimpsed in Thor: Ragnarok, in the form of an honorary gigantic bust adorning the Grandmaster’s gladiatorial arena on Sakaar. But Beta Ray Bill has yet to show his actual face in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and that’s a shame because his story is a great one - and it has something to do with a gladiatorial arena, too.

    The Ballad of Beta Ray Bill told the titular character’s full origin story, as an alien who had literally taken on the full burden of his hibernating people’s protection and paid the price for it with his strange appearance. When Bill and Thor came to blows over a misunderstanding, Bill attempted to lift Mjolnir and succeeded, theoretically proving himself worthy of the power of Thor. Aghast, the God of Thunder asked his father to intervene.

    Ever the supportive parent, Odin transported Thor and Bill to Skartheim and ordered them to battle to the death for the right to wield the hammer. Beta Ray Bill won the duel but refused to kill Thor, which was apparently the right answer. Odin summoned them back to Asgard, gave Mjolnir back to Thor, and presented Bill with a brand-new hammer named Stormbreaker, which would grant him power equal to that of Thor.

    Since that day, Beta Ray Bill has been one of Thor and Asgard’s staunchest allies - and a Marvel Comics fan favorite, to boot. Yet Stormbreaker has made it into the MCU and Bill has not. It’s almost a shame.

    84 votes
  • 3
    44 VOTES

    Life-Model Decoys Are Actually A Really, Really Big Deal In The World Of Marvel Comics

    A fun little scene in The Avengers saw Tony Stark comically try to avoid a conversation with Phil Coulson, to the point that he answered a video call and announced, “You have reached the Life-Model Decoy of Tony Stark; please leave a message.” It’s a one-liner, and Coulson was inside Stark’s apartment moments later anyway, but it’s also a reference to something that is a major and long-running component of Marvel Comics, and not necessarily a positive one.

    Life-Model Decoys, or “LMDs,” are a technology developed by S.H.I.E.L.D. for the purposes of providing life-like duplicates of their agents. Nick Fury became famous for his use of LMDs, to the point that most Marvel characters questioned whether they ever encountered the real Fury - which, as it turned out, they probably didn’t. Fury used LMD tech to bring his WWII buddy Dum Dum Dugan back to life, but neglected to tell Dugan that he was an artificial being, which led to some uncomfortable revelations down the line. Still, even those paled in comparison to the many, many occasions on which LMDs went off their programming and attempted to overthrow S.H.I.E.L.D.

    For Stark personally, his most significant run-in with a Life-Model Decoy came in a story arc titled "The Beginning of the End." That saw a Tony LMD gaining full sentience and attempting to take over his life, reasoning that it was everything the real Tony was and more. It did not win the argument.

    While LMDs are only officially a jokey reference in the MCU, it should be noted that they played a major role in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., where they - you guessed it - rose up and attempted to overthrow S.H.I.E.L.D. Unfortunately, the canonicity of that series has been called into question of late. 

    44 votes
  • 4
    59 VOTES

    The Demise Of Daniel Drumm In ‘Doctor Strange’ Is The Comic Book Origin Of Doctor Voodoo

    Doctor Strange proves a quick study of the mystic arts in his own self-titled origin story, but he’s still thrown into the film’s main conflict rather abruptly when he arrives at the Sanctum Sanctorum in New York just in time to see its designated protector, Daniel Drumm, executed by Kaecilius and his acolytes. 

    The brouhaha that ensues is what truly starts Stephen Strange on his journey toward becoming the Sorcerer Supreme. But that results in Drumm’s demise being more or less brushed over, and that’s a bit... peculiar, because that exact occurrence is integral to the origin of another Marvel Comics hero: Jericho Drumm, alternately known as Brother and Doctor Voodoo.

    In a story first told in Strange Tales #169 and #170, Haitian Houngan Daniel Drumm was slain by a rival, and so his brother Jericho - a practicing physician in the United States - returned to take up his sibling’s craft. A mentor figure named Papa Jambo bound Daniel’s spirit to Jericho, combining their voodoo powers together, and Jericho has been fighting supernatural crime ever since - and rather successfully, at that.

    Jericho has been an Avenger, a Howling Commando, and a Midnight Son, and he once briefly succeeded Strange as Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme. Oddly enough, his brother’s demise means that the stage is now set for him to start making a similar legacy for himself in the MCU - just as soon as someone decides to pick up that dangling plot thread.

    59 votes
  • 5
    61 VOTES

    The 'Synthetic Man' Glimpsed In ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’ Is A Marvel Hero Older Than Steve Rogers

    Before Steve Rogers actually becomes the titular star of Captain America: The First Avenger, he and Bucky Barnes visit the 1943 Stark Expo. There’s a brief shot of Dr. Phineas Horton’s “Synthetic Man” in a glass tube on display, but then the film or franchise never mentions it again - which is odd, considering how important that Synthetic Man is to the history of Marvel Comics.

    That Synthetic Man is, in fact, the original Human Torch - a character older than Captain America, older than the 1943 Stark Expo, and older than the modern concept of Marvel Comics itself.

    Debuting in 1939’s Marvel Comics #1 under the banner of Timely Comics, the Human Torch was not a human at all, but a sentient android constructed by Dr. Horton with an unfortunate habit of bursting into flame whenever he encountered oxygen. Eventually, the Human Torch learned to control his combustibility, took up the identity of “Jim Hammond,” and became a superhero, fighting alongside Captain America as an Invader in WWII.

    And, of course, Hammond eventually inspired Johnny Storm of the Fantastic Four to take up his mantle and bring it into the modern Marvel age - though the OG Torch would later reappear and become a part of the action in his own right.

    61 votes
  • 6
    26 VOTES

    Tony Stark Doesn’t Just Joke About Becoming The Secretary Of Defense In The Comics

    Tony Stark was called before a Senate committee hearing in Iron Man 2 and asked by Senator Stern and his cadre of Hydra-infused politicians to give up his Iron Man armor. Stark refused, and instead jokingly offered to become the secretary of defense.

    In the pages of Marvel Comics, however, it wasn’t a joke. The "Best Defense" story arc saw Tony lobbying for and winning the position of secretary of defense under a thinly veiled pastiche of the George W. Bush presidency. Stark continued to act as Iron Man while in office and personally provided national defense on numerous occasions during his tenure. 

    Unfortunately, it all came to an end when the Scarlet Witch began subconsciously altering reality to destroy the Avengers, and made it so that Stark appeared drunk during a meeting of the United Nations. The mystically intoxicated Stark threatened a Latverian ambassador on live television, and that was it for his time in the cabinet. After that, he just went back to being a billionaire superhero.

    26 votes