Tips To Convert Marvel Comic & Cartoon Characters To The Marvel Cinematic Universe
Table of Contents
- Acknowledge the differences in the canon and the way the world works in Earth-199999 compared to the comics and cartoons, and adjust for it.
- Don’t retcon your character into places or positions it’s highly unlikely your character could have been in.
- Calm down those kooky comic and cartoon costumes.
- Meet Zerona, Queen of Jotunheim!
- So, to summarize...
Acknowledge the differences in the canon and the way the world works in Earth-199999 compared to the comics and cartoons, and adjust for it.
The canon of of the MCU (Earth-199999) is frequently very different from the canons of other continuities, if not completely contradictory. If you bring elements in from one of them and fail to adjust your character for these differences, you're going to end up creating a very confusing mess that doesn't even fit the tone of the films.
One very notable difference between comic/cartoon and movie canon is that the movies try to give characters more reasonable motives and backstories. For example, Golden Age Bucky Barnes was a teenager when he was Captain America's sidekick. In a modern light, this would be viewed as highly unethical - Bucky would essentially be a child soldier. Making Bucky an adult who enlisted into the army and who was already a brother figure to Steve Rogers before fighting with him made much more sense. (It should also be noted that Bucky's Golden Age backstory was so ridiculous in retrospect that comics writer Ed Brubaker actually retconned it so that 616!Bucky, while still underage, was military-trained and assigned by the army to work with Steve Rogers, and the "ordinary kid" backstory was cooked up by the press for political reasons.)
The MCU world also tends to be a more reactive and responsive world - which is to say, actions have consequences. In Avengers Assemble, Justin Hammer may have gotten away scot-free after trying to kill the Avengers with Super Adaptoid, but he was arrested in Iron Man 2 for trying to kill Tony Stark. In fact, Iron Man and Iron Man 2 are pretty good examples of how Earth-199999 is a responsive world overall - in the first film, Tony Stark creates the Iron Man armor. In the second film, we see the consequences of this: first, the US senate tries to gain control of the Iron Man suit. Secondly, other developers are trying to create their own armors in order to stay competitive. Third, Justin Hammer was arrested and as of the short All Hail The King, he's still in prison.
So when you rewrite your character’s backstory to fit Earth-199999 or plotting out what will happen to your character, ask yourself if that’s how things would happen if people behaved and reacted realistically, and ask yourself what consequences your character’s actions would have if people behaved realistically. Adjust your character and xir story accordingly.
Characters who were originally two-dimensional in the comics are generally given more rounded personalities and more realistic motives. For example, 616!Loki's motives rarely extend beyond "make Thor and maybe Odin angry!" for little to no apparent reason other than he's just a spiteful brat. On the other hand, Loki in Thor is shown to have a multitude of realistic and believable motivations: for one, he has a lot of resentment built up against Thor over the years for what's actually a pretty good reason. For another, he wants to see Asgard ruled well, and he recognizes that Thor would make a horrible king. Also, he's desperate to be seen as an equal to Thor. Finally, he's suffering an emotional breakdown which compromises his ability to make rational decisions.
So if you try to import, say, Sigyn but fail to add any depth to her character (read: give her a life, personality, opinions, and identity outside of being in a relationship with Loki), you're going to end up with a comparatively shallow and boring character. Consider that Malekith wasn't given much depth in The Dark World, and he never became particularly popular... despite the fact that he was played by Christopher Eccleston.
Don’t retcon your character into places or positions it’s highly unlikely your character could have been in.
When Marvel brought in Black Widow, they didn’t introduce her as someone who helped Tony Stark escape Afghanistan; they gave her a proper introductory story to kick butt in. Aldrich Killian wasn’t brought in as someone who helped Tony build his suit “behind the scenes” before Tony callously threw him out on his ear, but as someone Tony had been a jerk to at a party that took place before the events of Iron Man.
If you’re trying to fit your character into Earth-199999 as we know it (as opposed to writing an AU), stop and ask yourself how plausible it is that your character was actually there and unseen in the capacity you have in mind. If it’s not plausible, adjust it.
Continuing with Sigyn as an example of a character to be ported, is it possible that Sigyn exists in Earth-199999? Yes! Is it possible that she personally knows Loki, maybe even had a fling with him at some point? Definitely yes! Is it very likely that she’s his fiance or wife right now, but we just didn’t see her? Errrm… no.
If Sigyn and Loki were close and/or married at the time of Thor, why wasn’t she at Loki's side when he took the throne? Why didn’t she show up at his funeral feast? Why wasn’t she present at his sentencing in The Dark World? It’s mighty strange that she never showed up at any of these if Marvel Film Studios intended for her to be Loki’s dearly beloved all along.
So ask yourself - does your idea for your character require awkward or convoluted justifications? Would it make more sense if your character wasn’t there in the capacity you had in mind? If so, then try bringing your character in through a manner that makes more sense in light of canon events.
Calm down those kooky comic and cartoon costumes.
If your character is going to wear a superhero or supervillain costume, a few adjustments will need to be made in order to make it look decent in the Earth-199999 universe.
First, the colors need to be toned down. The brightly-colored costumes worn by the comic and cartoon characters look fine in the comics and cartoons - but that's because everything is brightly-colored. Earth-199999 is by and large a live action universe with the same color palette as the real world. Against a real-world palette, those bright colors look garish - and they're none too flattering on real-life skin tones. Compare the color palettes of the Earth-199999 costumes - you can see they're toned down from their comic counterparts, and they look much better for it.
Trim down sillier or unnecessary design elements, too. You'll note that Hawkeye's mask is gone, that Black Widow's gold belt disappeared in place of a utility belt, and the weird cuffs of Thor's boots disappeared in favor of a more functional design. The ridiculously huge headpieces and helmets of the Asgardians were traded in for smaller and more laid-back pieces. (Go ahead, compare Odin's headgear in the comics compared to the helmet he wears in Thor.)
Get rid of the Spandex and body suits. While the Punisher wears a skin-tight costume in the comics (complete with boots and gloves that look like they were painted on!), the Thomas Jane version throws this out in favor of a custom-painted black t-shirt, black canvas pants, and a black trenchcoat. The Ray Stevenson version wears an outfit that's closer to modern tactical gear with the skull just faintly painted over the chest area. Both versions look better and more believable than their comic counterpart. The Red Skull's hideous green jumpsuit was exchanged for a proper military-style uniform, and it makes him a far more credible character. (Alas, Black Widow's catsuit loses points in the credibility department - something more like the outfit worn by Dr. Jennifer Keller in Stargate: Atlantis or even Melinda May's outfit from Agents of SHIELD would have been a better choice.)
For some considerations to take into account when trying to design costumes that would work better in the real world, see Hazards & Liabilities In Hair, Costume, & Wardrobe.
Meet Zerona, Queen of Jotunheim!
Let’s say I wanted to make Queen Zerona from the 1981 Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends into a 199999-compatible character. To sum up her one and only appearance in the show, Zerona is queen of the frost giants. After rescuing Iceman/Bobby Drake, she fell head-over-heels for him despite the fact that, y’know, he was small enough she could easily pick him up. She was dethroned by her uncle Ymir, and Iceman helps her regain her throne. She plans to marry Iceman ASAP, but changes her mind when another frost giant proposes to her. So, we have very cheesy character designed for a very cheesy show, which makes her all the more fun to refit for a universe that takes itself more seriously.
What I would do is make Zerona the only heir to the throne of Jotunheim after the events of Thor. I’d make her a teenager who was up until now sheltered and didn’t have a lot of power, and is now enjoying the freedom and clout that comes with being a queen. Being young and sheltered, she also has some rather naive ideas about love and romance - it seems perfectly natural to want to marry the first handsome man who seems to be nice, because that’s how it happened in the stories her mother told her growing up.
However, Zerona’s naivety and the fact that she’s clearly giddy with the power and prestige of rulership lead others to question whether she should be on the throne at all, and another frost giant does indeed depose her. Her naivety about relationships would also lead to her getting hurt when the frost giant she believes to be her true love abandons her after she loses the throne. Unlike in Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends where Zerona overtook the throne easily with Iceman’s help and everyone was happy to have her back, 199999!Zerona would have to learn to be a proper ruler and gain her people’s respect in order to get enough support to get the throne back.
Zerona would also bitterly hate Asgard (at least for awhile) because…
A: Asgard is responsible for the collapse of jotun civilization (via stealing the Casket of Ancient Winters, without which their infrastructure collapsed and left them in ruin).
B: Thor came along and killed a ton of frost giants for something nobody even knew about, and:
C: Next thing she knew, the Bifrost was being used as a planet-destroying weapon, and during that attack she lost several friends and family members.
When she finds out it was Loki who was responsible for C… well, she won’t exactly be very pleased with him. And quite frankly, she’ll probably never really be all right with him - sure, Loki may have found out that he was adopted and that his father was kind of an ass and that may have been kind of traumatizing, but it really doesn’t compare to losing family and friends because somebody had a genocidal fit because Daddy didn’t love him enough.
Zerona’s appearance would be altered, too - in Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends she looked like some sort of frost elf or Vulcan, which isn’t at all in line with how they looked in the films. So, Zerona would be redesigned to fit the hairless, ear flap-less, red-eyed look, complete with traditional scarification. (The lines on the frost giants really don’t look like they could be natural, so I’m going with scarification.) And rather than her early 80’s catsuit, she’d be given an outfit that was more consistent in design with those worn by the frost giants in Thor.
Of course, this isn’t the only way Zerona could be developed for MCU compatibility - it’s just how I’d do it. If you wanted, you could make Zerona a backstabbing conniver who plays up the cute and naive image for her own advantage. Maybe she helped Loki round up the frost giants who broke into the vault thinking it would help secure political power in the long run, and now wants Loki’s hide because he tried to destroy her world. Maybe she feels guilty for setting motions into event that turned out disastrous for Jotunheim, maybe not. There are many directions you could go with this.
So, to summarize…
- Earth-199999 canon is different from Earth-616 canon and various cartoon canons. Work with it, not against it.
- If your character was relatively simplistic in personality and motivation, try to flesh your version out more.
- Actions in the MCU have consequences. Ask yourself how these consequences would affect your character, and how other characters would react to your character’s actions if they behaved realistically.
- Work your character into the universe in such a way that it doesn’t create plotholes or raise questions that can’t be resolved without unlikely or convoluted circumstances.
- Fix up your character’s outfits so they’re more in line with what characters in the MCU wear, lest xir clothes make xir look like a complete and utter cheesestick.
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