The Marvel Cinematic Universe is most commonly known for its attention to detail. With so many projects under its belt, the franchise has made sure that each movie other than having a narrative of its own plays an essential role in the cinematic universe. They have achieved this over time by putting plot points throughout the movies that have later played significant roles. Marvel also gives importance to each and every character in the movies however small their roles are. They have often saved certain characters only for them to show up in later projects with rather important purposes. This is a means of doing justice to the characters that have been taken from the comics and have their own fanbase. Let’s take a look at a few Phase 1 characters who can return in Thunderbolts.
This takes us back to the very initialization of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as this character featured in the second film of the franchise, The Incredible Hulk. General Thaddeus Ross, played by William Hurt, has been involved in the events of the movies far earlier than even the movie shows. The character later became a stone in the path of the Avengers considering he implemented the Sokovia Accords after becoming the Secretary of State.
We last saw him in this year’s Black Widow as he was driven to catch Natasha ever since the latter had betrayed him and helped Captain America escape. But if we take the events in chronological order then Ross appeared in Avengers: Infinity War where we saw him ordering James Rhodes to arrest Captain America. In the comics, the character plays an essential role in the formation of the Thunderbolts team. The character’s continuous presence in the MCU could ensure that he continues to play this role and could in fact end up becoming MCU’s Red Hulk.
Emil Blonsky, played by Tim Roth, was the primary antagonist in The Incredible Hulk and he was quite a massive enemy as the Abomination considering he had rather extended features compared to the Hulk. Even though the movie is quite forgettable compared to other projects of the franchise, the ending fight was a rather interesting watch for the fans. Blonsky becomes the Abomination after injecting Bruce Banner’s gamma-irradiated blood.
We recently got to see the character make comeback next to Wong in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. They both appear friendly to each other, trying to earn money by fighting each other in the cage tournament in Macau, China. The character will also be a part of the Disney+ series She-Hulk. An important thing to keep in mind is that Abomination was supposed to be a part of the Avengers Initiative before Hulk was even created. This clearly becomes a source of motivation for the character to be included in a team like the Thunderbolts and he also has a connection to General Ross so that only makes his comeback in this project more feasible.
This was the only appearance in MCU that hasn’t been addressed at all in the franchise so far. Dr. Samuel Sterns, played by Tim Blake Nelson, appears in the MCU in The Incredible Hulk as a professor at Grayburn College and a noted cellular biologist. He was in contact with Bruce Banner and helped him find a possible solution for this gamma mutation. We last see some of Banner’s blood falling on his swelling head as Emil Blonsky transforms into the Abomination after injecting Banner’s gamma radiated blood into his body. According to the comics, Samuel Sterns is a diabolical mastermind known as the Leader and an arch-enemy of the Hulk. Considering this character hasn’t been given any mention after those events at all we can expect Marvel to give him a return.
Justin Hammer, played by Sam Rockwell was quite a fun character to have as a villain in Iron Man 2. At the end of the movie, he is caught as the mastermind behind the chaos that is caused by the robots that were worked on by Whiplash. We last got to see him in the Marvel One-Shot: Hail To The King in prison following the events of him being taken into custody in Iron Man 2. There is a chance that the character might have gotten free in the post-Blip world and thus he might have gotten back into the business. Now that Tony Stark is deceased, working with the Thunderbolts could actually play out well for him.
Keen fans of MCU will notice that Christine Everhart has been appearing the multiple projects over the years. The character played by Leslie Bibb first appeared as an early fling of Tony Stark’s in Iron Man. She was supposed to do a profile on Tony Stark as a Vanity Fair Reporter and ended up being one of his many conquests. Later the character appeared in Iron Man 2 to do a similar profile on Justin Hammer. But soon we would see her as an anchor for the WHIiH Newsfront as she did promos for various other Marvel projects like Ant-Man and Captain America: Civil War. She would also appear in the Disney+ animated series What If…? with Leslie Bibb returning to voice the character. She has a clear chance of returning to the live-action Thunderbolts because of her involvement with other questionable characters in MCU.
William Ginter Riva
Most of the villains in MCU have been because of the mistakes of Tony Stark and this is no different from that case. Pete Billingsley’s William Ginter Riva was actually a scientist who was working for Stark Industries. He had failed to duplicate Stark’s design for the Arc Reactor under the orders of Obediah Stane. The character later goes ahead to work with Quentin Beck as they both held a grudge against Stark. There is a chance that Riva might have gotten safely out of authorities following the events of the film. He is actually responsible for getting Mysterio’s message to J. Jonah Jameson thus publicly exposing Peter Parker to the world. This character could actually come of help to the Thunderbolts and pave the way for his return.