MCU: The Only 12 Characters to Appear in Every Episode | Popgen Tech


The Marvel Cinematic Universe has expanded, and several characters are along for the ride.

After Phase 4 is over Black Panther: Wakanda Forever on the big screen and The Guardians of the Universe Holiday Special on Disney+, there are over 700 credited characters on screen.

That number ranges from heroes to villains, cameos to sidekicks, to that waitress The Avengers. Of that list, only 12 characters have made a live-action appearance in every episode.

1.) James Rhodes/War Machine

War Machine
Marvel Studios

A real one from day one, sort of. James Rhodes has been a fixture in the MCU since the beginning as Tony Stark’s best friend and partner Iron Man. Originally played by Terrance Howard, Don Cheadle takes over the reins Iron Man 2 and never looked back.

War Machine and Iron Man were the first two heroes to come together and create the team-up energy that would eventually own the MCU. Now, it’s Rhodey’s turn to lead his own project with a new promotion Armor Wars the film is slated to release in Phase 6.

2.) Happy Hogan

Happy Hogan
Marvel Studios

Now the truest from day one, one of the godfathers of this universe, Jon Favreau’s Happy Hogan. The director of the MCU’s first voyage, Favreau has carved out a good role for himself as a glue guy in various franchises.

Happy Hogan started out as a tried and true side character with few speaking roles and became a leading supporting character. Being attached to two of the biggest names in the league, Tony Stark and Peter Parker, is a good life for the head of security at Stark Industries.

It is unclear if and when Happy will reappear after the events of Spider-Man: No Way Homebut he always plays.

3.) JARVIS/Vision

Marvel Studios

Another major part in the MCU is Paul Bettany’s JARVIS, who later becomes the Vision. This is an incredible addition to the list as Bettany originally lent his voice as Tony Stark attended AI and later led his own series as Vision in WandaVision.

For all intents and purposes, he is just getting started. The WandaVision finale fans say goodbye to their favorite super robot for the third (fourth?) time while introducing a government-issued Variant to White Vision. There’s no telling where that powerful chess piece will appear next but the best bet is on Armor Wars.

4.) Bruce Banner/Hulk

Bruce Banner/Hulk
Marvel Studios

Another recast hero who is one of the most important pieces of the MCU puzzle is Bruce Banner. Originally, Edward Norton brought this comic book icon to the MCU The Incredible Hulk. Mark Ruffalo took over in 2012’s The Avengers and has done nothing but effect a limited period of use since then.

The film rights at Universal Studios and Marvel Studios have prevented another full-length Hulk movie from being made, but there is a good story told in all four installments of the MCU. Her latest look at He-Hulk with the introduction of his son Skaar, Hulk is set up for a bigger role than he has in his 14-year career in the MCU.

5.) Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow

Black Widow
Marvel Studios

A cornerstone of the MCU and an all-time fan favorite is Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow. Truly a continuity catalyst in the ways that only Nick Fury has been, Natasha plays a major role in nearly every Earth-based franchise.

After his heroic death in Avengers: EndgameMarvel Studios went back a few years to add depth to one of their most used characters with Black Widow. That film played as a tribute to Scarlett Johansson as well as passing the torch to Florence Pugh’s Yelena; The Black Widow the franchise will survive Phase 5’s Thunders.

6.) Thor

Marvel Studios

The only character to receive a title project in every MCU installment is Chris Hemsworth’s Thor. With the advantage of being the ageless God on and off screen, Hemsworth has told almost every kind of Thor story.

The founder of the cosmic corner, Thor has played roles in world-ending events large and small on Earth and otherwise and appears to be on track to continue to do so. Thor: Love and Thunder didn’t close the book on the God of Thunder and set him up for another entry in the future.

When will that happen? Only Odin knows.

7.) Jane Foster/Mighty Thor

Jane Foster
Marvel Studios

In 2015, if anyone paying attention had been told that Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster would be one of a dozen characters to appear in all four MCU installments, they would have laughed. But, his latest appearance as Mighty Thor proves the point.

Foster played nothing but a love interest in Phases 1 and 2 and barely made it Avengers: Endgame. His return as a featured player in the Thor: Love and Thunder cemented his legacy in Hollywood’s biggest movie franchise and left fans on a high that never seemed possible after Thor: The Dark World.

8.) Loki

Marvel Studios

A perennial top-5 MCU villain, Tom Hiddleston’s Loki made an impact in a variety of ways. The first Avengers-level threat in the MCU, the God of Mischief had one of the best character arcs to date.

His role as a villain and thorn in Thor’s side is one of the best, and like a quarterback who loses speed with age, Loki reinvents himself as the catalyst for Loki, which receives Season 2 in Phase 5.

9.) Heimdall

Comparison of Heimdall
Marvel Studios

Being able to secure Idris Elba in 2011 as Heimdall was a win-win-win for the MCU. Heimdall never got a ton of the spotlight on Thor franchise, and he is considered by many to be one of Marvel Studios’ most underused players.

However, Heimdall shows up to work every day as a plot device Thor films and was rewarded with an exciting post-credits cameo in Thor: Love and Thunder. There doesn’t seem to be much gatekeeper energy in the MCU’s future, but it’s good while it lasts.

10.) Clint Barton/Hawkeye

Hawkeye comparison
Marvel Studios

Here is a fun game. Ask people which two of the original six Avengers made this list, and watch as the last one everyone guesses is Hawkeye.

A cup of coffee in 2011’s Thor and one of the most criticized papers in the history of comics in avengers, Jeremy Renner has had a polarizing career as the sharpshooting Avenger. All resolved in 2021 Hawkeye series where Renner was able to flex the role that never happened and ushered in a new era of Hawkeye with Hailee Steinfeld’s Kate Bishop.

Like Rhodey and Loki, Hawkeye may be just getting started.

11.) Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier

Bucky Barnes
Marvel Studios

Don’t look now, but Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barnes is one of the most important characters in the MCU. A real sidekick role in Captain America: The First Avenger lead to the main antagonist role in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. But people forget that the essence of Captain America: Civil War is Steve and Tony’s feelings for Bucky.

Being so embedded in Captain America the franchise tapped Stan to have a lead role The Falcon and the Winter Soldier on Disney+. He gave up that opportunity in what many believed would be a top-3 role Thunders entering Phase 5.

12.) Peggy Carter/Captain Carter

Peggy Carter
Marvel Studios

If there’s one lesson to be learned from Marvel Studios’ first animated venture What if..?it’s people’s love for Haley Atwell as Peggy Carter.

Atwell has done everything as Peggy. He becomes a love interest, he gets a spinoff series, he grows old and dies, and then he comes back to give audiences one of the greatest happy endings in movie history.

To top it all off, he had a cameo where he got to use the shield Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness until he was torn apart by the woman he loved until the Avengers were destroyed.

There is more to come What if…? Season 2, and more Captain Carter stories to tell.

Who Will Remain on the List After Phase 5?

12 characters have played a live-action role in each Phase of the MCU, and only two of them are confirmed to keep the streak alive in Phase 5: Bucky Barnes (Thunderbolts) and Loki (Loki Season 2).

Hulk, Hawkeye, Vision, War Machine, and Thor are all but guaranteed more appearances, but nothing has been confirmed for the next Phase. Peggy is in line for another animated appearance, but that doesn’t qualify her for this streak.

Fans have certainly said goodbye to Natasha, Jane, and Heimdall, but that hasn’t stopped Marvel Studios before.

Happy Hogan is the biggest unknown, but if Jon Favreau has proven anything in his career, it’s that he can stick to his Marvel contract better than anyone.


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