Friday, December 27, 2013

6 Villains We Might See Going Up Against The Defenders

As time goes by I find myself more and more pensive about the possibilities of the deal Marvel reached with Netflix to bring a handful of street level heroes to life in 13-episode series. Daredevil is scheduled to hit Netflix first and, in many ways, set the tone for what we should expect from the rest of the series. Drew Goddard, who is really coming into his own right now, will write and direct Daredevil and Melissa Rosenberg (Dexter, Twilight) will write the Jessica Jones series which she has been developing for several years. While we haven't gotten any news on who will be cast in any of the roles, the internet, including me, has had a lot of fun speculation on which actors might play these heroes and what other Marvel characters we might see popping in to visit.

It seems like Marvel is moving slightly away from the traditional concept of The Defenders being a non-team-team put together to handle mystical or supernatural threats too big for any one member and focusing on a more Marvel Knights, street-level type of threat. Of course that speculation could be entirely wrong, but for the purposes of this speculative piece, I'm going to operate on the assumption that this version of The Defenders is going to have to come together to stop something that's a little less supernatural but still a little more than any one of them can handle. After the jump, I'll look at 6 villains, or groups of villains, that might make it necessary for Daredevil, Iron Fist, Luke Cage and Jessica Jones to come together as The Defenders...

While I'm sure we're going to see many other villains in the 54 episodes leading up to The Defenders, my goal was to put together a list of villains that might require the combined forces of our heroes. To that end, villains like Bullseye, Davos and Typhoid Mary, who are likely to appear in the series, aren't on the list, nor are some traditional villains to whom Marvel does own screen rights such as Mysterio, Magneto, Electro, etc. Before I begin, I should make it clear that I think each of these 4 series will cross over into each of the other series. I don't believe we will only see Daredevil in his own series or any of the others isolated only into theirs. It's one of my favorite pre-conceived beliefs about these series that they will have an amazing continuity and sense of community. That's what I expect from Daredevil and I don't think it'll change.

UPDATE: Looking back on this, it seems that while almost all of these villains will be used, the Defenders may not be going up against them as a team, especially not the Owl.

The Owl

I know...most of you see the name The Owl and you say, "Who?"...sorry.

The Owl, while not a really well known villain, was one change of author away from being one of THE most famous. Originally, The Owl was supposed to be revealed as the leader of the Alliance of Evil in X-Factor, Volume 1, No. 5. When original X-Factor writer Bob Layton left the book, the final page was redone by new writer Louise Simonson, wife of Marvel's legendary Walter Simonson, who added a new villain to the mix: Apocalypse.

The Owl is Leyland Owlsley, a one-time successful banker turned crime lord. Owlsley voluntarily underwent procedures and took several drugs that culminated in his mutant-like abilities. Due to a low-level psionic ability he can levitate himself and fly for short distances. He is physiologically similar to an owl with hollow bones, fangs and talons, the ability to turn his head 180 degrees and the very ridiculous ability to move one eye independently of the other. He is also incredibly strong and fit physically, while incredibly unfit mentally.

Owlsley has, over the years, strengthened his position in the criminal underworld and, at one time in the absence of the Kingpin, seemed poised to take control through the sale of Mutant Growth Hormone. Owlsley and is Owl Gang could be a low-cost threat to the Defenders. While they won't be selling Mutant Growth Hormone, they certainly could be selling something similar that would attract the attention of our heroes. Of all the choices here, The Owl is the least likely to make the cut; however, if the writers are looking for a replacement for The Kingpin, The Owl gives them an option.

The Wrecking Crew

Left to Right: Piledriver, Thunderball, The Wrecker and Bulldozer, The Wrecking Crew

The Wrecking Crew are a pretty neat option to oppose the Defenders and have done so in the comics. They are led by the Wrecker, a violent criminal who was granted super strength and stamina AND an enchanted crowbar after an encounter with Loki and Karnilla, the Norn Queen. After some back and forth battles with Thor, the Wrecker got wrecked and put in prison.

 While in prison, Wrecker meets the 3 men that would form his crew and imbues them with similar powers by having them all hold the fancy crowbar during a lighting storm (kids, do not try this at will not be given mystical powers...your ass will fry). Those 3 men take on the names Bulldozer, Piledriver and Thunderball and routinely go on violent crime sprees only to be defeated and put in prison again. Rinse. Repeat. 

Each of the members of the Wrecking Crew are incredibly strong and virtually as strong as your average Asgardian. Thunderball, who wields a wrecking ball on a 4-foot chain, is also a super genius who, before being turned into a super-villain, designed a gamma bomb. When he discovered the rights to the gamma bomb were an intellectual property that belonged not to him but the company for which he worked, Thunderball attempted to steal the plans and ended up in the prison where he met the rest of the crew. One of their first deeds as the Wrecking Crew was to hold New York ransom with the gamma bomb he designed, a threat that ran them straight into conflict with...The Defenders.

I like the idea of the Wrecking Crew facing off against the Defenders, but I don't see them being a mini-series worthy threat. The sort of trouble that they stir up is likely to be resolved within the confines of one episode so, perhaps, they may appear as the force that initially brings the Defenders together, but not their ultimate villain. 

The Purple Man

Much like The Owl, most of you may be unfamiliar with The Purple Man and, looking at him, you might think him a pretty lame villain. To be fair, for the majority of his time in the comics he wasn't as great of a threat as he has become in the recent past. He is on this list, however, for his deep ties to Jessica Jones and his ability to control and manipulate the minds of others. 

The Purple Man was a spy named Zebediah Kilgrave who, on a mission, was exposed to a chemical which permanently turned him...purple. He also gained the ability to release a substance from his skin that, when inhaled by others, gives Kilgrave the ability to control their actions. While Kilgrave has used this power many times in large scale plans, it is his use of it to manipulate Jessica Jones while she was operating under the superhero alias of Jewel that lands him on this list.

It was retroactively revealed that while Jones was the costumed hero Jewel, she was under the influence of The Purple Man. He used his powers to control her and, at one point, sent her to kill Daredevil. It was this time under Kilgrave's control that led to her leaving the costumed superhero life and becoming a PI. Melissa Rosenberg has described the Jones we will see in the series as suffering from PTSD. Flashbacks to her time under Kilgrave's control would certainly explain that and it would make for an interesting challenge for Jones if they used The Purple Man as the villain behind some scheme that brought the Defenders together. 

Mr. Hyde

Mr. Hyde is probably just about who you think he is. Calvin Zabo is yet another evil genius who used his knowledge to create something horrible. Zabo developed a formula that unleashed his inner beast and he called the beast Mr. Hyde after the character that had inspired him to develop the formula. 

Hyde has a long history in the pages of the comics and has squared off frequently against Daredevil and has been lit up by Luke Cage. Hyde is a solid bet to appear in any of the series and/or The Defenders, not so much because he is the ultimate threat, but because, over the years, he has served as the muscle for The Purple Man and The Hood. 

The Hand

The Hand is an ancient order of naughty ninjas that are deeply connected to Daredevil and Elektra whose Master, Stick, led the order of nice ninjas, The Chaste, in battle against them for many years. The members of The Hand practice dark, occult magic 

The Hand, throughout its entire existence, has craved power above all else and will stop at nothing to gain it. They play a HUGE role in the "Shadowland" arc, parts of which I'm certain will be adapted into these series at some point, and are eventually taken over by Daredevil's arch-nemesis, The Kingpin. Unlike the others on the list, there's no need for a big intro. The Hand is a powerful team on ninjas; they make a perfect antagonist for Daredevil and the Heroes for Hire. If it weren't for the guy at the end of this list, I'd say a combo of The Hand and The Kingpin would top my personal wishlist 

The Kingpin

Between his lengthy comic tenure, the 2003 Daredevil film and all his appearances in the several different Spider-Man animated series, Wilson Fisk is easily the most recognizable villain on this list. The Kingpin is just that: THE crime syndicate boss of New York, making him THE crime syndicate boss of Marvel. A wealthy business man, Fisk is also a violent and ruthless crime lord with a bottomless pit of resources, enormous physical size and strength and an underrated IQ. Simply put, The Kingpin is one of the greatest villains in comic book history and, if presented correctly in these series, could be one of TV's greatest villains as well.

The Kingpin will undoubtedly appear on Netflix. My only question is will he be the villain of the Daredevil series or will it be revealed, in The Defenders mini-series, that he is the man behind the scenes of all the different series? If he's going to be the big bad against whom The Defenders square off, I hope they take the route I mentioned above, adapt Shadowland and include The Hand. If not, I will be happy to see him done well in the Daredevil series and step aside so the guy I'm about to discuss can take center stage.

EDIT: The ownership of Kingpin's film rights seems to be a bit of a debate. It seems that the Kingpin rights belonged to Sony and they allowed Fox to use the character in 2003. The Kingpin, obviously, has never featured in a Sony Spider-Man film and is not going to, at least not in the near future. The question then becomes will Sony, who has a very solid working relationship with Marvel (unlike Fox), loan or sell the rights to the Kingpin?

The Hood

The Hood is my favorite to be the ultimate antagonist for The Defenders. Not only has he been an incredibly powerful crime boss, he's also delved into mystical, mythological and cosmic powers. As Parker Robbins he and his cousin stumbled into a warehouse in which a demon, later revealed to be Dormammu, was found. Robbins shot the demon, who was, as all demons do, wearing a hooded cloak and boots. Robbins took the items which granted him the powers of invisibility and levitation, respectively. It was while later fleeing from the police, who caught a glimpse of him in the demon's cloak, that he gained the name The Hood.

Over the course of his time, The Hood has had The Purple Man, The Wrecking Crew and Mr. Hyde under his employ and has been in direct conflict with Daredevil and Iron Fist. He has also found himself working with or under Loki and Doctor Strange baddie Dormammu. He can neatly be tied into a Doctor Strange or Thor film and his dealings with the Infinity Gems make an even deeper connection to the MCU possible down the road, which means a guy like Breaking Bad's Aaron Paul, an actor many fans would love to see in the MCU, would be a nice fit. The Hood is the perfect mix of street-level thuggery and low-level mysticism to be a villain for The Defenders.