Most casual fans like to think of comic book movies and their characters as consisting of ordinary humans who are, for one reason or another, transformed into a “super” being. This is why characters like Spider-Man and Captain America are sometimes regarded as the purest of superheroes. Both are ordinary young man with good hearts but no physical talents to speak of until they’re physically altered—by spider bite and super soldier serum, respectively—and gain great powers, which they of course set about using with great responsibility.
The thing is, there are plenty of exceptions to this general format on either end of the spectrum. Batman, for instance, inspires constant debate as to whether or not he actually has any super powers to speak of, while Superman is basically an alien with an unfair range of limitless powers. DC and Marvel have come up with virtually every conceivable way to create a superhero.
And then there’s Thor.
For a lot of modern superhero fiction fans, Thor has become one of the most beloved Marvel heroes, thanks in large part to Chris Hemsworth’s delightfully absurd portrayal of the Asgardian demigod. But when you step back and consider him as a character, he’s about the laziest element Marvel has brought into its “cinematic universe.” Thor was quite literally a god to a very real group of people for a lengthy chapter of human history. Imagine if in a few hundred years they’re still making films and someone makes a Jesus Christ superhero who emerges from a cave tomb to join forces with the 47th actor to embody Spider-Man and protect New York City from certain destruction. That’s basically what Marvel’s done with Thor, only enough time has passed and Norse religions have faded to the extent that we now consider the god of thunder a mythological character rather than a culture’s deity.
I might sound critical, but the truth is I love it. It’s fiction, after all, and what character could be more compelling than one, real or mythological, who’s stuck around intriguing readers for literally hundreds of years? Thor might be lazy for a comic studio, but he’s a whole lot of fun for the rest of us. I for one wouldn’t mind if there were a little more where the Norse god came from. Speaking of which…
Earlier this year, news broke that Marvel will be adapting its Moon Knight character for a Netflix show. The Moon Knight isn’t himself a mythological or religious character. In fact, he’s basically Marvel’s somewhat-obscure Batman knock-off. But he initially gains some of his powers and his name when he’s saved from the brink of death by Khonshu, the Egyptian god of the moon. This all has me wondering just how far Marvel’s willing to extend its character web into the supernatural and mythological. While there aren’t rumors regarding any of the following characters, these are three mythological characters it would be a whole lot of fun to see Marvel mess around with.
This is the obscure choice, though like pretty much every other human, beast, or imagined creature that’s ever walked the Earth, Phorcys has evidently appeared in Marvel comics before. This database cites the character from Earth-616, though judging by the included gallery, the comic turned Phorcys into little more than a kraken.
So who exactly is Phorcys? There’s actually some debate about where specifically he comes from in Greek mythology, but he’s known as one of the primordial gods—a half-man, half-sea beast who ruled the oceans before Poseidon. He’s actually mentioned in this list of obscure mythological characters who are “fit for film” and could be a really fun fit for the MCU. With DC preparing to unveil Aquaman on the silver screen, and in the form of the wildly popular Jason Momoa no less, Marvel could stand to bring about an original deep seas hero. We’ve already seen Iron Man diving around in deep water, so stumbling across a demigod as old as the Earth itself might not be a huge stretch.
This would be a much more conventional choice, and I’m not exactly sure how the licensing would work out because Beowulf has kind of made the rounds in comic culture. He appeared in an original DC comic book back in the ’70s and has been the inspiration for a number of independent graphic novels. There was also a Beowulf film in 2007, starring Ray Winstone and distributed by Warner Bros., and it received decent reviews. The character has also stuck around in other modern media in the years since. First, there’s the console game based on the film, which critics panned and should remain forgotten. And then there’s another game featured here, where much of the selection is geared toward comic superheroes. In terms of the latter, it also took a more stripped-down, purely thematic approach to bringing Beowulf to gaming,
and that seemed to work better than its console counterpart. In any case, it’s clear that Beowulf is more familiar than Phorcys, through imagery in comics, films, and gaming alike.
But he’s also never really been done justice. If you’re one of the millions of students who’ve been forced to try to take this epic character from early English literature (in fact, some say the earliest English literature) seriously, you know that some of his antics would fit right in with the increasingly absurd Avenger heroics. This guy basically hurls himself across entire oceans out of sheer brawn, battling monsters and dragons while he’s at it. If Marvel could legally make use of him, he’d be a fascinating addition to the superhero movie canon, and an interesting counterpart to Thor.
I’m getting back to the obscure category with this one, but given the current direction of the MCU, Gefion may also be the only one of these characters with a slim chance of factoring in at some point. Marvel comics have been pretty inclusive of Norse gods, and particularly those directly tied to Odin and therefore Asgard. But as far as I can tell Gefion has been left out until now. So who is she exactly?
This list of obscure Norse gods has a pretty good outline of her purpose in mythology, which seems to have been to establish the Danish royal family. But more specifically, she’s a fertility goddess who was tasked with expanding Odin’s territory on Earth. To do so, she produced children with a giant and turned them into oxen with which she plowed fields and built a settlement. She later gave birth to the Danish royal line, and never really did much else of particular significance. But she’d be a really interesting inclusion in the MCU because she’s basically left hanging in mythology as a Norse god who’s already made her way to Earth. It might be cool for Thor to have an oxen-driving Earth-bound ally, though admittedly I’m not sure how a fertility goddess really factors in. Maybe she works her magic to allow Thor and Jane Foster to have a child when natural laws would have prohibited it otherwise?
These are all just ideas, and really unlikely ones at that. But there’s no denying Marvel has shown a willingness to invite the supernatural and mythological into its comics and films. Any of these would make for a fascinating, original, and on some level logical inclusion as the MCU gets bigger and bigger.