If 2018 is going to be a landmark year for superhero movies and TV shows, all of those heroes are going to need some seriously powerful villains to fight. In Avengers: Infinity War, the threat of Thanos assembling the all-powerful Infinity Gauntlet will be enough to bring the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe together for the first time. X-Men: Dark Phoenix will see Marvel’s mutants face off against one of their most powerful foes. On a less cosmic scale, upcoming releases like Black Panther and Aquaman will see some fan-favorite characters take on a range of bizarre new villains on screen for the first time.
Now, CBR is taking a look at the supervillains who’ll be hitting your screens throughout 2018. In this hardly comprehensive list, we’ll be going through the bad guys who will duke it out with your favorite heroes in superhero movies and TV shows. Even though the details about villains and their plans are usually kept under wraps, we’ll be rounding up everything we know so far about these bad guys. Whether they’re making their live-action debut, taking on their first major role or making a long-awaited reappearance, these villains will all push your favorite superheroes to the limit in 2018.
THANOS (AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR)
After years of build-up and post-credits teasers, Thanos will finally take center stage as he tries to take control of the Infinity Gauntlet in Joe and Anthony Russo’s Avengers: Infinity War. In trailers for the movie, Josh Brolin’s Mad Titan has already decimated some of the Avengers’ most powerful members. Despite that, fans were left puzzled when those previews showed Thanos without his iconic helmet and armor.
Joe Russo has explained that Thanos doesn’t need that armor with the power of the Infinity Stones on his wrist. Thanos’ “casual” cinematic outfit also nods towards the costume he wore in his 1973 debut in Jim Starlin and Mike Friedrich’s Iron Man #55. Since that first appearance, Thanos has caused all sorts of trouble around the Marvel Universe, most notably in Starlin, Ron Lim and George Perez’s 1991 epic, The Infinity Gauntlet. Avengers: Infinity War will be released on May 4, 2018.
KILLMONGER (BLACK PANTHER)
Even though Black Panther doesn’t have the world’s most famous rogues gallery, villains like Erik Killmonger have challenged the King of Wakanda for decades. Created by Don McGregor and Rich Buckler in 1973’s Jungle Action #6, Killmonger was exiled from Wakanda and became a genius and martial arts expert in America. After returning to his home, he tried to take over Wakanda several times and even took the Black Panther mantle for a brief period.
In Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther, Michael B. Jordan will bring a slightly different take on Killmonger to the big screen. While he will keep his origin as a Wakandan exile, Erik Stevens earned his “Killmonger” as a U.S. black ops soldier. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Killmonger will wear the character’s usual tribal mask, as well as Golden Jaguar armor that’s similar to Black Panther’s costume. Black Panther will hit theaters on February 16, 2018.
JACK KESY’S MYSTERY VILLAIN (DEADPOOL 2)
For most fans, Deadpool 2 will mark the cinematic debuts of Josh Brolin’s Cable and Zazie Beetz’s Domino or the return of Ryan Reynolds’ Merc With a Mouth. But David Leitch’s Deadpool sequel will also feature Jack Kesy as a “major villain.” While the exact nature of his character hasn’t been confirmed yet, widely circulated rumors have linked Kesy’s role to longtime X-Men foe Black Tom Cassidy.
Created by Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum in 1976’s X-Men #99, Black Tom Cassidy has mutant powers involving plant manipulation and the ability to shoot energy blasts through wooden objects. Usually with his partner Juggernaut, Black Tom has battled his cousin, Banshee, and the rest of the X-Men on numerous occasions. In Deadpool’s second solo adventure, Black Tom became one and the mercenary’s first foes, and Tom has tangled with Deadpool several times since. Deadpool 2 will hit theaters on June 1, 2018.
GHOST (ANT-MAN AND THE WASP)
After the Avengers assemble in Avengers: Infinity War, the next entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be Ant-Man and the Wasp. In Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man follow-up, Evangeline Lilly will take flight as the Wasp alongside Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man. Those two size-changing heroes will tangle with a female version of the longtime Iron Man villain Ghost, played by Hannah John-Kamen.
Ghost was created by David Michelinie and Bob Layton in 1987’s Iron Man #219. Although his past is largely unknown, Ghost designed armor that could turn him invisible and intangible. He mainly used the suit to commit acts of corporate sabotage throughout the 1990s. In the 2010s, the Ghost joined a few incarnations of the Thunderbolts, a Suicide Squad-esque work-release program for redemptive villains. The MCU’s Ghost is set to debut on the big screen when Ant-Man and the Wasp hits theaters on July 6, 2018.
DARK PHOENIX (X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX)
Even though it was released in 1980, Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s “The Dark Phoenix Saga” still stands as one of the X-Men’s most harrowing adventures. Although that story was loosely adapted in 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand, that classic is set to get the adaption it deserves in X-Men: Dark Phoenix. In Simon Kinberg’s directorial debut, Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey will struggle to keep control as the mind-blowing powers of the Phoenix begin to emerge.
While the details of the film’s story are still unknown, the movie will take cues from both “The Phoenix Saga” and “The Dark Phoenix Saga.” Inspired by those epics, the X-Men will take their first cinematic journey into space. While an ancient cosmic entity, the Phoenix Force, empowered Jean in the comics, it’s unclear what role, if any, it will have in the film, which is set for a November 2, 2018 release.
After taking on a well-received role in Zack Snyder’s Justice League, Jason Momoa’s Aquaman will dive into his solo feature on December 21, 2018. In James Wan’s Aquaman, the future King of Atlantis will be surrounded by threats from the depths of the ocean and the surface world. One of those villains will be Dolph Lundgren’s Nereus, the ruler of the undersea kingdom Xebel. Although the 1980s action star was the first person to play Marvel’s Punisher in 1989, this marks Lundgren’s DC Extended Universe debut.
While Aquaman has a fairly robust rogues gallery, Nereus is a fairly new villain. He was only created by Geoff Johns and Paul Pelletier a few years ago in 2013’s Aquaman #19. In the DC Universe, he ruled Xebel, which had been transported into a water-based dimension. He was also engaged to Mera, before she turned against her home and embraced Atlantis.
M’BAKU/MAN-APE (BLACK PANTHER)
M’Baku, Man-Ape, is one of Black Panther’s most noteworthy villains. Created by Roy Thomas and John Buscema in 1969’s Avengers #62, Man-Ape was originally the second best warrior in Wakanda. After trying to take over the fictional country, M’Baku revived the White Gorilla Cult and gained a number of superhuman abilities after killing a white gorilla. As the Man-Ape, M’Baku has battled the Avengers on supervillain teams like the Lethal Legion and the Masters of Evil.
Due to the potentially “problematic” implications of the character’s alter ego, Winston Duke’s M’Baku will not become the Man-Ape in Black Panther. Instead, Ryan Coogler’s film will focus on M’Baku’s role as the leader of the Jabari, a mountain tribe that venerates gorillas. M’Baku is still set to have an antagonistic relationship with Black Panther, and he is also set to appear in Avengers: Infinity War.
Since his 1958 debut in Action Comics #242, by Otto Binder and Al Plastino, Brainiac has become one of Superman’s most dangerous villains. Using his vast alien intellect and technological might, the alien has battled Superman countless times in comics and in TV shows like Smallville. While his origin has changed over the years, Brainiac famously shrunk down the Kryptonian city Kandor and has taken on the DC Multiverse in crossovers like 2015’s “Convergence.”
While Brainiac still hasn’t made it into a Superman movie, his humanoid predecessor, Vril Dox, will be featured in the upcoming live-action series Krypton. In the SyFy series, Blake Ritson’s Vril Dox will appear as a “parasitic” Kryptonian android alongside Cameron Cuffe’s Seg-El, Superman’s biological grandfather. The show will also feature other Superman villains like Doomsday and time-traveling Justice League members like Shaun Sipos’ Adam Strange and Hawkgirl. The series will premiere on March 21, 2018.
OCEAN MASTER (AQUAMAN)
Over decades of Aquaman stories, the Ocean Master has been a fully human villain, an Atlantean wizard’s son and the heir to the Throne of Atlantis. Regardless of his revised origins, the Ocean Master has always been Aquaman’s half-brother who was obsessed with taking over Atlantis. Since he was created by Bob Haney and Nick Cardy in 1966’s Aquaman #29, the Ocean Master has been one of Aquaman’s most prominent villains. Along with Atlantean abilities, the Ocean Master has wielded a trident that has granted him supernatural, weather manipulating and electrical powers.
In James Wan’s Aquaman, Patrick Wilson will portray the Ocean Master in his live-action debut. The film will use Orm’s most recent origin, which casts him as Aquaman’s jealous Atlantean half-brother. Although Aquaman will be Ocean Master’s first cinematic outing, he was the primary villain in the in 2015 direct-to-video animated feature Justice League: Throne of Atlantis.
DEMON BEAR (THE NEW MUTANTS)
As the character’s name implies, Demon Bear is a giant, demonic bear. Although he was created by Chris Claremont and Bob McLeod in 1983’s New Mutants #3, the character’s otherworldly look was perfected by Bill Sienkiewicz in “The Demon Bear Saga.” In that 1984 story, Dani Moonstar was mauled by the gargantuan creature that feeds on negative emotion. Although the New Mutants defeated the beast, this story injected horror into the series for the first time.
Josh Boone’s horror-inspired New Mutants will take major stylistic cues from that landmark tale. Although it’s somewhat unclear whether Demon Bear will be the film’s main villain, trailers have already shown scenes where Blu Hunt’s Moonstar could be haunted by the bear. Boone has said the Demon Bear stories “very much inspired” the film. Audiences will get a chance to see Demon Bear when the film hits theaters on April 13, 2018.
TOBIAS WHALE (BLACK LIGHTNING)
Even though a decent chunk of the DC Universe has already appeared on one of the CW’s numerous live-action Arrowverse shows, Black Lightning will see another major DC hero join the CW lineup on January 16, 2018. The series will star Cress Williams as a retired Black Lightning who’s drawn back into action by a violent gang called the 100. Marvin Jones III, who’s better known as the rapper Krondon, will lead that group as the vicious crime boss Tobias Whale.
Since he was created by Tony Isabella and Trevor von Eeden in 1977’s Black Lightning #1, Whale has been one of the electric hero’s chief nemeses. Like Marvel’s Kingpin, most of Whale’s size comes from his deceptive muscle mass, and Whale is a skilled harpoon fighter. Beyond leading the 100, Whale has also worked with Intergang in Metropolis and operated in Gotham City.
KLAW (BLACK PANTHER)
Unlike the other villains in Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther, Ulysses Klaue already made his cinematic debut in 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. Andy Serkis’ Klaue was an arms dealer who lost his left hand after selling vibranium, a fictional metal only found in Wakanda. In Black Panther, Klaue will battle the Avenger by using his signature sonic disrupter, which is a modified piece of Wakanda mining equipment in the film.
In comics, Klaw was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1966’s Fantastic Four #53. He killed T’Challa’s father and lost his hand while stealing a vibranium deposit from Wakanda. Using his vibranium-powered sonic cannon, Klaw could make objects out of sound waves and eventually became a being made of pure sound. Despite a brief bout of insanity during the original “Secret Wars” crossover, Klaw has battled most of Marvel’s heroes as one of the Masters of Evil.
SONNY BURCH (ANT-MAN AND THE WASP)
Even though he’s only made five comic book appearances, Sonny Burch is set to be one of the main villains in Ant-Man and the Wasp. After he was created by John Jackson Miller and Jorge Lucas in 2003’s Iron Man #73, Burch starred in one storyline where he was the chairman of Cross Technologies. After Tony Stark briefly lost the patent for his Iron Man armor, Burch tried to incorporate that technology into a new government weapons. After several of those malfunctioned and threatened to destroy Washington D.C., Burch killed himself, and Stark was appointed Secretary of Defense for saving the city.
In Peyton Reed’s film, Walton Goggins’ Burch will have his comic counterpart’s role as the chairman of Cross Technologies. Although Corey Stoll’s Darren Cross was killed in 2015’s Ant-Man, Burch’s presence strongly suggests that Yellowjacket’s legacy will still play a role in the film.
THE BLACK ORDER (AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR)
Every war needs generals, and the Black Order will be Thanos’ generals in Avengers: Infinity War. In the Russo Brothers’ film, four of Thanos’ children will make up the Black Order, Cull Obsidian, Corvus Glaive, Ebony Maw and Proxima Midnight. They’ll likely be at odds with Thanos other cinematic children, Zoe Saldana’s Gamora and Karen Gillan’s Nebula. While we haven’t seen these characters in action yet, the designs for the CGI-heavy characters were unveiled at Disney’s D23 Expo in 2017.
In the Marvel Universe, the members of the Black Order aren’t related to Thanos and just serve as his intergalactic generals. Although they were created by Jonathan Hickman, Jim Cheung and Jerome Opeña, the group made their first full appearance in 2013’s New Avengers #8, by Hickman and Mike Deodato Jr. The team led Thanos’ assault on Earth during Marvel’s 2013 crossover “Infinity.”
LADY EVE (BLACK LIGHTNING)
While the details of the first 13-episode season of Black Lightning are still under wraps, Grammy Award-nominated musician and actress, Jill Scott, will be bringing one obscure DC villain to the small screen for the first time. As Lady Eve, she will be a funeral parlor owner who will connect kingpin Tobias Whale with “a secret group of corrupt leaders.”
Lady Eve’s comic history offers a major hint about the identity of that group. In 1985’s Batman and the Outsiders #24, by Mike W. Barr and Alan Davis, Eve debuted as a member of Kobra, a snake cult obsessed with plunging the world into chaos. In most of her comic book appearances, Lady Eve has battled Batman, Robin and the Outsiders, a super-team that Black Lightning helped form in the 1980s.
BLACK MANTA (AQUAMAN)
Thanks largely to his role in the Legion of Doom on Super Friends, Black Manta is arguably Aquaman’s most famous foe. Since he was created by Bob Haney and Nick Cardy in 1967’s Aquaman #35, Black Manta’s origin has changed several times. His most consistent trait has been his undying, often irrational, hatred for Aquaman. Using a hi-tech battlesuit, Black Manta has fought Aquaman countless times, cut off Aquaman’s right hand and killed his infant son. He’s also the father of Jackson Hyde, Aqualad.
Unsurprisingly, Black Manta will be one of the villains in James Wan’s Aquaman. In the DC Extended Universe film, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II will portray a version of the character who operates as a treasure hunter and mercenary. Given Black Manta’s history on supervillain teams, he’s also a likely candidate for the DCEU’s Legion of Doom Injustice League, which was hinted at during Justice League‘s post-credits scene.
JESSICA CHASTAIN’S “SMITH” (X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX)
While it’s unclear who Jessica Chastain will play in X-Men: Dark Phoenix, it’s clear that she’ll have a major role as “Smith,” an otherwise unnamed antagonist. Even though Simon Kinsberg film won’t be out until the end of 2018, Fox has already revealed that she’ll play an alien shape-shifter who corrupts Jean Grey.
Given what we know about “The Dark Phoenix Saga,” Chastain could be one of several characters. Most speculation has pegged her as Empress Lilandra, Deathbird or another member of the Shi’Ar, an alien race closely linked to the Phoenix. Other rumors suggest that she’s one of the Skrulls, a shapeshifting alien race that usually fights the Fantastic Four. Some have also wondered if she could be a gender-flipped Mastermind, a male illusionist who brought out Phoenix’s dark side in comics. Regardless of the answer, the mystery of Chastain’s character will keep fans guessing until the film’s release.
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