Sure, Cap and Tony were the headliners of the MCU’s Captain America: Civil War, but let’s not sleep on Helmut Zemo. In the movie he was little more than a side character with a convoluted plan to awaken Bucky ‘Winter Soldier’ Barnes in order to drive a wedge between two beloved Avengers, but what if Zemo has more to do in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)?
Daniel Bruhl has been confirmed to return as Zemo for the upcoming Falcon And The Winter Soldier series on Disney+, meaning the MCU has the perfect opportunity to introduce characters associated with the character that comic fans know as Baron Zemo.
Yup, I’m talking about the Thunderbolts. Let’s get into it.
Post Avengers: Endgame, many of the MCU heroes are either dead, retired, or locked up in legal purgatory. In other words, there’s a real opportunity to introduce new teams.
That situation isn’t wholly different from late 90s Marvel comic books where a stupid dumb villain named Onslaught eliminated a bunch of heroes directly in the public’s eye. Seeing an opportunity, Baron Zemo rebranded his nefarious no-good Masters of Evil into heroes called the Thunderbolts and was subsequently warmly received by a gullible public.
But a funny thing happened: Some of the ne’er-do-well Thunderbolts actually began to find meaning and purpose in do-gooding, choosing instead to became the heroes they were at first only pretending to be. (I’ve written more about the journey of the Thunderbolts wrestling with their angelic and devilish soles, so if you are interested in more, I’ll send you there.)
Sometimes the members of The Thunderbolts were members by choice, other times they were members by force. But the common theme has always been that the Thunderbolts appear to work for the good of the public. So, let’s look at Zemo’s inclusion in Falcon and the Winter Soldier and what Thunderbolts characters it might usher in.
We’ll start, of course, with Zemo himself. The MCU has already established the character as a mastermind, so it’s not a big leap to suggest he has charisma to pull together a team. But there is no indication he is going by Citizen V, his Thunderbolts codename.
Yet, a fun tidbit: early photos suggest that Zemo’s inclusion in Falcon and Winter Soldier will come with a costume that much more closely resembled his hooded visage from the comics.
Many don’t know that the Ant-Man and the Wasp villain Ghost was once a member of the Thunderbolts in the comics. Actress Hannah John-Kamen has been coy in interviews about if she will or won’t return to the MCU, but if she does, what better introduction than as a member of the Thunderbolts?
Of course, Ghost won’t join the team alone. The Thunderbolts will need a powerhouse and what better way than for Lawrence Fishburne to reprise his role as Bill ‘Goliath’ Foster. But on the Thunderbolts he’d take on the mantle of Atlas.
Listen, this is all speculation, so let’s just go for it and assume–for a moment–that Sony and Disney work out their differences, which allows for Spider-Man and other characters to continue appearing properly in the MCU. If so, that gives us two other possible characters for the Thunderbolts in Falcon and Winter Soldier.
Remember Michael Keaton’s Vulture from Spider-Man Homecoming? Well, his tech was modified by a member of his crew, a character modeled after a Masters of Evil comics staple named the Tinkerer.
The Shocker was also a one-time member of the Thunderbolts who also appeared in the Vulture’s crew in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Alas, he was shot and killed by the Vulture.
But fear not! That doesn’t mean someone else can’t pick up his technological gauntlets. In fact, that’s what happened when Vulture picked up the gauntlets and headed them to another crew member, Herman Schultz. Really, it’s not the story connection that’s the problem, it’s the Spider-Man characters being tied up in legal hell.
Speaking of passed along tech, Andy Serkis’ Klaw was a fan-favorite character in Black Panther. Killed by Killmonger, his sonic powered arm is now available for pilfering.
Original Thunderbolts member Songbird had sonic powers. It’s not a big leap to suggest that the technology already featured in the MCU could be reengineered to become part of a new character named Songbird.
Speaking of legal purgatory, Bullseye would be the first Marvel Netflix character to pass over, having first appeared in the third season of Daredevil on Netflix. As a result, it’s likely not in the playing cards. But a fan can dream, right? Besides he was once a Thunderbolt, so it needed to be mentioned.
Some existing MCU characters are highly unlikely to be transitioned to the Thunderbolts, should that even be the plan for Falcon and Winter Soldier. Brock Rumlow aka Crossbones was once a Thunderbolt, for example, but he is dead dead after Captain America: Civil War. Likewise, Batroc would be a treat after his appearance in Captain America: Winter Soldier, but he was never a Thunderbolt.
Others are wish fulfillment. Moonstone has long been both a Thunderbolt and a fan-favorite. Her inclusion would be as a brand new character. Same with Speed Demon, Radioactive Man, Man-Thing, and others.
Who knows? After all, it may not even be the direction they take on Disney+. Agent 13 and US Agent are also confirmed to appear after all, so the cast is already packed. But if they do, keep your eyes glued to the screen because we may never fully know whose side the Thunderbolts are on.
Editor’s Note: A few of our staff drafted their Thunderbolts dream teams. Check them out!