Popular MCU Characters Whose Origins Are Way Wilder In The Comics

Every comic reader can tell you that if your knowledge of the Marvel characters comes only from the MCU, you’re only get a small fraction of the vast universe and history of all these characters. The comic book world is as vast and complex (and downright strange) as the quantum realm, and the deeper you dive, the weirder it gets.

That even goes for the characters who play a huge role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In fact, in many cases, this is especially true for the biggest MCU stars, whose origins in comics sometimes look nothing like what you’ve seen on screen. So, if your Marvel knowledge comes only from what you’ve seen on the big screen, prepare to have your mind blown. 

1. Remember Thor And Loki’s ‘Sister,’ Hela? Yeah, She’s Loki’s Daughter

Hela, the Goddess of Death, shows up out of nowhere in Thor: Ragnarok to reveal herself as Thor and Loki’s much older (and much more powerful) sister, who had been banished by Odin all this time for her fatal obsessions. But that backstory is not at all accurate to the Hela of Norse mythology – or to the Hela of Marvel Comics.

In both the traditional telling of her story and her Marvel Comics canon, Hela rules over the realm of Hel and is not the adoptive sister of Loki – she’s his daughter. If that’s not strange enough, her giant pal the Fenris Wolf is also Loki’s child in this continuity, as is the World Serpent and Odin’s eight-legged horse. All of which, again, is mythologically correct.

2. Drax Played A Mean Sax … And He Was A Human … And His Purpose In Life Is Vengeance Against Thanos

Drax’s MCU origin is as tragic as it is simplistic. He was living a peaceful life on his home planet until Ronan the Accuser showed up and slayed his family and half of his people on Thanos’s orders. From there, Drax sets off on a life of bad decisions that lands him in an interstellar jail, where he becomes a founding member of the Guardians of the Galaxy – and eventually gets his revenge.

The themes of revenge are considerably more direct when it comes to the comic book canon of Drax. Believe it or not, Drax was once human saxophonist Arthur Douglas, who was enjoying a nice drive with his wife and daughter when Thanos showed up out of nowhere and offed them all for fun. Feeling bad about the whole thing and wanting to keep his son in check, Thanos’s father, A’Lars, uses his cosmic abilities to resurrect Drax as an incredibly powerful engine of vengeance and sets him on a lifelong quest to slay the Mad Titan. 

Drax’s daughter also eventually returns as a bad, bikini-clad space psychic, but that’s a story for another time. 

3. Mantis Was A Human Given Her Powers By The Kree To Fulfill A Cosmic Prophecy

Very little time is spent on Mantis’s origin in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it’s a pretty simple one – she was discovered in a larval state on some alien planet by Ego the Living Planet, who might just be her father, and adopted because of her unique ability to put Ego to sleep. And that’s it, really, until she meets and joins the Guardians of the Galaxy.

The backstory of the comic book Mantis, who was associated with the Avengers long before she was a Guardian, is quite different and significantly more complicated than that of her MCU counterpart. This Mantis was born in Vietnam as an ordinary human, but quickly identified by a sect of Kree fanatics as the “Celestial Madonna.” Those alien cultists endowed Mantis with her telepathic and empathic abilities and trained her in combat until she was 18, and then mindwiped and dumped her in the streets of Saigon to find her own way to her supposed destiny of restoring the Cotati race – which is exactly what she ends up doing. 

4. Taskmaster Was A S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Who, Surprise, Surprise, Changed Completely After Taking A Super Serum

In Black Widow, Taskmaster is revealed to be the long-awaited answer to the Dreykov’s daughter riddle: Antonia Dreykov, a child of Natasha Romanoff’s greatest enemy, scarred in the crossfire of their conflict and then transformed into a move-mimicking automaton by her father. 

The tale of Marvel Comics’ Tony Masters couldn’t be more different. Masters was a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who took an experimental serum under dire circumstances and ended up with “photographic reflexes” – the same move-mimicking powers as the MCU Taskmaster, but with the caveat that every new observation crowds his other memories out of his head. 

Masters – who debuted in Avengers #195 – was manipulated into continuing his S.H.I.E.L.D. work for a while, but he eventually just forgot about it and set out as a mercenary, complete with a pirate-themed costume and skull-mask. He soon branched out into hench-person training camps, in which he promised to teach would-be villain sidekicks how to fight like Natasha Romanoff or Steve Rogers.

He still, of course, regularly takes up missions of his own, where he’s gained a very anti-Antonia reputation for gregariousness – and earned the unlikely friendships of fellow chucklers Deadpool and the Black Ant. 

5. Groot Can Totally Talk And Used To Be A Cosmic Warlord

Before partnering up with Rocket, the personal history of the original Groot was largely unknown – and probably always will be, given that that character perishes in Guardians of the Galaxy, only to be replaced by their adorable progeny. Presumably, he’s just an alien tree from a planet of alien trees.

But the comic book Groot is a member of the Flora colossi race who once referred to himself as the “Monarch of Planet X” and fancied himself a cosmic warlord – though that eventually proved to be a bit of a front once he softened up and joined the Guardians. In his more villainous days, Groot was perfectly capable of speech, which he would mostly use to threaten and cajole his allies. Over time, however, he lost the ability to speak thanks to the congenital hardening of his vocal cords.

6. Star-Lord’s Dad Doesn’t Kill His Mom In The Comics, But He’s Still A Pretty Bad Dude

Split between Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 and 2, Peter Quill’s origin as Star-Lord centers around an alien abduction following the tragic demise of his mother, Meredith Quill – both of which have a lot to do with the cosmic origins of his father. Eventually, Peter learns that his dad is actually a being of unfathomable might known as Ego the Living Planet, but he also learns that Ego was responsible for his mother’s cancer, and so Peter has to eliminate him shortly thereafter.

In the comics, Star-Lord was also captured as a child following his mother’s demise, but neither event had anything to do with his father – though his dad does happen to be an important cosmic figure in this continuity, too. Known as J’son of Spartax, Peter’s comic book father is a bit of a totalitarian and usually as antagonistic toward the “backwater apes” of Earth, but he’s most often depicted as a few steps short of supervillainy. He also only wiped Meredith’s memories of him instead of slaying her, so he and Peter are on significantly better terms. 

7. As A Child, Thanos Met And Fell In Love With The Physical Embodiment Of Death

Everyone in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has heard Thanos’s personal backstory a time or two – it’s a tale he clearly loves telling. In essence, he thought that his homeworld of Titan was about to face a population crisis and suggested random mass slayings, “they called me a mad man,” and then the crisis happened, and he set about finding a way to eliminate half of all life in the universe. As one does.

The Marvel Comics version of Thanos, however, never had much of a choice, because he was approached by – and became infatuated with – the literal embodiment of Death at a very young age. Always appearing to the future Mad Titan as an attractive girl or woman, Death would remain a big part of his life from there on out, and pleasing her would provide most of the motivation for the actions that would make him the universe’s greatest villain. And once he got his first taste of ending a life, Thanos found he couldn’t stop.

8. Yondu Comes From The Year 3000 And An Alternate Timeline

Yondu Udonta’s origin, if you can call it that, is pretty short and sweet as told in Guardians of the Galaxy – he’s just an old space pirate. His backstory is expanded on in Vol. 2, in which it is revealed that Yondu is an old space pirate who used to hang around with a bunch of other space pirates and perform quasi-heroic tasks, which is actually a lot more in line with the history of the original comic book Yondu.

The first team to bear the name of the Guardians of the Galaxy in the pages of Marvel Comics were not from the mainstream Marvel Universe at all, but from an alternate timeline set in the Year 3000. There, Yondu was one of the last surviving members of the Centaurian race who took up with a band of other planetary orphans to form the original Guardians.

Later, Yondu travels to the present day, meets the Avengers, and eventually perishes – only to be replaced by an ancestor of his who, conveniently enough, looks a whole lot more like Michael Rooker. 

9. Falcon Can Talk To Birds And Was A Victim Of Red Skull Brainwashing

Of all the origin stories in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Sam Wilson’s might just be the most ordinary. After a few years of service in the Air Force, during which he used the experimental EXO-7 Falcon wing suit, Wilson retires to civilian life – until a chance encounter with Captain America on a morning jog. Several catastrophic events later, Wilson is putting his wing suit to work as the Falcon, Steve Rogers’s sidekick in everything but name. 

To say that Sam’s backstory in the annals of Marvel Comics is different is putting it very mildly. That version of Sam smashes a plane into a Caribbean Island that just so happens to be occupied by the Red Skull, who uses the uber-powerful Cosmic Cube to rewrite the man’s personal history and give him the ability to telepathically talk to birds. The Skull, intending to use the Falcon as a sleeper agent against Cap, even implants a falsely villainous past into Sam’s mind to make him more pliable – but his better nature wins out in the end, and Sam becomes a superhero instead. 

10. Nick Fury Was In World War II With Wolverine And Captain America, Then Later Retired To The Moon

All that is known of the MCU Nick Fury’s younger years is his military record, which includes time as a colonel in the Army and as a CIA operative before rising through the ranks of SHIELD to the position of director. Other than that, Fury is a bit of a blank slate – but it’s safe to say his personal history is a far cry from that of his comic book counterpart.

The Marvel Comics Fury also served in the Army as head of the Howling Commandos – but he did it back in WWII, mixing it up with both Captain America and Wolverine. Following the conflict, Fury was a trial subject for the Infinity Formula, which greatly extended his natural lifespan – and that allowed him to kick off an intelligence career spanning more than half a century.

Of course, these days, the original comic book Fury has been retired – to the moon, no less – and replaced with his son, Nick Fury Jr., who conveniently looks a whole lot more like Samuel L. Jackson. 

11. Black Widow Is 100 Years Old And The Victim Of An Experimental Biochemical Procedure

Much of Natasha Romanoff’s backstory was kept intentionally vague throughout several Avengers adventures in the MCU, presumably being saved for her solo debut in Black Widow – but the basics are clear. At a young age, Natasha was inducted into the Soviet Red Room program, trained to be an assassin, but then redeemed and recruited by SHIELD. Thus far, there’s been no indication that the MCU Black Widow is anywhere near a century old, however, and that’s a big departure from her comic book history.

Many Marvel Comics characters have been around since World War II – both in the literal and the fictional sense – and Natalia Romanova is one of them. As a child in 1941, she was once rescued by Captain America and Wolverine, but she still ended up in the Red Room program. There, various biochemical experiments enhanced her physiology, including her longevity – which is why she still looks like she’s in her 20s despite being almost 100 years old. 

12. Captain Marvel’s Mother Actually Was A Kree, Making Carol Danvers Part Kree

As seen in Captain Marvel, the Carol Danvers of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was once an ordinary human Air Force pilot until a chance encounter with the original, alien Captain Marvel. After a Kree device explodes in her face, Carol is endowed with a whole host of energy-based powers, setting off on a dual career as a space warrior/superhero.

For a long time, that was pretty much the story when it came to the comic book Carol, too – though she goes through a whole host of other monikers, including Ms. Marvel, Warbird, and Binary, before taking on the mantle of Captain Marvel – with the notable exception of the whole “ordinary human” part. A fairly recent plot twist in the pages of Marvel Comics reveals that, while Carol’s father was indeed an earthling, her mother, Marie Danvers, was actually the Kree champion Mari-Ell on a mission to assimilate with the Terrans – making Captain Marvel a half-Kree and heir to a role of prominence in the mighty Kree empire.