With a sequel to The Avengers officially confirmed by Marvel/Disney, comic book fans the world over will be contemplating which of the publisher’s other heroes could be added to the line-up, potentially getting their own solo movie as soon as 2014 – filling the popularly acknowledged gap in the schedule alongside Captain America 2 that summer.
Of course, we have to bear in mind that Marvel Studios do not own the film rights to characters as key to their comic book universe as Daredevil, Spider-Man, Wolverine or the Fantastic Four – all of whom have allied with or become members of the Avengers at one time or another – but with that consideration in place, here is another suggestion for Marvel’s Next Avengers Film:
Deathlok (Michael Collins)
Why?: Because, done right, a Deathlok adventure could combine all the best elements of the most successful superhero films – cutting-edge technology, evil, morally bankrupt bad guys, experimental weaponry, tragedy, loss, redemption and – most of all – balls-to-the-wall action. In fact, considering the era we live in, Deathlok could end up being the most relevant superhero yet seen on screen. And if he were to join up with The Avengers – holy hell! – what a perfect fit he could be. The strength of Iron Man, the tactical ability of Hawkeye and Captain America combined, the inner turmoil of the Hulk, the gruff personality of Nick Fury and the abs of Thor.
There have been two major incarnations of Deathlok, and several minor variations on the character. The first was in the mid 1970’s, where soldier Luther Manning is killed in combat and his mind transplanted into a cyborg in a post-apocalyptic America circa 1990 (nice going, George H.W Bush). I’ll be honest, this was around the time I was born so my exposure to this incarnation is limited at best.
Where I really fell in love with Deathlok was when they re-launched the character in 1990 with a four-issue limited series and – probably unbeknownst to them – created a story that was fifteen years ahead of its time. In this version, family man Michael Collins stumbles onto a plan by the cybernetics division of his company, Roxxon Oil, to send in a cyborg super-soldier to deal with rebels who are fighting against Halliburton – I mean, Roxxon’s – increasing political influence in oil-rich Estrella. Collins is killed and his brain transplanted into the robot for use as nothing more than a hard drive, but he regains consciousness, overrides his programming, and switches sides. Epic battles ensue and he soon finds himself fighting alongside S.H.I.E.L.D to prevent a nuclear strike on the USA.
Deathlok is a powerful character that could stand toe-to-toe with any of The Avengers. Advanced cybernetics give him incredible strength and speed, and his internal AI – running in tandem with his human brain – can devise powerful offensive and defensive strategies almost instantaneously. Nanotech gives him accelerated healing powers and his onboard computer can hack almost any electronic device. He is, as the kids are wont to say, a bad ass.
Story?: The story could go any number of ways, but one that makes sense to me would be if Deathlok were to reach out to Tony Stark for help, and end up in the middle of an Avengers crisis. At the end of the four-part series mentioned above, Collins learns that his human body has been kept alive in stasis, but has been secreted away to a distant location. The bad guys know that Collins’ only desire is to get back to his family, and the threat of damage to his body is the only card they have to play. The considerable resources, technology and connections that Stark Industries has would no doubt be attractive to Collins as he searched for his body.
While relying on Tony Stark for assistance and being an almost literal mirror-image of him physically and mentally, Collins would also likely take offense at Stark’s history of creating weapons, his rather sizeable ego and his blasé attitude toward the destruction his Iron Man suit is capable of and is often used for (Collins was an avowed pacifist in his previous life, and resets his computer to ‘Do Not Harm’ mode early on). Collins would likely see Tony Stark as a hero, but one that is dangerously close to crossing the line, warranting a heaping dosage of suspicion (if he was present at the drunken shenanigans in Iron Man 2, Deathlok would have lost his shit).
There are several interesting themes that a talented scriptwriter could weave into a story. For instance, the very contemporary issue of “over-mechanizing” combat. Critics of the real-world wars being fought by the USA and its allies say that we’ve lost touch with the true cost of war because all the killing is being done by flying robots guided by kids 10,000 miles away. Deathlok, on the other hand, is a human man stuck inside a terrible weapon, fighting to bring a sense of responsibility back into the theater of war. This would, of course, be bolstered by the ongoing search for – quite literally – his humanity, and his pain at seeing his wife mourn and his son grow up as he watches them from afar, collateral damage of a war they had no role in.
Likelihood?: Very low, at least for the time being. Deathlok isn’t a well-known character outside of geekdom, and would almost certainly need his own origin story to bring people up to speed. Marvel has played their hand well over the past decade, culminating in The Avengers, and they are likely spending all their time just keeping Avengers 2, Iron Man 3, Captain America 2, Thor 2, and Hulk: Smash Again! on target.
In addition to this, if this story sounds familiar, it’s because you saw a version of it in 1987 called Robocop, and you’ll see another version of it in 2013 called… Robocop. There have been several attempts at bringing Deathlok to the screen over the years but both have fizzled – IMDb lists the movie as ‘in development’ but the whole man-turned-into-cyborg idea is currently a bit over-done right now. Although they did have two meteor-hits-Earth movies (Deep Impact, Armageddon), two volcano movies (Dante’s Peak, Volcano), and two Snow White movies (Mirror Mirror, Snow White and the Huntsman) at the same time, so…stranger things have happened.
Casting?: In the comic Michael Collins was a pretty large black man, and with a studio’s unlikeliness to risk a tent-pole picture on anyone except a name star, this narrows the field down considerably. That being said, Eamonn Walker (above) could certainly pull it off – he’s tall and muscular, and he’s proven his action chops and ability to carry a scene in Tears of the Sun. If he’s not available, how about Harold Perrineau, who is – in my mind – way underrated as an actor. Failing that, Chiwetel Ejiofor could certainly act the part, although neither are exactly known for their imposing physique.
Director?: The perfect director would be Michael Bay – I’m kidding, calm down. No, for this you’d need someone who could portray nuance, humanity, science and destruction with equal skill. While I’m dreaming, how about David Fincher? He could give the film a sense of weight and could help draw characterizations that would play out very believably. If he’s unavailable, how about Kathryn Bigelow? She’s currently filming Zero Dark Thirty about SEAL team 6’s take down of Numbnuts Bin Laden, so she’ll already be in a ‘kick ass and take names’ mode.
Let us know your thoughts about a Namor movie in the comments below and check back soon as we reveal more candidates for Marvel’s Next Avengers!
If you missed them, here are our first eight entries in this series: