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More than just sidekicks: The MCU's 9 best supporting character introductions
Not everyone has be an Avenger to be loved in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
For all of the Tony Starks, Carol Danvers and Natasha Romanoffs in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there are even more supporting characters introduced that aren't Avenger-tier but have still become beloved. Considering just how many new characters are introduced with every single official Marvel Studios movie or streaming series, the pool of worthy characters is growing exponentially every few months. Even with this week's release of Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, there's the arrival of America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez). She's a teenage dimensional traveler from another universe that is likely to become immeshed in the lives of Steven Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Wong (Benedict Wong), and maybe even Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) in the near future.
Will she become an audience favorite? Only time will tell, but she got us thinking about the characters who have had relatively humble MCU introductions and have since gone up the ladder of recognition from both the Marvel Studios creatives and the audiences who want to see more of them. Here are nine of our favorites.
Introduced as a drunk bounty hunter in Thor: Ragnarok, Valkyrie made the best/worst first impression. She could have remained the fallen warrior with a tragic past who existed only to annoy and beat up Thor, but she came back to her potential by the film's end, helping to save as many Asgardians as possible before their world was destroyed. Tessa Thompson imbued the character with humor, nihilism and a deep sadness that made her stick in our minds and hearts. In Avengers: Endgame, Valkyrie quietly took on the mantle of caring for her people in New Asgard and rightfully earned the title of official leader by film's end. Seeing what she does with that role is a big part of the excitement for Thor: Love and Thunder.
What a journey for a character first introduced as Kamar-Taj's archivist and librarian in Doctor Strange and who has since evolved into the guy who shows up everywhere in the MCU. Benedict Wong has been able to do a lot even with the smallest scenes, using his humor and forthrightness to craft Wong into a source of wisdom and laughs. During the blip he moved into the role of Sorcerer Supreme, which continues to make him both a superior and peer to Strange. But he's also got a fascinating off-screen existence where he's making alliances with characters like Emil Blonsky and knowing the Avengers well enough to attend Tony Stark's funeral. And most recently, we saw him singing karaoke with Shang-Chi before swooping him into a portal to help guide his destiny with Earth's Mightiest Heroes.
The spy sister of Natasha Romanoff was introduced in Black Widow. Florence Pugh made Yelena an instant favorite as the sibling who holds nothing back from her big sister. Her brutal mano-a-mano introductory fight with Natasha proved that she's as physically adept at her big sis, but it's also where we learned that Yelena has a sassy mouth when it comes to taking Natasha down a peg or two. Yelena also has the leg up in being emotionally honest. As the sister's bond is restored in the movie, Pugh was able to make Yelena a fully formed person who you wanted to know more about. From her cheeky taunts to her vulnerability, Yelena was a delight to watch, which was reinforced by her fantastic appearance in Hawkeye.
Introduced as Tony Stark's anxious bodyguard in Iron Man, Happy Hogan was basically an opportunity for director Jon Favreau to riff with Robert Downey Jr. on-screen. But the character's candor and annoyance with Stark was so combustible that he's managed to stick around for seven films. It doesn't hurt that his appearances always bring the comedy or tears to the table — whether he's ruining Peter Parker's Avengers dream or giving puppy dog eyes to Aunt May, Hogan continuously proves that he adds a lot of flavor to the overall camaraderie within the MCU. And, for scenes like Tony's funeral in Avengers: Endgame, it was only through a character like Hogan that a quiet chat with Morgan Stark about cheeseburgers could end up being so emotionally devastating.
Dr. Darcy Lewis
In Thor, Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) was introduced as the snarky volunteer research assistant to Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). She quickly became the mouth of the audience as she witnesses the ridiculous circumstances of Thor being banished to Earth and openly mocks the weirdness of it all. Carrying through to the Thor sequel and then expanding into the WandaVision world, Darcy remains the deadpan voice of reason wherever she goes. With one foot in the real world and the other in the "science" world, she's a utility player when it comes to giving us the necessary exposition to know what the heck is going on... with the added eye-rolls that are deeply satisfying.
Played by both Dominic Cooper and John Slattery depending on what time period the story is set in, Howard Stark is the big personality that set the stage for Tony to take the ego-driven baton and run with it. In Cooper's hands, Stark is rich scoundrel who believes in good, but often is tempted to bend the rules when necessary. Eventually, he's evolved into the perfect foil/friend for Peggy Carter, while adding a lot of energy to the period stories of Steve Rogers' time. As an older man, Slattery represented the daddy issues that haunted the older Tony Stark in life, replete with all the regrets of his estranged relationship with dear old dad. When either version of Stark shows up, it just means we're getting more history and context in this sprawling world of superheroes, and that's a good thing.
Initially introduced as a ghost-like thief in Loki, Sylvie was eventually revealed to be a variant Loki who was defiant about her "out of time" fate with the TVA. Unimpressed with Loki's hubris and manipulations, actress Sophia Di Martino stepped up to Tom Hiddleston's brash Loki performance and took him down many notches, which was delightful to witness over the span of the season. Smart and resourceful, Sylvie made her own existence one to watch regardless of the Sacred Timeline or any other Loki variant vying for attention. In the Season 1 finale, she made the selfish decision of self-preservation over love, which is a very Loki thing to do, and left us wanting so much more.
James E. "Jimmy" Woo
Agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) was introduced in Ant-Man and the Wasp as a guy we weren't supposed to like. As the FBI agent monitoring Scott Lang's house arrest status, he relentlessly tracked Scott's movements but did it in a charming way. Maybe it was his childlike interest in Lang's sleight of hand moves that won audience hearts, but we kinda rooted for the guy even when he was bugging the hero. Obviously, people inside Marvel Studios felt the same way and made him a bigger part of WandaVision overall mystery regarding Scarlet Witch's powers. Park knows how to bring the funny and the empathy which has shifted him from an outsider to an insider when it comes to the moves of the Avengers. Next we'll see him supporting The Marvels.
Wakanda's elite Dora Milaje was always important to the MCU story, as they were also part of the introduction to the country in Captain America: Winter Soldier. But Okoye's introduction as the face of the warriors in Black Panther was amplified by Danai Gurira's grace and power in the role. She provided wisdom and warmth to Chadwick Boseman's T'Challa, and their chemistry as friends and leaders was a highlight of the film. In a role that could have remained as is, Okoye instead came out of that film elevated to the General of the Dora Milaje, with her character having a big show at Avengers Campus and remains a huge part of the Wakandan story.