Marvel Studios really wanted Yaha Abdul-Mateen II to bring Simon Williams, aka Wonder Man, to life in the MCU. After hearing that initial conversations between the actor and the studio hit a stumbling block, a recent trade report revealed that negotiations had resumed and it is now expected that Mateen will ultimately land the role. As of now, that means Mateen will headline the Disney Plus series Wonder Man, which is being overseen by Shang-Chi and Avengers: The Kang Dynasty director Destin Daniel Cretton. However, given how keen Marvel Studios was to land Mateen, it seems possible that they have a much bigger plan in place for Simon Williams and part of that plan might lie in the character’s comic book history.
Even though Avengers’ director Joss Whedon wasn’t a big fan of the character, Wonder Man has been an Avenger for the majority of his Marvel Comics’ adventures. But like Wanda and Pietro Maximoff, he didn’t start off as one of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, but rather one of their adversaries. After taking over his father’s company and subsequently running it into the ground, Williams found himself involved with the Maggia. That connection soon found him making his way to prison until he was bailed out by the Masters of Evil and became part of one of Baron Zemo’s schemes. Williams underwent a radical procedure that provided him with incredible powers and worked his way into favor with the Avengers before leading them into a trap set by Zemo. Williams ultimately came to his senses and sided with the Avengers, but the side effects of the experiment took a toll, sending him into a coma. A lot of weird scenarios later, Williams woke up, came to terms with his grief and trauma and joined the Avengers and, later, the West Coast Avengers. While all that sounds great, it’s that opening arc as a villain that has us theorizing!
As of now, Wonder Man has not been put on Marvel Studios’ upcoming slate. Going only off the information available, it doesn’t seem that fans should expect to see it until Fall of 2024 at the earliest. That makes casting Mateen in the role now a little suspect because there’s no information available about when Wonder Man is expected to start production. As of now, it’s known that Agatha: Coven of Chaos, Daredevil: Born Again, Captain America: New World Order and Thunderbolts are all slated to get underway in the first half 2023, but so far Wonder Man hasn’t been given a definitive start date.
It’s not completely out of the ordinary for Marvel Studios to cast a lead when they don’t have a start date set in stone and just because the public doesn’t know a start date doesn’t mean one doesn’t exist. However, Marvel’s eagerness to get the deal with Mateen done might indicate that they have plans for the actor in another project before he begins work on Wonder Man. Sifting through those projects listed above, none of them seem to be quite as good of a fit for a potential appearance of Simon Williams as a villain as Thunderbolts.
From what’s known about the plans for Wonder Man in the MCU, it’s expected that his series will serve as a Hollywood satire and follow his career as a struggling actor and stuntman. How he gets from superpowered experiment to struggling actor is an interesting conundrum to consider. One possibility to consider could be that the MCU’s Wonder Man might share a connection with a few members of the Thunderbolts, specifically the super soldiers. The legacy of the Super Soldier Serum in the MCU was front and center in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier and with Thunderbolt Ross set to appear in both Thunderbolts and Captain America: New World Order, it’s possible it remains a prevalent plot point, especially with Samuel Sterns coming back into play.
While the plot of Thunderbolts, and thus the villain, are still tightly held secrets at Marvel Studios, having three super soldiers on the team (Bucky, John Walker and Red Guardian) could be taken as an indicator that despite Zemo’s efforts to eliminate the further development of super soldiers within the MCU, someone else has different ideas. Could Thunderbolt Ross, whose fascination with the serum led to the creation of Abomination, be back in the game? Could Samuel Sterns, who was announced to be the villain of Captain America: New World Order, be making an appearance in Thunderbolts? And how would Simon Williams end up part of an experiment in the first place?
Without details, wild speculation is the best direction. In the comics, Simon’s fall from grace started when he ran his father’s company, Williams Innovations, into the ground and hooked up with the Maggia. However, it was his brother, Eric, who went on to become the villain known as the Grim Reaper, that put him in tough with the Maggia. Given the group of characters assembled for the roster of the Thunderbolts and Val’s coming obsession with metals, it wouldn’t be beyond her to get involved with a little corporate espionage. Having Ghost and Yelena on the team would certainly allow for Val’s team to get involved in some shady business like that. It wouldn’t be completely out of the question to see the first two acts of the film (or less) show the fall of Simon Williams at the hands of the Thunderbolts and his subsequent journey to becoming Wonder Man (classic costume hopefully included). The third act could see the team, and Simon, take on the project’s true villain(s), which could include Eric and/or an MCU-based Masters of Evil. Maybe the aftermath sees Simon less interested in the world of superheroes, but with nothing but his good looks and charm on his side, he decides to try his hand in Hollywood, leading into his Wonder Man solo series.
It’s paper-thin speculation at best, but the reality of the current Thunderbolts’ lineup is that they could never last against an overly-powered and truly evil villain. They don’t have the stopping power of a Hulk or a Thor and despite Walker and Bucky being on the team, they don’t have the leadership of a Captain America. They might be able to take a beating for a short time, but their true villain is going to ultimately be someone…less than thrilling. Of course Marvel Studios’ writer Eric Pearson certainly has something much more exciting in mind for Thunderbolts, which is headed to theaters on July 2th, 2024.