THEORY: Wonder Man Will Make His MCU Debut in ‘Thunderbolts’ 

With news of a Wonder Man series happening, we take a look at how it could lead to the character appearing in Thunderbolts.

Wonder Man is coming to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and his arrival might be a lot sooner than expected. The Hollywood Reporter revealed on Thursday that Community writer Andrew Guest and Shang-Chi director Destin Daniel Cretton will team up to give Simon Williams his own series on Disney+. Cameras are reportedly set to begin rolling in 2023, meaning fans can likely expect the character to make his live-action debut sometime in the following year. Although, should Marvel be inclined to have a little fun with the character’s origin, it’s possible audiences actually see Wonder Man in theaters by the end of next year.

Early reports indicate the Wonder Man series will focus on his well-known career in Hollywood, an aspect of the character that has been a staple since it was introduced in the early 1980’s. At the time, after years of internal conflict and uncertainty about his future, Williams took his talents to Los Angeles and began an acting career, becoming known for performing dangerous stunts that only his invulnerable body could withstand. Despite this intriguing turn of events, however, Wonder Man has decades of material to work with pre-Hollywood. The character has existed since 1964, when he was introduced in The Avengers #9 as a new member of the Masters of Evil.

Before he was a hero, Williams was the son of industrialist Sanford Williams, a rival of the world-famous Tony Stark. After his father’s death, Simon is outmatched by Stark and fears he’ll lose his family’s business, an anxiety that results in an ill-advised embezzlement scheme brought on by his villainous brother, Eric (a.k.a. the Grim Reaper). As it goes, Williams is caught, and is sent to prison with a hatred for Stark and his “bodyguard” Iron Man. Seeing an opportunity, Baron Zemo and the Enchantress, the two leading members of the Masters of Evil, spring Williams and offer him a deal – they turn him into a being with enough power to vanquish Stark and the Avengers, and he saves his company and gets revenge on the man who wronged him. Williams accepts, and an experimental procedure turns him into the ion-fueled superbeing known as Wonder Man.

Of course, Williams quickly sees the wrong in this and reforms, but the brief antagonistic period of his life is perhaps among his most compelling eras. It would be a shame for the MCU to skip over this origin and jump straight to his days on the big screen. Luckily, a major project announced just days ago could very well be hiding its own Wonderous secret that allows for Simon’s story to be told in full. Thunderbolts, a film based on the team of supervillains who masquerade as heroes, was announced as being in development last Thursday by Variety. This is relevant to the Wonder Man conversation for one big, charming, fan-favorite reason: Baron Helmut Zemo, bad guy extraordinaire.

As previously mentioned, Zemo played a big role in the creation of Wonder Man. He was the man responsible for the whole ion-human ordeal, and decades later, he would also be the person responsible for founding the anti-heroic Thunderbolts. It’s expected that Daniel Bruhl will reprise his role as the MCU’s take on Zemo in Thunderbolts, potentially leading a team comprised of members recruited by Julia Louis-Dreyfus‘ Contessa Val over the course of multiple Phase Four projects. The names linked to the Thunderbolts thus far give away a possible link to another team of Marvel characters assembled in the late 2000s, known as the Dark Avengers. That group, formed by Norman Osborn, was also a team of supervillains pretending to be good guys, but had each member take over the mantle of a pre-existing Avenger. For example, Venom took on the Spider-Man role while Bullseye wore Hawkeye’s classic costume. With Florence Pugh‘s Black Widow and Wyatt Russell‘s U.S. Agent already on the payroll, it seems completely believable that the MCU’s Thunderbolts might be some kind of amalgamation of the original comic book team and the Dark Avengers concept.

Running through the potential roster, the MCU Thunderbolts already have their own Captain America and Black Widow, a Hulk in Tim Roth‘s Abomination, and probably even a Vision replacement with Hannah John-Kamen‘s Ghost. Regardless of all this, they lack an equivalent to the most powerful current Avenger, Brie Larson‘s Captain Marvel. In the same way the Masters of Evil once had Simon Williams infiltrate the Avengers with malicious intent, the MCU could have Zemo and Val offering a disgruntled Williams the chance to shine by succumbing to a new, experimental procedure that might turn him into Captain Marvel’s equal. In case anyone is confused at this point, the suggestion here is that audiences may very well see Wonder Man’s origin play out in Thunderbolts before he makes the jump to his own spin-off series.

The timing of the two projects’ filming lines up well enough. It’s not confirmed when Thunderbolts will start production, but if Jake Schreier‘s project starts filming in Summer 2023, it would be on track for a mid-2024 release. As is often the case, the turn-around time on television projects tends to be quicker than with film, so if Wonder Man also begins filming around this date, or even slightly after, it could work out that the latter releases just after Thunderbolts and acts as a direct spin-off. The two could even film in tandem, as a way to more effectively utilize the time of some very busy leads like Bruhl and Pugh.

This could also be a way for Marvel to include more characters from its larger repertoire. Wonder Man’s comic origin heavily features the original Enchantress, and if Marvel Studios wanted to follow suit, they could bring Sophia Di Martino‘s Sylvie into the fold as the Thunderbolts’ Asgardian representative. On top of this, Wonder Man will almost certainly feature Eric Williams in a supporting role, and the baddie brother of the Williams family could pop up alongside Simon in Thunderbolts initially, before terrorizing the world as Grim Reaper later. Maybe it’s an encounter with Zemo or Val in Thunderbolts that gets those Villainous wheels turning in the first place. Either way, the potential for an easy, world-building crossover is there, and it seems too good for Marvel Studios not to capitalize on while the getting is good.

Special shoutout to Maggie from Collider for helping to build out this theory!

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