In 2013, Marvel announced one of their most ambitious plans yet, as they confirmed that they would be partnering with Netflix to create 60 episodes of television based around four different characters — Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist — and an eventual team-up showing the four heroes as a team known as The Defenders. Four years later, and we’ve gotten to see the first seasons of all five series, and all of them have played a part in helping to raise the profile of several Marvel characters, whether they were already notable or simply footnotes in comics history.
Having said that, it’s debatable just how well some of these characters made the transition out of comics and onto the small screen. Quite a few characters actually found themselves elevated by their jump to television, but it’s safe to say not all of them can say the same. But CBR’s here to talk about all of them, as we run down eight Marvel characters Netflix totally ruined, and another seven they improved on. No characters are off-limits with this list, so we’ll be looking at everybody from the star characters the shows are about, to supporting cast and even just recurring guests.
. RUINED: MISTY KNIGHT
Admittedly this one’s the hardest sell, as Simone Missick’s portrayal of Misty Knight as a hard-edged but caring woman trying her best to improve her old neighborhood is inarguably one of the best parts of the Luke Cage series. However, the nature of the series as almost a pre-origin shows her so early on in her story that any viewers looking to experience Misty at her most awesome — a martial artist with a cybernetic arm that allows her to control technology — are unfortunately out of luck.
Thankfully, after the events of The Defenders, we’re much closer to seeing that version of Misty come to life, as an artificial arm is in the works, but we’ve still got a long way to go before Misty becomes the lynchpin of the Heroes for Hire.
. IMPROVED: STILT-MAN
So did you know that one of the recurring guest-stars of the Marvel Netflix universe is actually one of Daredevil’s classic super-foes? …or at least, a version of him. In the comics, Turk Barrett is a two-bit hood that graduates into a minor threat after stealing the armor of both the Mauler and Stilt Man in an attempt to get hired by the Kingpin. In both cases he is soundly defeated by Daredevil and refuted by the Kingpin.
Though Turk Barrett generally gets taken out in some comical way in Netflix universe, he still manages to be a much smarter, more fleshed out character than he ever was in the comics. He’s street-smart enough to stay out of the most dangerous situations, and his biggest crime is simply lacking the power (either in people or abilities) to go up against characters like Daredevil and Luke Cage.
. RUINED: BRIDE OF NINE SPIDERS
The tournament episode is easily the strongest episode during Iron Fist’s otherwise mediocre first season, seeing Danny Rand actually have to back up his claims as the protector of K’un Lun as he runs through a gauntlet of opponents from the Hand. In the middle of that tournament, Danny runs into a character that would be familiar to fans of the character: the Bride of Nine Spiders, one of the Immortal Weapons and a protector of the Seven Cities of Heaven.
Unfortunately, the deadly assassin was reduced to a boring femme fatale who poisoned Danny to make her battle easier and still managed to get taken down fairly quickly. It’s a shame that they relegated one of the coolest parts of Iron Fist’s lore to a single episode like this, and even more sad that she only received a few scant minutes of screentime before being knocked out.
. IMPROVED: KAREN PAGE
Karen Page has been a part of Daredevil’s world since the very beginning, as she appeared in Stan Lee and Bill Everett’s Daredevil #1 in 1964, but unfortunately the comics never treated her very kindly. She starts out as a secretary for Foggy and Matt’s law firm, but over the decades she winds up with a pretty hard-luck life story, becoming an adult star, then a drug addict that eventually sells Matt’s secret identity in exchange for a fix. And even when she eventually gets her life together, she sacrifices her life in order to save Matt from an attack by Bullseye.
Fortunately, in the Netflix series she’s been in much safer, more caring hands. She spent most of season two of Daredevil as the glue keeping a fractured Matt and Foggy together before eventually switching from being their secretary into a journalist working for the New York Bulletin.
. RUINED: THE OWL
The first season of Daredevil introduces viewers to the Kingpin’s complex organization that he uses to control New York’s underworld — a vast web of alliances including the head leaders of various gangs, the Hand, and…The Owl? Yes, if you weren’t an eagle-eyed fan you might have missed that Daredevil season one featured this long time villain of Matt’s, and if you did catch it, there’s a good chance you walked away disappointed.
In the comics, The Owl is one of Daredevil’s fiercest foes, a man with shrewd sense for the world of Wall Street that turned to crime after his white collar crimes were discovered by the police. They kept some of that for the Netflix show, but unfortunately there was only room enough for one big bad, and Leland wound up being just some old man who was only a minor annoyance to Kingpin by the end.
. IMPROVED: ELEKTRA
From the moment she debuted in Frank Miller’s Daredevil #168, Elektra’s been an awesome character. Serving as a deadly assassin in the employ of the Hand and one of the few people capable of besting Daredevil in combat, her constantly shifting allegiances tend to keep the Man Without Fear on his toes whenever she comes around. But her death at the hands of Bullseye and subsequent avenging by Daredevil always felt like something of a cop-out, stripping the agency away from one of the coolest characters in Daredevil’s world.
However, although the Greek assassin still winds up being killed in Daredevil season two, her subsequent revival in The Defenders takes advantage of her unpredictable nature to leave her as leader of The Hand, making her the key point of the coolest twist in an otherwise forgettable series.
. RUINED: DAVOS
First appearing in Iron Fist #1 by Chris Claremont and John Byrne, the Steel Serpent has been a thorn in the side of Danny Rand since the very beginning. Possessing the ability to somehow absorb the power of the Iron Fist, an appearance from him usually requires Danny’s complete attention lest he face certain doom. And although Davos manages to receive a better treatment than his nemesis Danny Rand in the Netflix series, he still suffers some of the same problems as Danny.
His character lacks conviction, spending most of his screen time complaining about failing to defeat Shao-Lao and becoming Iron Fist rather than doing something about it. Unlike Danny though, the ending to his story in the first season indicates that he’ll be on the right path going forward into the second.
. IMPROVED: BLACK MARIAH
Before the Netflix universe, Black Mariah was more of an unfortunate, supervillain take on the “mammy” stereotype than a proper character. She led a gang called the Rat Pack, and the gang made their cash by driving a stolen ambulance around New York City and picking up dead bodies and robbing them of whatever possessions on them at the time. Now that’s seriously creepy stuff, but not nearly as well-developed as you’d hope.
Fortunately, the Luke Cage TV series gives us Alfre Woodard’s inspired performance, elevating the character from a joke into a woman to be feared. Without the viewer realizing what’s going on until it’s too late, Mariah Dillard grows from becoming a simple corrupt politician into the ruler of Harlem’s criminal world in the most perfect and chilling character arc of the series.
. RUINED: WILL SIMPSON
It’s entirely possible that most viewers didn’t realize this character was even from the comics to begin with. Called Frank Simpson in the comics, he was created by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli and introduced in Daredevil #232 as the supervillain Nuke. A member of the Weapon-Plus program, Nuke spent years as a threat to both Daredevil and Wolverine, utilizing his enhanced abilities as a cyborg with advanced weaponry in service of anyone whoever’s employing him at the time.
In Jessica Jones, he becomes Frank Simpson, a police sergeant brainwashed by Killgrave to kill Jessica’s friend Trish. Though he’s a far more sympathetic character, it still feels like we were robbed a bit from having an actual Terminator in a Netflix series, even if only for a short while.
. IMPROVED: TRISH WALKER
Patricia “Patsy” Walker has one of the more interesting origins in comics — coming from the era when Marvel published non-superhero comics, her first comic was essentially Marvel’s version of Betty and Veronica, only to later transition over to the world of superheroes when that line finally went defunct. Still, despite spending plenty of time in superhero teams like the Avengers and the Defenders, she never quite stood out like she did in Jessica Jones.
With Jess’ long-time friend Carol Danvers unavailable, the series quickly found a perfect replacement in Rachael Taylor’s Trish Walker, a radio host whose mother adopted Jessica. The two bonded over their shared issues, and Trish becomes Jessica’s lifeline to the rest of humanity as she deals with the trauma of what Killgrave has done to her. Even managing to include Patsy’s history as a famous pop culture icon, this version of Patsy is tops.
. RUINED: FOGGY NELSON
Okay, hear us out. Elden Henson’s portrayal of Foggy Nelson is near pitch-perfect, nailing the constant worrying nature of Matt’s oldest and best friend. He’s also responsible for one of the best scenes in the first season after finally discovering that Matt is actually Daredevil… but then they decided to drag that same drama into the second season, and in doing so he suddenly became a lot less interesting.
It’s one thing to properly play out the drama that would occur once learning your lawyer best friend dresses up and beats up criminals as a vigilante, it’s another thing entirely to keep bringing up that drama over and over again. Matt finally decides to stop apologizing for his double life at the end of the second season, and hopefully when Foggy returns for season three this plot point finally dies.
. IMPROVED: CLAIRE TEMPLE
Claire Temple isn’t ever really called the Night Nurse in the comics, most likely because she’s actually a doctor. Introduced in Archie Goodwin and George Tuska’s Hero for Hire #2, the rapport she develops with Luke Cage eventually leads to her treating several other New York-based superheroes, but she never really rises above a few scattered appearances both in his ongoing and elsewhere.
On the other hand, Rosario Dawson’s portrayal of Claire Temple in the Marvel Netflix universe is literally all of u — she’s a “normal” woman who keeps finding herself placed in impossible situations with all people who all possess impossible powers. And while she isn’t the main character in any of the Netflix series, her presence is necessary to ground these series and place someone in them that would have the same sense of shock, awe, and wonder that we would.
. RUINED: DIAMONDBACK
If we’re being honest, Diamondback was just barely important at all before Marvel’s Netflix series started airing, mostly just responsible for the first part of Luke Cage’s origin before being killed off, the character was more a piece of comics trivia than being properly noteworthy for a long while. But when Netflix brought the character back to life with its over-the-top, comical portrayal courtesy of Erik LaRay Harvey, Marvel couldn’t help bringing him back in the comics.
That’s when Brian Michael Bendis stepped in, making Diamondback the main villain of his current Defenders ongoing series. There, Diamondback is making a play to become the new Kingpin of New York in the wake of Wilson Fisk becoming mayor, and his much cooler persona and seemingly endless machinations make him much cooler than his crazed, Netflix counterpart.
. IMPROVED: COLLEEN WING
Colleen Wing has never been a bad character in the comics, so it’s difficult to say that the Netflix series improved upon her all that much. The biggest problem is that she doesn’t get nearly as much time in the spotlight as she deserves, often getting outshined by Danny, Luke, and even Misty in the comics she does appear in. But Jessica Henwick’s performance is literally the best part of the first season of Iron Fist.
Her character is more likable, her struggle between good and evil after learning that the group that trained her is actually a bunch of evil jerks is far more compelling, and ultimately… she kicks way more butt than Danny ever does. By the end of the first season, it’s difficult not to wish it was her show from the very beginning.
. RUINED: IRON FIST
Easily the most obvious entry on this list, it’s quite unfortunate what happened to Iron Fist. His reputation among comic book fans was fairly decent until earlier this year, as he’d had several comic books that were cult classics and wildly successful with critics dating all the way back to Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction’s Immortal Iron Fist comic. Danny Rand in the source material is a cool, laid-back martial artist that’s spent his life learning how to navigate the world of martial arts and mysticism he entered as a child.
But Netflix Danny Rand manages to botch things up royally by turning Danny from a wise-cracking guy who’s completely aware of his responsibilities without having to constantly remind everyone about them…into a spoiled man-child who doesn’t understand jokes and explains his origins and the workings of K’un Lun every other scene.
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