Comic book companies boast of the large numbers of characters in their universes when trying to sell themselves as franchise opportunities, usually referring to them as assets. With the increase in the number of films based on comic books, and the huge number of actors available to play roles in these films, it’s surprising to see certain actors playing more than their fair share of comic book characters. What adds to the confusion is when the same actor plays two different characters in films adapted from the comic books from the same universe.
With Chris Evans, who had played Johnny Storm aka The Human Torch in two Fantastic Four films, about to reprise his role of Steve Rogers aka Captain America in The Avengers (or Avengers Assemble, if you live in the UK), I decided to compile a specific list: actors who have portrayed separate on-screen characters in different live-action films adapted from comic books in the same universe (as of March 2012). As noted in the title of this blog post, it turned out that all the instances are from films based on Marvel comic books. This is appropriate: Marvel invented the interconnected shared universe in comic books, and they are making a good job of it in the cinema. On with the list.
Let’s start with my first example: Evans is both Johnny Storm in Fantastic Four and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer and Steve Rogers in Captain America: The First Avenger, both characters in the Marvel universe. He was very good in both roles; comic book characters are something he enjoys, having played Lucas Lee in Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World and Jensen in The Losers.
Reynolds has played a big character in the DC universe, as Hal Jordan in Green Lantern. However, he has also played two different characters in films adapted from Marvel comic books. He was Hannibal King in Blade: Trinity and Wade Wilson aka Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. We still wait to see if he will play Deadpool again in his own film.
Despite making his name for directing Iron Man, Favreau started out as an actor. His first Marvel universe role was as Foggy Nelson in Daredevil, before giving himself the role of Happy Hogan in both Iron Man and Iron Man 2.
Rebecca Romijn has played Mystique in X-Men, X2 and X-Men: The Last Stand (as well as a cameo as ‘older’ Mystique in X-Men: First Class) but she was also Joan in The Punisher (the version from 2004 with Thomas Jane in the titular role).
Ben Fosters shares with Romijn the accolade of different characters in the same film universe in the same films: he was in The Punisher as Spacker Dave and he was also in X-Men: The Last Stand as Warren Worthington III aka Angel. He is also another actor who enjoys being in comic book adaptations: he was The Stranger in 30 Days of Night.
Keeping the Punisher theme but a different film: Stevenson was Frank Castle aka The Punisher in Punisher: War Zone, but he was also Volstagg in Thor.
Keeping with Thor, Elba was Heimdall in Thor (which caused a kerfuffle among certain types who couldn’t handle the addition of colour to the casting) and Moreau in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (although I don’t think that particular character was in the original comic books). He is also an actor who likes comic book adaptations: he was Roque in The Losers (alongside Chris Evans, the Marvel universe regular).
Keeping the Ghost Rider connection, albeit the first film and not the sequel, Elliott was the Caretaker in Ghost Rider, who is actually a character from the comic books but not the cowboy Ghost Rider of the film. He was also General Thunderbolt Ross in Ang Lee’s Hulk, making excellent use of his moustache.
Final Ghost Rider connection with Logue, who played Mack in Ghost Rider (although I don’t think Mack was a character from the comic books); he also played Quinn (again, a character who I don’t think was in the comic books) in Blade, the film that started the recent resurgence of comic book films. Logue also had a small role in American Splendour, which is technically based on a comic book.
Last but not least is Stan Lee – he now has a secondary career appearing in cameos in nearly all the Marvel universe films, although it gets a bit fuzzy on if he’s different characters. He has played Willie Lumpkin in Fantastic Four and as himself in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Surfer, but the majority of the parts played have been of the ‘Man’ variety (‘Man with waterhose’, ‘Hotdog vendor’), so I don’t know how it quite fits into my list. If you want a full list (as of March 2012), you can find them around the web (Empire has a list with images; there is even a YouTube compilation if you want to see them in situ).
That’s the current list as far as I’m aware; if there are any I’ve missed, please let me know. It’s a good thing I didn’t starting doing a list of actors who are characters in different comic book universes, or I could be here all day …