Your Guide to the Heroes of Marvel’s Netflix Shows

The stories of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe have been well documented. We’ve been seeing Iron Man fly around since 2008, while Thor and Captain America got their first films three years later, in 2011. Then along came the The Avengers, and we had our first protracted look at the whole team operating as a single unit. Meanwhile, Marvel launched a secondary level of characters on Netflix, showing us heroes that we likely never would have seen in theaters.

So why choose these particular heroes? The reasoning seems simple enough, they lend the MCU some much-needed depth outside of the company’s yearly film releases. While we wait around for the next Marvel movie, it helps to have a 13-episode single-season run appear on Netflix in a single weekend. The shows keep fans satiated but not overwhelmed, while still creating an environment in which people are always talking about Marvel.

1. Daredevil

Daredevil in his full suit, standing on a rooftop and looking down
Daredevil | Netflix

There’s been a lot of talk about Daredevil, so we’ll try not to beat a dead horse here. That said, the first season did a spectacular job of bringing Marvel’s world of superheroes down to an all-too-human level (albeit with a disappointing follow-up effort).

In the series, we see Matt Murdock, a lawyer who was blinded as a child but given superhuman senses. Fight scenes draw out because it takes a lot of punches to render a man unconscious (despite what action movies have told us). Actor Charlie Cox brings a gravitas to the role that has him dominating every room he walks into, even in his weakest, most vulnerable moments.

The comic book hero himself has a long history within the Marvel Universe, dating back to 1964. He later became “The Man Without Fear,” popularized largely by Frank Miller’s portrayal. He’s always been an intriguing character, if not simply for being a differently-abled superhero functioning as a cold-hearted ninja.

2. Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones scowling, sitting in an interrogation room
Jessica Jones | Netflix

Jessica Jones may have one of the most interesting superhero backstories we’ve never seen told on screen. As a child, she attended the same high school as Peter Parker, was present when he was bitten by a radioactive spider, and soon after acquired superpowers of her own after a car accident with a vehicle transporting radioactive chemicals. After a period of being ostracized by her classmates, she was inspired by Spider-Man to assume her own hero identity of Jewel.

After a traumatizing experience under the mind control of the villain Zebediah Kilgrave (played by David Tennant), she found herself broken mentally as she battled a bout of post-traumatic stress disorder. This led her to leave the superhero life and become a private detective, which is right about where the Netflix series picks up.

Jessica Jones also ties in nicely with Daredevil, given that in the comics, she spends time as Matt Murdock’s bodyguard. More importantly though, Jessica Jones is the first property in the new age of Marvel and DC that features a woman as the lead character.

3. Luke Cage

Luke Cage smiling, and wearing a brown long-sleeve shirt
Luke Cage | Netflix

Luke Cage is another perfect tie-in to the existing universe of Netflix shows. He too, operates as something of an independent contractor, as a Hero for Hire, helping anyone who can meet his price. He first gained superpowers as part of an experimental procedure based on the Super Soldier serum, giving him enhanced strength and durability.

In the comics, he’s married to Jessica Jones and mentored by Iron Fist (more on him later), and is an active participant in the Captain America: Civil War storyline as a supporter of Captain America in opposition to the Superhuman Registration Act.

Luke Cage released in 2016, and was met with great reviews from critics and fans. The show even garnered a score of 79/100 on Metacritic.

4. Iron Fist

Danny Rand with his fist clenched and glowing yellow, wearing a bandana over his face
Danny Rand harnesses the power of the Iron Fist | Netflix

The comic history of Iron Fist may be the one that aligns most with the Daredevil series for a whole host of reasons. Our titular hero (known by his alter ego, Daniel Rand) spends his childhood learning to fight from the mysterious K’un L’un, eventually gaining the power of the Iron Fist after plunging his hands into the heart of a dragon.

In addition, Rand is a master of martial arts, making his tie-in to Daredevil strong, given the heavy presence of mysterious, unseen ninja forces for both good and evil. Iron Fist also possesses the power to heal himself through centering his chi, something we saw Matt Murdock do in Daredevil. In addition, Rand poses as Daredevil during the Civil War story, fighting alongside Captain America.

What’s more interesting are the little Easter eggs dropped in Daredevil that reference the Iron Fist mythos:

  • One of the universe’s main villains, the mysterious Madame Gao, has her heroin stamped with what appears to be a red serpent. Showrunner Steven DeKnight has confirmed the stamp to be that of the Steel Serpent, an ancient order known for their efforts to try and assassinate Iron Fist.
  • Iron Fist often battles the evil order of ninja assassins known as The Hand. There are rumors that Daredevil villain and ninja extraordinaire Nobu’s parallel character in the comics is the one that founded this order.
  • Many theorize that Madame Gao may be Crane Mother, a villain in the comics that puts out a hit on Iron Fist and often joins forces with HYDRA.

5. The Defenders 

Mike Colter, Scott Glenn, Finn Jones, Krysten Ritter, and Charlie Cox standing in a row in a restaurant
Marvel’s The Defenders | Sarah Shatz/Netflix

Typically, the Defenders are a more loosely affiliated group than the Avengers, with a revolving door of heroes. Normally, the team is led by Doctor Strange, and in the past it has included heroes like the Hulk and the Silver Surfer. This time, the group consists of Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and Jessica Jones for “an epic superhero team-up in New York.”

Given the close tie-ins among Netflix’s four featured heroes, it wasn’t a stretch to have them come together to fight a big bad. The Defenders also helped set up future seasons for each hero series, particularly Daredevil.

6. The Punisher 

Jon Bernthal as the Punisher standing in a dark room
Jon Bernthal as the Punisher | Netflix

Actor Jon Bernthal assumed the role of the Punisher in the second season of Daredevil, making for one of the more intriguing story arcs in an otherwise scattered collection of episodes. The comic origin of the character is pretty much in line with what we’ve seen so far: Frank Castle’s family is murdered in a mob shootout in Central Park, and he devotes his life to getting revenge on those responsible.

His approach typically involves murder, torture, kidnapping, and any number of other R-rated activities not typically seen from your classic heroes.

Bernthal hinted in an interview that “the Frank Castle you see in this story is not the Punisher.” This statement opens up all sorts of possibilities for the freshman season of The Punisher, which could potentially bring us back to the pre-Daredevil days in Castle’s timeline. This could be a great way for us to learn more about the man who has become a popular anti-hero.

Chelsea Leary also contributed to this article.

Follow Nick on Twitter @NickNorthwest

Check out Entertainment Cheat Sheet on Facebook!