The A to Z Guide to the Marvel Cinematic Universe

The A to Z Guide to the Marvel Cinematic Universe

With 'Avengers: Endgame' heading to cinemas on April 25th and with 10 years of movies leading up to its release, you'd be forgiven for not having a handle on all of it.

We've come up with a handy A to Z Guide to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, from Anthony & Joe Russo to Arnim Zola. We kick things off with...



The Avengers Initiative was first mentioned on screen at the very end of 'Iron Man', when Nick Fury introduced himself to Tony Stark and talked about a team he was putting together. Chronologically, the Avengers Initiative was first posited in the '90s by Nick Fury after the events of 'Captain Marvel'. Sometimes referred to as Earth's mightiest heroes, the line-up of the Avengers has changed across the three different movies. In 'Avengers Assemble', the line-up included Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye. By the end of 'Avengers: Age of Ultron', the line-up featured War Machine, Falcon, the Scarlet Witch, and Vision. At the end of 'Avengers: Infinity War', only Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye had survived. Falcon, the Scarlet Witch, Vision, and War Machine had either died or disappeared during The Snap.



Black Widow, or Natasha Romanoff, was first introduced in 'Iron Man 2' as a legal executive in Stark Industries, who was, in fact, a 'SHIELD Shadow' - an infiltrator sent by Nick Fury to keep an eye on him that he didn't step out of line. Since then, Black Widow has been a major part of the Avengers, appearing in 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' and 'Captain America: Civil War', as well as all three 'Avengers' movies. One of the survivors of The Snap.



Captain America, or Captain Steve Rogers, or just Cap, is as equally recognisable as The Hulk. The character first appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 'Captain America: The First Avenger' and was played by Chris Evans.  Since then, he's appeared in 'Thor: The Dark World', 'Spider-Man: Homecoming', and of course all three 'Avengers' movies and 'Captain America: Civil War' and 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier'. Given super-strength during World War II as part of a science experiment conducted by the Strategic Scientific Reserve, which then became SHIELD. Survived The Snap.

(L-R: Black Panther, Captain America, Black Widow, Bucky Barnes



After suffering a horrific car accident that left him unable to work as a neurosurgeon, Doctor Stephen Strange traversed the world in search of Kamar-taj where he trained to become the Master of the Mystic Arts. Since then, he's essentially been tasked with protecting Earth from interdimensional threats like Dormammu. When Thanos' henchmen - the Black Order - were sent to retrieve the Time Stone, they attacked his sanctum in New York in the opening act of 'Avengers: Infinity War'. By the end of that movie, he himself had been disappeared in The Snap.



Peter Quill's father and the primary villain of 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2'. Played by Kurt Russell, Ego belonged to a race of beings called Celestials that existed long before the dawn of human life and were able to manipulate and utilise the Infinity Stones. Ego believed that his sole purpose was to spread across the galaxy and replicate himself through what he called the Expansion. However, in order to do this, he needed a child of his own in order to complete the process. To that end, he travelled across the galaxy and impregnated thousands of females and had their offspring bought to his planet where he tested to see if they could join with his power and begin the Expansion. The only offspring of Ego that was able to do this was Peter Quill, also known as Star-Lord. After revealing that he purposefully had Quill's mother killed (by giving her a brain tumour so that he wouldn't return to Earth), Quill fought and eventually killed Ego.


F is for FALCON

A former US Air Force pararescue specialist, Falcon first appeared in 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' and is played by Anthony Mackie. After his wingman died in Afghanistan, Falcon - real name Sam Wilson - left the Air Force and instead helped ex-military personnel deal with PTSD at a VA hospital in Washington DC. Captain America recruited him shortly after it was revealed that HYDRA had infiltrated SHIELD, and became a fully-fledged member of the Avengers by the end of 'Avengers: Age of Ultron'. Disappeared in The Snap at the end of 'Avengers: Infinity War'.



The name given to a group of outlaws that include Peter Quill, Gamorra, Drax and Rocket Racoon. In 'Guardians of the Galaxy', Peter Quill - also known as Star-Lord - is a member of a clan of pirates called the Ravagers, led by Yondu. However, when he realises that an orb he was sent to retrieve is, in reality, one of the Infinity Stones, he resolves to stop Ronan The Accuser from taking it to Thanos. In 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2', Quill finally meets his real father, Ego, and is almost brainwashed by him into absorbing all sentient life in the galaxy. Later, in 'Avengers: Infinity War', the Guardians of the Galaxy team up with the Avengers to try and stop Thanos from retrieving the Infinity Stones. Of the four original members, only Rocket Racoon survived The Snap. Gamorra, however, was murdered by Thanos as a sacrifice in order to retrieve the Soul Stone.

(L-R: Gamorra, Peter Quill / Star-Lord, Rocket Racoon, Drax, Groot


H is for HULK

Bruce Banner, better known as The Hulk, has been a fixture in Marvel since the very beginning, but in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he's been played by two actors - Mark Ruffalo and Edward Norton. Ruffalo first appeared as Dr. Bruce Banner in 'Avengers Assemble'. Edward Norton played him in 'The Incredible Hulk', which is technically an MCU movie as it features Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark / Iron Man in its post-credits scene. Not only that, William Hurt - who played General Thaddeus 'Thunderbolt' Ross - in 'The Incredible Hulk' also appeared as the same character in 'Captain America: Civil War'.



Quite simply, the MacGuffin that's been driving the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe since 'Thor' and has played a part - to one degree or another - in every movie since then. In total, there are six Infinity Stones - Space, Time, Reality, Mind, Power and Soul - that control their corresponding power in the universe. In other words, the Time Stone enables its user to warp time in whatever way they see fit. The Reality Stone literally reshapes reality to whatever its user desires, and so on. When combined together, the six Infinity Stones can grant its wielder the power to do just about anything they want.

Even without all six of the Infinity Stones, the Infinity Gauntlet is able to grant its wearer incredible power

Thanos, played by Josh Brolin and the primary villain of the whole series, wants to use the six Infinity Stones to wipe out half the galaxy in order to ensure that the finite resources can allow life itself to flourish. In 'Avengers: Infinity War', he spends the entire movie tracking down the various Infinity Stones to power a gauntlet he's fashioned which will grant him the power to wipe out half the galaxy. He eventually succeeds in doing this at the end of the movie, which takes the likes of Spider-Man, Black Panther, Falcon and billions more with it. This event has become known colloquially as The Snap, but in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it was called the Decimation.



Jon Favreau directed 'Iron Man' and 'Iron Man 2', and has served as an Executive Producer on 'Avengers Assemble', 'Iron Man 3', 'Avengers: Age of Ultron', 'Avengers: Infinity War' and 'Avengers: Endgame'. As well as this, Favreau also plays Tony Stark's bodyguard, Happy Hogan, and appeared in all three of the 'Iron Man' movies and 'Spider-Man: Homecoming'. Many people credit Favreau's direction, particularly his insistence on casting Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark / Iron Man as what helped the Marvel Cinematic Universe what it is today.



King T'Challa, also known as the Black Panther, is the ruler of Wakanda. Played by Chadwick Boseman, King T'Challa first appeared in 'Captain America: Civil War' when his father, King T'Chaka, was murdered in a bomb attack on the United Nations. Succeeding his father as the ruler of Wakanda and the new Black Panther, T'Challa set out to kill the man he held responsible for his father's death, Bucky Barnes - better known as the Winter Soldier. By the end of 'Captain America: Civil War', T'Challa had resolved his differences with the Avengers and returned to Wakanda where he was to be crowned King. In 'Black Panther', T'Challa learned of his cousin, Erik Killmonger, who plotted to overthrow him as ruler and use Wakanda's advanced technology to arm the oppressed people of the world and overthrow governments. After defeating him, T'Challa opened Wakanda to the world and had the once-secretive nation join the United Nations.


L is for LOKI

Thor's adoptive brother, Loki is played by Tom Hiddleston and first appeared in 'Thor' and has appeared in 'Avengers Assemble', 'Thor: The Dark World', 'Thor: Ragnarok' and 'Avengers: Infinity War'. Although he was born a Frost Giant, Odin adopted him and brought him to Asgard where he was raised as his own son. By the end of 'Avengers Assemble', Loki had led an alien invasion to Earth with the help of Thanos and the use of the Tesseract - the cube in which the Space Stone is held. Loki has the ability to shape-shift into any being he so chooses and used this to usurp Odin as ruler of Asgard in 'Thor: Ragnarok'. Thanos murdered Loki at the beginning of 'Avengers: Infinity War' after he attempted to hide the Tesseract from him.

Tom Hiddleston as Loki



Although never specifically named as such, Captain Marvel refers to Captain Carol Danvers, played by Brie Larson. In 'Captain Marvel', Carol Danvers was taken by an alien race known as the Kree from Earth following an explosion that imbued her with special abilities such as photon blasts, the ability to fly through space, teleportation. The explosion was caused by a crashed jet that contained a lightspeed engine created by a Kree known as Mar-Vell, played by Annette Benning. Mar-Vell had hidden from the Kree who were attempting to exterminate the Skrulls. Danvers was not aware that Mar-Vell was a Kree, and when she died following the crash, her memory of the event was wiped. The character is set to play a major part in 'Avengers: Endgame'.


N is for NICK FURY

Nick Fury was - up until the events of 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' - the director of SHIELD and has appeared in almost every MCU entry, from 'Iron Man' right up to 'Avengers: Infinity War'. A former Colonel in the US Army, he was then recruited to the CIA and sometime in the '90s, joined SHIELD as an agent where he met Captain Carol Danvers and was made aware of the existence of alien races like the Kree, the Skrulls and the Asgardians like Thor, Loki and Odin. Recruited Captain America as a SHIELD agent and, following the events of 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier', was responsible for rooting out HYDRA infiltrators across the agency he once controlled. Disappeared during The Snap, but not before he contacted Captain Marvel via a pager he kept with him since the '90s. Played by Samuel L. Jackson.


O is for ODIN

The father of Thor and the ruler of Asgard, Odin was once a merciless conqueror with the help of his daughter, Hela. However, when she attempted to subjugate the entire universe to her will, Odin banished her from Asgard and only returned when he died in 'Thor: Ragnarok'. Played by Anthony Hopkins, Odin has appeared in all three 'Thor' movies.



The subatomic particles which give the Ant-Man suit worn by Scott Lang and Hank Pym the ability to shrink down a minuscule size. Created by Hank Pym in the '60s, he and his wife Janet Van Dyne created suits and were agents of SHIELD. However, sometime in the '80s, Janet Van Dyne - codenamed Wasp - shrunk down too far when trying to disarm a nuclear missile and became lost in the Quantum Realm. In 'Ant-Man', Hank Pym - played by Michael Douglas - had all but retired and had turned control of his company over to his daughter, Hope - played by Evangeline Lilly - and Darren Cross - played by Corey Stoll. Cross had created a particle similar to the Pym Particle, but in order to ensure that it didn't fall into the wrong hands, Hank Pym hired a recently-paroled cat burglar named Scott Lang - played by Paul Rudd - to break into his company and steal the research data Cross had developed so far.

As well as being able to shrink in size, the Pym Particles allow Scott Lang to expand to any size he wants

In 'Ant-Man & The Wasp', Scott Lang was on house arrest after the events of 'Captain America: Civil War ', where he helped Captain America hold off Tony Stark and King T'Challa from capturing Bucky Barnes, also known as the Winter Soldier. However, Lang was once again recruited by Hank Pym and Hope Van Dyne to help with the search for Janet Van Dyne. The events in 'Ant-Man & The Wasp' ran more or less concurrently with 'Avengers: Infinity War', which is why he wasn't in that movie. It had nothing to do with the Thanos / Ant-Man ass theory. We're not doing a glossary term on that. Sorry.



Peter Quill was kidnapped from Earth in 1988 following the death of his mother. His father, a Celestial known as Ego, wanted to use Quill in his plan to spread himself across the galaxy and had hired Yondu to transport Ego's children from the far corners of the galaxy to his planet. However, Yondu realised that Ego was systematically killing his children and decided to keep Quill away from Ego. Quill was raised as one of the Ravagers, a group of pirates and thieves, and called himself Star-Lord. The ships he pilots in 'Guardians of the Galaxy' and 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2' are named after '80s icons, Alyssa Milano and Pat Benatar. Carries a Walkman with him throughout 'Guardians of the Galaxy' that contains a mixtape made his by his mother of '70s and '80s pop hits. At the end of 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2', he's given a Zune that contains over 300 songs. Played by Chris Pratt.



Anthony and Joe Russo are the directors of 'Avengers: Infinity War' and 'Avengers: Endgame'. They also directed 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' and 'Captain America: Civil War'. Before they began working for Marvel, they directed episodes of 'Arrested Development', 'Community' and even did 'You, Me and Dupree' with Owen Wilson, Matt Dillon and Kate Hudson. Check IMDb if you don't believe us.


S is for STARK, TONY

Described by himself as a billionaire playboy philanthropist, Tony Stark was first introduced in 'Iron Man' and together with Captain America is seen as the leader of the Avengers. In 'Captain America: Civil War', Stark was a firm believer that the Avengers needed to be regulated and agreed with the Sokovia Accords, a set of legal documents that put the Avengers under the control of the United Nations that would only allow them to act when they deemed it necessary. Ireland was one of the signatories. However, Captain America believed that any human institution - even if it was the United Nations - could be corrupted and influenced, just as SHIELD had been in 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' and subsequently retired from active duty. By the end of 'Avengers: Infinity War', Stark was stranded aboard Peter Quill's ship, the Benatar, after The Snap took Spider-Man, Mantis, Drax, Doctor Strange and Peter Quill. Played by Robert Downey Jr.


T is for THOR

The adoptive brother of Loki and the son of Odin, Thor is one of the founding members of the Avengers. In 'Thor', his impetuous behaviour reignites a war between Asgard and Jotunheim that eventually leads to Loki learning his true nature as a Frost Giant. When Loki makes a pact with Thanos and an alien race called the Chitauri to help retrieve the Tesseract in exchange for dominion of Earth in 'Avengers Assemble', Thor and the Avengers join forces to defeat him. In 'Thor: Ragnarok', Thor returns to Asgard to find Loki has hidden their father on Earth and Loki assuming Odin's form in order to rule. He then learns that he has a sister, Hela, who is determined to destroy Asgard and rule as queen.

Thor battles Hulk in the Contest of Champions on Sakaar

After his hammer, Mjolnir, is destroyed by Hela, he is then banished to a planet called Sakaar where he is forced to fight Hulk. Loki was also banished there but managed to ingratiate himself with the planet's ruler, known simply as the Grandmaster. In 'Avengers: Infinity War', Thor creates a new weapon that will be able to defeat Thanos, as he had murdered Loki in front of him and beaten him badly. Thor arrives in Wakanda during the middle of a fierce battle and plants his axe in the middle of Thanos' chest, who is still able to activate the Infinity Gauntlet by snapping his fingers and escaping. Played by Chris Hemsworth.


U is for ULTRON

The primary antagonist of 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' and voiced by James Spader, Ultron was an artificial intelligence created by Tony Stark to achieve world peace through the use of autonomous drones. After seeing a vision of the Avengers defeated and dead at the end of 'Avengers Assemble', Stark became obsessed with protecting Earth by any means necessary. Fused with Stark's advanced technology and information pulled from Loki's sceptre, which hid one of the Infinity Stones, Ultron became self-aware and deemed that in order to protect Earth, the Avengers would have to be destroyed, and then humanity itself. Ultron was eventually defeated by Vision, a robot that was fused with the power of the Mind Stone and Stark's original AI assistant, J.A.R.V.I.S.



A near-indestructible metal alloy, vibranium came from a meteor that crash-landed in the African region of Wakanda a millennia ago. The local tribes learned to craft weapons and mine it, but became an isolationist nation and hid themselves away from the world as a third-world country. Some time in the '40s, researchers found a small amount of vibranium which Howard Stark, Tony Stark's father, used to create Captain America's shield.

The suit worn by Black Panther is made of a lightweight vibranium alloy that allows him to absorb energy and redirect it

In the '90s, a significant amount of vibranium was smuggled out of Wakanda by the arms dealer, Ulysses Klaue, played by Andy Serkis. In 'Black Panther', it's revealed that King T'Challa's uncle, N'Jobu, played by Sterling K. Brown, was responsible for helping Klaue to smuggle vibranium out of Wakanda and planned to use Wakanda's advanced technology to arm the oppressed people of the world. At the end of 'Black Panther', King T'Challa revealed vibranium's existence to the world when Wakanda joined the United Nations and promised to share their advanced technology.


W is for WAKANDA

Ruled by the Black Panther, Wakanda is a nation on the continent of Africa where the events of 'Black Panther' and 'Avengers: Infinity War' take place. Because of the dangerous capabilities of vibranium and their advanced technology, Wakanda shut itself off from the rest of the world and hid its existence for thousands of years, posing as a third-world country. After the events of 'Captain America: Civil War', Captain America hid his friend Bucky Barnes in Wakanda with the help of King T'Challa. With the help of their advanced technology, Bucky Barnes hoped that they would be able to rid him of HYDRA's extensive brainwashing and mind control. In 'Avengers: Infinity War', Vision - who was powered by the Mind Stone - hid in Wakanda with the other Avengers as alien creatures attacked the capital city. A major battle took place, with Thanos eventually arriving during it and defeating the Avengers easily and killing Vision in order to retrieve the Mind Stone.


X is for XANDAR

A planet many millions of miles from Earth, Xandar was where the events of 'Guardians of the Galaxy' took place. Home to the Nova Corps, Peter Quill was arrested on Xandar along with others who eventually make up the Guardians of the Galaxy. When Ronan The Accuser, a Kree extremist, tried to wipe out Xandar in order to retrieve the Power Stone from the Nova Corps, the Guardians of the Galaxy banded together and defeated him. Their criminal records were then expunged by Nova Prime, played by Glenn Close.


Y is for YONDU

Yondu was the leader of an exiled faction of the Ravagers, a group of space pirates, and adopted Peter Quill as his son. Yondu uses a special arrow - called a Yaka Arrow - that he commands by whistling and an implant on his head. In 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2', it's revealed that Yondu was exiled by the Ravagers' leader, Stakaar, played by Sylvester Stallone. Yondu had been transporting Ego's children back to him and then killing them when they were no longer of use to him. Learning of this, Yondu hid Quill from Ego as raised him as his adoptive son. Yondu sacrificed himself for Quill when Ego was destroyed. Played by Michael Rooker.


Z is for ZOLA

Arnim Zola was a former Nazi scientist who was recruited to the Nazi special weapons group, HYDRA. Responsible for harnessing the power of the Tesseract in order to make superweapons for the Nazis, Zola was eventually recruited by SHIELD following World War II. When he received a fatal diagnosis in the '70s, Zola transferred his consciousness to a massive computer laboratory where he continued to influence world events and shape the course of history to what he deemed as HYDRA's goals

Arnim Zola, having transferred his consciousness to a computer system, reveals himself to Captain America and Black Widow

In 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier', he revealed himself to Captain America and Black Widow, telling them that he had infiltrated SHIELD and placed operatives and agents, effectively turning it into HYDRA. By the end of 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier', SHIELD had been destroyed and HYDRA's secret files had been released online by Black Widow. Played by Toby Jones.