MAKE MINE McGUFFIN1 of 12"McGuffin."
It's an old school storytelling term that refers to an object that drives a story - the Maltese Falcon, or the Infinity Gauntlet, for example. But sometimes, the so-called "McGuffin" is not an object, but a person.
Marvel Comics has used this twist on numerous occasions as the crux of many events and story arcs. In fact, they may be doubling (or tripling?) down on MGuffins at the heart of Secret Empire with the new Second Steve seen walking around a strange environment far from the Marvel Universe – possibly connected to “the Vanishing Point,” a new story element being teased as part of Secret Empire #10 in connection with Generations.
With that in mind, here are the top ten Marvel characters who were supposed to "change everything" - but didn't.
The Beyonder2 of 12The Beyonder may be a bit of a bad example to start on, as he has more of a lasting Marvel legacy than most of the characters on this list. But that's largely because he was one of the first of his kind (not counting the Golden Globe of Life from Contest of Champions.)
In the original Secret Wars, the Beyonder was an artificial universe given sentience who was responsible for gathering Marvel's heroes and villains to Battleworld. But its sequel, Secret Wars II, cast him more as a tourist in the Marvel Universe than an actual villain.
Last Seen: The Beyonder - or rather a related race of beings called the Beyonders - were responsible for the universe-shattering cataclysm that led to 2015's Secret Wars.
Piecemeal3 of 12Piecemeal was actually Gilbert Benson, a young mutant and the son of Erika Benson, the villainous Harness, a mutant with energy powers than ran roughshod through 1991's "Kings of Pain" crossover.
Piecemeal had the ability to absorb energy, which Harness used alongside A.I.M. to elevate her own powers, leading Piecemeal to merge with Proteus, one the of X-Men's most deadly foes from years prior.
Gilbert's story ran through multiple titles including New Mutants, X-Factor, and Uncanny X-Men, but ultimately this new major mutant threat went nowhere.
Last Seen: Uncanny X-Men Annual Vol. 1, #15, 1991.
Matthew Malloy4 of 12As you'll come to see, the X-Men wind up with more than their fair share of these type of "McGuffin" characters - omega-level mutants with the power to change everything... until they don't.
The latest but not least of which was Matthew Malloy, a mutant so powerful Professor X wiped Malloy's mind and hid his existence.
When Malloy resurfaced, he became the target of a race between Cyclops and Wolverine's rival X-Men factions, and destroyed numerous S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarriers in the process. Cyclops reached Malloy first, but after a drawn out negotiation and all-too-brief friendship between the pair, his powers went completely out-of-control and the time-traveling mutant Tempus prevented his parents from ever meeting.
Last Seen: Uncanny X-Men Vol. 3 #31, 2015.
Cannonball5 of 12Cannonball is kind of an interesting case because he wasn't created as a McGuffin, but he became one when he was labeled an "External," a kind of elite, supposedly immortal mutant.
Also making Cannonball unique is that this is less a case of a character dwindling than it is the story simply being dropped.
The Externals first appeared in X-Force #10, created by Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza. The "Externals" plotline, about a sub-race of unkillable mutants, ballooned into one of the major ongoing X-Men subplots of the 90s. But when it outlasted both Nicieza and Liefeld, the story languished before being hastily wrapped up and written off as a hoax by a group of villains (who may or may not actually have been immortal).
Also a possible External: the villainous Apocalypse, whose own chosen, "the Twelve," were a major mystery in X-Men titles around this same time.
Last Seen: Cannonball is still around in the pages of U.S.Avengers, but the Externals last showed up as a group in 1996's X-Force #54.
Singularity6 of 12Singularity wasn't exactly a McGuffin for Secret Wars the title but rather the far-reaching "Secret Wars" crossover footprint, which included her specific title, A-Force. Following the end of Secret Wars, Singularity's role when A-Force got a new volume in the mainstream Marvel Universe.
Singularity managed to stay a part of A-Force for the team's all-too-brief run, but remained a kind of missed McGuffin opportunity for Marvel's heroes to unlock her memories of the Secret Wars universe.
Last Seen: A-Force #10, 2016.
Layla Miller7 of 12Layla Miller was a young mutant who was instrumental in releasing Marvel's heroes from the alternate House of M reality created by Scarlet Witch. Crossing back into the real world, Layla discovered that she no longer had her mutant power to breathe fire after Scarlet Witch's "No more mutants" spell.
Layla didn't take long to get back on her feet, though, meeting her future self and being imparted with knowledge of the next 80 years of human history. She joined Jamie Madrox's X-Factor Investigations, where she actually managed to thrive for a few appearances before that title's abrupt cancellation shunted her, and her future knowledge, out of Marvel's current line.
Last Seen: X-Factor #262, 2013.
Ulysses8 of 12The latest "McGuffin" character to actually come to fruition at Marvel, Ulysses is also Marvel's reigning "nobody's favorite" character.
Ulysses' ability to see the future was the inciting incident of Marvel's Civil War II, in which Tony Stark and Carol Danvers squared off which of them would determine how Ulysses' visions would be interpreted.
But the "war" in the title never really came. Instead, it was largely a philosophical disagreement that led to nearly unprecedented casualties among Marvel's heroes, including She-Hulk, Tony Stark, James Rhodes, and Carol Danvers' credibility, leaving many characters - and Marvel's line after unexpected delays - decimated in its wake.
Last Seen: Ascending to a higher level of existence alongside Eternity in Civil War II #8.
Thane9 of 12In fairness to Thane, Marvel's Infinitydid have a major impact on the Marvel Universe - but that has nothing to do with this "major character" whose very existence was meant to be a revelation.
See, Thane is Thanos's son who has the power to give or take life with a touch. He was quite literally the McGuffin of Infinity - Thanos's invasion of Earth was based around trying to capture Thane.
But in the end, Thane kind of just stopped mattering almost immediately after Infinity's resolution, which swept basically everything to do with Thanos under the rug in favor of the much bigger development of the Terrigen Mists being released into Earth's atmosphere, leading to the still ongoing Inhumans-boom at Marvel.
Weirdly, Infinity also served as the payoff (barely) for a pair of Avengers McGuffin characters in Ex Nihilo and Abyss.
Last Seen: Thane has recently popped back up in his father's ongoing series, the eponymous Thanos.
Alpha10 of 12Though many characters on this list could easily suffer the comparison, is there any character who is more Marvel's "Poochie" than Alpha, Spider-Man's obnoxious "sidekick" - a dubious designation that was used to sell his debut as a major Spider-Man event.
Alpha, a.k.a. Andy Maguire, was a high school student who got incredible powers from a science experiment gone wrong. Sound familiar? Peter Parker thought so too.
Parker took Maguire under his wing as Spider-Man, but the partnership didn't last as Alpha's combination of insane power levels and incredible douchiness put them at odds and Parker sapped his powers. Otto Octavius returned them while his mind was occupying Parker's body, but even that plot fizzled.
Last Seen: Alpha: Big Time #5, 2013.
Hope Summers11 of 12Poor Hope Summers. She may be the most compelling character to come out of these kind of "McGuffin" stories, and is certainly the one who flamed out most harshly.
Hope debuted in 2008's "Messiah CompleX" as the first mutant baby born after M-Day. A struggle over Hope's fate ensued, and she was taken into the future by Cable, to be raised as the savior of the mutant race - a conceit that was actually central to multiple X-Men events.
When she reappeared as a teen, she had fiery red hair, had taken the surname "Summers," and the power to mimic the abilities of other mutants. Naturally, this led many fans to not only connect her with the long-dead Jean Grey (her green and gold uniform only strengthened the bond) but to make her logical story conclusion seem to be the arrival of the Phoenix Force in Avengers Vs. X-Men.
However the Phoenix (and seemingly the X-Men mythos) passed her over, giving its power to five other mutants including Cyclops and Emma Frost.
In a weird twist, Hope's introduction wound up giving new purpose to another longstanding X-Men McGuffin - Bishop, the mutant from the future who was sent back in time to stop the "X-Traitor," another longstanding and long-ignored 90s X-Men subplot.
Last seen: Leading a team of mutants in X-Force #5, that volume's final issue before cancellation.
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