Forgive the awkward title. But how else to describe those who were cast as iconic comic book characters, yet never got to play them to their full potential? I write this list in honor of Jared Leto, whose much-hyped Joker was front and center in Suicide Squad ads, then relegated to a few fleeting moments in the actual movie. (Seriously, when you've got the Joker, why do you instead make your main antagonist the little-known Enchantress?) Unless Leto's Joker dominates the next Batman installment, he will soon be commiserating with these nine also-rans.
- BILLY DEE WILLIAMS as Harvey Dent. Williams had a couple of scenes as Gotham's new DA, the future Two-Face, in Tim Burton's Batman. Unfortunately, by the time Two-Face earned his place at the villain's table, Burton had left the franchise, and Joel Schumacher cast Tommy Lee Jones in the role.
- TERRENCE HOWARD as James "Rhodey" Rhodes. Although Howard's part was substantial in the first Iron Man – rumor has it that he was even paid more than Robert Downey Jr., as he was the hotter star at the time – he never got to don the "War Machine" armor, because he was replaced by Don Cheadle for the subsequent Iron Man and Avengers installments.
- BRYCE DALLAS HOWARD as Gwen Stacy. In Spider-Man 3, a movie that everybody hated but I thought was okay, we are briefly introduced to Miss Stacy, Peter Parker's other girlfriend from the comic books. The idea, presumably, was that Howard would take over as Spider-Man 4's leading lady, with James Cromwell as her father George and Dylan Baker as the Lizard. (Baker's pre-Lizard character, Curt Connors, also turned up in Spider-Man 2.) But then Spider-Man 3 "only" made $850 million worldwide, director Sam Raimi exited the franchise, and the series was rebooted as The Amazing Spider-Man – with Emma Stone as Gwen, Denis Leary as George, and Rhys Ifans as Connors/the Lizard.
- PAUL GIAMATTI as Rhino. While we're on the subject of Spidey, Giamatti played the famous Marvel supervillain at the end of The Amazing Spider-Man 2. It was a cliffhanger strongly reminiscent of The Incredibles, which came out ten years earlier. In any event, because of ASM2's "disappointing" box office ($709 million worldwide), it was decided to reboot the franchise again – without Giamatti or anyone else from the film.
- JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT as Batman and/or Robin. At the end of the surprisingly dumb The Dark Knight Rises, Gordon-Levitt's cop, John Blake, mentions that his full name is Robin John Blake, as he strides into the Batcave, preparing to take over Batman duties after Bruce Wayne's supposed death. Of course it was Ben Affleck who wound up with the next real Batman gig, and there's still no Robin in sight.
- MARK STRONG as Sinestro. In the poorly-received Green Lantern, Strong's Sinestro is the heroic mentor of Ryan Reynolds' titular character. However, as you might guess from the name, Sinestro is a bad guy in the Green Lantern comics – and indeed, his turn toward the dark side is teased at the end of the movie. But since Green Lantern was such a resounding dud, we'll never see that Sinestro-centered sequel.
- TAYLOR KITSCH as Gambit. I'm not saying Taylor Kitsch is box office poison, but when you consider the bombs that were supposed to make him a star – John Carter, Battleship, Savages – you have to wonder. (Hell, even True Detective went south once he joined the cast.) Gambit was one of many notable characters introduced in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, including Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool, successfully rebooted after XMO:W ruined the character. No such luck for Kitsch's card-flinging Cajun: although a Gambit spinoff is in the works, the role is now Channing Tatum's.
- DANIEL CUDMORE as Colossus. Speaking of X-Men, spare a thought for the little-known Cudmore, who dutifully played this steely-skinned Russian in three X-Men movies, despite scant screen time and even scanter dialogue. The problem was that, although Colossus is a major character in the X-Men comics, a faithful interpretation would look and sound ridiculous on screen. Deadpool realized this, and used it to its advantage. Alas, Cudmore was not invited to reprise his role.
- PETER FONDA as Mephisto. Amidst all the brouhaha over the "Marvel Cinematic Universe", many forget that Nicolas Cage starred in not just one but two Marvel movies about Ghost Rider, he of the motorcycle and the flaming skull. In the first, Fonda costarred as Mephistopheles, who makes Johnny Blaze one hell of a deal. It was a small role, though, and when Mephisto(pheles) returned for the sequel, he was played by Irish actor Ciarán Hinds.