My article, 7 Ways Marvel Studios Rewarded Comicbook Fans' Loyalty, has been my most-viewed post by a considerable margin (which reminds me, thanks to Robbie Gonzalez for sharing it to the main page). Therefore, I feel compelled to employ the cheap Hollywood tactic of following up an unexpected success with a thinly-justified sequel (I may even spin it into a full-blown megafranchise). But since I already covered all the significant ways Marvel Studios rewards comic fans' loyalty that I can think of, it's time to engage in WILD SPECULATION!
To that end, here are seven purely theoretical ways that Marvel may (or very possibily may not) reward fans of the source material, by making an element of the MCU a little more like the comics after first introducing it in a more grounded and restrained way. (Since this is mostly speculative, there won't be much in the way of hard spoilers, but there still will probably be a few nuggets of info that you might not have heard if you're trying to remain spoiler-free.)
Hawkeye got his start in the MCU making basically an extended cameo in Thor, and then spent most of his return appearance in the Avengers as a brainwashed pawn of Loki. Just to add insult to injury, a potential hero moment for Hawkeye was cut from The Winter Soldier. But things might be looking up for Marvel's underused archer. Early in the year, Robert Downey Jr. commented, "I think Jeremy has a lot to do with the plot." And if that's not enough, there are also rumors that he'll be in Captain America 3. Of course, that's all speculative at this point, but I think it indicates a much greater likelihood that Hawkeye will be put to use than we've had before. Personally, I'm hoping Joss Whedon will use his flair for witty banter to give him some dialogue that reflects the quippy personality of Hawkeye's comicbook self.
This one seems like a no-brainer. The first picture of Daredevil from New York Comic-Con showed a featureless black costume (for which I have previously shared my distaste), but it seems pretty unlikely that he'll be holding onto that throughout his entire thirteen episodes and the Defenders crossover. In fact, I've since heard reports that people on the panel described the black suit as "a work in progress," so something more than that is pretty much a sure thing. I'd bet on seeing something in a muted red by the end of the second episode at the latest.
We got the Nova Corps in Guardians of the Galaxy, which is already pretty cool in itself. But at the end of the day, they were really just your average military/police types in cool sci-fi outfits. For fans of the comics, there's one Nova who really counts, and it ain't Glenn Close. I'm not really an expert on Nova or his origin, so I'm gonna have to bow out of this one, but the comments section of this page has various ideas and speculation about why he may be likely to appear pretty soon.
I haven't had much exposure to the Guardians comics, so when I saw that the Collector had a dog wearing a Soviet spacesuit in his collection, I assumed it was just a reference to real-world cosmonaut Laika. But as it turns out, this version of Laika is one of many actual Marvel Comics characters that were packed into the movie. In the comics, he's known as Cosmo, and with his ability to communicate telepathically, he acts as the security chief of the Guardians headquarters (their home base in the comics is Knowhere, the outpost where the Collector and Cosmo were in the movie). Now that moviegoers the world over have proven they're quite happy to accept a talking raccoon and a tree as action heroes, I don't see any reason a canine security chief, who speaks telepathically in a heavy Russian accent, would be out of the question.
When Ant-Man comes to the big screen just seven months from now, it'll be in the person of Scott Lang, the second character to bear the name and oddly-shaped helmet of Ant-Man. Hank Pym will still be there, though, played by Michael Douglas. That leaves us with a lingering question of whether there will be flashbacks to the time when Pym was formerly acting as Ant-Man himself.
It seems this is an issue that's been the subject of a lot of rumors, speculation, and conjecture, so there's not much more for me to say. If you're into spoilers, you've probably already seen the speculation. If you avoid spoilers, then you don't want to know. So all I'll say is, I would enjoy it if it did happen, especially if Wasp were there with him.
In a way, Marvel has already rewarded comic fans' loyalty by having James Rhodes start out as just a normal Air Force officer, and then have him become War Machine in the next movie (I guess I forgot that in my first list). But in the comics, before he became War Machine, he was Iron Man himself, taking over for Tony Stark. Just because they skipped that step in the movies doesn't mean they can't ever go back to it. If Marvel Studios ever intends to recast Stark, having Rhodey take over as Iron Man (making Don Cheadle the star of the movie) may be a good way to smooth the transition.
But in that case, the reason why Tony Stark was being recast will be a factor. If they're recasting Stark because they eventually decide that Robert Downey Jr. is just too old to keep going, then it wouldn't make sense to have Rhodey take the lead, because Don Cheadle is just as old as Downey (but then, for all we know, they may recast Rhodey before that point; it wouldn't be the first time). If, however, they decide to recast Stark sooner than that because of money rather than age, it's likely that Cheadle would still be young enough to be an appealing lead for a transitional film where Rhodey puts on the red-and-yellow. Personally, I think his Iron Patriot armor design looks great already, so I wouldn't mind if we just saw more of that.
This doesn't quite fit the theme, because it's really just a tease and not something they've actually introduced in a more grounded way. But, hey, I wanted to have seven, so just go with it. Earlier this year, io9's own Meredith Woerner shared the trivia tidbit that the character of Agent Brandt in Iron Man 3 was actually the wife of the Man-Thing in the comics. Then, when Maria Hill appeared in the twentieth episode of Agents of SHIELD, she had a phone conversation with Pepper Potts, describing the battery of questions she got at a congressional hearing. One of those questions was, "who or what is a Man-Thing?" It's one thing to insert someone related to a character into another franchise, but name-checking the character outright? I can't believe that was done casually or haphazardly. I won't even guess as to what Marvel Studios has planned for Man-Thing (I would personally doubt it's starring in a summer blockbuster, though), but I doubt they would've done that if they didn't have something percolating.