S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Phil Coulson (ably played by Clark Gregg) has come a
long way since his first appearance as an amusing thorn in Pepper Potts’
side in 2008’s Iron Man. He’s appeared in both Iron Man 2 and
Thor doing the nitty-gritty Avengers team-building work for S.H.I.E.L.D. leader Nick Fury
(Samuel L. Jackson) and has been the connective tissue of Marvel’s shared
(You can watch a clip of The Consultant here.)
Agent Coulson confirmed for The Avengers and beyond (a second short is in the works and word is he’ll be
appearing in Iron Man 3), I thought it was time to honor the
hard-working S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and other unsung heroes of comic book movies.
Here are 7 of my favorite supporting characters (all of whom first appeared in the movies) from The Dark Knight, Spider-Man, and more.
While Nick Fury may get all the credit, Agent Phil Coulson is actually a pretty important character. His appearance in Iron Man pestering Pepper Potts (say that three times fast) marks the first time the concept of the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division is introduced in the Marvel movies. (Pepper and Tony give him the idea to shorten the name to S.H.I.E.L.D.) While Fury gets to pop in and look cool in his leather jacket, Agent Coulson actually goes to New Mexico, secures Thor’s hammer, and meet Destroyer face-to-face. Clark Gregg’s deadpan performance helps to ground the Marvel films in the real world and makes Agent Coulson a welcome presence wherever he pops up.
Gossip Gerty, Batman Forever
A Joel Schumacher creation through and through, Gossip Gerty is a Gotham columnist who pretty much exclusively reports on Bruce Wayne’s social life. (To be fair, he attends a lot of charity functions.) After a brief appearance in Batman Forever, Gossip Gerty scored more screen time in Batman & Robin, emceeing a charity auction that poor Commissioner Gordon is forced to attend. Easily the most ridiculous character in the Batman movies, Gossip Gerty gets bonus points for being portrayed by Elizabeth Sanders, the widow of late Batman creator Bob Kane. (She also played a Gothamite who has opinions on Oswald Cobblepot in Batman Returns.)
Bruce Campbell in multiple roles, Spider-Man trilogy
Sam Raimi regular Bruce Campbell pulled an Eddie Murphy in the Spider-Man trilogy, playing multiple roles with hilarious results. In Spider-Man, he’s the flashy ring announcer during the cagematch scene. Remember the fussy usher who won’t let Peter into Mary Jane’s play in Spider-Man 2? Also Campbell. And of course there was his biggest role in the franchise, as the hapless French maître d’ who helps Peter propose to MJ in Spider-Man 3. If only Raimi had directed a fourth Spider-Man film and cast Campbell as master of disguise villain The Chameleon, perhaps we’d have an explanation for Campbell’s many guises. Turns out he was stalking Peter Parker all along!
Bob the Goon, Batman
In the ’80s and ’90s, Tracey Walter played memorably gruff supporting roles in films like City Slickers and Conan the Destroyer. A longtime pal of Jack Nicholson (the two go way back to 1978’s Goin’ South), in 1989’s Batman Walter played Bob, aka the one Joker goon who actually gets to speak. (Though Joker does kill him for absolutely no reason.) Walter’s stoic performance made him a perfect straight man for Nicholson’s Joker. That and the fact that he looked like a homeless person Joker recruited off the street have made Bob the Goon a fan favorite. He’s also the only Joker henchman from Batman who scored his own action figure.
Reporter Mike Engel, The Dark Knight
As the host of Gotham Tonight, Mike Engel takes a hard-hitting look at crime, politics, and the legal issues that arise from a guy dressed up as a bat busting bad guy heads in Gotham City. (Unfortunately his show also provides a forum for Joker to threaten to blow up a hospital unless Wayne Enterprises employee Coleman Reese is assassinated.) Anthony Michael Hall perfectly captures the smug tone of cable newscasters on the Gotham Tonight shorts — which provided backstory on Gotham City and detailed Harvey Dent’s district attorney race — available on the Web and on the Dark Knight DVD and Blu-ray.
Max Shreck, Batman Returns
The great Christopher Walken’s performance as ruthless businessman Max Shreck is one of the best things about the divisive Batman sequel. With his white shock of hair and distinctive vocal patterns, Max Shreck is a Tim Burton version of a villain from the 1960s Batman TV series. Not afraid to trade verbal barbs with Bruce Wayne or endorse a grotesque sewer-dwelling miscreant for mayor, Max Shreck manipulates Penguin and pushes Selina Kyle out of a window all in a quest to get a lucrative power plant built in Gotham. He also gets to utter the hilarious line, “Bruce Wayne? Why are you dressed up like Batman?” (Fun fact: The character’s name is an homage to Nosferatu star Max Schreck.)
Miss Teschmacher, Superman
Lex Luthor’s assistant/paramour spends most of the movie lounging around in a series of garish ’70s outfits. But she comes through in the end, diving into the pool and freeing Superman from the Kryptonite necklace after learning that the missile Lex launched is headed for her hometown of Hackensack, New Jersey. Torn between her loyalty to Lex and her crush on Superman, Miss Teschmacher is a far more interesting supporting character than the dimwitted Otis. (She also inspired Parker Posey’s Superman Returns character, Kitty Kowalski, and wrestling star Miss Tessmacher.)