The age old questions of comic fans: Batman or Superman? Spider-Man or Wolverine? The debates about the best heroes are endless. We tried to make a top 10 list, but that was just too hard. So we tried a top 25, but that quickly became a top 50… you get the idea. So we were able to ‘narrow’ it down to an even 100. Odds are you will vehemently disagree with who did or did not make the list, or just the order that we placed them. But, hey, it’s our list.
(Honorable mentions to Beta Ray Bill, USAgent, Martian Manhunter, Kid Flash, Hercules, The Frenchman and the Female (the Boys), Abe Sapien, Spider-Man 2099, Static Shock, Nite Owl, Guy Gardner, Booster Gold, Spawn, Atom Eve, Mary Marvel, and a hell of a lot more. So many more we could- and may- do another whole 100 list!)
We will release these in installments of 10 so that you don’t have the longest list ever to read through. Agree with the placement or who made the list? Disagree with the burning power of a thousand suns? Let us know! Enjoy!
Real Name: Laura Kinney
First Appearance: NYX #3 (2004)
Enemies: Kimura, the Facility, the Purifiers
“I took an oath to make sure nothing like what my sisters and I went through happens again. I took a name I hate…so you know your end, the end of this work, came at the hands of your creation.” ~X-23
On the surface, X-23 shouldn’t work. She appears to be a cheap knockoff of Wolverine, and in the hands of less capable creators, that’s probably exactly what she would have been. But Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost created her for the animated series X-Men: Evolution and then really brought her to the Marvel comics forefront in their excellent New X-Men series, and then in their equally excellent X-Force run.
While Laura has the same powers as Logan and is biologically his daughter (even if she was created in a lab) and also suffered torture and brainwashing at the hands of black ops dickheads, she found kinship within the X-Men and slowly started to break out of her distrust of others, eventually becoming a valuable member of the X-Men as Wolverine.
…Wait. She’s literally got almost the exact same story, too? Dang, maybe she IS a cheap knockoff of Wolverine. But she’s still awesome.
59. Billy Butcher
Real Name: William Butcher
First Appearance: The Boys #1 (2006)
Enemies: The Homelander, the Seven, Vought-American, all supers
“Nothin’. Absolutely nothin’. That’s what I fuckin’ know.”~ Billy Butcher
Calling Billy Butcher a hero is a hell of a stretch, considering how things turned out in the Boys, but for a good while he seemed like he was at least doing the right thing, even if it might not always have been for the right reasons.
Faced with an America being run by a giant corporation that sponsored super heroes that they were trying to take over to the armed forces and insert their own puppet politician in the White House, the CIA and a man named Mallory put together a team of black-ops specialists that would fight back. Their star pupil was Billy Butcher, a man so driven by an endless supply of rage and hatred for what one particular supe had taken from him that he would stop at nothing (seriously, there’s nothing he won’t do) for his revenge and to take the whole lot of them down at the same time.
While this singleminded drive is why he makes this list, it’s also why he could be considered for the top Villains list. No spoilers, but if you’ve read the Boys you’ll know.
58. Shazam (Captain Marvel)
Real Name: Billy Batson
First Appearance: Whiz Comics #2 (1939)
Enemies: Black Adam, Mr. Mind, Dr. Sivana, Sabbac, Captain Nazi, the Seven Deadly Sins
“Boy-o boy, there’s nothing like the feel of the wind in your hair, cruising at mach speed. Forget your worries, your pressures…Forget you’re late for school!” ~ Captain Marvel/Shazam
A perfect example of wish fulfillment for a kid, Billy Batson could be come one of the smartest, fastest, strongest, most powerful beings on the planet. The trick is that he would become a full grown man, but would retain a lot of the personality of a kid. When he first debuted he was even more popular than Superman! Unfortunately, lawyers got involved and it was a whole thing and DC ended up owning him. Ever since he’s been a popular character, for sure, but it was almost like they gobbled him up just so he could never really surpass the big S.
Captain Marvel, or Shazam, as he’s now called (which I can’t get behind. I’m sorry. I know there are too many Captain Marvels and Carol Danvers has really nailed the name down, but dammit, Shazam is the wizard and Billy is Captain Marvel! Whew, ok. I feel better.) spent a lot of time kind of bouncing around the DC universe. Nobody really knew what to do with him. Thankfully Geoff Johns did his thing with JSA, which included a lot of great character work with Captain Marvel and his coolest nemesis, Black Adam, which kind of repositioned the Marvel family for a new era. The movie (which is pretty awesome) has put him in the spotlight for a new generation of fans, even if they’re calling him by the wrong dang name.
Real Name: Remy Lebeau
First Appearance: Uncanny X-Men #266 (1990)
Enemies: Mr. Sinister, Sabretooth, Marauders, Assassin’s Guild, Mystique
“The gentleman assumes the pot is his to win… but I have a literal ace up my sleeve.” ~ Gambit
While his presence in the X-Men books has not been as pronounced as it was 20 years ago, Gambit remains one of the most popular characters in the world of X. He may be a sleazy piece of crap thief, but at heart he’s a good man, no matter how much he might try to deny it.
Raised in the Thieves Guild, he’s highly trained in breaking and entering and stealth, has exceptional agility and reflexes, and those pesky mutant powers, which allow him to charge items with ‘kinetic energy’, which makes them go boom. While he can use this impressive gift on pretty much anything (the larger the object, the bigger the boom, generally), his typical weapons of choice are his telescoping bo staff and a plain old deck of playing cards. The playing cards might seem an odd choice, but in Gambit’s hands they become 52 individual explosive projectiles.
Like many X-Men characters from the late 80’s and early 90’s, Gambit has a complicated, shadowy past. He’s got a long past with Mr. Sinister, Sabretooth, Mystique and the like. Recently he finally convinced Rogue to marry him, and the two serve together on Krakoa.
56. Black Widow
Real Name: Natalia “Natasha” Romanova
First Appearance: Tales of Suspense #52 (1964)
Enemies: Hydra, the KGB, the Red Room, Red Guardian, Black Widow (Yelena Belova)
“I’m involved. Off the market, as they say in the civilized world…So why don’t we make your price the antidote to the poison I put in your first drink, darling? Then we can catch up on old times…” ~ Black Widow
A character that has gone from villain/assassin/spy to C-list hero (with a brief spike to B-list in the 80’s) to worldwide movie star today, the Black Widow is easily one of Marvel’s most popular, recognizable characters. Part of that is Scarlett Johansson (obviously), but a lot is owed to Natasha’s generally bad ass, take charge, take no prisoners attitude. As more and more writers have come to appreciate her she has really come into her own.
She’s got a laundry list of great relationships in the Marvel universe: she’s very close with many Avengers, has a long past with Wolverine and the Winter Soldier, a very complicated history with Hawkeye, and a very interesting dynamic with Daredevil. The only thing she really seems to lack is a consistent nemesis but, like the Punisher, she tends to take care of business pretty handily.
Her (first) solo movie comes out this summer.
Real Name: Anna Marie
First Appearance: Avengers Annual #10 (1981)
Enemies: Mystique, Reavers, Sentinels, Marauders
“It just feels like all of us — every Avenger an’ X-Man — we’re all just grinding against fate until our number comes up. We save the world… but never each other.” ~ Rogue
Another villain turned hero, Rogue started out her career as a member of the Brotherhood of (evil) Mutants, but soon switched sides and joined the X-Men. Her ability to absorb the memories, personality and powers of anyone she touches makes her both a tragic figure (until recently when she gained control over her powers) and an incredibly dangerous opponent.
She’s had a somewhat convoluted history, like many (most?) of the X-Men, but despite that she has maintained her popularity consistently for decades now. She has been heavily featured in multiple animated series and a couple of live action films, has headlined her own book a few times, and has even been an Avenger. She also recently married Gambit (finally), and the two are found on the Excalibur team.
54. Iron Fist
Real Name: Daniel Rand
First Appearance: Marvel Premiere #15 (1974)
Enemies: Steel Serpent, the Hand, Crane Mother, Master Kahn
“Yeah, yeah, Hydra is legion. But when was the last time you faced a dragon?” ~ Iron Fist
A character that started in the exploitation era and was forced to overcome one of the worst (and most horribly dated) costumes ever (referring, of course, to the deep, deep, deeeeep V neck top with impossibly tall collar), Iron Fist has, against all conceivable odds, stuck around for decades. Arguably he is more popular now than ever before (thanks to the Netflix series), or at least more widely known.
There have been many Iron Fists over the centuries, all standing to protect the hidden, magical kung fu city of K’un-L’un (which has an economic model of “have a dragon”). The current- and definitely most well known- Iron Fist is Danny Rand, orphaned son of billionaire industrialists. After his parents are killed in an alley he dons the mantle of the bat to- crap, wrong billionaire superhero. After he is wounded in foreign lands by a hostile force, he has to use what resources he has to build a suit of armor to fight ba- damn. Still wrong billionaire.
Orphaned at a young age, ol’ Danny was raised with kung fu monks, eventually defeating the dragon in combat and plunging his fist into its heart, earning the powers of the Iron Fist. Then a bunch of not much happened, until he met Luke Cage. The mismatched odd couple have one of the best, most well liked, friendships in comics, which was a driving force for their long-running Heroes for Hire title for years.
Real Name: Warren Worthington III
First Appearance: Uncanny X-Men #1 (1963)
Enemies: Apocalypse, Marauders, Sentinels, the Purifiers
“The game is on– has been for some time. Which means we’re already out of time. God as my witness, Logan, one way or another, no matter what the cost… I’m going to kill Apocalypse.” ~ Archangel
Few Marvel characters have gone through as dramatic a transformation as Warren Worthington. One of the original X-Men, he spent years as the high-flying Angel, spending as much of his time enjoying his vast wealth as fighting super villains. He graduated from the Xavier school and moved out west, joining both the Defenders and the Champions (and returning to the X-Men for a time), but it was when he rejoined his original X-Men teammates in X-Factor that things really took a turn. When the Marauders attacked the underground mutants known as the Morlocks, X-Factor tried to intervene. Angel was attacked while saving some mutant children, and was pinned to a wall by his mangled wings. Doctors were forced to amputate, which led to him attempting suicide by crashing his plane.
But he didn’t die.
He was taken in by the ancient, Darwinian mutant, Apocalypse, and transformed in to the Horseman of the Apocalypse, Death. His former feather wings were replaced by massive metal wings, complete with razor blade feathers coated in a deadly, paralytic neurotoxin. These giant day ruiners allow him to fly at incredible speeds and cut through almost anything. Oh, and the super sharp poison feathers can be thrown from the wings (which regenerate them) at blinding speeds. Eventually he was able to break free from Apocalypse’s programming and try to rebuild his life with the X-Men, which he was able to do, until he wasn’t.
He’s been a playboy, a superhero, an X-Man, a Defender, a Champion, the foreman of X-Factor, a member of the Hellfire Club, a CEO, crippled, thought dead, genetically modified, brainwashed, de-brainwashed, thought he was past everything, relapsed so badly even 80’s Robert Downey Jr would blush, died, lost his memories, got his memories back, gone bad again… it seems the only constant (besides horror) in Warren’s life is change. He has yet to make his presence felt in Krakoa much.
52. Ghost Rider
Real Name: Johnny Blaze
First Appearance: Marvel Spotlight #5 (1972)
Enemies: Mephisto, Lilith, Zadkiel, The Orb, Black Rose
“Guess I was kidding myself into believing that I had a choice in this thing, huh?” ~ Johnny Blaze
Is there a cooler visual in all of comics than the Ghost Rider? It doesn’t matter if it’s Johny Blaze, Noble Kale, Alejandra Jones, Danny Ketch, Robbie Reyes or even the Frank Castle cosmic version. All of them just look cool. Even the 2099 version. There’s something about a flaming skull with a flaming vehicle and a flaming weapon.
The most recognizable version is Johnny Blaze (although his comics were most popular during the Danny Ketch era), who comes complete with a classic Marvel Origin That is Tragic But Sorta Also the Hero’s Fault ™. After making a deal with the devil he is bonded to the Spirit of Vengeance, and when innocent blood is spilled is transformed into the Ghost Rider!
He’s not just a horribly ugly face, either. Impossibly strong, nearly indestructible, flame powers, control over his motorcycle/ride, and a chain that can generate hellfire: a recipe for a bad time. Add in a penance stare, which forces those it’s used on to feel the pain of all of their victims, and a bunch of spikes to slap you around with, combined with a FLAMING SKULL FOR A FACE, and you get one of the strangest, most original and consistently popular characters in the Marvel universe.
51. Wee Hughie
Real Name: Hugh Campbell
First Appearance: The Boys #1 (2006)
Enemies: A-Train, the Seven, Teenage Kix
“I’ve been awfully lucky, Annie. I came right through the whole thing in one piece. I never had to turn into a monster. There might be folk that think I did, but I’m happy to let them. I saw all sorts o’ nightmares an’ made all sorts o’ daft mistakes, but I got to stay the fella I am: an’ the fella I am loves Annie January.” ~Wee Hughie
Hughie Campbell is the audience pov character in The Boys, and the poor bastard just can’t catch a break. He is recruited after his fiancee is an accidental casualty of a superhero, and is immediately thrown into the deep, deep end of a world of espionage, violence, torture, lies, manipulation, and violence that he is in no way, shape or form qualified for.
At every turn he is put in horrible, compromising, life-threatening situations and is somehow able to get through it without losing the core of who he is: an in over his head Scotsman with some really, really weird friends, a dangerous as shit occupation, and a girlfriend that is way, way out of his league. Also, he’s a loyal friend and companion, a good dog sitter and savior of hamsters, and a permanent passenger of the Holy Shit Oh No Dear God Why We’re All Gonna Die Express.
While he might not be the most capable fighter of the Boys, or the most dangerous, or the smartest, or the most experienced, or the best at… anything, really… he was able to get through it all with a combination of luck, wit, guts, luck, and luck.
That’s a wrap on part 5! You can read parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 by clicking on the links. Join us for Part 6 when we look at numbers 50-41, including Vision, Captain Marvel, and Michonne!
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