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!
50. Jesse Custer
Real Name: Jesse Custer
First Appearance: Preacher #1
Enemies: Marie L’angelle, Jody, T.C., Saint of Killers, Herr Starr, the Grail, God
“The guy who taught me to fight was the same guy who shot my dad in front of my eyes. That will tend to focus your concentration.” ~Jesse Custer
Jesse Custer is a terrific character. Or at least a terrifically written one. The title character of Garth Ennis’ Preacher (one of the best Vertigo titles ever), Custer seems a bit one-note at times, more than willing to almost play second fiddle to the increasingly crazy secondary/side characters in the story. And there are a lot of them, so it’s understandable.
Custer, a preacher in a small Texas town who has lost his faith, is unexpectedly bonded with Genesis: a force so powerful that it rivals, and possibly even surpasses, that of God himself. While there are a lot of effects on Jesse from this, the main one is that he know has a voice that is like the word of God; if he tells you to do something, you’re going to do it. It doesn’t matter who you are, or what he tells you to do, you’ll do it without hesitation. It comes in handy when he’s dealing with the likes of angels, devils, saints, psycho hillbillies, serial killers, perverts, weirdos, assassins, mob hitmen, and the Grail: a super secret, nearly all-powerful organization that essentially runs the world due to their possession of the direct descendant of Jesus Christ. There’s also his girlfriend, Tulip, who he runs into after she shoots a man in the face while on an assignment to kill the guy, and Cassidy, his new best friend/hard drinking buddy/Irish vampire.
There’s also the matter of God himself; Jesse feels that since he has this power he ought to hold the Lord accountable for all of the misery and suffering on the planet, and it seems that the moment Genesis showed up the big G went on a vacation and nobody knows where he is. Hmm.
Jesse takes all of this insanity better than pretty much anyone else could possibly hope to, but at times has juuuust the right amount of incredulity on his face when confronted with increasingly batshit situations. A great character from a great story.
49. The Vision
Real Name: Vision
First Appearance: The Avengers #57 (1968)
Enemies: Ultron, Grim Reaper, Kang
“I am The Vision of the Avengers. I have saved this planet thirty-seven times. Each day you live. Each breath you take. Each beat of your heart. Each is due to my actions. Thirty-seven times over.” ~Vision
The Vision, it’s easy to forget, was originally created by Ultron to destroy the Avengers and help conquer the world. It’s also easy to forget how capable he is of completing both of those tasks, but if you read the outstanding maxi-series ‘VISION’ by Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta features a sequence in which the Avengers (a whole mess of them, not just the current roster at the time) all gang up to stop the Vision from getting to someone he wants to harm, and he systematically takes them down one by one until there aren’t any left standing. Between his energy attacks, his super strength, flight, intangibility, and density control there’s very little that can be done to completely defeat our boy Viz, but he’s also one of the most gentle, thoughtful Avengers. Until he’s not, and it’s pants-crapping time.
A lot of writers haven’t really known what to do with the Vision, resulting in his relationship with Wanda Maximoff taking some rather… bizarre turns… and some rather dramatic changes in his character (looking at you, emotionless, all-white Vision of the early 90’s). However, when a writer really has a grasp for the character you often get some really great stuff, such as the aforementioned King series, the John Byrne stuff in West Coast Avengers, and a lot of the Kurt Busiek Ultron stories (among others).
Kind of like the Martian Manhunter to the Justice League of America, the Vision was a mainstay of the Avengers for decades. It wasn’t until early in the 21st century with the birth of the New Avengers that he was regularly absent from the line-up. In recent years he had a bit of a resurgence thanks to Mark Waid’s usage of the character in his Avengers title and the (I keep mentioning it because it’s REALLY good) King maxi-series.
48. Thor/Valkyrie (Jane Foster)
Real Name: Jane Foster
First Appearance: As Jane- Journey Into Mystery #84 (1962), As Thor- Thor #1 (2014)
Enemies: Malekith, Odin, Roxxon Oil, the Mangog
It’s funny, one of my favorite characters as a kid was the Eric Masterson version of Thor. I loved the guy. I thought he was cool as Thunderstrike, but awesome as Thor. Also have a ridiculous amount of love for Beta Ray Bill, and really every version of Thor. But I’m not sure I like any of them as much as I like Jane Foster as Thor, and really much more as Valkyrie. I mean, man, not only does Jason Aaron have her star in some of the best Thor comics you’ll ever read, but she was compelling, had an absolutely dynamite design, and ended up being possibly even more attuned with (and capable with) Mjolnir than the Odinson himself! Seriously, check out when she first fights Frost Giants, it’s badass.
Another thing that was cool about Jane as Thor was the return, in a way, to the dynamic that Stan and Jack created for Thor back in the 60’s; she transformed from mortal Jane Foster to Thor, God of Thunder! The kicker is that Jane was suffering from cancer, and while she was undergoing chemo therapy and all kinds of treatments, any time she would pick up Mjolnir and become Thor, the Asgardian magic would wipe out all of the medicine/radiation in her body, effectively not only cancelling out her treatment but even advancing her cancer. So, she was actually making a huge sacrifice every single time she picked up the hammer, but did it anyway because it needed doing. That’s a hero. She died defending Asgardia from Mangog, and was granted a seat in Valhalla, but thankfully Odin stopped being a total dick for a few seconds.
After Malekith’s War of the Realms the Odinson has returned to his rightful position, but Jane’s story might just be beginning. She is now the sole Valkyrie, and is a whole new type of Valkyrie than what we’ve seen from past versions. Her book (also co-written by Jason Aaron at the time of this writing) is fantastic. Here’s hoping she sticks around for years to come!
47. Captain Marvel
Real Name: Carol Danvers
First Appearance: Marvel Super Heroes #13 (1967)
Enemies: Moonstone, Deathbird, Mystique, MODOK, A.I.M.
“Beat a knock-off version of myself to an airplane-shaped time machine? I’m Captain Marvel… I call that Wednesday.” ~ Carol Danvers
It’s funny; growing up Carol “Ms. Marve” Danvers was just that b-list Avenger that Rogue stole her powers from (it wasn’t later that I read the Binary stuff, which is awesome). Later, during the Avengers Return era by Kurt Busiek and George Perez, they tried to inject some pathos into the character by focusing on her military background and her past trauma and (at the time) current alcoholism, which interfered with her Avengers duties during a mission. She then leaned heavier into her military background, switching to a more militaristic costume and going by her call-sign, Warbird, which she went by for a few years.
Then Brian Bendis came along with the House of M, which shows a world in which the Avengers and X-Men were all granted some variation of their deepest desires. Carol’s was to be a world-famous, A-list superhero, which surprised her when the actual reality was restored. She adopted her predecessor Mar-Vell’s name, which she was always reluctant to do, and as the new Captain Marvel has become one of Marvel’s A-List characters with her own movie franchise, multiple award winning arcs on the different volumes of her title, and the leader of the Ultimates, Alpha Flight, and a prominent Avenger.
Real Name: Peter Quill
First Appearance: Marvel Preview #4 (1976)
Enemies: The Fallen One, Annihilus, Magus, the Phalanx, Thanos
“Hey! We’re the Guardians of the Galaxy and we’re here to– #%@&!! We’re too late, aren’t we?” ~ Peter Quill
No doubt most people are familiar with Star-Lord from Chris Pratt’s portrayal of the character in the MCU, and that’s perfectly fine since he’s a great character, but the comics version started off very, very differently, then got even more different, then a hell of a lot closer to the character from the MCU that we know now (since the movies he’s been portrayed a lot like Pratt’s version by a lot of writers). Star-Lord’s big renaissance really began in the insanely great Annihilation event and its sequel Annihilation: Conquest, which led to Quill and Adam Warlock deciding enough was enough and they needed a team to stop crap like this from happening before it happened (Annihilation, for the uninitiated, featured Annihilus, the old FF villain, bringing his army of Negative Zone bugs into our universe and wiping out trillions of lives, and Conquest saw Ultron’s AI take over the intergalactic techno-organic empire, the Phalanx, and use them to conquer all of Kree space). This led to the new version of the Guardians, which of course led to the movie version that we all know and love.
A bit of a deviation in the films was Star-Lord’s parentage, which is much different from the books. In the movies he’s the son of Ego, the Living Kurt Russell, and in the comics he’s the son of J-Son, ruler of Spartax.
I think the movies won on this one.
While Quill is often played for laughs in the films and other media (and is quite funny in the books at times) he is a very capable fighter and strategist who even stood one on one (well, one on two, he had Richard “Nova Prime” Rider with him, and a cosmic cube, to be fair) with the Mad Titan himself, Thanos!
Real Name: Michonne (last name unrevealed)
First Appearance: The Walking Dead #19 (2005)
Enemies: The Governor, Negan
“I’ll begin with some show and tell. I’m going to use everything here on you before you die. First up- pliers. Next up, a hammer. Already used this on you a little it. Acetylene torch- feels amost full, too. That’s good. You used this for cooking. I will too. You’re going to really like what I do with this. Electric power drill- must have just charged this up at the stadium… the battery’s full. I think we’ll start with this.” ~Michonne
In a world where most everyone still alive is a dangerous badass, Michone might stand above them all. This chick is straight unkillable. Many have tried, and not just the who-can-count-that-high number of zombies lying headless in her wake, but straight psychopaths like the Governor, or the Saviors, or dozens of others. When it was all said and done on the Walking Dead (SPOILERS!!!) Michonne had made it all the way through, found one of her daughters (incredibly) and was able to rebuild some semblance of her life.
It’s a good thing, too, because otherwise odds were she was going to be the I Am Legend/Omega Man character of the Walking Dead: a lone, hooded badass with a katana and a few armless, jawless walkers for good measure.
44. Green Lantern (John Stewart)
Real Name: John Stewart
First Appearance: Green Lantern #87 (1971)
Enemies: Fatality, Sinestro, Sinestro Corps, Atrocitus, Red Lanterns, Larfleeze, Controllers, Darkstars
For years he was the ‘replacement’ Green Lantern, which is a shame, because John Stewart has been awesome since day one. A former US Marine and architect (feel like a piece of crap yet?), John has the willpower to create some awe-inspiring constructs with the ring. As Geoff Johns established way back in Green Lantern: Rebirth, when John uses the ring to build something you can see every single nut and bolt. He’s actually BUILDING it with his mind. In seconds. Hal might be the most balls-to-the-wall crazy and probably most powerful, but John might be the most adept at using the ring of all of the Earth lanterns.
It probably wasn’t until the (excellent) Justice League animated series, where John was used in place of Hal, that he really became well known outside of comic book readers. But now, for an entire generation John Stewart is ‘their’ Green Lantern, which is pretty awesome.
43. Luke Cage
Real Name: Carl Lucas AKA Luke Cage
First Appearance: Luke Cage, Hero For Hire #1 (1972)
Enemies: Diamondback, Purple Man, Cottonmouth, Black Mariah, Bushmaster
Luke Cage- Power Man, as he’s seldom called- has been around for nearly 50 years, but it hasn’t been until the last 15 years or so that he’s really come into his own. Writer Brian Michael Bendis redefined Cage from the ground up, taking him from an occasionally appearing side character (with the occasional ongoing, usually co-starring Iron Fist) to a fully realized, three-dimensional character that we saw fall in love with and get married to Jessica Jones, have a child, become an Avenger, become the leader of his own team of Avengers, lead the Thunderbolts, take the Wrecker’s crowbar, punk out the Dark Avengers, beat the crap out of the Green Goblin, and really become one of Marvel’s most compelling characters.
Of course, he hit the mainstream big-time with the (really good) Netflix series from a few years ago, which lasted 2 seasons before the Marvel-Netflix deal ended. Damn shame. Speaking of the Cage family and Netflix shows…
42. Jessica Jones
Real Name: Jessica Jones
First Appearance: Alias #1 (2001)
Enemies: Purple Man, Diamondback
” I am very good at finding people. Is there someone else I can help you find? Maybe the person that did that to your hair?” ~Jessica Jones
It’s really hard to believe it’s been nearly 20 years since Jessica Jones first showed up in the pages of Alias. The foul-mouthed, bad-tempered, hard drinking PI fit in with the Marvel universe so seamlessly it felt like she had always been there.
Once her heartbreaking past with the Purple Man was revealed it gave her a real tragedy (on top of her whole family dying when she was young), when she and Luke Cage got together it solidified her ties with much of the Marvel U, and when she moved into Avengers tower it seemed pretty unavoidable: Jessica Jones is here to stay.
Now a mom (Danielle Cage has already shown up a few times in stories set in the future where she’s all grown up and in one case is the new Captain America!), Jess’ priorities have shifted away from the boozing and detecting we loved so much, but she’s compelling enough as a character that if she decided to become a librarian or an accountant I would still read it.
Real Name: Kurt Wagner
First Appearance: Giant Sized X-Men #1 (1975)
Enemies: Magneto, Marauders, Mojo, Sentinels, Azazel
“Every so often, liebchen, since I look like a demon… I have this irresistible urge to play the part.” ~Kurt Wagner
One of the coolest, most interesting X-Men of all-time, Nightcrawler is the living embodiment of Charles Xavier’s dream. He is a perfect example of what Xavier is preaching: while he looks scary as hell on the outside, he is a noble, kind, brave-hearted man on the inside. He looks like a demon, but he’s a man of God.
He’s got a fantastic look, is a complete badass, has some of the most iconic powers of any mutant, and is also pretty damn good with a sword or two (or three; his tail is prehensile).
You can almost forgive that he’s German.