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411 Comics Showcase – The Top 52 Marvel Heroes (#26-14)

February 18, 2017 | Posted by Aaron Hubbard
Black Panther

We’re halfway through, and while we’ve had some big names already, we’re really getting into some of Marvel’s elite names.

I’ve been looking forward to doing this one for a while, but man does it take a long time. One of the key differences between Marvel and DC is that Marvel has a definite focus on team books; the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, the Defenders, the Guardians of the Galaxy. As such, there are a lot of characters that just couldn’t make the cut, and I had to pick and choose some tough choices. The final list serves as a comprehensive look at the characters I think are most essential to the Marvel brand.

Why 52? Because I made a cute joke for the DC list and I’m nothing if not fair. And you can check out that list (in four parts) here:

#52-40
#39-27
#26-14
#13-1

The Top 52 Marvel Superheroes

I had to add a few more Honorable Mentions, so if you skipped over that, or are wondering if a character was considered, check this list out again.

The Honorable Mentions: Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan) Charles Xavier, Black Bolt, Havok, Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew), Forge, Moon Knight, Groot, Quicksilver, Hercules, Black Cat, Dazzler, Nova (Richard Rider), Bishop, Elektra, Magick, Blade, Kid Omega, Gamora, Red Hulk, Medusa, Captain Britain, The Black Knight, Jessica Jones and Jubilee

The List So Far!
Part One!
Part Two!

#52. Star-Lord (Peter Quill)
#51. The Vision
#50. Rocket Raccoon
#49. Angel (Warren Worthington III)
#48. Ghost Rider (Johnny Blaze)
#47. Wolverine (Laura Kinney/X-23)
#46. Ant-Man (Scott Lang)
#45. Magneto (Erik Lehnsherr/Max Eisenhardt)
#44. The Winter Soldier (Bucky Barnes)
#43. Cable (Nathan Summers)
#42. Spider-Man (Miles Morales)
#41. Psylocke (Elizabeth Braddock)
#40. The Sub-Mariner (Prince Namor)
#39. War Machine (James Rhodes)
#38. Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff)
#37. Iron Fist (Danny Rand)
#36. Emma Frost
#35. The Silver Surfer (Norrin Radd)
#34. Colossus (Piotr Rasputin)
#33. The Wasp (Janet Van Dyne)
#32. Iceman (Bobby Drake)
#31. The Falcon (Sam Wilson)
#30. Deadpool (Wade Wilson)
#29. Luke Cage
#28. She-Hulk (Jennifer Walters)
#27. Gambit (Remy LeBeau


#26. Captain Marvel
Alias: Carol Danvers
Debut Issue: Marvel Super-Heroes #12, Dec. 1967
Created By: Stan Lee and Gene Colan
The former Ms. Marvel has quite an interesting history, both in comics and behind the scenes. In the comics, she gained her powers from an incident with Kree technology, saving Mar-Vell in the process. Taking inspiration from the alien, Carol took on the superhero identity of Ms. Marvel, becoming a regular member of the Avengers. Her career entered a rough patch fairly quickly; she was at the center of the controversial Avengers #200 storyline, and then lost her powers when Rogue absorbed them in a memorable fight. She spent several decades struggling with new identities, power sets and alcoholism before regaining her original powers and becoming a featured member of the Avengers in the 2000s. She was a key ally to Tony Stark in the original Civil War story, but took a big step forward in 2012 when she was made the star of her own series. Taking Mar-Vell’s mantle of Captain Marvel, Carol has elevated herself from a minor character to one of Marvel’s premiere heroines. The road to get there was long and bumpy, but worth it. Carol’s a favorite of mine; her love of adventure, ability to take charge, and her sense of humor all resonate with me.


#25. Ant-Man
Alias: Hank Pym
Debut Issue: Tales to Astonish #27, Jan. 1962
Created By: Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby
A scientist who discovered how to shrink matter, Hank Pym was originally the star of a single-issue story; “The Man in the Ant Hill”. But Stan Lee decided to make him a superhero, and along with his shrinking powers, Hank has the ability to converse with ants and other insects, and to expand his size to become Giant Man. A founding member of the Avengers along with his wife Janet Van Dyne (The Wasp), Hank is often the center of controversy because of an incident in which he struck her. Hank is a very flawed hero; his pacifism is at odds with his mental health, which can make him obsessive and angry. While faults make most characters more interesting, few heroes are as defined by them as Hank. He’s spent his whole life trying to make up for that moment. And for creating Ultron. Dealing with those consequences makes him one of the more human characters in Marvel. He’ll always be my favorite Ant-Man.


#24. Nick Fury
Debut Issue: Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #1, May 1963
Created By: Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Fans of the MCU are familiar with Nick Fury as the grizzled, hard nosed director of S.H.I.E.L.D., but Nick Fury has a long history in comics. The original Fury was the leader of the Howling Commandos in World War II, buy was integrated into the Marvel universe as a spy. Starring in Strange Tales he became a James Bond like hero, often featuring groundbreaking art by Jim Steranko. Intelligent, skilled and with no compulsion against making sacrifices for the greater good, Fury is one most dangerous men in the Marvel Universe. Luckily, he almost always has people’s best interests at heart. The African American Nick Fury was introduced in Ultimate Comics, inspired by Samuel L. Jackson. He’s a centerpiece of the Marvel universe, and his older comics are the stylistic ancestor of more than one character on this list.


#23. The Invisible Woman
Alias: Sue Storm
Debut Issue: Fantastic Four #1, Nov. 1961
Created By: Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
The Fantastic Four, as a group, are the creative DNA of Marvel’s entire brand. They aren’t just a team, they are family, and Sue Storm is the one who most embodies that. The older sister of Human Torch and wife of Reed Richards, Sue is often the voice of reason in a group that has a tendency to come to blows. While she was somewhat ineffectual in the Silver Age, Sue’s powers and experience have turned her into a formidable opponent and a highly effective “Team Mom”. She’s the glue holding the group together, and I feel she doesn’t get enough credit. Really, the whole team is kind of taken for granted by a lot of modern comic readers.


#22. The Punisher
Alias: Frank Castle
Debut Issue: The Amazing Spider-Man #129, Feb. 1974
Created By: Gerry Conway, John Romita, Sr.
Frank Castle was introduced as something of an anti-villain, a trigger happy Vietnam vet trying to kill Spider-Man. But when the tragic backstory was revealed as well as Castle’s true intentions of only wanting to take down criminals, he’s become perhaps the poster child for anti-heroes in comics. Preferring to take a more lethal approach, Punisher stretches the limits of what can be considered a superhero, which makes him something of a divisive figure. Personally, I don’t connect with Frank Castle’s worldview and find him to be somewhat boring in his solo series. Conversely, I think he’s one of the best characters to use in team ups, as he provides an interesting contrast with more traditional heroes. I think that’s why he worked so well in Season 2 of Daredevil, something that was a much needed reminder of his value for me.


#21. Shadowcat
Alias: Katherine “Kitty” Pryde
Debut: Uncanny X-Men #129, Jan. 1980
Created By: Chris Claremont and John Byrne
A Jewish kid from Chicago, Kitty Pryde is also a mutant with the ability to become intangible. Introduced to X-Men comics in the lead-in to the Dark Phoenix Saga, Kitty became was the first teenage student to join the team since the original five. As such, she was an audience surrogate during the first boom period of the X-Men, and I imagine many long time fans have a certain kinship with Kitty. She’s grown up from wide-eyed fourteen year old, to a young adult trying to find her place in the world, to a highly capable adult who’s served as the Principal of the Jean Grey school. We’ve seen her schoolgirl crush on Colossus, Most recently she got married to Peter Quill and has been in space as part of the Guardians of the Galaxy. I suspect it won’t be too long before she returns home.


#20. Black Widow
Alias: Natalia “Natasha” Romanova
Debut Issue: Tales of Suspense #52, Apr. 1964
Created By: Stan Lee, Don Rico and Dan Heck
Debuting as a Russian Spy paired against Iron Man, Black Widow defected to the United States, becoming both a long time Avenger and an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. She also had a long run as the romantic interest and co-star of Daredevil’s series, but is most commonly associated with her fellow villain-turned-hero Hawkeye. Natasha is a little rougher around the edges than most of her fellow Avengers; she’s a trained assassin and has a complex moral center. This makes her an interesting counterpoint to the team, but it also makes for some entertaining spy thriller comics. Her presence in the MCU has elevated Natasha from a B Character to arguably the most recognizable female hero not named Wonder Woman. I’ve been a big fan of her recent comics and would like to see her get her own solo movie (with perhaps an assist from Hawkeye).


#19. Doctor Strange
Alias: Steven Strange
Debut Issue: Strange Tales #110, July 1963
Created By: Steve Ditko and Stan Lee
The most recent Marvel hero to jump to the world of film, Doctor Strange was a passion project of Steve Ditko’s. The genius surgeon turned sorcerer supreme is one of Marvel’s most out there characters, using magic spells and mystic relics to battle interdimensional beings. Though he is a part time Avenger and occasional leader of the Defenders, Stephen Strange spends most of his time working alone and solving problems no one else can. Arrogant yet diligent, intelligent and creative, he can be seen as a counterpoint to Iron Man, using the supernatural the same way Tony Stark uses technology. If you want to experience surrealist, psychedelic art and unusual epic adventures, Doctor Strange is one of the best heroes to look into.


#18. Nightcrawler
Alias: Kurt Wagner
Debut Issue: Giant Size X-Men #1, May 1975
Created By: Len Wein and Dave Cockrum
Len Wein was looking for a place to introduce his new character design, and found the perfect place with Giant-Sized X-Men #1. Introduced to readers a mutant chased down with torches and pitchforks in a small German village, Kurt Wagner joined the new international team of X-Men and has been a featured member for most of its existence. In spite of his Demonic appearance, Kurt is a devout Catholic and often serves as a spiritual guide for his team in dark times. Blessed with acrobatic talent and a prankster’s sense of humor, Nightcrawler’s mutant power is teleportation, accompanied by the iconic “BAMF!” sound effect. Easily one of the coolest looking superheroes in comics, Kurt was my first “favorite” hero and he has stayed near the top ever since.


#17. Hawkeye
Alias: Clint Barton
Debut Issue: Tales of Suspense #57, Sept. 1964
Created By: Stan Lee and Don Heck
When I think of the Avengers, Hawkeye is one of the first names that comes to mind. While not the first master archer in superhero comics, Clint Barton lives in nobody’s shadow. Hawkeye may not have the profile of Captain America, Iron Man or Thor, but he’s been a featured member of almost every version of the team and has proven his worth as a hero many times over. After several mini-series and short-lived solo books, Hawkeye finally seemed to breakout in 2012. Riding momentum from his inclusions in The Avengers, writers Matt Fraction and Jeff Lemire have proven that Hawkeye is more than worthy of a solo title. He’s also a disabled hero, having gone deaf on two different occasions. Fraction has set the tone for portraying this consistently, and it’s proven to be one of the best aspects of his character.


#16. The Human Torch
Alias: Johnny Storm
Debut Issue: Fantastic Four #1, Nov. 1961
Created By: Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
The youngest member of the Fantastic Four is actually the second hero to be called the Human Torch, but is by far the best known version. Between his massive ego and reckless behavior, Johnny is often an irritation to the other members of his family. But he’s also fiercely loyal and more than willing to be a hero even when the going gets tough. He’s an important character in comics history, as the first real teenage superhero. The angst, rebellion and attitude made him connect with young readers, and the formula proved successful with both Spider-Man and the X-Men. In addition to being a Fantastic Four member, he frequently teams up with Spider-Man and others, and has recently been part of the Uncanny Avengers.


#15. Rogue
Alias: Anna Marie
Debut Issue: Avengers Annual #10, Nov. 1981
Created By: Chris Claremont and Michael Golden
A Mississippi girl with a terrifying mutant power, Anna Marie discovered her mutation when she kissed her boyfriend Cody, leaving him comatose. The runaway Rogue was eventually recruited and adopted by Mystique, who raised her to be a fighter in her Brotherhood. After battling with the Avengers and X-Men, Rogue eventually left due to a conflict of conscience, joining the X-Men. While it was hardly a smooth transition, Rogue eventually became one of the premier members of the team and a trusted member of the family. By the 1990’s, she was one of the series’ main stars, with her powers causing a lot of drama with romantic interest Gambit. She’s starred in solo issues, been a leader of a team of X-Men in X-Men Legacy, and has been the most consistent presence on the Uncanny Avengers team. Rogue may just be my favorite Marvel superhero, and she’s one that I will go out of my way to read.


#14. Black Panther
Alias: T’Challa
Debut Issue: Fantastic Four #52, July 1966
Created By: Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Destined to be King of Wakanda, a young T’Challa was forced into the role early when his father was murdered. As the Black Panther, he is both the sovereign leader of his people and their protector. Bearing similarities to Batman, T’Challa is a master of stealth and hand to hand combat, but also uses his vast wealth and the technology of Wakanda to aid in his duties. While he is a part time Avenger, T’Challa is primarily ruled by his duty to his people. This something that has come between him and almost every other endeavor, including his marriage to Ororo Munroe. While most heroes don’t have to worry about how their decisions affect people, T’Challa always has the weight of the world on his shoulders.

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