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411 Comics Showcase – The Top 52 Marvel Heroes (#39-27)

February 10, 2017 | Posted by Aaron Hubbard

As predicted by my sarcastic opening comment last week, this list has already proven controversial. Be sure to tell me how I’m wrong and tell everyone who your favourites are in the comments!

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!
#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
Alias: Colonel James Rhodes
Debut Issue: Iron Man #118, Jan. 1979
Created By: David Michelinie, Bob Layton, John Byrne
Colonel James Rhodes was introduced to Iron Man comics in 1979, where he worked as Tony Stark’s pilot and became one of his closest friends. During one of Tony’s relapses into alcoholism, Rhodes took over the role of Iron Man in 1983. “Rhodey” would prove his worth both a solo hero and as part of the West Coast Avengers, taking the role off and on for about a decade before finally gaining his own identity in 1992 as War Machine. Rhodes has always been an interesting contrast to Tony, as his military background makes him a more brutal, hands on type of hero. I really enjoy their chemistry, as they each help keep their bad habits in check. Rhodey has also been a regular member of the Avengers until his recent death in Civil War II. I wouldn’t count on Rhodes staying gone for good; he’s one of the best supporting characters in Marvel.


#38. Scarlet Witch
Alias: Wanda Maximoff
Debut Issue: The X-Men #4, Mar. 1964
Created By: Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Wanda and her twin brother Pietro (Quicksilver) were introduced to Marvel readers as reluctant members of Magneto’s Mutant Brotherhood. But they were soon brought to their more permanent home on the Avengers, and have been heroes ever since. While Pietro certainly has his place, Wanda has definitely been the breakout character of the twins. Her romance with Vision was a major part of the Avengers’ at-home drama, and her ridiculous probability powers have made her a focal point of some big stories, most notoriously House of M. Wanda is currently starring in her first solo series, which feels like it draws more than a little influence from Constantine comics. Due to her ties to both the X-Men and the Avengers, she’s also frequency appeared in other media, from X-Men: Evolution to Captain America: Civil War, often struggling with the strain of her powers.


#37. Iron Fist
Alias: Danny Rand
Debut Issue: Marvel Premiere #15, May 1974
Created By: Roy Thomas and Gil Kane
Created during the 1970’s when Martial Arts movies were first gaining traction in the U.S., Danny Rand is Marvel’s premiere martial artist hero. After years of training at the mystical city of K’un-L’un, Rand was able to.defeat the dragon Shou-Lao the Undying to gain the powers of the Iron Fist, allowing him to channel and release his chi. As a solo hero and partner with Luke Cage as the “Heroes For Hire”, Iron Fist developed a cult following and has since found himself as a frequent member of the Avengers. Netflix fans are about to get their first taste of Iron Fist as he stars in the next Netflix series, and it’s about time in my opinion. Iron Fist is decidedly different from any other Marvel hero and always adds unique flavor to his stories.


#36. Emma Frost
Debut Issue: Uncanny X-Men #129, Jan. 1980
Created By: Chris Claremont and John Byrne
Introduced as the White Queen of the Hellfire Club, Emma Frost’s true passion was in teaching young mutants. When disaster struck against her own students (The Hellions), Emma took a job at Xavier’s, working alongside a none too pleased Banshee to teach Generation X. Since then, she has been an ever present force on the X-Men, where her telepathic powers and her ability to turn her body into a diamond-like substance makes her one of the team’s heaviest hitters. Off the field, Emma is one of the most unusual heroes around; narcissistic and mean-spirited, she is often a source of drama on the team. Most notoriously, she had an affair with a married Scott Summers before forming an actual relationship after Jean Grey’s death. While she will never be a purely good human being, she’s a staple of the X-Men and it’s hard to imagine the team without her.


#35. The Silver Surfer
Alias: Norrin Radd
Debut: The Fantastic Four #48, Mar. 1966
Created By: Jack Kirby
The Silver Surfer is probably the last hero you want to see, as it usually means Galactus isn’t far behind. Introduced as the Herald for the Eater of Worlds, the Surfer is a critical part of what is probably the seminal Fantastic Four story. While he took the unfortunate job to save his own planet from destruction, Norrin Radd eventually turned against Galactus to save Earth. He’s since had been a reliable ally to Earth’s heroes and a major hero in his own right, often battling against Thanos. He’s one of the most powerful heroes in Marvel, and while he doesn’t show up often, it’s almost always a big deal when he does.


#34. Colossus
Alias: Piotr Rasputin
Debut Issue: Giant Size X-Men #1, May 1975
Created By: Len Wein and Dave Cockrum
I’d be hard pressed to find a better boost to any team than Giant Size X-Men #1, which added Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler, and this Russian mutant to the team. Raised on a community farm, the pure-hearted giant of a man became the X-Men’s new powerhouse with his ability to turn his body into living metal. Whether he’s throwing Wolverine in Fastball Specials, going on one on one with the Juggernaut, or his on again, off again romance with Kitty Pryde, Colossus is one of the pillars of the team. He’s one of the kindest and self-sacrificing heroes in comics. Piotr also has one of the more interesting sibling dynamics in comics; his sister Illyana is anything but gentle and pure-hearted, but they have always had each other’s backs.


#33. The Wasp
Alias: Janet Van Dyne
Debut Issue: Tales to Astonish #44, June 1963
Created By: Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Though she got her start as the sidekick and romantic interest of Hank Pym, Janet Van Dyne has carved her own niche in the Marvel universe. Janet is a founding member of the Avengers and has served as Team Leader longer than anyone save for Captain America. It’s not all that surprising; intelligent, well-spoken and infectiously positive, Janet excels at bringing out the best in other people. While she is unlikely to become a major presence in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, she is an important recurring character on the excellent Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes cartoon. Janet is someone I consider underrated, and is one of my favorite Avengers.


#32. Iceman
Alias: Bobby Drake
Debut Issue: The X-Men #1, Sept. 1963
Created By: Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
The youngest of the original five X-Men, Iceman was inspired by the Human Torch, as Stan Lee gave him a similar personality and the polar opposite power set. In spite of his joking personality, Bobby is as loyal as they come, and has been a permanent fixture on the X-Men through its many forms. He’s grown up with the team, going from the youngest student to a full-fledged teacher. And there’s even two of him around now, after Beast brought the original X-Men team into the future. That Iceman caused a bit of a stir when it was revealed that he (and the original Bobby, by proxy) was gay. While there’s certainly a discussion to be had about massive retcons, if it helps garner extra interest in Iceman, I approve.


#31. The Falcon
Alias: Sam Wilson
Debut Issue: Captain America #117, Sept. 1969
Created By: Stan Lee and Gene Colan
Sam Wilson is the first African American superhero in mainstream comics, a close friend and partner of Captain America. Falcon’s main gimmick is his mechanical wings, although he also has the unusual ability to talk to birds, usually his pet falcon Redwing. Cap and Sam were inseparable for most of the 1970’s, but Falcon has also served as an Avenger for a long time. Unlikely as it seemed, Sam Wilson was successfully brought to the big screen in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Perhaps due to the increased publicity, Marvel elevated Sam Wilson to the new Captain America, where he combines his signature weapons with Steve’s shield. While it’s unlikely that he will stay Captain America, Sam is almost certainly going to continue to be a major player in Marvel for a long time to come.


#30. Deadpool
Alias: Wade Wilson
Debut Issue: The New Mutants #98, Feb. 1991
Created By: Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza
The Merc With The Mouth is probably the highest profile comic book character that I’m not necessarily a huge fan of. Personal taste aside, the fourth-wall breaking lunatic is unquestionably among the most popular characters in comics. He’s gone from being a bit character in the Weapon X program to a full-fledged megastar largely because of his irreverent humor. And a taste for violence, pop culture and chimichangas. There’s probably an argument to be made that Wade Wilson belongs higher, but personally, I prefer more traditional heroes.


#29. Luke Cage
Debut Issue: Luke Cage, Hero For Hire #1, June 1972
Created By: Archie Goodwin, John Romita, Sr., and George Tuska
Created during the height of blaxploitation films, Luke Cage was the first African-American to get a starring role in a mainstream superhero book. Luke Cage is a man with indestructible skin and impressive physical power, powers gained through an involuntary experiment when he was in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Cage uses these powers both for financially gain and to protect his neighborhood of Harlem from danger. While he is most closely associated with his partnerships with Iron Fist and Misty Knight, Luke Cage is also an Avenger and married another superhero; Jessica Jones. Cage recently starred in both her Netflix series and his own, reaching a new audience.


#28. She-Hulk
Alias: Jennifer Walters
Debut Issue: Savage She-Hulk #1, Feb. 1980
Created By: Stan Lee and John Buscema
Here’s an interesting example of how copyright laws affected Marvel long before they sold off movie rights. After the creation of the Bionic Woman as a female counterpart to the Six-Million Dollar Man, Stan Lee decided to beat TV producers to the punch by making She-Hulk, ensuring Marvel kept the rights if the character was used on TV. Jennifer Walters is Bruce Banner’s cousin, and gained similar powers when he saved her life with a blood transfusion. Unlike Bruce, Jenn quite enjoys the She-Hulk part of her personality, which allows her to be a more confident person. She’s starred in her own wacky solo series (including plenty of fourth-wall breaks), and served as both a member of the Fantastic Four and the Avengers. And of all the Marvel heroes who currently doesn’t have a movie or TV show announced, she’s the one I most want to see.


#27. Gambit
Alias: Remy LeBeau
Debut Issue: Uncanny X-Men #266, Aug. 1990
Created By: Chris Claremont and Jim Lee
There was no team more popular than the X-Men in the early 1990s, and the newest and coolest member was the card-throwing Cajun known as Gambit. Charming and mysterious, Remy LeBeau quickly won the hearts of fanboys and fangirls, becoming one of the most featured members of the team. Whether he was flirting with Rogue in the X-Men comics or confronting his past with New Orleans’s Thieves and Assassins Guilds, Gambit was a major player in the 1990s. While he hasn’t quite maintained that starpower, he is still a presence in X-Men films and is slated to get his own movie… at some point. Regardless, Gambit is always going to be a favorite of mine.

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