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411 Comics Showcase – Top 52 Marvel Heroes (#52-40)

February 3, 2017 | Posted by Aaron Hubbard

It’s for another completely correct and not at all controversial list!

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

Now let’s make this column Marvelous!

The Top 52 Marvel Superheroes

The Honorable Mentions: 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, The Black Knight, Jessica Jones and Jubilee


#52. Star-Lord
Alias: Peter Quill
Debut Issue: Marvel Preview #4, Jan. 1976
Created By: Steve Englehart and Steve Gan
When Marvel Studios announced that Star-Lord would be the main character of their Guardians of the Galaxy film, a lot of comic book readers were at a loss. Peter Quill had a brief, scattered and obscure history before the announcement. Fortunately, the relaunched comic series was more than willing to re-establish the character so that audiences could familiarize themselves before or after seeing the film. Quill is too inconsequential at this point in time to rank any higher than the bottom of the barrel, but I do like him and I think he will be a viable character in the coming decades.


#51. The Vision
Debut Issue: The Avengers #57, Oct. 1968
Created By: Roy Thomas, Stan Lee, and John Buscema
A reworking of a Golden Age character, The Vision that most people are familiar with was created by Ultron in his battles with the Avengers. The android turned on his creator and joined the Avengers, becoming a constant on the team as one of its most powerful members. Most of his free time was spent learning how to act human and falling for Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch. The Vision often draws comparisons to DC Heroes Martian Manhunter and the Red Tornado, as well as to Mr. Spock from Star Trek, and I think those are fair comparisons. They have certainly kept me from latching onto Vision as a great character in his own right, though I am quite fond of how he has been used in the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far. I doubt he’ll ever truly breakout the way Hawkeye and Black Widow have, but there’s no shame in being a great supporting character.


#50. Rocket Raccoon
Debut Issue: Marvel Preview #7, Summer 1976
Created By: Bill Mantlo and Keith Giffen
Some ideas are too crazy not to work. And so I find myself singing the praises of an anthropomorphic raccoon with a gun fetish. Comic books are weird. In all seriousness though, Rocket is one of those colorful characters that just makes me happy that comic books can be as weird as they want to be. He’s got a long history as a cult favorite, but after 2014’s smash hit Guardians of the Galaxy the wise cracking, trigger happy rodent is probably going to be a Marvel staple for a long time. And I’m surprisingly okay with that.


#49. Angel
Alias: Warren Worthington III
Debut Issue: X-Men #1, Sept. 1963
Created By: Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
One of the original five X-Men, Angel’s wings were inspired by Stan Lee wanting to justify the all too common superpower of flight. Warren Worthington III had a privileged upbringing and movie star good looks, but he also had giant feathered wings growing out of his back. Warren is a very tenured member of the X-Men, from his early days as the Veronica of the Scott-Jean relationship (in which Scott was Betty), to the tragic unraveling of his mind in recent years. Warren is something of a tough sell to outsiders, as “just flight” isn’t as impressive or vital when half the team can do it themselves. But devoted X-Men fans know that he’s a worthy character, and his had his fair share of big moments. The biggest was when his wings were destroyed and replaced with metallic ones by Apocalypse, an experiment that lead to Warren rebranding himself as Archangel.


#48. Ghost Rider
Alias: Johnny Blaze
Debut Issue: Marvel Spotlight #5 , Aug. 1972
Created By: Roy Thomas, Gary Friedrich and Mike Ploog
Johnny Blaze is a stunt biker who sold his soul to Mephisto (Marvel’s version of the Devil) to save his dying father. While that didn’t play out especially well, Johnny was still bound by his contract and became Ghost Rider. A near immortal demonic servant with several incarnations, the Ghost Rider alternates between hunting down evil souls to condemn them to hell and fighting back against Mephisto. If I were basing this list on character design alone, Ghost Rider would be near the top of the list. Some things just are awesome, and a demonic biker with a flaming skull for a head is one of those things. Despite two lackluster films and an inconsistent comic book history, the idea is just too awesome to leave off the list.


#47. Wolverine
Alias: Laura Kinney/X-23
Debut: X-Men: Evolution, Episode 41 – “X-23”
Created By: Craig Kyle and Steven E. Gordon
X-23 is the cloned daughter of Wolverine, and has an identical power set, though her two of her claws come from her feet instead of her hands. Laura originated in the underrated cartoon series X-Men: Evolution, which saw most of the team as teenagers. While the series got cancelled before many of the ideas could be used, Laura was introduced to the comics in much the same way; she is the result of the Weapon X program trying to duplicate the success of Wolverine by cloning him. After a rough transition, she develops a mostly healthy relationship with her Dad and works as a member of the X-Men and X-Force. Laura recently took a huge step by taking Logan’s mantle in All-New Wolverine, which feels like a very natural transition. She’s also the centerpiece of Logan, the final turn for Hugh Jackman as Wolverine and one of the most anticipated films of 2017. Laura has nothing but upward momentum.


#46. Ant-Man
Alias: Scott Lang
Debut Issue: Avengers #181
Created By: David Michelinie and John Byrne
Scott Lang was a reformed cat burglar working as an electrician in the Avengers mansion when his daughter was kidnapped by a vengeful business associate. Desperate, he resorted to what he knew best; stealing. Specifically, Hank Pym’s Ant-Man suit and sym particles. After rescuing his daughter, Scott intended to turn himself in, but Hank insisted he keep the suit, as the world could always use more heroes. Scott has carved out his own niche as the second Ant-Man, with comics that are often humorous and feature him as a lovable loser and a man trying to be a good parent. All of those traits were on display in 2015’s Ant-Man film, which propelled Scott into the mainstream. While he will never eclipse Hank Pym in my mind, he’s one of Marvel’s best legacy characters.


#45. Magneto
Alias: Erik Lehnsherr/Max Eisenhardt
Debut Issue: X-Men #1, Sept. 1963
Created By: Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
If this were a villain’s list, Magneto would very likely top it. However, the character has always been more complex than a typical bad guy. A Holocaust survivor, Max Eisenhardt dedicated his life to ensuring that mutants never suffered a similar fate. While his extreme views on the matter have put him at odds with Charles Xavier and his X-Men, Magneto has always considered the professor a friend and has often fought alongside the X-Men. It is these long spurts of altruism that earn the iconic anti-villain a spot on this list, a privilege I afforded Harley Quinn and Catwoman on the DC Heroes list.


#44. The Winter Soldier
Alias: Bucky Barnes
Debut Issue: Captain America Comics #1, Mar. 1941
Created By: Joe Simon and Jack Kirby
Bucky Barnes is one of the oldest characters in Marvel, debuting in the 1940’s as Captain America’s Robin-like sidekick. While Steve Rogers made a triumphant return in the 1960’s, Bucky was not so lucky. His death was a major source of Cap’s character development, and most comic fans assumed that he would stay dead for good. Naturally, he eventually made his return as the brainwashed villain The Winter Soldier. Steve was eventually able to save his friend’s memory, but Bucky remains a morally grey anti-hero. Which definitely made him an interesting fit for Captain America’s mantle after Steve was killed off after Marvel Civil War. This run fleshed out Bucky’s character and how he emulates Steve Rogers while also differing from him. Bucky has stuck around, and is a major part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Not bad for an ersatz-Robin.


#43. Cable
Alias: Nathan Summers
Debut Issue: New Mutants #87, Mar. 1990
Created By: Chris Claremont, Louise Simonson and Rob Liefeld
I should note that the debut issue listed there is his debut as Cable; Nathan Summers first appeared as an infant, where he was central to the story of Jean Grey clone Madelyne Pryor’s attempt to get revenge on her ex-husband Scott and his new wife, the original Jean. The old man comic fans know and love returned in the pages of New Mutants, where he turned Xavier’s pack of wide-eyed children into the militia team known as X-Force. If there’s a better example of the transition from ’80’s comics to ’90’s comics, I don’t know what it is. While he has psychic powers that are similar to his mother’s, Cable spends most of that energy fighting off the legacy virus that is slowly killing him. So functionally, he’s an old man with a metal arm who specializes in firing very large guns. Cable and X-Force were a major part of the 1990’s for Marvel, and while his star has faded somewhat, the character did have his share of great moments. And if fan reaction to Deadpool’s teaser is any indication, there’s still an interest in the time-traveling mutant cyborg.


#42. Spider-Man
Alias: Miles Morales
Debut Issue: Ultimate Fallout #4 , Aug. 2011
Created By: Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli
Marvel’s Ultimate Universe is not something that is going to come up a lot on this list, as the whole line is generally too grim for my taste. But there were certainly good things that came from it, and what is undoubtedly the best thing is Miles Morales, the second Ultimate Spider-Man. After the Ultimate version of Peter Parker dies heroically, Miles takes up his mantle after he is bitten by a slightly different radioactive spider. Though initially met with the unfortunately predictable backlash from certain ugly corners of the comics community, Miles has gradually been accepted as a worthy character in his own right. Many newer fans even consider him their favorite Spider-Man. I firmly believe that fan investment is the only thing that kept the Ultimate line alive in its last few years, and it’s no surprise he was eventually brought into the main universe. Miles had since worked with The Avengers and currently leads his own version of The Champions, and is set to star in a theatrical animated film in the near future. It’s safe to say he’ll be around for a long time to come.


#41. Psylocke
Alias: Elizabeth “Betsy” Braddock
Debut Issue: Captain Britain #8, Dec. 1976
Created By: Chris Claremont and Herb Trimpe
A telepathic mutant and twin brother of Captain Britain, Elizabeth was introduced to United Kingdom a full decade before she joined the team she’s most affiliated with. While she worked as a model and had a brief turn under her brother Brian’s moniker, Betsy joined the X-Men in the 1980’s and has been a permanent fixture of the team. As Psylocke, she originally served as a sort of functional replacement for Jean Grey, who was dead/in a coma/on the original X-Factor team for most of the ’80’s. While initially modestly, even outrageously dressed, Psylocke had a makeover in the 1990’s through one of the strangest storylines ever, in which her mind and soul were swapped with that of Japanese assassin Kwannon. It’s a weird story, but basically was an excuse to give her ninja skills and a form fitting costume that effectively dropkicked a generation of comic readers into puberty. There’s more to Betsy than just her looks though, as she’s an exceptional hand to hand fighter who can also conjure psychic weapons, from her iconic psychic knives to katanas and bow and arrows if she chooses. She’s never been the most complex X-Man (in spite of her often complicated stories), but she is always a welcome addition to any team roster.


#40. The Sub-Mariner
Alias: Namor
Debut Issue: Motion Picture Funnies Weekly, Apr. 1939
Created By: Bill Everett
One of the oldest heroes in comics, Namor the Sub-Mariner is the King of Atlantis and often at odds with those who would threaten his home. More of an anti-hero than anything, Namor’s charismatic personality and power-set (strength, durability, flight), made him a frequent and formidable guest star in many Marvel Comics as they were getting their start. He’s battled and aided the Fantastic Four and the Avengers, and in the pages of X-Men we learned he was a mutant. While he’ll never be popular enough to hold his own comic or film franchise down, no list of Marvel greats would be complete without him.

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