|This is a /co/ related article, which we allow because we find it interesting or we can't be bothered to delete it.|
Marvel Comics is the younger of the two most popular comics companies of all time. If you haven't heard of them, you've been living under a real rock. They are iconic for their work in the Supers genre, although /tg/ also likes them for their dabbling in Sword & Sorcery comics as part of Marvel including whatever licensed stuff they have into their continuity. This means Conan and Red Sonja are actually historical figures in Marvel's Earth, and Conan has actually met some superheroes due to time-travel shenanigans.
- 1 Universe
- 2 Notable Supers of World War II
- 3 Notable Supers of the "Modern" Age
- 3.1 The Fantastic Four
- 3.2 The Hulk
- 3.3 Spider-Man
- 3.4 Thor
- 3.5 Iron Man
- 3.6 The Avengers
- 3.7 The X-Men
- 3.8 Hercules
- 3.9 The Inhumans
- 3.10 Black Panther
- 3.11 Captain Marvel
- 3.12 The Guardians of the Galaxy
- 3.13 The Punisher
- 3.14 Power Pack
- 3.15 Deadpool
- 3.16 The Thunderbolts
- 4 Notable Villains
- 5 Cartoons, TVs and Movies
- 6 Weird Connections and Other Trivia
- 7 /tg/ Relevance
- 8 Footnotes
Marvel Comics arguably came into its own in the so-called "Bronze Age" of comics, when the restrictions of the Silver Age eased and comics could start showing more serious tone. Having struggled to really keep up with DC Comics during the Silver Age, the Bronze Age allowed Marvel to find a defining "feel" for itself as, essentially, "soap operas with supers".
Characters tend to be much less powerful in Marvel compared to DC - in particular, whereas DC heroes tend to have large powersets covering multiple superhuman abilities, Marvel heroes are more likely to focus on comparatively small powersets, or even just a single power. Perhaps as a result of this, Marvel heroes tend to be more likely to team up either informally or formally.
In contrast to DC's finite, countable number of alternate realities (52 + various one-off series + imprints + anti-matter universe Earths), Marvel has endless, near infinite, ones.
Notable Supers of World War II
Namor McKenzie, the Submariner
A tryst between an Scottish blooded American and an Atlantian princess has produced a half-Atlantian half-Human supermutant that's one of the oldest characters from what is now Marvel comics. Originally appeared as a villain that destroyed New York, which has since been retconned by certain environmental conditions causing him to go crazy. Later teams up with Captain America and the Human Torch after learning some recent environmental damage that threatened his home was caused by the Nazis. For some reason, despite being the off-spring of a Scot and an Atlantic Ocean fish, he has always been depicted with Asian facial features. Aquaman was a ripoff of him.
Effectively immortal (or at least long lived enough the near century doesn't matter much to him), Namor still shows up in modern comics.
Rejected from normal military service for being too scrawny, all-American patriot and scholar Steve Rogers instead decides to serve his country by volunteering as test subject for an experimental super soldier formula. The formula works, transforming Steve into the "peak human" Captain America, but a spy kills the formula's creator and destroys the lab, causing the formula to be forever lost. Gets a shield made of super metal capable of reflecting stuff, which he can throw as a weapon with uncanny ability. He spends a few years fighting spies and criminals and after Pearl Harbor, he leads America's superpowered forces during World War II. His true, idealistic, belief in American values contrasts his commander-in-chief's views that the Constitution was "marvelously elastic", to the point of believing it was OK to suppress exonerating evidence in order implement crimes against humanity on American citizens.
Near the end of the war, Captain America was lost and frozen in an iceberg, surviving thanks to being a super soldier. He is recovered near the start of the modern age (whenever that currently is) and revived, where he's living anachronism in a world that has largely moved past his values, but he's still the best leader of supermen in the world (if not beyond). Presumably sterile, since clones have his powers yet he's never had his sperm harvested to created peak human superbabies.
Somewhat infamous for having one of the widest rogues galleries of any Marvel character; he's tangled with a lot of foes and many of them are actually borrowed from other superheroes. There are multiple themes in his gallery, but few of his individual rogues have really caught on with the public. The most notable ones tend to be either super-powered Nazis/Neo-Nazis/terrorists or evil knock-offs of Cap himself. The latter category includes Nuke (insane drug-addicted cyborg created as a Captain America for the Vietnam War), and William Burnside, a right-wing intellectual who tried to fill Cap's shoes and bash commies during the 50s, but went mad from a bad reaction to the failed super-serum, which combined with culture shock has caused him to become a super-terrorist. It would later be
retconned revealed that the good Captain was the first result of what was called the Weapon Plus program, essentially a conspiracy to create super soldiers, and Cap was retroactively designated as Weapon I. While the project has resulted in the creation of supervillains (including the knock-off Captains above), it also created its own fair share of superheroes, particularly a gruff, Canadian berserker on the project's 10th iteration...
The Human Torch
Before World War II reached the United States, the scientist Phineas Horton created a revolutionary intelligent android. A flaw in the components causes the android to ignite when exposed to oxygen, forcing Horton to imprison the android in a vacuum sealed capsule. The capsule's seal quickly decays and the android breaks out, learns to control its fire powers in an easily replicated accident with a common enough material, and become a superhero known as the Human Torch, taking the alias Jim Hammond. He would adopt Tom "Toro" Raymond, a trainwreck survivor with pyrokinetic abilities of his own (Toro had no origin story till he was retconned into being a mutant in 1977). This android and his sidekick would eventually fight in World War II and has the honor of killing Hitler in the Marvel universe..
Made a few appearances early in the modern age, but has largely been forgotten. For whatever reason the fact that, uncontrollable flames aside, the Marvel world has had intelligent androids that can pass for human since 1939 is rarely relevant, and normal people have technology that's only on par with the current stuff.
Notable Supers of the "Modern" Age
The Fantastic Four
One of the oldest and certainly the breakout stars of Marvel's early days, the Fantastic Four's star has waned somewhat since the Silver Age. When scientist Reed Richards persuades his old friend Benjamin Grimm to pilot an experimental rocket of his up into space, along with siblings Susan and Johnny Storm, the quartet are bombarded by mysterious cosmic radiation. Crashlanding back on Earth, they discover that each of them has been imbued with a supernatural ability; Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic) has gain a body of living elastic, allowing him to stretch, squash, and reshape himself as he desires, whilst Susan (Invisible Girl/Woman) has gained the power of invisibility (and, later, invisible forcefield projection) and Johnny (The Human Torch, taking a name from a World War II hero that was actually a robot) can cover himself in a fiery aura that lets him fly and hurl fireballs. And poor Ben Grimm (The Thing) has been transformed into a monstrous, ogre-like figure made of rocky scales, imbued with fantastic strength and durability.
The Fantastic Four thrived in the Silver Age; their entire concept was, essentially, "explorers of the unknown", with Reed constantly inventing new rockets/time traveling machines/dimensional gateways/scanners that uncover long-hidden secret civilizations and the like. But even here the "super soap opera" formula was taking form. Reed and Sue's relationship is always somewhat rocky, since Reed has a bad tendency to focus on his science and neglect his wife, whilst Reed also feels guilty for Ben's incurable transform, and Ben resents him in turn. And all the while, Ben and Johnny squabble like brothers.
Seven years after their creation (surprisingly brief for superhero romances) Reed and Sue have a son they name Franklin after Sue and Johnny's father. Franklin had the power of Psionics, with the exact details as confusing and contradictory as pre-3.5 psionics. The most notable thing about Franklin is his aging makes the the sliding timescale weird: Born in 1968, he was barely more than a toddler (if that) when he joins Power Pack in 1986, and only hitting puberty in the late 2010s.
A throw-back to the earlier monster comics that Marvel had made its name from, the Hulk is brilliant but neurotic and emotionally repressed scientist Bruce Banner, who is exposed to the detonation of his own superweapon, the Gamma Ray Bomb, whilst trying to rescue a teenager who drove onto the military blast testing site. The radiation, rather than killing him, unlocks a split personality; a brutish, adrenaline-driven childlike creature, the embodiment of Banner's pent up rage and hatred. Now, whenever Banner gets angry, he transforms into a super-powered green (originally grey in his earliest appearances) giant with the mind of an angry child and torn clothing that always covers the private parts, known as the Hulk. And whilst Hulk just wants to be left alone, humanity refuses to stop provoking him.
His cousin, She-Hulk, is one of the few distaff counterparts in comics to grow beyond just a female version of an existing character. After his cousin Jennifer Walters is injured, Bruce is forced to give a her blood transfusion, which inadvertently turns her into a large green giant as well. Unlike Bruce however, Jennifer is largely in control of her abilities and takes great pride in being a huge, sexy musclegirl while also being recognized for her brains as an accomplished attorney. Unless you're reading the reading the comics written by Jason Aaron, in which she is a hideously malformed mass of muscles barely recognizable as female and who struggles to speak coherently, more literally like the Hulk with boobs, and this is treated as somehow being "more empowering" than turning into a beautiful, articulate, intelligent and well-respected green amazon. Even Aaron's fellow writers think this is bullshit, and have actively discredited his run every chance they get.
Arguably one of the most famous Marvel superheroes who actually isn't part of a team. Spider-Man was Stan Lee's attempt to get away from the "kid sidekick" trope, which he loathed, by creating a fully independent teenage superhero - Peter Parker, a brilliant but socially awkward youth from a blue-collar background who gained fantastic spider-like powers after being bitten by an irradiated spider. When his Uncle Ben is murdered by a robber that Peter could have stopped but selfishly chose not to, Peter vows to live up to his uncle's creed that "with great power, there must also come great responsibility", and attempts to become a superpowered costumed vigilante, whilst juggling a normal life (and love life, namely around one Mary-Jane Watson) around his secret life as a crime-fighter.
Surprisingly, he's spun out a rather large "family" of knock-off Spider-folk, something that you normally see more in DC Comics. A short list of Spideys:
- Scarlet Spider: The original knock-off Spider-Man, this poor bastard was part of the infamous convoluted 90s mega-event known and loathed as "The Clone Saga". Long story short, there was a clone of Peter Parker created, nobody was sure who was the original at first, and the guy who thought he was a clone went off, dyed his hair blonde, changed his name to Ben Reilly, and created a new identify for himself as the Scarlet Spider - his suit was solid red, contrasting a blue hoodie (hood usually worn down) with a black spider emblazoned on the front. Most notable for wearing tricked out gauntlets that could launch "impact webbing" (basically webbing grenades) and spiked projectiles called "spider stingers".
- Kaine: A failed and deformed prototype clone, also from the Clone Saga. Basically Spidey's answer to Red Hood.
- Venom: A former rival journalist bonded to a slime-like alien organism that Spidey wore for a while as living battle armor, until he found out it wanted to permanently fuse with him on a genetic level. Has repeatedly flipflopped between hero and villain.
- Carnage: A serial killer bonded with the offspring of Venom's alien bio-armor. Such a crazy psychopath that Spidey and Venom regularly team up to kick his shit in.
- Spider-Woman: There have been multiple female counterparts to Spider-Man, and their backstories are all a mess.
- Jessica Drew: The first Spider-Woman. Has had multiple contradictory backstories, including being treated with radiation and spider venom to save her from an incurable disease or being an actual spider hyper-evolved into a human woman. Wore a red and yellow suit. Can fly, fire bolts of bio-electricity from her hands, and emit pheromones that repulse women but enthrall men. Was introduced and kept around more for trademark reasons than anything else.
- Julia Carpenter: Got superpowers by being tricked into entering a shady super soldier program. Gained super-strength, wall-crawling, and the ability to project "psychic webbing" from her fingertips.
- Charlotte Witter: A psychic whose powers were involuntarily activated through torturous experiments inflicted upon her by Dr. Octopus. Possessed adhesive "psi-webs", the ability to produce telekinetic "limbs" that looked like ghostly spider's legs, precognition, telepathy, and psionic detection. The only villainous Spider-Woman.
- Martha Franklin: Niece of Spidey's antagonist J. Jonah Jameson. Through magical bullshit, gained the combined powers of the first three Spider-Women above. Then got killed off.
- Anya Corazon: Latina who belonged to a mystic society, which gave her a magical tattoo that she could use to summon a mystical carapace that gave her enhanced strength and durability. Lost that power and switched to spider-themed gadgets instead. Originally called herself Arana ("Arachnid"), now goes by Spider-Girl.
- Cindy Moon: The most recent Spider-Woman, introduced in 2014. A girl who got bit by the same spider that bit Peter Parker, but she couldn't control her powers, so she was sealed up in a bunker for a decade until Spidey freed her. Same powers as Spider-Man, but produces organic webbing from glands in her wrists. Calls herself "Silk" rather than "Spider-Woman".
- May Parker: A "What if?" story on if Mary and Peter's baby from the Clone Saga wasn't stillborn got popular enough to make her adventures an on-going that lasted over 100 issues on top of some shorter lived sequel series. The alternate reality she existed in spanned MC2, the largest AUs in Marvel's history before the Ultimate Universe came along. Is noted for her very stable, "normal" relationship with her parents that (eventually) support her heroing and, thanks to having her own original antagonists, being able to reform most of her recurring foes and make them allies. Actually called herself "Spider-Girl" in her own series, herself noting that "Spider-Woman" sounded like "somebody's mom", but less talented writers bringing her back as an adult have had her adopt the -Woman moniker.
- Miles Morales: Technically comes from another dimension, but has been permanently moved to the mainstream universe, so he counts. Mixed race (Black/Latino) teenager who got bit by the same spider that bit his dimension's version of Peter Parker. Refused to become a hero, until his dimension's Spider-Man got killed. Then tried to take up the mantle in guilt. The skubbiest Spidey-clone; you either love him as a genuine affirmative action legacy character, or you hate him because he doesn't seem to have any character depth outside of "Teen Spidey, but BLACK!" (A third faction exists which doesn't mind if he's just "Teen Spidey, but BLACK!" so long as his existence can head off another stupid attempt to youthen up Peter Parker like "One More Day", possibly one of the worst and most disliked retcons in comics history).
- Gary Drew: Son of Jessica Drew in MC2, he had an uncurable illness so his mom subjected him to the same process that gave her her powers. This gave him Spider-Powers but didn't actually cure him, so he responds by spending what he's sure will be a short life to the fullest by helping people like the original Spider-Man he idolized. May eventually convinces him to seek help from Mr. Fantastic, but he's never seen again after this, giving all sorts of grim implications. He's since appeared as a baby in mainstream Marvel continuity, largely to cap off the stupid arc where his mom continued superheroics while deeply pregnant.
- Miguel O'Hara: In the Cyberpunk future of 2099, Alchemax employee Miguel O'Hara tries to quit his job. In response, his employer drugs him with a highly addictive drug they have a monopoly on to force his continued employment. In desperation, Miguel tries to splice his own DNA, but the procedure is sabotaged. Fortunately, this only gives him spider-powers instead of killing him. After saying he's the historical figure Spider-Man in jest, he realizes taking that identity is actually a good idea. Easily the most successful 2099 series, in large part because he's not the original but in the future, and has his own substantially different powers (venomous fangs and gliding) and costume.
- Gwen Stacy AKA "Spider-Gwen" or "Ghost Spider". In the main Marvel continuity, Gwen Stacy was Peter's girfriend, who got killed by the Green Goblin in one of the more iconic scenes marking the transition from the Silver to Bronze Age; her death was a sore point for Parker ever since. In Spider-Gwen's continuity, she was the bitten by the Radioactive Spider, and lost Peter Parker to his self-destructive tendencies, leading to his death being a sore point for her ever since. One of several "new" characters invented for the well-received "Spider-Verse" event; she has since become a notable B or C lister--somebody the fans like, and don't mind seeing, but not popular enough to sustain her own series.
The Many Loves of Spidey
Since Spider-Man's core appeal is "unlucky everydude tries and usually fails to successfully juggle real life and crime fighting", of course he's got to have a lovelife as part of that. There's actually been a lot of different ladies who have dated or at least flirted with Peter Parker over the decades, but as far as casuals are concerned, there are only three girls who really matter: Gwen Stacey, Felicia Hardy, and Mary Jane Watson.
Gwen Stacey was the very first love interest introduced in the series, and most widely remembered for the fact that her death at the hands of Spidey's archenemy the Green Goblin issued in the Bronze Age of Comics. In fact, she's not really remembered for much else! This is because she was introduced at a time when Steve Ditko was writing and, well, Ditko was a hardcore Objectionist, so those early stories about her tended to really, really suck in so far as portraying her and Peter having any sort of relationship. She did get better after Ditko left and new writers took over, but frankly she never really was handled all that well, and is mostly remembered for being the first and being the one who got killed.
Mary Jane Watson was the second girl introduced as Peter's potential love interest, and in fact showed up for the first time whilst Peter was technically dating Gwen Stacey. Her exotic charm, sassy personality and the fact she had much more presentation as somebody with a life outside of being just "Peter's Girlfriend", which was ironically part of an attempt to keep her from overshadowing Gwen, led to fans vastly preferring her. Once Gwen died, Mary Jane became the defacto love interest, which ultimately was cemented when they got married and even nearly had a kid together. Unfortunately, that was disastrously ended in the much-hated "One More Day" storyline.
Felicia Hardy was the third major love interest in Peter's life, and was essentially the "80s bad girl" counterpart to Mary Jane. A wealthy and beautiful heiress turned jewel thief, Felicia was always depicted as the more shallow of the two girls compared to Mary Jane. In particular, being an adrenaline junkie who shunned Peter's guilt-laden moral trappings, she was vastly more interested in the side of him that was Spider-Man - a man of action, confidence and death-defying stunts - than in the insecure, guilt-riddled and somewhat unhinged "Parker side" underneath.
To give you an idea of just how much Mary Jane and Felicia came to overshadow Gwen Stacey; in the 1990s Spider-Man cartoon, widely considered the best Spidey animated adaptation, they dropped Gwen Stacey entirely. Instead, Felicia was presented as Peter's first love, a Veronica-esque rich girl that Peter constantly tried to date, but never could get her to take him seriously - she even absorbed Gwen's role of being Peter's excuse for putting off meeting Mary Jane until Aunt May finally sprung her on him and he learned she was actually a hot redhead.
One More Day and the Clone Saga
A lot of writers and editors really hate the Peter Parker Spider-man, especially once he married Mary Jane Watson. This lead to several attempts to "fix" the character, two of which were some of the most hated storylines in all of comics. The Clone Saga (originally intended simply as a way for Peter Parker to retire as Spider-man, replacing him with Ben Riley) was hated because it went on a year longer then it should have, and had a bunch of really confusing and nonsensical plot points. One More Day had Peter Parker make a deal with Mephisto (essentially, the Devil) to save his Aunt May's life by undoing his marriage to Mary Jane. The latter is held to be one of the stupidest decisions in the history of comics, for many, many, many, many, many, MANY obvious reasons.
Odin has banished Thor to Earth in the guise of a mortal to learn humility (later retconned as secretly being to protect him), Donald Blake discovers his true identity and powers during a trip to Norway. Originally just a normal superhero with some Norse trappings, to the point he debuted battling against giant alien rockmen, later authors tied him closer and closer to Norse myth and "Donald Blake" has largely been forgotten in favor of him just being Thor.
Thor's iteration of Asgard is markedly different to the original Nordic myths in many ways, ranging from the subtle (Thor is blonde, not redheaded) to the overt (Sif is a warrior-goddess instead of a fertility goddess, Loki is Thor's adoptive brother rather than Odin's blood-brother). This is actually explained in-universe as a result of the Ragnarok cycle; the Asgardians and their foes perish during Ragnarok, but are then reincarnated to begin the cycle leading up to Ragnarok all over again, leading to distinct alterations between the different iterations. Regardless, Thor still carries his trusty hammer Mjölnir, lightning powers and all, which can only be wielded by the worthy.
For a god, Thor has a surprisingly wide and likeable cast of supporting characters, ranging from his father Odin and stepmother Frigga (Thor's biological mom is actually the Earth Goddess) to Beta Ray Bill, Sif and the Warriors Three... even some of the villains like Amora the Enchantress and Skurge the Executioner have surprising depth, with Skurge in particular having a notoriously badass and heroic final death in his climatic story. You can generally tell a true old-school Thor fan in Marvel's readers if they get a little misty-eyed at the phrase "He stood alone at Gjallerbrau".
In the early 2000s, Thor was actually killed off as part of the Ragnarok storyline in 2004. He spent three years dead before reviving, and rather literally shaking up the cosmology by recreating Asgard in a stretch of empty plains near the Oklahoma town of Broxton, resulting in the humans having to get used to their new divine neighbors. This is something you either loved or hated.
Sadly, post 2010 Thor has been more or less universally hated, mainly due to the long and dreary "Unworthy Thor" storyline, in which Thor was stripped of his ability to wield Mjolnir, had an arm hacked off, and spiralled into a deep depression, all the while a mysterious woman (later revealed to be Thor's old on-off flame Jane Foster, who was also undergoing chemo during that period) took up Mjölnir and ran around calling herself the new Thor. Even some of Thor's enemies thought that this was a bit tasteless.
Tony Stark, a genius weapon inventor who was also an eminently hateable asshole playboy who was kidnapped by [insert currently politically acceptable villain here]. After being forced to make weapons for his captor, he instead builds a suit of super-armor with which he escapes, although the experience leaves shrapnel dangerously close to his heart, which results in him needing to keep a part of the suit over his heart to keep the shrapnel from migrating.
Usually played as a heroic trainwreck: He fights the good fight, but he just as frequently is his own worst enemy. His control freak issues, general assholery, survivor's guilt, and alcoholism are the usual centers of his weaknesses. Although a household name now thanks to his namesake movie, he was a B-Lister at best before then.
Ironically, despite the fact that his powerset is the most duplicable, Iron Man has a very small "superfamily", perhaps because of his long-running association with the Avengers. The most well-established is James Rhodes, ex-Army and his personal chauffer, who has at various times either worn the Iron Man suit himself or run around in a more heavily armed "combat-focused" suit called the War Machine armor. His long-running but never won love interest Pepper Potts has also sometimes been shown to run around in the Rescue armor, which has no offensive weaponry but lots of useful tools to help it serve as, well, a search and rescue machine. Also, around 2014, he gained a "successor" in the form of Riri "Ironheart" Williams, Afro-American teen prodigy who built her own version of the Iron Man armor just to prove she could...The mid-2010s were the biggest rush of new "legacy characters" in Marvel for quite some time, and to very mixed results.
Few people will remember it, but Iron Man also temporarily ran his own team of superheroes called Force Works during the 90s.
Like DC, Marvel came up with a big meta-team for its superheroes. But whereas the Justice League was built around the idea of "people love these superheroes, so if we have them all adventure together, it'll be even bigger!", the Avengers originally began as a kind of dumping ground for B-lister and C-lister superheroes whom Marvel really didn't think could pull off their own comic lines. Characters like Iron Man, Ant Man, and Thor.
It should be added that the Avengers was originally more of a "place to stay" than a traditional superteam; there was a large mansion donated by Tony Stark, which was effectively the Avengers "clubhouse", with people cycling in and out as they needed a place to stay. The thing is, as so many characters cycled through, and so many minor characters who suddenly got popular had the Avengers in their history, their profile was raised until the Infinity Gems became a thing, at which point the Avengers became the big "all hands on deck" team Marvel used when they wanted to do a big "event" comic. (The Fantastic Four and X-Men both being restricted in membership to Four members and mutants, respectively.)
Nowdays, you'd be hardpressed to remember that they began as, basically, Marvel's league of losers.
With how many different iterations of the Avengers there have been, it's harder to create an iconic line up similar to their Justice League counterparts. Arguably the closest you've got to a "core trio" is Iron Man (who tends to be bankrolling the Avengers), Captain America (who tends to be the team's field leader or at least its emotional center), and Thor (who is usually the heaviest hitter who remains part of the team instead of wandering off like the Hulk).
The second major team-focused product from Marvel, the X-Men are a group of mutants - a newly emerging human subspecies who possess powers and/or deformities as a result of an awakened "X-Gene". Led by the visionary civil rights activist Charles Xavier, they seek to promote peace and equality between humans and mutants, whilst battling against myriad mutant criminals - most prominently Magneto, a charismatic magnetism-controlling Jew who, having seen his human family destroyed by the Nazis, is determined to prevent similar atrocities from being carried out against mutants.
Floundering during the Silver Age, it was the Bronze Age when the X-men stepped forward and truly took off, since they combined the super soap opera formula with an ability to stand in for any of the various Civil Rights movements of the time.
Hands down the biggest sub-universe of the Marvel universe. Seriously, there are literally dozens if not hundreds of X-Men and multiple spin-off teams of mutant heroes, usually designated with an X- prefix. Some of the more notable members...
- Cyclops: Original leader of the X-men. Possesses ocular force energy beams, but can't turn them off, due to brain damage. Sadly has come to be perceived as an uptight stick-in-the-mud and mostly defined by his borderline obsessive relationship with Jean Grey. Except for the brief period where he was dating Emma Frost.
- Jean Grey: Incredibly powerful telepath and telekinetic. Infamous for dying and being resurrected - the reputation is exaggerated, but she can't shake it off. Iconic for her love triangle between herself, Cyclops and Wolverine, despite the fact she married Cyclops for quite a while.
- The Beast: Henry McCoy, possessing the brain of a genius and the brutish strength & agility of a gorilla doped to the gills on speed and coke. Originally just looked like a guy with really big feet, he accidentally mutated himself into a hairy, gorilla-like monster in the 80s and it stuck. Originally a fun-loving jokester who was so beloved he managed to serve on both the X-Men and the Avengers, but since around the 2010s, has become increasingly portrayed as an evil incompetent screwup.
- Storm: African mutant with the power to fly and manipulate the weather, including throwing lighting and subzero winds at people. Originally of uncertain ethnicity, with it being noted that her mutation caused her to display a melding of physical traits from different human ethnicities (with cat-like eyes, for good measure!) but was retconned into being pure-blooded Kenyan. Spent some time as leader of the X-Men after Cyclops cracked and couldn't handle it.
- Nightcrawler: One of the rare mutants whose physical deformities were evident from birth, Nightcrawler looks like a blue devil, but has the heart of a swashbuckling, fun-loving action hero, and is a deeply devout Catholic. Mutation gives him ambidexterity, superhuman agility, prehensile feet, and the ability to teleport.
- Colossus: Russian mutant who can transform into a living steel body, gaining superhuman strength and durability in the process.
- Angel/Archangel: One of the original X-Men, a millionaire's son with massive white-feathered wings.
- Rogue: A former villain who was introduced taking out Carol Danvers, aka Ms. Marvel. Possesses the ability to drain "life force" from others with a touch, rendering them unconscious and granting Rogue a copy of their memories and, if possible, superpowers. For most of her history has possessed "flying brick" powers due to siphoning so much life force from Carol Danvers that she almost killed her. Can't turn her powers off, forcing her to cover up. Has had a long, messy, on-off relationship with Gambit.
- Gambit: The most "90s" member of the team. Louisiana thief with the ability to activate the kinetic energy in anything he touches... basically, he can cause whatever he touches to blow up. Actually is only operating on, like, a shadow of his full power, having had brain surgery to cut off most of his full abilities. At full strength, would have the ability to completely and totally manipulate kinetic energy, which includes blowing shit up by looking at it, turning people into walking bombs, and assuming an energy form that can travel between planets and dimensions. Very few people remember this anymore.
- Emma Frost: Formerly a teacher for a rival and villainous group of mutant teens, she went straight(ish) and joined the X-men. Incredibly powerful telepath, but also can shapeshift into a living diamond form, in which she gains super strength and nigh invulnerability.
Of minor note: X-Men is the premier comic for "Comic Book Death", where it's hard for the audience to take a death seriously because the next writer will undo it. Just about all of the above have either "died", or "for real died", or even "we mean it, he's not coming back (and to prove it, here are his replacements)", and been brought back. To quote the comic itself: "Sometimes it seems that in mutant heaven there are no pearly gates, but instead revolving doors." In 2020 they just stopped even pretending and gave them them the ability to out-right resurrect the dead at no cost but time.
With an extraordinarily large cast of protagonists and antagonists, there have been a lot of different mutant-related groups in the canon. Some examples on the heroic side are:
- The X-Men: The original team of mutant vigilantes assembled by Charles Xavier to try and promote human/mutant relationships, mostly by battling renegade mutants.
- The New Mutants: The second band of mutant teenagers gathered onto the Xavier Institute, and effectively the third team assembled by Xavier (there were two iterations of the X-Men first). Were mostly defined as "the junior X-men", and so fell out of fashion as the group aged up, although its former members retain a particular bond. A later team with the same kind of basic group identity was Generation X.
- Excalibur: A short-lived Great Britain-based team of mutants.
- X-Factor: Mutants who seek to promote better human/mutant relationships by registering themselves with the US government and serving as a government-directed and overseen task force.
- X-Force: Former New Mutants who were lured away from Xavier's teachings and chose to follow the more violent and "pro-active" methods of Cable instead.
Villainous counterparts include:
- Brotherhood of Mutants: The first and original "mutant villain team". The very first version was a generic "mutant villain league" under the control of Magneto, and was known as the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants because, hey, it was the 60s. The second iteration, started by Mystique, set the template for the group's identity to follow: mutants who believed in Magneto's philosophy that mutant safety required militant action, Eventually shook off the "Evil" part of the name in an attempt to be taken seriously.
- The Acolytes: A sub-group of the Brotherhood of Mutants; extremists of Magneto's philosophy who also worship Magneto as a divinely blessed messiah come to save mutantkind from the evils of humanity.
- The Mutant Liberation Front: Anarchistic militant racist mutant supremacists who sought the extinction of baseline humanity. Founded by Stryfe, an evil and insane clone of the time-traveling mutant Cable.
- Hellfire Club: A secret society of filthy rich mutants who use their powers to acquire ever-greater wealth and political/social power.
- Clan Akkaba: Mutants who follow the teachings of the genocidal "Might Makes Right/Survival of the Fittest"-obsessed super-mutant Apocalypse, whilst also worshipping him as a living demigod. They've been around for centuries.
- Marauders: Mutant assassins and mercenaries organized by Mister Sinister, who provides them with immortality of the "clone backups" variety in exchange for working for him. A little-remembered offshoot of the Marauders are the Nasty Boys, who are basically Mr. Sinister's personal goon squad, and far less murderous (and intimidating) than the Marauders.
Rude, mouthy Canadian midget with troll-like regeneration, heightened senses, and ultra-sharp retractile claws in his knuckles. Originally introduced as a minor Hulk antagonist, he was originally the least popular member of the 70s revival team, where he graduated to main character. Luckily for him, Chris Claremont rescued him with a murky yet grimdark backstory and surprising character depth as the bloody-handed anti-hero of the team who nonetheless wants to overcome his savage instincts.
Wolverine's backstory has undergone a lot of changes, tweaks and retcons over the years, justified through a combination of massive amounts of trauma (it's literally been stated that his healing factor will actually try to blot out the most painful memories as a survival mechanism) and repeated attempts by various evil organizations to brainwash him into their personal killing machine. The simple version of the story is that Wolverine was born in the 1800s to a wealthy home owner's wife who'd had an affair with the gardener. When that gardener killed her husband, the man Wolverine (then called James Howlett) believed to be his dad, he attacked the man in a rage and accidentally killed him when this triggered his mutation, stabbing the man to death with his claws. This drove his mom insane, and James fled into the wilderness, eventually taking up the name of James Logan to cover up his tracks. He bummed around for decades, as his healing factor stopped him from aging once he reached maturity, and he would frequently hire on as a soldier. In the early 1970s (originally 1974), he would be kidnapped by a secret joint American-Canadian commission called "Weapon Plus", which decided to use him for the Weapon X project: an attempt to brainwash mutants into expendable soldiers and assassins. He was tortured, repeatedly brainwashed, and had nigh-invulnerable metal called "Adamantium" bonded to his skeletal structure. Wolverine eventually broke free, but the combination of all the surgical tinkering with his brain and the sheer trauma of what he'd undergone left him with near-total amnesia; he didn't even remember that his claws were a natural part of him, instead believing they were primitive cybernetic implants installed as part of the failed "make a super-assassin" project. Rescued in the wilderness, he was brought onto Canada's Department H, their fledgling super-operative program, and he battled the Hulk during a brief incursion into Canada. But Wolverine felt no loyalty to the Canadian government, and when Professor X came around, he quit Department H and joined the X-Men. And that's when the story really began...
For the longest time, Wolverine's claws actually were said to be genuinely mechanical implants; there was even a brief period of time in which he was portrayed with metallic "chutes" implanted in his arms so the claws could safely emerge without injuring him, but that wasn't grimdark enough and so it got replaced with him having to carve through his own flesh every time he popped the claws and relying on his regeneration to keep him from bleeding out. Then came the famous early 90s story where Magneto nearly killed Wolverine by ripping out his Adamantium, which exhausted his healing factor, making it less effective, and revealing his claws had been a part of him all along.
Wolverine has his own rogue's gallery, though the most iconic members of it are Sabertooth, who is basically Wolverine's evil counterpart, and Omega Red, a Russian serial killer with a healing factor implanted with knock-off Adamantium retractile tentacles and subdermal armor.
Literally just the Hercules of myth who has returned to the modern world. A pretty solid reminder that superheroes really aren't that different from the heroes of ancient myth.
The Inhumans are a mutated subspecies of humanity created during the Stone Age when the alien Kree showed up and decided to try tinkering with primitive humans in order to bio-engineer a race of superpowered slave-soldiers. For whatever reason, they got bored and left. The products of their work, however, possessed superior physical and mental abilities compared to their unmodified counterparts. They could also use a mutagenic compound called "Terrigen" to trigger an unpredictable genetic mutation, which would give them random abilities and/or deformities. Somehow, rather than using these abilities and their advanced technology (mostly stolen from Kree junk left behind) to take over the world, the Inhumans instead retreated to a hidden city in the Himalayas called "Attilan", where they set up a monarchy built around the heavy use of genetic engineering and eugenics. No, seriously; they literally have a genetic-based caste system, where Inhumans who come out of the Terrigen process too deformed are second-class citizens, and those whose genetics are deemed "too dangerous" aren't even allowed to undergo the process at all. They also rely on a genetically engineered race of slaves called the Alpha Primitives to run their city for them.
Introduced in the Fantastic Four as an example of pulpy "weird lost civilization", the Inhumans first appeared in the form of a single Inhuman - Medusa, a woman with a massive mane of prehensile hair, who showed up as a member of the villainous team "The Frightful Four" in March 1965. Then, in November of the same year, her cousin Gorgon - a satyr like Inhuman who can generate earthquakes by stomping the ground with his hooves - showed up and revealed she had been brainwashed into joining the Frightful Four. The next month, the Fantastic Four would escort Medusa and Gorgon back to Atillan, thus introducing the Inhumans as a whole.
For the longest time, the Inhumans were largely a bynote in the wider Marvel universe. Then, in the early 2010s, Marvel began to promote them in a major way, including the controversial decision to have them release the Terrigen Mists previously used to carefully transform one Inhuman at a time in massive "Terrigen Clouds" that began free-roaming across the world. See, it turned out that a number of Inhumans in the ancient past hadn't decided to go and play the genetic lottery in their own private city, but had stayed amongst humanity, and these new Terrigen Clouds would trigger the latent Inhuman DNA in unsuspecting humans across the world, thus resulting in a massive upswelling in the Inhuman numbers. Of course, this also had the problem of afflicting mutants who came into contact with the clouds with a sterilizing and almost certainly lethal fatal disease, which was actually something that had been established ages ago when the question of "what if a mutant got dosed with Terrigen?" was first brought up.
Why was this controversial? Well, this decision was done at a time when Disney owned Marvel as a whole, but Fox owned the X-Men. So to many readers, this reeked of an obvious ploy to basically try and kill off the X-Men whilst promoting the Inhumans in their place (spoilers: blame Ike Perlmutter). Long story short, it didn't work. Fans hated the comics, the Inhumans TV show utterly bombed even by the low standards of the 2010s Marvel TV shows, and in general the Inhumans have mostly slid back into obscurity. The most notable exception is the new Ms. Marvel discussed below, a "NuHuman" who got her own comic series and is actually pretty well liked. In the end, the whole shebang was rendered moot when Disney bought out Fox, thus obtaining the rights to the X-Men by proxy.
The most prominent and well-known of Marvel's African super-heroes (with the possible exception of Storm, who mostly operates outside the continent), as well as one of the earliest African superheroes in a mainstream comic publisher. T'challa is the heir to the throne of Wakanda, a reclusive and highly technologically advanced African nation. Originally, this was because Wakanda had A: avoided being caught up in the slave trade, and B: had developed a custom of sending its best and brightest abroad to study the most advanced technologies they could and then bringing them home to apply their knowledge to bettering their people. This was further augmented by the fact Wakanda was the only known deposit of the alien super-metal Vibranium, which made it kind of like if America had been the only country in the world with plutonium/uranium when trying to invent the atomic bomb. This was then retconned into Wakanda having always been centuries ahead of the world in terms of technology due to said Vibranium, because the original backstory didn't make them special enough... even though this makes no sense when you think about it because, seriously, how is a culture with Iron Age technology supposed to make anything useful from a metal whose entire defining schtick is "being indestructible"? It's not like they can beat it into shape the way they could with iron ore!
Anyway, as King of Wakanda, T'challa has imbued a mutagenic/magical plant called "The Heart-Shaped Herb", which has given him superhuman strength, speed, senses, reflexes and agility. In later versions, his costume has also gone from just Batman-esque stylized bodyarmor to a hyper-advanced suit of Power Armor. Mostly concerned with keeping Wakanda safe from outside threats, or sometimes with opening up Wakanda to the outside world - it depends on the series/media. Wakanda being characterized as arrogant, elitist, aloof and xenophobic (think the worst portrayals of elves), this is often a lot harder than it sounds.
Spent a lot of time out of the public eye, but was catapulted into mainstream darlinghood with his debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is a legitimately good film, but don't fall for the SJW hype about it being "the first black superhero movie!" That would actually be Image Comics' Spawn, in 1997, with DC Comics releasing a Steel film in the same year. It's not even "the first black Marvel superhero movie!" - that would be Blade (1998), which actually got two sequels and was Marvel's first big film-related success prior to the Spider-Man and X-Men films. It can, however, be legitimately argued as the best black superhero movie out there so far.
No, not the guy from DC Comics. This complicated mess of characters all stems from the Marvel/DC rivalry. Basically, during the 60s, having acquired Captain Marvel from Fawcett Comics, DC actually lost the trademark rights to his name, having cancelled Captain Marvel comics themselves in the 50s. Wanting to get one over on their old nemesis, and feeling that "Captain Marvel" was a name tailor made for a superhero from their company, Marvel launched the first of several characters meant to challenge the name. Perhaps because of the constant legal wrangling for rights, these characters have a tendency to change their names alot.
Frankly, one could kind of call them cursed; none of them have really managed to stick that well into public consciousness. This entry is mostly here because there's one about the Captain Marvel of the DC Comics universe.
The story begins with Captain Mar-Vell; a military leader from the alien Kree race, a warlike race of aliens in the Marvel universe who look like Caucasian humans (save for the ruling minority, who're blue-skinned), but have superhuman strength, toughness, speed, agility and reflexes due to coming from a high-gravity planet, ala really old drafts of Superman. He debuted in "Marvel Super-Heroes" #12 (December, 1967), with a backstory that he was sent to Earth as part of a small unit charged with spying on Earth for tactical reasons. However, on the mission, his jealous commander, Colonel Yon-Rogg, goes crazy and tries to kill Mar-Vell so he can steal Mar-Vell's wife, Una. Fighting for his life, Mar-Vell is mistaken for a new human superhero battling an alien invasion; since Una got killed in the fight, and Mar-Vell is naturally kind of pissed off with the Kree military, he stays on earth and eventually defects to become a full-on protector of Earth, despite some weird complications, like spending time stuck in a dimensional limbo and linked to Rick Jones (the idiot teenager who got Bruce Banner turned into the Hulk), allowing one to return to Earth by sending the other into limbo, which was later revealed was done as a take on the Fawcett Marvel's whole "little kid who turns into an adult superhero" deal. Whilst big in the 70s, sadly, Mar-Vell was the first of the Marvels to suffer the curse of lackluster staying power; his comic was cancelled after 62 issues, running from May, 1968 to May, 1979. Three years later, in Marvel Graphic Novel #1, April 1982, the story "The Death of Captain Mar-Vell" was run, and Mar-Vell was permanently killed off with the reveal he had developed a fatal cancer after being exposed to nerve gas in one of his early adventures. Whilst originally he was just a "badass normal with some superscience gizmos" in terms of power set (barring the whole "being a heavyworlder makes his abilities greater than any human athlete" thing), he got repeatedly powered up over the course of his run, gaining legitimate superhuman strength (from 1 ton to 15 tons) and durability, the ability to absorb energy, "faux-telekinesis" caused by his ability to manipulate energy, flight without Kree anti-gravity tech, traveling in space, regeneration, photon energy blasts, and "Cosmic Awareness", aka "omniscience", which was defined as literally "the ability to know exactly what he needed to know at any moment".
Mar-Vell also had a female counterpart/sidekick called Ms. Marvel - read the Carol Danvers section.
Uneager to drop the Captain Marvel rites, Marvel scrambled to bring out a replacement, and did so with an entirely unrelated character who debuted in The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #16 (1982). This was Monica Rambeau; an African-American lieutenant of the New Orleans Harbor Patrol who hit the superpower jackpot when an accident with an energy weapon exposed her to extradimensional energy that, instead of vaporizing her, gave her a plethora of energy-related powers. She can convert herself into any form of energy on the electromagnetic spectrum, absorb and manipulate energy, and travel at the speed of light while flying in her energy form. She called herself "Captain Marvel", the first to actually spell it that way, in honor of the newly deceased Captain Mar-Vell. When Genis-Vell (below) showed up, she agreed that it made more sense for him to be called "Captain Marvel", and took up the new name "Photon". Then Genis-Vell got greedy and declared he wanted to be called Photon, so she renamed herself Pulsar. She was kidnapped by beings from another dimension and spent some time trapped there, only to eventually escape to her own world, where nobody believed her story. She gave up the superhero names entirely during that period, but has recently taken up another new name; Spectrum.
In 1993, in the "Silver Surfer Annual" #6, Mar-Vell's clone/son Genis-Vell debuted. Initially, he called himself Legacy, but then he took up his dad's name as a superhero title, becoming the second Captain Marvel to be called Captain Marvel. Spent some time as both a hero and a villain, mostly due to being driven absolutely bug-fuck looney by a brief time with the literal power of omniscience. Genis appeared in "Captain Marvel" vol. 3 (1995-1996), vol. 4 (1999-2002), and vol. 5 (2002-2004). For a total of 66 issues, most of them written by Peter David. He then appeared as a member of the Thunderbolts. He was killed in "Thunderbolts" #100 (May, 2006).
In December, 2003, in Captain Marvel vol. 6 #16, Mar-Vell's female clone/daughter Phylla-Vell debuted as the third Captain Marvel and the fifth heir to Mar-Vell (told you this shit got confusing). She quickly changed her name to Quasar after acquiring that superhero's ultra-powerful Quantum Bands early on in the big Annihilation event of 2006. She then lost the Quantum Bands and was forced to become the Avatar of Oblivion to save her girlfriend, Moondragon of the Guardians of the Galaxy; she renamed herself Martyr then. She was eventually killed by Thanos.
There is also Khn'nr, a Skrull (shapechanging aliens at war with the Krees) who showed up during the first Civil War event having been both imbued with Mar-Vell's power and brainwashed into thinking he actually was Mar-Vell, which caused him to turn against the Skrulls and become an actual hero, but he died, and Noh-Varr, a Kree super soldier from another dimension, who first went by "Marvel Boy", then called himself Captain Marvel after being chosen by Khn'nr as his successor, then called himself Protector, and has finally dropped the code-names entirely as part of the Young Avengers.
This is the current "Captain Marvel" of the Marvel Universe, and her story's long enough and twisty enough that it really warrants its own section. Hold onto your hat, because this shit gets complicated.
In March 1968, in Marvel Super-Heroes #13, the character Carol Danvers was introduced as a supporting character to Mar-Vell; a female ex-Air Force officer who made it to the role of Chief of Security at NASA. She was originally basically Mar-Vell's Lois Lane, except that Mar-Vell himself felt he couldn't in all decency start up a relationship with her. During one of Mar-Vell's adventures, Carol was exposed to a Kree device called a "Psyche-Magnetron", which infused her with Kree DNA from Mar-Vell. As a result, she gained super-strength and super-toughness like Mar-Vell - initially, she couldn't fly but built gadgets into her costume that gave it anti-gravity levitation powers... then she got zapped by the Psyche-Magnetron again, which destroyed the tech but gave her the ability to fly under her own powers. Initially, her powers were tied up with a split personality, which believed itself to be a Kree warrior-woman, and she called herself Ms. Marvel. Eventually, the two personalities were united and Carol became Ms. Marvel in her own right, running around in a variation of Mar-Vell's costume that was the same color scheme, but reduced it to a belly-baring short shirt, a cape, panties, and thigh-high boots.
Her first volume run as "Ms. Marvel" lasted for 23 issues (January, 1977-April, 1979), after which she mostly was reduced to team-up appearances and became a member of the Avengers. This was the start of her decline, and eventually the writers got sick of her there and wanted her out. This resulted in the infamous Avengers #200, where the writers attempted to write her out by having her hook up with a badass love interest (admittedly introduced out of nowhere) to retire with... except they did it by having Carol get brainwashed by this random guy the Avengers met on one of their dimension traveling adventures, who used this brainwashing to conceal that he'd implanted a rapidly-aging clone of himself into her womb. So Carol just randomly becomes pregnant one day, gives birth to a son, and then this son grows up into an adult over the course of the day, declares he's her soulmate, and whisks her off to his dimension, with Carol meekly going along with everything. And all the while, the Avengers aren't even the slightest bit concerned about any of this freaky-ass shit! Seriously, being an Avenger means you see some fucked-up shit, but this was just beyond the pale. Fans rioted, and eventually Chris Claremont undid this whole thing by revealing that the creep's plan went wrong and he aged himself into dust, freeing Carol from his brainwashing and allowing her to get home and chew the Avengers out for not even considering that something weird was going on in Avengers Annual #10. Unfortunately, that also involved Carol being grabbed by newly introduced supervillain Rogue, who sucked out so much of Carol's life-force that she permanently stole Carol's powers (though, on the bright side, she did also quell a lot of the emotional pain Carol had gone through, and wound up with an angry copy of Carol's psyche stuck in her mind) and left her a normal human.
As a result of this, Carol went and hooked up with the X-Men, mostly in the hopes that Charles Xavier could use his abilities as a telepath and trained psychiatrist to help her get over the traumas of super-science rape-baby and near death + permanent depowering. But of course nothing could be simple, and she somehow wound up traveling into space with the X-Men, during which time they were captured by the Brood. The Brood began experimenting on her, seeing if they could reactivate or even improve upon her Kree genes, and they simultaneously activated the "energy absorbing" genes she'd inherited from Mar-Vell and linked her up to a binary star. The result? Carol got a supercharged upgrade; her skin turned bright crimson, her hair turned into fire, and she gained not only way more strength and durability than she'd had as Ms. Marvel, but also interstellar-travel tier flight, energy blasts from her hands and eyes, regeneration, energy absorption that could be used to boost her powers further, and the ability to generate heat, light, radiation, and energies on the electromagnetic spectrum. She promptly thanked the Brood for this by blowing up their homeworld. She also gained a new costume, which was ironically much more sensible; a full-body leotard-like uniform patterned in alternating white and crimson. She called this incarnation of herself Binary.
Binary's place amongst the X-Men would be short-lived. Returning to Earth, she found that Rogue, driven nearly mad by her copy of Carol's personality, had come to Xavier for help and been accepted onto the team. When Carol's rage refused to make Xavier rescind his offer of help to Rogue, Carol stormed off; she joined the Starjammers, a space pirate crew on good terms with the X-Men, and sailed off into the cosmos, becoming one of Marvel's cosmic heroes for a while.
In 2003, she returned to Earth, having lost her link to the binary star that made her Binary, but desperate to hide her dwindled strength. Having gained new abilities through her experience, such as shaping her energy projections into solid constructs and manipulating matter with her thoughts, she rejoined the Avengers, under the name Warbird, sporting yet another new costume; a black limbless swimsuit with a yellow lightning bolt on the front, black thigh-high boots and elbow-length gloves, and a crimson sash around her waist. At least, she joined the Avengers for a time. Her despair at her reduced powers turned her into an alcoholic, and she was eventually forced to straighten out.
As an Avenger, Carol fought through most of the subsequent Big Marvel Events, and eventually she reclaimed the name Ms. Marvel for herself by taking it from ex-Thunderbolt and ex-Dark Avenger Moonstone. That lasted until the so-called Phoenix War in 2012, where she had an encounter with a temporarily revived Captain Mar-Vell that made her decide to truly embrace her role as his successor by calling herself Captain Marvel and taking up her latest costume; a modest one-piece bodysuit in Mar-Vell's colors.
Carol has had a... messy public relations history, especially since her big return in the early 2000s, and a sudden major promotion as "Marvel's foremost superheroine" from the 2010s. It's a very skubby topic, but the long and short of it is that Marvel seems to have decided to push her as their answer to DC Comics having Wonder Woman, and the writing... often hasn't been too good. One particular example is the retcon about Carol's powers; rather than the Psyche-Magnetron fusing her genes with Mar-Vell's, it actually activated dormant Kree genes she'd had all along, because her mom was actually a Kree soldier who had deserted on a mission to Earth long before the one that Mar-Vell undertook and settled down with a human husband. Now, in and of itself, this wasn't a bad retcon (arguments about possible disrespect to Mar-Vell aside), and of course the SJWs were eager to sing the praise about how this made Carol a more "female-centered" superheroine, but there was one glaring issue. The writers who made this retcon forgot to retcon out the fact that Carol grew up in a borderline abusive home where her misogynistic creep of a dad kept her mom meek and cowed and verbally harassed her all her life in favor of his two sons (who are Carol's purely human stepbrothers post-retcon)... which makes absolutely no fucking goddamned sense if her mom's a bullet-proof alien soldier from a sexually egalitarian society who's strong enough to rip off a human's head and then take a shit down his neck.
Incidentally, that Ms. Marvel identity has had its share of owners too!
The second Ms. Marvel was Sharon Ventura, who first appeared in September 1985 in The Thing #27. She was a motorcycle stunt-woman who got super-strength and super-toughness from the Power Broker, an underground "fixer" of would-be superhumans with a roughly 50/50 hit rate of either giving them super powers or turning them into hideously deformed monsters. She used these powers to become a superhuman wrestler in the Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation, until she got a dose of cosmic radiation that turned her into the She-Thing. No, not like Jennifer Walters. She wasn't that lucky. Think Ben Grimm with boobs. She joined the Fantastic Four in hopes of finding a cure, only to betray the team to Dr. Doom, acting as his spy on the team in exchange for being cured. When she turned on Doom, he reversed the cure, which made her mutate into something even uglier and drove her more than a little crazy in the process. She spent some time as a member of the Frightful Four, a revolving-door villain team of Fantastic Four haters, but eventually split from them, went to jail, and went straight, going back to the Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation, having gained the power to shapeshift between her original (but still superhumanly strong/tough) form and the form of the She-Thing.
The third Ms. Marvel was Karla Sofen, aka long-time villain Moonstone, who agreed to pretend to be Ms. Marvel as part of Norman Osborn's Dark Avengers.
Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel)
The fourth and final Ms. Marvel so far is Kamala Khan, a Muslim American girl and a Neo-Inhuman with the ability to shapeshift her body in a way that combines Reed's "rubber man" and "sizeshifter" fashions. Inspired to become a superheroine by her admiration for Carol Danvers, she was elated when Carol gave her permission to use Carol's original moniker.
It should be added that Kamala is, while the subject of some degree of skub, also one of the more popular new characters in Marvel; this is because she's very clearly her own character, a fangirl on her own, a fairly good attempt to write a modern teenager, she has a fairly interesting powerset, and her own book focuses on an interesting setting (namely, Marvel's New Jersey; if that sounds boring to you, you haven't considered what the suburbs of Marvel New York must be like).
The Guardians of the Galaxy
If you're a comics-newb who stumbled onto this website after watching the MCU, you probably think you know the Guardians of the Galaxy. They're basically the Avengers, but in space, right? Well... not exactly.
Debuting in January 1969 in Marvel Super-Heroes #18, the original Guardians of the Galaxy were a sci-fi team set in the far future of Marvel - the 31st century, to be precise. When a telekinetic astronaut from the 20th century wakes up after a thousand years lost in space in a stasis pod, he discovers Earth has been conquered by an alien race, called the Badoon. Deciding he's not going to have any of that shit, he assembles a team of aliens and abhumans to try and win the world back. They eventually pulled it off, and decided to keep on doing the space adventurers schtick.
The series ran in various Marvel Anthology books in the 1970s, with guest appearances in The Defenders and The Avengers in between anthology runs. The characters' most notable appearance during these early years was in The Avengers, during The Korvac Saga.
They vanished into limbo in the 80s, but were brought back in the 90s, and this run actually managed to go from June, 1990 to July, 1995, so not small potatoes. They've pretty much fallen off of the radar since then, save for a failed attempt at a revival comic in 2014, which lasted 8 issues.
The original team consisted of:
- Major Victory: Real name Vance Astro, the aforementioned "20th century astronaut who spent 1000 years in stasis". A telekinetic who also carries Captain America's shield.
- Charlie-27:' Last survivor of a human subrace genetically engineered to live on Jupiter. This gives him superhuman strength and toughness
- Martinex T'Naga: Last survivor of a human subrace genetically engineered to live on Pluto. This somehow is justification for him being a being of living crystal who can project energy - extreme heat from his right hand, extreme cold from his left.
- Yondu Udonta: No, not the endearing and surprisingly loveable alien gangster-dad from the MCU. This OC version of Yondu is the (presumed) last survive of the native Alpha Centurians, and is basically a blue Native American with a big red fleshy crest/fin sticking out of his head. He does use a whistle-controlled super-arrow, though. An analogue to the MCU version of Yondu was later added to the modern Marvel universe as this Yondu's distant ancestor.
They eventually added a bundle more of characters:
- Starhawk: Real name Stakar Orgod, son of the original Quasar, Wendell Vaughn, and the artificial humanoid known only as "Her". Possessed weird time connection that gave him pseudo-precognition. Married to Aleta Ogord, an Arcturan alien whom he was raised alongside. They spent a large portion of their time physically merged together and fighting to see which consciousness was in control (and which body was in use), during which time they had access to a combined power set, making their individual powers harder to pinpoint.
- Nicolette “Nikki” Gold: A fire-wielding and literally flame-haired sniper, part of a human subrace engineered for inhabiting Mercury. Absolutely hates anything reptilian, due to losing her family when the Badoon conquered the solar system.
- Firelord: A flame-controlling alien best known for having been one of Galactus' Heralds during the modern era; a thousand years on his own has mellowed him out.
- Replica: A female Skrull who fights to stop the Badoon using her racial abilities of shapeshifting.
- Talon: An Inhuman from a colony on Earth's moon who looked like a humanoid cat. Also a disciple to Krugarr, the 31st century's Sorcerer Supreme.
- Yellojacket II: Real name Rita DeMarr, a former supervillain - she's been a member of the Masters of Evil and the Femizons - who stole the Yellowjacket suit and name from Hank Pym. Eventually repented and tried to become a heroine, in no small part due to being accidentally transported to the 31st century and caught up in the crusade against the Badoon.
- Geena Drake: A mutated human who has both the ability to sense disruptions in time and to resist having her memories altered by temporal shifts. Not so much a fighter, but useful to the team.
- Hollywood: Wonder Man, now a thousand years older and with a lot of hang-ups, but willing to help the Guardians.
- Mainframe: The AI controlling and overseeing the planet Klaatu, which a thousand years ago was operating in the chassis of the android Avenger known as the Vision.
- Wileaydus Autolycus: The Ghost Rider of the 31st century.
- Phoenix IX: Real name Giraud of Haven, the 9th host of the Phoenix since Jean Grey... yeah, this was back in the day when Jean's connection to the Phoenix Force was really something super special.
The Modern Team
The version of the team everybody knows from the movies actually debuted pretty recently. Like, early 2010s recently! During the 2000s, Marvel ran a cosmic/space-focused mega-event called Annihilation, which is basically about an ultra-powerful supervillain from another dimension invading the main dimension with an army of not!Tyranids and trying to exterminate all life. Whilst ultimately defeated, he left the universe pretty ravaged, and this caused a bunch of the heroes who took him down to decide "fuck, the universe is in bad shape; it needs badasses like us to try and curbstomp any potential threats before they can blow up to this extent again!"
So it was that a bunch of virtual nobodies who had, at best, scraped by in their own comics series and in many cases been bitpart players in other, grander stories got together, formed a superteam, and tried to make a name for themselves.
...So, huh, "Avengers in Space" actually isn't that bad a description for this iteration of the team.
The rebooted GotG of the comics consist of the following characters... not counting the ones added in subsequent runs:
Star-Lord: Real name Peter Jason Quill, debuted in Marvel Preview #4 (January 1976). An arrogant, antisocial astronaut who is half-alien - but unlike in the films, his daddy isn't a cosmic entity, but just J'son of Spartoi, an alien who just happens to look like a human who knocked up Peter's mom and then abandoned her on Earth, as he's a selfish bastard. He is the king of Spartoi, which is the center of its own small interstellar empire, though, and that title did eventually pass on Peter. Has no powers; he's just an astronaut who got lost in deep space and decided to become a mercenary. He does carry a pair of "Elemental Guns", which can launch various forms of elemental matter/energy. Unlike the movieverse, he was an arrogant, antisocial but competent badass - he's since been steadily changed to make him more like his MCU counterpart.
Rocket Raccoon: Debuted in Marvel Preview #7 (June, 1976). A cyber-genetically augmented raccoon from the Halfworld; a giant intergalactic insane asylum whose robot caretakers created a civilization of semi-humanoid talking cyborg animals to aid them in looking after the crazies. Although he was the planet's primary hero for a while, and actually had his first major adventure with the Hulk, Rocket got sick of the job and took off to become an intergalactic mercenary. Unlike the MCU Rocket, comics!Rocket is a friendly, good-natured guy with a good heart... even though he really, really likes guns and has amassed an extensive network of connections throughout the cosmic underworld. He was considered a joke character (his creation was inspired by the Beatles song "Rocky Raccoon"!) and appeared only ten times in a period of thirty years. Annihilation: Conquest is where he finally hit the big leagues, becoming a supporting character to Star-Lord and gaining his now-iconic friendship with Groot.
Gamora: A green-skinned alien space babe... who also happens to be one of the most badass assassins in the galaxy. Debuted in Strange Tales #180 (Junge 1975). After her race, the Zen-Whoberi, were annihilated by the Church of Universal Truth, Gamora was adopted by the death-obsessed cosmic warlord Thanos, who brought her up as a living weapon to use against the Magus, the ultra-powerful being worshipped by the CoUT as a living god. Originally a villain, until a team-up with Adam Warlock made her realize that Thanos was the bad guy and she turned on him. She remained mostly tied to Adam Warlock, even having a romantic relationship with him, until the founding of the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Drax the Destroyer: First debuted in The Invincible Iron Man #55 (February 1973). Unlike the tormented alien of the MCU, Drax the Destroyer in the comics has a more convoluted origin. Originally, he was the human Arthur Douglas, until his family had the misfortune of stumbling upon Thanos during the mad tyrant's first visit to Earth. Thanos blasted the family and left them for dead; Arthur's soul was rescued by the Titans, Thanos' own race, who implanted it into an artificially designed body to create a living weapon with which to assassinate Thanos; Drax the Destroyer. He had super strength, super speed, super toughness (borderline nigh invulnerability), flight, hand blasts, and telepathy. His life force was also linked to that of Thanos; so long as Thanos is alive, Drax cannot be killed, and if Thanos is revived, a dead Drax will spontaneously resurrect too. He made repeat appearances in stories involving Thanos and Adam Warlock. Was killed by psychic attack and then revived in the early 1990s with brain damage, changing the formerly articulate and intelligent, if stoic and goal-fixated, Drax into a child-like, violently tempered "dumb muscle" character, complete with Hulk-like speech patterns. In the modern era, after spontaneously mutating into a body more like the MCU Drax, his powers also decayed; he lost everything but the super physical attributes, and even those have grown drastically weaker than they used to be.
Groot: Debuting in Tales to Astonish #13 (November 1960), the Flora colossus (plant alien) Groot was originally one of the many invading alien scientist-warlords of Marvel's early giant monster comics. Even when he returned in Annihilation: Conquest, he was still a highly articulate, intelligent and abrasive figure - like Dr. Doom, but as a tree. His personality was subsequently retconned to make him nicer, and he gained the iconic "I am Groot!" vocabulary quirk, which originally was a result of throat/brain damage, and later was retconned into a racial thing. This ultimately culminated in the Guardians Groot not being the same as that 1960s invader Groot.
Mantis: Without a doubt the most convoluted of the "Modern Guardians" characters. The comics Mantis first debuted in The Avengers #112 (June 1973) as a non-powered Vietnamese martial artist who had been raised by a secret order of Kree monks to fulfill a prophecy in which she would be "the savior" of the Cotati, a presumed-extinct race of peaceful plant aliens, by having sex with one and giving birth to a half-human half-Cotati messiah, after which she left with her son to realize her destiny as "the Celestial Madonna". Then, after appearances by what was implied to be the same character in DC Comics (under the name "Willow") and Eclipse Comics' Scorpio Rose line (under the name "Lorelei"), she finally returned to Marvel in 1987. But now she was green skinned, nigh invulnerable, capable of regeneration, and a psyker with powers of empathy, precognition and chlorokinesis. She still has the same background as "the Celestial Madonna", with no attempt to explain the change, but one could possibly chalk it up to a side-effect of carrying an alien baby.
Cosmo the Spacedog: A Golden Retriever/Labrador crossbreed dog who was selected as a test animal for the Soviet Space Program, Cosmo was swept through a wormhole, passed through cosmic radiation that gave him both human-level intelligence and powerful telekinetic and telepathic powers, and finally came to rest at the space colony Knowhere, a place where he become the chief of security.
Adam Warlock: The one founding member of the Modern Comics Guardians who hasn't appeared in the MCU. He debuted in Fantastic Four Volume 1 #66-67 (September-October 1967), as the artificial lifeform "Him". The basic design was then reused to create Adam Warlock in Marvel Premier #1 (April 1972), where he was a vaguely Space Jesus-like super-entity engineered by the High Evolutionary and sent to save the artificial parallel Earth that the High Evolutionary had also invented from a rebellious former creation. When Jim Starlin got his hands on him, Adam Warlock finally achieved his definitive storylines, becoming characterized as a philosopher-hero and the arch-enemy of both Thanos and the Magus; a time-traveling evil version of himself from the future.
Introduced in the 70s as a villain, swiftly turned into a dark antihero, the Punisher is Frank Castle; a US marine whose family was gunned down when they got caught in a shootout between warring mobsters and who promptly snapped when the guilty parties got away scot-free due to their connections. He declared a one-man war on crime, deciding that all criminals should be punished with death and if the state was too namby-pamby to do it, then he would. He occupies a very weird niche in the Marvel universe, having great success (at least, if you measure success by bodycount) in cutting through normal criminals of all kinds - mobsters, drug dealers, murderers, rapists, human traffickers, etc. But when facing off against supervillains, unless it's a D-lister that nobody cares about (like the freaking Stilt-Man), generally, Punisher is way less effectual, which does kind of make sense. But then you get into the little nagging thoughts like "why does nobody hire some of Marvel's bigger super-mercs on him? $10 million dollars in Juggernaut's account and you're going to have a Punisher pancake!"
Fans of Marvel either love Punisher for his grimdarkness, ultraviolence and cathartic "lethal vigilantism", sometimes even going so far as to hype him up as Marvel's resident embodiment of Humanity Fuck Yeah, or hate him as an edgelord asshole with really annoying fanboys... sort of a Deadpool 1.0.
The four Power siblings were given superpowers by a dying alien who tried, and failed, to stop another group of aliens from kidnapping their father to learn the secrets of the destructive matter/anti-matter bomb he accidentally created. In addition to a common abilities of moderate regeneration (can heal broken bones in days instead of months) that can be augmented by combining for a trance (able to cure supernatural disease), and summonable costumes, each of the four has a unique power based on aspects of physics. Alex, the bossy oldest sibling, has the power of tactile gravity manipulation and takes the name Gee (later taking advantage of temporary power loss to quietly switch to Zero-G when he's told how stupid "Gee" sounds). Julie/Lightspeed, the bibliophile elder sister, has the power of motion... which is really just high speed flight with a rainbow trail. Jack, the over-confident and jerkish younger brother, has control over his density (allowing him to switch to an ultra-dense miniature version or an insubstantial cloud of flying gas) becomes Mass Master. Katie/Energizer, the immature youngest child, gains the power of energy allowing her to convert mass to energy at a touch (with the explicit but purposefully avoided ability to use it on living beings) then shoot it out as a powerful exploding ball. Despite being a group of children, their stories were known to be extremely dark and heavily incorporated the regular crossover events, often to a greater extent than the series that was supposed to be the star (Inferno has had relatively little lasting impact on X-Men, but was catalyst for several major plot developments in the story of the Power children).
While merely B-Listers (if that) at their height, they stand out for being the newest Marvel heroes in the main continuity with actual relevance that didn't come from an existing property (and their debut is already closer to the release of Fantastic Four #1 than the present day). While the group has since split up as most of the members have reached adulthood, the component members make regular appearances.
The girls are also extremely popular in the western Loli fandom. Alongside the much older (in real world terms) Billy Batson, they're the model for superpowered children without adult superiors.
A terminal cancer patient subjected to an experimental treatment that gave the subject Wolverine's regeneration ability. Unfortunately for him, the rapid destruction and reconstruction of both body and mind has caused him to go crazy, and has left him horribly disfigured to the point he looks like Freddy Kruger and Brundlefly's horribly mutated lovechild. Possibly the oddest character to get popular; among other things, referred to as "The Regenerating Degenerate" "The Merc with the Mouth", and various other, less printable things, Deadpool started out as one of Rob Liefeld's many pointlessly edgy villains, but was eventually adopted into a much more interesting character by later writers. Deadpool's popularity is built on a few major pillars:
- Ultraviolence. The character came of age in an era when ultraviolence was popular, and between his regeneration and the fact that he's usually fighting generic criminal mooks, he's very much a "as much violence, blood, and guts as the rating allows" character.
- He's a pathetic loser. He's usually depicted as living in a dingy apartment, hated by just about everybody who knows him, and in general, is frequently portrayed as lower class. And the same experiment that gave him powers also resulted in him becoming completely insane, and in constant pain (the only reason he survived it is because his terminal cancer interacted with the induced regeneration factor in such a way that he could survive, unlike all the other subjects of said experiment).
- Wisecracks and random humor, especially weird pop culture references. Again, insane.
- He breaks the fourth wall. A lot. And he occasionally actually directly interacts with it in very odd ways. Most other characters write it off as him being insane, so he can do so in mostly serious works. Tends to get really played up in non-comics appearances; for example, in the Marvel vs Capcom games, he hits his opponent with their own health bar from the game's GUI.
Despite his huge fanbase in real life, Deadpool is very much a love-him-or-hate-him character, and has an almost equally vocal hatedom who despise him for being too "goofy"
Originally a dumb attempt to milk the mild success of Spider-Gwen and actual success of Deadpool, Gwen Polle is, in-fact, related to neither. After Marvel made the name and costume, they handed it off to freelancer Christopher Hastings (Yes, the guy behind Dr. McNinja.) and told to make an ongoing series despite the character literally being nothing but a name and costume. He took this opportunity make Gwen an interesting, well-rounded, original character that underwent actual character development and can truly be said to be an entirely different person at the end of her series while boasting a well rounded supporting cast of characters both new (Mega Tony, The Terrible Eye) and old (Batroc the Leaper as her mentor). Naturally his run wasn't renewed and the character was tossed to various less-talented (and presumably cheaper) authors who gave so few damns they couldn't keep her personality consistent, let alone live up the brief history of the character.
Gwen Polle was a high school drop-out in the "real" world who dreamed of becoming a comic book artist. While making easy money volunteering for sleep monitoring studies, she was somehow (the event is only mentioned in past-tense rather than fully detailed, so what exactly happened is unclear) is transported to Earth 616. There she acts as a dark reflection of the kid from Last Action Hero: Using her deep knowledge of comics to get by despite a lack of superpowers or extraordinary "mundane" ability, but also showing no concern to nameless characters she endangers or outright kills because (in her mind) nameless background characters don't matter. As mentioned above, that's just the start of her character.
Her first wakeup call comes when she is approached to work for M.O.D.O.K. Now M.O.D.O.K is a very silly looking late-Silver/early Bronze Age villain; a former grunt from the mad scientist's guild called Advanced Idea Mechanics who was mutated into a biological supercomputer, which warped him into an enormous and disfigured head atop a useless body, sealed into a cybernetic antigravity-propelled chair to get around. He's a very silly-looking villain, and so like any normie, Gwen laughs at him when he starts getting threatening. This is a big mistake. See, "M.O.D.O.K" stands for "Mental Organism Designed Only For Killing", and he is not only a super-genius, but also a psychopath, a sadist, and possessed of enough telekinetic energy to make an A-bomb look like a cap-gun. So he promptly vaporizes Gwen's only friend in the Marvel universe so far with a literal stray thought, and then gives her a "join me or die" ultimatum. Gwen, still clutching the charred skull of her buddy, promptly has a breakdown as she realizes that, yes, she really can die here, and she meekly submits to him.
Highlights from there include a portrayal of Batroc the Leaper that focuses on the fact he's actually always been presented as a skilled, highly professional badass, despite the silly name, and a failed attempt to beat Deadpool where he brutally establishes the efficacy of 4th wall breaking, meme-work, and invoking popularity power by showing her just how badly she lacks in these fields compared to him.
Was teased with being killed off for real, but was ultimately "canonized" into the wider Marvel universe as a crazy mutant whose 4th wall breaking is insanity, as her mind tries and partially fails to cope with her mutant ability, which is reality warping.
In 1993, DC Comics killed Superman. Naturally, Marvel couldn't resist hopping on that drastic roster-shaking bandwagon, and followed up in 1996 with the Onslaught event, in which a demonic entity comprised of the darkest parts of both Professor Xavier and Magneto's psyche ravaged the world and seemingly killed off a large portion of the best known heroes of the age. This left the Marvel Earth vulnerable, uncertain, crying out for new heroes.
And in July of 1997, they got them with an up-and-coming team calling itself "The Thunderbolts". Professing to be new heroes inspired to act by the fallen Avengers and X-Men, they set about proving themselves to the world. Led by the badass normal Citizen V, a self-professed heir to the World War 2 costumed patriot of the same name, the team of the giant-shifter Atlas, flying sonic construct-generator Songbird, Power Armored MACH (originally MACH 1, but he kept upgrading the numeral as he improved and revised the suit), flying energy-blaster Meteorite, and super-inventor (who later uploaded his brain engram to a robot body after his original one was killed) Techno stumbled at first, but ultimately won the love and trust of humanity, being welcomed as true heirs to the legacy of the Avengers, particularly once they took the traumatized electricity-manipulating orphan Jolt onto their team.
And that was when the truth came out. The Thunderbolts were actually a team of Avengers villains, led by the second Baron Zemo, who had come up with the idea to disguise themselves as new up-and-coming heroes as part of an elaborate ploy to set themselves up for world domination. And it worked! ...Unfortunately for Baron Zemo, half of his team had decided that they liked being heroes, Jolt had never been a villain in the first place, and even villainous psychiatrist Moonstone, aka Meteorite, chose to get whilst the getting was good... though not before beating Baron Zemo to a pulp and chewing him out on how the Thunderbolts could have set them up for years of profitable scams, if he hadn't blown it like an idiot on trying for something as stupid and unworkable as world domination.
Revealed, and with the old heroes returning, the repentant Thunderbolts find themselves tracked down by Hawkeye; an Avengers member who had actually cut his teeth as a costumed thief, he was willing to give them a chance to prove themselves. And they did; the revived Thunderbolts took in some new members and actually became a legitimate heroic team... until declining ratings saw them axed, and in-universe the Avengers disbanded them.
Afterwards, the Thunderbolts went through a tangle of various bullshit revivals and cancellations, but their current status in Marvel canon as an official, government-supported rehabilitation and outreach program for repentant supercrooks, and not without its share of successes. Ironically, this means that for once Marvel is actually the lighter of the two big comics universes; the closest analogue to the Thunderbolts over in DC Comics is Task Force X, aka "The Suicide Squad"; random supercriminals forced to run dangerous missions as expendable black ops agents with the carrot of getting released and the stick of bombs implanted in their brains to blow them up if they refuse or try to escape.
Introduced as fairly generic racial supremacist villain in the Silver Age - more or less Mutant Hitler with magnetism powers - Magneto was subsequently salvaged in the Bronze Age, which retconned him into having a much deeper backstory; born a German Jew, he lost his family to the death camps, and when he saw that anti-mutant sentiment was on the rise, he immediately saw the similarities to the anti-Semitism that had exterminated his kinsfolk, and he swore that he would not stand by and allow it to happen again. Add a few more traumas to deepen the misanthropy, stir in a genuine sense of nobility and a true zeal to protecting and promoting mutantkind, and somebody who had been a forgettable, generic villain went on to become one of Marvel's most popular villains, the mutie Malcom X to Professor Xavier's mutie Martin Luther King, and even a shift between "noble villain" and "antihero" over the decades.
One of Marvel's biggest cosmic villains, and also in many ways one of its weirdest. One of the heaviest hitters in the Marvel arsenal, Thanos is an alien overlord with a truly disturbing obsession with death. No, it's not that he wants to kill everyone per se, it's that he literally believes that Death is a cosmic entity with a female identity, and he wants to stick his dick in her. Whilst a few stories have suggested that he may be delusional and no such being exists, primarily the 1990s Silver Surfer cartoon, it's generally accepted that there really is a Lady Death (no relation to Neil Gaiman's or Bryan Pulido's individual takes on the concept), and she wants nothing to do with Thanos, whom she thinks of as a creepy stalker. To try and win her over, Thanos has committed acts of genocide on a galactic scale, and even created the reality-controlling Infinity Gauntlet as an attempt to try and force her into loving him back.
One of the few Golden Age baddies to still be running around in modern Marvel, the Red Skull was originally a psychotic youth in Nazi Germany, a random bellboy in a hotel whom Hitler declared could be made into a better Nazi than any of his supposedly elite agents he was meeting with at the hotel at a time, and succeeded. Red Skull is generally portrayed as a masterful spy and manipulator, whose primary role in the World War 2 comics was a combination of overseeing various Nazi mad science projects and managing a spy ring of Nazi American 5th columnists. He usually has no inherent superpowers of his own, unless you count his iconic "Dust of Death"; a toxic compound that swiftly kills the victim and dissolves their face, leaving them with a bloody skull for a head. His own similar mug used to be a mask, until he was exposed to the Dust of Death and somehow survived.
In modern times, he's either attempting to lead a Nazi revival or just trying to take over the world for his own brand of hate-fueled tyranny, depending on the story.
Archenemy of the Fantastic Four as a whole and Reed Richards in particular, Victor von Doom was born the son of a medical doctor and a Romani woman in Latveria - a small unimportant nation somewhere in the middle of Europe. After the deaths of his parents, which may or may not be of importance to his future character development depending on the story, he traveled to America to learn advanced technological sciences, where he proved himself as a genius. It was here that he met Reed Richards; they were roommates. When one of Doom's experiments blew up, he was expelled from the academy, and he blamed Richards; Reed had previously pointed out that Doom had made a mistake in one of his calculations, Doom had ignored him, and so Doom was convinced that Reed had sabotaged him out of spite.
Which nicely encapsulates Doom's biggest flaw: he is an total raging egomaniac, a man with a god complex so powerful he has literally been able to no-sell some of Marvel's most powerful mind-controllers because he is that wrapped up in his own arrogance and sense of self-importance.
Returning to Latveria, Doom built himself an intimidating suit of power armor, conquered the nation of his birth, and began plotting to conquer the world, usually using diplomatic immunity to escape the consequences of his failures. The most notable bit of his armor is his mask, said to cover the allegedly horrifying injuries his face suffered from the explosion. Some comics confirm that the damage is real, while others say that it's merely a scratch blown out of proportion by his ego. The current story splits the difference; the trauma was superficial but in his haste, Doom put on the mask while it was fresh from the forge, disfiguring himself for real.
Some of Doom's most notable traits, outside of the whole "power armored egomaniacal self-righteous world conqueror" thing, include:
- He's acknowledged as the world's greatest master of robotics, and has been using robot clones of himself, called "Doombots", to escape actually being captured or punished for years. Marvel writers love to abuse Doombots as a way to handwave away anything they don't like from other Doom stories.
- Doom actually practices magitek, combining sorcerous skills learned from his mother with the technological skills he learned in America. In fact, originally, the idea was that's actually not as great at either science or sorcery as the more big name specialists, but he can fake being better by using the combination to cheat around their stylistic limitations.
Doom is basically the Wolverine of Marvel's villains, or perhaps maybe the Lex Luthor; it started out that Doom was supposed to be just an operatically flamboyant and egomaniacal asshole, but over the years, writers have fallen so in love with him that they've increasingly portrayed him as actually living up to his own hype.
Cartoons, TVs and Movies
Naturally, Marvel has tried to branch out into other media with their characters for years, but... never to any real success. In the 90s, they struggled to create their own counterpart to the DC Animated Universe, but poor inter-connectivity and a lot of executive screwups (Spider-Man not being allowed to punch people) meant that the shows they put together just couldn't cut it.
Not helping was that, due to bankruptcy, movie rights to several of their most prominent characters - the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, and Spider-Man - were sold off to 20th Century Fox, whilst the rest of Marvel would ultimately become a subsidiary of Disney, leading to Marvel literally competing against itself.
With the creation of the MCU, the general perception of Marvel's extra-comic media has more or less settled into "Marvel does shit cartoons and TV shows, but great movies; DC does great cartoons and TV shows, but shit movies", due to DC's incredibly fumbled attempts to try and jump on the MCU-style movie-verse bandwagon. However, DC has slowly started to get better at things, so who can say how it'll develop.
Surprisingly, Marvel traditionally was very leery of delving into TV shows. Up until the release of the MCU, whereupon they began flooding the market with tie-in TV shows based around B-lister superheroes.
Outside of that library, the list is quite short. In the late 1970s, they ran a 2-season, 13 episode Spider-man show called "The Amazing Spider-Man" (1977-1979) and, weirdly, a Japanese sentai version of Spider-Man called, simply, "Spider-Man", which ran for a single 41 episode season (1977-1979), as well as their biggest TV show; the 5-season, 80-episode long "The Incredible Hulk" (1977-1982).
After this, they went on hiatus, until 2006 saw them release a failed sequel series to the Blade films called, simply, "Blade" (1 season, 12 episodes).
Then, from 2017 to 2019, they ran two series that attempted to be "X-men shows without the X-men"; Legion and The Gifted, with the former being based on a minor X-man villain (David "Legion" Hall, who has the ability to literally give himself any superpower he can imagine, at the cost of each power being controlled by its own independent personality) and the latter being loosely based on the New Mutants (the "Junior Division" of the X-men).
Unlike TV shows, this is where Marvel concentrated its extra-comic media, producing a very large array of different comics over the years.
Animated Comics were Marvel's first debut into animation; these mid-60s shows were all basically animated (barely) adaptations of then-current Marvel comics.
- The first of these, and the first ever Marvel cartoon, was 1966's The Marvel Super Heroes, an anthology of Captain America, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, The Mighty Thor, and The Sub-Mariner.
- Fantastic Four, an independent show in the same style, debuted in 1967 and ran for a year.
- Spider-Man, a Spidey cartoon in the same vein, ran from 1967=1970.
As the 1960s ended, the Marvel cartoons went silent, until the late 1970s, with shows mostly notable for having better animation than the original animated comics shows:
- The New Fantastic Four started the show in 1978; this one is mostly remembered for dropping the Human Torch for a bumbling robot sidekick named H.E.R.B.I.E.
- Fred and Barney Meet the Thing (1979) paired Flintstones episodes with a weird alternate version of the Thing as a teenager who could use a magic ring to assume the form of the Thing.
- Jessica Drew entered the limelight in 1979 with the Spider-Woman cartoon. She only ran until 1980.
- In 1981, the second Spider-Man cartoon debuted.. it too ran for just a year, but it also ran concurrently with Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, which had Spider-Man rooming with and fighting crime alongside Iceman of the X-Men and new original character Firestar, a female analogue of the Human Torch who was later brought into the comics as an X-man.
- The Incredible Hulk also got his second cartoon series from 1982 to 1983.
Once again, the cartoons dropped off the picture... and then the 90s started, and we got the Marvel Animated Universe. Well... kinda. Whilst Marvel wanted to compete with the DC Animated Universe, despite the fact that they had all their shows being produced by the same company (Saban Entertainment), they never managed to pull off the same level of interconnectivity as their DC rivals. Combined with extreme restrictions from the censors, and... well, they're not bad cartoons, but they just never stood out quite the way their DC rivals did.
- X-Men the Animated Series started the show, and showcases the best (and also the worst) of the MAU. It drew deep inspiration from the comics of the 80s and 90s, and often made changes that were in many ways superior to the original.
- Fantastic Four
- Iron Man was a weird show, mostly because it took its roots from the short-lived "Force Works" comic series, which was about Iron Man leading his own knock-off to the Avengers.
- Spider-Man the Animated Series
- The Incredible Hulk
- Silver Surfer
- Spider-Man Unlimited was intended to be a sequel to the original Spider-Man TAS, but Marvel dropped the ball on actually making it feel like a sequel. Combined with the weird choice of story - Spider-Man is stranded on an alien world whilst trying to stop Venom and Carnage - and, well, it was the beginning of the end of the MAU, being cut short at 13 episodes and ending on a cliff-hanging. It ran from 1999 to 2001.
- The Avengers: United They Stand was the very first Avengers cartoon, and generally considered the worst of the Marvel Animated Universe cartoons.
Whilst the Marvel Animated Universe died, it paved the way for a further wave of Marvel cartoons across the early 2000s and into the 2010s.
It started with X-Men: Evolution, a reimagining of the X-Men that portrayed most of the characters as teenagers (except for Beast, Storm and Wolverine, who were teachers). It ran from 2000 to 2003.
2003 also saw the release of the CGI Spider-Man: The New Animated Series, a tie-in to the original Fox Spider-Man films that only lasted one season.
2006-7 saw the release of Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Heroes, which unlike its predecessors focused on telling entirely new stories rather than adapting comic stories.
2008-9 featured The Spectacular Spider-Man, which like X-Men: Evolution focused on a teenage version of the titular wall-crawler, and was in fact the first cartoon to focus on the "teen Spidey years". Widely beloved.
In 2009, Wolverine and the X-Men ran for a single season. This version of the show had Xavier's mansion leveled by a mysterious explosion, which seemingly kills Xavier. A year later, Xavier telepathically communicates to Wolverine from a bad future where the Sentinels rule and instructs Wolverine to re-assemble the X-Men.
Iron Man: Armored Adventures (2009-12) was another "teenage years!" version of a Marvel superhero.
The Super Hero Squad Show, which ran for 2 seasons from 2009-2011,was a super-deformed, self-aware parody-comedy in which Iron Man and Dr. Doom duelled for possession of the shattered "fractals" of the reality-bending Infinity Sword with their respective teams of supers.
In 2012, the second Avengers-based cartoon, The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes was released. Running for two seasons before being cancelled, in comparison to its predecessor, it was widely beloved and like Spectacular Spider-Man is often held up as one of the best Marvel animated series.
In 2010 to 2012, Marvel released 4 12-episode long anime series, based on Iron Man, Wolvering, the X-MIen, and Blade.
From 2012, the cartoons became more... "MCU adjacent", with a distinct tendency to employ MCU-style humor. These cartoons are not as well received as their precursors.
- Ultimate Spider-Man
- Avengers Assemble
- Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H
- Guardians of the Galaxy
- Marvel's Spider-Man
Marvel Cinematic Universe
The largest franchise on Earth at the moment, the MCU has plenty of coverage elsewhere. We only mention it here because, again, most profitable franchise on Earth at the moment.
Weird Connections and Other Trivia
While DC comics has their fair share of weird connections (did you know about the time Superman more or less successfully fought the KKK in real life?), Marvel probably has more. In part because of their more or less open-to-just-about-anybody sprawling merchandising empire and various attempts to make money, they had a lot of weird connections to various other things. Here are a few:
- The Tokusatsu genre owes a lot to various Marvel projects: The Japanese version of Spider-Man, for example, was the first Tokusatsu show to feature a giant robot, and Marvel did some licensing that resulted in them being credited in three seasons of Super Sentai (better known as the series that would later be transformed into Power Rangers).
- There was a fully licensed Star Trek/X-Men novel entitled "Planet X". It's as stupid as it sounds.
- One particular X-Men character, Wolverine, became so well-known for gratuitous cameos that TVTropes named their page on "Brief cameos of a popular character that are heavily advertised but amount to nothing" "Wolverine Publicity".
- She-Hulk and Spider-Woman owe their origin in the real world to the Bionic Woman tv show, mixed with Marvel's own TV versions of Hulk and Spider-man going on at the time. After the success of the Bionic Woman (a spin-off of The Seven Million Dollar Man), it was quickly realized by Marvel's lawyers that the producers of these TV series could invent their own female versions of Hulk and Spider-man, and not pay Marvel a cent for such a spin-off series, so two female versions of the Hulk and Spider-man were quickly created to prevent such an eventually. She-Hulk stuck around, Spider-woman did not.
- You know those ankle bracelet monitors that prisoners on release of one sort or another wear? The Judge who more or less invented them was directly inspired by a newspaper Spider-Man storyline involving the web-slinger having an armlet forcibly attached by the Kingpin to always know his location (and thus, alert his minions).
- Side note: One of the most baffling parts of the Marvel publishing empire is the newspaper version of Spider-Man. Starting in the late 70s, there still exists a newspaper comic version of Spider-man, mainly notable for being (as of 2020) the only ongoing work where Peter Parker is still married to Mary Jane Watson. If you've never read an "action" newspaper strip, think about how much action you can fit in three or four panels, each roughly the size of a postage stamp, and then add in that you need to have a recap every single day of what happened yesterday, since people frequently miss a day (admittedly, only a few words, but it still makes things that much weirder), an even stricter "Status Quo is God" requirement than most TV SitComs, a need to cater to the lowest common denominator, and strict restrictions on what kind of action can be shown, and you get some very deep weirdness in both structure and storytelling. Newspaper Spider-Man was no exception to this trend. Currently in permanent reruns (a lot of newspaper comics do this rather than get fully cancelled, as sometimes they get revived) as of 2019.
Like its rival, Marvel Comics have produced a number of licensed tie-in RPGs, and even TSR partnered up with them to bring those games to the table. There's also the Fantasy Flight's Marvel Champions Living Card Game and X-Men Mutant Insurrection. There's also Marvel's Crisis Protocol produced by Atomic Mass Games, a skirmish level wargame with some fairly neat minis.
For Warhammer fans and Thor aficionados in particular, there's the Skub-filled topic of Malekith the Dark Elf King. Y'see, Marvel Comics released a character by that name and title in 1983, while Games Workshop would release their own Dark Elves a year later, and their king would follow them in 1994. Though both companies have more or less kept mum on the issue, fanbases of both IPs have discussed and argued about this in their stead. Ultimately The End Times came and GeeDubs yielded, ultimately changing their Malekith's name to Malerion come Age of Sigmar. Thus ended a 31-to-19 year-long cold war, six of those years after Disney's buyout of Marvel which, while a bit impressive, no doubt convinced GW to throw in the towel due to the potential threat of legal action from both the House of Stan and Jack and the Mouse.
- Why would this make him popular? Well, because it makes him very relatable, sympathetic, and grounded. And it feeds into the "grungy and ugly" side of the character, which is part of the whole "ultraviolence" thing.
- Although some of the more interesting Deadpool comics lean into that kind of goofy--for example, "Deadpool Killustrated" features an evil Deadpool killing off characters from classic literature, or "Choose Your Own Deadpool", which is a gamebook/comic that does a few interesting things with that scenario.