There are more than 7,000 characters in the Marvel universe.1 If you’re giant-sized Marvel fans like we are at CultureFly, then you’re probably sitting down with a pencil and paper to see how many of the strongest Marvel heroes or strongest Marvel villains you can list.
We recently sat down to make our list of the best Marvel comic characters. But how do we rank them? By their power level? The number of appearances they’ve made in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Or based on how intrigued we are whenever these characters pop up on the page or on-screen?
All of the above, we decided. Read on to discover which Marvel characters we’ve chosen as the best of the best.
We’re sneaking this one in at the bottom in the hopes our friends at Marvel entertainment see it and give us a true Young Avengers series.
Only true superfans know about Elijah Bradley who appeared in Young Avengers, teaming up with Hawkeye’s Kate Bishop and the Scarlet Witch’s teenage twins. Elijah’s grandfather was experimented upon during the drug trials that led to the creation of the Super Soldier Serum which would eventually give Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, his power. Elijah inherited his powers from his sick grandfather, along with the complex legacy of being a superhero the government never intended to keep around.
We briefly met Elijah Bradley’s MCU tv show version in Falcon & The Winter Soldier and hope to see more of him soon.
Are there cooler X-Men? Of course, we’d obviously rather party with Wolverine or Gambit. Are there X-Men with better powers? Yeah, like, all of them. Cyclops’ powers are eye beams. Are there less annoying X-Men? Again, yeah, all of them.
But even considering all that, Cyclops is still the best. He’s had such a wild arc in the comics.
- First, in the Boy Scout years, leader of the team and a total suck-up to Charles Xavier.
- Then, the love triangle years, where he ends up married to Jean Grey even though we all ship her with Logan.
- But when Jean goes all Dark Phoenix, Scott enters a major emo phase that culminates with him…
- …to hooking up with White Queen and becoming a mutant revolutionary on par with Magneto. He even kind of kills Professor X (for a little while, at least).
- And finally, he helps found a mutant paradise and sovereign nation where we’re sure nothing terrible will ever happen.
James Marsden’s casting in the original X-Men movies remains some of Marvel’s best. You can’t tell us you don’t get teary-eyed when he leaves Jean behind in X2.
#8. Ms. Marvel
“Good is not a thing you are. It’s a thing you do.”
Meet Kamala Khan—avid Avengers fan-fic writer, daughter of overprotective parents, and big-hearted hero that took the Marvel world by storm.
When the original Ms. Marvel series started in 2014 by superstar G. Willow Wilson, it broke new ground by introducing Marvel’s first Muslim hero.2 The comic was an immediate hit with its funky visual style, incredible detail, and authentic tear-at-your-heart-string characters. Pretty soon, Kamala went from battling local thugs around Jersey City to hanging out with Spider-Man and giving Wolverine piggyback rides (yes, this is 100% canon).
We were so excited to see Kamala get introduced to the MCU this summer and even more thrilled to see that Iman Vellani is a full-blown comic book geek like us. Vellani started reading Ms. Marvel comics when she was ten, and don’t even get us started on her 9th grade Kamala Khan cosplay.3 Talk about absurdly perfect casting.
Break the fourth wall, much? The merc with the mouth started as an enemy of the X-Men—a psychotic and deluded assassin with a healing factor to rival Wolverine. Slowly, over time, he wormed his way into the X-Men’s good graces (although he’s still not officially a member), fighting alongside his best buddy Cable.
Deadpool’s self-titled comic series helmed by Gail Simone remains a fan favorite and features some of the best battles in comics, including a genuinely stunning showdown between Deadpool and Captain America.
Does any Marvel superhero have a more iconic dialogue bubble than Deadpool’s yellow-shaded quips?
We don’t think so.
#6. The Incredible Hulk
Of all Marvel’s characters, Hulk has probably had the most adaptations. Back in the 80s, bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno painted his muscles green, then Eric Bana, Ed Norton, and finally Mark Ruffalo. It took the visual effects industry decades to bring the Hulk to life on screen properly. We’re glad they finally nailed it with Ruffalo because he’s one of the best Marvel characters.
There’s nothing more cathartic than a Hulk smash! And we like Bruce Banner, too, with his brainy insecurities and obvious anger management issues. Who can’t relate? Plus, Hulk has some incredible runs in the comics, including:
- The Gray Hulk Saga – An 80s classic where Hulk finally controls his anger and utilizes Banner’s smarts in dangerous ways.
- Planet Hulk – Hulk in space. A big inspiration for Thor: Ragnarok, actually.
- World War Hulk – Where Hulk goes to war with the entire planet because the Fantastic Four decided it would be wise to shoot him into space. (Don’t shoot Hulk anywhere he doesn’t want to go.)
#5. Black Panther (T’Challa and Shuri)
It’s hard to write about Black Panther without thinking about the tragic loss of Chadwick Boseman, who played T’Challa in the MCU. We aren’t sure what will happen with that role in the MCU, but we still can’t wait to get back to the vibrant setting of Wakanda.
One of our favorite arcs in the comics comes when Black Panther disappears, and Shuri is pressured to leave the safety of her laboratory and take up the mantle. Kings and queens may come and go, but there is always a Black Panther.
One of these days, the King of Atlantis is going to swim his way into the MCU, and we’re finally going to bow in respect to our amphibian overlord. Namor is our favorite character that hasn’t yet gotten the film treatment, probably because they haven’t been able to find someone with the right blend of stately arrogance and pompous rage.
Namor’s battles with the Fantastic Four (he’s going to steal your wife, Reed Richards!) and the Black Panther (he’s going to invade your country, T’Challa!) are some of our favorite arcs in the comic books. We can’t wait to see Marvel’s best anti-hero finally shine on screen.
#3. Scarlet Witch
We love us some Wanda Maximoff. Whether it’s the MCU version who suffers from severe PTSD after the death of Vision or the 616 version who has major daddy issues with her father Magneto, the incredible thing about the Scarlet Witch is how she inevitably makes life weird. For example:
- The entire run of WandaVision. We didn’t know how badly we needed an MCU version of Malcolm in the Middle.
- The time in the comics, she whispered “no more mutants” and instantly stripped thousands of mutants of their powers.
- In the 2015 James Robinson arc, she travels across the world righting her witchy wrongs with Agatha’s ghost constantly over her shoulder, giving her advice/promising to murder her eventually. (Those red-and-white covers were iconic).
If this was a list of who is the most powerful Marvel character, Thor might have made it to the top. He’s:
- A literal god who can control thunder and lightning
- Is strong enough to go toe-to-toe with the Hulk
- Has a hammer that only he can lift. (Well, most of the time.)
When it comes to the MCU, Thor is a top source of comic relief (especially Chris Hemsworth playing a depressed and pudgy Thor) and high-quality action sequences. Heck, Thor: Ragnarok even made it on our list of top ten Marvel movies of all time. Thor is no slouch in the comics either, and we recommend all super-fans check out Jason Aaron’s fantastic run on the title where Thor starts going by Odinson and Jane Foster picks up Mjolnir for the first time. It’s the inspiration for much of what goes down in Thor: Love and Thunder.
#1. All the Spider People
With great power comes great responsibility. Words that have held up since Uncle Ben first imparted them to Peter Parker in the 1960s. The extended Spider-Family is such an iconic part of this Marvel comic that it’s hard to put on above the others. We love them all for different reasons.
- Peter Parker – The original nerd is our wise-cracking idol, whether as a teenage Tom Holland in the MCU or a grown-up trying to make it work with Mary Jane in the comics.
- Miles Morales – For being a worthy successor to Parker and for bringing his own code of honor and comedic style to the web-shooting family.
- Gwen Stacy – The punk-rocking Spider-Gwen is the best of hundreds of Parker clones and has one of the sweetest-looking costumes in all of comicdom (Marvel universe AND DC comics included.)
We love that every person who dons the spider emblem is a working-class hero that believes in protecting their community and fighting for the greater good. That makes them the best on our list.
The Best Marvel Characters Are The Ones You Bring Home with CultureFly
Who would you put at the top of your list of best Marvel characters? Maybe you’re a big supporter of Doctor Strange. Or maybe you owe your allegiance to the great nation of Wakanda. Perhaps you’re fixated on Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, Captain America, and the rest of the Avengers gang.
No matter who you’ve got at the top of your list, CultureFly’s exclusive Nerd Boxes have you covered. All of our boxes—including Avengers, Black Panther, and Loki—come stuffed with unique collectibles created by Stan Lee superfans who are just as passionate about the Marvel Universe as you are.
Take up the mantle and join your favorite Marvel studio heroes with CultureFly!
- Quartz. Marvel’s Movie Footprint is Comically Massive. https://qz.com/1206265/marvels-movie-footprint-is-comically-massive/
- Marvel. A Reader’s Guide to Ms. Marvel. https://www.marvel.com/articles/culture-lifestyle/readers-guide-to-ms-marvel-entry-points-for-all-ages-and-new-fans
- We Got This Covered. ‘Ms. Marvel’ star once dressed as Kamala Khan for Halloween — and fans love it. https://wegotthiscovered.com/tv/ms-marvel-star-once-dressed-as-kamala-khan-for-halloween-and-fans-love-it/
- Comic Book. Thor Writer Jason Aaron Confirms He Consulted On Love and Thunder. https://comicbook.com/marvel/news/thor-writer-jason-aaron-consulted-on-love-and-thunder/