Marvel comics have featured over 7,000 major characters over the years which leaves them with a massive catalog to choose from for their movies and future stories. Of course, the focus has to be on the heroes, which drive the story forward and always manage to save the day.
With still so many potential heroes out there to choose from, which are the best out of the legendary comic book giant’s collected series? We’ve gathered up the best of the best in this list!
Steve Rogers enlisted in the Second World War, before he joined an experimental program to create super soldiers for The United States and became the first Captain America. Rogers was frozen in suspended animation as the war came to a close and remained so until S.H.I.E.L.D. revived him in the modern era.
Captain America first debuted in 1941 in Captain America Comics #1. He is the leader of the Avengers and uses a combination of his super strength and vibranium shield to fight for justice. After Steve Rogers stepped away from the mantle of Captain America, his shield was passed to others including Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes.
Thor debuted in Journey Into Mystery #83 in 1962 and is a character straight out of Norse mythology who hails from the realm of Asgard. He is the god of thunder and wields his mighty hammer known as Mjolnir which only the worthy are capable of wielding and allows Thor to fly and manipulate the weather.
Thor is a founding member of the Avengers and eventually passes Mjolnir onto Jane Foster who gains his abilities and becomes the goddess of thunder while Thor forges a new battle-ax called Jarnbjorn — though the time of Jane Foster as Thor has now come to an end. His brother Loki, the god of mischief often serves as an antagonist to Thor and his fellow Avengers.
Iron Man is the alter ego of playboy billionaire Tony Stark. He first appeared in Tales of Suspense #39 in 1963. After suffering a severe injury to his chest during his kidnapping, his captors attempt to force him to build a superweapon for them. Instead, he escapes by building his first suit of armor which he later iterates on to become Iron Man.
Stark is also a founding member of The Avengers and one of the few Marvel heroes to have no superpowers, instead relying on his wealth and technical genius to go toe to toe with some of the most powerful beings in the universe.
Peter Parker becomes the first Spider-Man after a radioactive spider bites the unsuspecting high schooler, endowing him with the ability to scale walls and sense imminent danger. First appearing in Amazing Fantasy #15 in 1962, Spider-Man designs his own costume and web-shooters, which he uses to swing between buildings as he traverses the vast metropolis of New York City.
Spider-Man also boasts one of the most unique casts of villains of any Marvel hero, ranging from Vulture and the Green Goblin to Rhino and Venom. Spider-Man regularly collaborates with the Avengers and has even inspired other spider heroes like Spider-Woman and the second Spider-Man, Miles Morales who has quickly become just as iconic as Peter Parker before him.
Captain Marvel was originally a Kree Imperial Military officer named Mar-Vell who first appeared in Marvel Super-Heroes #12 in 1967. Captain Marvel’s powers stem from his Kree DNA and he eventually grows skeptical of his superiors, choosing to protect Earth from the Kree Empire as well as other threats to the safety of the planet.
Other characters in the Marvel Universe eventually take on the role of Captain Marvel after Mar-Vell’s death, including Carol Danvers (pictured above) and Monica Rambeau.
Carol Danvers is the original Ms. Marvel and first appeared in Marvel Super-Heroes #13 in 1969. She’s a human member of the United States Air Force until an explosion merges her DNA with that of Captain Marvel, forever changing her life with Kree abilities. Danvers eventually joined the Avengers and went on to become the next Captain Marvel.
The other most notable Ms. Marvel is Kamala Khan, the fourth character in the Marvel Universe to go by that name, first appearing in Captain Marvel #14 in 2013. She’s a teenage Pakistani-American and the first Muslim hero with her own comic series in the Marvel Universe, with the power to shift both her shape and size. She also appears in the 2020 Avengers video game and will star in her own Disney+ series.
Wanda Maximoff is the Scarlet Witch and first appeared in The X-Men #4 in 1964. Originally considered a mutant born with the X-gene in earlier iterations of the character, Wanda is a powerful witch capable of altering reality. A 2015 storyline retconned her past to indicate her powers came about as a result of experimentation during her childhood. Wanda’s brother is Pietro Maximoff, also known as Quicksilver.
Scarlet Witch has appeared as both an antagonist and a hero throughout her history in the Marvel Universe. She was a villain when she debuted alongside her brother, but later joined the Avengers where she met her eventual husband, Vision.
Vision is a unique hero in the Marvel Universe as an android and the creation of Ultron. Ultron created Vision in Avengers Volume 1 #57 in 1968 to use him in his plot to eradicate the Avengers. Ultron’s plan backfires when Vision instead decides to help the Avengers.
Vision would eventually become a core member of the Avengers, falling in love with and later marrying Scarlet Witch. Despite their apparent biological incompatibility, the pair are able to conceive twins using Wanda’s magic. The children, Thomas and Billy go on to become heroes themselves with the alter egos Wiccan and Speed.
The Hulk first debuted in 1962 with the first issue of The Incredible Hulk. Akin to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Hulk is the dissociative personality of the scientist, Bruce Banner, who became the massive, green monstrosity when he accidentally exposed himself to gamma rays. Hulk manifests in Banner any time he becomes excessively angry and emotionally distressed, causing him to lose control of his mind and wreak havoc and destruction.
Banner struggles constantly to keep himself from transforming into Hulk without meaning to or even gain conscious control of Hulk at the times he does manifest. Hulk is another regular member of the Avengers, but the unpredictable nature of his powers means he can sometimes prove a liability for his comrades.
Doctor Steven Strange brings mystical spin to the Marvel Universe and first appeared in Strange Tales #110 in 1963. Before gaining his supernatural abilities, Strange was an extraordinarily gifted surgeon with an ego to match. After suffering a car crash that makes it impossible for him to resume his practice, the shattered Strange desperately searches for a way to heal himself, eventually coming across the Ancient One who reluctantly takes him on as his pupil.
Strange’s training not only allows him to heal but learn a host of mystical abilities and he ultimately becomes the Sorcerer Supreme, protecting Earth from dangers of supernatural and magical origin. Strange has regularly shown up as a supporting character throughout the Marvel Universe at various times aiding the Avengers and Spider-Man among others.
Black Panther is King T’Challa of the land of Wakanda and first appeared in Fantastic Four #52 in 1966. Black Panther derives his abilities from a combination of ancient Wakandan rituals, combat training, and highly advanced Wakandan technology.
Notable for being the first Black superhero in a major American comic, Black Panther appears in storylines for the Avengers, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and others in addition to his own comics. Besides T’Challa, others like his sister Shuri and Kasper Cole have stepped into the role of Black Panther at different points throughout the character’s history.
Daredevil is the alter ego of Matt Murdock, an attorney who was involved in a radioactive accident as a child, costing him his vision, but allowing him to develop a sort of radar using his other senses. Daredevil made his debut in Daredevil #1 in 1964 and protects the crime-infested New York district of Hell’s Kitchen.
After his accident and the murder of his father, Murdock trains under the tutelage of another blind man named Stick where he learns how to fend for himself despite his disability. Daredevil decides to take revenge against the gangsters who murdered his father, a task which ultimately leads him to the villainous Kingpin, Wilson Fisk. Daredevil has become an iconic hero of the Marvel Universe and appeared alongside other Marvel heroes including Hulk and the X-Men.
Luke Cage, originally named Carl Lucas came about in the midst of the blaxploitation era, making his debut in 1972 with Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #1. He’s the first black superhero to be the title character of a comic book and gains his powers in prison when he takes part in an experiment that gives him incredible strength and impenetrable skin.
Luke Cage falls in love with and eventually marries the superhuman investigator, Jessica Jones, and teams up with the Iron Fist to form the superhero duo of Iron Fist and Power Man. Additionally, Cage becomes a member of the New Avengers and also crosses paths with other heroes like the Fantastic Four and Iron Man during his adventures.
Jessica Jones is a private investigator and one of the more recently conceived Marvel heroes, making her debut in 2001’s Alias #1. She gains her powers after she comes into contact with chemicals that initially send her into a coma. After she wakes up, Jones discovers she can fly and lift massive objects with her superhuman strength.
The storylines Jones is involved in tend to deal with more mature subject matter than your typical Marvel Comics. Like her eventual husband, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones joins the New Avengers and has also appeared under the names Power Woman, Knightress, and Jewel
Wolverine, who was born James Howlett during the 1800s and goes by the name Logan, first appeared in The Incredible Hulk #180 in 1974. He’s a mutant with the ability to heal much faster than a typical human in addition to his animal-like senses, extended longevity, and claws made of bone that extend from his knuckles.
Wolverine becomes even more resilient after a series of experiments coat his bones with adamantium, an extremely tough metal. While he is most closely associated with the X-Men, he also fights alongside the Avengers and appears in storylines all on his own.
Deadpool, also known as Wade Wilson is one of the more comical heroes in the Marvel Universe and is famous for constantly cracking jokes and frequently breaking the fourth wall. Like Wolverine, Deadpool is capable of healing quickly after suffering what would otherwise be mortal wounds. He first appeared as a villain in The New Mutants #98 in 1991, before settling into the antihero role he is more commonly known for.
Deadpool appears at various points in the Marvel Universe from Spider-Man to X-Men and What if…? scenarios. His backstory varies depending on the storyline and some characters have even questioned whether he is the real Wade Wilson or just an impostor.
The Fantastic Four
Since the Fantastic Four have always worked as a team, we’re including them as a single entry on this list. Composed of Mr. Fantastic, his wife, The Invisible Woman, her brother, The Human Torch, and their friend The Thing, the Fantastic Four gain their superhuman abilities via a mission to space where they are exposed to radioactive waves. They made their debut in 1961 with The Fantastic Four #1 and their alter egos are Reed Richards, Susan Storm, Johnny Storm, and Ben Grimm respectively.
Mr. Fantastic can stretch his body well beyond normal human limits, The Invisible Woman can turn invisible and project forcefields, The Human Torch can fly while engulfed in flames and shoot flames from his body, while The Thing is incredibly strong and resistant to harm thanks to his tough skin. The Fantastic Four face some of the most powerful villains in the Marvel Universe including Doctor Doom and Ronan the Accuser, who hails from the same powerful alien race as Captain Marvel.
Blade is a vampire hunter and a dhampir who first appeared in The Tomb of Dracula #10 in 1973. His real name is Eric Brooks and he gained his part-vampirism as a newborn when a vampire doctor sucked the life out of his mother as she gave birth. Brooks claims to have developed a hatred for vampires ever since.
As a child, he learned how to hunt vampires from a man named Jamal Afari as well as the man who trained Daredevil known as Stick. Blade has hunted and killed countless vampires, perhaps most notably, Dracula himself.
Shang Chi isn’t superhuman, but the legendary mastery of his chi and the art of kung fu make him a formidable enough mortal to stand up to some of Marvel’s most powerful characters. He’s capable of deflecting, dodging, and catching bullets and is proficient in the use of his bare hands as well as an array of deadly melee weapons.
Shang Chi first appeared in Special Marvel Edition #15 in 1973 and has faced off with heroes like Spider-Man and Captain America, and even deities like Ares, the god of war.
The Guardians Of The Galaxy
The Guardians of the Galaxy are another team of heroes included as a single entry on this list and first appeared in their modern composition in 2008’s Annihilation: Conquest #6. They consist of Star-Lord, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Drax the Destroyer, Gamora, Phyla-Vell, and Adam Warlock. The team comes together in the wake of the Annihilation: Conquest storyline and are among Marvel’s cosmic heroes.
The Guardians work to protect the Galaxy from further threats like the Kree Empire and Ultron after the Phalanx Invasion and are the successors to the original Guardians of the Galaxy, an entirely different team of heroes who debuted in 1969.