Top 10 Marvel Characters, part 1

by Jeremy DeFatta

Good day, everyone! Today, I want to offer all of you the first half of my top ten favorite Marvel characters. Let’s jump right in with numbers 1-5!

1. Captain America – What can I say? It’s just not the Avengers without him. He is good and kind and those are Capshieldhis greatest strengths, even beyond being a super soldier. There have been a lot of rough patches in his characterization over the years (he’s a few years shy of being as old as Superman and Batman, after all), but recent writers have made him a compassionate advocate for civil rights and all forms of justice. Regardless of your feelings about the character or even the United States in real life, Steve Rogers is now used to demonstrate what is best about us rather than focusing on negative things.

2. Thor – I’ll admit I have a soft spot for Norse myths, but there is more to it than that. It is reasonable to say that Jack Kirby likely decided to include an established pagan god in the Avengers in order to lend weight to his construction of superheroes as a modern American body of mythology. In this interconnected way, Marvel superheroes and Thor sort of endlessly make each other interesting to me. I strongly recommend checking out the current run of Thor: God of Thunder by Jason Aaron. It is well worth it.

3. Daredevil – I’m a big fan of Matt Murdock and have read a lot of different versions of him. Frank Miller, Kevin Smith, David Mack, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, and Mark Waid have all left very different marks on the character but each succeeds in making him interesting and compelling. Check out my Top Marvel Stories Since 2000 post to see more of my thoughts on the character.

4. Luke Cage – Luke Cage is a fairly straightforward, but anomalous, character. His origins seem tossed together and LukeCagehis early adventures in the 70s are painfully corny. That said, Brian Michael Bendis made him a stand-out character to root for during his run on New Avengers. Bendis has a bit of a knack for making C-list characters great, and Luke Cage is now a beloved and recognizable superhero.

Doctor_Strange_Spider-Man

5. Dr. Strange – Stephen Strange was a mild-mannered, middle-aged surgeon until tragedy befell him and a career-ending injury sent him in search of new ways to heal himself. Now, Dr. Strange is the most powerful magic-using character in the Marvel Universe and has been involved in every major event of the past decade. He is currently one of the main characters in Jonathan Hickman’s run on New Avengers, which I highly recommend.

And that’s the first half of my list. What do you guys think so far? Who are some of your favorite characters from Marvel? Let me know your thoughts below. Don’t forget to support your local comic shops. I guarantee you can find a lot of stories featuring these characters and many, many others in those sacred spaces. Tweet me @quaintjeremy.

Images: Captain America Shield via Wikimedia (public domain); Luke Cage portrait by Leinil Francis Yu via Wikipedia; Doctor Strange image from the 1994 Spider Man animated series via Wikipedia.

All Marvel characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are Trademarks & Copyright © 1996 Marvel Characters, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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44 thoughts on “Top 10 Marvel Characters, part 1

  1. This reinforces, for me, how white male characters dominate the comic book industry. These are great characters….But I wish there were a more diverse group of great characters.

    Liked by 1 person

    • To be fair, Luke Cage is black. And Thor isn’t human. And Daredevil has a disability. And if it counts, Dr. Strange is middle-aged, which makes him stand out a bit from the standard. The second half of my list will also be a tad more diverse in terms of gender. I didn’t feel compelled to assemble my list to simply promote diversity. Marvel especially is pretty good about diversifying its lineup on its own. I just picked characters I connect with on some level, even if in passing, hence favorites.

      Liked by 2 people

      • lol…I got that Cage is black, but I don’t think that middle age counts as diversification. Thor sort of has to be Anglo, because, well, Nordic gods and such.

        And just to be clear, I was more noting Marvel’s lack of diversity than yours. DC is far worse about it, but neither company is really that good about having a diverse lineup. I’m glad that you mentioned ability/disability, because that’s certainly something that fits in—but I’m also thinking in terms of heteronormaitivity, gender, and body size, things that just don’t get overtly represented in large-press comic book characters that often.

        I’ve been having a similar issue in writing about girl characters in children’s books this month…I’m finding an abundance of heteronormative white characters, especially in what we canonize.

        Liked by 2 people

        • I can always make a list of awesome non-white characters in Marvel and/or DC if people would be interested in reading it. And notable gay characters. And female superheroes. It really all is out there.

          And on the point you make about Thor: gods tend to look like their worshippers, which says all you need to know about the comics industry. Economics sheds at least as much light on this as critical theory.

          Liked by 1 person

        • I think middle age might count a little bit. I don’t give it the sort of weight I give the other things you list here, but it counts for me (and yes, I am closing in on middle age – I wouldn’t have counted it at all 10 years ago).

          These characters tend to be frozen in time, age-wise. At least as far as background and physical appearances go. And most of them are frozen before their 30th birthdays. At least, that’s my perception. And that’s as much as I can say about it, because honestly, once the comics discussion gets to this level, I am totally out of my depth.

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    • Most of the great female super heroes, in general, are members of the X-Men, which I think is part of the reason Marvel hasn’t been able to develop a solo female hero movie yet – all their best options are part of a larger ensemble cast.

      That being said, I don’t see any X-Men on the list yet… I’m going to avoid geeking out with my own opinions until we see the rest of the list, but I feel not only is diversity lacking, but so are a lot of essentials!

      Also, the most recent incarnation of Ms. Marvel is not only a woman (as the Ms. might give away…) but is a young Muslim as well. http://marvel.com/comics/issue/49089/ms_marvel_2014_1 They’re working on it, I guess, is my point. Giant Sized X-Men number 1 came out in 1975, and it was a big deal that the cast was non-American. Yes, maybe comics should be further on than that in the 40 years since, but it’s definitely changing.

      Liked by 1 person

      • There are certainly mutant characters on the second half. Quite a few, in fact. In recent years I’ve drifted more toward the Avengers side of the universe is all. And I wanted to drift away from some of the essentials that always make lists like this. 😉

        And to continue with what I said in my previous reply (without sounding too arrogant or like a hipster), Marvel is surprisingly diverse when you dig below the biggest money-makers. Go digging; you’ll see. I can always provide suggestions, or even draft a list like this one that only contains characters from under-represented groups. Again, though, I would have been a bit dishonest to go full tilt with that in this list. I’m just naming my personal favorites with no interest in defending them.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Sounds good, I felt like jumping in and doing a little Marvel defending myself 🙂

          Given some of the other topics on this blog, a post about some of those other suggestions might actually be a great idea!

          Liked by 2 people

        • One could argue that the fact that the diversity requires digging is part of the problem. Quite a few of their biggest titles are a little uncomfortably homogenous. New Avengers is a bunch of white guys with one black guy. All-New X-Men is all-white, though it now has an even split of men and women. Uncanny Avengers is 2/3 white men. These are some of their biggest team books, and they have very little diversity. Beyond that, you’ve also got lower-selling titles like All-New Invaders, All-New X-Factor, Thunderbolts, Fantastic Four, and others. For solo titles, their top books are Spider-Man, Daredevil, Captain America, Thor, Silver Surfer . . . more straight white dudes.

          I do give Marvel credit for trying to add diversity. They’ll be up to 5 female solo titles once Elektra launches, one of them also a minority. Nova and All-New Ghost Rider are both Hispanic (Nova’s half-Hispanic). They’ve got Mighty Avengers and X-Men. So they are trying, and I give them credit for that. But at the same time, I think they can still try harder. Where’s Storm’s ongoing? Why not give Captain Marvel a couple arcs leading the Avengers? Why not give an LGBT character a solo title? Or have an LGBT character in the main Avengers book? Why not have America Chavez join the cast of All-New Invaders?

          It shouldn’t take an effort to find diversity.

          Liked by 1 person

          • You raise valid points, and I don’t really disagree with any them, but I do view these issues from different angles. As I pointed out somewhere else on this thread, economic opportunity is a huge motivator in shaping American comics. It is, after all, accurately referred to as a market. I’m not saying any of it is right, but is it any of it outright wrong, either? The market decides which titles and characters succeed and grow. Who is to blame here? Is there really any need for blame? What’s the real issue? And the question that always stews rancor in every heart: who really is reading comics? How much power should the audience have?

            Liked by 1 person

            • I don’t have enough of a handle to really add to this conversation, but I am finding it very enlightening.

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            • Oh, I definitely place a lot of blame on the fans. The idiots who refuse to read anything that isn’t “important” is why Kathryn Immonen’s fantastic Journey Into Mystery run, with Sif as the lead, ended after only 9 issues. I still refuse to forgive Marvel’s readers for not buying that book, because it was excellent. But on the other hand, if people are only going to buy Avengers and Uncanny X-Men, why not make those books as diverse as possible? They’ll sell well no matter what you do, so why not do something diverse?

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            • I also enjoyed Immonen’s run on JiM, but making such value judgments about people’s intelligence based on personal preferences in popular culture may be taking it a bit too far. No one should ever decide what’s consumable for all participants in any market.

              Liked by 2 people

            • Daniel Way’s run on Deadpool lasted 50 issues. Kathryn Immonen’s run with Sif lasted 9.

              Marvel has some very stupid readers. That’s all I’m saying.

              I’m still very bitter about JiM’s quick cancellation.

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            • I think Jeremy may be on to something with the economic considerations, though. In general, Marvel has been axing a lot of titles, rebooting them, restarting… well, at least three times in the last decade. The Heroic Age, then Marvel Now, and now the All New Marvel Now.

              So it’s not just that Sif run, which was one I was considering as I was trying to pick comics (and then I saw it was ending – will have to go back and read it), but something like the Dazzler-run X-Treme X-Men, which got 12 or so issues. They’re not letting anything stand still, trying and tossing out everything so quickly that there’s not a lot of time to build momentum, get people reading, buying into it, and then spreading it word-of-mouth.

              And I feel like I should at least be mildly defensive of All New X-Men not showing much diversity… since it’s the original characters from the 60s. Now, why you need to make that comic in the first place is really the question. I’m amazed that run has lasted as long as it has, given how so many others have been ending.

              Liked by 1 person

            • I definitely get that. And I can understand why Marvel keeps relaunching series: It boosts sales every single time. Most comics lose readers pretty quickly. So they have no choice but to keep relaunching the comics, because it’s the only way to keep making money off them. It is worth noting that when Journey Into Mystery was switched to a Sif-led title, and when Hulk became Red She-Hulk, there was no relaunch. It’s worth asking if maybe that hurt the chances of both those books.

              I’m also not sure word-of-mouth helps much. The previous volume of Captain Marvel ended with #17, and had poor sales at that point, despite a very passionate fan base. The last volume of Young Avengers had a similarly passionate fan base, but that didn’t translate into better sales. Mighty Avengers has some good word-of-mouth, but its sales are still dropping quickly.

              I understand the lack of diversity in ANXM, though I am pleased that the ratio of males to females is totally even now. I was just using it as an example of a popular book with an all-white cast. I’m not saying every book needs to meet a certain quota. I do think writers should try to make some effort to figure out ways to add diversity in ways that benefit the story they’re telling.

              Liked by 1 person

      • 😉 I noted the absence of the X-Men, too, and am (im)patiently waiting to see how Jeremy handles them.

        I think you’re right that the biggest diversity is in that group—and that’s a very positive thing, but it’s also frustrating to only see that kind of diversity in an ensemble line-up. It is nice that it’s changing, at any rate.

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        • I suppose the other thing with the X-Men is its entire story is about diversity. Its fundamental, underlying plot is about civil rights of a group – and rather than ground it in reality (where the politics might get ugly), it presents us with a new, hypothetical situation to consider questions that have strong relevance in the real world.

          While that’s part of why the X-Men are so good as a comic series, it’s also become somewhat problematic in the writing of the X-Men comics. They’ve reached a point where they are reflecting back – now over 50 years since their beginning – and realizing in all that time, they haven’t gotten anywhere in their civil rights battle.

          On the one hand, that is depressing as anything, and they even did a big 50th anniversary plot (Battle of the Atom) where X-Men came back from the future where they are even more depressed and at war, because they had not gotten anywhere on civil rights. It ends up not presenting a very hopeful picture.

          On the other hand, what else do you do? Solve their problems, smile, and end all your X-Men comics? Or turn them into Avengers 2.0? And lose all of the interesting sub-text and relevance?

          I do not envy them the problem of trying to figure that one out.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I sometimes worry writers have backed themselves into a corner with all the allegories the X-Men are supposed to be these days. It’s hard to see mutants as downtrodden victims when so many of them are so lethal on so many levels. Even (arguably lame) Cyclops could vaporize an entire town if he tried.

            Liked by 2 people

        • There will be mutants. And I don’t know if this complicates the issue you guys are attached to or not, but check out the most recent iteration of Mighty Avengers for an (almost) all non-white superhero team, or Fearless Defenders or Brian Wood’s X-Men for all female teams.

          Liked by 2 people

        • The X-Men could and should be doing a much, MUCH better job at presenting diversity. In terms of solos, the only female to get an ongoing in the past 8 years was X-23 – Female Wolverine. The only minority characters to get ongoings have been Daken – Dark Wolverine – and Magneto. Both of them are villains. The franchise has been largely dominated by Cyclops and Wolverine – a pair of straight white males. Storm is only now starting to return to some degree of prominence, and we’ll wait and see how long that lasts. Minority males are treated horribly by the franchise – Synch and Skin getting killed, Bishop turning evil, Warpath’s basically disappeared at this point.

          I also think more X-Men titles need to be willing to tackle civil rights issues from a realistic perspective. Let’s see some of the more mundane consequences of discrimination – higher unemployment, worse treatment by the courts, being refused service at some establishments – the sort of things that real minorities face. And let’s see things like rallies, speeches, TV interviews, Congressional hearings – the things that go into a real civil rights movement. The X-Men franchise always insists on self-segregation and violence. I think we need to see that the X-Men are actually engaged in efforts that will ACTUALLY promote mutant rights.

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          • There’s been some of that happening in Uncanny X-Men, but not started by the X-Men – it’s been college kids starting protests on the mutants’ behalf. A little odd, really.

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            • Yeah, that rally was probably my favourite part of Bendis’ entire UXM run so far. I’ve been enjoying the run a lot, but that rally is exactly the sort of thing I’ve been wanting to see for years. I hope Bendis keeps putting in stuff like that.

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            • It’s a testament to the fact that the X-Men DON’T do stuff like that, that they were so surprised that it was happening. It was probably the best part so far.

              Well, that and Goldballs.

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  2. None of these have ever been big favourites of mine. They’ve all had some great runs here and there, but the characters themselves don’t do a whole lot for me.

    My top 5 would be Kitty, Cyclops, Karma, and then maybe Finesse and Miss America Chavez.

    Like Diana, the dominance of straight whiter males is something that bothers me. Only one of my favourites fits that. The others are women, two are gay (and also people of colour), one’s Jewish, and Finesse is just really cool. Most of the characters who interest me a lot are women or minority characters.

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  3. New Avengers by Jonathan Hickman. Yes.

    I’ve tried to restrict my comic buying for a while, to see which ones I felt were “essential” (as this can be an expensive habit ;)) and the one that I most want to get back to is New Avengers. However, to do it justice, I feel like I would also need to be reading Avengers and Avengers World, so… I’m holding out for combined volumes! So good!

    Also, to your point about Thor being included as a way to bridge the mythology to comics gap… I feel like a lot of Hickman’s writing in Avengers has been very mythological, so if you haven’t read it, I definitely recommend it!

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      • I also see the possibility for Marvel Studios to build in this direction, as they have the rights to *most* of the important characters. After all, the Avengers have to get bigger… Thanos is coming… Dr. Strange, The Inhumans, Black Panther are all in the rumors… could we actually see something like Infinity on the big screen? Or even just the Thanos side – coming to collect the Infinity Gauntlet from the Illuminati?

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        • I hope they run with the Thanos idea as far as they possibly can. I’d like to see the Illuminati established in the movie universe, but I worry at how different the dynamic might be without the Professor X/Beast and Namor presences on the roster.

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          • And Mr. Fantastic. Still, there are options. Get in a couple of different geniuses, like Banner and Pym.

            Namor is interesting in the roster because of his non-genius status; he’s the muscle. Some of how his role would work out will depend on what they do with the story of the Black Panther, and Wakanda, in general – Namor has mattered most in his relation to Black Panther, or Atlantis vs. Wakanda. If that’s not an issue, he could be replaced or dropped without too much harm…

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            • This is true, and I forgot about Reed. Didn’t one of the Illuminati’s first decisions lead to Banner being banished into space and the Planet Hulk/World War Hulk storylines? That could be cool if done well.

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            • Maybe? Planet Hulk, and the introduction of the Illuminati, happened during my comics hiatus, and I am working on catching up. Plus, the idea of the Illuminati was kind of ret-conned in, so I wasn’t sure what all events their original story arc was relating to, and I’ve been trying to find the comics they pop up in after their introduction. So… maybe? But yes, a really kick-ass, non-origin-story Hulk movie would be a great addition to the other Marvel films.

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            • Definitely. Though he needs to be handled carefully to avoid overwhelming whatever story he’s in, Hulk has been underused, especially with Ruffalo in the part.

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            • On a somewhat tangential note, but since you are talking about the movies. We let the grandson watch bits and pieces of the superhero movies. Clips and such (not the whole things, of course). Hulk is one of the most problematic characters for him. He has a hard time understanding why the soldiers and sometimes the other heroes want to fight with Hulk. Hulk is probably his favorite Marvel character at this point.

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            • I think that they did a good job of treading carefully in the Avengers. Hulk worked out as the comic relief in ways I would not have thought possible. In Joss we trust, I suppose, but still: more like that for a whole movie? I’d see that.

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  4. I like movie Captain America. I didn’t read much that involved mainstream Cap until “Civil War”. I thought he had the same problem as Iron Man, and he seemed too self-righteous and preachy about his morals (though I liked that he had them).

    I liked Ultimates Cap a bit more, but eventually he just came off as a jerk. I liked him because he was effective and an actual soldier (sort of) and leader, while I see mainstream Cap as a propaganda piece.

    Movie Cap, though, combines the best of both. He’s got Ultimates Cap’s effectiveness and attitude to fighting, but mainstream Cap’s morals. “Winter Soldier” did a great job showing a realistic (as possible) Cap doing his job, saving the day, and still remaining human.

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