Marvel's A-List Superheroes
Marvel Comics is the #1 comic book publisher in the world, and with the success of its film properties, is becoming more widely known every day. This Hub is a primer of the "A-List" superheroes of the Marvel Universe.
It does not delve into the complex, multi-decade histories of each of these characters or their current status, but rather provides the bare minimum that anyone interested in superheroes should know.
All images are Copyright ©Marvel Characters, Inc.
Considered by many to be the soul of the Marvel Universe, Captain America is a WWII war hero named Steve Rogers who underwent an experimental procedure that changed him from a "90 lb. weakling" into the world's first "super soldier." Frozen in ice drifting in the ocean, Rogers was awakened in the latter half of the 20th Century, literally a man from another time.
The super soldier serum gave Rogers tremendous agility, superior strength, and fighting skills that are second to none. In cap's skilled hands, his one-of-a-kind shield can be thrown through the air and used to take down enemies before returning to his hands. He is the ultimate patriot, standing as a symbol of all that is good about the United States of America, and he takes that responsibility very seriously.
Many men besides Steve Rogers have worn the mantle of Captain America, but Rogers remains the standard bearer of the name, perhaps because of his longtime affiliation and leadership of the Avengers, the Marvel Universe's premier superhero team. Rogers has been a member of the Avengers since being freed from the ice.
Outside of the Avengers, Captain America stars in his own ongoing monthly title, Captain America. He has his own core cast of characters, including longtime love interest SHIELD agent Sharon Carter, former partner and protégé Bucky Barnes, Nick Fury, friend and sometimes wingman Falcon, and others. He has fought many foes, but his true archnemesis is undoubtedly the Red Skull, a protégé and enforcer for Adolf Hitler himself.
Tony Stark was a playboy arms manufacturer through his megacorporation, Stark Enterprises, who was taken prisoner by an Asian warlord and forced to make weapons for him. During his capture, he was injured by a piece of shrapnel that was lodged very near his heart, but Stark turned the tables on his captors by building a suit of iron that would protect his heart, while powering an arsenal of weapons built into the suit. He used the suit to escape and dedicated himself to fighting evil as the high-tech suit wearing Iron Man.
Iron Man's armor has had many configurations and upgrades over the years, and his current look is a red and gold suit very similar to what was seen in the Robert Downey, Jr. film. Stark himself has often struggled with very human issues, most prominent among them being alcoholism and numerous attempts at corporate takeovers of Stark Enterprises. Stark is a founding member of the Avengers, and its longtime bankroller.
Iron Man's armor gives him the power of flight along with a wide -- and changeable -- variety of weaponry, including his oft-used repulsor rays.
Iron Man has faced many foes over the years, but widely regarded as his arch-nemesis is the brilliant mystic Mandarin, a dangerous wielder of magic. His core cast of characters in his own solo book, The Invincible Iron Man, include Happy Hogan, his driver and friend, best friend James Rhodes (aka War Machine), and others.
Thor Odinson is the Norse god of thunder, wielding the magical hammer Mjolnir, a weapon only he is capable of using. His father Odin created a mortal man, Dr. Donald Blake, and transformed Thor into this man as a way of allowing his son to learn humility. Blake was an honorable man who eventually discovered a walking cane that he could use to strike the ground and turn into the mighty Thor and his enchanted hammer.
Thor is one of the strongest and most powerful heroes in the Marvel Universe, with incredible strength and tremendous resistance to injury. He's a skilled hand-to-hand fighter, and with Mjolnir at his side, he can call down lightning, thunder, wind, and rain.
Thor is the third major tier in what is widely accepted to be the triumverate core of the Avengers -- along with Captain America and Iron Man. He has an enormous cast of characters all his own in his solo book Thor, all of whom are rooted in real world Norse mythology, and reside in the mythical Asgard, which exists in another dimension. Most noteworthy among them is his archnemesis and half brother Loki, the god of mischief. Thor and all of his fellow Asgardians are part of Ragnarok, the unending cycle of death and rebirth in Norse mythology.
Bitten by a radioactive spider as a teenager, Peter Parker was transformed into the amazing Spider-Man. An orphan from a young age, Peter was raised by his Aunt May or Uncle Ben. At first he used his newfound powers to fight in the ring for money, but after he refused to stop a burglar from stealing money, the same burglar later was responsible for killing Peter's beloved Uncle Ben. Before his death, Ben had famously warned Peter that "with great power comes great responsibility," which became the core tenet of Spider-Man's career as a superhero.
The radioactive spider bite gave Peter the proportionate strength and agility of a spider, as well as the ability to stick to walls, and a "spider sense" that allows him to sense danger before it happens. Peter is a skilled scientist, and he used his knowledge to craft for himself a pair of wrist-mounted "web shooters," which give him the ability to spin his own spider webs. He works as a freelance news photographer, often taking pictures of his alter ego in action and selling those photos to news outlets like The Daily Bugle to make a living.
Spider-Man has very few group affiliations, spending most of his career as a crime fighter solo, though he has maintained longtime friendships with Daredevil, Dr. Strange, Johnny Storm of the Fantastic Four, and others. In recent years, he has become a member of the Avengers.
Peter's archnemesis is Norman Osborn, aka the Green Goblin, a brilliant but mad scientist and egomaniac, though the wall-crawler has an enormous rogue's gallery (possibly the largest of any Marvel hero) that includes well known foes such as Doc Ock, Venom, the Lizard, Hobgoblin, Carnage, and dozens more.
Peter's huge cast of characters in Amazing Spider-Man includes his true love Mary Jane Watson, best friend Harry Osborne, his deceased former love Gwen Stacey, high school friend Flash Thompson, Daily Bugle editor J. Jonah Jameson along with various other DB staff, and of course his Aunt May, among many others.
Reed Richards, Sue Storm-Richards, Johnny Storm, and Ben Grimm are New York's most beloved team of heroes, the Fantastic Four. Given powers by mutations resulting from a cosmic radiation storm, the Four never intended to be heroes (like most of Marvel's hero roster), but found superpowers thrust upon them after an accident during spaceflight.
Reed, also known as Mr. Fantastic, is the smartest man alive, his superpower giving him the ability to stretch his body like rubber. His wife Sue, aka the Invisible Woman, can turn herself invisible as well as project force fields of virtually limitless size and strength. Sue's brother Johnny, the Human Torch, can create and control fire, even lighting himself fully ablaze but suffering no harm. He power over flames also gives him the ability to fly. Ben, Reed's longtime best friend and a gifted pilot, was transformed into a rocky "Thing," his weight, density, and strength all magnified by tremendous proportions.
Unlike most other superheroes, the Fantastic Four have no secret identities or hidden lair. They make their home in the heart of Manhattan, in the Baxter Building, where Reed has his futuristic laboratory (where his inventions often trigger their adventures). This regularly brings other Marvel superheroes to their door, asking for assistance from this "first family" of the Marvel U. The Four have personal friendships or professional ties to nearly every major player in the Marvel Universe. Namor of Atlantis, for example, has a longstanding crush on Sue and a strong dislike of Reed. Johnny is good friends with Spider-Man, sometimes adventuring in Amazing Spider-Man alongside the wall crawler. And the list goes on.
The Fantastic Four seem forever inextricably tied to the egomaniacal and villainous Victor von Doom, aka Dr. Doom, who sees himself as the intellectual superior of Reed Richards and regularly attempts to outwit him. Doom is the self-appointed ruler of Latveria, a small European nation, and is most often identified as the arch-nemesis of the Fantastic Four, though the team has fought plenty of others, such as Mole Man, Annihilus, the Super Skrull, and of course, the world devourer Galactus.
The Fantastic Four star in their own, self-titled monthly book -- which is the longest-running comic book in the Marvel Universe. Their cast of characters include Reed and Sue's children Franklin and Valeria, Ben's longtime lady love Alicia Masters, Johnny's friend and ally Wyatt Wingfoot, and others.
Many friends and fellow heroes have filled in for members of the team over the years when one or more of them were missing or required time away from the group, but the Four remain known throughout the world as Reed, Sue, Johnny, and Ben.
The roster of the X-Men has grown over the years so large as to encompass multiple comic books and an entire corner of the Marvel Universe all its own. Originally formed by Charles Xavier, the X-Men are comprised of the best and brightest students from his Xavier Institute For Higher Learning, a school for mutants. Though the world fears the very mention of mutants, believing them to be an advanced race of humans that could someday overtake homo sapiens as the dominant species on the planet, the X-Men fight to protect the innocent.
The first team of X-Men was comprised of a meager five mutants, including Cyclops (Scott Summers), Marvel Girl (Jean Grey), Iceman (Bobby Drake), Beast (Henry McCoy), and Angel (Warren Worthington III). It has expanded since then to include numerous teams and such popular mutants as Cable, Colossus, Emma Frost, Gambit, Jubilee, Kitty Pryde, Nightcrawler, Rogue, Storm, Wolverine (see below), and dozens more.
All mutants gain their powers through genetic mutation, a naturally occurring phenomenon involving the human "X-gene." Their powers are seemingly as unique as their own fingerprints. Professor Xavier, for example, is the world's most powerful telepath. Cyclops fires laser blasts from his eyes. Iceman, as his name implies, controls ice. Angel possesses feathery wings, allowing him to soar like a bird.
The X-Men spend most of their time policing villainous mutants, preventing them from subverting the rest of the human race. Most guilty of this is Xavier's one time friend and colleague Eric Lensher, aka Magneto, who leads the Brotherhood of Mutants, an anti-human army of terrorists. Frequent enemies of the X-Men also include the shape-shifting Mystique, the unstoppable Juggernaut, "Reverend" William Stryker, the evil Onslaught, Emperor D'Ken of the Shi'ar Empire, the Hellfire Club, the human-built gigantic robots known as Sentinels, and of course the nearly omnipotent Phoenix, the interstellar entity that once took over the body of X-Man Jean Grey.
Many members of the X-Men have also served on other teams throughout the Marvel Universe, such as the Fantastic Four and the Avengers.
A mutant in a class by himself if for no other reason than his incredible popularity, Logan, aka James Howlett, aka Wolverine, is a ferocious hand-to-hand fighter with animal-like instincts and a super-fast "healing factor" that makes him unkillable and gives him an unnaturally long life. A Canadian national born in the late 19th Century, Logan has a long and storied past, much of which remained a mystery to him for most of his life.
The Weapon X program realized Logan's potential as a savage fighter, and performed experiments on him, altering his memories and binding the unbreakable metal Adamantium to his entire skeleton, including his trademark retractable claws. It was all in an attempt to make him into the perfect soldier, but Wolverine left the program and eventually came to be a member of the X-Men after meeting Charles Xavier. He remained for his unrequited love of Jean Grey. His long life has given him experiences as a soldier in World War II, a samurai living in Japan, a mercenary for the CIA, and more.
Wolverine possesses the instincts of a feral predator, with lightning-fast reflexes, enhanced strength, and superior senses -- eyesight, hearing, smell -- that make him an expert tracker. His retractable claws are actually part of his mutation; they're bones covered in Adamantium like the rest of his skeleton. His mutation is also the source of his ability to heal, which regenerates any damaged portion of his body at exponential speeds.
Wolverine's longtime nemesis is Sabretooth, a man with nearly identical abilities to Logan himself. Their history is long and bloody, with battles raged as far back as either of them can remember. These battles are always particularly brutal, since both of them are able to heal almost immediately. Their hatred for one another is near legendary.
Wolverine is a longtime member of various teams of X-Men, though he has also served as a member of the Avengers, Alpha Flight, and even the Fantastic Four.
Dr. Bruce Banner worked at a nuclear testing site in New Mexico, where he heroically rushed into a blast zone to save a teenager who had inadvertently wandered into the middle of a test explosion. He managed to save the teen, but as hit with a blast of gamma radiation, which caused his subsequent transformations into the monstrous green hulk.
Though Banner has tried many times over the years to excise himself of the terrible Hulk, the process has ultimately proved irreversable. Where Banner is a compassionate intellectual, the Hulk is his ferocious alter ego, emerging whenever Banner is excited or angry, and the angrier he gets, the more powerful the Hulk becomes. The Hulk's power set consists of virtual invulnerability to any form of damage and superhuman strength that is the most powerful of any hero in the Marvel pantheon.
The Hulk is not a superhero in the typical sense, though he does regularly save the lives of the innocent who get caught in the fray between him and one of his foes. The Hulk is more of a monster, usually unable to control his own rage, and preferring to be left alone. Unfortunately this is rarely his fate, as the government responsible for creating him -- led by his nemesis General Thunderbolt Ross -- are consumed with taking him down. Other common foes of the Hulk include the super-intelligent Leader and the equally monstrous Abomination.
Hulk's list of allies in his solo adventure book is longer than you might expect; other heroes sympathetic to his plight have sometimes rallied to his side. There's Betty Ross, his love interest and daughter of General Ross; She-Hulk, aka Jennifer Walters, Banner's cousin, who possesses the same powers as the Hulk but retains her intellect; Rick Jones, the teen Banner saved the fateful day he was hit with gamma radiation; Leonard Samson, a psychiatrist who also possesses Hulk's powers but maintains his human form, intellect, and personality; the Sentry, whose presence somehow calms the Hulk's rage; Hercules, ancient god originating among the gods of Olympus; Amadeus Cho, boy genius; the new Scorpion; and others. The Hulk was even a founding member of the Avengers.