In the now massive army of Marvel comic book characters the world has come to know and love, there are a handful that have stood the test of time, not only maintaining a place in the spotlight for generations but actually increasing in popularity over the years. Since Marvel took to the big screen and began showcasing its most popular characters in full length feature films, using stunning computer graphics and effects, these characters have been brought to life in a way few people ever imagined possible.
Still, just as the fact that having a movie made about a character does not necessarily indicate its position in such a list, the popularity derived from movie appearances cannot be used as a scale to measure a character’s value to the culture. Furthermore, the ideas of calling a character the ‘best’ or of attempting to objectively rate which character is better in a general sense can both be topics of intense debate. Each comic book fan will have his or her own favorite character and will swear up and down that this character is the best.
Overall popularity and longevity are both relatively easy to determine while attempting to figure out which character is the most powerful gets into a much cloudier arena. Taking this into account, this list will focus primarily on the former two categories, while using the latter as more of a tie breaker. As a result, this list can in no way be considered definitive. Check out this site for further information on Marvel Comic’s top characters.
1. The Amazing Spider-Man made his first appearance in a 1962 comic book and has become one of the most popular comic book characters of all time. In 2002, 40 years after his creation, the feature film Spider-Man was released garnering a highly positive critical reception and grossing over 800 million dollars in the box office.
From 2002 to 2012, 4 successful Spider-Man films have been released with a 5th set to be released in theaters in May of 2014. Spider-Man was co-created by writer Stan Lee and writer/artist Steve Ditko. Spider-Man’s abilities include superhuman strength and dexterity, the ability to shoot webs from his wrists and the ability to cling to walls and ceilings like a spider. Behind the mask, Spider-Man is actually Peter Parker, a teenager who, after being bit by a radioactive spider, is transformed from an unpopular high school outcast to a superhuman crime fighter.
2. Iron Man was also created by Stan Lee, along with character development from writer Larry Lieber and designed by Jack Kirby and Don Heck. Iron Man’s first appearance was just one year after Spider-Man, being introduced to the public in Tales of Suspense #39 in March 1963. Iron Man has also found great success in the box office in recent years, being the star of the film trilogy of the same name and being featured as a main character in the crossover film Marvel’s The Avengers in 2012.
Iron Man is similar to DC’s Batman in the sense that his powers come from technology he was able to design and build with the help of an immense fortune. Iron Man’s alter-ego is that of Tony Stark, a billionaire playboy and brilliant engineer. After being nearly killed by a chest injury, inflicted on him by captors who were trying to force him to build a nuclear bomb, he builds a suit of powerful armor to help him elude captivity and preserve his life. He goes on to use the Iron Man suit, and later upgraded suits, to protect the world. The suit becomes progressively more weaponized and gives him the ability to fly and deflect bullets.
3. Wolverine easily overshadows the rest of the X-Men characters in terms of popularity. Wolverine was created by writer Len Wein and art director John Romita, Sr. first appearing in an issue of The Incredible Hulk in 1974. Wolverine has appeared as a main character in the popular X-Men movies and, in 2009, appeared as the protagonist in X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
Differing considerably from the first two characters on this list, Wolverine is a mutant with the ability to rapidly heal his body, allowing him to recover from severe injury, disease, and poisoning. His special healing ability also slows down his aging process and has allowed him to live an incredibly long life span. Because of this rapid healing mutation, Wolverine was able to survive an intense procedure that grafted the practically indestructible adamantium metal alloy to his skeleton. From this skeleton, he is able to deploy and retract his signature razor sharp adamantium claws from his knuckles. Also known as Logan, Wolverine is depicted as a complex character with a mixed past. Although he fights for the side of good while working with the X-Men, he is rebellious in nature and regularly demonstrates revulsion to authority.