When it comes to certain Marvel comic book villains, they get all the respect in the world – either because their power or presence is so obviously impressive, or because their movie depictions (if indeed they have had one) have presented them to mainstream audiences with all the powers and/or abilities they have in the comic books.
Examples include the likes of Abomination (who was presented as being a legitimate threat to the Hulk in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, just like he is in the comic books), The Joker (who has been presented in movies as being every bit as much of a scourge to Batman as he is in the comic books), Doomsday (who has always been portrayed as being able to physically throw down with Superman in the comic books) and Thanos (who, as well as being godlike and possessing a versatile power-set in the comic books, is set to be the “Big Bad” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe), but other villains don’t get all the respect they deserve.
The extremes of this notion vary. Some villains get a lot of respect, but most people still aren’t fully aware of the extent of some of their abilities, while others are laughed off completely when they really shouldn’t be – and this list will contain a mix of both and everything in between.
Here are the ten most underrated villains in Marvel comic books (and the reasons why that’s the case):
Taskmaster (or Anthony “Tony” Masters) first appeared in Avengers #195 in May 1980. He is an Avengers villain but as a mere human, he is generally seen as someone whose limit is fighting against characters of Captain America’s level. However, he has proven himself to be far more capable than that.
Masters injected himself with the Nazi SS-Hauptsturmführer Horst Gorscht’s primer – an elaborate modification of the adrenal steroid cortisol designed to unlock the mind’s procedural memory potential, and as a result, has photographic reflexes and the ability to immediately absorb information. He can mimic the fighting style of virtually any opponent and stemming from this, he has defeated several iterations of the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Daredevil and Deadpool, as well as battling Batman in a crossover story.
You’re probably wondering what on Earth Magneto is doing on this list. He’s well-known, popular and everyone knows he’s extremely powerful. But thanks to the X-Men movies, most people think his only power is that he can control metal. That couldn’t be more wrong.
First appearing in The X-Men #1 in September 1963, Magneto has proven that the extent of his power is far greater than that. As well as being able to move metal (he can lift outrageous amounts of it), he can also generate electromagnetic pulses of great strength, generate and manipulate electromagnetic energy down to photons, create wormholes, channel his powers through his own body to increase his physical strength and speed, alter the behaviour of gravitational fields, turn invisible by warping light around his body, erect forcefields powerful enough to hold off Thor, the Phoenix and even Galactus – albeit briefly in the case of the latter. Moreover, he’s a bona fide genius with expertise in fields that include genetic alteration and manipulation, particle physics, engineering and technology.
8. The Void
The Void is obviously powerful and nobody really denies that, but the actual levels of that power are often underrated – and that’s generally because of the fact that he (or “it”) is the alter-ego of the Sentry (also known as Robert Reynolds). The Sentry, who first appeared in The Sentry #1 in September 2000, just hasn’t really been taken to by fans, in spite of the fact that he’s arguably the most powerful Avenger ever.
Reynolds is mentally unstable and projects the Void as a dark side effect of his enormous power, and it’s one of the most powerful forces in Marvel. It was able to keep attacking even with the combined force fields of Iron Man, Doctor Strange and the Invisible Woman erected (all while the combined forces of the New Avengers, Fantastic Four, X-Men, Inhumans, Illuminati and heavily armed S.H.I.E.L.D. agents simultaneously attacked it). It has casually broken every bone in the Hulk’s body, it can shapeshift (and assume powers depending on its shape), it can control the weather, it can force people to experience visions and can even warp reality to an extent.
Kingpin (also known as Wilson Fisk) is a highly respected villain amongst fans of the Marvel universe, but the full extent of his abilities are often overlooked. Sure, he’s tough, but he is also mostly known as being a criminal mastermind and an astute businessman who relies on henchmen to provide the muscle when it comes to physical combat.
Having first appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man #50 in July 1967, Fisk has proven himself to be a more than adept combatant (In fact, he’s something of a master.) Although he’s not superhuman in any way, he has shown himself to be capable of going toe-to-toe with the likes of Spider-Man and Daredevil – even out-muscling the super-powered Spidey and matching the hero in agility, in spite of his size and weight (which he actually insists is all made up of muscle).
6. Norman Osborn
Like Kingpin before him, it’s not as if Norman Osborn is disrespected by the masses. He most certainly isn’t, but the levels of his threat in the Marvel universe are often overlooked. Having first appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man #14 in July 1964, Osborn has classically been seen as an astute businessman who is merely a threat to Spider-Man (thanks largely to his movie depictions), but he is also so much more.
Osborn has been the architect of some major events in Marvel comic books, including the likes of the Siege and Dark Reign stories (and many others). He has led the Dark Avengers, manipulated the Sentry, become the United States primary defense officer and launched an all-out assault on Asgard. Plus, in addition to being the Green Goblin, he has also been the Iron Patriot and the Goblin King – the latter whom owned more than half of New York’s organized crime.
5. Count Nefaria
Count Nefaria is underrated for the simple reason that he’s not very well known. It’s something of a surprise that he doesn’t have the same status in popular culture as Marvel’s higher-profile villains, because he is actually something of a beast. In fact, he’s perhaps one of the more powerful non-cosmic villains in all of Marvel comic books (think evil Superman with extra energy-based powers to boot).
First appearing in Avengers #13 in February 1965, he is Luchino Nefaria, a wealthy Italian aristocrat who gained the combined powers of the villains the Living Laser (energy projection), Power Man (strength) and Whirlwind (speed) amplified by one hundred. As a result, he was capable of taking on entire teams of Avengers effortlessly, and at one point, was even able to casually block Thor attacking him with Mjolnir by using just one hand.
4. Molecule Man
He might have a silly name and have started out life as a mere human, but Molecule Man (also known as Owen Reece) is one of the most powerful characters in the whole of the Marvel universe – at least when he’s at his most powerful, anyway.
First appearing in Fantastic Four #20 in November 1963, the character worked at a nuclear power plant and accidentally activated an experimental particle generator, which bombarded him with an unknown form of radiation. As a result, his full psionic potential was unleashed, enabling him to control all matter down to the molecular level on a cosmic scale. At his most powerful, he was able to battle the cosmic being known as the Beyonder and he has transmuted/disintegrated items like Thor’s hammer Mjolnir, Silver Surfer’s cosmic board, Captain America’s shield and Iron Man’s armour.
3. The Scourge
The Scourge of the Underworld – who was first seen in Iron Man #194 in May 1985 – is a relatively little-known character who is actually a persona or title played by a number of different unnamed individuals. His backstory changes and is ultimately mysterious, but they include him being the personal assassin of the Red Skull and a vigilante funded by the original Angel (a Marvel hero from the World War II era).
Being both human and hardly a household name, he is easy to underestimate, but the fact is that the various Scourge’s have gunned down the likes of the Absorbing Man, Rhino, Shocker, Hate Monger, Basilisk, Titania, Miracle Man, Chameleon and one of Doctor Doom’s powerful Doombots.
2. Doctor Doom
Like Magneto, you’re probably wondering why Doctor Doom is on this list. He’s one of the most well-known villains in comic books, right? True, but most people only see him as a genius who acquires power in the form of sought-after objects – seeing his actual physical threat in his standard form as minimum – but that’s a long way short of the truth (and the Fantastic Four movies have done him no favours with mainstream audiences).
Victor Von Doom first appeared in The Fantastic Four #5 in July 1962, and since then, has become a thorn in the sides of the likes of the Fantastic Four and the Avengers. Sure, he’s a genius with expertise in all thing scientific, but he’s also capable of holding his own in physical combat against the likes of Thor, Hulk and the Silver Surfer. His armour makes him super-strong, ridiculously durable and contains an abundance of versatile gadgets that make him prepared for and a threat to almost anyone (to the extent that it even contains shards of the true cross to ward off vampires and can harm even the most durable opponents upon their mere touching of said armour). He’s also an awesome hand-to-hand combatant (to the extent that he has defeated a lion whilst naked and unarmed) and has near-unrivalled willpower.
1. Kang The Conqueror
Kang the Conqueror (also known as Nathaniel Richards) isn’t really known outside of the comic book community, but he’s basically a more advanced version of Doctor Doom in pretty much every way (Doom has even admitted as much, which never happens!) Such is his might that comic book fans are calling for him to succeed Thanos as the “Big Bad” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe after its third phase comes to a conclusion.
First appearing in Avengers #8 in September of 1964 (as Kang, having appeared as Rama-Tut a year earlier), Kang is a time-travelling genius who wears armour that reflects the fact that he comes from the 30th century. If you name it, his armour can probably do it. It enables him to travel through and stop time (and send others through time), he can project illusions, manipulate gravity and magnetic fields, can turn all forms of energy (including magic) back on opponents to use against them and easily tank shots from Warrior Madness Thor hitting him with Mjolnir (as well as much, much more). Kang is also an incredible hand-to-hand combatant, having learned martial arts from across time and has near-unrivalled willpower.