Marvel comics has been a classic for over 50 years. Names like Spider-Man and Captain America have become household names, sparking the imaginations of young children for generations. After all, who doesn’t want to read about ordinary people who discover they’re as powerful as gods? Whether they’re moving mountains - literally - or fighting off supervillains bent on destroying the world, superheroes have become the stuff of hundreds of comics, dozens of blockbuster movies, and millions upon millions of hearts.
The popularity of films like The Avengers has pushed Marvel heroes even farther into the mainstream, but the characters we see fighting evil on screen are only a portion of Marvel's most powerful heroes. Slowly but surely we'll probably see each one of these superheroes get their time to shine on the big screen. Many of them have already gained massive popularity among fans new and old, and one thing every comic book lover enjoys is arguing about which hero is more powerful than the next.
Read on to discover the most powerful Marvel heroes and feel free to join the discussion in the comments section below!
What happens when you give spider powers to a teenage science whiz? Angst. At least, this is what happened to Peter Parker. On a school field trip he was bitten by a radioactive spider and received spider powers which were the foundations of Spider-Man's abilities. He built cool gadgets to complement his powers, which included climbing walls and “spidey senses” that alerted him to danger. Peter Parker has been through a lot in several storylines. His indifference to crime got his uncle killed and his powers were the death of his high school sweetheart, but he remains one of Marvel’s most popular - and troubled - characters.
14 Jessica Jones
Like Peter Parker, Jessica Jones was an orphan - well, she became one after she got in a car accident that killed her family and exposed her to radioactivity that gave her superpowers. She woke up from a coma with the ability to fly. When classmate Parker reached out to her, trying to show her that he understood the whole orphan-plus-radioactivity-equals-angst equation, she pushed him away until he battled it out with Sandman in the middle of class. This apparently inspired her to use her powers, but after being kidnapped by the Purple Man and psychologically manipulated into doing evil things, she put her superhero underwear to the side and went Nancy Drew, forming a private detective agency and still having some run-ins with her superhero buds.
13 Captain America
Steve Rogers had the same childhood dream as any American - to fight Nazis - but he was too weak to enlist in World War II. He was apparently so devastated about this that a mad scientist called Abraham Erskine wanted to use him for Project: Rebirth that would create super soldiers. Rogers was the first and only of this race because Erskine died without revealing his process to anyone. Captain America did the Nazi-fighting thing for a while but became cryogenically frozen in an ice block, where the Avengers found him decades later. He quickly became their leader.
12 Iron Man
Anthony Stark was two things: rich and smart. He went to MIT at 15. In a fight with a supervillain he got a piece of shrapnel lodged in his chest and because it could not be removed without killing him, his assistants made a chest plate that also regulated his heart. He soon had the full body suit which made him Iron Man, because if there’s anything a young billionaire needs, it’s an ego boost. He continued the rich playboy facade while living a double life as a superhero and has been one of the key member of The Avengers.
Perhaps the most tragic background of any Marvel hero belongs to Wolverine, born James Howlett. He was the son of a rich plantation family, but in fact was illegitimately fathered by the groundskeeper. When the groundskeeper Thomas Logan’s other son attempted rape, Logan was thrown off the grounds, but he came back to kill John Howlett. Logan ended up killing his father using his mutant claws but was kicked out by his mother, who killed herself. Wolverine developed insane powers, most notably the ability to regenerate from any wound. He even survived an atomic explosion in which all of his skin burned off but was soon healed back. His healing powers allowed him to survive the process of his skeleton and claws being bonded with adamantium, a metal alloy known for being virtually indestructible.
Deadpool is one of the most notable Marvel characters because he is often used for comic effect and is the only character who breaks the fourth wall. He has an incredible healing factor that may have triggered his insanity, but nevertheless he remains mentally unstable - and as hilarious as he is an unstoppable killing machine. Deadpool's many powers include immunity to toxins, slow aging, and the ability to regrow limbs in hours - he was able to re-attach his head after it was smashed by Hulk. He's also a master of all weapons and can resist telepathic attacks.
9 Scarlet Witch
As the daughter of Magneto and twin sister of Quicksilver, the Scarlet Witch (born Wanda Maximoff) had many connections with the superhero world. She belonged to the second generation of Avengers, led by Captain America, along with Quicksilver and Hawkeye. After being kidnapped and brought to another dimension by the warlord Arkon, her teammates were forced to bring her back and she soon fell in love with her android teammate the Vision. Despite her brother’s reservations about her having such a relationship with a robot, she and the Vision married and had children. The Scarlet Witch became an apprentice to the noted witch Agatha Harkness and had the ability to decimate the mutant population with just a few words. She could also manipulate reality and probability.
8 Jean Grey
If you’ve ever wondered if teenage girls are able to read each other’s minds, maybe Jean Grey’s story will give you the answer. When her friend was killed by a car her mutant powers emerged and she was able to mentally connect with the dying girl to the point where Grey herself almost died. Once she’d come to terms with her powers she joined the X-Men. With the Phoenix Force, she was able to defeat one of Galactus’s heralds. Her powers when transformed into Phoenix include being able to rearrange matter, survive in any atmosphere, create portals to travel anywhere in the universe and manipulate electromagnetic and cosmic energies.
Everybody dreams of signing a movie contract, but nobody does it like Hercules. The Greek hero got himself into a mess when, in agreeing to sign a movie contract, he actually agreed to take on the responsibility of ruling the Netherworld. Thanks, Pluto. Thor eventually shimmied his way down under to rescue the buff airhead, flattening Pluto’s forces until the god surrendered and agreed to take back his kingdom. After that, Hercules pretty much did whatever Thor wanted, and although he didn’t have a lot going on upstairs, he did have the powers you would expect of a Greek hero: he lifted up the sixty-thousand ton Godzilla and tossed him like a beach ball, and he was even a stand-in for Atlas at one point. True, it was only for a few hours, but holding the weight of the entire world is no small feat. Just ask Atlas.
6 Black Bolt
He may not be able to time travel or regenerate skin, but no other Marvel hero can claim the power of Black Bolt: the ability to level a whole city with a single whisper. Why does that make him a hero? He spends his whole life trying to fight it. Black Bolt was an Inhuman who, as an embryo, was exposed to Terrigen Mist which caused him to be able to manipulate electrons. As a child his destructive voice was discovered and he was put in a soundproof chamber and instructed on how to use his power. However, when he re-entered the world with a vow never to speak a single word, his younger brother tried to provoke him into doing so anyway. Black Bolt spent his whole life fighting his incredible gift of destruction.
Imagine this: you’re an ordinary middle-aged man living a completely ordinary life and suddenly you remember that you’re actually one of the world’s greatest heroes. That’s what happened to Robert Reynolds, who began to remember that he was actually the Sentry and that his arch-nemesis the Void was coming back. He started asking around, and as other superheroes’ memories of him began to resurface and the public became aware of him again, Reynolds discovered the real reason why nobody had been able to remember him: the Sentry and the Void were two halves of the same being, and when the Void had tried to destroy the Earth before, Reynolds had saved the world by wiping his memory from everyone on the planet, including himself.
The Sentry was the world’s strongest superhero, with “the power of one million suns,” with superhuman senses to the extent that he could hear the heartbeat of a butterfly in Africa while he was in New York. However, despite his awesome power, the Sentry’s memory was for a second time erased from everyone’s mind, including his own.
4 The Hulk
You know you’ve got power when people have to launch you into space to get you out of the picture. This is what happened to the Hulk, the monster form of physicist Bruce Banner. Banner first became the Hulk when a teenager drove onto a testing site for a gamma bomb. Banner pushed him into a trench to save him and was hit by gamma radiation which caused him to transform at night into a monstrous creature. Hulk’s powers are unprecedented: he can lift trains and castles and he even grappled against the god Thor. He joined the Avengers, but during a crisis they decided that he was too dangerous to remain on Earth so they tricked him into going into orbit. Banner usually only becomes the Hulk when he gets angry or stressed out, so the lesson here is: don’t pee in Bruce Banner’s cheerios.
3 Franklin Richards
Some would say there’s nothing worse about taking care of children than temper tantrums. Meet Franklin Richards, a kid so pumped full of power that he was able to defeat several of the world’s most dangerous supervillains before he graduated middle school. Although he often used his powers for good, the radiation-altered mutant did not have the ability to properly control his unprecedented power and many of the foremost Marvel heroes played hot potato with the kid - he was first under the care of his parents Susan and Reed Richards, then temporarily cared for by witch Agatha Harkness, who passed him on to a robot named H.E.R.B.I.E. Under the care of the robot he actually aged himself into adulthood for a short time, but apparently realized he wasn’t ready to grow up yet and switched back. Let’s hope the kid doesn’t turn out like Peter Pan - everyone’s gotta grow up sometime, especially if you’re a ticking time bomb like Franklin Richards.
2 Silver Surfer
The Silver Surfer started out as Norrin Radd from the planet Zenn-La. When the supervillain Galactus threatened to destroy his planet, Radd made an arrangement to become the villain’s herald, searching out other planets for the monster to destroy. Galactus infused him with the Power Cosmic, which transformed him into the Silver Surfer. He can fly faster than the speed of light, travel through time, and detect things from light-years away.
Has your father ever been so disappointed in you that he forced you to share a body with a partially disabled medical student? Probably not, but Asgardian god Odin apparently felt that his son Thor needed to learn humility and did exactly this. Donald Blake, the human whom Thor inhabited, discovered aliens while on vacation in Norway and fled to a cave, where he discovered the thunder god Thor’s famous hammer Mjolnir. After smashing it into a rock he becomes Thor, only to learn that he had always been Thor and had simply been under Odin’s spell to make him believe that he was mortal. Using his hammer, Thor can summon lightning and open portals, and once he lifted the Midgard Serpent, which weighed more than half the earth, and tossed it into space. Now that requires real strength.