For decades now, we have been being fed the same motion picture superheroes by Hollywood studios. Time and time again, we have seen the likes of Batman, Superman, and Spider-Man packaged and repackaged to suit audiences of each evolving era, with each character going from flamboyant to flawed to undisputedly dark. While it is kind of cool to see how certain superheroes have grown and changed with the times, it’s hard to deny that a lot of them have become incredibly repetitive and more than a little boring.
If you ask me, it’s high time Hollywood studios dive into the almost bottomless treasure chest of comic book superstars and give us dedicated moviegoers some new characters to get invested in. It’s not like there is a shortage of believable superheroes for the motion picture industry to bring to life. There are literally hundreds of heroes (and villains) with whom the majority of people are not familiar for no other reason than the fact their existence has been limited almost entirely to the pages of comic books and graphic novels. They are powerful, relatable, likeable, and just waiting to be showcased on the big screen. We’re going to be looking at some of the most eligible of those unknown superheroes today.
Here are 15 of the most powerful superheroes you’ve never heard of.
A creation of Marvel Comics, Nova has had his ups and downs since being introduced to comic book readers in September of 1976. There have been times when those at the helm of the Marvel ship were ready to pull the trigger on Nova as the star of an entire franchise and there have been times when those same people suddenly lost confidence in the character and relegated him to supporting appearances in the stories of more established superheroes.
The Nova Force, the energy source from which Richard Rider - the man behind the mask - derives his powers gives the character superhuman speed, superhuman strength, and even the ability to fly. To top it all off, Nova is a master of hand-to-hand combat, effectively making him a one-man Avengers.
14 The Dogwelder
The vast majority of superheroes started out life as flamboyant and colorful characters being marketed towards children. While most have since been repackaged as flawed existentialists in order to appeal to their now grown up original audience, very few superheroes actually started out that way. The Dogwelder is one of them.
The Dogwelder has two distinct powers - welding and a complete lack of compassion - which allows him to deal with criminals in an extraordinarily creative manner. For The Dogwelder, the justice process begins by tracking down stray dogs and murdering them (I know, but stay with me). Once he has obtained the dead body of a dog, The Dogwelder will locate whatever law-breaker has earned his scorn and, after a bit of a scuffle, will weld the dog’s corpse onto the villain’s face. I’d rather have my neck snapped by Superman.
Marvel’s Cosmo was one of many dogs to be used as a test animal for the Soviet Space Program during the 1960s. After being shot into space, Cosmo developed telepathic and telekinetic superpowers, along with the ability to talk (though it has never been established exactly why he speaks English and not Russian).
Cosmo is unique - if he wasn’t unique already - as the true extent of his powers has never been made known to readers. In fact, it isn’t unreasonable to suggest that the dog hasn’t even informed his fellow superheroes, many of whom he has teamed with, of the full scope of his abilities. We do know, however, that Cosmo has the power to take on and defeat human supervillains single-handedly, making him a very good boy.
12 Adam Warlock
For more than 40 years, Adam Warlock has been popping up whenever he is needed, but the guy still has virtually no profile outside of fanatical comic book circles. A significant portion of Warlock’s consistent failure to captivate mainstream audiences can be traced back to his name, which has been a problem since day one.
When the superhero was first introduced to audiences by Stan Lee in the fall of 1967, he was known as “Him”, a name which is more than a little confusing and eerily reminiscent of that “Who’s on First?” sketch by Abbott and Costello. When Roy Thomas and Jim Starlin began further developing the character a couple of years later, their first move was to get rid of the absurd “Him” name and rechristen the character “Adam Warlock”, which they for some reason thought would lead to profit. It’s a pity Adam Warlock has been cursed with such unpopular names throughout his history as his abilities, which include superhuman strength, superhuman speed, flight, and regeneration, make him one of the most powerful men in the Marvel Universe.
Having only made his comic book debut back in 2000, Sentry is comparatively new to the Marvel Universe. However, the Sentry character certainly cannot be described as young. You see, the protagonist of the Sentry series is a guy by the name of Bob Reynolds, an ageing, overweight, and relatively normal American widow. One day, seemingly out of the blue, Reynolds recalls that he had at one time been known as “Sentry”, a long-forgotten superhero with “the power of one million exploding suns”. Over the course of the series, Reynolds pieces together the story of Sentry, which ultimately leads him to the discovery that he once wiped the minds of all of the world’s citizens, causing them to forget Sentry almost entirely.
In the Marvel Universe, Sentry was one of the world’s first superheroes and, of course, one of its most powerful. During his prime, Sentry possessed the powers of molecular manipulation, superhuman strength, superhuman stamina, enhanced senses, and flight, to name but a few of his remarkable attributes.
The Incredible Hulk is one of the most well-known and beloved superheroes of all time. As a solo act, Hulk has more than held his own in the comic book and movie world and he has been rejuvenated with his recent motion picture affiliation with The Avengers, which has introduced him to younger audiences. His female counterpart, however, has not experienced the same success.
She-Hulk, as she is ever so creatively named, possesses the majority of The Incredible Hulk’s powers and attributes, but is noticeably lacking in Bruce Banner’s male genitalia. A cousin of Banner, she acquired a toned-down strain of his condition after receiving a blood transfusion from him in her 1980 debut appearance. Unlike her male equivalent, She-Hulk maintains her intelligence when she transforms, which arguably makes her the more capable superhero.
9 Dynamite Thor
Dynamite Thor doesn’t really have any relation to the Thor that we know and love today. The superhero’s name is a combination of the character’s defining superpower and the surname of Peter Thor, the man behind the mask (although Dynamite Thor never actually wore a mask).
Originally published by Fox in 1940, Dynamite Thor comes from a time when publishers were still trying to determine just to what degree members of the public were willing to suspend their disbelief. For that reason, Thor’s powers were relatively simple, yet undeniably effective. Through the use of sticks of dynamite and a suit that was unique to him, Dynamite Thor had the ability to propel himself through the air and to the scene of the crime. Thor was also immune to explosives, a power many of the superheroes in today’s explosion-heavy comic book movies could do with.
8 The Swamp Thing
I think it’s safe to say that we are all familiar with The Thing; the gigantic, orange brick member of the Marvel Comics faction The Fantastic Four. However, the vast majority of casual superhero fans have likely never heard of his eco-friendly, DC equivalent: The Swamp Thing.
Although The Swamp Thing has been the focus of two motion pictures and a live-action television series (as well as an animated alternative), mainstream success has constantly eluded the character. That being said, The Swamp Thing’s dedication to preserving the planet and his unique powers have earned him a small cult following. These powers include the ability to inhabit and transform vegetable matter, regenerate severed limbs, and perform incredible feats of strengths of which more human superheroes are incapable.
7 Animal Man
For as long as there have been comic books, we have had a fascination with superheroes who possess the traits of other living creatures. We have seen, for example, Batman, Spider-Man, and even Ant-Man captivate the public with their interspecies crime fighting techniques. Never, however, has there been a superhero as vaguely titled as Animal Man.
Animal Man, while terribly named, is actually one of the most powerful superheroes in the DC Universe and is arguably more suited to the task of keeping hooligans off the streets than any of the aforementioned more successful animal-human hybrids. Rather than possessing the powers of a single animal, Animal Man has the ability to borrow the skill set of any animal that is near him in his time of need.
6 Big Bertha
I can’t figure out if a feature length film about the adventures of Marvel Comics superhero Big Bertha would be hailed as a giant leap forward in the fight for body positivity or panned as yet another example of size shaming in the movie industry.
With a flawless figure and breathtaking good looks, Ashley Crawford is the most famous supermodel in her home state of Wisconsin. When the time comes to fight crime, however, Crawford has the power to transform into Big Bertha, a morbidly obese Blob-esque superhero who uses her immense size to literally squash her enemies. As her story progresses, however, Crawford experiences a bit of an identity crisis. She eventually finds a balance between her catwalk fame and her superhero obligations by embarking on a career as a plus-size model.
5 Kid Eternity
Although the origin story of Kid Eternity seems pretty tame by today’s standards, it was surprisingly controversial when the character first began appearing in the first half of the 1940s. Kid Eternity’s first stint among the living came to an end following a boating accident during World War II. Upon arriving at the gates of Heaven, however, he was informed that an error in the divine system had led to him being killed 75 years too soon. He was subsequently sent back to Earth to live out the remainder of his life, being promised immortality for the next 75 years providing he dedicated himself to improving the world. To sweeten the deal, Kid Eternity was also given the power to summon literally any creature he wanted - be it alive, extinct, or even mythological - simply by saying the word “Eternity”.
4 Martian Manhunter
Despite being one of the original members of the Justice League of America, Martian Manhunter is relatively unknown by today’s casual superhero fans. Why there hasn’t been a greater emphasis put on the character by the folks over at DC Comics is a mystery, especially considering the fact that his wide array of powers creates endless storyline possibilities.
Martian Manhunter is perhaps the single most powerful superhero without a major mainstream presence. In fact, the argument can be made the Martian Manhunter is the single most powerful superhero, full stop. The guy possesses a multitude of powers and abilities, many of which are native to his alien race, such as flight, shapeshifting, invisibility, and regeneration. He also boasts X-ray vision and the ability to shoot energy beams from his eyes. Martian Manhunter’s otherworldly skill set is so impressive that he was once described by Superman as being “the most powerful being on the face of the Earth.”
3 Moon Knight
Moon Knight, a creation of Marvel comics, hasn’t received a whole lot of mainstream attention and there hasn’t been any major push from Marvel to rectify that. This is likely owing to the fact that for most of his existence, the Moon Knight character has been slammed by comic book fans for being far too similar to the far more iconic Batman character. Marvel is likely aware that a Moon Knight motion picture would result in mainstream allegations of plagiarism and so is happy enough to let the character continue to fly under the radar.
Despite his many similarities to Batman - or, perhaps, as a consequence of them - Moon Knight is a remarkably powerful individual. Although he is a mere mortal and is lacking in any significant superpowers, he is a skilled fighter and is more than able to hold his own against even the most fearsome of aggressors. An Olympic-level athlete, he is skilled in gymnastics and acrobatics and is a master of pretty much every weapon a comic book artist can draw. A skilled diver and licensed helicopter pilot, he is as dangerous in the ocean and the sky as he is on land.
2 Morbius, The Living Vampire
Morbius, The Living Vampire started off his comic book life - or death - as an antagonist in a 1971 edition of The Amazing Spider-Man. However, fans of the series, for some inexplicable reason, took a liking to the semi-undead little rascal and he was repackaged as a flawed but admirable superhero in a comic book series of his very own.
Morbius, The Living Vampire is not so much a vampire as he is a once-normal man who was left with most of the abilities and physical qualities of a vampire after partaking in a failed biochemical experiment. Among the many powers of Morbius is accelerated healing, which allows him to recover from the vast majority of injuries in only a matter of seconds. He is also capable of levitation, night vision, and echolocation. As he is not a supernatural vampire, Morbius has no aversion to garlic or religious symbols and so is pretty difficult to trump.
1 Spider Jerusalem
It’s not often that a superhero is based on an author. That being said, if there was ever an author deserving of being immortalized in superhero form - other than myself - it was Hunter S. Thompson.
Like Hunter S. Thompson, the brilliantly named Spider Jerusalem is a drinking, fighting, and swearing gonzo journalist who is determined to prove the corruption of the typical political system through the written word. While Jerusalem doesn’t have any typical superhero powers, he does possess the almost superhuman ability to topple entire crooked regimes simply by spending a few hours sitting before his typewriter. He is also an expert marksman and often boasts about keeping a gun on him at all times. Unlike most writers, Jerusalem isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty and over the years he has proven himself to be more than capable in hand-to-hand combat.