Marvel Comics are responsible for some of the most iconic Super-Heroes and Super-Villains ever created. The company was originally started in 1939 as Timely Publications before being known as Atlas Comics in the 1950s.
With the re-branding as Marvel Comics in 1961, artists like Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and the beloved Stan Lee gave birth to such well known characters like The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Hulk, Thor, the X-Men, and so many others. Starting in the 2000's, the company began to create a trend that is now common place in American cinema: The Super-Hero Movie.
In these films, the spotlight tends to shine more brightly on a select few while missing some great opportunities for character development of other seemingly minor players. It's really too bad considering that there is some raw potential for so many of these Marvel players that keep getting benched or going unacknowledged altogether.
So we took the liberty of compiling a list of some Marvel characters who we think are a little overrated, and some that are most definitely underrated.
20 Wolverine - Overrated
We get it. Hugh Jackman is as bold as the Canadian-born Logan, better known as Wolverine. Six retractable claws made out of 'adamantium' (the strongest metal known to man, at least in the Marvel world). He's also got a skeleton that's coated with the stuff which makes him one tough hombre.
Combined with animal-keen senses, enhanced physical capabilities, an immune system that comes equipped with a powerful fast-healing factor... and toss in a generally bad attitude for good measure, it's no wonder that the character has been a fan favourite. Being part of the insanely popular X-Men franchise only raises his value and visibility, which is unique for a character that is typically considered an anti-hero due to his gruff language and penchant for ultra-violent solutions.
The mutton-chopped X-Man has appeared in most of the X-Men adaptations, including animated television series, video games, and the 20th Century Fox produced X-Men film series. Basically, we're saying that we're a little tired of seeing this guy onscreen. It'd be good to see some other characters get the spotlight now!
In the 2017 film, Logan, audiences were introduced to the character of X-23, a little girl who has powers similar to Wolverine's, The two develop a sort of father/daughter relationship. Perhaps she'll carry the legacy of this character into new realms, rather than wringing every possible angle out of our angry 5'3'' powerhouse (we checked, he's actually only that tall).
19 Mystique - Underrated
While this character has garnered some serious screen-time in nearly all of the main X-Men movies, her sassy attitude and ability to shape-shift into and mimic any character leaves us wanting more Mystique. Expertly played by Rebecca Romijn for the first handful of movies before Jennifer Lawrence competently took over, Mystique steals most every scene she's in. Go ahead, I dare you to try and look away from her performances.
There's still so much to explore about this character who's had so little of her backstory explained, but has a rich backstory in the comics. Her first appearance was in Ms. Marvel #16 (1978) and she has direct connection either romantically or biologically to numerous other mutants which would flesh out any solo vehicle with plenty of star-power.
She's had flings with both Sabretooth and Azazel. The latter of which resulted in her being the biological mother of Nightcrawler (who she abandoned), and the adopted mother of Rogue, another mutant whose allegiances have been known to be swayed. So there's clearly fertile ground to expand upon this tempestuous blue mutant, if for no other reason, than to get those family issues sorted out.
18 Magneto - Overrated
Movie audiences know Magneto as portrayed by the magnificent Sir Ian Mckellen. While mostly cast as one of the main adversaries of Charles Xavier and his X-Men, the character's development shows complexity in his conflict over supporting mutant rights at the expense of the rest of human civilization. His main power is the ability to generate and control magnetic fields. So long as an object is made of metal, Magneto can control its very nature, both in shape and motion.
So best to keep him away from your grandpa's pacemaker!
Despite his admittedly powerful control over the very Earth itself and his ability to masterfully rally evil mutants together, he is continuously defeated. He constantly makes the classic bad-guy mistake of over-explaining his motivations and plans while his soft-hearted side makes him a flawed 'bad-guy'. And his helmet is just plain silly. You can mold metal into the shape of anything you want, and that's the best design you came up with? Obviously, a super-powered fashion sense doesn't come with the gig.
17 Bolivar Trask - Underrated
While probably the most under-the-radar character on this list, Bolivar Trask has been wrecking havoc since his first appearance in Uncanny X-Men #14 (1965). He is a great metaphor for learning the lessons of tolerance.
Bolivar Trask starts out with the intentions of protecting humanity from mutants by creating the Sentinals (which are mutant-hunting robots), but eventually recognizes how his anger has blinded him into becoming what he most hates.
Most of his story arc was covered in the film, X-Men: Days of Future Past and, to be honest, it was his feisty portrayal by Peter Dinklage that begs for more screen time. As a military scientist, he is clever, but not a super-evil-genius 'I want to take over the world' kind of clever.
On the surface, his motivations seem to revolve around the altruism of protecting humanity from the mutant threat. However, if one examines his backstory, he has two children, both mutants. There is some deep family psychology in play here, and Peter Dinklage is the guy to bring that to life. I don't care if his character sacrificed himself and is technically... deceased. It wouldn't be the first time Marvel brought a character back from the beyond.
16 Captain America - Overrated
Is there a more patriotic hero than Captain America? His uniform is themed on the flag of the United States of America after all. Taking the idea of 'protector' to the most literal interpretation, his most iconic piece of gear is his shield which he throws at his enemies quite often. Made of a fictitious metal known as 'vibranium', his shield is able to absorb kinetic energy while transferring very little of that energy to Captain America. This can lead to some neat tricks like using the shield as a landing device to avoid damage from a fall, or blocking the blows from some brick houses like The Incredible Hulk.
His first exploits were designed around a patriotic super-soldier who often fought against the Axis powers (first appearing in the Timely Comics produced 'Captain America Comics #1 in 1941). Having such a blind loyalty to any government, especially one actively involved in numerous wars, is a glaring flaw in one who so proudly bears the title of "hero." Sorry, but we're not ready to get behind this star-spangled man.
15 She-Hulk - Underrated
With the critical and financial success of Wonder Woman, it seems Hollywood might be willing to embrace a strong female lead hero. And we do mean strong in the most literal sense. And She-Hulk is definitely someone who can pack a punch and then some.
The Hulk and his non-hulk form of Bruce Banner have already been firmly established in the cinematic Marvel universe, so introducing She-Hulk (AKA Jennifer Walters) should be an easy sell. Especially since her origin story is one of the more believable ones.
Walters is actually the cousin of Bruce Banner! Following an injury, she received an emergency blood transfusion from her Hulk infected cousin, and thus acquired a milder version of his green-hued condition. Basically, she maintained her personality but was now buffed out. Buffed out and green, but still... packing some serious cannons.
She does have the hulk-ish tendency to get more powerful when angered, but has a better check on her rage meter than her masculine cousin. She-Hulk has been part of the Avengers, the Defenders, Heroes for Hire, and S.H.I.E.L.D., so she seems to have a wide appeal with powers that are good for team support. She is also a skilled lawyer by trade! So if she can't beat you up, she will sure as hell make you regret your bad life choices in court. That has television series written all over it. Hey, Netflix, are you writing this all down?
14 Spider-Man - Overrated
The wall-crawler has been a staple of the Marvel universe since his first appearance in Amazing Fantasy #15 from 1962. The idea of Spider-Man has been so commercially and critically successful, that he's become the flagship character and mascot of Marvel. Stan Lee and Steve Ditko took a risk with developing a teenager as a main hero as previously, younger characters were relegated to side-kick positions like Captain America's Bucky or Batman's Robin. This paid off with one of the most recognizable super-heroes on the planet that has gone on to saturate every medium covering comics, television, video-games, movies, and countless pieces of merchandise.
All over a guy who got bitten by a radioactive spider.
One has to realize that in 1962, the whole concept of atomic energy was rather new and people's understanding of radiation amounted to 'it makes it grow bigger' or 'it gives it magical powers'. So when a radioactive spider bites a young Peter Parker, why of course the spider's natural biological abilities would be transferred into its human victim. Except for the webbing, though. While it was deemed perfectly believable back in the day that he would gain the ability to climb walls, have extra strength, and be alerted to danger with a built-in 'Spidey Sense' (AKA common sense, let's be real), having actual web-producing powers was deemed not very realistic. Seriously.
13 Nightcrawler - Underrated
Here is another character that we've seen get some screen time, but Alan Cumming's portrayal of Kurt Wagner, better known as Nightcrawler, left us wanting to see more of the blue-skinned demon of faith. While he wasn't part of the original X-Men, his quirky, good-natured manners and high level of charisma combined with his unusual appearance has made him a fan favourite and series regular.
His ability to teleport himself and others to predetermined destinations might not seem like the most extravagant super-power, but it can be applied in various offensive and defensive ways. It does help that he was raised in a circus and has acrobatics experience.
Also, the fact that every time he does this trick, it leaves behind a cloud of foul smelling smoke makes little sense, but is still kind of funny. You can't blame that one on the dog, Kurt.
Where this character would provide a rich crossover possibility is in the fact that he is the offspring of Mystique and Azazel, a demonic warlord who also possesses teleportation abilities... can you see the family resemblance there? This could be a whole dynamic to explore considering the level of conflict and drama that comes built-in with a normal family, one can only imagine what Christmas dinners are like at Nightcrawler's house.
12 Loki - Overrated
Based on the Norse deity of the same name, Loki is the adopted brother of another well known Viking God known as Thor. The sibling rivalry is well documented in the comic books as well as various movies. His ambition for the Tesseract, one of the infinity stones of unparalleled power, brings him into a major sibling spat with his brother in the 2012 Avengers film. He has an impressive range of powers including the strength, speed immunity to disease and toxins, resistance to magic and aging, and genius-level intelligence with extensive training in magic.
In short, he is literally a God.
He is an adept shape-shifter, and has basically cheated the afterlife by insuring a reincarnation anytime his body is destroyed. Which is why Loki is such a disappointment. Forever in the shadow of his more famous brother, Loki seems to be cast as the tragic foil, always doomed to just almost take over the universe. He crafts the most ambitious plans, backed by all those powers, and is typically beat by a guy with a big hammer. It'd be pretty cool to see him have his own spin-off film, but at the same time, it's starting to look like the MCU doesn't know what to do with this character. We're kind of over him at this point.
11 Silver Surfer - Underrated
Arguably one of the slickest looking creations to ever have come out of Jack Kirby, this chrome-dome first made an appearance hanging ten across space in The Fantastic Four #48 (1966). His origin revolves around the cosmic entity Galactus, who would consume whole planets to sustain his life force.
The Surfer was once a normal scientist from the utopian planet of Zenn-La (just go with it) which is located in our own Milky Way Galaxy. When planet munching Big G showed up all hangry, the scientist turned into the hero to save his love and his planet. He offered himself up to become the herald of Galactus and seek out other planets for consumption. Galactus agreed and gave him a portion of the 'Power Cosmic' transforming him into the Silver Surfer.
“Why the surfboard?” you ask? Because everyone looks cool on a surfboard! Even a shiny silver man with minimal features. This was on display for the third movie in the Fantastic Four franchise, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Although the film was a disaster, it did an admirable job of capturing the stoic wisdom of the deep space traveler along with his conflicted nature about his servitude to the 'Devourer of Worlds'. Fox is rumored to be working on a Silver Surfer movie, so it looks like this character is on track for further development. At least we hope so.
10 Groot - Way Overrated
Groot is beyond cute.The kind of cute that makes toy-maker's pupils turn into dollar signs. Cute can also be contrived, shoving the joy and wonder of an animated tree stump down our throats until the collective 'awwwww' hums in unison like a bizarre hymn. The line is very fine that separates the two. Having a baby Groot survive at the end of the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie was a lighthearted reprieve from the sadness of losing one of the more unique and interesting members of the team. The fact that this talking tree could only communicate with the phrase "I am Groot" challenged the animators to bring the emotion forth through annunciation, actions, and expressions.
But having a baby Groot as a comedic cute-bomb throughout the sequel is kind of pushing it.
It's almost as if studio execs looked at the final scene of the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie where a planted baby Groot gets his groove on and thought... "That. We need way more of that. Here is a pile of money. Make sure there is a baby Groot in the sequel. We don't care what he does. Just make him cute." And just for the record, as confirmed by writer/director James Gunn, the original Groot is dead, and baby Groot is an entirely different entity... grown from a piece of the original Groot.
9 Moon Knight - Underrated
This character has been on the fringe of the Marvel universe since his first appearance as a villain for hire in Werewolf by Night #32 (1975). He had various one-off showings and limited runs popping up in a string of more established titles. It wasn't until 1980 that Moon Knight got his own series, but that only lasted for 38 issues. While never establishing a solid run as a title, the character of Moon Knight has consistently made appearances in the Marvel Comics universe.
While his similarities to Batman are hard to deny, his differences make him a more interesting study for the concept of 'hero'. His origin story has a heavy religious angle, which Marvel has been known to tip-toe around when it comes to adapting heroes for television and movies.
His powers were granted to him by the Egyptian moon god Khonshu after he lost a fight and was left for dead in the desert. Although the degree to which his powers are enhanced are dependent on the phases of the Moon (honestly such a cool idea right there), he maintains superior martial arts abilities and is a master with most weapons both melee and range. Which means he has tons of gadgets and knows how to use them. At times, he is an uber-violent vigilante who fights for his Moon god. He's like Batman with religious conviction. What we're saying here is that this character needs to be explored and asap.
8 Thor - Overrated
Making a superhero a 'God' is kind of a cheat right off the bat. Granted, he is the son of Odin, the main god among many of Norse origin, which suggests there are different levels of being a god, and thus, different rankings in power. But compared to the fragility of most 'mortal' super-heroes, starting out with a laundry list of powers makes writers get super-creative to craft flaws into such perfection. He swings a big hammer named Mjölnir which grants Thor the ability to fly and manipulate weather.
Being the son of Odin and the elder goddess Gaea, Thor is the strongest of the Asgardian nation.
He is basically invulnerable. Did I mention he can travel through time? Because he can! Game over, man. Once you can travel in time, that's it, nothing is off limits. Would you like to be Thor? The side of the hammer carries the inscription "Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.” So basically, any good-natured chap could potentially be Thor. I could be Thor. You could be Thor. The hammer is obviously designed with the intent that Thor isn't the only one that can possess the enchanted item. And that's ridiculous.
7 Daredevil - Underrated
Don't let the abomination that was the 2003 Daredevil movie starring Ben Affleck discourage you. That movie was so bad, it almost squashed any hope I had for the early wave of super-hero movies that dominated the early 2000's.
What writers have discovered is that perfection is boring; the more powers you jam into a character, the harder it is to find ways to exploit their weaknesses for interesting stories or for audiences to relate and come to care for this person. Daredevil as a character is an interesting study in both power and disability.
Matt Murdock grows up in the crime hotbed known as Hell's Kitchen with a working-class boxer for a father. Because this was the early '60s, and we've already established the 'rules' for gaining any super-powers during this period... he gets his abilities from (drum-roll for suspense...) … radiation. This time the exposure comes in the form of a spill from a truck carrying a radioactive substance that happens to hit Murdock square in the eyes.
On the one hand, it makes him blind, but it does give him heightened senses far beyond that of a normal human and also grants him a kind of 'radar' sense to make up for his loss of sight. Paired with his altruistic nature, this makes for an interesting package of a character whose day job is that of a lawyer. Netflix has done a good job of salvaging Daredevil's reputation from that Affleck misfire (which is putting it lightly).
6 Dr. Otto Octavius - Overrated
Long-time foe of a well-known arachnid-based hero, Dr. Octopus first appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man #3. Because he was created in the 'atomic age' of the early '60s, his psychokinetic powers were given to him by exposure to radiation. So what does 'Doc Ock' do with his mind powers? He grafts on four extra electrically powered artificial titanium tentacle arms so that he can grab ya and pinch ya really really hard.
There is just something not scary about a man with slinky arms, especially if I imagine him waving them around like one of those wacky inflatable balloon guys.
In an 2011 interview done with Alter Ego magazine, Stan Lee exposed how much thought he didn't put into the creation of the character by saying, “Usually in creating a villain the first thing I would think of was a name, and then I would try to think of, 'Well, now that I've got the name, who's the character going to be and what will he do?' For some reason, I thought of an octopus. I thought, 'I want to call somebody Octopus. And I want him to have a couple of extra arms just for fun.'" And that's how one of the more impossibly foolish Marvel characters was born.
5 Carnage - Underrated
Carnage is to Venom what Venom is to Spider-Man. Sort of. Both are born of an alien symbiote that bonds with its human host, giving them superior strength, shape-shifting abilities, and the power to project a web-like substance from any part of their body. He can even implant thoughts into a person using a symbiote tendril with direct contact to the victims head! Damn!
His regenerative abilities allow him to survive nearly any physical attack. He is one of the gnarliest, nastiest creations in the Marvel universe, which is why there is probably an audience for Carnage.
Carnage is spawned from the same alien symbiote that created Venom. The main difference comes from the choice of hosts. Venom's human host is Eddie Brock. He is just an average guy who ends up with a beef against Peter Parker/Spider-Man.
What makes Carnage such a wild card is its human host, Cletus Kasady, a horrific psychopath. His origin story is too violent to print here, so if this character was to be given his own movie, it would have to come with a hard R rating. Then again, the success of Deadpool shows that Marvel movies do just fine when they branch out from their typical PG-13 limits. It is rumored that Woody Harrelson will make an appearance as Carnage in the 2018 Venom movie. I'm not sure if that was such a good casting choice, but we'll see how it goes.
4 Iron Man - Overrated
Tony Stark is the hero you love to hate. Brash, cocky, and arrogant, but always comes through in the end. He is the ultimate poster boy for the concept that wealth can buy you power. The Man of Iron obviously possesses some mad engineering skills to keep creating the ever-evolving suits that enable him to hang with real super-heroes. Through his business acumen, he has amassed a great deal of wealth which allows him the status of 'super-hero'. He eventually became a part of the Avengers, which is great for his bottom line because those movies make bank.
But there is only so much love we should show for someone who directly connects the concept of money to power.
Sure, he uses it for good when he's not living it up in his cliff-side spaceship-esque mansion. He seriously has some of the most ostentatious taste of any super-hero. The conflict between being a heroic force for good in the world, and living like a spoiled billionaire is hard not to notice. His company has produced weapon systems that ended up being used for evil. It's almost like the gluttonous capitalism that made his Stark Enterprises super-rich directly contributes to the creation of the problems Iron Man has to then go out and solve. A classic case of art reflecting life.
3 Ego - Underrated
Portrayed as hero/villain, Ego proved to be the main villain (and biological father to Peter Quill) in the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Expertly played by Kurt Russell, the character has a deeper back-story than the movie delivers and has been appearing as Ego the Living Planet in the Marvel universe since his first introduction in Thor #132 (1966).
Something like a living planet as a character seems to have possibilities that could surpass the normal drama faced by the standard human-centric adventures. Kirby gave some insight to the wonder that surrounds this character as he explained the genesis of its creation in a 1969 interview that was later reprinted in The Nostalgia Journal.
He stated “I began to experiment. [...] A planet that was alive; a planet that was intelligent. [...] You would say, 'Yeah, that's wild,' but how do you relate to it? Why is it alive? So I felt somewhere out in the universe, the universe ... becomes denser and turns liquid — and that in this liquid, there was a giant multiple virus, and if it remained isolated for millions and millions of years, it would begin to evolve by itself and it would begin to think. [...] and that was Ego.”
2 Sandman - Overrated
Another long-time adversary of the famed web-slinger, Sandman first appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man #4 (1963). His powers revolve around his ability to transform his body into different states of sand. 'Too literal' was not in the vocabulary of early Marvel writers. He can make his sandy form more compact and hard to puncture, or he can make it disperse and shift in shape. He can mold his arms into weapons like a mace, or sledgehammer. But perhaps his most effective power is to leave sand in every crevice of your body after a fight.
Despite being able to defeat this guy with a giant bucket of water, this character has managed to permeate that universe with multiple appearances.
Most notably played by Thomas Haden Church in Spider-Man 3, his general clumsy nature and far-from-genius personality made his powers almost laughable. And worth mentioning, since he was created in 1963, I'll give you one guess as to the origin of his powers. Yeah, it was radiation. From the sand on a beach by a nuclear testing site. Stan Lee was cranking out, like, 25 comic characters a week, so most origin stories revolve around exposure to radioactive materials. What you might call lazy, Stan Lee called 'sticking with what works, true believer.'
1 Quicksilver - Underrated
He has a cool name, a cool look, and can move so fast that time essentially moves at a snail's pace. Yet, his name recognition is rather low. DC seems to have the highest profile speedster in The Flash, so Marvel should push this character front and center!
If they made a television series for him, then perhaps they could give it an adult-ish gloss like what Netflix is doing with Marvel shows like Jessica Jones and Luke Cage.
While his beginnings were associated as an enemy for The X-Men, Quicksilver eventually joined the Avengers as a force for good. He also convinced his sister, The Scarlet Witch to leave Magneto's 'Brotherhood of Evil Mutants' and fight on the right side of the law.
Everyone loves a 'bad guy redeems himself by becoming a good guy' story arc. This would make excellent material for a solo vehicle, showing his powers used for evil, then contrasting against his powers used to help humanity. His overall awesome-ness did get a feature segment in the film, at least. Quicksilver (played by Even Peters) stole the movie with his breathtaking prison break scene, set to the on-the-nose song from 1973, "Time in a Bottle."
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