2019 Top Marvel Characters 31

2019 Top Marvel Characters 3-1

The countdown concludes with your picks for the greatest Marvel Comics characters of all-time! Who is #1?

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2019 Top Marvel Characters 31

After nearly 1,100 ballots were cast, YOU the reader ranked your favorite comic book characters from 1-10. I assigned point totals to each ranking and then tabulated it all into a Top 50 list. We’re revealing that list throughout the rest of the month (and okay, maybe a little bit into November). The countdown concludes now…

3. Wolverine (James Howlett) – 2449 points (48 first place votes)

Created by Len Wein and John Romita (based on an idea by Roy Thomas), Wolverine was originally a foe for the Hulk. But when Wein was tasked with created a new group of international X-Men, he quickly thought about Wolverine, who was Canadian.

To put Wolverine’s success into perspective, let me use a Happy Days, like I did with Gambit. Wolverine becoming the breakout character of the X-Men would be sort of like watching an early episode of Happy Days and saying, “Hey, that Ralph Malph character should get more screen time!”

That’s basically all Wolverine was at first – a background character who was a bit of a pain in the ass and a typical wise guy.

Then John Byrne came aboard the title and suddenly Wolverine got a whole lot more interesting (and stab-tacular). Byrne was Canadian, like Wolverine, and so as Byrne began to have more and more of an impact in the plotting of the X-Men, he gave Wolverine more and more to do and he also helped Chris Claremont (the co-plotter and scripter of the series) to develop Wolverine and make him more intriguing.

This sort of came to a head in X-Men #132, when the X-Men were mostly captured in a battle with the Hellfire Club. Wolverine was seemingly killed, tossed into the sewers and forgotten, but the end of the issue made it clear that Wolverine was not only NOT dead, but he was prepared to cause all sorts of trouble in a wonderful panel by Byrne and inker Terry Austin that contains one of the most famous claims in Marvel history…

The next issue, Wolverine made his way to save his teammates…

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While we knew that Wolverine was a hard-edged killer before this point, this was still one of the rare occasions that we actually got to SEE Wolverine’s savagery in action.

2019 Top Marvel Characters 31

Amusingly, Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief later insisted that Wolverine not actually KILL anyone, so all of those guards were revealed to have survived their encounter with Wolverine.

Eventually, Wolverine’s personality would begin to be flushed out. Wolverine was a man prone to berserker rages, but he also had a noble warrior side to him. His mutant healing powers served him well in battle, along with the nigh unbreakable metal skeleton he had (complete with claws!).

When Wolverine got his own miniseries by Claremont and Frank Miller, it was a massive success and Wolverine soon not only had his own ongoing series, but he was perhaps THE most popular guest star in the entire Marvel Universe. There literally was not a single month that went by without a Wolverine guest appearance for, like, two years in the early 1990s.

Meanwhile, in the X-Books, over the years, Wolverine became more and more of a leader of the X-Men, to the point where he even founded his OWN school for mutants, where he was co-headmaster. Sadly, his healing powers were then stolen from him by some bad guys and he eventually was killed by having molten adamantium poured all over him.

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An older version of Wolverine from an alternate reality had made his way to the regular Marvel Universe and sort of served as a fill-in Wolverine for a couple of years but the real Wolverine eventually returned from the dead and after a detour with the Infinity Gems, Wolverine has returned to the X-Men and he is back to being one of the key members of the team.

He is about to get his own comic book series again.

2. Captain America (Steve Rogers) – 3200 points (75 first place votes)

Created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, Steve Rogers was not accepted into the Army, so the next best thing he could do was volunteer as a test subject for a new Super Soldier Serum. The serum transformed the weak Rogers into a lean, mean fighting machine.

As Captain America, Rogers was the great Super Soldier for America against the Nazis, along with his partner, Bucky Barnes. His main enemy was the Nazi Red Skull. Tragically, towards the end of the war, an explosion seemingly killed both Cap and Bucky, although in reality, Captain America was just placed into a state of suspended animation (and, as it turned out, Bucky survived the explosion, too, and was fished out by the Russians who turned him into a killing machine known as the Winter Soldier).

Cap was revived years later by the Avengers…

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How much of a stunning example of Captain America’s coolness is that? He wakes up twenty years in the future and he basically just has a quick freak out and then he pulls a Fonzie and suddenly he’s totally calm.

Then, for good measure, he’s like, “Hey, bunch of powerful looking folks I just met, I bet I can kick all of your asses.” And then he pretty much DOES JUST THAT!

2019 Top Marvel Characters 31

That “try to conquer me” panel is just a stunning display by Kirby. So much casual awesomeness there.

While still working as an Avenger, Cap also began to fight alongside SHIELD, a spy/law enforcement agency which was headed up by Cap’s former World War II buddy, Nick Fury. There he met Agent 13, Sharon Carter, who would be his companion for quite awhile (Cap dated her older sister, Peggy Carter, during World War II. Peggy eventually was retconned to being Sharon’s great-aunt). Soon, he met up with a new superhero named the Falcon (Sam Wilson was his real name). The two would become partners for quite awhile (even having Cap’s book retitled Captain America and the Falcon).

Along the way, Captain America would often come into conflict with his own government, like when he learned that the head of the Secret Empire was the President of the United States!!

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Man, it is crazy how modern Captain America comics are just too political. What I wouldn’t give for the good old days, when the President of the United States is shown to be a crook and then kills himself in front of Captain America. The classic writers like Steve Englehart knew how to keep politics out of their book about Captain America.

There are too many good Captain America moments, so I’ll settle for this bit at the end of Mark Waid and Ron Garney’s sadly short run on the book. You see, Sharon Carter has this piece of information that she is using to lure an Asian warlord out of hiding so she can assassinate him. She figures that with him dead, the government he formed would collapse, and eventually resistance fighters will build up to the point where they can rescue all the people stuck in a prison camp (a prison camp that Carter herself spent some time in in the past). When Cap sees the prison camp, well, he has a different take on WHEN the situation will be settled…

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During Civil War, Captain America became the main leader of the side of the superheroes who did not want to let the government force them to register with the government in order to become superheroes. At the end of the story, Captain America surrendered when it became clear to him that their battle was doing more harm than good to the world around them. He was arrested but was then shockingly murdered while in custody…by SHARON CARTER?!?!

In reality, it was all a plot by the Red Skull to eventually let the Skull take over Cap’s body. It failed and Captain America was back. In the meantime, his old friend, Bucky Barnes, had taken over Captain America and so Steve instead became a sort of Commander of the world of superheroes, a kind of liaison between the government and the superheroes. Essentially, if superheroes had to trust the government, at least they would all feel safe with Steve Rogers being the guy in charge.

During the crossover event, Fear Itself, Bucky Barnes was seemingly killed and Steve returned to take on the title of Captain America once more (again using his unbreakable shield in battle).

After some time, Steve Rogers basically had the Super Soldier Serum sucked out of his body in a fight with a villain, so he became roughly a 90-year-old man, although an incredibly fit 90-year-old man. His old partner, Sam Wilson, took over as Captain America.

During an Avengers crossover, a newly formed Cosmic Cube transformed Steve Rogers back into his old Captain America form and Steve was back as his traditional self. However, the nascent Cosmic Cube had been controlled by the Red Skull up until this point and since it was a brand-new consciousness, all it knew about good and evil was what it learned from the Red Skull. So when it revived Steve Rogers, it also changed Steve, altering his mind so that he believed that he was always a Hydra double agent. Captain America, the world’s greatest hero, was now the world’s biggest threat. He slowly but surely integrated himself into the highest forms of world security until he acted in a coup in the crossover event, Secret Empire, seemingly taking over the entire planet in the name of Hydra. Since he was Captain America, he succeeded.

Luckily, the Cosmic Cube realized that it screwed up and so it recreated the original version of Captain America and he defeated the Hydra version of Cap and ended the threat, returning Captain America to being a hero once more. Of course, it has been hard for some people to come to terms with forgiving Cap, even if he was not technically the person who did all of the terrible deeds during Secret Empire.

1. Spider-Man (Peter Parker) – 4722 points (239 first place votes)

Created by Ben Cooper Inc. (I kid, I kid), Created by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee, Peter Parker was a typical high school nerd who was bitten by a radioactive spider, which gave him superpowers. He used his powers first to gain glory, but when he allowed a crook to get away because he couldn’t be bothered to stop him, he soon learned a hard lesson in responsibility when the crook he let escape went on to kill his beloved Uncle Ben.

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Parker then decided he would be a hero, no matter what befell him, and a lot of tragedy has happened to him since then.

He began taking pictures of himself as Spider-Man, and selling them to the Daily Bugle, where J. Jonah Jameson used the pictures to cast Spider-Man in a bad light.

As for the tragedy thing mentioned before, his beloved Aunt May has been sick many times. His first love, Gwen Stacy, was murdered by an enemy. The enemy turned out to be the father of a friend of his, Norman Osborn. His friend, Harry Osborn, then was turned against Peter, as well. He sacrificed his own marriage to Mary Jane Watson to save Aunt May’s life, thereby erasing his marriage from the history of the Marvel Universe.

But Spider-Man keeps on keeping on.

Your uncle die because you made a mistake? You dedicate your life to being responsible to protect others!

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Aunt May gets sick? Well, then you lift some heavy stuff to save her, consarnit!

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You get buried alive by some crazy villain? You dig yourself out!

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You have your own body taken over by a villain? You fight your way back into control (in part by inspiring your enemy to see your side of life)!

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Briefly, Peter actually became a major success as a businessman, but as part of some nefarious supervillain stuff, he had to give up his business and since he acquired his Doctorate during a period when Otto Octavius was in charge of Peter’s body, Peter was disgraced and forced to go back to school to receive his doctorate again.

Spider-Man has also been a major film success, with three separate movie franchises starring the character. In addition, since there are a lot of different versions of Spider-Man out there, like Miles Morales, the Spider-Man from the Ultimate Universe and Ghost-Spider, Gwen Stacy from another universe, there were enough to have a while event called Spider-Verse based on all of the different types of Spider-Man variations. That concept was the basis behind the Academy Award winning film, Into the Spider-Verse.

CBR Senior Writer Brian Cronin has been writing professionally about comic books for over fifteen years now at CBR (primarily with his “Comics Should Be Good” series of columns, including Comic Book Legends Revealed). He has written two books about comics for Penguin-Random House – Was Superman a Spy? And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed and Why Does Batman Carry Shark Repellent? And Other Amazing Comic Book Trivia! and one book, 100 Things X-Men Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, from Triumph Books. His writing has been featured at ESPN.com, the Los Angeles Times, About.com, the Huffington Post and Gizmodo. He features legends about entertainment and sports at his website, Legends Revealed and other pop culture features at Pop Culture References. Follow him on Twitter at @Brian_Cronin and feel free to e-mail him suggestions for stories about comic books that you’d like to see featured at [email protected]!

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