We love Thanos. He’s one of few blatant rip-offs of a rival company’s character that has completely surpassed the character he was based on. While Darkseid has been rocking the whole “Space Hitler” thing for 46 years, there hasn’t been much done to make him more interesting and relevant to today’s comics readers. Especially when you have a generation of children raised in a world where there are few dictators left standing. Thanos, on the other hand, has grown and evolved since a Jim Starlin created him in 1973. His schemes and goals have changed over the years, from courting Death in one story and gathering the Infinity Gems to woo her, to fighting with Deadpool for her affections in another. Despite his evil nature, he can just as easily flip sides and work with the heroes against a greater threat, which he has done numerous times. Including, maybe tellingly, 1992’s lackluster “Infinity War” crossover event.
But if you read Marvel Comics regularly, you’ll know we’ve seen what happens when Thanos has won it all. Twice. First in 1991’s “Infinity Gauntlet,” and then again in Marvel’s “The End” miniseries in 2003. Given that we know what success looks like for Thanos, it might make it hard for some readers to get 100% behind the Mad Titan as he embarks on his first ever ongoing series this fall by Jeff Lemire and Mike Deodato.
The series’ announcement did get us thinking, however. Aren’t there other villains a bit more dangerous than Thanos in the Marvel Universe? And if so, what does success look like for them? So we’ve put together this handy list of the 11 Marvel villains more dangerous than Thanos, and potentially worthy of their own ongoing down the line.
It’s easy to forget that Dracula is an honest to goodness villain in the Marvel Universe. He hasn’t had a regular series since the ’70s, and since then his appearances are sporadic at best. Don’t get us wrong, Dracula stills pops up from time to time and in odd places, like the “Fear Itself” crossover event, but it’s been so long since Dracula could be described as a serious threat and foe of a Marvel hero with their own running series. Color us confused as to why Dracula hasn’t been a more frequent adversary for Dr. Strange given that the Sorcerer Supreme is responsible for wiping out most of the vampires in the Marvel Universe, but we feel like he’s a villain with potential. Moreover, even in his occasional use and appearances, he’s still more of a threat than Thanos is to most of the Marvel Universe.
Thanos doesn’t do anything small. It has to be big, and it has to be planned and researched. Years could go by before he does anything, and when he does it may not always work out for him. That means he has to go back to the drawing board. That’s a stark contrast to Marvel’s Dracula. While also a schemer, Dracula is a more immediate threat to Marvel’s heroes thanks in part because… Well, he’s a vampire. He needs to feed. There’s no time for dumb schemes involving magic space rocks held by weird characters you’ll never see or think about again. This vampire king is highly motivated, and as a bonus, he has a score to settle.
Mostly portrayed as heroic in the most recent batch of X-Men films starting with “First Class” and running through “X-Men: Apocalypse,” Mystique has plagued the X-Men in the comics for years. From being a key figure in the “Days of Future Past” storyline to today’s backstage machinations of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the X-Men lineup, there’s no facet of the lives of the X-Men that Mystique isn’t involved with. In recent years she has also played a bigger role in messing with the larger Marvel Universe. With her long history of being a supervillain in the Marvel Universe, it’d be impossible (and unfair) to make a list like this without giving Mystique a place on it.
Her immediate connection to most of the X-Men characters and her past and possibly future involvement in manipulating S.H.I.E.L.D. agents also makes her a larger threat than Thanos. Thanos could come by, wave his hand, and wipe out half the universe, but his plans have a tendency not to stick. Mystique is Thanos’ polar opposite, her activity has lasting ramifications that nothing short of time travel can fix, and given her ability to blend seamlessly into the background, she has the capability of being a threat without even needed to make her presence known. No floating space chair for this villain.
In truth, Ultron should be ranked higher on this list. But despite the excellent voice acting work of James Spader, the second Avengers movie is going to leave a permanent stain on the character’s reputation. Instead of being portrayed as an evil space king (you did read the “Annihilation” event, right?), or even an omnipresent menace that’s multiple steps ahead of his adversaries because we live in a world filled with cameras and microphones, we got… Well, we’re not quite sure how to describe it. He wanted to kill everyone, but also make sure no harm came to Scarlet Witch? What exactly was his plan? How was he going to survive a meteor blast? If he had a beef with Tony Stark for creating him, why didn’t he just go after Iron Man? Ultron was visually impressive, and we got to see him control his standard robot army, but thanks to some nonsensical writing and decision making on the character’s part, that’s the Ultron we’re going to remember.
Which is a shame, because even if you break Ultron down to his most basic core elements: Daddy issues, psychotic rage, Adamantium body and the ability to make infinite copies of himself, that alone should qualify him as an impressive villain and a greater threat to Thanos. Again, Thanos doesn’t have a stake in anything that he does beyond wanting to impress Death. There’s no emotional component, although in “The End” he does admit he has some affection for some of the heroes he’s fought against. Ultron, in his most basic form, has a heavily invested stake in his actions as they’re deeply personal. No matter how twisted.
Hoo boy. If it takes more than a sentence or two to describe a villain, there’s a good chance that villain isn’t all that great. By that standard, Kang fails miserably. The sometimes Fantastic Four, other times Avengers baddie is a fan-favorite, though, and given his mastery over all 20th and 21st Century knowledge, to say nothing of some sweet 40th Century battle armor, it’s easy to understand why. Sometimes a cool look is all you need to paper over a terrible character. Right, Gambit?
That said, there’s no question that Kang is a visually cooler villain than Thanos from a cinematic perspective. But in terms of sheer threat to the Marvel Universe and its heroes, Kang can screw with the timeline as much or as little as he wants. That’s not something Thanos can do without the Time gem, and that means there’s a whole lot of time and effort spent on his part to first go and get a shiny gem, then use it, and hope that he holds onto the thing long enough for his plan to work. Oh, and as an added bonus: If someone else gets the gem, they can just fix what Thanos did. With Kang, sure, they can also fix what he does, but there’s no process involved with him messing with the timeline. He just does it because anyone related to Victor Von Doom is inherently a jerk.
Galactus eats planets. OK, sure, these days he’s a good guy, sort of, but the essence of Galactus is a big dude in a purple helmet who eats planets, and in the process, wipes out billions of lives. When you add up the body count, he’s left behind, not to mention that he’s older than the currently known universe, it’s surprising Death doesn’t just follow Galactus around and give him a sweet high-five every time another planet bites the dust. (And now we just realized this is the space buddy comedy the Marvel Universe so sorely needs.) Thanos and Galactus have crossed paths numerous times, and it’s not rare for them to be at odds with each other given Galactus’ noble tendencies. (He doesn’t kill to be an ass, he does it because he has to, thus making him different from Thanos and a lot of the other villains in the Marvel Universe.)
The fact that Galactus has a body count far larger than anything in the Marvel Universe should be enough to put him on the top of the list, but he loses points in that he’s also not really a villain, but a force of nature. What makes him far deadlier than Thanos is, or ever will be, is the fact that he’s been around before this universe came into existence, and the odds are pretty great that he’ll be around long after its end. Thanos doesn’t have longevity on his side. He may occasionally cheat death like he did after dying early on in the “Annihilation” story, but that’s only because Death allows him to do so. Galactus doesn’t have that problem.
Real talk: Mephisto is awesome. The problem with Mephisto is the inconsistency that surrounds him. Is he literally Satan? Or is he just a really powerful demon who wants people to think he’s Satan? And if he’s not Satan, what’s the limits of his powers because he’s often used as a Deus Ex Machina. And if he is Satan, why isn’t taking him down a bigger priority for Marvel’s heroes? Regardless of all that, Mephisto is one of the most fun and underappreciated villains Marvel has at their disposal. Although we prefer his classic Ron Lim look and not whatever the hell is going on in some of his other appearances. (Get it? We said hell because… Oh never mind.)
Like Galactus, Mephisto and Thanos have butted heads fairly often, most notably in “The Infinity Gauntlet” storyline. But if we’re operating under the assumption that Mephisto is literally Satan, then there’s no question he should be considered deadlier than Thanos. You’ve seen “Damn Yankees,” right? Even if he’s not Satan, the fact that Mephisto’s powers and abilities are so vaguely defined work better in his favor than they do with someone like Kang. With Kang you know the default answer is “Time Travel,” but all you need to do is look over at the controversial “Spider-Man: One More Day” storyline and the comics it spawned to know the kind of power Mephisto wields, and that’s the kind of power Thanos can only dreams of having.
If you don’t know how to pronounce his name, that’s OK. We’re confident you’ll hear it said at least twice in the upcoming “Doctor Strange” film. (Spoilers?) Dormammu in recent years has seen an upswing in popularity, thanks in no small part to Marvel utilizing him in nearly every video game and cartoon that they have going in some capacity. This has been true going back to the ’90s with the old Spider-Man animated series, although his appearances in the comics have been way less frequent. It’s odd when you think about it since the God tyrant of the Dark Dimension is one of Marvel’s coolest looking villains. Not to mention, he’s also incredibly powerful. Depending on which version of Mephisto we’re talking about, and Galactus aside, Dormammu is arguably the most powerful villain on this list.
When writers take on Thanos, he is on a quest for power. The mission is always the same: Make Lady Death happy, and hopefully fall in love with him. Although he has a formidable powerset of his own and a keen intellect, a villain like Dormammu completely outclasses Thanos in every conceivable way. Well, except one: We will readily admit that in the personality and sense of humor department, Thanos always beats Dormammu. But this is not a list about “Funniest Marvel Supervillains.” Although… we’ve heard worse ideas.
4. Green Goblin
At his worst, The Green Goblin is written as a Joker knockoff. At his best, however, the Green Goblin can be monstrous and terrifying. Showing off a vindictive streak that rivals most of the villains who appear on this list. And while he certainly lacks the power that many of the other characters here have at their disposal, it’s been shown time and time again that Norman Osborn will do and say whatever it takes to get the kind of power that will make him a threat. Not only to Spider-Man but the entire Marvel Universe. Given that he’s Earthbound, unlike some of the other choices here, Osborn is a constant threat to each and every hero that stands in the way of what he wants. Lacking the nobility or morals that would prevent other characters on this list also means Osborn represents a clear and present danger to not only the heroes of the Marvel Universe but all of its inhabitants.
We would make the argument that Thanos doesn’t necessarily see himself as a villain. He has shown at times a streak that isn’t quite compassionate, but can border on it. Thanos only wants what he wants, and views the death of trillions of beings as a way to get exactly that. Other times, when not courting Death, he’s more interested in ruling, or discovering new sources of power that would allow him to protect himself from his enemies. With the Green Goblin, there is no compassion. There’s no nobility. And there’s no sense of humor unless you think dropping people off bridges is hilarious. (He totally does.) The Goblin has wormed his way to the top before, and he will do so again. With Thanos, he’s been to the top, but no one remembers it because of the constant Deus Ex Machina involved in resetting his victories. With Osborn, everyone remembers. So much so that he had to go and change his face just so he can do it all over again.
Ah, Loki. Everyone loves you. Deadpool notwithstanding, it’s hard to argue that there has been a bigger breakout character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe than Loki, as played by Tom Hiddleston. These days, he’s teetering on the edge of overexposure in the films, but given that he was the reason the Avengers banded together in the first place all those years ago, it’s hard not to slot Loki into the top three in a list like this. In a lot of respects, Loki has the best aspects of a lot of the different characters we’ve mentioned so far. He’s a shapeshifter like Mystique, but he’s not a mercenary. He’s a legit God and not a sort of god (like Dormammu) and his powers are considerably on par with that of Mephisto’s. (Again, depending on what version of Mephisto we’re talking about.) Like Norman Osborn, he’s vindictive. And like Kang, he has access to things that many of the villains in the Marvel Universe don’t. Loki has always been an excellent villain to the heroes of Marvel, and while we can’t speak for theatergoers worldwide, we’re certainly not suffering from Loki Fatigue.
Some could argue; however, that we are suffering from Thanos fatigue. We’ve seen him in a bunch of films at this point, and he has yet to do much of anything but make vague threatening statements and float around in his evil space chair. Loki, however, continues to surprise, impress and entertain with each appearance. So much so that, even if he’s not terribly involved with the events of “Thor: Ragnarok,” the bar has been set pretty high for what limited screen time he does receive in the film. Back in the world of comics, though, the fact that he’s running for president — and would stand a real shot at winning in the real world if he were to run — says it all concerning how terrifying the character can be.
You’ll notice a lot of the villains on this list have a bit of a nobility streak. We’re not sure what that says about Marvel villains or just great villains in general, but Magneto wins the nobility game every time. Case in point: If he wanted to, he could flip the planet on its axis and kill everyone. Perhaps only doing so after squirreling away the mutants he likes on, and we can’t stress this enough, an asteroid he made and named for himself. But. He doesn’t do this. Instead Magneto, unlike everyone else on this list, is fighting an ideological battle. One that often sees him play both sides, sometimes against each other, to get what he wants.
In some ways it’s a disappointment these days to see Magneto increasingly portrayed as a hero in the comics., But when the day comes that he decides to go full villain again, there’s no doubt in our mind that he’s capable of doing a ton of damage to everyone and anyone to get what he wants. The mere fact that he could end all life on Earth with just a thought, without exerting any effort at all, makes him more terrifying than Thanos ever could be as far as we’re concerned.
Was there any doubt in your mind that Doctor Doom wouldn’t be on this list? Or that he’d be our top pick? Doom has done and threatened them all in the Marvel Universe, including the recent “Secret Wars” crossover series. Regarding 21st Century Doom stories, though, it’s been pretty hard for writers at Marvel to top Mark Waid & Mike Wieringo’s “Unthinkable” in the pages of “Fantastic Four.” There, Doom makes a deal with demons, skins his childhood friend alive to make armor out of her (we’re not kidding), uses magic to change Reed and Sue’s daughter’s parentage so that he would be the father — and it just gets crazier from there. If there were ever a story that betters defined who Doom is and what motivates him in the modern era of comics, this one would be it. Although Doom is a human, since he first debuted in the 1960s he has consistently found a way to become the strongest and deadliest adversary the Marvel Universe has faced, without much of the limitations some of the others on this list have. (Thanos without his Infinity Gauntlet, for example. Ultron without a high-speed internet connection. You get the idea.)
Although his film rights are currently tied up over at Fox, preventing Doom from menacing the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there’s little doubt in most fans minds that he, and not Thanos, should have been the marquee villain of the movies. And that’s an opinion many held after Fox managed to mess up, not once, not twice, but three times Doctor Doom on screen. That’s how great a villain he is. You can totally blow the character’s depiction, and fans of the comics will continue to insist, much like Doom himself, that he is the smartest, worst, and coolest villain Marvel has at its disposal.
Think we nailed it? Totally missed someone? Have the rankings way off? Let us know int he comments.
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