Marvel Comics has launched a variety of new series over the past couple of years, and to the company's credit, many of them have starred new characters or first-time headliners, including Red Wolf, Black Knight and Moon Girl. October's Marvel NOW! relaunch looks set to continue this trend, with debut ongoing books for Prowler, Solo and Wasp among the new titles.
Where once Marvel would have churned out yet another X-Men solo title, now they are increasingly likely to take a chance on an underused or neglected character. But don't be fooled into thinking Marvel will exhaust their supply of characters capable of making the big time. There are numerous Marvel heroes who have the potential to become successful headliners! Some of the following 12 characters may have flirted with greatness in one-shots and miniseries, but none of them have grabbed the brass ring of solo ongoing fame. Here's the characters we'd like to see that change for sooner rather than later, maybe even NOW!
13 Special Mention -- Cyclops/Scott Summers
Why is Cyclops only worthy of a special mention? It's not because he's already had a solo title -- for the purpose of this list we're treating the time-displaced "young Scott" as a separate character. No, his placement here is due to the fact that Marvel are doing their utmost to convince fans that the upcoming "Death of X" miniseries will feature the death of Cyclops, making a solo series rather problematic.
If this truly is the end for Cyclops, what a terrible waste of a character it will be. Although he's been a member of the X-Men since the beginning, it's really in the last decade that his actions have dictated the direction of the X-books, particularly in the aftermath of "Schism" and "Avengers vs. X-Men." Since then, Cyclops has been treated by other characters with a rancour and distaste that often seemed entirely disproportionate to his actions.
Scott's stoic nature rarely provided readers with a glimpse into his thought process, but a solo title -- allowing readers to really get inside his head -- would have been a great insight into a man that sacrificed so much for the sake of what he saw as the greater good. Alas, it looks like this will not come to pass -- at least if we believe the hype.
12 Taskmaster/Tony Masters
The master of photographic reflexes, Taskmaster has the ability to replicate any move he sees. Using this ability primarily to train mercenaries and other criminal henchmen, he's also come to blows with many Marvel heroes over the years. And yet, while Taskmaster has never managed to replicate Deadpool's move from anti-hero to leading man, he has received some significant character development in the last few years. Graduating from an instructor to main lead in "Avengers: The Initiative" gave him possibly the most character development he's ever had. That evolution has continued in his recent miniseries, which provided an explanation for his astonishing powers of recall.
Ironically, that recent focus is one of the main problems Taskmaster now faces. He has an interesting power set, a great costume and intriguing motivations, but he's now received so much development that his reverting to type (i.e. training henchmen) would feel like a backward step. The logical move is for him to graduate to his own ongoing title. The ability to mimic abilities can be used in a variety of scenarios; at the same time, straddling the line between hero and villain doesn't seem to have hurt Deadpool or Harley Quinn in recent years. Move over Punisher, there's a new skull in town!
11 Husk/Paige Guthrie
While the Summers clan may be the closest thing to mutant royalty, in terms of sheer numbers, the Guthries may have the upper hand. The younger sister of Sam (Cannonball) Guthrie, Husk was a breath of fresh air in "Generation X." A smart, ambitious character who wanted to be the best mutant she could, Paige's ability to rip off skin and expose new features underneath was unusual -- and a little gross. Meanwhile, her constant need to prove herself tied in nicely with the sibling rivalry she shared with Sam.
Since the cancellation of "Generation X" Husk has struggled to find her place, encompassing everything from a divisive romance with Angel followed by a stint in "Wolverine and the X-Men" that saw her struggling with mental illness as her powers evolved. At her core, she is a smart, driven hero who spends so much time trying to live up to the example set by others that it's often been hard to see the real her. A solo look at Husk, away from the stifling embrace of her family and the X-men, would allow more layers to be peeled off and help readers see what lies beneath.
10 Firestar/Angelica "Angel" Jones
Firestar is another character who has been around for a long time, first debuting in 1981's "Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends" animated series. Unfortunately, she has received little development outside of a team environment. The lion's share of this came from her prominent role in the original "New Warriors" series. Since then, she's been an Avenger, a member of the Young Allies and most recently, an X-Man.
Unlike many of her colleagues, Angel has never seemed to crave the superhero life, being distinctly ambivalent about accepting membership into the Avengers and giving up her career in heroism when the Superhero Registration Act was implemented. She's also one of the rare characters who -- although a mutant -- isn't defined by her genetics. The fact that Angel is still willing to fight for what's right, despite the health problems created by her powers, is testament to her strength of character. A solo title could further highlight these qualities, not in defining her by a relationship or team, but by giving her the chance to shine on her own merits.
9 Rick Jones
After spells partnering with the Hulk, Captain America, Rom and two Captain Marvels, the non-powered Rick Jones is possibly the pre-eminent sidekick in Marvel Comics. He's been molecularly bonded with cosmic heroes, transformed into Gamma-irradiated monsters and has been at the center of two classic Marvel stories: "Avengers Forever" and "The Kree-Skrull War." He also plays a mean harmonica. What's not to love?
Rick is interesting because, for so long, he was something of a rarity. Unlike DC, 1960s Marvel didn't go in for teenage sidekicks. His adventures with superheroes have rarely ended well -- crippled by the Hulk, sacked by Cap, mind-controlled by Genis-Vell -- yet he can't seem to break away from that life. He might even be described as a danger junkie. Rick knows practically everyone in the Marvel Universe and is equally comfortable in street level or space-faring storylines. A series from Rick's perspective would allow a man-on-the-street view of the often fantastical goings-on of the MU, something that's sorely needed as both heroes and villains grow ever more powerful.
8 Gravity/Greg Willis
An important aspect of Gravity's character is that he manages to screw stuff up. A lot. He trusts the wrong people, he's plagued by self-doubt and he lets his emotions cloud his judgement. Heck, he's already died and come back to life once in his short career. But all of these things lead into one of the most impressive things about Gravity: not his costume or even his powers, but the simple fact that he keeps trying.
Aside from scattered appearances in miniseries and a starring role in the short-lived "Young Allies," Gravity is pretty much a blank slate. The rookie learning about his powers is somewhat cliché, but the University setting would lead to a lot of stories and situations that many Marvel books -- focused on epic multi-year storylines -- simply don't deal with nowadays. In the age of the antihero, it's also important to save room for characters that try and live up to the heroic ideal. Gravity would fill that role nicely.
7 Balder the Brave
The Marvel version of Asgard has been the focus of many stories over the years, with readers being introduced to gods, trolls, frost giants and everything in between. Balder -- typically portrayed as courageous, loyal and trustworthy -- is one of the most interesting of Thor's fellow gods. He's also one with huge potential for exploration. Sif has received great exposure through her relationship with Thor (and thanks to her appearances in TV and movies), and readers have a clear sense of who the Warriors Three are for similar reasons, but the essence of Balder is less clear. There have been great stories featuring the character -- particularly under Walt Simonson -- but slogging along as a supporting character in Thor's world isn't doing him justice.
Having Balder star in his own title would not only highlight his greatness, it would also allow a greater focus on Asgard and its inhabitants. Asgardians are often featured during their adventures on Earth, emphasizing their "fish-out-of-water" experiences. Following Balder through Asgard would provide a different perspective from that of Thor's, while at the same time show him in his element and prove exactly why he's so well-regarded by his fellow gods.
6 Tigra/Greer Grant Nelson
Tigra suffers from a similar problem to Vampirella in that many people can't see beyond a costume that is, essentially, a bikini. Compounding the problem is that neither of her tenures in the main Avengers teams ended well -- quitting her initial stint due to self-doubt and regressing to a feral state during her time with the West Coast Avengers. However, if we look deeper, it's clear that Tigra has numerous aspects of her character that would lead to interesting stories. She is an ex-policewoman, a mother to a young son, has links to the supernatural and enjoys close ties to several Avengers, most recently in her relationship with Hank Pym.
As an Avenger, it's clear that Tigra is somewhat underpowered, something that has become more apparent in recent years as the number of gods and god-like super humans has continued to grow. Striking out on her own would allow her to be appreciated for who she is, rather than be diminished for what she is not.
5 Black Cat/Felicia Hardy
Although Black Cat has appeared in numerous Spider-Man comics, she still feels malleable enough for creators to portray her in a variety of different ways. We've had the thrill junkie, the Robin Hood thief, the passionate lover, the damaged soul and -- most recently/most controversially -- the crime boss. What's clear is that she's long since evolved past her original depiction as "Spider-Man's girlfriend." What's less clear is where that leaves her.
With a simple yet striking costume, the visual aspect of Black Cat isn't a problem. What's more problematic is that her appearances as a supporting character or team member tend to give little insight into her inner thoughts, something that a solo title would help to address. It's a little disrespectful to describe her as "Marvel's Catwoman," but certainly the similarities are there and a solo title has the potential for the same mix of adventure, romance and thrills.
4 Shadowcat/Kitty Pryde
Ah, Kitty Pryde. Who can forget her terrible fashion sense and her heartfelt declaration that "Professor Xavier is a jerk!" -- an iconic panel that has spawned countless homages in years since. Then, of course, there's the running gag about her interest in men called Peter (including Peter Parker in the Ultimate universe). Her phasing power is simple yet effective, but probably her greatest quality is that she wears her heart on her sleeve. Whether it's her impassioned speech against racism in "God Loves, Man Kills," her talk about suicide in "New Mutants," or her recent speech about whether mutants should be ashamed of being labelled, she can always be counted on to stand up for what she believes in.
In fact, Kitty is a character who can do so much more than just punch things -- it's no coincidence that her co-creator, Chris Claremont, had her become the President of the Unites States in his possible future series, "X-Men: The End." Kitty Pryde has the intelligence and the desire to change the world for the better, and a solo title could be just the place to watch her do it.
3 Justice/Vance Astrovik
Best known for his long association with the New Warriors, Justice is a character who has yet to reach his full potential away from this team. His initial stint as an Avenger saw him crippled by self-doubt, while recent starring roles in "Avengers: The Initiative" and "Avengers Academy" both saw him quit and return to the familiarity of the New Warriors. This makes Vance sound like an insecure, needy character. But the important point is that the New Warriors are his family, having always been there for him. The contrast to Vance's home life -- resulting in him serving jail time after accidentally killing his abusive father -- is stark.
Vance possesses great leadership potential and is always driven by his belief in what's right, regardless of the difficulties this might cause him. Who he would be and what he would amount to without the New Warriors is the big unanswered question, and a solo title that follows Vance as he charts his own path would be the ideal way to find out.
2 Iceman/Bobby Drake
For a character that's been around for more than 50 years, it's surprising how little the spotlight has shined on Bobby Drake in all that time. Despite spells in the X-Men, X-Factor, Champions and Defenders, he's often been frozen in the mould of smart-mouthed comic relief. Even during his time in the X-Men, he often felt like an afterthought: the youngest of the original team, left out of the original Marvel NOW! lineup, and only given sporadic storylines in the post-Claremont era. Bobby is the very definition of untapped potential.
For starters, he's instantly recognizable from his appearances in the "Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends" cartoon and the X-Men movies. We've seen glimpses over the years of the impressive scope of his powers, while recent revelations regarding his sexuality offer great scope for exploration. We've never really known Bobby outside of a team, and a solo title would be the perfect way to explore who the character is when standing on his own two feet.
1 Songbird/Melissa Gold
Songbird is a character that's come a long way from her beginnings as Screaming Mimi, a C-list villain (and even that may be generous). She's been on a journey ever since she embraced the life of a hero during her time with the original Thunderbolts, helping her to mature from an insecure, shy girl to a strong, capable leader. And yet, for all of Songbird's successes over time, there's this nagging feeling that she's yet to live up to her potential.
She's proven herself in a leadership role with the Thunderbolts, but her status within the Marvel Universe has yet to reach the level teased by her appearance in Avengers Forever. Even her recent membership on the New Avengers came to an abrupt end when she was revealed to be spying for SHIELD. Songbird's no longer the insecure character she once was, not afraid to make difficult choices if it's for the greater good. So perhaps she no longer needs the comfort blanket of a team around her. Flying solo would enable her to spread her wings and allow the rest of the super community to see the hero that she's become.
Which Marvel characters do YOU think should get an ongoing solo book? Let us know in the comments!