Aliens are a big part of superhero comics. Heck, the first superhero ever was an alien, but we'll talk about the last son of Krypton soon enough. Regardless, his extra-terrestrial origins are what help explain his superpowers and many subsequent superheroes of both DC and Marvel would follow suit.
DC, Marvel, and many other publishers boast a large universe of diverse planets and aliens that inhabit them. Though mainstream comics' aliens tend to act as world-ending threats, superhero books still feature a good chunk of aliens fighting the good fight. From the Green Lantern Corps to the Nova Corps, and everything in between, we here at CBR have decided to give you 15 of our favorite alien superheroes!
Let's start off with the one everyone knows and loves, the Man of Steel himself, Superman. Superman is a Kryptonian, the last citizen of the planet Krypton, which of course was a futuristic utopia doomed to be destroyed by geological and other natural forces. Scientist Jor-El managed to save his infant son Kal-El by sending him to Earth before Krypton's destruction.
On Earth, Kal-El was found by Jonathan and Martha Kent, Kansas farmers who raised Kal as their own, renaming him Clark. Clark Kent grew up with fantastic abilities unlike any other person on Earth, eventually going on to become Superman, the world's greatest superhero. Of course, most people know the story of Superman, but sometimes the idea that he's an alien escapes us, we don't take the time to really think about it. The thing that makes Superman work so well is that, while he is an alien, he was raised human. Clark chooses to use his gifts to help humans, because he sees himself as one. It's even in the name, he's the Super-man. Despite this, Superman remains comics' original most popular alien superhero, and definitely the most powerful.
Yes, the God of Thunder himself is technically an alien. Hailing from Asgard, Thor has been a staple of Marvel Comics and a core member of the Avengers for decades. Asgard isn't exactly a planet, but it sure isn't from Earth. Dubbed as one of "the nine realms," Asgard is home to other gods of Norse mythology such as Odin and Loki. Since he is from a different dimension, thus not of earth, and has a biology different to humans, Thor is an alien. In the "Earth X" story by Jim Krueger, Alex Ross and John Paul Leon, the Asgardians were even cast as a race of aliens who changed shape based on humanity's belief in them.
Without his trusty hammer Mjolnir, Thor's natural abilities include immense strength (enough to rip a bridge in half!), an extended lifespan, immense durability, superhuman senses, super speed and reflexes, and immunity to Earth diseases and most magical attacks. Pretty powerful, right? Well, all of these abilities get more than doubled once he takes up Mjolnir, which also grants him the ability to fly and summon lightning, and we're only scratching the surface of his powers. Thor is indeed a powerful superhero, one whose powers are derived from his god-like, and completely alien nature.
13 HAWKMAN & HAWKGIRL
There are lots of Justice League members who hail from other planets, including power couple Hawkman and Hawkgirl. These winged heroes come from Thanagar, where they served as police officers of the Wing-Men law enforcement team. Though this wasn't their original origin -- in some interpretations, they are reincarnations of Egyptian gods -- the Hawks have firmly established themselves as longtime alien heroes in the DC universe.
Hawkman and Hawkgirl are equipped with Nth-metal all throughout their body. Their suits, wings, and weapons are made of the powerful metal, which allows for gravity-defying feats, enhanced strength and durability, and in some cases it can help heal wounds faster. Both Hawks are known to use rather archaic weapons, everything from maces and spears to swords and shields, fighting with savage warrior methods. Shayera and Katar were sent to Earth to learn crime-fighting techniques to bring back to the Thanagarian police forces and while there they helped defend Earth alongside other superheroes.
12 MARTIAN MANHUNTER
Okay, we know it's in his name, but he's the Martian Manhunter, how could we not include him? J'onn J'onzz was created by Joseph Samachson and premiered in "Detective Comics" #225 in 1955. Martian Manhunter is probably one of comics' more famous alien superheroes, and definitely everyone's favorite Martian.
Martian Manhunter has a lot of natural alien abilities, some might say too many – Bruce Timm even had to power him down a bit for his animated "Justice League" appearance — since he's incredibly powerful with just telekinesis alone. On top of his ability to move objects with his mind, J'onn can read thoughts, shape-shift, turn invisible, phase through objects, fly and heal faster than humans. He even has super strength, speed and durability, though it is unclear if those are a result of his telekinetic abilities. More to the point of our list, he has lived for so long among humanity, that it's sometimes easy to forget that he comes from another world (especially if he manipulates your mind to forget).
11 THE AUTOBOTS
There might be some argument over wether or not the stars of the popular "Transformers" franchise are considered "superheroes," but we'll leave that to the comments. That said, these shape-shifting bio-mechanical aliens come from planet Cybertron, a world torn apart by their civil war with the evil Decepticons. The Transformers have gone through many interpretations, but in every one, the Autobots, along with the Decepticons, somehow find themselves on Earth, continuing their war amongst the humans.
The Autobots are always depicted as being led by Optimus Prime, a wise and courageous leader. As Cybertronions, the Autobots have the ability to rearrange their robotic bodies into various forms; their humanoid-looking mode serves as their primary form, while their vehicle, weapon, animal, etc. serve as their secondary look. In some interpretations, the Transformers can change what their secondary form is, which helps them to disguise themselves amongst Earth vehicles. It's a good thing these weaponized vehicle robots are on our side, because they pack some serious firepower.
10 OMNI-MAN & INVINCIBLE
The star of Robert Kirkman's "Invincible" is young Mark Grayson and his father, Nolan Grayson. Nolan is the worlds greatest superhero, Omni-Man, and Mark, who inherits his father's powers, takes up the name of Invincible. Nolan is from the Planet Viltrum, a highly advanced planet full of super-powered humanoid-like aliens. Nolan tells Mark of his home planet and the powers he will receive as a human/Viltrumite hybrid in the second issue of "Invincible."
Viltrumites are incredibly powerful beings, with all the good superpowers written into their DNA. They are super strong, super fast, indestructible by most standards, and can fly. The Viltrumites also age more slowly the older they get and, similar to (but better than) human muscle biology, they can train themselves to get stronger, faster and more durable. Nolan has had a long career of superheroing at the time of the first issue of "Invincible," and during the more than 100 issues that follow, Mark gains a lot of experience as well during his time as Invincible.
Okay, so the word "alien" is literally in the name of this owerful Unopan known as Allen the Alien from the pages of "Invincible." Allen first appeared in "Invincible" #5 as a representative of the Coalition of Planets. After fighting with Invincible, Allen makes friends with the superhero before reporting back to his superiors. Over the course of the comic, Allen is promoted through the ranks of the COP, eventually leading the peace organization.
Allen is no normal Unopan, though, which is why he makes our list (plus, we just like him, so step off). Allen is actually the result of genetic engineering in an attempt to save their species from the brink of extinction. He was the only successful experiment and was trained to be a great warrior. Though he was strong, he was not strong enough for every one of his enemies. Luckily, one of Allen's powers — besides strength, speed, durability, flight and telepathic communication — seems to be a form of "that which doesn't kill him makes him stronger," which leads the pinkish-purple cyclops to get beaten up a lot, coming back even stronger and buffer than before.
8 THE GREEN LANTERN CORPS
What better example of alien superheroes than a bunch of universe-protecting costumed cops with power rings? The Green Lantern Corps employ — is that the right word? Do they get paid? —over 7200 members from all around the universe. Each one is a member of a different alien race, though there are, for some reason, over five human Lanterns at any time for some reason.
Some of the most famous alien (to us) officers include the likes of Kilowog, the drill sergeant of the corps; Tomar-Re, guardian of the sector where Krypton once stood; Ch'p, a squirrel-like alien; and Soranik Natu, daughter of Sinestro, who himself was once a member of the Corps before he was corrupted by fear. The Green Lantern Corps work out of Oa, a planet located at the literal center of the universe, and are dedicated to protecting all life, doing so by separating the universe into sectors and assigning officers to each of them.
7 THE NOVA CORPS
A concept somewhat similar to the Green Lantern Corps, the Nova Corps is Marvel's version of an intergalactic military force. The Novas are the military and exploration division of Xandar, a planet in the Andromeda galaxy that seems to be constantly under attack in the Marvel universe. Each member of the Nova Corps wears a suit that gives them access to the Nova Force, a cosmic power generated and controlled by a Xandar computer known as the Xandar Worldmind.
The Nova Force grants corps members the powers of super strength, speed, reflexes, and senses. The users are also given the ability to fly, a healing factor, and the ability to control energy, which allows them to absorb energy and shoot it as beams and gravity pulses. Though centered on Xandar, the Nova Corps have members from multiple alien species. Xandar and the Nova Corps were recently featured in Marvel's MCU film "Guardians of the Galaxy."
Another set of aliens that aren't exactly superheroes in the traditional sense are the Saiyans of "Dragonball Z." Though they lack superhero costumes (aside from Gohan during his Great Saiyaman days), the Saiyan members of the Z-fighters have saved the world plenty of times, and act as Earth's protectors from all kinds of threats. Though Vegeta was a villain when he first appeared (much like a lot of Goku's allies), he now more or less fights on the side of good with Goku and their respective sons, Trunks and Gohan and Goten.
Saiyans are a warrior race similar-looking to humans but with monkey-like tails. They hail from Planet Vegeta, which has a much stronger gravity than Earth. As a result, the Saiyans have immense natural strength, speed, durability and mastery of Ki energy. As part of their physiology, Saiyans can undergo many transformations, the most basic of which is turning into a giant ape under a full moon. Further, there are super Saiyan forms that they can achieve with enough training. Though they are strong, the Saiyans are incredibly prideful, headstrong and not too bright. Before their planet's extinction at the hands of Frieza, Saiyan soldiers worked for the intergalactic warlord, helping him to conquer planets.
While the Spider-Man obsessed symbiote's career in comics was mostly villainous, Venom had a brief career as an agent of good while using former Peter Parker bully-turned-army veteran, Flash Thompson, as a host. After Thompson lost his legs in the Iraq War, he made the choice to bond with the Venom Symbiote so that it could replace his legs and give him a chance to be a soldier again. This version of Venom, dubbed "Agent Venom," premiered in 2011 in "The Amazing Spider-Man" #654.
Though not an entirely alien superhero, Agent Venom does get his abilities from the symbiote, which is alien in origin. The symbiote gives him all the powers of Spider-Man, though strength, speed and durability are even more greatly enhanced. Thompson is also granted the ability of invisibility, but can lose his connection to the symbiote due to its weakness to sonic waves. Erlier, Flash cannot stay connected to Venom for more than 48 hours before going berserk, but this was later fixed when the fundamental psyche of the (naturally quite peaceful) symbiote was realigned.
The orange bombshell of the Teen Titans is perhaps one of the most well-known alien heroes amongst comic fans, especially because of her popularity through the animated "Teen Titans" series. Starfire is from the planet Tamaran, a peaceful, nature-conscious planet full of super-powered aliens that evolved from cat-like animals. Starfire's real name is Koriand'r, and she is the princess of Tamaran, sold into slavery as a peace offering to end a war with The Citadel. She eventually escaped and met up with the Teen Titans on Earth.
As a Tamaranian, Starfire has immense strength, superhuman speed, high durability, flight and the ability to harness and manipulate energy. All of these powers are manifested through Tamaranians' ability to absorb solar radiation, which flares off the end of their hair when they are flying. Starfire has been around for decades and her alien powers make her a fiery force to be reckoned with.
3 CAPTAIN MARVEL (MAR-VELL)
Before Carol Danvers took over the moniker of Captain Marvel, there was Mar-Vell, a Kree soldier sent to spy on Earth. Mar-Vell was sent as a spy to determine if Earth was a threat, but in the process, came to care for the planet's people, donning his Kree soldier uniform to protect them when the world was in need. He eventually took the name "Captain Marvel" whenever wearing his suit and using his powers for good.
Though originally not superhuman by Kree standards, Mar-Vell was enhanced by the Kree to have superpowers. These enhancements gave him super strength, teleportation, faster-than-light flight and the ability to project mental illusions. In a power-rewriting event, Mar-Vell's abilities were upgraded further, when he obtained the "Nega-Bands," which increased his strength, speed, durability and allowed him to survive in the vacuum of space. Carol Danvers would eventually gain similar powers and later take over the Captain Marvel name.
2 THE LEGION OF SUPERHEROES
It was hard to choose just a few of the many alien superheroes that fill the ranks of the Legion of Superheroes, so we decided to include all of them. The Legion is a group of young intergalactic heroes that exists in the future of the DC universe and in most interpretations is led by a descendant of Brainiac known as Brainiac 5. The Legion of Superheroes was created by Otto Binder and Al Pastino and premiered in "Adventure Comics" #247 in 1958.
The Legion is full of representatives of nearly every super-powered race in the universe, all of them working together to protect peace among the planets. Some of the most notable members of the Legion are the aforementioned Brainiac 5, Bouncing Boy, Timberwolf, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl and a young Superman, who went by Superboy when he travelled to the future as a teenager to fight with the Legion. The Legion was featured in a somewhat short-lived animated series in 2006, and were also featured briefly in the "Justice League" cartoon.
1 SILVER SURFER
Created by Jack Kirby, this somewhat silly-seeming alien premiered in 1966 as the Herald of Galactus, devourer of worlds. The Silver Surfer was once Norrin Radd, an alien from the planet Zenn-La. Norrin saved his world from being devoured by Galactus by offering to be his Herald, to which Galactus agreed. He was imbued with a portion of Galactus' energy, known as "The Power Cosmic," and sent to search for worlds for Galactus to feed on. Eventually, he came to Earth and dealt with the Fantastic Four, who lead him to betray Galactus after helping to free him from his dishonorable path.
The Silver Surfer's access to the Power Cosmic not only gave him a surfboard-like vehicle, which allows him to travel faster than light, he was also given several abilities. The Power Cosmic gives him super strength, endurance, senses and the ability to absorb energy from the universe. He can also self-sustain by converting matter into energy; thus, he does not need sleep or sustenance. The Surfer was eventually recruited to help rebuild the universe during the events of Marvel's recent Battleworld story arc.
Who is your favorite comic book alien superhero? Let us know in the comments!