Superheroes (and even supervillains) are known for their legendary exploits, and are often compared to gods. In spite of their amazing feats, the majority of these figures are still mortal. Even though you have beings like the Hulk and the Silver Surfer who possess mind-boggling power, it’s easy to overlook how, at the end of the day, they are mortal and can die. That said, there is room for many characters to become stronger than ever before, attaining the power of a god. In so doing, they become mightier than anyone usually has a right to be. These moments fascinate readers, as they want to know what happens next when someone like Spider-Man becomes the mightiest hero in the universe. Granted, many of those who become gods can’t stay divine for long, otherwise it takes away from the stakes of the story.
It’s not something that happens often, but a number of characters have achieved godhood, or a status that resembles godliness, over the years through a variety of plot machinations and amazing events. We’re not going to be looking at characters who are permanently powerful like Thor, but characters who had a temporary fling with divine might. Today at CBR we’re looking at 20 characters that became living gods.
20 DOCTOR DOOM
Throughout the Marvel Universe, there is one being and one being alone who believes he’s entitled to ultimate power: Doctor Doom. While villains like Thanos crave godliness, they don’t inherently believe themselves worthy of such power, which is why they ultimately lose. Doctor Victor Von Doom is another matter entirely. The man maintains the mindset that everyone in the cosmos is beneath him. Fueled by righteous indignation and contempt for the rest of the world, Doom’s longtime dream of godhood finally arrived amidst the event "Secret Wars." In the 2015 series, Doctor Doom, with the help of the Molecule Man, reshaped the universe to his will. Having taken the power of the Beyonders for himself, Doom became the god of his newly formed universe. With the abilities of the Beyonders at his disposal, there was practically no one who could challenge Doom -- even those like the Phoenix and Thanos fell before Doom in a matter of moments.
Doom ruled over all he surveyed for nearly a decade, but his reign was not meant to last. When a group of heroes, led by Mr. Fantastic of the Fantastic Four, rose up to oppose Doom, the villain is suddenly plagued by self-doubt. After fighting Mr. Fantastic, Doom admits Reed Richards would be a better god than him. This admission causes the Molecule Man to reshape reality once more, stripping Doom of his powers and giving them to Reed.
Despite not having the power of Thor or the Hulk, Spider-Man is, without question, one of Marvel’s greatest heroes. With the proportionate speed, strength, and agility of a spider, the web-slinging hero has proved time and again why he’s among the best of the best. However, back in Spectacular Spider-Man #158, the wall-crawler became even more amazing. Written by Gerry Conway and with art by Sal Buscema and Mike Esposito, Spidey was granted cosmic powers. More specifically, he became the host to the Uni-Power and would become Captain Universe.
The Uni-Power works by possessing an individual during a crisis, bequeathing them with the power to solve it. When a normal human acquires the Uni-Power, they become strong enough to stop earthquakes and punch the Juggernaut across the Tri State area. When Spider-Man was granted the power, he became the mightiest hero in the universe. With minimal effort, he accomplished such feats as punching the Hulk into space, flying into space, and essential became the Superman of the Marvel Universe for a time. Spidey didn’t know the limits of his power, but he could manipulate and discharge any form of energy or radiation, shoot energy beams from his hands strong enough to destroy planets, and had god-like strength and invulnerability. He used this power to take on the likes of Titania, Graviton, Magneto, and finally, the Tri-Sentinel, the threat he was assigned to deal with.
18 JANE FOSTER
During the event "Original Sin", Nick Fury whispered into Thor’s ear and the God of Thunder immediately becomes unworthy of his enchanted hammer Mjolnir. While Thor Odinson was reduced to a shell of his former self, a mysterious woman came along and successfully lifted the hammer, becoming the new Thor and a living god. Turns out, it was none other than Jane Foster, Thor’s longtime on-again-off-again romantic partner. One of the most important people in Thor comics as a whole, readers were astonished when when the role of Thor was passed to someone new.
Terminally ill with cancer, Jane Foster proved herself time and again, demonstrating that she was indeed worthy to wield both Thor’s hammer and the power than came with it. Her heroism shone whenever she transformed into Thor and all the chemotherapy she’s endured was immediately undone, causing the disease to once again run rampant through her body. In short order, it was made clear that Jane was not some alternate version of the god of thunder, or that she merely had the powers of Thor -- Jane was Thor. Jane Foster was even debatably more competent as the God of Thunder than her male counterpart, at least as far as fighting was concerned. She learned to wield Mjolnir in ways her predecessor never dreamed, took on the Phoenix Force and decisively won, and even handedly defeated the Mangog, one of Thor’s greatest villains, after the creature had already bested Odin, Thor Odinson, and all of Asgard’s forces.
Thanos, the Mad Titan, is one of the most powerful and feared villains in the Marvel Universe. Born from the Eternals, Thanos was a mutant to his kind. The deviant gene within him changed his physiology and granted him abilities beyond anything previous Eternals had ever possessed. Fashioning himself into a cosmic juggernaut, Thanos became infatuated with Mistress Death.
Ever since he was a boy, Thanos longed to appease Death and would do whatever it took to gain her approval, even if it involved causing untold destruction. However, Thanos realized that simply going from planet to planet, killing those he could, was a long and laborious process and likely would not get the job done. In order to annihilate as many people as possible, Thanos hunted for the Cosmic Cube. After that search failed, he finally found the item he was looking for: the Infinity Gauntlet, Towards the end of the mini-series Infinity Quest, Thanos acquired the Infinity Gems from the Elders of the Universe that possessed them, making the Infinity Gauntlet whole. Almost immediately he became the most powerful being in the universe (second to only beings like The One Above All) in the crossover event “Infinity Gauntlet”. From there, he proved he proved his loyalty to Death by killing half of the people in the universe. It was Adam Warlock who saved the day, by convincing Thanos that deep down the Eternal did not deserve ultimate power.
16 BETA RAY BILL
Whoever lifts Mjolnir, Thor’s magic hammer, essentially becomes the god Thor himself. Introducing Beta Ray Bill, the first character (other than Thor obviously) to lift Mjolnir. Transformed into a cyborg-like creature by his people, the Korbinites, to be their champion and protect them from their enemies, Beta Ray Bill’s strength is matched only by his sense of honor and compassion. When Thor and Beta Ray Bill first met, they had a bit of a misunderstanding and they fought. Amidst the battle, Thor was separated from his hammer and transformed back into Donald Blake. Then the unthinkable happened: Beta Ray Bill picked up the hammer.
A feat never before seen, he was granted the power of Thor. The moment’s relevance would live on in comics forever. Later in The Mighty Thor #338, Odin pit Thor and Beta Ray Bill against one another to determine who should wield the hammer. After an impressive fight, the two hit each other with enough force that they knock each other out; Beta Ray Bill recovers first, proving himself the victor. Odin, impressed by Bill’s nature, orders the creation of the hammer Stormbreaker for the Korbonite. With his own hammer, Bill could become a god whenever the situation called for it.
Genis-Vell, was cloned from the DNA of the hero Mar-Vell, aka Captain Marvel, and implanted with false memories so to believe he was the son of the Eternal Starfox. Though technically the “son” of Mar-Vell, he possessed far more power than his biological dad ever did. At one point he took over his father’s mantle as the new Captain Marvel. In continuing to follow in his dad’s footsteps, he bonded with Rick Jones after “Avengers Forever” and they worked together as superheroes. That was all well and good, until, long story short, because of his cosmic awareness powers, Genis-Vell went quite insane and figured it would be in everyone’s best interest if he just killed everyone.
Because of the nature of his powers and the way that Cosmic Awareness can develop, Genis-Vell was overloaded with knowledge, forever aware about the ramifications of every move he (and everyone else) made. Nigh omnipotence became too much for the hero and in listening to the children of Eternity, he was further convinced to destroy the universe. Guess what, he did just that. Once destroyed, Genis-Vell became one with the universe, assuming the mantle of god. At this point, he regained partial control of his mind long enough to convince Eternity’s offspring to restart creation. With their help, Genis-Vell recreated the universe just as it was before, but made a couple additions, like giving himself a sister, Phyla-Vell.
14 BLACK PANTHER
The King of Wakanda, T’Challa is the Black Panther and protector of the most technologically advanced nation on the planet. A master of nearly every martial art and one of the smartest people to have ever lived, the Black Panther has been an Avenger, an Ultimate, a member of the Illuminati, and a god. Aside from possessing all manner of technological doodads (including his own suit) all made of Vibranium, Black Panther also receives power from the Panther God Bastet, an ancient Egyptian deity. Considering T’Challa doesn’t always use his Panther powers in any dramatic fashion, it’s easy to overlook his godliness and how he’s employed the power of a deity on multiple occasions.
One such example was when he destroyed the god Logos. Logos, was the result of the cosmic entities Lord Chaos and Master Order fusing into one being. By himself, Logos was capable of killing the Living Tribunal, the second most powerful character in all of Marvel Comics. Undeterred, T’Challa summoned the power of the Tiger God, becoming the ancient deity, and beat Logos mercilessly. Lest not also forget the time that Black Panther wielded the Infinity Gauntlet to full effect during the 2015 "Secret Wars," becoming nearly as powerful as Doctor Doom with the power of the Beyonders. While the weapon usually corrupts its users, Black Panther assumed control over the weapon in mere moments, enforcing his will over it, and used the Gauntlet to fight God Doom.
Before she was in the X-Men, Rogue was a villain. Thanks to her energy vampire powers, Rogue can drain the life-force and powers out of whoever she touches. An interesting side effect is that she also acquires bits of their personality. First appearing in The Avengers Annual #10, Rogue headed to Avengers Mansion, at the behest of Mystique. When she gets there, after having first taken the abilities of Ms. Marvel and Captain America, she fights Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, gets her hands on Thor, absorbs some of his energy, and flees. Yet what if Rogue took all of Thor’s lifeforce?
Those are the sorts of questions that "Marvel’s What If…?" series explores -- divergence at important moments that create alternate realities. In What If…? #66, "What if…Rogue Possessed the Power of Thor", Rogue ends up killing Thor, taking all his power, and steals Mjolnir. While she initially thinks that she’s only acquired his power, she has in fact become Thor. Later on, Loki confronts Rogue and tricks her into aiding him take over Asgard. As the battle reaches its conclusion, Rogue realizes she can’t kill the Asgardians and is greeted by the spirit of Thor, who acknowledges that he’s totally okay with being dead since it was her destiny to be the God of Thunder and Rogue shouldn’t feel guilty. Though Rogue is uncertain, Thor says Mjolnir was certain about her future and effectively chose her. From there, Rogue takes on the name of Thor, and becomes a god forevermore.
12 JEAN GREY
The Phoenix Force is not only one of the oldest cosmic entities in the universe, but it’s the nexus of all psionic energy from the past, present, and future within all realities. Harnessing mind-blowing power, those who become its host are capable of do anything they can imagine. The Phoenix Force can destroy (as well as create) parts of the universe and comes with a whole laundry list of powers. Out of all its hosts, Jean Grey is the most famous.
Already one of the X-Men’s most powerful members, Jean’s mastery of telekinesis and telepathy put her on a level far above most other superheroes. Still, even with all her abilities, along with the training she received from Professor X, Jean Grey wasn’t exactly a god. That all changed the moment she came into contact with the Phoenix. The Phoenix Force is attracted to the strongest psychic minds in all of reality, and Jean Grey fit the bill masterfully. Upon acquiring the powers of the cosmic entity, Jean became nothing short of a deity. Alas, the power ended up driving Jean mad. She went on to destroy a planet and almost killed her teammates. Only through gaining a semblance of mental control was she able to kill herself, an act she committed to spare the universe greater destruction.
11 BLACK WIDOW
When it comes to Thor’s hammer, many have theorized about what makes a person worthy of lifting it. While it requires a certain amount of honor, it seems to also need the worthy to be a warrior of sorts. Natasha Romanoff, aka the Black Widow, is one of the more grounded heroes in the Marvel Universe and a warrior to boot. In What If…? Age of Ultron #3, due to the catastrophic ripples ripping through the timestream, one particular timeline gets hit and Thor dies while in the middle of fighting the Midgard Serpent. This instigates Ragnarok, a Norse-themed apocalypse that leaves most of Earth’s heroes dead. Anyone who ever had super powers is gone, leaving only powerless defenders. It is in this begotten timeline that Black Widow was achieved godhood.
After one month of fighting, Natasha and her ragtag unit are getting overwhelmed. In a last ditch effort, Black Widow is sent to retrieve Thor’s hammer. The fact of the matter is that the Ragnarok myth wasn’t completed when Thor died, and like any myth, it requires an end. And so, Black Widow lifts Mjolnir, not through any particular trick or loophole, but because in that moment, not only was she worthy, but she became Thor long enough to end the cycle of Ragnarok.
While Storm is obviously a mutant, on account of her incredible ability to manipulate the weather and even fly, it’s easy to see how she could be misinterpreted as a god. This is pretty much what happened during Storm’s formative period as a child and into her teenage years. When she traveled around Kenya to experience her homeland, the tribes she encountered saw her abilities and worshipped her as their local goddess. It wasn’t until Charles Xavier came along, that Storm was proved otherwise. She might not have had the powers of a true god, but she had the followers of one. Even in her day-to-day life, Storm is often referred to as a “weather goddess”, and while she no longer helps perpetuate the idea, you’ll also find she doesn’t complain when referred to as such.
Lest not forget the raw power that Storm possesses. An Omega Level mutant, she’s incredibly fearsome and her power over the weather is virtually unparalleled. If Thor is like a hammer with his weather manipulation, then Storm is a surgeon’s scalpel, mastering the elements in ways Thor hasn’t. Oh, and there was that one time Storm wielded the magical Asgardian hammer, Stormcaster. Created by Loki, he gave it to Storm to help him take over Asgard., but she ultimately rejected the power. Years later she held it again and fought Thor, but instead of harming him she grabbed Mjolnir, using it to destroy Stormcaster, proving herself worthy and that she’s really a god at heart.
9 FRANK CASTLE
Marvel Comics’ most infamous antihero, Frank Castle, the Punisher, was once a family man and an excellent US Marine. When Castle returned from war, he took his family out to a picnic where they stumbled across a mob execution -- his wife and kids were then horribly murdered. Frank Castle died that day and the Punisher was born. Swearing vengeance upon the criminal underworld, the Punisher dedicates his days and nights killing scum. Still, despite the fear he strikes into criminals, Frank is just a regular, albeit highly trained, guy. In the recent pages of the Thanos comic series by Donny Cates, that was no longer the case. Years into the future, Thanos came to Earth and battled the Avengers. Frank was mortally wounded, but with his dying breath he made a deal with Mephisto to become the Ghost Rider. When Frank returned to life, it was to a war-torn world, with the battle over and everyone. So he was left sitting on Earth with nobody to enact his newfound vengeance upon.
One day, years later, Galactus fell to Earth, on the run from Thanos. Frank, who’d gone insane over the past few centuries, greeted Galactus and volunteered to be the latter’s herald. To get revenge on Thanos, Galactus agreed and imbued Castle with the Power Cosmic. In so doing, Frank Castle became the Cosmic Ghost Rider, one of the mightiest forces in the universe. From there, Frank fought alongside Galactus, but then Thanos killed Galactus, so Frank allied with the Mad Titan.
8 AUNT MAY
Comic books are full of nonsensical stories, but one of the oddest (and funniest) occurred in Marvel Team-Up #137. The story featured the Fantastic Four visiting the circus with Reed and Sue Richard's son, Franklin, when an emergency occurs and the heroes are forced to depart the festivities. Aunt May is conveniently also at the circus and volunteers to look after the boy. Just as the Fantastic Four leave, Galactus arrives on Earth, looking for a new herald. Sensing the incredible power within Franklin, Galactus opts to make the boy his herald.
As Galactus tries to infuse him with the Power Cosmic, Aunt May steps in the way, taking the hit intended for Franklin and she becomes Golden Oldie, the new herald of Galactus. Incredibly effective at her new job, Golden Oldie finds a way to finally satiate Galactus’s hunger. She takes the Devourer of Worlds to an intergalactic chef that bakes planet-sized Twinkies. These Twinkies are infused with enough power to finally end Galactus’s hunger pains once and for all. Then, as the issue is about to end, we learn the events in the issue were all a dream and that Aunt May was only a god in our imagination.
7 MR. FANTASTIC
In leading up to the 2015 "Secret Wars" event, a new Illuminati was formed. In short order, the group then discovered the existence of universal Incursions, where Earths of other universes collided into each other, and some were even en route to the heroes’ Earth. The Illuminati tried to come up with some way to stop these incursions, but their search for a solution led them to simply destroying other Earths whenever Incursions occurred. Finally, only the Ultimate Earth and the regular Earth remained. Those Earths collided, and thanks to Doctor Doom who wielded the power of all the Beyonders, something he achieved with the help of the Molecule Man, the villain reconstructed the universe to his image. Doom then became the main god of the remaining Multiverse.
Reed Richards survived, though, and eventually he confronted Doom. In their confrontation, despite possessing the power of a god, Doom is defeated by Richards, who effectively taunts him into submission. The Molecule Man then allies with Richards and gives Mr. Fantastic all the power Doctor Doom once held. Doom’s inferiority complex with respect to Reed Richards was proved true yet again, as Reed, now with godlike powers, proved to be far better at utilizing the power than Doom. When last seen, Reed was busy fixing the Multiverse, one world at a time.
Back in 2012, Marvel’s event "Avengers vs. X-Men," word got out that the cosmic entity known as the Phoenix was heading to Earth. More specifically, it was coming for Hope Summers. Wolverine tells Captain America that Scott Summers, aka Cyclops, is liable to go crazy with the news, what with the leader’s history with the Phoenix, and that they want to take Hope into custody. In leading up to "AvX" Cyclops has already been making a ton of questionable decisions, including recruiting teenagers to be a part of his X-Force hit squad and trying to make his students into a fully-fledged paramilitary organization. All in all, Cyclops has begun to fold under the pressure of trying to keep mutants safe. When he hears about the Phoenix and Hope, he sees it as an opportunity to bring his people the power they need to assert their place in the world.
Since a reasonable decision couldn’t be made by both parties, the Avengers and the X-Men fought, which lead to Tony Stark accidentally splitting the Phoenix Force into five pieces, which then possessed Magik, Emma Frost, Namor, Colossus, and Cyclops. After a bunch of shenanigans, Cyclops took all the Phoenix power for himself and became the Dark Phoenix. It drove him crazy and he killed own mentor, Professor X. Nearly all-powerful, it took the combined might of the Scarlet Witch and Hope Summers, using some fancy power-slinging, to defeat Dark Phoenix Cyclops.
Wolverine is pretty much the go-to guy for when you need someone killed. Virtually unklillable already, thanks to his healing factor and adamantium skeleton, the only thing that could make the feral mutant even more dangerous is godhood. Well, in the 1987 Uncanny X-Men Annual #11, Wolverine (temporarily) becomes the mightiest being in the universe. After a mysterious entity called Horde instructs the X-Men to break into the Citadel of Light and Shadow in order to steal the Crystal of Ultimate Vision, a litany of tomfoolery ensues. The X-Men are beset at every turn by danger after danger, with the Citadel tempting all the X-Men with their deepest wishes. The story is a bleak one, as some of the fondest wishes of the X-Men are pretty twisted and nearly all the X-Men, Wolverine included, are defeated. Yet Wolverine refuses to stay down.
He’s just about to acquire the crystal when Horde appears and kills him, having only wanted the X-Men to carve out a safe path for him. Though he dies, this weirdly works out in Wolverine’s favor because right as he dies, a drop of Wolverine’s blood hits the crystal and Wolverine is awarded the prize of the Crystal. Its powers resurrects Wolverine and he becomes one with the universe, turning into a god if ever there was one. Though because Wolverine is Wolverine, he rejects the power and just returns his teammates back to normal.
4 ADAM WARLOCK
A synthetic being created by scientists so as to become the perfect human specimen and conquer the Earth, even as an “infant” Adam Warlock’s power allowed him to battle the likes of Thor. Over time, Warlock evolved, so much so that his power has steadily grown leagues above nearly everyone and everything in creation. On the plus side, Warlock rebelled against his creators -- Adam Warlock’s power is now such that he can do anything the plot demands. However, that was just the beginning in Adam Warlock’s ascent to godhood.
The One Above All is literally the most powerful being in Marvel Comics, but it usually doesn’t interfere in matters that take place in the universe and/or multiverse, and has someone to act in its stead. This someone is the Living Tribunal. Weaker only than the Fulcrum and the One Above All, the Living Tribunal is the host to unfathomable power. Not too long ago, Adam Warlock met the One Above All, was imbued with the power of Eternity and Infinity and was transformed into the new Living Tribunal. Soaring into the ranks of godliness, the likes of which unfathomable to even cosmic entities, beings like Thanos could only quake in fear at Warlock’s abilities. With literally every power-set at his beck and call, Adam Warlock’s power was second only to the One Above All, the creator of the Marvel Universe.
3 FRANKLIN RICHARDS
Without question the strongest mutant of all time, Franklin Richards is the son to Reed and Sue Richards of the Fantastic Four. His father’s intelligence and elastic powers are formidable, his mother’s forcefields make her the mightiest member on the team, but Franklin’s power dwarfs theirs to a frightening degree. Pretty much a god from the moment he was born, there’s almost nothing the youngster cannot do. Capable of warping reality, during the "Onslaught Saga" the titular villain, although he already possessed all of the powers of Professor X, Magneto, and X-Man, wanted Franklin’s powers too, as they were (and are) the key to reshaping the universe.
Following Onslaught’s defeat, which involved the death of the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, Franklin created a pocket universe where he remade all the heroes in the world known as Heroes Reborn. In later Fantastic Four comics, the superhero team got a visit from a future version of their son. This future version of Franklin was so mighty, that Galactus, the Devourer of Worlds and one of the most feared beings in all creation, has become his personal herald and servant. If that wasn’t enough, when he was an adult, Franklin defeated multiple Celestials, cosmic entities even greater than Galactus, and these god-like figures recognized him as being on their level, if not superior.
The son of Zeus and a demigod, Hercules is known in both our world and his. The Lion of Olympus, Hercules is a champion unlike any other. With millennia’s worth of combat experience and strength capable of moving mountains and throwing planets out of orbit, there aren’t many adversaries that can challenge Zeus’ son. When the Chaos King attacked the Marvel Universe, all of reality was threatened. The Chaos King is the literal embodiment of the darkness and the void that existed before creation. In fact, the only beings capable of threatening him aren’t even entities like the Celestials, but the Elder Goddess Gaea, who was also the first living entity, and the handful of primordial beings like her.
The Chaos King is less a physical entity and more a force of nature -- his power is so profound, gods like Odin and Zeus are powerless in his presence. Kicking off the event known as the "Chaos War", the Chaos King threatened to destroy the entire Multiverse. In leading up to the Chaos War, Hercules had been killed in fighting the villain Typhon and destroying his Continuum machine. Thankfully, Amadeus Cho found some nifty mystical artifacts that not only brought Hercules back, but also made him the God of Gods. Now mightier than any god before him and with power greater than the Chaos King, Hercules punched the living darkness into another dimension.
Currently, the roguish hero Star-Lord is one of the most popular characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The half-human scoundrel runs around with his merry band, the Guardians of the Galaxy, saving the universe and causing a bit of mischief in the process. Having faced down insurmountable odds time and again, Peter Quill was tested like never before in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 -- writer/director James Gunn made some massive changes to Peter Quill’s origins. In the comics, Star-Lord is the son of J’son, the emperor of the planet Spartax. The film changed all that and instead made Peter the son of Ego, the living planet, a Celestial who is pretty much a god.
After Quill made this discovery, he would come to learn about all of the Celestial powers he possessed. While he had the Celestial power, Star-Lord had complete control over energy and matter. His powers were effectively limitless and only bound by his imagination. Upon learning his father planned to take over the universe, Peter used his Celestial powers against Ego. However, the destruction wrought buy their battle destroyed not only the living planet, but Peter’s connection to the wellspring of power. Regardless, and although his time with Celestial might was brief, Peter’s powers made him a god.