Within the Marvel Universe there are gods, monsters, aliens, super soldiers, and of course, kings. An average day for a person of royalty is likely not one full of fighting madmen bent on conquering your kingdom. Rather, it’s more meetings, shaking hands with diplomats, and taking pictures. Yet for a superhero that’s a member of royalty, and a king no less, matters tend to become a great deal more complicated. Not to mention all the times you have to save the day, but balancing your private life with your life in spandex, and also trying to run a whole nation, can be a little overwhelming for most people.
Granted, some kings aren’t of the benevolent sort and in fact misuse their power selfishly, taking down anyone who dares oppose them or gets in their way. Though for all the bad kings, there are good kings, and even progressive rulers who turn their backs on outdated traditions, all in the name of better protecting not only their people, but also the universe. Be they kings of war-torn alien planets or rulers of a small clump of land with their name on it, today at CBR we’re going to be looking at the most powerful kings in Marvel Comics.
20 CONAN THE BARBARIAN
Because the Conan the Barbarian property has bounced around from publisher to publisher, it’s easy to overlook that he was once part of the Marvel Comics umbrella. According to recent news, it appears like Conan might join the House of Ideas yet again, sometime down the road. Regardless as to who owns the Conan license at any given time, his history remains virtually intact. That is to say that Conan has always been something of a wandering fighter, who’s taken on the role of mercenary, thief, hero, and even king throughout his years.
Born on a battlefield in the western most region of Cimmeria, it was prophesized that Conan would grow up to be an awesome warrior.
The omen definitely held true and as Conan entered adulthood, he fought more and more battles and nearly won them all. Battling madmen, gods, monsters, and sorcerers, Conan acquired a legendary reputation, as few beings were able to withstand his might. After a time, Conan became the king and leader of his people. As he started to grow older, he gave the throne up to his son Conn, and went to the Western Ocean to go on some final adventures. All the while, Conn became known as King Conan II of Aquilonia and would follow in his father’s footsteps.
When the First Host of Celestials arrived on Earth one million years ago, they found humanity in its infancy and experimented on the species. The Celestials altered the genetic characteristics of mankind, giving way to two separate races: the Eternals and the Deviants. Offshoots of humanity, the Eternals and Deviants were practically immortal and bestowed with incredible powers. Though the Eternals would go off to perform heroic deeds and try and keep the universe safe, the Deviants took the opposite approach.
They originally opted to try and enslave humans when mankind was in its infancy, using their highly advanced technology to battle the Eternals’s superior powers. One of the religious leaders of the Deviants was a priest known as Ghaur. When Brother Tode led the Deviants against the Eternals, he was defeated. This created a vacuum that Ghaur was more than happy to fill. In short order, he became the ruler and leader of the Deviants and took the power of the Dreaming Celestial upon himself, moving up the hierarchy from simple priest to god. With his newfound might and status, Ghaur attempted to destroy the Earth, but was stopped when the Eternals came together to form the Uni-Mind, separating Ghuar from the Celestial’s power. Now powerless, Ghaur was forced to flee, having lost his kingship and godlike abilities; to this day he still seeks the crown and to rule the Deviants yet again.
18 KING ARTHUR
The story behind King Arthur, his wielding of Excalibur, and his many magical adventures are so iconic, that many writers feel little need to alter his history. The Arthur Pendragon myth featured Merlin and the Lady of the Lake making Excalibur, putting it in a stone. Then one day Arthur pulled the famous weapon out of its resting place. Through this act, he became the ruler of Britain, founded the Knights of the Round Table, and fought all manner of evil. In Marvel Comics, Arthur’s history plays out similarly, except since this is comics we’re talking about, not only does time-travel get involved, but the first Black Knight is also one of the Arthur’s greatest knights.
At one point, Kang the Conqueror time traveled to the past in an effort to seize control of Arthurian Britain.
What followed was a bunch of time travel craziness, including Kang fighting Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Doctor Doom and Iron Man meet Arthur in another instance, and during it all Excalibur is flung to the future. When the sword returns to the past, Arthur has his fateful confrontation with his son Mordred, and is slain. Never fear, because the spirit of Arthur would return centuries later to help out Captain Britain and also fight the Chaos King.
17 MENTOR OF TITAN
It might come as a shock to some, but even genocidal space aliens like Thanos have a father. That father is, or better put was, Mentor of Titan. His real name A’lars, Mentor was the second son of the Titan Kronos, and was the first generation of the race known as Eternals. A’lars and his brother Zuras were raised in a colony suffering from the fallout of a civil war. Their father, who was on the winning side of the war, was one day working in his laboratory, when the cosmic energy he was working on exploded, disintegrating Chronos and imparting immortality to all the nearby Eternals, A’lara included. After Chronos died, there was a general assembly to determine who would be the new leader. Zuras was chosen, so A’lars left his home and formed a new colony on Saturn’s moon, Titan. He took over as leader of the people there, and became their ruler.
While there, A’lars fathered the demigods Thanos and Eros (Starfox), and his work would help to shape the future of many cosmic heroes and villains. In general, Mentor was a pretty easy-going ruler, yet his greatest regret was in siring Thanos. Because of this, Mentor would enlist the help Chronos (who was now a cosmic entity) to destroy his son. Together they made Drax the Destroyer.
One of the Hulk’s oldest antagonists, Romulus Augustulus, better known as Tyrannus, is an immortal supervillain from the time of the Roman Empire. Named after the child emperor with the same name, Tyrannus claims to be the very same individual, meaning he too is an emperor. Tyrannus also said he was a sorcerer and used his advanced technology to confuse the people of his era. When Merlin and King Arthur discovered Tyrannus, they exiled him to Subterranea, where he became the king of the semi-humanoid beings who lived there. Thanks to drinking from the Fountain of Youth, which also was located there, he never aged.
Centuries later he encountered the Hulk and the two would prove mortal enemies. When fighting the Hulk, Tyrannus must always employ brains to match the hero’s brute strength; Bruce Banner has even acknowledged that Tyrannus is his intellectual superior. Though Tyrannus might have the physique of a runway model, along with low-level super strength and even telepathic powers, he’s still no match for the Hulk in a physical contest. Still, for all his intelligence and schemes, the crazed emperor has never permanently beaten the Hulk, but the same could be said with the Hulk and how he can’t get rid of Tyrannus.
15 BLACK PANTHER
He might not be the strongest superhero in the world, but you can bet there’s hardly a better man fit for the position of king than T’Challa, the Black Panther. While heroes like Spider-Man struggle to maintain life as a civilian and a vigilante, Black Panther isn’t only a hero, but is the ruler of the nation of Wakanda. The latest in a long line of rulers bearing the Black Panther title, T’Challa serves as the protector and ruler of Wakanda and its advanced technology (made up of Vibranium metal, the country’s largest resource) that makes up the nation. Armed with powerful resources, including his Black Panther suit which in on par with Tony Stark’s Iron Man armor, along with his fantastic Panther powers, and keen intellect, the Black Panther has taken down enemies ranging from Doctor Doom to Mephisto (the devil), and even Thanos… all in a matter of seconds.
Black Panther stays busy ruling his country, being a member of the Avengers and the Illumanati, while going on his own adventures.
Highly protective of his people, Black Panther’s sense of royal honor really shone after Namor acquired a portion of the Phoenix Force and tore Wakanda to the ground. T’Challa then made it his personal mission to find a way to kill Namor. It took a few years, but staying true to his word and in honoring his fallen kingdom, T’CHalla eventually ended Namor.
When one thinks of superheroes responsible enough to rule over a nation, much less the universe, Star-Lord is not the first person who comes to mind. Peter Quill, accompanied by his rag-tag band of intergalactic heroes, assembling to form the Guardians of the Galaxy, would rather be involved in bar fights with aliens, rather than have to try his hand at universal politics. However, Star-Lord’s father, J’son of Spartax, is not only Peter’s dad, but also the Emperor of the Spartoi Empire. Tasked with helping maintain balance in the cosmos, J’son usually overlooks Peter’s tomfoolery. Even so, the title of royalty, essentially how Star-Lord is a prince, follows around the outlaw hero, much to his chagrin.
Part of the reason Star-Lord’ hates the title, is because his father is ruthless in his dealings, caring little if murder or intimidation are necessary to keep his empire going. So in typical Star-Lord fashion, Peter exposed his father’s shady dealings to the entire Spartax Empire, causing the people J’son once ruled over to turn against their king. Star-Lord was force to ascend to the throne, briefly becoming the new king of Spartax, It didn’t take long however for widespread destruction throughout Spartax to ensue under Quill’s watch, which would get him labeled an unfit leader. Quill then abdicated his throne, resuming his duties as the leader of the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Namor, the Sub-Mariner, is the Prince of Atlantis and is definitely one of the haughtiest people around. Coming from royalty, Namor doesn’t believe he owes anyone respect, but rather everyone should respect him. Known for his unfriendly and occasionally psychotic disposition, Namor has fought nearly every superhero, if only because he refuses to listen to reason.
This hasn’t helped him make many friends, but his bull-headed mentality has served him well when it comes to ruling his underwater kingdom of Atlantis.
First appearing in the first ever Marvel comic, Marvel Comics #1, Namor was introduced as the son of a human sea captain and the princess of Atlantis. From there, when he wasn’t trying to sink New York with a tidal wave, he’d team up with Captain America and the Invaders to fight Hitler and the Nazis in World War II. Though Namor does interact with the superhero community, he’s more inclined to spend his time ruling the kingdom of Atlantis, all in a painstaking effort to ensure that Atlantis stays as far removed from the problems from the surface world as possible. Though Namor’s policies do mark him as something of an isolationist, he doesn’t care. No matter the cost to anyone or anything else, Namor’s first priority is to his people.
Being a member of royalty is not especially easy when you live in the Marvel Universe. When it comes to the Inhumans, they have a family that’s nearly as dysfunctional as the Asgardians. While Black Bolt is generally known as the ruler of the Inhumans over in the floating city of Attilan, this hasn’t prevented his brother, Maximus, from causing all sorts of mischief. Also known as Maximus the Mad, the younger brother of Black Bolt dedicates his insane genius to trying to discover ways to overthrow the Inhuman Royal Family and assume power for himself. Though Black Bolt remains fully aware of his brother’s crazy schemes, he rarely finds himself willing to punish Maximus, wanting to believe that his sibling is capable of changing his evil ways.
Unfortunately, this just isn’t true. You see, Maximus has the power to control the minds of others and Maximus uses his powers to impose his wills on people, robbing individuals of their free will. If someone possesses a strong mind, Maximus will plant seeds of his will into others. Chaos follows the Inhumans around, Maximus will combine his skills at manipulation, along with his powers, to take advantage of any disorder, and assume positions of power. Through his way, he’s become king of Attilan, going so far as to orchestrate events, whereas Black Bolt was locked away in prison. All things considered, Maximus was a pretty horrible ruler.
The half-brother of Thor, Loki Laufeyson, first made himself known in Marvel as one of the comic line’s biggest villains. Though he was usually trying to find elaborate ways to defeat Thor, his other big preoccupation involved trying to find a way to make himself the ruler of Asgard. It didn’t help matters any that he’d spent most of his life feeling made second fiddle to Thor, as that further embittered him towards Asgard and its people.
Even when Loki eventually became something of a good guy, nobody trusted him because of all the mischief and evil he’d wrought when he was younger.
During the Loki: Agent of Asgard series, the main villain happens to be an evil Loki from the future. Apparently, he’s finally accomplished his dream of becoming king and ruler of Asgard. This version of Loki, although he performed some heroic deeds, still wouldn’t be trusted by his friends and family… so he went a bit mad. Reverting back to his God of Evil persona, Future Loki stabbed Thor, destroyed the Earth, and became the king of his realm. Granted, Thor returned, and King Loki as forced to flee to the past where he tried to kill Thor before the Odinson was able to lift Mjolnir. His plan doesn’t work and his younger self bests King Loki.
10 BLACK BOLT
Thanks to the Inhumans show, Black Bolt and his people have been getting more attention. Forever silent for fear of destroying a building with the slightest whisper, Blackagar Boltagan is the stoic king of the reclusive leader of the Inhumans. The king of his people, his wife Medusa, thanks to her uncanny ability to understand her husband’s thoughts, speaks in his stead. Blackbolt is a man of few words, but he tends to let his actions speak for him. First appearing in Fantastic Four #45, by Stan Lee and pencils by Jack Kirby, Black Bolt has always served faithfully as the leader of the genetically altered race of superhumans known as the Inhumans. Though this has brought him into conflict with the likes of the X-Men (thanks to a war Emma Frost instigated) and even Thanos, Black Bolt considers the safety of his people above all else.
Together with the Inhuman Royal Family, Black Bolt and company live in their home of Atillia (which is sometimes on the moon and sometimes on Earth). Thanks to having a rather crazed brother Maximus, and because he and his people are such recluses, the Inhumans are often met with distrust. In spite of this, Black Bolt has always offered a helping hand to multiple superheroes teams, including the Fantastic Four and the Avengers. During the "Infinity" story, which featured Thanos trying to conquer the Earth, Black Bolt did his part to ensure the Mad Titan proved unsuccessful.
A member of the Eternals, a near-immortal evolutionary offshoot of humanity created by the Celestials, Ikaris is among the most powerful of his kind. Ikaris fights for the Eternals in much the same way Thor fights for Asgard and its people. The primary antagonists of the Eternals are the Deviants, another race that the Celestials created, and Ikarais is forced to fight these evil creatures time and again. After Virako, Ikaris’ father, died in a battle against the Deviant Dromedan, Ikaris was adopted by his uncle. Years later, he would grow up to become the ruler and king of the Eternals.
Ikaris, in staying true to his heroic nature, proved to be a fair and just leader of the Eternals.
He even went so far as to be deemed a progressive leader, as he abandoned many Eternal traditions, like when he allowed the Eternal Sersi to mind-meld with the human Avenger Black Knight, and also chose to take an active role in defending both the planet Earth and mankind. A being of profound strength, Ikaris’ power derives from the cosmic energies that inhabit his body. Because of this, he’s virtually immortal, can fire energy blasts that are at least 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit, controls various forms of electromagnetic energy, possesses a healing factor, and is strong enough to go toe-to-toe with heroes like the Hulk and Thor.
8 DOCTOR DOOM
Some villains are cackling madmen, others are evil sorcerers, and still others rule nations with an iron fist. Doctor Victor Von Doom checks all of those boxes. Born to Gypsies in the small nation of Latveria, Doom gradually rose to power until he became the ruler of the country. Fueled by the belief that all men are beneath him, Doom used his genius and mastery over the mystic arts to cement his station and ensure no one would ever dream of dethroning him. When Doom wasn’t ruling Latveria, he was plotting to destroy the Fantastic Four, and when he wasn’t doing that, he was figuring out (unsuccessful) ways to occasionally rule the world.
Though Doom is a tyrant through and through, he does care about his subjects through some warped sense of loyalty. Perception is everything to Doom, and he can’t afford to look like he’s an unjust ruler. That said, most of his people live in squalor, while he lives like a king -- Doom is content so long as his nation and people are safe. Whether or not they are happy is another matter entirely, but none of his people would dare speak out against Doom. Doom’s faced numerous coups, yet always eliminates the competition. He’s invented holidays, like the constantly changing Doom’s Day, which is held on whatever day Doom feels like it, and has even gone about naming small towns after himself.
The Hulk’s relationship with the people of Earth has always been a complicated one. Sometimes he’s a threat; other times he’s their greatest champion. Yet things took a turn for the worse when, in Fantastic Four #533, a rogue Gamma Bomb went off in the Hulk’s face, driving him temporarily crazy. As a result, he rampaged through Las Vegas, killing multiple people. S.H.I.E.L.D. director Maria Hill reaches out to Tony Stark and asks him do something about Bruce Banner's rampaging alter ego. And so Tony, along with his clandestine group the Illuminati, launched the Jade Giant into space.
The general hope was that the Hulk would land on a peaceful planet and could live the rest of his life without violence.
This didn’t happen and the Hulk wound up on Sakaar. A brutal world, Hulk was immediately enslaved and brought before the brutal Red King, who oversaw gladiatorial combat, having warriors fight to the death for him amusement. The Hulk, eventually tired of the Red King, lead a revolt against the dictator, and beat the cretin, despite the Red King’s mad attempt to destroy the planet. After Hulk defeated him, the green behemoth became the new king of Sakaar. Joined by his queen, Caiera, Hulk vowed to serve as a just and righteous king, but then the ship that had carried the Hulk exploded, leading to the destruction of Sakaar, the death of Caiera, and a newfound rage for Hulk.
Out of all the villains the Avengers have faced, one of their deadliest and most powerful is Kang the Conqueror. A time traveling warlord with a penchant for reigning supreme as the conqueror to various points in history in different timelines, Kang utilizes his vast technological powers to take advantage of every opportunity to plague the Avengers and the Marvel Universe as a whole. Over the course of his time travel adventures, which have taken him to both the beginning and the end of time, Kang has amassed an empire with a citizenry of literally millions of individuals. Since Kang time travels so much, not only can he appear at literally any point in history he chooses, but some of his own history is a mystery to him, since he doesn’t always experience events in the right order -- his personal timeline is out of synch with the rest of the universe and it’s natural progression of time.
Though Kang is the conqueror to many, there are a couple notable instances of his kingship. There’s the time when he assumed the guise of the ancient Sphinx Rama-Tut. Making his way to early Egypt, he used his futuristic technology to subjugate the Egyptians and ruled for ten years. There was also the time Kang formed the Council of Kangs, comprised of three other Kangs from different realities. The prime timeline Kang assumed the role of leader and king of the other Kangs.
While Zeus might be the Skyfather of the Olympian realm, he’s not the only Greek God who is a king after a fashion. Zeus’s brother and the oldest son of Kronos, Pluto was originally swallowed whole by his dad before Zeus rescued him. Upon receiving his freedom, all of Zeus’s siblings and himself cast lots to determine who would rule what. Pluto ended up getting the underworld and would rule the land of the dead, along with all the material wealth that existed inside the planet Earth. However, because Pluto is greedy, he wasn’t content with the size of his kingdom and has continually sought to expand his territory, regardless as to whose land he infringes upon. Over the years, and because of some family issues with his brother Zeus, Pluto grew into an especially vengeful ruler and god, causing him to rebel against Zeus in an effort to claim the throne as his.
Every time Pluto has done this, and his coups have been many, Hercules and Thor were forced to team-up to stop the mad god.
Incredibly powerful, he might not be quite on par with Zeus, but he surpasses nearly every Olympian. Aside from being immortal, Pluto can create impenetrable force fields, fire energy blasts from his hands, weaken opponents by touching them, and he can encase his body in a mystical flame. The ruler of Hades, he’s more powerful there on his home turf than he is on Earth.
If you had to ask Thor, the thunder god would say he’s a lot of things, but king and ruler is not one of them. Coming from a rather complicated household, Thor has seen what it takes to be a king and spent thousands of years believing that such matters weren’t for him. To be fair, Thor has no problems fighting on the behalf of his family or defending Asgard if his father is elsewhere, but Thor would rather be lost in the throes of battle, rather than trying to negotiate the politics of diplomacy. No matter, because of all the chaos that comes with being the son of Odin, like an evil brother, an evil uncle, old villains seeking to take vengeance on dad... poor Thor is the one who has to deal with it all.
As a member of the royal family of Asgard, Thor clashes with his father Odin and trades blows with his trickster half-brother Loki, all while ensuring that the occupants of Asgard can live out their days in peace. In the instances when it was believed Odin was dead, Thor, in trying to be the dutiful son, would do his best to look after his people. The mantle of king is one Thor has worn on multiple occasions, but not one he enjoys. In the distant future, we see Thor has become King Thor, the ruler to an otherwise dead Asgard.
Despite coming from a family with a reputation of putting planets in jeopardy, Gabriel Summers, aka Vulcan, might be the black sheep, but he’s still managed to become a bonafide space emperor. First introduced in X-Men: Deadly Genesis #1, Gabriel Summers was part of Professor Xavier’s replacement X-Men team. He and his teammates ventured to the mutant island Krakoa to save the original X-Men. Nearly everyone on the team died and Vulcan was left for dead. When Vulcan emerged back into the world, very much not dead, he was not feeling especially happy.
Things were made worse when it came to light that Xavier had wiped everyone’s memories of the incident.
An Omega Level mutant who cannot die and wields all kind of awesome powers like energy projection, telekinesis, time manipulation, and the ability to control every element, he made short work of the X-Men before moving on to the cosmos. When he got to space, Vulcan assumed the throne of the mighty Shi’ar Empire. As was to be expected, considering his fractured state of mind, Vulcan rules as a cruel, manipulative emperor, who preferred violence to diplomacy. Eventually, after leading a war against the Inhumans in which he nearly won on his own, he was seemingly killed by Black Bolt. But like we said, Vulcan can’t really die, so odds are he’ll be back one day.
If only because Thor and the Norse Gods get a lot of attention in Marvel Comics, it’s easy to forget that the Greek Gods and their pantheon are also running around. That said, the most powerful god and king in the Marvel Universe (outside of our number one) is none other than Zeus, the Skyfather. The youngest son of Cronus and Rhea, Zeus’ origin in Marvel Comics is nearly identical to the Greek myth, minus one or two fantastical details. Cronus was the ruler of the extra-dimensional raced of Titans. He also took a fancy of swallowing his children. After being hidden by his mother, Zeus grew up and later was forced to slay his father. In turn, Zeus became king and took his father’s place as the Skyfather of the Olympian Realm. Along with being the Olympian God of Thunder and Wisdom, Zeus is also known for being the father of the demigod Hercules.
Zeus primarily keeps to himself over on Mt. Olympus, rarely interacting with the rest of the Marvel Universe, completely opposite from how Odin operates, but his appearances are notable, considering his vast power. He’s had misunderstandings with the Avengers and the Hulk, and he shares a rivalry with Odin; the two fathers are constantly trying to determine which of their sons is strongest, Hercules or Thor. Zeus’s strength is so great that even Thanos respects the Skyfather’s power.
The most famous ruler of Asgard, there is not another king in all of Marvel as powerful as Odin, the All-Father. The son of Bor and the Frost Giantess Bestia, ever since Odin was a youngster, he’d always dreamed of one day taking his father’s place on the throne. Things then get complicated, as there are two versions of how Odin became king. The first involved a future version of Loki who time-traveled to the past and seemingly killed Bor by turning the god into snow. This gave Odin the opportunity he required to become the new king of Asgard. Though he had two other brothers and they decided the throne ought to belong to all of them, Odin felt quite the opposite.
In a sneaky play, he absorbed their power, boosting his strength further and turned into the Odinpower, or Odinforce.
The other, and perhaps more accepted version, is that when Odin was younger, he and his two other brothers fought the demon Surtur. Odin’s brothers gave him all their power, which in turn became the Odinforce, and Odin used it to defeat Surtur. Later, Odin said his brothers had died in battle (which wasn’t really true) and he became king. After Odin became the ruler of his realm, he had the hammer Mjolnir forged, and then went on to woo Gaea, the Goddess of Earth. Together they had Thor.