Over the past few years, Marvel has mashed-up some of its most iconic heroes and villains to create unlikely new heroes and surprising takes on familiar characters. These strange new amalgamations have injected life into long-dormant characters and led to some of the most jaw-dropping moments in recent Marvel history. While this practice has flourished in Marvel's recent efforts like the ongoing Fresh Start initiative, the publisher has been combining its characters in one way or another for years in major storylines and forgotten alternate realities. Even when these combinations haven't really worked, they still stand as the kinds of stories that can only be told in the Marvel Universe.
Now, CBR is looking at some Marvel mash-up characters who outshine the characters they're based on, and some who don't measure up to the characters that inspired them. For this list, we'll be focusing on new characters that were largely inspired two or more existing characters. We'll also be counting existing characters adopted a new look or persona that was primarily based on the traits of another existing character. Although we'll be including some alternate reality characters, we'll be sticking to Marvel characters exclusively, so we won't be including anything from the times Marvel and DC characters were combined.
16 COOLER: RED GOBLIN
Whether or not he's wearing his Green Goblin costume, Norman Osborn has always been one of Spider-Man's most formidable foes. In his latest plan to take down the wall-crawler, Osborn has bonded with the Carnage symbiote to become the Red Goblin.
Since Osborn bonded with the symbiote in 2018's Amazing Spider-Man #795, by Dan Slott, Christos Gage and Mike Hawthorne, and has already tamed the symbiote's appetite for random violence. Carnage's former host, the crazed killer Cletus Kasady, couldn't do that, and he still became one of Spider-Man's most lethal foes. By harnessing the power of Carnage, Osborn has put together one of his best plans in years in a storyline that's injected excitement back into Marvel's flagship title. Although his plans are already in motion, Red Goblin will make his fully-costumed debut in the hotly-anticipated Amazing Spider-Man #798.
15 COOLER: STORM, GODDESS OF THUNDER
While Loki probably won't be facing the X-Men on screen anytime soon, Thor's wicked little brother kidnapped several of Marvel's mutants in the 1985 story, "The Asgardian Wars." At the time, the X-Men's Storm had lost her weather-controlling powers after being hit by a power-neutralizing gun. That didn't stop Loki from kidnapping her and turning her into the Goddess of Thunder in Chris Claremont and Art Adams' X-Men Annual #9.
Using the power of her newly-forged hammer Stormcaster, Storm was able to break Loki's spell and gave up her powers to return to Earth with the X-Men. Still, Asgardian godhood was a good fit for the regal Ororo Munroe, who was worshiped as a weather goddess in her youth. In Jim Valentino's What If? #12, Storm remained the Goddess of Thunder and, with Thor's blessing, became the ruler of Asgard in that 1990 alternate reality tale.
14 WORSE: CAPTAIN PUNISHER
After Steve Rogers was seemingly killed in the aftermath of 2006's Civil War, the Punisher started wearing a variation of Captain America's classic uniform as a tribute to the fallen Avenger. In 2006's Punisher: War Journal #7, by Matt Fraction and Ariel Olivetti, the Punisher donned the costume to fight the Hate-Monger, a villain who committed hate crimes in another Captain America-influenced costume.
The "Captain Punisher" costume combined Cap's classic red, white and blue look with the Punisher's trademark skull design and heavy artillery. Unfortunately, some of the costume's skulls were outlined in red, which wasn't the best tribute to a hero who fought the Red Skull. In Punisher: War Journal #11, by Fraction and Leandro Fernandez, the Punisher gave the costume to the Winter Soldier, Captain America's old sidekick, and admitted that he didn't know what he was doing by wearing it.
13 COOLER: SPIDER-GWEN
After the death of Uncle Ben, the death of Gwen Stacy might be the second most important moment in Spider-Man's life. Since Gwen's neck snapped in 1973's Amazing Spider-Man #121, by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane, Marvel creators have tried to find a way to bring Peter Parker's college girlfriend back into the Marvel Universe. And in 2014's Edge of Spider-Verse #2, Jason LaTour and Robbi Rodriguez solved the Gwen Stacy riddle with Spider-Gwen.
In that Gwen Stacy's world, she was bitten by a radioactive spider instead of Peter Parker and used her powers to become Spider-Gwen. Even though she debuted alongside dozens of other Spider-Man-inspired characters in the Spider-Verse crossover, she was a clear standout who quickly graduated to starring in her own series. After starting with a simple-yet-brilliant twist on Spider-Man's origin, Spider-Gwen has come into her own as one of Marvel's most compelling new multimedia heroes.
12 WORSE: CYCLOPS-APOCALYPSE HYBRID
Even though it was teased for over a decade, the 2000 X-Men crossover "The Twelve" is mostly forgotten today. The story revolved around the X-Men's ancient foe Apocalypse, who wanted to use the powers of 12 mutants to turn himself into an omnipotent being. When this plan unsurprisingly backfired, Apocalypse's consciousness ended up in the body of the X-Men's leader Cyclops, and the two became a hybrid being in X-Men #97, by Alan Davis, Terry Kavanagh and Alan Davis.
In the immediate aftermath of "The Twelve," the Cyclops-Apocalypse hybrid tried to rewrite reality to complete his ascension. After those efforts also failed, the hybrid disappeared until Jean Grey and Cable separated the X-Man from the villain several months later. For a character with the power of the X-Men's greatest leader and one of their strongest foes, the Cyclops-Apocalypse hybrid really didn't do much during his brief existence.
11 COOLER: VENOM PUNISHER
Venom and the Punisher have a lot in common. Both antiheroes wear a lot of black, have complex relationships with Spider-Man and were Marvel's most popular non-mutant heroes in the early 1990s. Naturally, 1992's What If? #44, by Kurt Busiek and Luke McDonnell, posed the question, "What If Venom Had Possessed the Punisher?"
In that issue's alternate reality, the alien Venom symbiote bonded with the Punisher after separating from Spider-Man. At first, the symbiote's violent impulses didn't sit well with the Punisher's precise tactics. After they used their abilities to eliminate crime lords like Tombstone and the Kingpin, Frank Castle basically scared Venom into submission. Although Spider-Man and some other heroes were initially worried about the Venom-Punisher combination, they realized that the aggressively cool hero would probably do some good and let him fly off into the night.
10 COOLER: WEAPON H
On their own, the Hulk and Wolverine are two of Marvel's most ferocious fighters. Given the number of questionable scientific military experiments in the Marvel Universe, it was only a matter of time until someone tried to combine the powers of Wolverine and the Hulk. In 2017's Totally Awesome Hulk #21, by Greg Pak and Robert Gill, a soldier named Clayton brought that immensely powerful combination to life as H-Alpha, better known as Weapon H.
Designed by Mike Deodato Jr., Weapon H was created by the Weapon X Program to hunt down mutants using his Hulk-level strength and adamantium claws. While he's built on a slightly ridiculous concept, Weapon H has the kind of mysterious past that fueled Wolverine's adventures for years. After going toe-to-toe with a Hulk and several other Weapon X veterans, Weapon H graduated to a starring role in a recently-launched solo series.
9 WORSE: STORM-PHOENIX
In one of the X-Men's most famous moments, Jean Grey merged with the Phoenix Force to save the X-Men in Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum's classic "The Phoenix Saga." While that cemented Jean Grey as one of the most powerful X-Men, 1995's What If? #79, by Sarah Byam and Franchesco Bufano, looked at what would've happened if Storm had embraced the Phoenix Force instead.
Although Storm might be able to wield the most destructive forces on Earth, she couldn't quite handle the cosmic power of the Phoenix. After failing to save the X-Men's spaceship from crashing, "Storm-Phoenix" emerged from the wreckage and proceeded to take over the world. Using her vast abilities, Storm-Phoenix protected the natural world and froze dissenters in the Earth's upper atmosphere. After a successful revolt by Wolverine, Nick Fury and Kitty Pryde, the Phoenix left Earth while the real Storm died.
8 COOLER: COSMIC GHOST RIDER
More than any other characters in the Marvel Universe, Ghost Rider and the Punisher are fueled by their never-ending appetites for vengeance. So in 2018's Thanos #13, by Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw, those characters collided to form the Cosmic Ghost Rider.
After Frank Castle was killed during Thanos' final assault on Earth, he returned to the dead planet as the new Ghost Rider. After roaming the barren world for years, he became the herald of Galactus and was granted vast cosmic powers. When the aged King Thanos defeated Galactus, Cosmic Ghost Rider switched sides and joined Thanos so he could bear witness to more evil than he could ever punish. Even though this talkative Castle barely resembles the ultra-disciplined Punisher, the Cosmic Ghost Rider is still one of Marvel's most exciting new characters. After his adventures in Thanos are over, Cosmic Ghost Rider is set to star in his own self-titled miniseries later in 2018.
7 WORSE: GOLIATH
While most of the entries on this list were created in the relatively recent past, Marvel has been combining parts of its characters together since the 1960s. While Clint Barton is usually the Avengers' archer Hawkeye, he broke his bow and became the giant Goliath by taking Hank Pym's old powers and identity in 1969's Avengers #63, by Roy Thomas and Gene Colan.
Instead of just using his other bow, Barton stole Pym's size-changing formula and old costume to save a kidnapped Black Widow. Clint only kept the Goliath identity until 1973, but he was giant-size during the landmark 1973 Avengers story "The Kree-Skrull War." Ultimately, Goliath's enormous shoes weren't a good fit for Barton, especially since he and Pym looked nearly identical in Goliath's revealing costume. After he returned to his Hawkeye identity, Barton took Pym's powers to become Goliath again for a few months in the early 1990s.
6 COOLER: ONSLAUGHT
Shortly after Magneto ripped the adamantium off of Wolverine's skeleton in the 1993 crossover "Fatal Attractions," Professor X launched a massive psychic assault on Magneto that left his old friend in a coma. In that same attack, the darkest parts of Charles Xavier and Magneto merged to form the psychic entity Onslaught, who was created by Scott Lobdell, Mark Waid and Andy Kubert and made his full debut in 1996's X-Men #53.
In the aptly-titled crossover "Onslaught," the villain brought Marvel's biggest heroes to their knees by creating a second Sun. Although he was ultimately defeated, the Fantastic Four and most of the Avengers seeming gave up their lives to take down Onslaught. With a fierce design that turned Magneto's traditional costume into a monstrous armor, Onslaught cut an imposing profile as he took control over powerful mutants like Professor X and Franklin Richards.
5 WORSE: BASTION
In the follow-up to "Onslaught," the X-Men battled a considerably less imposing villain, Bastion. Created by Scott Lobdell and Pasqual Ferry in 1996's X-Men #52, the mysterious Bastion used his influence with the U.S. government to launch a nationwide crackdown on mutants in the 1997 crossover "Operation: Zero Tolerance." After that relatively uneventful story ended, readers learned that the human-looking Bastion was a mystical combination of two mutant-hating robots, Master Mold and Nimrod.
While Master Mold was originally a giant Sentinel who created slightly smaller Sentinels, Nimrod was a highly advanced robot from a dystopian alternate timeline. After the two machines started bonding with each other, they fell through the Siege Perilous, a mystical portal that combined them to create Bastion. Even though he's been in some fairly major stories, Bastion has never seemed quite as unstoppable as Nimrod or as gleefully absurd as Master Mold.
4 COOLER: WAR MACHINE PUNISHER
Even though he lives in a world full of superpowers and impossible technology, the Punisher still uses an arsenal that features a lot of realistic weapons. While his arsenal puts the Punisher uncomfortably close to some real-world hot-button issues, it also doesn't make a lot of sense in a world filled with alien weapons. But in 2018's Punisher #218, by Matthew Rosenberg and Guiu Vilanova, Nick Fury Jr. gave the Punisher a major weapons upgrade by giving him the War Machine armor.
In that ongoing storyline, Fury recruited the Punisher to take down General Petrov, a dictator who took over the country Chernaya using stolen S.H.I.E.L.D. weapons. Since James Rhodes died in the lead-up to 2016's Civil War II, Fury gave the Punisher his classic War Machine armor to complete the mission. So far, the War Machine armor has perfectly suited Frank Castle's explosive adventures.
3 COOLER: GWENPOOL
After Spider-Gwen's surprise success, Marvel released a series of variant covers featuring over versions of Gwen Stacy in 2015. Chris Bachalo's cover for Deadpool's Secret Secret Wars #2 featured a version of Gwen lounging in a pool in a Deadpool-inspired costume. After fans responded positively to the character, Marvel tasked writer Christopher Hastings with turning the vague concept of "Gwenpool" into a fully fleshed-out character.
In a series of specials, readers met Gwen Poole, a real world Marvel fan who was sucked into the Marvel Universe. Using her knowledge of Marvel history and superhero tropes, Gwenpool explored the possibilities of her new life in her recently-ended solo series, The Unbelievable Gwenpool, by Hastings and Gurihiru. While Gwenpool could've easily been written off as a joke, her adventures have been one of the sharpest takes on fictional morality in recent memory.
2 WORSE: RED ONSLAUGHT
After Professor X was killed during the 2012 crossover Avengers vs. X-Men, a clone of the Red Skull stole the late psychic mutant's telepathic brain un Uncanny Avengers #1, by Rick Remender and John Cassaday. The Skull used his new abilities to spread a telepathic hate virus around the world and create a mutant death camp on the island Genosha. After a brutal fight with Magneto, a dark part of Xavier's subconscious rose to the surface and turned the Skull into Red Onslaught.
While that's the kind of gloriously bombastic beginning that can only happen in a comic book universe, the rest of Red Onslaught's story left something to be desired. He served as the main villain in the 2014 crossover AXIS, where heroes and villains switched personalities. At the end of that tepidly-received story, he changed back into the Red Skull without embracing the full potential of Xavier's brain.
1 COOLER: VENOM HULK, THE SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE
Up until relatively recently, General Thunderbolt Ross, the man who spent decades trying to capture the Hulk, had been an even stronger, angrier monster called the Red Hulk. In the underrated 2012 storyline "Circle of Four," the Red Hulk teamed up with Venom, Ghost Rider and X-23 to save Las Vegas from the demonic forces of Blackheart. In Venom #13.4, by Rick Remender, Jeff Parker, Rob Williams and Lan Medina, the Red Hulk merged with the Venom symbiote and Ghost Rider's Spirit of Vengeance to become the ultimate mash-up hero.
With dozens of superpowers, this combination of Venom, Ghost Rider and the Red Hulk defeated the increasingly powerful Blackheart. While this particular amalgamation of characters didn't last for long, this over-the-top hero was perfect for this over-the-top story. While the power of his Penance Punch was only felt for a few issues, it left an awesome impression on the Marvel Universe.