Bringing comic book characters to life on the big screen is never an easy thing to do. Filmmakers sometimes have to comb through decades worth of stories, by a wider variety of creators and sometimes even have to consider popular television iterations. They have to take all of that and mold it into one (hopefully) definitive version that both honors everything that came before and also embodies the current movie audience’s desires. It’s an incredibly hard balancing act, and no adaptation is going to be perfect. Changes are always going to have to be made, and this often means that superpowers have to be altered to fit both the characterization and the story being told.
Often times, powers define a character, but that doesn’t always mean those powers can faithfully be brought to the big screen. Also, since many comics come from bygone eras, some powers just aren’t worth bringing to the big screen (it’s unlikely anyone will ever be sending Spider-Man radio messages on the same frequency that his spider sense works on). Sometimes, this means greatly powering up a character. For Marvel, this has resulted in some heroes and villains being way more powerful in the movies, while others are much stronger in the comics.
15. WEAKER: ICEMAN
When he initially appeared in X-Men #1 (1963) by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Iceman was one of the weakest members of the team. Once he learned to fully utilize his powers, however, he’s become one of the most formidable mutants. In the movies, it’s clear that Iceman just isn’t as powerful. In Days of Future Past (2014), Iceman is killed during a Sentinel attack, and his decapitated ice head is shown. Even though this scene is quickly rewritten due to Kitty’s time travel powers, it’s still clear that Iceman died.
Later in the film, Iceman is killed again when several Sentinels pierce his body with heat rays. The comic version, however, can survive wounds like this when he’s in his ice form, and has the ability to reform his body. Also, the comic version can create ice clones of himself, which is never even suggested in the films.
14. STRONGER: JEAN GREY
There’s no doubt that Jean Grey is an incredibly powerful mutant, but the movies took things much farther. When she first appeared in X-Men #1 (1963) by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Jean was still learning how to use her powers and only had access to her telekinetic abilities. She later learned to use her telepathic abilities, and is one of only several omega level mutants.
The movies upped the ante by combining Jean Grey and the Phoenix entity. In the comics, the Phoenix possessed Jean, granting her an extremely high power level. It’s revealed in X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), however, that the film version of the character was born with her Phoenix powers. This was confirmed in X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) when Jean unleashed the Phoenix while still a teen.
13. WEAKER: JUGGERNAUT
Professor X may be a pacifist, but his step-brother doesn’t share his peaceful worldview. Cain Marko was always an aggressive person, but when he discovered the Crimson Gem of Cyttorak, he was granted immense power and became the unstoppable Juggernaut. He first tormented Xavier and his students in X-Men #12 (1965) by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Since then, he’s switched between being a hero and villain, but one thing remains true: the Juggernaut can’t be stopped (although the Hulk is able to redirect his momentum).
The film version, on the other hand, is just a regular mutant. Making his debut in X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), this Juggernaut’s power is that he can’t be stopped once he starts moving. He’s also super strong, although nowhere near the level of his comic book counterpart. Since he’s a mutant, and not mystically powered, Leech and Shadowcat are able to defeat the cinematic villain.
12. STRONGER: STAR-LORD
During the final act of Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Star-Lord is able to physically hold an Infinity Gem without being torn apart by its power. It’s later revealed that he’s able to do this because he’s only half human, and half “something ancient.” The sequel revealed that Star-Lord’s father is actually Ego, an ancient celestial (one of the most powerful races in the known universe). Quill is briefly able to control his father’s planet, which helps him defeat the crazed Ego.
The comic version of Peter Quill is also half human, but his alien father isn’t a celestial. Quill’s origin has been rewritten since his first appearance in Marvel Preview #4 (1976) by Steve Englehart and Steve Gan, but his current storyline makes him the son of J’Son, king of the Spartax Empire. Aside from making him royalty, this hasn’t given Quill any powers out of the ordinary.
11. WEAKER: THE NOVA CORPS
While the Guardians of the Galaxy movies may have increased Peter Quill’s powers, they greatly reduced one of the comic book’s strongest team of characters. In the films, the Nova Corps serves as an intergalactic police force, and is large enough to go to war with the Kree Empire. While technologically advanced, individual Novas don’t seem to possess any special abilities.
When Richard Rider became a Nova in Nova #1 (1976) by Marv Wolfman and John Buscema, he was imbued with the Nova force. This gave him enhanced strength, the ability to fly and he’s able to fire force beams. When the Corps was wiped out except for Rider, all of these powers were greatly increased and Nova became one of the most powerful characters in the galaxy (although, still not as strong as Galactus and other abstract Universal entities).
10. STRONGER: DR. OCTOPUS
After being caught in an explosion during an experiment, Dr Otto Octavius was fused to a robotic, four armed apparatus. Able to move the arms with his own mind, which had also been affected by the explosion, he became the villainous Dr. Octopus. While his metal arms are incredibly powerful, Dr Octavius himself doesn’t have superhuman strength, and is susceptible to regular pain and injury.
The film version apparently didn’t have this weakness. In Spider-Man 2 (2004), Dr Octopus is physically able to withstand punches and kicks to the face from Spider-Man (who has super strength), and even withstand getting a large, wooden table thrown into him and being smashed into a car. Also, his arms are sentient and able to work on their own, making him much more formidable.
9. WEAKER: FALCON
He might be Captain America’s best friend (when he isn’t a brainwashed Hydra assassin), but the cinematic version of Sam Wilson, aka the Falcon, can’t hold up against his comic book counterpart. In the movies, Sam Wilson is a soldier who uses a high tech wing suit to take to the skies and provide support for the Avengers. He’s highly trained, but without the wings he’s just a regular person.
While the comic book also uses a wingsuit to fly, that doesn’t mean he’s powerless. After being mentally fused to Redwing, his pet falcon, by the Red Skull, Sam gained the ability to communicate with all birds. He can see what they see, and even seems to have some ability to communicate with them. In the films, Redwing is a robotic drone and Sam has to use a remote to control it.
8. STRONGER: ANGEL
The cinematic version of Angel has a complicated timeline. He originally appeared in X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), played by Ben Foster, and was fairly accurate to his original comic book appearances, dating back to the first issues of X-Men. A different version of the character appeared in X-Men: Apocalypse (2016), this time played by Ben Hardy. This version ended up becoming Archangel, but his pre-Apocalypse transformation showed some strange power levels.
He’s introduced fighting in mutant cage matches, and is shown defeating the Blob. In close combat, the comic book version would be completely outmatched by this character, making the movie version physically superior (maybe he doesn’t have hollow bones?). The comic version eventually develops a healing factor, but the movie version hasn’t been around long enough to go through a secondary mutation yet, so who knows what will happen there.
7. WEAKER: NEGASONIC TEENAGE WARHEAD
One of the most random cinematic adaptations of a comic book character ever would have to be Negasonic Teenage Warhead in Deadpool (2016). Based on a character that first appeared in New X-Men #115 (2001), the film version barely resembles the comic book character, and was clearly used in the comedic film only for her name. Initially, the film version appeared more powerful, as she was able to project highly destructive energy blasts, compared to the comic character’s telepathic abilities.
Recently, however, the character has been revamped and now has the ability to alter reality itself. Sure, power blasts are impressive, but reality altering is always going to be a better ability. So, this is one case where the weaker/stronger ratio actually switched.
6. STRONGER: BLACK WIDOW
While it may seem like the Black Widow from the comics is roughly equal to her film counterpart, it’s not a fair comparison. While they both seem to have the same physical and tactical abilities, the comic book version has an unfair advantage. A former Soviet agent, Natasha Romanova was outfitted with biotech that physically enhances her.
In the movies, it’s been revealed that Natasha was trained from childhood to be a Soviet agent in something known as the Red Room. Unlike the comic book version, she’s not outfitted with any apparent biotech. So, if she’s able to perform at the same level as her comic book counterpart, imagine how powerful she’d be if she was enhanced. It wouldn’t even be close.
5. WEAKER: DOC SAMSON
An artifact of the all-but-forgotten film, The Incredible Hulk (2008), the official cinematic Doc Samson will probably never appear ever again. Portrayed by Ty Burrell, Samson was a therapist who was dating Betty Ross while Bruce Banner was on the run. After encountering Bruce, he contacted the US military, unaware of how crazy General Ross was when it came to capturing the Hulk. He’s last shown voicing his displeasure to Ross for almost killing Betty during his attack on the Hulk.
In the comics, Samson is a psychiatrist who, while helping Bruce Banner, is exposed to gamma radiation. He first appeared in Incredible Hulk 141 (1971) by Roy Thomas and Herb Trimpe and has super strength, which isn’t affected by his mood, unlike the Hulk. His power levels have varied over the years, but he’s always been stronger than “a regular man,” which can’t be said for the film version.
4. STRONGER: JARVIS/VISION
Edwin Jarvis started off as Tony Stark’s butler in Tales of Suspense #59 (1964) by Stan Lee and Don Heck, and went on to become the Butler for the entire Avengers. He’s a regular, if not overly-dedicated human, although he is incredibly neat and very proper. He’s also not even close to being as powerful as his film counterpart.
JARVIS first appeared in Iron Man (2008) as Tony Stark’s AI assistant, helping to build his suits and carry out missions. He was given an upgrade in Age of Ultron (2015), where he was given a body and was empowered by an Infinity Stone, becoming the Vision. Even if comparing him to the comic book Vision, that robot doesn’t have access to an Infinity Stone, instead being powered by a solar jewel.
3. WEAKER: SCARLET WITCH
There’s a line in Avengers:Age of Ultron (2015) where Mariah Hill is trying to explain Wanda Maximoff’s powers to Steve Rogers, and after trying to describe neuro-electric interfacing and telekinesis, she gives up and just says “she’s weird.” Which is basically true. Wanda can shoot energy blasts, cause hallucinations and can move things with her mind.
In the comics, her powers have always been somewhat vague. Basically, she has “hex” powers, which can do whatever the writer needs them to do. In House of M (2005) by Brian Bendis, she used her powers to alter all of reality, and then to wipe out almost all mutant powers with a sentence. So, while the film version is “weird,” the comic version is “don’t ever get on her bad side” level of power.
2. STRONGER: DANNY KETCH (GHOST RIDER)
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2011) attempted to reboot the Ghost Rider franchise, but only seemed to bury it for good. The film’s plot followed Johnny Blaze, who’s trying to protect a young boy named Danny Ketch from becoming possessed by the same devil who turned him into the Ghost Rider. Ketch was born to become a vessel for the monster, so he naturally has certain powers that grant him control over demonic entities.
This is a completely different take on the comic book version of Danny Ketch, who made his debut in Ghost Rider #1 (1990) by Howard Mackie and Javier Saltares. Danny is a relatively normal person who only becomes attached to the Ghost Rider after finding its bike in a junkyard. Before this, he apparently had no control over demons at all.
1. WEAKER: HAVOK
When he’s introduced in X-Men: First Class (2011), Alex Summers is shown to be an incredibly powerful, and dangerous, mutant. Seemingly unable to control himself, he unleashes wild and unfocused blasts of energy that are capable of demolishing solid metal and concrete. While this may seem pretty strong, he’s actually not as powerful as the comic book version.
That version of Havok has a much wider use of his beams. As opposed to just producing powerful blasts, he can vary the power and even direct heat blasts at people just to incapacitate enemies. He’s also immune to his brother Cyclops’ optic blasts, and he’s been described as the nexus for every alternate reality’s Havok, which is something the movies never even explored.
Which versions of these characters is best? The powered or de-powered? Let us know in the comments!
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