Thanos. Galactus. The 90’s. Marvel heroes have had to deal with some pretty horrific villains over the years, but they’ve always managed to overcome them one way or another. The ingenuity of the heroes can win out even when their powers fail them and everything seems like it’s working against them. Technically, that’s the entire point of superhero comics—to see the hero succeed against all odds.
But not every victory is particularly cool. Sometimes the bad guy goes down in a way that can leave the reader disappointed...frustrated...or even disgusted. This list is devoted to ten of the most ridiculous defeats Marvel super villains have ever had.
10 EATEN BY ANT-MAN
Who okay’d this? In 2009, Marvel released the Ultimatum mini-series, a story about Magneto taking his revenge out on the rest of the planet after his children, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, were killed in a battle against Ultron. V
ery few things about Ultimatum are any good, but the series is stuffed to the gills with a bunch of absurd deaths out of a need to make the Ultimate Universe “different.” One of these deaths involved Ant-Man killing the Blob by literally biting his head off...after seeing the Blob munching on the Wasp’s corpse. Cannibalism as shock value doesn’t belong anywhere, but least of all at the House of Ideas.
9 LOSING THE GLOVE
There are people who refused to read Infinity Gauntlet because they didn’t want to be spoiled by Endgame...but there’s no way Endgame could’ve used a plot like this. After gaining the Infinity Gems, Thanos gave out a Smackdown that would make even The Rock jealous, and tore through everyone from the Avengers to freaking concepts like Eternity and the Living Tribunal.
He defeated literally everything...but at the end, he gave up his physical form and became one with the universe...and Nebula simply took the glove off him to undo everything he’d done.
8 TAKEN TO JAIL
It’s not as if plenty of villains haven’t known what jail is like. The average run of the mill super-crook goes to jail after they lose and the hero strips them of their gadgets. During the series “Spidey Super Stories”, Spider-Man teams up with a hero known as The Cat in an attempt to stop The Mad Titan himself, Thanos, from getting hold of the Cosmic Cube.
They fail, but this version of Thanos gets all butterfingers with the Cube, and loses control of it after causing an earthquake. The Cube falls out of his hands and into the hands of a young boy, who wraps Thanos up and takes him to jail. Not some kind of anti-superhero jail. Regular jail. In handcuffs. In Infinity War this dude beat the Hulk so bad he stopped being angry.
7 BEATEN BY SQUIRRELS
As Squirrel-Girl’s popularity rises, so too does this incredible, flaming hot L she handed to Victor Von Doom. In her very first (!) appearance, she runs into Iron Man and actually gives him a bit of trouble before pointing out how she wants to be his partner.
Though Iron Man denies her, both of them are kidnapped by Dr. Doom, thanks to Colleen raising Doom’s ire off-screen. But before Doom can kill them both, Colleen calls a bunch of her squirrel friends and they eat through the machinery on Doom’s ship, and leave him so befuddled he actually jumps out the escape hatch just to get away from them.
6 SHOT BY HAWKEYE
A lot of older comics would often try to make the human members of a team of super-heroes seem more useful than they actually would be. It made sense; what’s the point of having them there if they serve no purpose, after all? In Avengers vol. 1 #174, we saw one such instance of this, as the Collector aimed to take all the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and study them as specimens.
He took down everyone except Hawkeye, and almost succeeded in killing him...except his continuous need to underestimate the archer led to him being shot, and taking him out. Setting aside that it only took one clean hit to take out a being who wields “the power Cosmic”, the fact that the hit came from a single arrow is just...absurd.
5 TURNED INTO COWS
Stan Lee and Jack Kirby wasted no time setting the Fantastic Four up against some impossible threats. In the second issue ever, they were forced to face off against Skrulls impersonating them to turn them into enemies of the people, and if the Skrulls were successful they intended to invade the planet.
Fortunately, Reed managed to outsmart them by making them believe movie and comic monsters were actually real, getting the Skrulls to abandon domination plans and leaving only the impersonators on Earth. For them, Reed chose to have them shapeshift into cows, hypnotizing them and making them forget they were ever Skrulls.
4 BEATEN BY SPIDER-MAN
Okay, a ton of people have been beaten by Spider-Man before. He’s got some victories over people who are stronger than him by miles, but generally they tend to come from intelligence more than pure strength and power.
It’s a little more ridiculous though when he’s up against a former herald of Galactus, who’s gone head to head with the Phoenix and Thor and battled them to a complete draw. Firelord faced off against Spider-Man after he started laying waste to the city. Though Pete tried other methods to stop him, eventually he just gave up on any other method and simply kept giving Firelord the hands until he couldn't move anymore.
3 DUST OF DEATH
Captain America vol. 1 #350 finally saw the return of Steve Rogers to the helm of Captain America, after he’d had the costume, title, and shield taken from him and given to John Walker. This issue re-introduced the Red Skull, who’d made his face resemble Steve Rogers’ exactly and taken to killing people who resembled Rogers as “training.”
When he revealed his grand scheme to Rogers though, he made the mistake of doing so in front of Walker, who tossed the discarded shield at Red Skull’s legs, making him inhale a “dust of death” emanating from his cigar, destroying his face and making him look like the Red Skull once again.
2 FALLING ONTO ROGUE
During the original Messiah CompleX storyline, Rogue found herself in pretty bad straits. Her foster mother, Mystique, decided to rely on Mr. Sinister to help her, agreeing to help him retrieve Hope Summers (when she was still a baby) from the X-Men if he could help Rogue make a recovery.
When Sinister reveals he’s unable to do so, Mystique’s response is to shove him onto Rogue’s unconscious body, and allow her powers to drain him of his life force until he dies. Of course, it’s Mr. Sinister so there’s hundreds of clones out there, but it’s still ridiculous that even one of them got caught sleeping like this.
1 SMACKED WITH A HAMMER
Walt Simonson’s run on Thor lasted for roughly a decade, and the writer really took Odinson through it all. He briefly replaced him with Beta Ray Bill, leaning into some of the more cosmic elements of the book, then later had Thor trapped inside a suit of armor because his own body was so frail it couldn’t withstand the battles Thor often found himself in.
By the end of the run, Thor has to demand his own body back from Hela herself, only to learn that most of his troubles were the result of Loki’s machinations. Rather than get involved in yet another drawn-out battle, Thor teaches Loki a simple lesson: don’t mess with a man with a magic hammer, he might break your arm.