The name Marvel may be the most contested title in all of comics history. From the Big Two to opportunistic independents trying to get a piece of the pie, many comic companies have published titles starring a Marvel in the ’50s and ’60s. Fawcett had Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family. Mick Anglo created the decidedly derivative Marvelman and his sidekicks. And of course, Marvel/Timely had their Marvel Boy legacy. These cape and tights tales may tell of man’s most powerful protectors, but they also disclose the true story of some unscrupulous capitalist cowboys.
In this list we are focusing in on Marvel Comics Group’s many, many Marvel-named characters. While the title largely refers to cosmic superheroes who are either Kree or have some connection to the alien species, it is also regularly used by young female mutants and others you might not expect.
15 MARVEL WOMAN
In many of the Marvel titles Al Ewing has written since 2013 (“Mighty Avengers,” “New Avengers,” “Ultimates”), he has really filled out Adam Brashear aka Blue Marvel’s backstory. He has done an amazing job of developing a character who only entered the Marvel universe in 2009 but was retconned to have been a part of it since much earlier. Ewing built off of most any story thread left dangling from Kevin Grevioux and Mat Broome’s “Adam: Legend of Blue Marvel” miniseries, but also added plenty of his own layers.
One area of Brashear’s life he focused on in “Mighty Avengers” and “Captain America & The Mighty Avengers” was Adam’s sons, Max and Kevin. He also introduced us to his daughter Adrienne in “Ultimates” #7 (2016). However, the most intriguing Brashear is a Ewing-creation who goes by Marvel Woman. Her real name is Marlene Brashear and she is an Avenger from the future (exact year unknown). It’s stated that she is an “anti-matter reactor” just like Adam, but it’s never made clear who her parents are. Her first name is a tribute to Blue Marvel’s wife Candace, whose given name was Marlene. So, she is likely the daughter of one of Adam’s sons.
14 CAPTAIN MARVEL (GENIS-VELL)
Genis-Vell is the son of the original Captain Marvel, but was not conceived before Mar-Vell passed away. Confused? The love of Mar's life, Elysius of Titan, used a genetic sample from the good Captain to impregnate herself after his death. She bore a son, who she named Genis.
Genis was artificially aged when he was born so as to not be susceptible to Mar-Vell’s enemies. When he learned of his lineage, he put on the Nega-Bands and started his cosmic adventures under the name Legacy in “Silver Surfer Annual” #6 (1993). Monica Rambeau let him assume the Captain Marvel title as a sign of respect to Genis’ father. When he inherited Mar-Vell’s Cosmic Awareness, however, it was too much for him and he went insane. During this time he wore two variations of the Kree uniform his father had come to Earth in. He felt the need to change up his name yet again when he regained control of himself and he went with Photon. Oddly enough, this is the alias Rambeau had changed to after giving up the Captain Marvel title.
13 CAPTAIN MARVEL (PHYLA-VELL)
If you thought Genis’ creation was strange, Phyla’s origin is definitely going to have you scratching your head. So, the story goes something like this, when Genis received Cosmic Awareness it drove him mad, and he decided to destroy and recreate the 616 universe. In doing this, there were subtle differences to the new universe, the biggest of which was that now, he had a younger sister named Phyla. Basically, since Genis made the new universe in his image, he was the superhero he had always strived to be in it. Instead of opposing him, his mother created another child from her and Mar-Vell’s DNA because he was such a success.
Phyla and Genis first met in “Captain Marvel” #17 (2004), where she told him she was taking the Captain Marvel mantle and a battle ensued. A couple of issues later, she states that his instability has given the title a bad rep, and that she just wants to “restore it to the glory it once had.” Fun fact: Teddy “Hulking” Altman of the Young Avengers is Genis and Phyla’s half brother. Turns out Mar-Vell managed to have one child the old fashion way back in the day with the Skrull princess, Anelle.
12 MS. MARVEL (MOONSTONE)
Dr. Karla Sofen (aka Moonstone) started out as just a psychiatrist with a chip on her shoulder, but her talent at manipulating patients led her down a dark path. She managed to acquire a powerful artifact called a Moongem from one such patient. This alien object was absorbed into her body and gives her super strength, speed, flight and the ability to generate energy blasts from her hands.
Many characters on this list have changed names and costumes numerous times, but Karla takes the cake with more than a dozen different looks over the years! While there are more than nine variations of her Moonstone costume alone, she has also operated as Gun Moll, Meteorite, Dominus and as Norman Osborn’s handpicked Ms. Marvel in “Dark Avengers” #1 (2009). While Karla was only Ms. Marvel for 15-issues, she is actually deeply tied to the Kree warrior lineage. Her Moongem is a shard of what is known as the Lifegem, which itself is part of the Kree Tree of Life. She even ends up interacting with the Kree’s Supreme Intelligence and Genis-Vell because of her possession of the Moongem. Bottom line, this thing is a major power-up.
11 MARVEL MAN (WENDELL VAUGHN)
Wendell Vaughn is definitely best known as the superhero Quasar, but he has also gone by Marvel Boy and Marvel Man. This soldier attempted to join S.H.I.E.L.D. after his time with the army but failed his exam to be a field agent. However, he was in the right place at the right time, and ended up being the only S.H.I.E.L.D. agent capable of using the cosmically-powered Quantum Bands the agency was trying to test. These gauntlets are similar to the Nega-Bands in terms of the abilities they grant the wearer, but the Quantum variety seem to be even more powerful.
In the modern age of comics, Vaughn often shows up to stand with Earth’s other heroes when the planet is threatened. He helped fight back the Skrulls in the "Secret Invasion" (2008-2009) event, as well as being a key ally of the Avengers during the “Operation: Galactic Storm” crossover in the early ‘90s. He is currently training the new Quasar, S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, Avril Kincaid.
10 MARVEL BOY (ROBERT GRAYSON)
This Stan Lee character is from way back, when Marvel Comics was still Timely Comics. His origin has been changed and retconned a number of times, but what always remains is that his father is a scientist who built a rocket to escape the Nazis. Robert and his pops end up on Uranus, where they find a civilization that takes them in. When Bob comes back to Earth, he starts fighting crime as Marvel Boy.
Bob wears Uranian garb and is equipped with Quantum Bands that give him a bevy of powers. It is unclear if these bands are the same ones later used by Wendell Vaughn when he becomes a S.H.I.E.L.D. super-agent patterned after Marvel Boy. While this character has been around since the ‘50s, he found new popularity in the last decade when the hero was included as part of Jeff Parker’s various “Agents of Atlas” titles and then highlighted him in the three-issue “Marvel Boy: The Uranian” (2010) miniseries.
9 BLUE MARVEL
It seems odd that Marvel would introduce another Superman analogue after the Sentry was critically-panned, but a five-issue miniseries by Kevin Grevioux and Mat Broome titled “Adam: Legend of Blue Marvel” (2009) gave us just that. Blue Marvel is super strong, super fast, nigh invulnerable, wears a cape, has a letter on his chest, the whole nine. And just like The Sentry, Adam’s history is intrinsically tied to the Marvel universe and some of its most important players and events… we just apparently never knew about it until Grevioux pulled back the curtain.
Blue Marvel is an African-American superhero who operated from the mid-50s until 1962, when President John F. Kennedy asked him to hang up the cape. He had worn a mask during his heroic exploits and when his skin color was revealed after a pitched battle, the president and his advisors decided the world wasn’t ready for a black man with super powers. He returned in the modern era when he was needed to defeat his arch-nemesis from the past, Anti-Man. Due to some great development in the last couple of years, Brashear has become a fan-favorite as a founding member of The Ultimates.
8 MARVEL BOY (NOH-VARR)
While many of the heroes and villains on this list have some Kree DNA (or at least are empowered by Kree tech), only the original Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell) and Noh Varr are full-blooded Kree. However, that does not make the two anywhere close to the same. Noh was created by the sultan of strange, Grant Morrison, for his 2000 miniseries, “Marvel Boy.” This Marvel Boy is a peacekeeper from an alternate reality (Earth-200080) that has cockroach genes spliced into his DNA… as well as nanobots in his bloodstream.
Noh is not only part of the Marvel Boy legacy, he has also been bestowed the title Captain Marvel. However, in Noh’s case, it was the villainous Norman Osborn who christened him Captain when he joined his Avengers line-up in “Dark Avengers” #1 (2009). Noh was the only member who didn’t know the crew was made up of strictly criminals and he left the team as soon as he found out.
7 MARVEL GIRL (RACHEL SUMMERS)
Rachel is the daughter of Scott Summers and Jean Grey-Summers in the alternate timeline introduced in the “Days of Future Past” storyline. She was brainwashed and used as a mutant hunter called a “hound” in that future. However, when she broke free of the programming, Rachel used her powers to send Kate Pryde’s psyche back in time to the body of her younger self to warn the X-Men of the chain of events that lead to mutant genocide. Through a convoluted sequence of events, Rachel ends up combined with a portion of the Phoenix and dropped into the Earth-616 timeline.
She kept her true identity a secret when she arrived in the past because Scott was with a different woman than her mother. She took the name Marvel Girl to honor Jean and also changed her surname to Grey for a time. In recent years, Rachel has become a leading X-Man and is a cornerstones of Wolverine’s Jean Grey School For Higher Learning.
6 CAPTAIN MARVEL (MONICA RAMBEAU)
This hero started as an officer with the New Orleans harbor patrol. When she was bathed in extra-dimensional energies while on a case, she gained the ability to transform into pure light. She is not only a long-time, card-carrying Avenger, she has also led Marvel's preeminent team. She made a big comeback in Al Ewing’s “Mighty Avengers” (2014) run and is currently featured in his “Ultimates 2” title.
Rambeau has gone by many aliases but Captain Marvel was the name she was initially given by the press. Eventually, she conceded the title to the original Captain Marvel’s genetic son, Genis-Vell, and became Photon. When Genis-Vell decided to change his codename to Photon after some big ups and downs in his story, Monica calls him out. However, she is gracious enough to switch her superhero title yet again. This time she decides to go by Pulsar. But she drops this moniker too and goes by her real name in “Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E.” (2006-2007). Ewing gave her the alias Spectrum when he brought her into “Mighty Avengers” and it is her most fitting handle yet.
5 MARVEL GIRL (YOUNG JEAN GREY)
After the death of Professor X at the hands of Cyclops in the “Avengers vs. X-Men” (2012) event, Beast went on a mission to the past. His goal was to grab Professor X’s first class of idealistic students (which included himself) and bring them to the present. He believed they could help fix their “future.”
However, Hank's actions have created an alternate timeline and the young Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Beast, Angel and Iceman he brought to the present are maturing very differently than their 616 counterparts. For example, Bobby Drake came out as being gay, while Jean developed her telepathic abilities sooner. Also, due to the questionable choices of the present Cyclops, Jean was appointed leader of the original team instead of young Scott. Further, Jean lost her attraction to Scott, once she had read the mind of the present one. When dealing with a Shi'ar Empire that wanted vengeance for the atrocities of the Phoenix, this version of Marvel Girl made it clear she would not be held responsible for the actions of her other self.
4 MS. MARVEL (KAMALA KHAN)
Wanting to raise awareness about the Inhumans before green-lighting a feature film or TV show, Marvel spent the last couple of years bolstering their presence in everything from their own titles to company-wide crossovers to their various animated series. This offshoot of humanity are descendants of a people that were experimented on by the Kree. Inhumans gain their powers when exposed to a substance called Terrigen. Their leader, Black Bolt, set off a Terrigen bomb in 2013’s “Infinity” event and a wave of new Inhumans popped up over night.
One new Inhuman character who has achieved the kind of name recognition Marvel was hoping for, is Kamala Khan. This Pakistani-American teenager was just a fangirl in a devout Muslim household until she got caught in the mists from the Terrigen bomb in “Ms. Marvel” #1 (2014). She gained shape-shifting powers and at first actually morphed into her hero Ms. Marvel (Carol Danvers). Upon gaining control of her abilities and making a conscious choice to help others with them, she donned a costume and assumed the Ms. Marvel mantle. The character was created by writer G. Willow Wilson and artist Adrian Alphona, along with editors Sana Amanat and Stephen Wacker.
3 CAPTAIN MARVEL (MAR-VELL)
The original Captain Marvel was a captain of the Kree Empire’s space fleet. He had been sent to Earth on a secret sabotage mission under the assumption that humans posed a threat to the Kree’s imperial ambitions. Once he had spent some time among humans, he had a change of heart and decided to instead defend humanity as “Earth’s cosmic protector.”
Mar-Vell was dreamt up by Stan Lee and artist Gene Colan. The character first appeared in “Marvel Super-Heroes” #12 (1967) in his green and white Kree military uniform. The Nega-Bands worn on his wrists give him super strength, super speed, flight and the ability to fire energy blasts. He played a major role in the classic “Kree/Skrull War” storyline, as well as being one of the first heroes to face off against Thanos in the early ‘70s. The after-effects of exposure to nerve gas during a battle eventually led to the hero developing cancer and passing away in “Marvel Graphic Novel - The Death of Captain Marvel” #1 (1982).
2 MARVEL GIRL (ORIGINAL JEAN GREY)
Not only was Jean Grey one of Professor X’s first and most promising students, she was one of the most powerful mutants in the Marvel Universe… ever. At the tender age of 10 years-old she witnesses the accidental death of her best friend Annie and it’s this event that triggers her mutant capabilities. The story is recounted in 1981’s “Bizarre Adventures” #27 and 30 years later with new details in 2011’s “Marvel Girl” #1.
As a student at Xavier’s School For Gifted Youngsters and a young X-Man, Jean’s superhero alias was Marvel Girl. However, when she became host to the cosmic entity known as the Phoenix Force, she was referred to thereafter as Phoenix or just Jean. This ultra-popular character was killed in “New X-Men” #150 (2004) by Grant Morrison’s divisive creation, Xorn. Marvel couldn’t help themselves, though, and she was resurrected one year later for a short stint in “X-Men: Phoenix Endsong” #1.
1 CAPTAIN MARVEL (CAROL DANVERS)
It should come as no surprise that the current Captain Marvel nabs our #1 spot. Her popularity has grown exponentially over the last decade, which has led to Marvel Studios green-lighting the character for the first ever female-lead solo film. This hero first appeared in “Marvel Super-Heroes” #13 (1968), but at that time she was simply Carol Danvers, NASA security chief. It would be years, in real time, before she would suit up as a superhero.
The event that gave Carol the powers of Kree hero Mar-Vell occurred in “Captain Marvel” #18 (1969). However, she didn't become Ms. Marvel until “Ms. Marvel” #1 (1977). After early team-ups with big names like Spider-Man and The Defenders, she was added to the Avengers ranks in “Avengers” #183 (1979). She took up the Captain Marvel mantle to honor Mar-Vell in 2012.
In the last couple of years, this powerhouse has been a part of many of Marvel's premier teams, including Guardians of the Galaxy, The Ultimates and A-Force. Not to mention she heads up the planet-protecting Alpha Flight Space Program. Most recently, Carol became the leader of the side that utilized a precog known as Ulysses to preempt criminality in the recent “Civil War II” crossover event.
Who is your favorite of Marvel's Marvels? Let us know in the comments!