Marvel’s ’90s trading cards were packed with stats. If you were a ’90s kid who wanted to win playground arguments with cold, hard facts, these cards were for you. We’ve already used these cards to determine the ultimate fighters and fastest heroes of the ’90s Marvel Universe; this time around, we’re focusing on Marvel’s strongest characters, as detailed in the “Marvel Universe II-V” sets, “X-Men: Series I” set and and 1995’s “Marvel Metal” set.
Only characters with cards in at least four of the six sets listed above were considered for this list. That means these characters were the most prominent of the ’90s, as opposed to one-card-wonders like the super strong Beta Ray Bill, Drax, Ego, Fin Fang Foom and Hercules. Without further ado, here are the strongest characters in the Marvel Universe according to those unimpeachable ’90s trading cards.
If you were looking for concrete proof that this is list compiled from facts featured on ’90s trading cards, may we present to you Deathlok. There are a lot of notable Marvel juggernauts surprisingly not on this list because their popularity waned in the ’90s, leaving room for some characters that were more popular during the second decade of excess. Deathlok, whose first few series ran from 1990 to 1994 during the heyday of these trading cards, is one of those heroes.
In his appearances in four of these sets, the undead cyborg soldier/hero Deathlok earned strength ratings in the 4 to 6 range, meaning he can lift anywhere from 2 to 100 tons. That’s a wide range! Deathlok was also featured on our Ultimate Fighters list, meaning this guy is stealthily one of the most formidable characters in the Marvel Universe. You might not think of Deathlok that often, but the guy’s surprisingly powerful.
Warpath is another super character whose prominence peaked in the early-to-mid ’90s when these trading cards were published. The younger brother of the short-lived X-Man Thunderbird, James Proudstar started out as a member of the Hellfire Club’s team of trainees, the Hellions. Years later, after the Hellfire Club seemingly murdered everyone on his reservation, Proudstar took on the name Warpath and accepted Cable’s offer to join the New Mutants just as they evolved into X-Force.
Considering the popularity of “X-Force” in the early ’90s, Warpath got everything from trading cards to an action figure. He appeared in four of the six sets and earned a 6 strength in three of them; he got a 5 in Marvel Metal, the set known for it’s controversial power rankings. That means that Proudstar’s able to lift between 10 to 100 tons, meaning he could at least beat Deathlok in arm wrestling. Warpath will next be seen in the upcoming “Weapon X” series.
Thanks to a life-saving blood transfusion from her cousin Bruce Banner, mild-mannered lawyer Jennifer Walters became the jade giantess better known as She-Hulk. After the conclusion of her original ongoing series, “Savage She-Hulk,” Jen spent the ’80s bouncing from one high-profile super-team to another, amassing plenty of appearances along the way. She’s one of the few heroes to fill-in on the Fantastic Four for an extended period, and she became a card-carrying Avenger, too. Her next ongoing, “Sensational She-Hulk,” carried her appearance streak through to 1994.
Similar to Warpath, She-Hulk earned 5 and 6 strength ratings across four sets, meaning she can lift between 10 and 100 tons. That makes her a little less powerful than her cousin Bruce, as well as the rest of the heroes (and villains) on this list. But Shulkie also possesses a keen mind thanks to her experience as a lawyer and countless adventures with numerous teams. So, what if She-Hulk can’t lift over 100 tons? She’s got the Avengers backing her up.
Originally a young, pure-hearted farmer in Russia, Piotr Rasputin’s life changed forever after Professor Xavier paid him a visit. Colossus joined the second generation of X-Men, becoming the team’s first real powerhouse — and quite possibly their strongest member to date. His mutant gene gifted him with the power to transform his skin into plated organic steel, making him super strong and nearly invulnerable. Colossus can take a licking and keep on ticking.
Similar to Warpath and She-Hulk, Colossus also amassed four appearances in these six sets (possibly because his brief turn towards quasi-villainy in 1993 made him just a tad less prominent than he otherwise would have been) with ratings ranging from 5 in one set and 6 in the rest. Still, Colossus is stronger than his teammates Beast (who averaged a 4 across six sets) and Rogue (4.667 across six sets), meaning Peter’s got plenty of power to be proud of. When the X-Men need a heavy-hitter, they turn to the guy with fists of steel.
Okay, from another point of view, Namor is the strongest member the X-Men have ever had. Originally one of the very first characters Marvel ever introduced way back in the World War II era, Namor was reintroduced into the canon in the Silver Age as an antagonist for the Fantastic Four. The King of Atlantis, his half human/half Atlantean heritage made him Marvel’s first mutant — a retcon they proudly touted in the early ’90s as mutant sales skyrocketed. Namor joined the Defenders and the Avengers while also flying solo (he prefers to work alone, after all); he didn’t join the X-Men until just a few years ago, kicking off a brief yet uninterrupted stint as one of the X-Men’s most prominent members.
With appearances in five sets and all 6s (aside from a 5 in the Marvel Metal set), Namor just barely edges out Colossus on this countdown. Really, an arm wrestling match between these two would be a toss up — but we’d give Namor the edge because he’d no doubt play dirty.
10. STRONG GUY
Of course he’s on this list — it’s right there in his name! Strong Guy’s inclusion above such powerhouses like She-Hulk, Namor and Colossus may make you scratch your head — but remember, this was the ’90s. After a few glorified cameo appearances in the ’80s as rock star Lila Cheney’s bodyguard, Guido Carosella stepped into the spotlight as a member of the government-sponsored mutant team, X-Factor. Since he’d never been a superhero before, Guido didn’t have a codename. Tasked with coming up with one at the last minute during a press conference, Guido reckoned he’d be Strong Guy, since every superhero team has a strong guy on it.
In appearances across four of these sets, Strong Guy consistently earned a 6 strength rating, meaning that he can easily lift between 50 to 100 tons. The more kinetic energy Strong Guy absorbs, the stronger he gets. Of course, if he doesn’t expel that kinetic energy, his body expands and becomes disfigured — which explains his unique muscle structure.
9. CAPTAIN BRITAIN
The protector of the United Kingdom, Brian Braddock is one of a countless number of inter-dimensional heroes, all members of the Captain Britain Corps. Braddock’s powers, which include super strength and flight, were originally tied to an amulet and scepter that he carried with him. The magic of those objects was at one point transferred into his Captain Britain suit, which gifted him with his super powers, and then eventually into his own body. Cap’s powers still came with a catch, though; the farther away from the United Kingdom he traveled, the less powerful he would become. Captain Britain’s powers are geographically tied to his homeland.
Similar to Strong Guy, Captain Britain — a member of the X-Men splinter team Excalibur — appeared in four sets and consistently earned 6 rankings in every one of them. While Cap may have appeared in the strongest and fastest lists, his twin sister Psylocke popped up in the Ultimate Fighters list.
The first supervillain on this list is the X-Men adversary known as Apocalypse. Quite possibly one of the first mutants to ever live, this villain hails from Ancient Egypt where his ability to control his body’s molecules allowed him to rule unopposed as an emperor. Now Apocalypse fights to regain control of the world by putting his belief that only the strongest should survive into action time and time again.
One would think that the ability to manipulate every molecule in your body would allow you to have unlimited strength, but it turns out there’s a cap on En Sabah Nur’s capabilities. As revealed across four cards in these six sets, Apocalypse can only lift up to 100 tons — meaning there are a number of heroes that could outclass him when it comes to strength. Heck, even Strong Guy could knock Apocalypse around! But En Sabah Nur makes up for it with the rest of his abilities, which include shapeshifting and insane technological enhancements.
7. IRON MAN
Billionaire/playboy/philanthropist Tony Stark’s suit of Iron Man armor empowers him with a number of abilities. Not only can he fire energy blasts and crank AC/DC whenever he feels like it, he can also soar faster than almost every other superhuman on Earth — and the suit also makes him stronger than almost every other superhuman. Stark’s just a normal guy with a super-genius intellect, one that allowed him to build himself a suit that puts him on the same level with the super-est of superhumans.
With appearances in five of these sets, Iron Man consistently earned a 6 ranking in strength, putting him in the Superhuman Class 100 range along with Apocalypse, Captain Britain and Strong Guy. Considering how equally matched War Machine and Iron Man were in the speed list, you might wonder where Rhodey falls on this list; he only appeared in three of the selected sets, which disqualified him, but the “Marvel Metal” set also gave him a 5 strength, meaning the War Machine suit is just not as strong as the Iron Man one.
6. THE THING
Sitting at the top of the Superhuman Class 100 range is Benjamin Grimm himself, the Thing. When Marvel fans think of the strongest superheroes in the publisher’s universe, the Fantastic Four’s powerhouse is always one of the first names to pop up. Exposure to cosmic radiation transformed the fighter pilot into a hulking monster, one with a rocky orange hide and seemingly impossible strength. In his adventures with the Fantastic Four (and more recently the Guardians of the Galaxy), Ben Grimm has tested his strength against beings of incredible might.
That’s why it’s kinda surprising that the trading cards rated his strength at a 6 time and time again. The Thing is often written to be a near match for the Hulk when it comes to superhero slugfests, but the numbers here show that he’s just not as strong as the Hulk — or a number of Marvel’s cosmic characters. Maybe that’s because the Thing makes up for his slightly lower strength with his strong personality.
The Mad Titan Thanos is a force to be reckoned with on a number of levels. Not only is this extraterrestrial madman one of the fastest characters in the Marvel Universe, he’s also one of the toughest and one of the strongest. Thanos killed half of the entire universe with a single thought when he placed the unfathomably powerful Infinity Gauntlet on his hand, but with rankings like these, you kinda get the impression he could also slaughter half the universe by hand if he wanted to.
In five appearances across six sets, Thanos earned 7 strength ratings in two and 6s in the remaining three. That means that he can most likely lift just over 100 tons — that’s the weight of an entire space shuttle or a blue whale, depending on where this battle is taking place. When you marry that with the fact that he’s also been capable of traveling at light speed, you have a truly deadly villain.
4. SILVER SURFER
We’re now in cosmic territory, and it doesn’t get much more cosmic than Norrin Radd, a.k.a. the Silver Surfer. Originally tasked with serving as the herald for the devourer of worlds called Galactus, the Silver Surfer eventually broke free of his ties to the cosmic villain and struck out on his own. While the Surfer’s lean and aerodynamic frame may seem more sleek than strong, he’s actually one of the Marvel Universe’s strongest characters. No doubt a lot of that strength is there in his legs, which have to get a workout keeping him on top of an intergalactic surfboard.
In five appearances, Silver Surfer scored 7s in four sets (meaning the upper limit of his strength is incalculable) and a 5 in “Marvel Metal” (which puts him in the 10 to 50 ton range). That’s a bit of a range for the Surfer to exist in, but considering his entire powerset is otherworldly, we err on the side of his strength being incalculable.
Speaking of Galactus, here’s the Silver Surfer’s old boss now! A being from the universe that existed before our own, Galactus was transformed into the devourer of worlds at the dawn of this universe and has spent the time since searching the cosmos for planets — inhabited or not — to feast on in order to satiate his hunger. To properly feed on planets, Galactus is also insanely massive in size — which means he’s also unbelievably strong.
In his appearances in four trading card sets, Galactus consistently earned 7s in strength, meaning that he’s stronger than his herald the Silver Surfer. That makes sense. How embarrassing would it be for Galactus to be slightly weaker than the guy who essentially serves as a food delivery man for him? The thing with Galactus is, though, his size and cosmic nature means that he never engages in hand to hand combat; nor does he need to. This cosmic entity has probably never arm wrestled before — not that anyone could really beat him.
There are Marvel’s cosmic heroes — and then there are Marvel’s mythological gods. The literal Norse god of Thunder, Thor has lived for thousands of years and fought more than his fair share of frost giants and super villains. With his magic hammer Mjolnir in his hand, the mighty Thor is a founding Avenger and has used his incalculable strength for good as one of the most prominent heroes in all of Marvel history.
Considering just how essential Thor is to the Marvel Universe, he appeared in five out of the six sets (he of course skipped the “X-Men: Series I” set) and earned 7s each and every time. That means he can lift over 100 tons, which means he is unquestionably stronger than fellow big name heroes like Namor and the Thing. In fact, Thor really only has one superhero that can challenge him — and make him sweat — in a fight.
That hero is the Hulk. Bombarded with Gamma radiation, Bruce Banner gained the ability to transform into a massive, powerful and massively powerful super-powered alter ego known as the Hulk. This uncontrollable force of nature, unleashed when Banner’s stress and anger levels increase, mostly errs on the side of good — although it’s best to just get out of the Hulk’s way when he’s rampaging.
Of course, the Hulk got nothing but 7s in every one of his trading card appearances. He’s the definitive super-strong Marvel hero, and pretty much no one is able to go toe-to-toe with him. We actually did get to see the Cinematic Universe versions of Thor and Hulk square off in 2012’s “Marvel’s the Avengers,” which established that Thor was definitely mighty enough to stop a swing from one of Hulk’s punishing fists. The battle of course ended in a draw as the Hulk leapt from the Helicarrier to tackle a jet. Still, the Hulk’s lack of reason and logic means once he starts, he won’t stop until the job is done. That ferociousness could spell trouble for every other strongman on this list.
What do you think of Marvel’s strength ratings? Muscle up to the comments and let us know!
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