2019 Top Marvel Characters 6-4

After nearly 1,100 ballots were cast, YOU the reader ranked your favorite comic book characters from 1-10. I assigned point totals to each ranking and then tabulated it all into a Top 50 list. We're revealing that list throughout the rest of the month (and okay, maybe a little bit into November). The countdown continues now...

6. Hulk – 1569 points (25 first place votes)

The Incredible Hulk was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby as the ultimate Jekyll and Hyde tale. Scientist Bruce Banner is caught in an explosion of the gamma bomb he created, resulting in Banner becoming a violent, destructive green-skinned monster called the Hulk when Banner is stressed or becomes angry. The Army wishes to capture the Hulk, so Banner becomes a fugitive.

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His only ally in those early years was Rick Jones, a teenager whose friends dared him to drive on to the gamma bomb test site. It was in saving Rick that caused Banner to be exposed to the gamma bomb explosion and becoming the Hulk. Rick naturally felt guilty, so he helped both Banner and the Hulk out. Meanwhile, the military supervisor of the gamma bomb test, Thunderbolt Ross, now became the guy in charge of capturing the Hulk. This was complicated by the fact that Ross' daughter, Betty, was in love with Banner.

The interesting thing about those early issues is that it is clear that Jack Kirby and Stan Lee really didn't know what direction they wanted to take the character in, as Hulk changed color (from gray to green) and personality (crafty to monstrous to sort of heroic) from issue to issue. Eventually, the Hulk settled in as a sort of simpleton who just wanted to be left alone, but would be willing to cause a destructive rampage if he wasn't left alone (and Ross and the military would never leave him alone).

That basically was the plot of the book for many years, changed only really when Banner gained control for a time, and then, when writer Peter David began a long run, having Hulk become an enforcer for a Casino boss under a Banner-less personality known as "Joe Fixit" and then later, merging the various Hulk personalities into one cohesive "Professor Hulk," who joined a secret peacekeeping group called the Pantheon.

David picked up a plot point introduced in Bill Mantlo's run on Hulk (almost certainly inspired by an idea Barry Windsor-Smith had for a Hulk miniseries) that Banner had been abused as a child and it was that rage that fueled the creation of the Hulk, as obviously other people mutated by gamma radiation did not become childlike rage monsters.

David did a lot with the Hulk's psychological issues, including a story set in the future where the Hulk eventually took over the world, leaving the present day Hulk to worry about becoming this evil future version of himself.

Ultimately, though, Hulk returns to, well, smashing. A few superheroes got tired of it, so they sent Hulk into outer space to settle on an uninhabited planet. That plan did not work, as the Hulk ended up on a warrior planet, which he eventually conquered. Finally content, the Hulk was married with a pregnant wife. Then the shuttle he was sent in exploded, killing his wife and most of the citizens of his capitol.

Now craving vengeance, the Hulk returned to Earth to avenge himself upon the heroes who sent him away. After the dust settled on THAT, a new Red Hulk was introduced that turned out to be Bruce's former father-in-law, Thunderbolt Ross.

After Banner returned to take on the role of the main Hulk once more, Bruce was shot in the head, Tony Stark used Extremis to cure the injury, but inadvertently created an intelligent Hulk, who in turn sort of went temporarily nuts and nearly became the aforementioned evil future version of the Hulk.

The Hulk had befriended a young genius named Amadeus Cho over the years, and after the Hulk absorbed an explosive amount of radiation during a mission, Cho stepped in and seemingly cured Banner while becoming the Hulk himself.

However, an Inhuman called Ulysses had a vision of the future (inadvertently shared with a large group of superheroes and other Inhumans) that showed Banner as Hulk killing dozens of heroes in a rampage. The heroes went to confront Banner, who instituted that the vision would not come true, as he was cured. When it seemed like he was about to Hulk out, though, Hawkeye shot him in the head with an arrow, killing him (Hawkeye would later explain that Banner had actually come to him and gave him a special Hulk-killing arrow in case Banner ever turned back).

The Hulk returned to life and we discovered that the Hulk is actually immortal and that no matter how many times that you kill him or Banner, the Hulk will always return and in fact, might return in new forms. This new, twisted take on the Hulk is the focus of Al Ewing and Joe Bennett's Immortal Hulk run that is still going strong.

5. Thor (Odinson) – 2022 points (35 first place votes)

Created by Stan Lee, his brother Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby, Thor is the Norse god of thunder, who was banished to Earth by his father to teach him humility, trapped in the frail human form of Dr. Donald Blake (whose nurse, Jane Foster, was in love with him).

However, soon, Blake found an enchanted cane which allowed him to transform into Thor, and Thor was a hero on Earth, using his god-like powers and his powerful magic hammer, Mjolnir, to fight the good fight.

Thor often visited his home in Asgard, and had adventures there, as well, mostly due to his evil half-brother, Loki.

Thor was a founding member of the Avengers, where he served for many years, including bailing them out more than a few times when things get out of hand...

Jack Kirby was obviously Marvel's star artist during the 1960s, but part of that role meant that he was used on many different titles. His only sustained runs for more than a year or so were Fantastic Four and Thor.

Kirby was a major fan of Norse mythology and after he became the regular artist on Journey Into Mystery again (after a number of artists filled in after Kirby launched the Thor feature), he introduced the backup feature, "Tales of Asgard," which would expand the mythology of Marvel's Asgard with cool tales of the past. Soon, though, Kirby and Lee realized the power of introducing concepts in that backup feature set in the past and then having those threats show up in the present day.

Eventually, the Asgard backups became so important that the whole book began to revolve around Asgardian adventures. Great supporting characters like Balder, Lady Sif and the Warriors Three became regulars.

Years later, Walter Simonson's epic run on Thor brought back all of those old Kirby Asgardian tales to the forefront of the series.

Jason Aaron has also returned to Asgard-centric tales for his own long-running Thor run. Aaron introduced a character known as Gorr the God Butcher, who tried to kill the gods of the universe. When Thor stopped him, Gorr told him that the universe was worse off now that the gods were saved.

In a follow-up crossover, Thor discovered that Gorr was actually correct and that things WOULD have been better had Gorr succeeded. That shocking revelation destroyed Thor's confidenceand suddenly made the Odinson unworthy of the name "Thor" and the power of Mjolnir. His old love, Jane Foster, became the new Thor and the old Thor, just startwd calling himself Odinson. He began using an axe he picked up from battle in Uncanny Avengers, instead. He also lost an arm in battle and had a fancy Asgardian prosthetic.

Eventually, Jane sacrificed herself to save Asgard and Odinson finally regained the confidence to be worthy again, so he adopted the name Thor again. Thor recently helped win the vast War of Realms, which left him as the King of Asgard.

Thor, of course, has also become a major film character, with Chris Hemsworth portraying the Asgardian hero in three films (and counting), plus starring roles in all of the Avengers films.

4. Daredevil – 2037 points (44 first place votes)

Created by Stan Lee and Bill Everett (with help from Jack Kirby), Daredevil made his debut in the pages of his own self-titled comic book in 1964. Matt Murdock was a successful attorney who was secretly the superhero Daredevil.

The catch?

Matt was blind.

When Matt was a kid, he saved an old man from being hit by a truck, but the truck was carrying radioactive materials that splashed on to Matt, blinding him for life. However, the materials also ended up giving Matt a kind of superpower - all his senses were heightened, to the point where he could read newspapers just by reading the ink on the page with his finger. In addition, he gained a sort of Radar sense, like a Bat, only not sound-based, Matt just basically had a supernatural sense of where people were around him. It was how he was able to operate as a superhero, and how no one was able to connect him with blind attorney, Matt Murdock, because how could a blind guy do this?

Matt was a basic superhero for many years, during which time he was notably involved with his secretary, Karen Page, and the superhero Black Widow (they even shared his comic for awhile, as Daredevil and Black Widow). Matt's law partner, and best friend, was Foggy Nelson.

The most notable difference between Daredevil then and later on is how WACKY those stories could get. There was literally a storyline where Matt Murdock pretended to be his own (non-existent) twin brother, Mike, to throw Karen and Foggy off from figuring out that he was Daredevil. "I can't be Daredevil, but my fun-loving brother, Mike? He's totally Daredevil!"

This lighthearted stuff all ended with the arrival of Frank Miller as the writer of the book.

Miller introduced an old girlfriend of Matt's called Elektra, who was a dangerous assassin. He also made Matt into a sort of a ninja, introducing a heretofore unknown sensei of Matt's called Stick. Miller also made the Kingpin, a Spider-Man mob villain, into Daredevil's arch-nemesis, while cementing the supervillain assassin, Bullseye, created a little while before Miller took over the book by Marv Wolfman, into a force to be reckoned with, even to the point of having Bullseye KILL Elektra.

Later on, Miller returned to the character, as Karen Page (who had left years ago to become an actress) was now a drug addict who sold Daredevil's secret identity. It got to the Kingpin, who then proceeded to tear apart Matt's life. In the end, though, Matt was too strong, and along with Karen, he began a new life.

Eventually, he even regained his law license.

Sadly, Bullseye struck again, this time killing KAREN, as well.

Reeling from her death, Matt was spiraling. He had his identity published in the papers and he even attempted to put HIMSELF in place as the new Kingpin of Hell's Kitchen. During this period he married Milla Donovan,, who is also blind. Matt was able to recover from this period, and even was able to refute the identity issue (although everyone pretty much thought he was Daredevil now).

Eventually, during an epic run by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee on the character, he was forced to give up on protecting his identity and was disbarred by the New York State Bar Association. He moved to San Francisco and sort of embraced his new public life (including a new costume). He then returned to New York in a run by Charles Soule and Ron Garney where Matt's secret identity was once again made a secret.

Soule also had some fun with the law, making it so that superheroes could now officially testify in court without revealing their secret identities.

Recently, Matt has been dealing with the fact that Wilson Fisk has become the Mayor of New York! Ruh roh.

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