Top 5 Favorite Marvel Comics Heroes

In the 1960s, creators Jack Kirby and Stan Lee revolutionized the comic book industry with the creation of Marvel Comics. Although Marvel had existed, in one form or another, since the 1930s, the company didn’t officially become Marvel or define their distinct style until the turbulent and radical 1960s. America was going through rapid social change, and that was reflected in the pop culture of the time, including juvenile comic books. Kirby and Lee nurtured a more intelligent and socially conscious fan base that led to a revolution in superhero fiction, bringing the heroes closer to home and a bit more relatable.

Inspired by a question posed by our good friend Brett Murph and a discussion with an old school comics fan who frequents the shop I work at, I will take the time to celebrate Marvel Comics and some of their best characters. These are my personal favorites, and yes, I know Spider-Man, Wolverine and the Hulk are probably the most iconic and recognizable characters from the Marvel pantheon, but these five characters have had the most lasting impression on my mind and character. So, in honor of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, I present to you my Top 5 Favorite Marvel Comics Heroes!

5. Iron Man
First Appearance: Tales of Suspense #39 (1963)
Created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Don Heck and Jack Kirby

Anthony Stark is a billionaire playboy who runs an industry-leading company and also happens to wear a suit of incredible armor and saves the world on numerous occasions. Much like DC’s Batman, he is a self-made superhero on par with actual gods. This self-actualization aspect has always resonated within me, the idea that our greatest strength as humans is our ability to think and problem-solve on a high level. The inspiration to make yourself into what you truly are and stand tall after conquering your demons; and Tony Stark has his demons. The exploration of addiction and narcissism in Iron Man are just a couple of the deep, life-enriching themes permeated throughout his complex story. Plus, who doesn’t want to be rich with an awesome suit of armor?

4. Blade
First Appearance: The Tomb of Dracula #10 (1973)
Created by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan

Eric Brooks was born while a vampire was feeding on his mother. This passed on certain traits and abilities that later came to be defined as being a Daywalker, a being with all of a vampire’s strengths, yet none of their weaknesses. He then became a vampire hunter, seeking out those that prey upon humans like his mother. My first encounter with Blade was the Spider-Man cartoon produced in the 1990s, although I have become enchanted with Wolfman and Colan’s The Tomb of Dracula since. Blade was such a cool character to me, and that was perfectly portrayed in New Line Cinema’s 1998 film starring Wesley Snipes. Oddly enough, since the movie was released, Blade has rarely been handled well in the comics. However, Blade tells us about the monster inside all of us and how we can tame our demons, and use them for good and not evil. Remember, there are worse things out tonight than vampires…

3. The Thing
First Appearance: Fantastic Four #1 (1961)
Created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee

Benjamin J. Grimm is a Jewish test pilot from New York City’s Lower East Side. After being bombarded by cosmic radiation on a doomed trip to space, he became the orange and rocky superhero called The Thing. The Thing is indeed truly monstrous in appearance, yet no other member of the Fantastic Four teaches us as much about humanity as Ben Grimm. Ben represents the toughness inherent in the human condition, the ability to struggle through adversity and hardship. Ben is the heart of the Fantastic Four and grounds the team throughout their unbelievable adventures. The Thing is loyal, wise, courageous and he will never hesitate when “it’s clobberin’ time!”

2. Black Panther

First Appearance: Fantastic Four #52 (1966)
Created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee

T’Challa is the leader of the highly advanced African nation of Wakanda and the holder of the ceremonial title of the Black Panther. Gifted with enhanced physical abilities and an ingenious mind, he fights for justice among his own tribes and the world as a whole. If there is a comic book superhero more prepared than Batman, it’s the Black Panther. T’Challa has always represented to me the genius and endurance in humanity. He is a master tactician with superb fighting skill, that can even best Captain America. He even single-handedly beat the Fantastic Four in his first appearance! He is loyal to his people, but most importantly, he is loyal to his heart and will do whatever is necessary to see that justice is met.

1. Mr. Fantastic
First Appearance: Fantastic Four #1 (1961)
Created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee

Reed Richards is a brilliant scientist and explorer who, along with his closest friends, embarks on a perilous journey into space, changing them forever. He then became Mr. Fantastic, the super-stretchy leader of the Fantastic Four. Superheroes are often strong and muscular, but not very bright at times. Reed Richards goes against this stereotype and shows us that brains and ingenuity can outmatch any amount of muscle and athleticism. Reed is an example of progression, always striving to move humanity forward. He is also a paragon of emotional control, showing us how we can balance our feelings with our thoughts. He is dedicated to his family and humanity as a whole, and will never stop trying to educate and solve the problems of our world. He’s Bill Nye as a superhero!

Marvel has given us some amazing characters that entertain us, all the while teaching us about ourselves. Jack Kirby and Stan Lee created an entire universe of these characters that have, once again, become pop culture icons. There are so many that it is hard to narrow it down to just five. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to write this one article for the rest of my life. So, here’s to all of them!

And remember… with great power comes… a high utility bill.

–Rockin’ Robbie Billups