When you’re entering your number into the mutant power lottery, coming up with telepathy would seem, at first, to be a great ability to have. You’d never have to wonder about people’s motivations again. You couldn’t be fooled, ripped off, and you’d likely never fall for a lie again for the rest of your days. But when one stops to consider the unbearable weight of knowing the inner mental workings of every single person around you, and having to know exactly what everyone thinks of you, at every moment of every day…
Yeah, telepathy is rough. But it’s definitely a powerful ability.
The Marvel Universe is loaded to the brim with terrifyingly strong telepathic characters, and not all of them are in the X-Men or New Mutants. Between mutants, Inhumans, cosmic aliens, and even a guy who speaks to the fishes, here are the 15 Most Powerful Telepaths In Marvel Comics.
15. The Lizard
Many fans know all about this classic Spider-Man foe — thanks in no small part to his starring role in the first Amazing Spider-Man movie — but not everyone knows that he’s a telepath. A gifted wartime surgeon who loses an arm overseas, Curt Connors returns home, starts up a family, and becomes a gifted researcher who develops a serum based on reptilian DNA, hoping to replicate the process by which some reptile species are able to regenerate entire limbs. When he tests it on himself, his arm grows back. But the unintended side effect is that Connors is transformed into a monstrous half-man, half-reptile that stalks the New York City sewers, known by others as the Lizard.
In addition to possessing enhanced strength and regeneration capabilities, the Lizard also has a psychic link to all reptiles. This is useful, since he’s a being who has, at times, desired the replacement of all human life with reptiles, so being able to talk to reptiles would be a necessary skill if he ever wanted to achieve that goal. Lizard can communicate and control the wills of any reptiles within a mile’s distance, and in recent years, he has also developed the power to get into the minds of human beings as well, by tapping into the animalistic urges buried in their amygdala (the part of the human brain often referred to as the “lizard brain”).
Non-comic readers may not yet be familiar with Mantis, but they will be soon enough. Next year, she’ll be making her cinematic debut in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, where she’ll be played by Pom Klementieff. So now’s definitely the time to get the early scoop on this cosmic heroine. In addition to possessing some incredible martial arts abilities — like being so well-trained in the ability to pinpoint an opponent’s weaknesses that she can even knock out a Norse god like Thor Odinson — Mantis also has a good handle on her psychic talents.
However, Mantis’s primary psychic ability is less about reading minds. She’s more of an empath, meaning she’s able to feel the emotions of others as if they were her own. That’s not to say she can’t read minds as well, because she can — and she also has some degree of precognitive foresight, and thus has to live with some knowledge of future events — but empathy is her main thing. It’s allowed her to communicate on a psychic level with plant life, as well as the plant-like alien species known as the Cotati. So yes, plants have feelings.
13. Kid Omega
That kid in the middle, with the bizarre purple haircut, is Quentin Quire, also known as Kid Omega. Though Quentin might not look like a huge threat, he’s one of the most unique X-Men enemies to ever menace the team. Those guys surrounding him are Team Omega, his gang of misfit mutants/former students of Xavier who decide to speak out against Xavier’s peaceful philosophy, embrace Magneto’s ideals, and dose up on a mutant power enhancing drug called “Kick.” After going on a spree of hate crimes in the North Salem area surrounding Xavier’s school, the Omega Gang then kidnaps Xavier himself, at which point the X-Men take them down.
Quentin himself is a force to be reckoned with. Though just a teenager, Quentin is an Omega-level mutant — the powerful among the powerful — possessing genius intelligence, with a mind that processes dozens upon dozens of advanced cognitive patterns simultaneously. This allows him to construct his ideas at speeds that others can barely process. In addition to that, he’s able to use his telepathy to implant his ideas into the minds of others, block out other telepaths, and form psionic constructs like a “psychic shotgun.”
If you’ve ever wondered who Marvel’s first superhero is, this aquatic underwater king is the guy you’re looking for. Namor, the Sub-Mariner, first premiered back in Marvel Comics #1 — yes, that’s #1 — all the way back in 1939. A cross-breed between a human father and a mother from the Homo Mermanus race, a species of human that only exists underwater, Namor is the ruler of the undersea kingdom known as Atlantis, a role that has sometimes allied him with the surface world, but often pitted him against them, as they continue to pollute his waters and make decisions that are not good for his people.
But what about Namor’s telepathic abilities? Like the Lizard can telepathically communicate with reptiles, Namor can telepathically communicate with all sea life, whom he considers to be his subjects. Sea life, in this context, also includes his fellow Atlanteans, but those are far from the most powerful creatures that serve beneath him. He’s also able to command sharks, whales, giant squid, piranhas, and all manner of things you don’t want gunning against you.
11. Madame Web
Anyone who watched the now classic ’90s Spider-Man animated series will no doubt remember this mysterious character. While she originated in the comics, Madame Web arguably rose to greater prominence thanks to her appearances in the cartoon. Cassandra Webb, who is blind, is also the unfortunate victim of myasthenia gravis, an autoimmune disease resulting from antibodies that block the receptors at the junction between nerves and muscles. As a result of her condition, Madame Web is continually hooked into a life support system that, well, looks more than a little bit like a spider web. It’s really no wonder that she and Spider-Man crossed paths.
Madam Web is a clairvoyant who continually perceives information that is not fully accessible by her senses. Her psychic abilities extend to being able to enter the astral plane, perform psychic surgery, read the thoughts of others, sense the inner workings of others, and, to some degree, perceive future events before they occur.
10. Emma Frost
Emma Frost, who was (forgettably) portrayed by January Jones in X-Men: First Class, is the first prominent X-Men team member on our list. Though originally introduced as a member of Sebastian Shaw’s Hellfire Club, making her one of the X-Men’s greatest enemies, Emma has reformed in recent years into one of their most important and most influential members of Marvel’s top mutant squad. She even served as a leader of the Xavier Institute at one point.
Of course, it’s no wonder that Emma is so influential: she’s a powerful Omega-class telepath, and that’s what powerful telepaths are good at. Emma is capable of reading thoughts, reshaping personalities, astral projection, boosting the powers of other mutants through accessing their brainwaves, sedating others, inducing physical pain, and controlling minds. Emma has been called one of the five most powerful telepathic mutants on the planet, but due to her training and experience, she’s shown herself capable of overcoming telepaths who are supposedly stronger than her.
9. Maximus the Mad
With Marvel’s The Inhumans coming to a TV near you sometime in the very near future, get ready to hear a lot about this guy soon. Maximus, brother of the Inhuman leader Black Bolt, is the greatest enemy of the Inhumans. He has often attempted to overthrow Black Bolt and the royal family due to jealousy, not to mention the sociopathic tendencies he has exhibited since childhood, as well as the intense insanity he was afflicted with when exposed to Black Bolt’s thunderous voice.
After exposure to the Terrigen Mists, the coming of age ritual that all Inhumans in Attilan undergo, Maximus the Mad emerged with powerful psionic abilities that enable him to impose his will upon the minds of anyone near him, swap bodies with people, and spontaneously induce amnesia upon other beings. Combined with his brilliant mind and his mad tendencies, Maximus is a deadly enemy to have come knocking on your door, particularly if he’s looking to kick you off a throne so that he can take over.
Raised by the monks of Shao-Lom, trained in all of the Titanian scientific disciplines and philosophies, skilled in martial arts, and capable of controlling all functions of her body including autonomous ones such as her heartbeat and her bleeding; there’s no denying it — Moondragon is one of the most powerful beings in the Marvel Universe. She’s also an extraordinarily commanding telepath, who can perform feats that most Earth-bound telepaths could only dream of.
In what ways? Well, how’s this: at one point, upon finding a war-torn world, Moondragon mentally enslaved the entire planet’s inhabitants and forced them to get along in peace. Call it mandatory pacifism. By doing this, Moondragon established herself as the Peace Goddess of the world, until the Avengers got involved.
Moondragon can fire bolts of psionic energy, warp entire personalities, control the wills of beings as mighty as Thor, and break through the psionic shields of others. Luckily, she’s generally spent the majority of her time on the hero side of the fence, though her morals don’t always line up with those of her comrades.
7. Jean Grey
Charles Xavier’s first student and one of the central figures of X-Men mythology, Jean Grey is a character of many faces. Originally represented as one of the less powerful members of the team, Jean eventually grows to become one of its figureheads. She later becomes the Phoenix, making her far and away the most powerful X-Men member of them all, capable of swallowing an entire sun.
If just her Phoenix powers alone were taken into consideration, Jean would certainly rank at the top of this list. But since we’re talking about telepathy, specifically, we’ll focus on that.
When Jean first manifested her telepathic abilities as a child, and began to struggle with the pain of everyone’s thoughts, Charles Xavier put a mental block in her mind to prevent her from accessing this ability, or even knowing she possessed it. (In the movies, this incident is shown as the origin of the Phoenix.) Eventually, Jean’s telepathy re-emerges in full force, and she’s proven to be one of the most tremendous psychic warriors out there. Not only can Jean communicate with and influence others telepathically, but she can also communicate with animals, an ability few of her peers share. She’s capable of telepathically enhancing the powers of other mutants by getting into their heads, controlling the bodily sensations of others, and many other feats.
David Haller is a mutant so powerful that his own mind can’t handle it. He’s the son of Charles Xavier and Gabrielle Haller, who meet at an Israeli psychiatric facility many years before the X-Men were even a glimmer in Xavier’s eye. The two part ways some time after, and Gabrielle never informs Xavier that she’s pregnant. David himself, upon reaching adolescence, begins manifesting his mutant abilities after a terrorist attack of which he is the only survivor — and his first action is to obliterate the minds of the entire terrorist group. The psychological damage from this incident leaves David deeply traumatized, and his personality becomes fractured into multiple individuals, each one containing a different piece of his psychic powers.
David is able to absorb entire people’s identities into his mind, as if that person was merely a part of him. Therefore, he’s not only a man of many minds, but he’s also a man of many skills, since he also absorbs the powers and abilities of any person he sucks into his own personal library of personalities. Needless to say, he’s far from mentally stable.
5. Cable and Stryfe
Everyone knows Cable as the Terminator of the Marvel Universe, a time-traveling cyborg from the future who has come back to open a can of whoopass on the bad guys of today. What many non-fans may not realize, though, is that Cable is also a skilled telepath, possessing considerable psionic abilities. However, Cable’s mental powers are held back by the fact that he has to constantly pour every single bit of his psionic resources into keeping in check the deadly techno-organic virus ravaging his body. In recent years, these powers have faded quite a bit.
As immense as Cable’s psychic potential may be, the far deadlier figure is Stryfe, his clone, and the leader of the Mutant Liberation Front. Raised from childhood by Apocalypse himself, this villainous clone can do everything Cable can do, but without having to constantly redirect his resources, since he has never been infected by the techo-organic virus that plagues his kind-of-sort-of twin brother.
4. Nate Grey
Remember this guy? Comics readers from the ’90s will no doubt recognize Nate Grey, the superhero known simply as X-Man — now there’s a loaded name if there ever was one — created by Mister Sinister to be the “ultimate mutant.” To some extent, Nate is something of an alternate universe version of Cable that was never infected with the techno-organic virus, though this is a bit of an oversimplification. Whereas Cable was born, being the child of Scott Summers and Madelyn Prior (a Jean Grey clone), Nate Grey was grown in a test tube via genetic material harvested from Scott and Jean; really, they’re more like brothers. Still, the two have similar enough psychic profiles that they experience psychic pain when they get too near each other.
Not just a mere telepath, Nate Grey was (until his powers were burnt out by the Omega Machine) also able to connect to the astral plane as a resource for his psychic abilities. Even after this event, he’s still able to connect to numerous minds simultaneously, fire telepathic blasts that devastate an opponent’s mental space, and use the imagination of others to frame their reality. He’s also skilled at psychometry, being able to tap into the thoughts left behind by others after they touch something, sort of like a psychic fingerprint reader.
3. Franklin Richards
Since none of the Fantastic Four franchises to date have made it past two movies, filmgoers have yet to see the progression of Reed Richards and Sue Storm’s relationship. After they get married, like many couples, they decide to have children. Their first son, Franklin Richards, named after Sue’s father, is born a mutant, and he’s one hell of a force to be reckoned with.
Generally regarded as the most powerful mutant on Earth, Franklin Richards possesses the ability to literally warp reality, and has gone so far as to create entire pocket dimensions that some of Earth’s superheroes have been swept into. He also possesses incredible telepathic abilities, and is capable of astral projection, precognition, and of course, reading minds. This latter talent, one assumes, makes the raising of him quite a unique challenge for the Fantastic Four couple.
Since Franklin is just a child, the full extent of his powers have yet to be seen. There have been some alternate universe glimpses at him, however…
2. Shadow King
Okay, now here’s a weird one. If you thought Apocalypse was old, meet the Shadow King, an embodiment of pure psychic energy that was spawned the first time that a human being experienced a nightmare. Existing in all of the different universes, feeding on the hatred inside human society, the Shadow King is nonetheless constrained to manifest itself by possessing a human being. In our time, that human being has been Amahl Farouk, previously the Egyptian leader of the Thieves’s Quarter, and an agent of the Nazis in the 1930s.
Even before submitting himself to the will and guidance of the Shadow King, Amahl was a terrifying figure who used his mutant powers to telepathically control everyone around him, feeding off of their negative qualities and transferring that power to the Shadow King, whom he was slowly merging with. An Omega-level telepath of the highest order, Storm has said at one point that Shadow King is the second most powerful telepath on Earth.
1. Charles Xavier
C’mon, there’s no surprise here. When it comes to telepaths, you just can’t beat Chuck. Even when he’s not using Cerebro to connect his brain to the minds of every single life form on the planet — seriously, consider the scale of that for a moment — or stretching his mind across galaxies to make psychic contact with alien beings, Charles Xavier has demonstrated psychic abilities on an almost inconceivable scale. He can freeze people in motion, erase memories, create memories, change people’s entire personalities at will… really, short of having the ability to bend reality itself, it’s hard to get more powerful than that. It’s a relief that Xavier is the leader of the X-Men and not the Brotherhood, because if he was, then there’s a good chance that the Marvel Universe would’ve been destroyed many years ago. That’s probably why his parasitic twin, Cassandra Nova, has proven so deadly.
There’s also a reason that so many of the X-Men movies have had to find ways to decommission him for a portion of the film, limit his powers, or have the bad guy hold him hostage — because there’s really very little that even the strongest X-Men enemies can do when facing Charles head on. That’s why Magneto always has to resort to holding innocent life at stake in order to keep Charles from getting him, why both he and Juggernaut wear helmets, and why Apocalypse was so intent on getting his powers in this year’s X-Men: Apocalypse.
Beneath that bald head, there lurks a lot of power, and anyone who comes near Charles would be well advised not to mess with him.
Agree with our rankings? Who do you think is the most powerful telepath in the Marvel Universe? Sound off in the comments.