Having recently talked about heroes and villains of DC Comics who inherited their super identity from another character, we couldn’t leave Marvel out of the discussion. Passing a mantle to a new character has been a huge part of both companies, but Marvel in particular has been making headlines lately with its slew of iconic names that have been transferred to new characters.
Like with the DC Comics article, we’re going to try to avoid any characters who barely had any time under the new mantle. A major hero or villain getting a replacement can generate a lot of buzz on the internet, but it doesn’t mean much in the long term if it’s quickly reversed. We’re looking at the biggest names who made a huge impact with their new identity, or are even still carrying the codename to this day.
These are 15 Marvel Comics Characters Who Inherited Their Identities.
15. IRON MAN
There’s no point diving into this topic with any other character since this is the one everyone is still talking about. Fandoms can be very protective of their interests, so when it was announced Riri Williams would be taking over as Iron Man, some people had a lot to say about a black woman taking over the role from Tony Stark. A lot of publications praised it as a progressive move, while critical fans either called it pandering or were simply unhappy about Tony being replaced by anyone, regardless of their gender and ethnicity. The writers of the Iron Man comics have said they view the transition as pretty organic, though.
We won`t know much for sure until Riri gets her first crack at the role this November, where she’ll apparently be dubbing herself Ironheart. But fans who are concerned about what will happen with Tony can take solace in the fact that in a way, he’ll still be in the suit. The AI in the armor is going to be based off Tony Stark’s personality, so we’ll likely be getting some input from the original hero’s voice on how Riri is doing in her new role.
14. BARON ZEMO
He’s not the most terrifying villain at Marvel, but pretty much no one does inherited identities better than Baron Zemo. The current Baron, Helmut Zemo, is the thirteenth person to use the title. And while lots of characters have had their mantle passed down numerous times, the name Baron Zemo has been inherited by an ancestor of the original each time. That’s some pretty strong dedication to a legacy.
Even with the long lineage behind the name, most people associate this villain with his iconic purple mask, something that was only introduced by the twelfth Baron, Heinreich Zemo. Eventually Heinreich had no choice in wearing the mask, since Captain America inadvertently smashed open a vat of irremovable adhesive that covered Heinreich and bonded the mask to his face. And of course because history repeats itself– after Heinreich’s death, Helmut also had an adhesive accident courtesy of Captain America. In Helmut’s case, it left him facially scarred so that he hides his disfigurement behind the mask.
13. BLACK PANTHER
Another one of the characters on this list who keeps the inheritance of their mantle within the family is Black Panther. Whoever rules the African nation of Wakanda is dubbed the Black Panther. Being born to the king of Wakanda, T’Challa was always destined for something great. But that doesn’t mean he needed to prove himself any less than any other heroes who inherit their mantle. If anything, T’Challa had even more to overcome because there were such big expectations of him at a young age.
T’Challa’s mother died giving birth to him and his father T’Chaka, who was the current Black Panther, was killed by invaders to the nation. That familiar hero’s journey of having to take on responsibility at an early age due to the loss of family wasn’t something T’Challa escaped by being royalty. His uncle briefly took up the role of Black Panther until T’Challa was of age, and then the young king challenged his uncle in combat to claim the title. There aren’t too many heroes who inherit their name through defeating their predecessor, but it was an early indicator of the strength T’Challa would bring when he took the mantle and made it known to the world.
It’s a common joke that, in the world of comics, the only characters who stay dead are Uncle Ben and Batman’s parents. So when Logan, better known by his X-Men codename Wolverine, finally died, people didn’t expect it to last. There’s even a website specifically devoted to answering “is Wolverine still dead?” But the answer to that question is “yes”, and it’s remained that way for nearly two years now. So eventually we had to face facts: Logan might be gone a long time. But there are a lot of characters with claws in the world of Marvel, so it didn’t take a genius to figure out that eventually someone would take up the mantle.
Sabretooth or Logan’s son Daken both might have seemed obvious choices, but instead it was X-23 who took up the mantle. And though we’ve seen how much nostalgic fans can gripe about gender-swapped characters, Marvel fans have been pretty accepting about the female clone of Logan taking on the role. With so many mutants in the X-Men stories, it takes a lot to get noticed, so it says a lot about X-23 that she became a breakout character in recent years. In fact, with Hugh Jackman announcing he’s done playing Wolverine after the next Wolverine movie, many fans are hoping X-23 will be the one wearing the mask for the inevitable X-Force movie.
11. RED SKULL
Apparently in comic books there’s just something about being a child who’s related to a disfigured person that does not bode well for the child. We already discussed how Helmut Zemo suffered the irony of needing to wear his mask all the time due to an adhesive accident, just like his father. Well, the other big Captain America villain was evidently not to be outdone. Johann Schmidt, best known as the villainous Red Skull, is disfigured by an experimental batch of super soldier serum in some continuities. And because he has a child, of course she had to meet a similar fate.
Sinthea Schimdt (best known simply as Sin) had a similar facial disfigurement when she grew up and decided to challenge Captain America. The only difference is her maiming came as the result of an explosion, though it still prompts her to take up her father’s legacy and begin calling herself the new Red Skull. And while she’s competent in her role and even manages to work peacefully with her father’s longtime rival Baron Zemo, there just has to be a better way of gaining a legacy than being horribly injured.
10. CAPTAIN AMERICA
When Steve Rogers recently returned to the role of Captain America, he did it with a splash in the infamous “hail Hydra” moment that garnered so much attention. There was a lot of backlash for that moment because, despite numerous heroes taking up the shield over the years, Steve Rogers has always returned as America’s super soldier. Loyalty to your nation is something many take seriously, few embody that as fully as a character literally named after America.
Maybe Marvel didn’t expect as much criticism for the short-lived twist because they figured readers already had another Captain America to rally behind. Though longtime characters like Bucky Barnes had taken up the role in the past, the former Falcon, Sam Wilson, was the newest to adopt the mantle when Steve was taken out of commission. But unlike many characters who inherit an identity, Sam didn’t relinquish being Captain America when Steve was ready to reclaim the role. They agreed to share the mantle and each got their own comic book series. And while Sam has been doing an admirable job with the shield, clearly fans still feel pretty strongly about Steve being portrayed well in his own right.
9. DOCTOR DOOM
When you hear about characters adopting protégés, it’s usually someone like Batman, with the numerous Robins he has taken in, who comes to mind. By default, villains aren’t usually generous enough to show concern for the well-being of another person. So depending on your perspective, Kristoff Vernard could either be viewed as extremely fortunate, or one of the unlucky few. Regardless, after Kristoff’s mother was killed while speaking to Doctor Doom, the villain apparently felt a sense of obligation for the boy and took him in as an heir.
Again, depending on whether you consider such a thing lucky or not, Kristoff even got a chance to be in charge when Doctor Doom (seemingly) died. Kristoff not only put on the signature costume and declare himself the new Doctor Doom– he essentially had his protector’s mind copied into his brain so that he believed he was the original Doctor Doom. Kristoff might have had the mind, but he lacked the experience of the original, so his scheme against the Fantastic Four was a failure. And even though the original Doom soon returned and reclaimed his role, the experience was a sample of the power Kristoff could have if he sticks around to truly inherit the role from his protector.
8. CAPTAIN MARVEL
As most comic fans know, this might very well be the only character at Marvel who you could say (at least partially) inherited their identity from a DC character. Before there ever was a Captain Marvel at Marvel Comics, the title belonged to the hero now known as Shazam at DC. But a lapse in the name’s copyright as DC purchased the character from another company meant Marvel could swoop in take the name for themselves. And thus Marvel created their character Mar-Vell.
But of course the inheritance doesn’t end there. Mar-Vell eventually died, and the mantle passed to various other characters, including the offspring of Mar-Vell. But obviously the one everyone is most familiar with is the current person behind the identity, Carol Danvers. Danvers was already the very popular and powerful superheroine Ms. Marvel, and had previously been Binary and Warbird. So when the chance came to honor the late Mar-Vell by taking his heroic mantle, Danvers dropped the “Ms.” and became a Captain.
Even fans who first learned about Ant-Man from his movie were realized quicky that this identity had existed before the protagonist Scott Lang came around. Hank Pym acted as a mentor in the film, guiding Lang into his heroic role, but Pym wasn’t time in the costume didn’t lack accomplishments of his own. Besides originating the Ant-Man identity, Hank Pym was even one of the founding members of the Avengers. The only problem with Pym is he was maybe a little too ambitious, jumping around to multiple identities, such as Yellowjacket and Wasp, over the years.
There have been several Ant-Mans (Ant-Men?) besides Pym and Lang, including Scott Lang’s daughter at one point. While none of them are without their flaws, comic fans have long memories, and many still remember an infamous incident of Hank Pym hitting his own wife at one point. Scott Lang is no saint either, but his more mainstream inheritance of the Ant-Man role might have something to do with him not carrying that kind of unfortunate baggage with his name.
With how easy it is for the Venom symbiote to latch onto a new host, it’s honestly surprising that there haven’t been dozens of characters to take up the role by now. Peter Parker was quick to discard the alien and return to his original costume, but Eddie Brock was much more comfortable allowing himself to become one with the symbiote. Brock’s longtime jealousy of Peter as a journalist and a hero led to his version of Venom becoming the antithesis of Spider-Man, and one of the most popular characters that hero has faced-off against.
Mac Gargan, best known as Scorpion, got a villainous upgrade when the symbiote attached to him for a while, but the Venom everyone is talking about nowadays isn’t a villain at all. Flash Thompson was pretty much the generic jock during Peter’s high school days, but wound up going into the military after he was done school. By that time, the military was looking to harness the symbiote for good, and bonded it to Flash so he could be their weapon of war.
Many of you still probably remember the controversial, yet well-written, year when Doctor Octopus became the new Spider-Man. In a way, Doc Ock was one of the most thorough recipients of his predecessor’s mantle since he not only became Spider-Man, but took over the body of Peter Parker as well. Of course, there’s no way Peter Parker would permanently become possessed by a villain, so this inheritance was just temporary.
But Spidey has a lot of other more permanent versions in alternate universes, to the point that a lot of people thought we might see one of them replace Peter in Spider-Man: Homecoming. There’s a reality where Peter and Mary Jane’s daughter takes up the mask to become Spider-Girl, and another where his original girlfriend Gwen Stacy gets the radioactive bite instead, becoming Spider-Woman. But the most popular Spider-Man outside of the original has got to be Ultimate Spider-Man’s Miles Morales, who steps into the role in a universe where Peter dies.
4. MS. MARVEL
As mentioned above, Carol Danvers went by the title Ms. Marvel for many years. But since she was a close friend of the original Captain Marvel, Mar-Vell, she was finally persuaded to take on the name in his honor in 2012. The only problem was that this left a perfectly good superhero name without an owner.
Though other women had held the Ms. Marvel title intermittently, the most prominent to do so is also the most recent, Kamala Khan. The teenage girl looked up to Carol Danvers, and couldn’t help but adopt the legacy of her idol when the Ms. Marvel name became vacant. This was obviously a big deal in Marvel’s universe, but it was also impactful in the real world too. The move got a lot of media attention for Khan being Marvel’s first Muslim superhero. It was a celebrated move for the company, and has provided Khan a stage for her own highly-praised comic series.
Wolverine isn’t the only mutant who can live on via cloning. The first mutant in the world, Apocalypse, has been defeated numerous times and eventually even killed. But no popular character stays down for too long, so of course someone got the bright idea of cloning the child version of Apocalypse. The purpose behind this enormous risk to the world? To prove that if, raised in a positive environment, even the most evil person can be good. Evan Sabahnur, the Apocalypse clone, is an attempt to prove no one is inherently evil.
Understandably, the mutants who recognize the similarities between Evan and Apocalypse are fearful of him. Good guys and bad guys alike believe he’s destined to become the destructive force they know so well. And of course Evan eventually did slip into becoming Apocalypse and seemed poised to fulfill his villainous destiny. But Deadpool, of all people, was the voice of reason for Evan, reminding him he always had a choice. For the time being, at least, Evan gave up that dark future, though it remains to be seen if he stays on that path.
It feels like every year there’s some big uproar about a new person taking over a long-held superhero mantle. As we talked about earlier, this year it was Iron Man, but no doubt many of you remember that not long before that, there was the commotion about Thor. No, we’re not talking about Beta Ray Bill. That shocked people, but was too short-lived to stir up many emotions. The new female Thor was clearly a revamp of the character, so quite a number of people got upset.
Honestly though, there was never much reason to worry about the new Thor, since the old one was still safe and sound. He didn’t die; he just lost his powers. And once it was revealed the new wielder of Mjolnir was Jane Foster, it added an interesting wrinkle to a character who had grown a bit stagnant. People might still grumble about the decision to give the mantle to a woman, but Jane has certainly generated more interest in the name Thor than it has had in years.
1. GREEN GOBLIN
He may not be the most popular guy on this list, but if you’ve watched all the Spider-Man movies, you know the Green Goblin, the villainous side that gets passed down through the Osborn family (not to be confused with the Osbournes, who just enjoy rock music and biting the heads off bats). The originator of the legacy is Norman Osborn, the head of Oscorp. And because being the owner of a business always seems to drive people to wearing costumes in the world of comics, his work eventually leads him to create technology to empower himself and become a supervillain.
Naturally, Spider-Man has to step in to deal with the menace, but not before his girlfriend Gwen Stacy is infamously killed by Norman, and Norman himself inadvertently takes his own life. Evidently Norman’s son Harry thought there was really something to this idea of wearing a purple sock on your head, because he then took up the Green Goblin mantle himself to get revenge on Spider-Man.
While the role doesn’t have the best survival rate, there’s no denying its impact the Spider-Man franchise, and even Marvel as a whole. Green Goblin has since stretched outside the Osborn family, spawning the likes of the numerous Hobgoblins and the Demogoblin, and leaving a lasting and lengthy inherited legacy in the franchise.
Who do you think has done the strongest job of carrying on an inherited identity in the Marvel universe? Let us know which hero or villain you think continues the legacy of their mantle the best in the comment section!
Wolverine 3 hits the big screen March 3, 2017, Spider-Man: Homecoming will be in theaters on July 7, 2017, Thor: Ragnarok is supposed to arrive November 3, 2017, Avengers: Infinity War is scheduled for May 4, 2018, Black Panther is set for July 6, 2018, and Captain Marvel is looking for a March 8, 2019 release date.