When a psychopath gets the ability to lift cars with his mind, is bonded to an alien symbiote, or creates massive death machines, lots of people are going to die. The Marvel Universe might have an Earth that is protected by such powerful teams as the Avengers, the X-Men, and the Defenders, but it’s also a place that is routinely subjected to battering assaults from alien conquerors, mutant terrorists, and cosmic instruments of death. Considering the level of threats that it has endured since superheroes first started filling the streets of New York City, it’s really a wonder that the whole universe still holds together.
But while some villains may conduct themselves according to a code of honor and others are too wacky to endanger many civilian lives, there are some supervillains out there who take it to another level. These are the worst of the worst – the antagonists who, despite the best efforts of the heroes, have successfully caused the deaths of countless innocents.
Murderous supervillains with massive body counts aren’t unique to Marvel: DC has them too, though that’s a whole other list. But here are the 18 Marvel Supervillains with the Highest Body Counts.
Wilson Fisk, portrayed to rave reviews by Vincent D’Onofrio in Marvel’s Daredevil series, is not someone who you want to encounter in a dark alley. In fact, he’s not someone you even want to hear the name of, something we see in the series when, after a thug accidentally spills Fisk’s name to Daredevil, he proceeds to kill himself rather than face the consequences. Fisk has no compunctions about ordering the murders of a person’s entire family if need be, or killing anyone who stands in his way. In fact, his rise to the top of New York’s crime scene is due to his murder of Don Rigoletto, a mobster who, up until that point, Fisk had served as the right hand man of.
The Kingpin doesn’t tend to kill people with his own hands, though he shows no fear of doing so if necessary. Rather, his impossibly long list of murders are the “collateral damage” of his criminal empire. Whether through his employment of hitmen and assassins, the many gang wars he’s caused, or the victims that stack up whenever he expands his territory, Fisk has a lot to answer for.
17. Green Goblin
Torn between a split personality – a cold-hearted, corrupt, power-hungry businessman, who sometimes can’t help but break down and unleash the cackling lunatic inside him — this character’s actions, whether as Norman Osborn or the Green Goblin, are frequently on the homicidal side. But while almost all of Osborn’s most significant moments in Marvel history are painted with the blood of innocents, particularly his murder of Spider-Man’s girlfriend Gwen Stacy, he’s not the first person many would think of when racking up who has the biggest kill counts in the Marvel Universe.
But Osborn has killed far more people than many realize. The Goblin’s emerald hands are painted red… and way more than a little red. All the way back to his childhood, when Norman beat his first puppy to death with a stick, the father of all Goblins has racked up a list or murders so long that even Marvel’s many super-powered hitmen would blush in embarrassment. While Osborn has committed dozens upon dozens of individual murders — both calculated power plays by his Osborn persona, or ludicrous pumpkin bombings by his alter ego — he’s also responsible for some pretty enormous acts of terror, such as exploding entire buildings full of civilians, slaughtering countless Asgardians and Atlanteans, and blowing up an entire prison.
16. The Deathlok Cyborg
Deathlok is a hero, but he didn’t start that way. Though there have been multiple men who have had their minds and bodies grafted onto the Deathlok cyborg, across multiples time periods and realities, all of their stories have one factor in common: Deathlok is initially created to be a killing machine, and until the human element takes over, it’s a terribly successful experiment.
The first Deathlok, Luther Manning, is a soldier from the future who, after a fatal injury, reawakens with his mind trapped inside a cyborg body, the world he knew transformed into a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Manning, inside Deathlok, is programmed to commit assassinations, mass murders, and other hostile actions on behalf of the corporate and military alliances that now rule over the United States. When his consciousness breaks free from the computer, and he attempts to strike back at the forces that have transformed him and ruined his world, he constantly struggles against the voice of both the computer itself, and a strange, hyper-violent “third voice” that emerges from somewhere between both of them.
Deathlok is eventually transported to the mainstream Marvel Universe, and unfortunately, the acquisition of his technology by the villainous Roxxon Energy Corporation leads to the creation of subsequent Deathloks, such as Michael Collins and Henry Hayes, both of whom also manage to regain control of their minds… but only after their cyborg bodies have committed brutal murders on behalf of their corporate masters.
Nitro is a villain who is able to explode his entire body at will, with devastating consequences to any people or objects nearby; he can then reform the pieces of his body, shrugging off his prior detonation. Though not the most well known villain on this list, Nitro was a crucial component in one of Marvel’s biggest storylines, Civil War, with one of his biggest power plays being the fuse that lights the explosion between Captain America and Iron Man.
This event occurs during a battle against the New Warriors, a superhero team that films their exploits to for a network television reality show. In Stamford Connecticut, Nitro is cornered up against a school bus, and responds by blowing himself up. This explosion results in the flaming deaths of 60 elementary school children, and over 600 people in Stamford. Additionally, it’s this event which starts raising questions about superhero registration, and eventually tears the Avengers apart.
14. The Void
Robert Reynolds, the Sentry, is the most godlike superhero in the Marvel Universe – even counting Thor, an actual god. Possessing the power of a million exploding suns, with seemingly no limits on his abilities, the Sentry is a glistening figure of hope for many heroes and civilians in the early Marvel Universe, even befriending the Hulk. Basically, the Sentry’s existence is awesome for everyone on Earth: he’s happy, saves the world, brings light and sunshine to everyone around him. But then his Kryptonite is revealed when it turns out that he’s severely mentally ill, suffering from symptoms of agoraphobia, schizophrenia, and alcoholism. This finally manifests in the creation of the Sentry’s greatest enemy, the Void, a hostile entity armed with tendrils that permanently poison anyone they touch with hopelessness, unhappiness, and meaninglessness.
The trickiest issue about all of this is that the Sentry is the Void. He is the Sentry’s counterpart, his dark equalization. No matter how much hope and happiness Robert Reynolds may bring to the world as the Sentry, the Void will only bring an equal amount of pain and suffering. Furthermore, the only way to take down the Void is for Robert to die.
After the Void murders over a million people in Manhattan, Reynolds works together with Reed Richards and Doctor Strange to make the entire population of Earth forget about the Sentry’s existence — resulting in the disappearance of the Void. However, any reappearance of the Sentry will also recreate the Void, the two beings, light and dark, forever bonded.
Loki is another sympathetic villain who we shouldn’t forget is also a mass murderer. The Norse God of Mischief, Thor’s brother, and the menace that first brings the Avengers together, Loki’s done a lot of damage to the world. Loki’s penchant for cataclysmic deaths is faithfully adapted in Marvel’s The Avengers; while Loki doesn’t succeed in his ploy to take over the Earth, which would’ve certainly caused billions of deaths, he is the one who initiates the Battle of New York, unleashing waves of alien invaders into the city. According to Black Widow, just his first few days on Earth result in the loss of 80 lives, which prompts Thor to admit that he’s adopted.
In the comics, Loki is responsible for even more bloodshed. His manipulations cause a massacre in Chicago’s Soldier Field during a packed football game, killing thousands. This catastrophe was orchestrated entirely for the sake of creating a war between the United States and Asgard, leading to even more death. In addition, as any Norse mythology scholar can inform you, Loki’s murder of the beloved Baldur is the event that precedes the end of the Norse gods, known as Ragnarok, a story that will presumably be adapted in the upcoming third Thor film.
12. The Punisher
But Frank Castle is a hero, right?
Okay, an antihero. Okay, he’s also had a couple of psychotic breaks — going even further off the deep end than usual — wherein he’s tried to kill jaywalkers and litterers, but admittedly, he normally saves his homicidal rage for the worst of the worst (of the worst).
However, according to former Punisher editor Stephen Wacker, Frank Castle has killed a startling 48,502 people, a pretty insane number when one considers that Punisher isn’t the sort of person who tends to do things like bomb entire buildings, and at least tries to avoid innocent casualties. He did kill 2,000 mercenaries at one time when he nuked Grand Nixon Island, but that still leaves over 40,000 murders for Castle to answer to. Knowing him, though, he probably remembers almost every one of them.
Many of the villains on this list have racked up such high counts due to single (or multiple) acts of destruction. Usually, they do these terrible actions not for the sake of bloodshed, but because they have a more lofty intention in mind: power, revenge, political aspirations. What separates Cletus Kasady from the others is that he has no bigger goal in mind. Cletus is nothing but an addict who gets high on seeing the panic in a victim’s eyes, who lives for the moment where he can snuff out another life. Combine that with an alien symbiote, and you have one of the most dangerous villains Spider-Man has ever faced.
“Carnage” is what happens when Kasady, a remorseless serial killer, becomes bonded with the red-tinted spawn of Venom’s symbiote. Unlike Eddie Brock, who has often fought against his symbiote’s violent urges, Carnage’s two selves are in harmony. Carnage exists only to kill, murder, and maim anyone who gets in his path, cutting bloody swaths of corpses through the streets of New York anytime he breaks out of confinement. Considering that Cletus murdered his own grandmother as a child, burnt down his orphanage, and committed other acts of chaos long before he had any symbiotic powers, he’s one villain who will probably never change his ways.
10. Red Skull
Johann Schmidt is a figure that has menaced the world since the second World War, surviving numerous deaths and continuing to be the ultimate thorn in Captain America’s side. Once the second most powerful man in the Third Reich, subordinate only to Hitler himself, the Red Skull was the face of Nazi terrorism, performing numerous terrible actions on behalf of the movement. Under the Red Skull’s command, his Nazi troops destroyed villages, broke down cities, and would sometimes slaughter the entire populations of entire towns.
Since the end of the war, the Red Skull’s plans have taken many forms, some cosmic in nature, some resulting in warfare between multiple countries, and others specifically aimed to devastate the United States economy. The Red Skull has wielded the Cosmic Cube, started mutant concentration camps, fused his brain to that of Charles Xavier, ordered his troops to fire on innocent civilians, and caused countless deaths throughout his decades of terror.
Magneto is normally seen as one of the more relatable villains, a character who has fluctuated between good and evil on numerous occasions, but has always been driven by a very human cause: after watching his family and friends die in the Holocaust, Erik will stop at nothing to ensure that the same thing doesn’t happen to the mutant population. However, Magneto’s methods of rebelling against human prejudice have resulted in widespread devestation. The movies have faithfully adapted his disregard for non-mutant lives, whether he’s turning Stryker’s machine against humans in X2: X-Men United, lifting up the Golden Gate Bridge in X-Men: The Last Stand, or siding with Apocalypse earlier this year.
Between terrorizing New York or destroying national monuments, Magneto’s actions have certainly resulted in the loss of many, many lives, especially during Fatal Attractions. In this storyline, which also happens to be the one where Magneto rips out Wolverine’s adamantium skeleton, the United Nations strikes back against Magneto by activating a wave of satellites around the world that prevent Magneto from accessing his powers. In response, Magneto creates an electromagnetic pulse across the Earth, displacing the entire planet’s electrical systems, and no doubt causing countless fatalities in hospitals, airplanes, and more.
8. Cassandra Nova
One of the biggest X-Men villains who has yet to make it into the movies, Cassandra Nova is Charles Xavier’s twin sister… sort of. Actually, Cassandra Nova is a psionic lifeform born in the womb with Xavier, but without a body; to create herself, she copies Xavier’s DNA, but is nonetheless stillborn. However, after decades of nonexistence, her cellular matter is eventually able to regain shape, and the now-somewhat-human Cassandra Nova decides to destroy everything that her “twin” cares about.
Her first truly villainous action is a pretty heavy one. Gaining control of Bolivar Trask’s Sentinels through the manipulation of his relative Donald Trask III, Cassandra sends these robotic death machines to Genosha, an island off the southeastern coast of Africa that has become a stronghold for mutants. The sentinel attack cripples Genosha, killing 16 million, toppling all of its structures, and turning the entire country into a nearly inhospitable disaster area for years to come.
7. Bolivar Trask
Cassandra Nova may have been the one to pull the trigger on Genosha, but she wouldn’t have been able to do it if Bolivar Trask hadn’t created the giant mutant-hunting robots to begin with.
Desperate to unite humanity against what he perceives as a threat to their existence, Trask funds the creation of the Sentinels, and begins circulating editorials about “the mutant question,” even having a public debate with Charles Xavier on the matter. Though Trask has since died, and the Sentinels haven’t murdered the entire mutant population as he might have hoped, his murderous legacy has lived on through the creation of more Sentinels, the circulation of his anti-mutant propaganda, and the post-apocalyptic future seen in Days of Future Past. To date, Trask’s synthetic mutant exterminators have racked up a kill count of 16,743,618, the vast majority of whom are mutants.
Cassandra Nova isn’t the only supervillain who’s made her name demolishing an entire country.
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, one of the definitive events so far has been the climax of Age of Ultron, wherein the eponymous killer android attacks the fictitious, eastern European country of Sovokia, raising its entire capitol city into the sky like a helium-filled balloon. Though the Avengers do their best to evacuate the city, Ultron’s army of robots still manages to wreak havoc and cost hundreds (if not thousands) of lives, and these events lead directly into Civil War.
The comic book event that inspired this, however, was even bloodier. In the comics, the eastern European country of Slorenia, a nation divided by prejudice, is upended when Ultron invades with his robotic bride Alkhema. Unlike Sokovia, which was quickly freed from Ultron’s grasp by the Avengers, Slovenia is totally destroyed: Ultron, motivated by his hatred of humanity, annihilates the country’s entire population.
En Sabah Nur, the world’s oldest known mutant, has been around for a long time, and his megalomaniacal goals go back just as far. Driven by his own success at domination, which itself was a victory considering that he was abandoned as a child, Apocalypse has spent thousands of years enforcing his doctrine of “only the strong survive,” posing as a deity, causing ancient civilization to go to war against each other, and accepting sacrifices at his feet.
Since awakening in modern times, Apocalypse has continued striving for world domination and the annihilation of weaker lifeforms, but he is now opposed by the X-Men, Cable, and other mutant heroes, often facing the sort of defeats that he never did in ancient Egypt. However, in the “Age of Apocalypse” — a dark alternate timeline that temporarily displaced the regular Marvel Universe, when a time traveling attempt by Legion to remove Magneto from history instead accidentally removes Xavier — Apocalypse is successful in taking over the world, and crushes all resistance beneath his massive blue heel.
4. Dark Phoenix
Ah, Jean Grey. Telepathic, telekinetic, superheroine, X-Woman, Charles Xavier’s first student… and the murderer of, well, an entire planet.
Generally seen as a nurturing figure within the X-Men, perhaps even the team’s heart, Jean Grey also becomes the host of the all-powerful Phoenix Force, making her easily the most powerful mutant on the team, if not one of the most powerful beings on Earth. After the Hellfire Club attempts to manipulate her to their side, Jean becomes the Dark Phoenix, an entity fueled by destructive impulses. At one point needing to recharge, Phoenix absorbs the energy from an entire star, causing a supernova… resulting in the genocide of the entire D’Bari race, a humanoid plant species of 5 billion who all meet their end when their sun is absorbed into the Phoenix Force. Oops.
Needless to say, there’s no going back from there, and Jean doesn’t come home to a warm reception. While there have been multiple rewritings, retcons, and so on, the sheer power, gravity, and loss of the original Phoenix Saga is what makes it the ultimate X-Men storyline of all time.
The sheer scale of Phoenix’s mass murder casts a pretty long shadow. After all, what’s worse than destroying an entire world? How about destroying multiple worlds.
Actually, not just destroying them: eating them.
Galactus, the devourer of worlds, is a being so ancient, so far beyond humanity, that he views all of our accomplishments, morality, and arguments in the same way that we view complicated ant farms. The original Galactus story, perhaps the ultimate “event comic” of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s original Fantastic Four run, was based on the notion of pitting the superheroes against a Godlike entity, a sort of biblical figure far beyond the scale of any past threats. Unlike other villains, Galactus’s absorption of entire worlds has nothing to do with spite, rage, or even a love of bloodshed. Galactus just gets hungry, and when he’s hungry, he needs to eat planets.
Galactus originates from a universe that existed before the Big Bang, so he’s been doing his thing for a long, long, time. Such a long time, honestly, that it’d be pretty fruitless to estimate just how many worlds have suffered extinction at Galactus’s barbeque. He would likely have the highest kill record of anyone on this list, but there’s two others who’ve gone even further… and their intentions in doing so have been a bit more sinister.
The big bad of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, who will finally be truly unveiled in Infinity War, has a long kill list. Formerly a pacifist in his youth, Thanos develops a fascination — and then, an obsession — with death. This eventually leads to him falling in love with the physical embodiment of Death, which he sees as a woman in a dark robe. This twisted love affair leads him to murder his family, and many more suffer the same fate at his hands, with his obsession being the driving force behind most of his actions.
Thanos’s death toll, of course, reaches a peak when he comes into possession of the Infinity Gauntlet. In addition to easily slaughtering all of the Marvel superheroes, Thanos demonstrates his newfound power by snapping his fingers — and with that one simple gesture, obliterating half of the universe, just for the sake of impressing Death. Though all of these murders are thankfully reversed, and everyone’s lives are restored, he still did it… and for that reason, we should be very afraid for Marvel’s cinematic heroes.
1. Doctor Doom
Despite his poor handling in the Fantastic Four movies, Doctor Doom is Marvel’s single most iconic villain, Stan Lee’s favorite bad guy, and a highly three dimensional portrait of human contradictions: bursting with ego and yet also self-conscious, a man of science and yet also a powerful sorceror, a ruthless villain with a code of honor, and a dictator both feared and loved by his people.
Doctor Doom tends to be one of Marvel’s most noble villains. He’s done some incredibly destructive actions, but always for reasons that he believes are just, and he can make a good argument about why you should agree with him. He’s sought world domination, but only because he honestly believes that the world would be a better place with him at the top of it.
But he earns the top spot on this list due to Marvel’s recent Secret Wars event, wherein Doom obliterates thousands of universes. Admittedly, he does this for heroic reasons: the multiverse is decaying, and his actions are the only thing that saves reality itself, rescuing a dozen universes from destruction. Doom, now with the powers of all of the Beyonders, takes the scattered fragments of the remaining universes and reframes them into a patchwork quilt that he calls Battleworld, which he is the god of — God Emperor Doom, to be precise — with an army of Thors as his militia.
So basically, Doom killed more people than anyone ever has, in any universe, in any history… but he did so in order to save existence itself. This moral complexity cuts right to the core of what makes Doctor Doom such a tremendous, fascinating character, and we hope that someday he will be properly represented on the big screen.