Marvel superheroes like Spider-Man, the Avengers, and the X-Men have been in comics for so long that many of these characters have gone through a multitude of changes. As is common with comic books, several of these characters go through a big identity change that’s intended by the writers to shake things up. Sometimes they’re eventually restored to the status quo, but some of them stuck. They stuck so well that we may not even remember who those characters used to be.
Marvel characters like Peter Parker and Steve Rogers will always be remembered as Spider-Man and Captain America no matter much they evolve, though that won’t stop Marvel from fitting them in different costumes. They’ve even given them different names and brand new identities.
A perfect example of this is Hank Pym, a character who can’t seem to make up his mind on whether he wants to be Ant-Man, Goliath, Yellowjacket, or Giant-Man. However, Pym’s identity crisis is an essential part of the hero’s history, while other characters’ whose attempts to forge new identities have either slipped under the radar or have been swept under the rug.
Let’s have a look at 15 Marvel Superheroes You Didn’t Know Had Different Identities.
15. Adam Warlock – Him
A group of scientists called the Enclave were working on a project in 1967 to create the perfect human. The experiment produced a cocoon that birthed a golden-skinned man of immense power. Having no name, he was simply called “Him.” Though he was born with an advanced intellect, Him was like a child being brought into the world in an adult’s form. While still naive about the world and the ways of life, he tried to take Lady Sif as a mate, which quickly resulted in an epic slugfest with Thor.
After Him was defeated, he went back into a cocoon until he emerged as a reborn man. After being found by the High Evolutionary, he was given the name “Adam Warlock,” and entrusted with the Soul Gem that later tied him up with Thanos, Gamora, the Magus, and eventually the Guardians of Galaxy.
Adam Warlock’s cocoon can be spotted in Thor: The Dark World and Guardians of the Galaxy. Adam Warlock is also confirmed to appear in the next phase of Marvel films, beginning with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
14. Spider-Man – Prodigy, Hornet, Dusk, and Ricochet
When Spider-Man was framed for murder by Trapster and Norman Osborn, the web-slinger was forced into a difficult decision. As a hunted man, it was too dangerous to continue being “Spider-Man,” so he temporarily abandoned his name and costume in place of four new superhero personas: Dusk, Prodigy, Hornet, and Ricochet. To better protect his secret, Parker made sure no one would ever connect his new identity to Spider-Man by adopting new personalities for each identity. Spider-Man was able to use each of the four identities to help him prove his innocence and turn the tables on Osborn.
Though Parker soon went back to wall-crawling and web-slinging, this wasn’t the last we got to see of Dusk, Prodigy, Hornet, and Ricochet. A group of vigilantes called the Slingers assumed the roles Spider-Man left behind.
13. Blade – Ronin
When Luke Cage formed the Mighty Avengers, one of their members was a masked vigilante going by the name “Spider-Hero.” He wore a Spider-Man mask because he didn’t want anyone to know that he was actually Blade the Vampire Hunter. Since the “Spider-Hero” costume wasn’t his style, Cage gave him a box of Clint Barton’s things. Inside was the archer’s “Ronin” outfit. The “Ronin” identity actually fit Blade rather well, since both heroes are known for excellent swordsmanship, and the katana has always been their sword of choice.
It turned out that Blade needed the “Ronin” identity to fight an army of were-snakes and were-roosters led by a group of villains called the Deathstalkers. Blade required a disguise to keep them from finding him, but somehow his enemies were able to catch up to him anyway.
12. Spectrum – Captain Marvel
The response to Carol Danvers becoming Captain Marvel has been huge for Marvel, but not necessarily as historic as some might think. A female Captain Marvel is not a new thing. Since Mar-Vell’s death, the Kree hero has had a series of successors, beginning with Monica Rambeau, a policewoman who was exposed to extra-dimensional energy, giving her the ability to transform into any form of electromagnetic energy.
After being mistaken for the captain of a ship, someone who saw her use her powers called her a “marvel” in the papers. As a result, she was given the moniker of “Captain Marvel.” As Captain Marvel, Rambeau joined the Avengers and even became the team’s leader.
11. Iron Fist – Daredevil
Matt Murdock spent years using his cover as a blind lawyer to hide the fact that he secretly moonlights as the costumed superhero, Daredevil. And it worked— for a while. Finally, his secret was exposed and he was put in prison. While Murdock was busy dealing with violent and vengeful convicts, another Daredevil began cleaning up the streets in his place, making people wonder if Murdock was actually innocent.
When Murdock got free and confronted the imposter, he noticed that the new Daredevil fought with his fists and not his billy clubs. When his hands became covered with energy, the truth was out: the new Daredevil was Iron Fist, one of the Heroes for Hire. Apparently, Iron Fist had been hired to make people believe that Murdock wasn’t Daredevil.
Iron Fist maintained his “Daredevil” disguise through Civil War, which saw Iron Fist fight on Captain America’s side against the Pro-Registration forces.
With Iron Fist and Daredevil appearing together in The Defenders, could we see this storyline adapted to TV?
10. Psylocke – Captain Britain
Psylocke is considered one of Marvel’s deadliest assassins. A fan-favorite member of the X-Men, she’s easily recognized by her revealing yet iconic costume. But before she became famous for any of these things she was just Betsy Braddock; Captain Britain’s sister.
When Captain Britain retired from the role, Betsy decided to become his successor. She wore her brother’s costume, which amplified her strength level and gave her the ability to fly. She became a crime-fighting partner of the superhero Captain UK, who taught her how to fight. They worked together for a while until Betsy’s career came to an abrupt halt when she was ambushed by two of her brother’s old enemies, Vixen and Slaymaster. Slaymaster brutally blinded her by removing her eyes.
9. Wonder Man – Hollywood
The original Guardians of the Galaxy were heroes based in the 31st century. On one of their return-trips to Earth, they encountered a murderous cult called the Punishers, who had taken their name from the 20th century vigilante. The Guardians were assisting a group of freedom fighters who had their own superhero fighting for their side, Hollywood.
Hollywood noticed that the leader of the Guardians, Vance Astro, carried Captain America’s shield, and took an immediate dislike to him. He revealed to Astro that he had fought alongside the original Captain America and was unsure if just anyone was worthy of carrying it. Astro discovered that this thousand-year-old superhero he was conversing with was actually Wonder Man, a key member of the Avengers.
It was revealed that before the Earth was devastated by a Martian invasion, the Vision teleported Wonder Man to another planet, making Wonder Man one of the last surviving heroes of the 20th century. Hollywood became a recurring character in the Guardians of the Galaxy series in the 1990s and a member of Martinex’s team, the Galactic Guardians. Hollywood joined the main team in the title’s final issue.
8. Kitty Pryde – Star Lord
One of the most surprising comic book romances in recent years is the one that blossomed between Star-Lord and Kitty Pryde. Most of Marvel’s romances don’t happen between characters on separate teams, least of all between characters who don’t even live on the same planet. It occurred during the Black Vortex event, a cross-over story between the X-Men and the Guardians of the Galaxy.
When Star-Lord succeeded his father, J’Son, as the new king of the Spartax Empire, he had new responsibilities to take on and had to abandon his role as Star-Lord. Another consequence of being king was that it cost him his relationship with Kitty. Feeling neglected, Kitty joined the Guardians as the new Star-Lord. She spent several months with the Guardians before accepting a request from Storm to become the new leader of the X-Men.
7. Mockingbird – Huntress
Before her association with Hawkeye and the West Coast Avengers, Bobbi Morse was a deadly S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and a love interest for Ka-Zar. When Ka-Zar fell in love with Shanna the She-Devil, Bobbi left the Savage Land to continue her work at S.H.I.E.L.D. In Marvel Super Action #1, published in 1976, she became the butt-kicking vigilante known as the Huntress with a mission to root out spies in S.H.I.E.L.D.
However, in 1977 DC Comics debuted a character with the same name. To avoid confusion, the writers decided to make changes to Bobbi Morse. When she next appeared alongside Spider-Man in Marvel Team-Up #95, she had a new look and a new name: Mockingbird.
Mockingbird was played by Adrianne Palicki in Seasons 2 and 3 of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
6. Captain Marvel – Binary
Carol Danvers has created quite a following of fans both as Ms. Marvel and Captain Marvel, but these are not the only names she’s been called in her long career as a cosmic superhero. Though Carol is no Hank Pym, she does have her share of superhero identities, one of which is “Binary.” Unlike her other identities, if a casual reader were to see her as Binary, they would be clueless as to who she was since their appearances are so strikingly different.
Carol Danvers became Binary when the Brood experimented on her with a cosmic ray that mutated her body, giving her the power to control electromagnetic energy. Binary chose not to remain on Earth and left to join a team of space pirates called the Starjammers, led by Cyclops’ father, Corsair.
5. Tigra – The Cat
This ferocious, feline femme fatale is well-known for her flirty personality and cat-like behavior. She has a history as a West Coast Avenger, a longtime girlfriend of Hank Pym, and a teacher at Avengers Academy. She was mystically transformed into Tigra by the Cat People to be their champion and protector. But before her transformation, she already had her own set of powers.
Greer Grant was a lab assistant who was scientifically enhanced with superior strength and agility. She created the costumed identity of “the Cat” and began taking on street-level supervillains in her own short-lived series, The Cat. It wasn’t until she met the Cat People that she was able to acquire any genuine feline abilities or instincts.
4. War Machine – Iron Man
During the classic “Demon in a Bottle” storyline, Tony Stark descended into alcoholism and depression. This is a highly talked-about moment for Stark, but what gets overshadowed in this storyline is another historic moment for Marvel Comics: Stark’s friend and confidante, James Rhodes, took on the mantle of “Iron Man,” almost a decade before becoming War Machine.
As the new Iron Man, Rhodes became a member of the West Coast Avengers without any of them becoming aware of his true identity. He felt insecure wearing the suit, as he feared that Stark secretly wanted to take the mantle back. Rhodes tried to succeed in his career as a superhero, but was held back by headaches and anger issues.
3. Scarlet Spider – Spider-Man
In 1995, The Amazing Spider-Man got a major change to the status quo when Peter Parker’s wife, Mary Jane, became pregnant. When he decided to retire from superheroics to raise a family, his clone, Scarlet Spider (Ben Reilly), made the decision to step up and become the new Spider-Man. At the time though, Parker thought he was the clone. If that sounds complicated, just remember that this happened during the extremely controversial “Clone Saga.”
After becoming the new Spider-Man, the original had already been absent for quite some time, causing some to guess that the two Spider-Men were different people. Though Reilly was able to get most to accept him as the one-and-only Spider-Man, some of Parker’s old enemies and allies were able to see through him.
Ben Reilly’s time as Spider-Man ended with his death at the hands of the Green Goblin (Norman Osborn.) This wasn’t the end for Reilly though, as he was eventually restored so that he could return to saving the city as the Scarlet Spider.
2. Hawkeye – Goliath
During Hawkeye’s early days as an Avenger, Clint Barton often felt outclassed by his peers, though his cocky attitude may have indicated otherwise. Without Thor and Iron Man around, the team was lacking raw power. Then, when their strongest active member, Hank Pym, went from Goliath to Yellowjacket, the team lost even more power. When the Avengers and Black Widow were captured, Hawkeye didn’t believe he would be able to pull off a rescue with just his bow, so he took some of Hank Pym’s Pym Particle formula to even the odds against his enemies.
As the new Goliath, Barton was stronger than ever and easily made up for the muscle that the team had been sorely missing. Barton carried the “Goliath” persona through the Kree-Skrull War, but unfortunately for him the formula wore off during a battle with the Skrulls. Barton survived the encounter and resumed his role as Earth’s Mightiest Marksman. Since then, Barton has gone back to being “Goliath” on a few other occasions, most notably during the Kree-Shi’ar War.
1. Captain America – Nomad
Comic books have always been an outlet for writers to integrate social and political issues into their work, and the 1970s were no different. The “Watergate” scandal found its place in the Marvel Universe in the form of the first “Secret Empire” story, which saw Captain America shattered after discovering that the President of the United States was secretly funding a criminal organization. Steve was so disturbed by the revelation that he abandoned the “Captain America” mantle and shield and gave up life as a superhero to enjoy a normal one with his girlfriend, Sharon Carter.
Having lived so many years of his life as a superhero, Steve didn’t feel at peace with the change and was convinced by Hawkeye that he didn’t need the shield to be a hero. Inspired by the idea, Steve created the “Nomad” identity and became “The Man Without a Country.”
When a patriotic young man tried to become a new Captain America, he was brutally murdered by the Red Skull. The man’s death convinced Steve to carry the shield once again.
Though Steve no longer has any use for the “Nomad,” costume, it’s been worn by other crime-fighters, such as James Munroe, who brought the name back to prominence in the 1990s.
What other superheroes have held multiple identities? Let us know in the comments!