Let’s face it, there are a lot of bad supervillains in the annals of Marvel Comics. For every Doctor Doom and Red Skull, there is a Stilt-Man or a Big Wheel. Yes, we understand that there is a lot of love for some of those less-than-brilliant villains… even if it stems from irony or nostalgia.
The villains on this list are not all good supervillains. Some are just the opposite, in fact. A lot can be done, however, with a bad supervillain… as we saw in the brilliant Superior Foes of Spider-Man.
All of the villains here are ripe for a comeback. Some have appeared more recently than others; popping up for comic relief or in a cameo spot here and there. The idea for this list, though, is a true renaissance: a featured role in a story arc, a mini-series, or… with any luck, inclusion in one of the Marvel movies. Some are admittedly more likely than others, but that won’t stop us from dreaming.
One last note: we know that some of these characters are dead. But really, when has that stopped a character from being used? Here are 15 Marvel Supervillains Who Need To Make A Comic Book Comeback.
Mojo, since his inception, has primarily been a villain of the X-Men. He belongs to an alien race who have been perverted by broadcast television from Earth, and so their entire world revolves around the production of (often violent and exploitative) television… all created by their ruler, Mojo. Since people rarely want to be cast in his shows, Mojo has resorted to slaves or kidnapping; often superheroes. Presumably, superheroes are good for ratings. Who knew?
Trite as it is to say this, in the world of the 24-hour news cycle and reality TV and viral videos, Mojo is perhaps more relevant than ever. While Mojo has frequently been used as a comedic foil, including in Jeff Lemire’s most recent run of Uncanny X-Men, he still oozes potential. Probably one of the coolest ways of using Mojo would be as an anti-Watcher, where maybe he is the narrator/host of a What If?-type book where Mojo was also heavily involved in the progression of his “shows”. A good example of how this could work is the standalone adventure of Rick Remender’s Uncanny Avengers Annual #1, where a kidnapped Avengers Unity Team is thrust into a Beverly Hills 90210-type drama alongside a team he recruited called the “Avengers of the Supernatural”.
14. Skinless Man
Probably the most disgusting concept for a villain in Marvel history (and the most metal name, to boot), Skinless Man is too great a combination of silly and brutal to stay dead for much longer. He was killed by Deadpool in revenge for killing Fantomex, in case you were wondering. Fantomex didn’t stay dead for long, in case you were wondering that as well.
Skinless man has a very interesting past. He started as a barrister (British lawyer, not a latte artist) before being recruited during the Cold War by the same program, Weapons Plus, that later created Wolverine and Fantomex and Deadpool. He didn’t start out without skin, but instead had mutant elastic skin… that was removed (See? Metal.) as punishment for his murderous ways. He then taught his muscles to move and act like his skin had. Running around looking like an anatomical model with a barrister’s wig and robe is the stuff of nightmares; and it is rare that a publisher like Marvel is able to hit on something so inventive, unique, and terrifying. Given his backstory, he is capable of playing villain to any number of heroes… as well he should.
This list isn’t exactly filled with normal workaday villains. Many of them are ridiculous and make little-to-no sense. It is telling, then, that Vamp might be the most ridiculous and nonsensical of them all (yes, really). Vamp was secretly working for a criminal organization called the Corporation when Nick Fury recruited her into a special team for SHIELD. She was drafted for her fighting abilities and given something called the Absorbo-Belt, which could recreate the strength and abilities of nearby people.
That all sounds normal, right? “Dumb and normal and boring,” you might say. Well, you’d be wrong. Unknown to SHIELD and spymaster Nick Fury (who often doesn’t seem all that good at his job), Vamp’s true power was her ability, by remote control, to transform into a giant monster who looked like a caveman with a humongous egg head called Animus (the monster, not the head).
Animus, on top of being strong, also carried a crystal club and had psychic powers (and could focus its psychic powers through the club to essentially shoot brain lasers). Did we mention that this sexy lady turned into a giant, egg-headed caveman? Making matters better, this was never explained away ever. Before she could weird all over some other comic, she was a victim in a mass murder of supervillains by the ultra-brutal Scourge… who effectively worked as a reset button for Marvel on some of their dumbest villains that they didn’t want floating around in the bullpen of available baddies.
Strong enough to fight Galactus on his own, but not strong enough to win, the Sphinx has great potential as a big baddie for any hero out there (Moon Knight would be a natural, if cliche, fit if he were stronger). The Sphinx is actually supposed to be the biblical wizard of Egypt’s royal court who squared off against Moses. After being exiled, he found a cosmic stone in the desert which granted him great powers and immortality. Much of the Sphinx’s storyline revolved around him wanting to kill himself and chickening out. Sphinx, confusingly, has also been a woman who then merged with the man Sphinx, and then separated from man Sphinx again.
So what makes the Sphinx a good candidate for a comeback? The man is an established powerhouse who has squared off at a cosmic level. His powers aren’t especially original, but his costume still stands out (despite coming out of the ’70s) as intimidating… and his backstory is very, very solid as far as comics backstories go. Moreover, one of the most underrated and interesting story events of the early ’90s, “Forever Yesterday” (it took place over three issues of New Warriors) was a product of the Sphinx. Taking place on another Earth where the Avengers are villains (featuring Captain Assyria, Storm, and Horus) and are opposed by the Mutant Liberation Front.
11. Big Man and The Enforcers
So these guys are essentially Spider-Man villains historically… and none of them have especially compelling backstories to speak of (although Big Man being a fellow Daily Bugle reporter that moonlighted as a crime boss is kinda neat, if far-fetched even by comics standards). What the Enforcers had going for them, were some very solid cartoony gangster personas that mesh pretty seamlessly and still hold up pretty well. Fancy Dan is a small guy dressed to the nines who happens to be an expert marksman and martial artist. Ox is a big, brutish… ox of a man, with superhuman strength. Montana was an expert with the lasso (or lariat). Hammer Harrison was a boxer who wore stone boxing gloves. And Snake Marston was a contortionist.
While some good, old-fashioned resurrection would be needed to make this happen, The Enforcers could well have a good deal of life left in them. Let’s spitball here and give them their own series, with perhaps those mockumentary-style asides (think The Office or Modern Family). It would be a great premise that could show them grumbling under the leadership of Big Man and his freaky mask, auditioning other (much sillier) gang members, and constantly being creeped out by Snake Marston… the weirdo contortionist who dresses in all-black and has the world’s biggest widow’s peak. If that isn’t the recipe for at least cult success, we don’t know what is.
Strictly speaking, Possessor is not a villain. The Possessor is one of the Elders of the Universe, an ancient being that predates the rest of life and has insane amounts of power and immortality. The Elders also all have a singular focus and, for the Possessor, it appears to be knowledge. By contrast, The Collector (played by Benicio Del Toro in Guardians of the Galaxy) is obsessed with collecting rare items… and the Grandmaster (who will be played by Jeff Goldblum in the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy 2) is obsessed with playing games.
The Possessor (his real name is Kamo Tharnn) is blind and insane and wields a cosmic artifact called the Runestaff, which is a stick that has a lion head on it. Silly as that all sounds, and the fact that he is essentially just a near-omnipotent librarian (he actually founded his own library and university), he probably has the best chance of experiencing his own moment of fame of all the villains on the list. Given that the Guardians movies are now 2-for-2 on featuring an Elder of the Universe, it seems only a matter of time before either Hollywood or the comic world come knocking on Kamo’s door.
Diablo is a classic villain for a classic team. Unfortunately for Diablo, that classic team is the Fantastic Four, and they are experiencing whatever the opposite of a renaissance is. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Diablo is a Spanish alchemist from the 9th century who, through his own alchemical experiments, has been able to live on into the 21st century. While he doesn’t really seem to have powers of his own, he’s able to do more or less whatever he wants using the findings of his experiments (in potion or pill form).
At times, he’s been played off as silly, and at other times as a really dark and sinister character befitting his moniker. The concept of a person of great knowledge coming from such a dark (relatively speaking) time and amassing the experiences of centuries on Earth is a fascinating one. While the FF are cooling their heels in movie-flop purgatory, Diablo could well become the sort of villain to give young comic fans nightmares for years to come.
Speaking of nightmares, Tatterdemalion is one of the two characters we’re highlighting from a group of macabre-themed villains called The Night Shift. Tatterdemalion is a former famous actor and socialite who lost everything and began living as a homeless drunk. He fell in with a criminal organization called The Committee, who had the bright idea of outfitting and mobilizing the homeless of Los Angeles as supervillains (because if you can trust anyone to do what you want to do, it’s an insane homeless person with superpowers).
Tatterdemalion has an odd set of equipment that gives him unique abilities that stand out from the typical set of possibilities. He wields knock-out gas and a weighted scarf and body armor, but he also coats his clothing in a non-stick chemical. More interestingly, his gloves have the ability to rot paper and cloth… which he used to terrorize the rich and destroy money and other valuables. Given the political and economic climate, and a new title called Occupy Avengers (jeez, Marvel, give it a break)… it’s not inconceivable that an anti-wealth villain would play exceedingly well. It could even be argued that he’d benefit from being made into a hero. His original costume from the 1970s still manages to look interesting and intimidating.
7. Brothers Grimm
The current Brothers Grimm, and we’re not making this up, inherited their powers from the silly costumes that they found in an old theater… that used to belong to magical mannequins created by a man named Nathan Dolly (who at one point became a villain called Mister Doll). The Brothers Grimm are characters that fall into the surprisingly vast subset of themed villains that utilize novelty or fairy tale-esque weaponry. The difference with the Brothers is that all of the items are created magically and instantaneously. As an example, they have fought using pies filled with blackbirds and super fast-growing bean seeds. Somehow, with magic fairy tale powers, they began as villains for Iron Man.
The Brothers Grimm have appeared a handful of times over the last few years (including the most recent Standoff event), but haven’t really had their star turn. Their powers are goofy, yes. Their costumes are partly menacing and partly silly (especially if they retain their high collars and pirate boots), yes. But they very easily could take a dark turn and become twisted and sadistic in the grimmest (no pun intended) way in the hands of the right writer. Conversely, as was hinted at when they were recruited as part of the 50 State Initiative, they might make for interesting heroes.
A seminary student with a colonial/imperial streak that was better suited for Templars, Arthur Blackwood received power, mystical weapons, and armor from a spirit during a religious vision. The Crusader, then, took it upon himself to spread the message of God by eliminating those that he deemed pagans… starting with the mighty Thor.
The Crusader is a very interesting and touchy villain. Blackwood’s existence as a Christian religious fanatic puts him at odds with the world’s heroes… as violence is never the right way to propagate one’s religion. With the current violent and prevalent religious fanaticism going on around the world, it would perhaps be in poor taste to have a character like The Crusader stalking around… and it might be interpreted as Christian or anti-Muslim propaganda. That the Crusader is portrayed as a villain, however, shows that any religion can have its own cadre of wrong-headed fanatics, might be an invaluable teaching tool to the comic-reading world.
Mysterio comes from the early days of Spider-Man, when perhaps the greatest run of long-standing villains were introduced in rapid succession(Chameleon, Vulture, Doctor Octopus, Sandman, The Lizard, Electro, Green Goblin, etc). Mysterio’s deal is that he worked in the film industry and is a special effects wizard (and hypnotist). Like many of Spider-Man’s other villains, he has rarely strayed from the web-slinger’s rogues gallery.
While Mysterio does still pop up occasionally (he very recently was part of the Spider-Man/Deadpool series), he never quite gets his due. In the hands of the mightily talented Mark Millar, this is a man (WARNING: Spoiler alert for a now-7 year old comic miniseries) who managed to kill all of the X-Men by tricking Wolverine into doing it. Mysterio, and his super cool fishbowl costume (seriously, how scary is it to have a villain whose entire head you never see because of a swirling globe of gas that can project all kinds of horrible images?), should be one of the premiere non-powered villains in the Marvel Universe, as opposed to a consistent afterthought Spidey villain.
4. The Headmen
The Headmen are a fairly silly concept to build a supervillain team around. The premise of the team is that everyone has something weird going on with their head: Doctor Arthur Nagan is a gifted surgeon who somehow transplanted his own head onto the body of a gorilla; Shrunken Bones is a scientist who accidentally shrunk his own skeleton inside of his body, thereby causing him to have a gross flabby head; Ruby Thursday replaced her own head with a red orb/organic computer that can do all kinds of crap; and Chondu the Mystic is a magician who is constantly having his head attached to other bodies by the aforementioned Nagan (including for a while onto an artificially created monster body built from animals that looked horrifying).
The Headmen haven’t seen much daylight as a team outside of the original Defenders series and some Sensational She-Hulk. Most recently, they appeared in an arc of a Heroes For Hire series, where they worked to attach Chondu’s head to hero Humbug’s body. The tone of the comic was pretty light, as you might expect from a team of villains like this. In the right hands, though, the Headmen could prove to be great villains. After all, how terrifying is it that these deformed freaks are always trying to steal people in order to steal their body and attach one of their heads to it? The Headmen would benefit immensely from a gritty reboot and a mature title to appear in.
Tarantula was, you guessed it, primarily a villain of Spider-Man (Spidey had an awful lot of spider-themed bad guys to pick from). Tarantula began his descent into villainy as a revolutionary in South America. Expelled by his revolutionary group for being too violent, he then joined up with the dictatorship that the revolutionaries had opposed. During this time he was trained and outfitted with a suit that had a number of hidden spikes and blades coated in poison. Later, he was transformed into a giant mutant spider for a couple issues before dying.
The idea behind the character of Tarantula seems a bit dated and was very much part of the political climate of the time. The reason Tarantula ought to make a comeback honestly has less to do with the character himself, and more to do with the fact that both his name and his costume were pretty cool and iconic (despite the character not living for very long in comics). It never really went anywhere, but before the entire Marvel Universe got shook up by Secret Wars, a new Tarantula had been appearing in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man. We can only hope this is an indication that the character’s coming out of mothballs.
Mandrill is a really interesting character; a mutant who is deformed to look like his monkey namesake. Because he resembles a monkey so thoroughly (though in bipedal, fullgrown man form), he has superhuman strength, speed, reflexes, and more. More interestingly, Mandrill (Jerome Beechman) emits a pheromone that causes women to become his loving and adoring slaves. While the effect begins as temporary, it can become permanent over time.
His look, combined with his absurd powder blue-and-red ’70s getup, made him a lock for this list. He is just simply too bizarre of a character to be ignored for too long. That his most notable power is so creepy and yucky makes him all the more interesting for a villain in this day and age. Where the Mandrill falls apart is in the racist undertones of the character. The comics oddly went out of their way to assure readers that Beechman, underneath his mutated monkey exterior was a white man… but also paired him inexorably with fellow mutant villain, Nekra, an albino black woman. By flipping the racial stereotypes of the time on their head so violently, they have a net-negative effect and only seem to push the stereotypes to the forefront. If there could be some retconning involved in order to clear the waters, Mandrill could be a formidable foe for years to come.
1. Master Pandemonium
Actors don’t have it easy in Marvel comics. A disproportionate number of them seem to have mishaps that turn them either into superheroes or villains. Martin Preston can count himself among those ranks. Driving his sports car too fast while drinking, he crashed, and was stuck striking a deal with the demon Mephisto (not to be confused with the devil, despite the obvious numerous similarities) for his life and literal limb. Being a deceitful demon, Mephisto reconstituted Preston’s limbs by attaching demons, and then further screwed Preston over by creating a pentagram-shaped hole in his chest. Pandemonium, having demons for limbs, can detach them and have the demons fight for him… or can call on several other demons that are housed inside of his body.
Ditching the garish red-and-yellow horned costume of his Avengers West Coast villain residency, writer Jason Aaron recruited Pandemonium as a member of the Hellfire Club‘s Hellfire Academy for Wolverine and the X-Men… with a new and very intimidating look. Pandemonium no longer seems to have hands at all, but rather two small demons that jabber as demons are wont to do. Pandemonium now wears a hooded robe like an evil hermit monk. The new, scary look and interesting backstory make him a character in need of a big break. In the lead up to the Doctor Strange movie release, the character is showing up in his comics. One can only hope we’ll soon see Master Pandemonium on the silver screen.
All suggestions for other villains are welcome in the comments!