In 1966, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were coming up with ideas for a new villain to face the Fantastic Four. What they came up was a demigod that feasted upon the life energy of worlds. His name was Galactus, and his presence proved to the Fantastic Four that there was a whole universe full of super-powered beings out there, and the responsibility of protecting the Earth from them had fallen onto their shoulders.
Galactus is fuelled of the Power Cosmic, a source of energy that fills its wielder with a strength on par with the gods themselves. On a few rare occasions, he has granted a fraction of his power to mortals, turning them into mighty Heralds. The Heralds of Galactus search the galaxy for planets that Galactus can feed upon. They are made powerful so that they can withstand the rigours of deep space, and survive the pitiful resistance raised by the worlds that attempt to fight back.
In the fifty plus years since the introduction of the Power Cosmic, many beings have used its almighty energy, becoming some of the most powerful characters in Marvel Comics. We are here today to figure out who is the strongest wielder of the Power Cosmic. From the one who rides a surf board through space (even though he can fly), to the guy who snacks on planets. Here are the 15 Most Powerful Marvel Characters To Wield The Power Cosmic.
15. The Silver Surfer
When Galactus came to the world of Zenn-La, one of its citizens offered his life in servitude, in exchange for the planet being spared. This person was Norrin Radd, who gave his life so that his homeworld, and his lover, Shalla-Bal, would be saved. Galactus agreed, and he transformed Norrin Radd into the Silver Surfer. Galactus removed the Surfer’s memories, and together, they searched the universe for new worlds that could sate Galactus’ hunger.
The Silver Surfer’s first appearance was in Fantasic Four #48. He came to Earth in order to lead Galactus to his next meal. The Silver Surfer did not expect to meet resistance in the form of the Fantastic Four, who proved a match to him in combat, despite his possession of the Power Cosmic. The Silver Surfer eventually sided with the defenders of Earth, and as punishment, Galactus bound him to the planet, leaving him unable to travel the universe.
It was believed for a long time that the Silver Surfer was the first Herald of Galactus. This is not the case, however, as it was revealed during the “Annihilation” event that there was another Herald in the past (known as the “Fallen One”). Despite this, the Silver Surfer was the first Herald introduced, and the first known user of the Power Cosmic to be seen in Marvel Comics.
14. Aunt May
Yes, Spider-Man‘s doddering old aunt was once one of the most powerful beings in all of Marvel Comics.
In Marvel Team Up #137, the Fantastic Four are visiting the circus with Reed & Sue Richard’s son, Franklin, when an emergency happens that requires their attention. Aunt May happens to be at the circus at the same time, and she offers to take care of Franklin for then. When the Fantastic Four depart, Galactus arrives on Earth in search of a new Herald. He senses the incredible power growing within Franklin, and attempts to infuse him with the Power Cosmic. Aunt May steps in the way, however, and she becomes Golden Oldie, the new Herald of Galactus.
The issue was intend to be tongue-in-cheek, and the whole thing was revealed to be a dream at the end. As it turns out, Aunt May turned out to be the most effective of the Heralds. She led Galactus to an intergalactic chef that baked planet-sized Twinkies. These Twinkies were filled with enough energy to sustain Galactus for all eternity. This meant that he could finally stop wiping out civilizations, and stick to eating unhealthy snack foods until the end of time.
During the “Planet Hulk” event, the Incredible Hulk was trapped on a rocket ship by the Illuminati, a group of powerful heroes that wanted to be rid of him for good (consisting of Tony Stark, Namor, Professor Xavier, Doctor Strange, Reed Richards, and Black Bolt). The Hulk was going to be sent to an uninhabited world. The ship was knocked off course, however, and he ended up living as a gladiator on the planet Sakaar. He led a successful rebellion against it’s tyrannical empire, and was soon hailed as the ruler of the world. The Hulk would go on to fall in love with, and marry an alien named Caiera.
The ship that the Hulk arrived in self-destructed, and caused a chain reaction that would destroy Sakaar, and all of its citizens. Caiera appears to die in the explosion, which leads to the Hulk returning to Earth on a new spaceship, filled with a desire to kill the ones who destroyed Sakaar. This led to the event known as “World War Hulk”, where the Hulk went after the Illuminati.
What the Hulk did not realise at the time was that Caiera actually survived the destruction of Sakaar, and she gave birth to his son, named Skaar. Skaar would becomes an important character in most of the Hulk storylines to come, as he initially arrived on Earth with the intention of killing him. In an attempt to stop Skaar, the Silver Surfer granted him a piece of the Power Cosmic, in order to show him the futility of pursuing the power of the gods.
Due to the Earth being one of the few planets that have managed to defy him, Galactus has chosen several Heralds from our planet. These include Nova, Dazzler from X-Men, and the Human Torch. During his travels, Galactus discovered a race of creatures that greatly resemble humans – the Xandarians, whom you may recognise as the soldiers from the Nova Corps in Guardians of the Galaxy. Galactus has chosen two people from Xandar to be his Heralds, Air-Walker and Firelord.
Born Pyreus Kril, Firelord originally served aboard a Xandarian exploration ship. When his captain was kidnapped by Galactus, Pyreus began searching the galaxy for Galactus in order to free him. Galactus offers to tell him the truth – if he becomes his new Herald. Pyreus agrees, and is transformed into Firelord. He learns that his old captain was the previous Herald of Galactus, known as Air-Walker, and he had been slain in a battle against Thor on a planet known as Earth…
Despite his interesting power and design, Firelord has become infamous for losing in the biggest mismatch in all of comic book history. When Firelord was rampaging in New York City, the only hero around who could stop him was Spider-Man. After a few failed attempts at trapping Firelord, Spider-Man decided to just try and beat the crap out of him… and it worked. Spider-Man beat a Power Cosmic-infused Herald of Galactus with a few punches and kicks. All of those countless civilizations whose planets got eaten probably feel really silly right now. Why didn’t they just go all Street Fighter II on the Silver Surfer?
10. The Human Torch
The fate of Galactus is tied to the Fantastic Four. He first appeared in their comic series, and many of his encounters have involved them in some way. When the heroes of Earth actually succeeded in defeating Galactus (with the help of Doctor Strange), it was Reed Richards who chose to spare him. In the Earth X series, it is Franklin Richards who must become the new Galactus in order to stop the Celestials from destroying the fabric of reality.
It makes sense, then, that a member of the Fantastic Four would become one of the Heralds of Galactus, even if it was only for a short time. An alien arrives on Earth named Zius, who is the last survivor of a race whose world was destroyed by Galactus. He had developed a cloaking device that prevents Galactus from being able to detect a world’s presence. The only thing that can cheat this device is the power of Sue Storm of the Fantastic Four. When Galactus discovers this, he heads to Earth.
In Fantastic Four #519, Galactus transforms Johnny Storm into his new Herald. At this point in time, he had his powers switched with Invisible Girl’s, meaning he had greatly amplified versions of her abilities. It was here that we learned why Galactus needs a Herald at all. Galactus is such a powerful being, that he does not have the capacity to use “lesser” senses like sight and sound (at least not in the way we use them). Galactus raises mortals up with the Power Cosmic so that they can be his eyes and ears in the universe.
9. Earl Weygand
In 1990, Marvel released a one-off graphic novel called Silver Surfer: The Enslavers. In this issue, NASA released a probe into space named Voyager III. This probe contained messages of peace that were intended to be found by aliens (new ones, that presumably didn’t want to murder everyone on Earth, like most of the other aliens that have shown up in the past). In a story twist that should surprise no one, the race that found this message were a bunch of jerks, called the Enslavers. If the name hasn’t given it away yet, the Enslavers show up on planets and enslave the population.
So as not to alert Earth’s sizeable population of superheroes, the Enslavers pretended to be nice, peaceful aliens, when they contacted NASA back. The Enslavers arrived on Earth and enslaved the whole population, with the exception of one man, Earl Weygand. Weygand was the scientist who created Voyager III, making him responsible for leading the Enslavers to Earth. As a reward for his actions, the Enslavers gave Weygand one week of freedom.
In order to make amends for what he had done, Earl Weygand was given the Power Cosmic by the Silver Surfer. Weygand used this power to destroy the Enslavers main ship, allowing the Earth to be freed once more. This action would cost Weygand his life, however, but he saw that as a small price to pay for Earth’s freedom.
8. Cosmic Messiah
Something that rarely gets brought up in Marvel comics is the topic of religion, or rather, how the presence of all these godlike beings affects the beliefs of the public. When you have the gods of Norse mythology literally flying around New York City, why isn’t there a revival of that ancient religion?
The Silver Surfer has been worshipped as a messiah figure, despite his background of helping one of the universe’s most prolific murderers. A cult founded by a man named Alexei Granger was dedicated to worshipping The Silver Surfer. When The Surfer denied the idea that he was some sort of prophetic religious icon, the cult decided that they should build a messiah from scratch.
With the help of the old Fantastic Four villain, The Puppet Master, Alexei Granger built a body from radioactive clay. After stealing the Silver Surfer’s Power Cosmic, the clay body was infused with it, creating a new being known as the Cosmic Messiah. The Cosmic Messiah was able to defeat both the Silver Surfer and the Thing in combat. He was eventually defeated by Alicia Masters, who convinced him to leave Earth and explore the galaxy. Instead of being proclaimed a god, the Cosmic Messiah was given the chance to find his own destiny.
7. The High Evolutionary
The High Evolutionary is a highly influential character in the story of many Marvel heroes. Despite this, he is not well-known outside of the most dedicated of fans. In a weird way, this fits well with his character. He is a shadowy figure, who influences events from the sidelines.
In terms of character, the High Evolutionary can be seen as a heroic equivalent to Mister Sinister. He is a scientist who is obsessed with genetics and the evolution of life. While he has some questionable morals when it comes to science, he has also helped save the Earth on many occasions.
Due to Galactus draining the energy from worlds, the High Evolutionary decided to become a being who restored life to dead planets. He captured the Silver Surfer, and drained the Power Cosmic from him. Through the use of this power, the High Evolutionary created his own Herald, and began terraforming the Moon. He was opposed by many of Earth’s heroes, who were concerned over the long term effects of such a change. The High Evolutionary, however, received support from an unlikely source – Galactus himself. With so many dead worlds out there (not all of which were destroyed by Galactus), there finally existed someone who had the potential to bring life back to those planets. With Galactus’ blessing, the High Evolutionary set out to become the “World Builder”.
When choosing a new Herald, Galactus has to consider the personality of the mortal who is about to receive the incredible Power Cosmic. If someone is unsuitable for the role, then they will make a poor Herald. The Silver Surfer had a desire to explore the universe, as did Nova and Air-Walker. The pressure of being responsible for the death of millions eventually eroded the will of those Heralds, and they had to leave.
So what did Galactus do? The next Herald he chose was a being of pure evil, one who would enjoy the demise of innocents. Galactus chose Tyros of the planet Birj, and changed him into his new Herald, Terrax the Tamer.
While this idea might have seemed like a good idea on paper, Galactus did not consider the murderous ambition that a former tyrant like Terrax possesses. It did not take long for Terrax to show his true colours, and he attempted to destroy Galactus. He used his power to lift the island of Manhattan into the air, and threatened to drop the city if the Fantastic Four did not defeat Galactus. This plan backfired, however, and Terrax’s Power Cosmic was stripped from him by Galactus himself.
5. The Galacti
The one thing that all fans know about Galactus is that he likes to eat worlds. He travels across the galaxy, looking for planets with enough life energy to sustain his endless hunger.
It is ironic then, that in the Marvel Zombies series (written by The Walking Dead‘s Robert Kirkman), the defenders of Earth turn the tables on Galactus, and eat him.
In Marvel Zombies, most of the super-powered population of Earth were turned into zombies. Most of humanity had been wiped out at this point (minus a few survivors on Magneto’s space station, Asteroid M). The zombies were left with nothing to do… until the arrival of the Silver Surfer. Usually when the Herald of Galactus shows up, the population of the world will see only death. The Marvel Zombies on the other hand, saw dinner. They ate the Silver Surfer alive, and when Galactus showed up, they ate him too.
After eating so many Power Cosmic-infused beings, seven of the Marvel Zombies gained its strength. Captain America, Wolverine, Iron Man, Luke Cage, Giant-Man, the Hulk, and Spider-Man were now known as The Galacti – seven zombies that travelled the galaxy, looking for worlds to eat.
The Silver Surfer usually operates alone. While this could be chalked up to his personality, it is also because his strength would break the balance of most superhero teams. If the Silver Surfer teamed up with Spider-Man, for example, then all of Spider-Man’s villains would be defeated in two seconds after being blasted by Power Cosmic energy beams. There is one exception to this, however, The Defenders.
The original incarnation of The Defenders was, possibly, Marvel’s most powerful team ever. Consisting of the Hulk, Doctor Strange, Namor, and the Silver Surfer, The Defenders took on the large scale cosmic threats that would be too much for regular teams to handle.
In The Order #4, the original members of The Defenders encountered their female equivalents – She Hulk, Namorita, and Clea. Due to the Silver Surfer not having an equivalent, one was created for him with the aid of a magical dagger. This was how Ardina was created, she is a golden woman whose appearance matches that of Silver Surfer’s lost love, Shalla-Bal. She possesses the same Power Cosmic that he does.
3. The Red Hulk
During the events of “World War Hulk”, it seemed as if every major superhero team in the world had fallen to the Hulk and his allies. It was at this point that the regular army stepped in, led by General Thaddeus Ross. The Hulk had fought against the army before, and General Ross was usually the man in charge. He despises the Hulk, a hatred which only increased after the Hulk was responsible for contaminating his daughter (Betty Ross) with gamma radiation.
After “World War Hulk” ended, a new Hulk appeared. This one was bright red, and unlike the previous Hulk, was intelligent and murderous. It was revealed that this new Hulk was actually General Ross, who had undergone experiments in an equivalent to the Weapon X program (the same that created Wolverine).
The Red Hulk would join a team known as The Offenders (an evil equivalent to the original Defenders), alongside Baron Mordo, Terrax, and Tiger-Shark. Red Hulk would turn on his teammates, and kill them all. After this, he stole the Silver Surfer’s Power Cosmic (a common occurrence on this list it seems). Red Hulk would go on to challenge Galactus, who scoffed, and removed the Power Cosmic from him.
2. Doctor Doom
The Silver Surfer is many things – powerful, honourable, compassionate. He is also gullible, incredibly gullible. This is the only explanation as to why he would accept an invitation to Doctor Doom’s castle, then get caught up watching videos of outer space… while Doctor Doom puts on his patented “Power Cosmic Stealing Suit“, sneaks up behind the Surfer and zaps him.
That is how Doctor Doom received the Power Cosmic. In the silliest way possible. At least it proves that the Power Cosmic doesn’t give you super-hearing (even if looking for stuff is the whole point of being the Herald of Galactus).
Even without the Power Cosmic, Doctor Doom is a force to be reckoned with. He is a master of technology, and his suit of armour is formidable. He possesses an army of Doombots that serve his every command. Along with science, Doctor Doom is also an incredibly powerful sorcerer, and is often considered the 2nd most powerful mage in all of Marvel comics (behind Doctor Strange). By adding the Power Cosmic to this repertoire, Doctor Doom became one of the most powerful beings on Earth. If Reed Richards had not been able to create a device that could combat his stolen Power Cosmic, then the world may have fallen to Doctor Doom.
Everyone we have listed up to this point is a person who was granted (or stolen) a small fraction of the Power Cosmic. With even the tiniest amount of this energy source, a regular mortal can become one of the most powerful beings in the whole Marvel universe.
So who gives the fraction of the Power Cosmic, and keeps the other 99% for himself? Galactus, one of the most feared beings in all of creation.
Galactus was once a mortal being named Galan, who lived in the universe that existed before ours. As that universe was being destroyed by a great “Cosmic Egg”, Galan travelled into the egg in a spaceship. He was kept alive by that universe’s version of the Phoenix Force, and was reborn into the next as Galactus. He now had the powers of a demigod, but he needed to feast on the life energy of a planet in order to survive.
With all of that being said, Galactus can be defeated. He can be weakened from prolonged periods of starvation. The combined heroes of Earth have managed to take him down in the past, as have the Dire Wraiths from Rom. The Power Cosmic does not make you infallible, or unbeatable, but it does make you dangerous. The countless lives that have been lost to Galactus’ hunger can attest to that.
Honorable Mention: Superman
(Yeah we know, he’s a DC character, but he gained the Power Cosmic in a crossover with a Marvel team, so he counts).
Despite their reputation as competitors, Marvel and DC have collaborated on many different crossover series over the years. In 1999, they released Superman/Fantastic Four, a comic that teamed up the first major successful characters from both companies. Together, they had to defeat the Cyborg Superman (one of the four impostors who showed up after the “Death of Superman” event), and Galactus.
Superman is kidnapped by Galactus, who is impressed by the power of the last son of Krypton. He turns Superman into a new Herald (against his will), wipes his memories, and sends him out to find worlds. When Superman finds an inhabited planet, he is reminded of the destruction of Krypton, and is able to break free from Galactus’ control. In response to this rebellious behaviour, Galactus strips Superman of the Power Cosmic. This gives Superman one of the shortest tenures of being the Herald of Galactus. He wasn’t even there long enough to ask for a reference for his résumé.