It’s safe to say that Marvel knows what it’s doing when it comes to creating great villains. For more than half a century, the House of Ideas has been bringing some of the most iconic comic book baddies to life: characters like Magneto, Doctor Doom and the Green Goblin set the standard for what comic books could do with their antagonists.
And, while the sheer number of new villains has slowed down a bit over the past several years, Marvel isn’t done just yet. There have been some fantastic (and absolutely ridiculous) villains making their debuts lately, and even though they might not have the same sort of name recognition as Marvel’s iconic rogues gallery, there’s no doubting the quality on display.
If you’re worried about keeping up with Marvel’s ever-growing list of antagonists, don’t worry: here are our top fifteen picks for the newest Marvel villains you need to know about.
15 Captain America: Agent of Hydra
Name the biggest controversy in comic books from the past several years. If you said Captain America’s defection to Hydra, congratulations!
Of course, Captain America’s sudden change of heart is a lot more complicated than it may seem at first. Thanks to the powers of a sentient Cosmic Cube, Steve Rogers’ entire history was rewritten, and the symbol of all things patriotic was raised as part of the villainous Hydra organization. What’s worse is that Steve Rogers is really good at his new job: a number of longtime allies have already fallen to this new Captain America’s hand, and he’s only been on the job for a few months.
Then again, that may change soon: recent developments in the ongoing Civil War II storyline seem to indicate that Miles Morales (the new Spider-Man) will end up killing Steve Rogers in a rather brutal fashion. Whether or not that actually comes to pass is anyone’s guess, but given that Captain America was shot and killed during the finale of the first Civil War event, it wouldn’t be all that surprising if the Hydra-fied version of Cap stuck around for a bit longer.
14 American Kaiju
Kaiju (or ‘strange beast’ in Japanese, for those who haven’t seen Pacific Rim) are fantastic fodder when it comes to creating villains. Most of them are remorseless, 100-foot-tall killing machines - and, save for a select few, most fans aren’t going to root for the giant monsters.
Marvel has featured kaiju in some form or another for years now, but when it came time to create their own modern take on giant monsters, it only made sense to look to the King of the Monsters for inspiration.
Todd Ziller was a US Army Corporal before being selected for a top-secret experimental treatment, which ended up being yet another failed attempt to recreate the original Super-Soldier serum that created Captain America. The team behind Project: Troubleshooter only had bits and pieces of the formula, but that wasn’t about to stop them: instead, the team filled in the gaps with a number of other transformation-inducing compounds, including gamma radiation and Pym Particles. Somehow, this combination ended up turning Ziller into a giant reptilian creature, which the team dubbed American Kaiju.
The origins of American Kaiju may sound silly (and they are), but that doesn’t mean that Ziller doesn’t represent a serious threat. The Avengers may have returned Ziller to his human form in their latest confrontation, but everyone knows how gamma-infused transformations work...
13 The Golden Skull
Everyone knows who the Red Skull is. He’s one of Marvel’s most notorious villains ever, and his long-standing rivalry with Captain America is nothing less than iconic. Their relationship is part of the core Marvel Comics dynamic... but we’re not talking about the Red Skull here.
In the near-future, the Red Skull isn’t red - he’s golden. Gone is the Nazi Uniform, replaced with a pristine Victorian-era coat and a love of fine wine. This isn't Johann Schmidt, that did battle with Steve Rogers in World War 2 and beyond; this is someone completely new.
Though the Golden Skull may still fight against the Captain America of his time (who is actually the daughter of Luke Cage and Jessica Jones), that’s where most of the similarities end. From what fans have seen, this version of the Skull isn’t necessarily hellbent on destroying America and its greatest hero, instead focusing on relatively traditional heists and robberies. At least, that's how he behaves in his own time; he's followed Danielle Cage into the past, and is set to be the primary adversary of the U.S. Avengers.
After so many years of publishing comics, Marvel has covered just about every animal on the planet. There is a villain for everything from rats to moles to even octopi - though few would have ever expected to see a squirrel emerge as a legitimate supervillain.
Ratatoskr originally debuted as Girl Squirrel, a superhero dedicated to keeping the people of New York City safe. As its name would imply, it wasn’t long before Girl Squirrel crossed paths with Squirrel Girl, and it was here that Girl Squirrel’s true nature was revealed.
As it turns out, Ratatoskr came into being at the beginning of time, and terrorized Asgard for hundreds of years. Though it was imprisoned multiple times, Ratatoskr always managed to escape, and would travel to Midgard (the Marvel Universe’s human plane of existence) in order to cause as much chaos as possible.
Thankfully, with the combined efforts of Squirrel Girl, Nancy Whitehead and the God of Mischief himself, Loki, Ratatoskr was successfully imprisoned and returned to its prison in Asgard. The creature may be imprisoned for now, but Ratatoskr has proven time and time again that it's perfectly capable of escaping. Simply put, there’s no telling when the most dangerous squirrel alive will make its way back to Earth...
11 The Inventor
History has always been a good source for villains. The Nazis tend to be the predominant example, but they’re far from the only one: World War II-era Japan, the Vietcong, and the Communist Party are just a few different examples of history colliding with fiction.
The Inventor draws on history in a similar way, though with a few significant twists. While few would consider Thomas Edison to have a stellar reputation, it’s not as if he was an actual supervillain... or a bird, for that matter.
Yes, it’s true: the villain known as the Inventor is the deranged result of a cloning experiment involving the late Thomas Edison and the DNA of a cockatiel.
Even Marvel itself doesn’t really seem to know what happened: the Inventor was created by another villain known as Knox, though the reason for the procedure was never revealed. The Inventor’s plans involving using human beings as living batteries, but there’s seemingly no motivation behind this plan. Even his rivalry with Ms. Marvel, which could have been easily avoided, seems to form for no real reason.
Not that it’s very likely that the Inventor will be showing up any time soon: the villain was dispatched by Ms. Marvel during a recent brawl, and there have been no signs of the Edison/bird hybrid since.
10 Doctor Octopus (Digital Clone)
For a while, it looked like things were finally going well for Otto Octavius. After stealing Peter Parker’s body and becoming the Superior Spider-Man, the villain eventually became one of New York City’s most powerful protectors. On top of that, while his methods were still extremely brutal, the villain formerly known as Doctor Octopus eventually turned over a new leaf and became a true hero.
The problem with becoming a hero is that such an act is usually accompanied by some sort of sacrifice - in Otto’s case, it was giving Peter Parker his body back and finally dying in peace.
Getting the original Spider-Man back may sound like a good thing - and it would have been, had Doctor Octopus not created a digital copy of his memories and personality before switching places with Peter Parker. This copy would go on to infiltrate Peter Parker’s life before allying with one of Spider-Man’s longest-running enemies: the Jackal. Sure, Otto's new body may not be on the same level as Peter Parker's, but having a physical form again is definitely a good place to start...though fans still aren’t sure if it’s the genuine article or merely a copy of the tentacled supervillain.
At first glance, Lash doesn’t seem all that impressive of a villain. Sure, he’s an imposing figure, and there’s no denying the power of his hand-fired energy beams, but the desire to rule over a race of super-powered citizens is something that comic book fans are, at this point, intimately familiar with.
However, what sets Lash apart isn’t his physical stature, or laser beams, or even his glowing red eyes - it’s his potential. With the upcoming Inhumans vs. X-Men event, many believe that Marvel will be retiring most of its mutant populace... and, considering the fact that Lash has already become a hugely prominent force amongst the Inhumans, there’s a good chance that he’ll be right in the middle of the fray.
There’s still a lot about Lash that fans don’t know about, including his past, his true potential or the full extent of his powers. That being said, if the Inhumans do emerge from Inhumans vs. X-Men as the victors, it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see Lash leading them into the future.
8 The Celestial Gardener
For those who haven’t been keeping up with their extended Marvel mythology, the Celestials are a race of gigantic, near-omnipotent beings that have guided the history of the galaxy since the beginning of time itself. They are, in many ways, responsible for much of what has happened in the Marvel Universe. The Celestial Gardener is one such being. As a protector of the center of the universe, the Gardener possess immense power along with one of the Death Seeds: artifacts that grant their bearer with unbelievable abilities, for use in ensuring that dominant species rise up and thrive.
What sets the Celestial Gardener apart is... well, the fact that he died.
That may not sound like much, but it’s important to note that, up until the Apocalypse Twins cut the Gardener down, no Celestial had ever been killed. Needless to say, the Apocalypse Twins were in for a world of hurt, and it wasn’t long before the Celestials put the children of Archangel in their place.
Suffice to say, if the Celestials managed to survive the end of the Marvel multiverse, they represent one of the biggest threats to galactic civilization out there.
7 Jack o'Lantern
The title of Jack o’Lantern is one that’s been passed down several times throughout the years. For the most part, the outfit and abilities remain the same, though a number of different criminals have taken up the pumpkin-headed mantle. Jason Macendale, Jr., Steven Levins, Daniel Berkhart and Maguire Beck have all become Jack o’Lantern at one point or another, but they can’t really hold a candle to the latest incarnation.
First debuting as one of the Crime-Master’s lieutenants, the current Jack o’Lantern’s true identity is still unknown. In fact, the only thing that fans really know about Jack’s past is that he was kidnapped by the Crime-Master as a child; everything else is still a mystery.
After the Crime-Master sent Jack to retrieve a scientist in Eastern Europe, the villain crossed paths with Agent Venom for the first time. Following their first battle, an out-of-control Venom stuffed a live grenade in Jack’s mouth, destroying most of his face. From there, the two would become arch-enemies, constantly battling one another while the Crime-Master manipulated everything from the shadows.
Currently, Jack o’Lantern is being held in the S.H.I.E.L.D. mega-prison known as Pleasant Hill, though it stands to reason that it won’t be long before Jack is on the loose once again.
6 Eddie Brock (Toxin)
Speaking of Venom...
Anyone who read comics back in the ‘90s knows who Eddie Brock is. As Venom, Brock quickly became one of Spider-Man’s greatest villains: between the alien symbiote and Brock’s knowledge of Spidey’s secret identity, Venom was an entirely new sort of threat for Peter Parker to go up against.
Sadly, the past several years haven’t been kind to Venom. Marvel revealed that Brock had been suffering from cancer for years, and after auctioning off the symbiote, the publisher seemingly killed off one of its most popular characters in a rather unceremonious fashion. Brock would return as Anti-Venom, battling against the Scorpion-turned-Venom Mac Gargan, though Marvel quickly killed off this new persona as well.
However, things may finally be turning around for good old Eddie Brock. The Crime-Master, hoping to take down the current Venom (Peter Parker’s high-school bully Flash Thompson), has put Brock himself in control of the Toxin symbiote. As a result, this new Toxin character falls more in line with Brock’s first appearances: calling him an outright villain might be a stretch, but Toxin isn’t one to worry about who lives or dies, either.
5 The Inheritors
Spider-Man’s basic origin story is pretty easy to follow: a kid gets bitten by a radioactive spider, gains superpowers, loses his uncle and becomes a superhero. Over the past several years, however, Marvel has added layers of additional lore on top of everything: Peter Parker is merely one of several Spider Totem avatars, and is the latest in a long line of spider-powered individuals.
When the concept of the Spider-Totem was first introduced, Spider-Man was forced to go up against Morlun, a man obsessed with feeding off of Peter Parker’s powers. Though Spider-Man was able to defeat Morlun, it was only the beginning: it was later revealed at Morlun was one of the Inheritors, beings that had hunted Totems for thousands of years. The Inheritors began feasting on the Spider-Men of multiple realities, eventually leading to a clash between the hunters and an army of Spider-Totems.
Out of all the villains on this list, the Inheritors are the least likely to ever return. With the death of Marvel’s multiverse, it stands to reason that Earth-3145 was destroyed along with all of the other alternate realities - while other villains on this list may have perished, at least their plane of reality still exists. Even so, the Inheritors are worth mentioning simply for how much of an impact they had on the multiverse at large: long story short, a lot of Spider-Men died trying to stop them.
4 Onslaught (Red Skull)
Let’s get right to the point: the past few stories involving the Red Skull have been ridiculously over-the-top. It all started with a clone of Johann Schmidtt stealing Professor X’s body, scooping out his brain, grafting it onto his own and gaining psychic powers, and it only got weirder from there.
Eventually, a confrontation between the Red Skull and Magneto led to the reappearance of Onslaught, a sentient psionic being that had formed in Charles Xavier’s mind years ago. With the powers of Professor X and the pure evil of the Red Skull, this new Red Onslaught nearly defeated the combined forces of both the X-Men and the Avengers.
Eventually, Red Onslaught was subdued and the Red Skull returned to his original form... but there’s always a chance that the new Onslaught could return. Recent comics have shown that the Red Skull’s psychic powers were no worse for wear after the events of the AXIS crossover event, meaning that the return of Onslaught is still a very real - and dangerous - possibility.
3 The Apocalypse Twins
For many, Apocalypse is the end-all, be-all X-Men villain. He’s got incredible psychic powers, is capable of bending and twisting the minds of nearly any mutant on the planet, and was seemingly invincible. Thankfully for the X-Men, Apocalypse wasn’t immortal, and was eventually killed.
Unfortunately, Apocalypse had kids. After the first mutant’s second demise (as a child, no less), the mutant known as Archangel stepped up and claimed the mantle of Apocalypse. As if that wasn't bad enough, Archangel then hooked up with the former Horsemen of Pestilence, and the Apocalypse Twins were born. Following their abduction into the time stream, the twins Uriel and Eimin reappeared as fully-powered adults and put their plan to wipe out humanity into action.
Much like their father, Uriel and Eimin are extremely powerful, though their powers aren’t necessarily based on telepathy. Instead, the two can control time itself... which, let’s be honest, is worse.
As if all that wasn’t bad enough, the Apocalypse Twins were able to quickly gather their own Horsemen. The worst of the bunch was Daken, the resurrected son of Wolverine, who happened to be filling the same role his father had back when the original Apocalypse was trying to destroy humanity. Daken was eventually freed of the Twins’ control when the pair was seemingly killed... but if Apocalypse proved anything, it’s that death isn’t necessarily the end.
2 Galactus: Life-Bringer
The massive Secret Wars crossover event changed many things about the Marvel Universe on a cosmic level. Basically, the entire universe had exploded, collapsed in on itself, and reformed...and once the dust settled, the heroes of the Marvel Universe dedicated themselves to preventing any more cosmic tragedies, lest the universe tear itself apart again.
These heroes, known as the Ultimates, set about putting a stop to one of the biggest cosmic threats around: Galactus. The Eater of Worlds had only grown stronger as the years went by, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing - especially if the team could turn that power to their side.
Surprisingly enough, that’s exactly what happened: after a long, grueling battle, Galactus was forced into a device known as the Incubator. This, combined with a serious dose of an element known as neutronium, inverted Galactus’ legendary hunger. Instead of devouring entire solar systems, Galactus could now revive and restore life to any manner of planet.
That might make it sound like Galactus is a hero now, but that’s rarely ever the case with comics. For now, it seems like the Power Cosmic has been devoted to restoring the galaxy... but it could simply be a matter of time before that incredible power is used for evil once again.
M.O.D.O.K. has always been a goofy villain. The Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing may have his fair share of impressive powers, but there’s no denying that he looks like a giant head stuck in a tin can. As such, it’s no surprise that M.O.D.O.K. has become something of a joke in the comic book community.
It seems like Marvel knows this, and has turned one of its biggest unintentional jokes on American politics.
M.O.D.A.A.K., or the Mental Organism Designed As America's King, shares much of its origins with the original M.O.D.O.K.: both were designed by Advanced Idea Mechanics, and both were created to help take over the world. Despite the similarities, however, there are some key differences between the two versions... including the fact that M.O.D.A.A.K. is a thinly-veiled take on Donald Trump.
Seeing as M.O.D.A.A.K. made his debut in a Spider-Gwen story, there’s no telling if fans will ever see more of the villain. The real Donald Trump, on the other hand, is a different story.