Once upon a time, Marvel heroes existed to combat the violent people of the world. Well...we suppose they still do, but the shortcut to our point here is that there are quite a few modern superheroes who are just as violent as the villains they war against. While your average Marvel hero rarely resorts to violence that goes beyond a well-placed punch to the jaw, sometimes, circumstances arise that call for a hero that’s willing to go a step further. They have no qualms about using guns, knives, flamethrowers, or good old-fashioned super strength to get their point across in the most violent way possible.
What really makes a hero violent, though? A tendency to murder? Sure, that’s part of it. Sometimes, however, a hero's violence isn’t necessarily rooted in their methods, but rather their methodology. What separates some violent superheroes is their willingness to go a step beyond the norm, or even just a particular fondness for the routine methods of violence. Other times, we identify violent superheroes in the Marvel universe by following the trail of blood and bodies that they leave in their wake. If there’s one thing that’s true of all these heroes, it’s that nobody is going to argue the finer points of their violent ways with them anytime soon.
These are the 15 Most Violent Marvel Superheroes, Ranked.
If we’re going strictly off of the origins of Marvel superheroes, Deathlok would be much higher on this list. Deathlok was born Michael Collins, a very intelligent, but ultimately average, programmer who was working on a robotic enhancement project that he thought would be used to help amputees. When Collins found out he was weaponizing humanity, he attempted to have the project shut down. Instead, he became the primary test subject. Shortly after becoming Deathlok, Collins went on a murderous rampage that he was consciously aware of, but ultimately powerless to prevent.
Since then, Collins gained a measure of control over his abilities and no longer launches into uncontrollable murderous rampages. Instead, his rampages are mostly of his own volition. Okay, so Deathlok doesn’t launch into quite that many murderous rampages anymore -- depending on which version of the character you read -- but Deathlok’s origin, his time as a post-apocalyptic vigilante, and his violent run during the Uncanny X-Force series just barely earns him a spot on this list.
Like father, like son. First appearing during the What if? Planet Hulk run, Skaar soon became the canonical son of The Incredible Hulk. Given his genetics -- his mother was no slouch in the smashing department, either -- you are right to assume that Skaar is a rather strong lad with a tendency to launch into fits of violent rage, just like his old man. Skaar is not quite as strong as Hulk when the Green Goliath is at his full strength, though. He is also burdened with an inner-child who sometimes serves as his voice of reason and prevents him from really going crazy.
However, when Skaar is on a rampage, all bets are off. Skaar has described himself as a killer of killers, which speaks well to his fondness for violence when he faces off against a particularly savage foe. He also has a bit of a villainous past, contributing to the death of an entire planet. So yeah, he’s got some violent tendencies.
The history of Namor’s violence is a fascinating study in the evolution of a comic book character. In the beginning -- no, not that beginning -- Namor was a villain. The trouble was that he was such an oddly compelling villain that readers were soon drawn to his chaotic style of justice. As such, it was decided that the Sub-Mariner should fight Nazis instead, as was the fashion at the time. Through it all, Namor retained a certain attitude not common among heroes of the era. In fact, he is considered to be one of the first Marvel antiheroes.
As is the case with many antiheroes, Namor is not opposed to killing if killing will get the job done. Given that he occasionally dives back into his villainous past -- aquatic pun fully intended -- the Sub-Mariner's official body count includes a mix of heroes and villains. While Namor isn’t the most tactically violent superhero in the Marvel canon, his general hostility and short temper make him one of the more dangerously unpredictable characters in the Marvel universe.
12 Black Widow
It’s not difficult to characterize Black Widow as violent in relation to many of the heroes in the Marvel universe. If you need someone killed and had to choose between Widow and Captain America, we’d suggest Widow based on her moral principles and particular abilities any day. Yet, in relation to some of the other violent characters on this list, Widow isn’t particularly deranged. Even in her villainous days, she didn’t revel in extreme violence, nor did she resort to particularly gruesome means.
Of course, that applies to the days we actually know about. Widow has often referenced her somewhat mysterious past and indicated that it is filled with debts to humanity and heroism that will take several lifetimes to repay. Aside from her traumatized youth, Widow’s penchant for violence stems from her need to rely on more aggressive means in order to combat some particularly gifted foes and establish herself as someone to fear.
Elektra falls into something of a buffer zone on this list. She’s somewhere between the more calm and collective violent types on the Marvel superhero roster (such as Black Widow) and the total psychotics who would be considered villains if they didn’t primarily target villains themselves (such as...well, you’ll see). Elektra is ultimately considered a professional -- one of the best in the world, in fact -- which means that there is at least a theoretical limit to her violent ways. Well, at least since she’s been classified as a hero.
Still, we wouldn’t go banking on her good heart anytime soon. During her initial run, much of Elektra’s prowess as a skilled killer was referenced rather than explicitly shown. As time went on and the character enjoyed her own run, we got to see more of what makes Elektra such a fearsome individual. Her skills with all manners of life ending tools and techniques certainly make her dangerous, but her more violent moments seem to stem from her generally neutral stance on the morality of murder.
10 Nick Fury
For the most part, Nick Fury occupies the same buffer zone as Elektra. There is a fair argument to be made that Elektra leans more towards the chaotically violent side, but you also have to take into consideration Fury’s potential for violence. This guy is a nearly lifelong soldier who enjoys the status that he holds in the Marvel universe thanks in large part to his unwavering belief that war can solve most problems -- and particularly aggressive tactics can solve them even faster.
Then, you have stories like the Fury MAX run, which portray the character in a decidedly more ferocious light. Fury MAX, and some other storylines similar to it, suggests that the title character is a man who needs violence and war in his life just as Superman needs the power of our sun to fuel his abilities. Without that violence, Fury feels that he is lost and dying. As such, he settles for any war he can find. In that respect, he’s truly a modern day gladiator.
9 Moon Knight
Moon Knight certainly represents a dramatic shift towards total violence in comparison to some of the heroes discussed thus far, but that’s a feature of the Marvel universe in general. There is a distinct line between heroes in the Marvel universe who exhibit violent qualities and heroes who are murder machines in tights. Moon Knight is definitely a murder machine in tights.
Actually, unlike some of the other heroes mentioned thus far, the Moon Knight just got more violent as a character as the years went on. Writers began to explore Marc Spector’s multiple personality disorder in-depth, as well as his desire to please ancient gods of violence. This combination of characteristics has led to Moon Knight becoming an increasingly unstable individual. He might be contemplating the capacity of humanity one moment and tearing the face off of his rival the next. Moon Knight's general instability makes him a real wild card who is always capable of tremendous violence.
To Venom, or not to Venom? That is the question that haunts this list. There are many characters in the Marvel universe like Venom who spent most of their lives as villains and enjoyed a brief fun as semi-heroic forces. The question is, do you count them as heroes? In the interest of consideration for the “yes” side of that argument, we humbly submit Venom as one of the Marvel universe’s most relentless forces of "goodish."
Of course, if you’re straight up talking about Venom’s hero run, then he’s certainly one of the most violent of his kind in all of Marvel. Venom is described as an anti-hero, but he’s more of a vengeful spirit. He watches over the downtrodden -- especially the homeless -- and does so in a manner that typically involves the violent destruction of whoever is threatening his protectees. He’s like a momma bear. A symbiotic, hyper-violent momma bear.
7 The Incredible Hulk
Hulk’s position on the good ‘ole hierarchy of violence is always going to be impacted by the influence of that goodie two shoes Bruce Banner. If it weren’t for Banner, you could be sure that Hulk would be considered a top-three violent force in the Marvel universe. Nevertheless, you have to account for the fact that the Green Goliath’s potential for violence is severely hindered by Banner’s desire to suppress his alter-ego whenever possible.
There have been moments -- most notably the Planet Hulk/World War Hulk series -- when we see what Hulk is truly capable of when he isn’t being burdened by any kind of moral filter. In his purest form, the emerald beast is an incredibly violent warrior whose ability to tear through human lives and wreak havoc is surpassed only by his desire to do so. Hulk is the man who once ripped Wolverine in half and threw his legs on top of a mountain. He does not care, he smashes.
If you’re not familiar with Foolkiller, you’re missing out on one of the most darkly amusing Marvel creations around. Foolkiller has gone through a few incarnations over the years -- including some villainous personas -- but he currently stands as Marvel’s most accomplished killer of, well, fools. What qualifies as a fool in the mind of this character, you ask? That’s a tremendous question that remains somewhat ambiguous. Such as it is, Foolkiller considers everyone from supervillains to annoying people to be worthy of the label.
The details are irrelevant. The point of the matter is that Foolkiller takes true pleasure in murder. It’s not even that he really sees killing as a means to an end. It’s more that he views killing as an art, and he's always working on his masterpiece. Then again, there is at least one version of Foolkiller who takes equal pleasure in reforming villains. Of course, if they don’t reform, he kills the fools anyway.
As a rule, if you carry a sword in comics, you tend to be sending a message to the world that you’re open to the possibility of extreme violence. When you’re named after said weapon, you’re really committing yourself to an extremely destructive path. Half-vampire, half-man Blade may (mostly) kill vampires, but he slays them with such ferocity and regularity that you almost start to feel bad for the hordes of undead that fall to his sword. Almost, anyway.
Actually, Blade is somewhat unique in the Marvel universe, in that he seems to be one of those characters that Marvel writers use to enact their more violent ideas simply because they know there are few audiences that weep over dead vampires. Blade appreciates that there’s very little room for decency when you’re killing vampires, and he approaches his chosen duty with a level of intensity that would make him Marvel’s biggest supervillain if he chose to target humans.
4 Ghost Rider
Just in case the Nicholas Cage adaptations have affected your memory of the character, let’s be clear that Ghost Rider is still an awesome character who stands out from the pack by virtue of his darkly violent nature. In fact, when it was rumored that Ghost Rider was going to be featured in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the show’s producers elected to go out of their way to assure viewers that he was going to be a brutally violent character.
Earlier, we compared Venom to a vengeful spirit, which is exactly what Ghost Rider is. A few people have assumed the Ghost Rider role over the years, but regardless of the person who's taken up the mantle, the hyperviolent nature of the Spirit of Vengeance remains the same. Ghost Rider has no problem burning someone’s essence from within or simply beating them to death with a chain. He is arguably one of the most powerful Marvel heroes in existence, and is certainly one of the most violent.
Right from the start, Wolverine was envisioned as a relentlessly brutal character. Actually, the earliest incarnation of the famed antihero toed the hero/villain line pretty tightly. As writers explored the character further, that ambiguity never really went away. Wolverine was born into violence and gained his trademark adamantium skeleton as the result of a particularly violent experiment designed to turn him into the ultimate weapon. While the X-Men helped him get in touch with his humanity, there’s really only so much you can humanize the world’s perfect killing machine.
Besides, even the X-Men have found plenty of chances to take advantage of Logan’s relentless ability to inflict violence. All things being equal, Wolverine would likely be okay living a semi-peaceful life. The thing about that is that there's always someone out there that gives him cause to inflict tremendous violence. Never one to not put forth his full effort, Wolverine has repeatedly responded to these individuals with a level of brutality that is simply awe-inspiring.
Wolverine and Deadpool possess similar abilities to inflict great harm upon those who oppose them. If there’s one thing that separates the two, it’s that Deadpool absolutely loves violence. Actually, that doesn’t even really capture his views on the matter. Deadpool sees violence as the ultimate form of vindication. He’s been dealt a pretty bad hand in life, and has rightfully come to the conclusion that the best thing he can do with his existence is to become the ultimate assassin.
Of course, Deadpool also takes great pleasure from his most horrific acts. That may make him sound like a supervillain -- or at least a straight-up serial killer -- but those who know the Deadpool character also know that the Merc with a Mouth is ultimately a force for good who simply doesn’t see why he shouldn’t take a little pleasure in fighting the good fight. Sure, that means he might occasionally do things like make puppets of his enemies' remains, but if that makes him a bad person, then so be it.
1 The Punisher
The Punisher is number one with several thousand bullets. Actually, was there ever really any question that Frank Castle would top any countdown of Marvel’s most violent heroes? Even in Punisher’s early days, he represented the kind of antihero that was typically only seen in Rated-R films. There was a nobility to his actions even then, but it was clear that the man with a skull on his chest and a large rifle wasn’t exactly intended to be another superpowered boy scout.
As Punisher’s character evolved, however, he reached a new level of comic book violence. Punisher has long ceased trying to justify his actions. The fact that evil exists is enough for him. In the name of destroying that evil, he had done things like rip the entrails of a pedophile out with his bare hands. In fact, with a kill count said to be upwards of 48,000 people, it’s hard to imagine how Punisher could be any a more violent superhero than he currently is.
Did we leave out any of Marvel's most bloodthirsty "heroes" that deserve a spot on this list? Let us know in the comments!