Although superheroes have been embedded in popular culture for many years, the popularity of the superhero genre has never been greater than it is today. Thanks largely due to the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the genre has transcended from the aisles of the local comic book store and, in recent years, has introduced audiences to more obscure comic book characters – bringing them into the mainstream in the process.
Marvel Studios has managed to do what comics have been doing for years – taking multiple characters and combining them into one giant multiverse. Not only is this a common occurrence in the comics but it is also quite common for characters to begin their life in another comic book series before getting their own. In fact, some of the most popular superheroes actually debuted as a supporting character in another comic – and some even started out as a villain.
Read on to find out more about 16 Incredibly Popular Superheroes You Didn’t Know Started in Other Comic Books.
16 Deadpool - The New Mutants #98 (February 1991)
Deadpool’s first appearance within the Marvel comic universe came in a 1991 issue of The New Mutants where – starting out as a villain – he is hired by Tolliver to attack Cable and the New Mutants. Following his debut, Deadpool began making appearances in a number of high-profile Marvel Comics such as The Avengers, Daredevil, and Heroes for Hire – until 1993, when the character received a miniseries of his own.
The series gained cult popularity for its unorthodox main character - who is aware that he is a fictional comic book character – and will often break the fourth wall and have conversations with his two internal monologs.
Despite Deadpool's large cult following over the years, it wasn’t until Ryan Reynolds suited up and portrayed the character (for the second time?) in the highly successful 2016 movie that Deadpool was truly embedded into public consciousness – the sequel of which is due for release in 2018.
15 Vision - The Avengers #57 October 1968
Although there have been three iterations of this character (the others being an alien and a time traveler) this article focuses on the second iteration – an android who made his debut in a 1968 issue of The Avengers.
This version of Vision was created by the robot super-villain Ultron as a weapon to use against his own creator, Dr. Hank Pym. Vision is sent by Ultron to lead the Avengers into a trap. However, during his first encounter with the Avengers, Vision learns the details of how Ultron created him – using the remains of the then deceased Human Torch – and is convinced to turn against Ultron, becoming a member of the team in the process.
The cinematic version of the character (played astutely by Paul Bettany) made his debut in in the 2015 movie Avengers: Age of Ultron and in 2016 the character was given his own solo comic series.
14 Cable - The New Mutants #87 March 1990
In truth, Cable’s first appearance actually came in a 1986 issue of Uncanny X-Men where he appeared as Nathan Summers, the infant baby son of Scott Summers and Madelyne Pryor. However, it wouldn’t be until a 1990 issue of The New Mutants that the character would make his full debut as Cable.
Seeing the New Mutants as potential soldiers in his war against the Mutant Liberation Front, Cable becomes the new teacher and leader of the group of teenaged mutant superheroes – outfitting and reorganizing them into a new team named X-Force. This change would signify the end of the New Mutants comic series with Cable and other characters appearing the following month in X-Force #1. The character would go on to get its own comic series in 1993, which would see him team up with the Merc with the Mouth, Deadpool.
In April 2017, it was announced that Josh Brolin has been cast to play Cable in the the upcoming Deadpool sequel.
13 Black Cat - The Amazing Spider-Man #194 July 1979
Felicia Hardy is the daughter of a world-renowned cat burglar, who, after being sexually assaulted, trains herself in various fighting styles and acrobatics – later adopting the identity of the “Black Cat”.
In her debut appearance in The Amazing Spider-Man #194, Spider-Man encounters the Black Cat on multiple occasions, finding himself flustered by her seductive advances and later unsuccessfully tries to foil Black Cats attempt to free her terminally ill father from prison.
Although Black Cat has never starred in her own solo series, she has been a reoccurring character in the Spider-Man series since her debut and also she starred alongside Wolverine in a limited comic book miniseries titled Claws. Felicia Hardy made her cinematic debut in the 2014 film The Amazing Spider-Man 2, portrayed by actress Felicity Jones.
12 Rogue - Avengers Annual #10 November 1981
Seeing as she is one of the most prominent members of the X-Men, it may come as a bit of a surprise for some to learn that Rogue actually started out as a villain in the Avengers.
We were first introduced to Rogue in a 1981 Avengers publication, where she was a member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, who sought to destroy the Avengers.
Her first X-Men appearance would come in Uncanny X-Men #158 (1982) when she sought the help of Professor Charles Xavier and the X-Men after her mind became filled with fragmentary psychic echoes of the people she absorbed. Rogue eventually went on to join the X-Men in Uncanny X-Men #171 (1983) and has had two miniseries and one ongoing title in the years since.
11 Drax the Destroyer - Iron Man #55 February 1973
These days most people will associate Drax the Destroyer with Guardians of the Galaxy – which is fair enough considering the success of the movies and the surprisingly excellent performance by ex-wrestler Dave Bautista. But Drax’s membership with the Guardians is still relevantly recent considering he only joined the team in 2008.
In the comics, Drax started out as Arthur Douglas, a human whose family was attacked and killed by Thanos. The being known as Kronos then took Arthur's spirit and placed it in a new body which had enhanced abilities such as strength, resilience and flight – thus, Drax the Destroyer was born.
Drax first appeared in Iron Man #55 (February 1973), where he joined forces with Iron Man to battle Thanos. Following his debut, Drax made appearances in multiple other series’ such as Captain Marvel, Warlock, and The Avengers before becoming a member of the Infinity Watch in 1992. In 2008, he was revealed as a team member of the Guardians of the Galaxy following the relaunch of the series.
10 Falcon - Captain America #117 Sept. 1969
Falcon – portrayed by Anthony Mackie in the MCU – was the first superhero of African descent not to have the word "black" as part of his superhero name. He was introduced in Captain America #117 (Sept. 1969) as a young man from Harlem named Sam Wilson, who had adopted and trained a wild falcon. Wilson comes to the aid of Captain America – who has switched bodies with the Red Skull – when he is being attacked by residents of Exile Island.
Throughout most of the 1970s, the Falcon and Captain America were a team in New York City, and the series was cover-billed Captain America and the Falcon.
The Falcon has been a member of both The Defenders and The Avengers before starring in his own four-issue miniseries in 1983. In 2014 Marvel Comics announced that The Falcon would become the new Captain America following the retirement of Steve Rodgers.
9 Black Panther - Fantastic Four #52 July 1966
Black Panther was the first black superhero in mainstream American comics – debuting years before other early African-American superheroes such as Marvel Comics' the Falcon and Luke Cage – and is depicted as the king and protector of the fictional African nation of Wakanda.
The character debuted in a 1966 issue of Fantastic Four, where the titular team travels to Wakanda after receiving a flying craft as part of an invitation to visit the mysterious African country. Black Panther received his first starring feature in the comic series Jungle Action and went on to have a multiple self-titled series’ over the next four decades before the character accepted an invitation from Daredevil to become the new protector of New York City's Hell's Kitchen neighborhood.
In the MCU, Chadwick Boseman portrayed the Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War (2016) and is set to reprise his role in the characters self-titled Black Panther in 2018.
8 Silver Surfer - Fantastic Four #48 1966
The Silver Surfer is a humanoid alien with metallic skin who travels around space on a surfboard-like craft. Granted this sounds like a bizarre description, but the character is one of the most powerful superheroes of all time and has gained something of a cult following over the years.
The Silver Surfer debuted in Fantastic Four #48 (March 1966) as a scout for the god-like being Galactus. Arriving on earth, the Silver Surfer sends out a message to Galactus to inform him of the location of the planet. When Galactus arrives at earth, he declares his intention to consume the entire world. In the following issues, the Silver Surfer is convinced by the Fantastic Four to turn on his master and save the Earth.
Since the debut of the character, Silver Surfer has starred in many solo comic series’ and was also a weapon-like villain in the 2007 movie: Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.
7 War Machine - Iron Man #118 January 1979
Although James "Rhodey" Rhodes – AKA War Machine – initially started out as a supporting character in the Iron Man comic books, he would later go on to temporarily become Iron Man himself – donning the iconic red and gold suit while Tony Stark battled alcoholism.
Despite making his debut in Iron Man #118 (January 1979), it wouldn’t be until 1992 that Rhodes would become War Machine. Following Tony Starks purported death, Rhodes would again assume the role of Iron Man. Following Stark's return to the role – after it is revealed that he faked his death – Rhodes continued as the superhero War Machine and made his solo series debut after appearing as a supporting character in the superhero-team series Avengers West Coast.
The character was portrayed by Terrence Howard in the first Iron Man film and by Don Cheadle in Iron Man 2, Iron Man 3, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Captain America: Civil War.
6 Venom - The Amazing Spider-Man #299 May 1988
Venom is a Symbiote, a sentient alien that requires a host to bond with for its survival. After bonding, the Symbiote becomes a powerful new dual-life form which refers to itself as Venom. The Symbiote first appeared in Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars #8 (May 1984), when Spider-Man builds a new costume after his old one is ruined in battle. He is instructed by Thor and the Hulk to use a machine that instantly fabricates any type of clothing. When he activates the machine, a black sphere appears and spreads over his body, forming a new black and white costume.
The Symbiote made its first appearance as Venom on the last page of The Amazing Spider-Man #299 (April 1988), when he terrorized Parker's wife, Mary Jane Watson, and made his full appearance in The Amazing Spider-Man #300 (May 1988) when it is revealed that an ex-employee of the Daily Globe named Eddie Brock – who blamed Spider-Man for ruining his career – bonded with the Symbiote after it sensed Brock's hatred for Spider-Man.
5 Elektra - Daredevil #168 January 1981
First appearing in Daredevil #168 (January 1981), Elektra is introduced as ex-lover of Daredevil who has now become his enemy. A highly skilled assassin of Greek descent who is known to often drift back and forth between being a hero and a villain, she is an ongoing love interest of Daredevil and has also enjoyed a stint as a supporting character in the Wolverine series.
The character was created by comic legend Frank Miller and has become one of Miller’s best-known creations. Miller had intended that the character not be used again following her death in Daredevil #181 (April 1982) but Marvel chose to revive Elektra. This angered Miller, who claimed that Marvel had previously promised him that Elektra would not be used in any future publication.
Elektra has also featured prominently on screen, where she was portrayed by Jennifer Garner in both the 2003 Daredevil film and again in the titular role of a spin-off sequel two years later. The character also made an appearance in season two of Netflix's popular Daredevil series, where she was portrayed by Elodie Yung.
4 Ant-Man (Scott Lang) - The Avengers #181 March 1979
Scott Lang was the second person to adopt the Ant-Man persona after he stole the Ant-Man suit from the original Ant-Man (Hank Pym) in order to try and save his daughter from a heart condition. After being convinced by Pym, Lang soon took on a full-time career as Ant-Man and later became an affiliate of the Fantastic Four, and also a full-time member of the Avengers.
Lang was first introduced in The Avengers #181 (March 1979) as a technician who is installing a new security system in the Avengers Mansion but it would be in Marvel Premiere #47 (April 1979) when Lang would make his first appearance as the second Ant-Man. In an attempt to raise money to pay for his daughter's heart surgery, Lang burgles – by coincidence – the home of Henry Pym, finding Pym's old Ant-Man costume in the process. Inspired to try it out, Scott quickly masters the shrinking technology and uses it to rescue the only doctor who is able to carry out the medical procedure required to save his daughter's life.
Paul Rudd currently portrays Scott Lang/Ant-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
3 Punisher - The Amazing Spider-Man #129 Feb. 1974
The Punisher made his debut as a bloodthirsty vigilante who – in contrast to other superheroes – had no remorse for killing members of the mob. We later learned that the Punisher’s one-man war on crime is driven by the deaths of his wife and two children, who were killed by the mob for witnessing a killing in New York City's Central Park.
Appearing for the first time in The Amazing Spider-Man #129 (Feb. 1974), the Punisher was initially a villain who had been hired by the Jackal to hunt and kill Spider-Man. After failing to get the best of Spider-Man in their first meeting, the Punisher finds him standing over the dead body of his gun supplier and attacks him – believing that Spider-Man carried out the killing. After Spider-Man manages to subdue the Punisher, he convinces him that the Jackal was behind the murder, before both flee the scene to the sound of police sirens.
There have been three Punisher films over the years (1989, 2004, and 2008) with a different actor playing the role on each occasion,and most recently Jon Bernthal portrayed the character in the Daredevil TV series.
2 Blade - The Tomb of Dracula #10 July 1973
Although people will most likely think of the 1998 movie starring Wesley Snipes and Stephen Dorff, the character of Blade first made his appearance is 1973 issue of The Tomb of Dracula.
In the issue, Blade is introduced as a brash vampire hunter who is hunting the infamous Dracula. Coming to the aid of a private ship which has been taken prisoner by Dracula, Blade enters into a fierce battle with the ancient vampire, who is surprised at how skilled Blade is as a fighter. As he begins to gain the upper hand Dracula gets distracted by a woman screaming his name and decides to make his escape in bat form. As Dracula departs, he vows to get revenge on Blade, promising that the vampire hunter will not survive next time they meet.
Blade would go on to become a more prominent character, with his backstory revealing that he was born half-vampire due to his mother being feasted upon while she was pregnant. As a result of this Blade was born with many vampire abilities such as an increased strength, the ability to sense supernatural creatures and immunity to complete vampirism.
1 Wolverine - The Incredible Hulk #180 Nov. 1974
There is absolutely no doubt that Wolverine is one of the most popular comic book characters of all time. With his signature claws, Wolverine has become one of the most prominent members of the X-Men and has also at times been a member of both Alpha Fight and the Avengers. Although the black and yellow anti-hero is synonymous with the X-Men, Wolverines first appearance came in a 1974 issue of The Incredible Hulk.
In this issue, the Incredible Hulk was engaged in a fierce battle with a creature called the Wendigo. As the two monsters collide, a costumed adventurer with metal claws enters the scene. In the next issue Wolverine and the Hulk team up to take down the Wendigo before turning on each other. The fight is furious but over quickly after two bystanders use chemicals to knock them both out.
Wolverine has starred in multiple comic series since his introduction, including his own origin series. Hugh Jackman has portrayed the character for the last 17 years – with his final performance in the critically-acclaimed Logan.
Did we miss any other heroes who started in different comics? Let us know in the comments!