20 Of Marvel Comics’ Weirdest Villains
It’s safe to say at this point that stopping Marvel’s armada of superhero movies is about as easy as stopping a bullet train with a slice of toast. It’s just not going to happen, at least not for the next half-decade or so. Still, it might be a sign that the movies are running out of steam if they start banking on some of the comics’ stranger villains — because even if moviegoers can take shirtless Russians with electric whips, there’s always a line that mustn’t be crossed. So, here are some of the more esoteric evildoers in Marvel’s employ.
The Marvel universe — cinematic or otherwise — has tiers of power ranging from the everyday human to what might as well be the cosmic level. After a certain point, only the toughest heroes can deal with dread lords from alternate dimensions. But that brings in a major sticking point: when there are creatures with immense power and ability, there’s no reason why they should willingly choose to look like a blind man’s version of an octopus. No one told that to Shuma-Gorath, though; whether or not he poses like a discount Cthulu — which he technically is — it’s a safe bet that he’s proud of his looks. For some reason.
In all fairness, Big Zero isn’t the only Marvel character — or comic character, period — who can grow to monstrous sizes. In fact, she’s actually a rival of the Young Avengers’ Cassie Lang, the daughter of one version of Ant-Man who shares his size-shifting powers. But what sets Big Zero apart is that she’s an open supporter of the Nazi Party — and apparently, her loyalty is the result of her being from a microscopic alternate universe where fascism never went out of style. Leave it to the comics to innovate; its writers proved that the only thing worse than a bigot is a bigot the size of a skyscraper.
Doctor Octopus may be one of the most famous multi-armed villains thanks to the movies, but he’s a pale imitation of the real deal. A slew of modifications left stuntwoman Rita Wayword with six arms, only one of which is robotic — for some reason — and the ability to use dark magic after extensive training. It’s one thing for her to harness that magic via what amounts to interpretive dance, but another thing entirely for her to be able to see other dimensions. Also of note: she’s a villain for the X-Men. Clearly, Xavier’s students have a lot to comprehend on their plate, let alone deal with.
Fin Fang Foom
It would be simple enough to say “his name is Fin Fang Foom” and leave it at that, but there’s much more to go over. He was a backup plan left behind by an alien race known as the Kakaranatharans, who landed in China and used their shapeshifting powers to begin their secret invasion and conquest of Earth. Why they needed to bother with subterfuge when they had alien technology is a mystery, but it may be a moot point for an alien race with no qualms about unleashing what is literally a dragon when the going gets rough. Even if it can shoot acid, the shoe fits his size eighty feet.
Kang the Conqueror
Time travel is a notoriously hard concept to nail in fiction, because even the best stories bring up issues of paradoxes and chaos theory. It’s a good thing that comics have tried their hand at it, up to and including the sheer madness that is Kang the Conqueror. He started off as a scholar from the distant future, but got involved with the Fantastic Four’s arch-nemesis Doctor Doom, and began his space-time shenanigans in earnest. He’s not much of a fighter, but he might as well be a sorcerer thanks to technology thousands of years ahead of the competition. Kang the Conqueror gets results, to the point where he created entirely-separate timelines — and on top of that, there’s a whole group of villains made entirely out of Kangs from different timelines. Clearly, he’s dedicated to the craft.
There’s not much point in going over Taskmaster’s costume, because he’s not the first to don a skull over his face, and he won’t be the last to strut about in his skivvies. What makes this mercenary so bizarre is that his power is the ability to copy the moves and mannerisms of anyone he sees in action — which means he’s as good a shot as Hawkeye, and can toss a shield just like Captain America. The tradeoff is that committing those moves to memory means that he loses personal memories; given that, Taskmaster may be one of the only villains out there who can forget he was ever a villain by continuing to be a villain. Keeping a journal on-person would be a good idea, but that begs the question of where he’d put it in his costume.
Looks can be deceiving — so even if this villain tends to look like a stretched-out gummi bear in suspenders and hot pants, Impossible Man can defeat practically anyone in the time it takes to read the funny papers. As a Poppupian, his core ability revolves around shapeshifting; he can turn into anything and anyone, so at the very least he’s capable of turning into any superhero’s weakness — like a giant rock tumbler for The Thing. Despite that, he had a stint as a roommate of the Fantastic Four. It didn’t last; he actually got bored of hanging out with them, and pressured an in-universe Stan Lee to make a comic for him. Seems they call him “Impossible Man” for a reason.
First and foremost, he’s got no relation to The Simpsons’ Hans Moleman — even if that is a missed opportunity. In truth, Mole Man is actually Harvey Elder, a blind, century-old dwarf of a man who spent most of his childhood taking abuse for his “unconventional” looks. Left bitter and jealous of his peers, Elder searched the planet to find a rumored world hidden in the Earth’s center; he succeeded, and became the ruler of several subterranean species. It’s a safe bet that he won their favor with some rousing speeches, but despite his body — and common sense — he’s actually a decent fighter. He might not need to fight if he can command giant monsters, but it’s always best to have a Plan B.
Wolverine may be famous for his adamantium claws, but once upon a time he fought with bones instead of metal. Marrow works on the same principle, but takes it up several dozen notches; while Wolverine could at least hide his claws, Marrow’s bones are constantly growing and regularly make themselves visible. She might be able to control them and even use them as weapons, but she’s not exactly capable of putting on her Sunday best. On the other hand, as a member of an underground band of mutants, it’s not as if there are suitors lined up to waltz through a ballroom.
In all fairness, Galactus actually did make an appearance in the second Fantastic Four movie, but his representation wasn’t quite one-to-one. Then again, it’s hard to imagine how anyone would represent a character that makes a business out of eating planets, much less how a bunch of superheroes could stop it. Galactus is a godlike being whose true form is said to be incomprehensible — so much like Shuma-Gorath, he sees fit to wear the goofiest costume possible. Why he ever loses in the comics is a mystery, unless one assumes it’s a product of hubris or oversight. On the other hand, maybe his daughter foiled his plans — and while Galacta isn’t technically canon, the mechanics of her birth are best left unexplored.
2011’s Marvel vs. Capcom 3 had a difficult task: to represent the Fantastic Four without taking up four slots in the game’s roster. The solution: add in Super-Skrull instead, who had the powers of all four heroes with the added bonus of a chin that looks like a row of dill pickles. As a member of the Skrull race, Kl’rt was given enhanced versions of the Fantastic Four’s powers — on top of his default shape-shifting, no less — to help his people begin their alien invasion. His aims of world domination don’t make him any less of a religious zealot, though; in games, he’s known for saying “He loves you” as tribute to the Skrull gods — which incidentally comes just before he ensnares his foes in a gigantic fireball.
Ego the Living Planet
Never has there been a more apt name for a character. Ego the Living Planet may never get a chance to be much more than a fixture in the background or an item on an internet article, but it’s got a history in the Marvel universe, and that’s what matters most. A one-in-a-million chance let a single mass in space reach planetary size while it gained sentience, and with it a host of human-like organs — a brain chief among them. Because of that, Ego is not only vastly intelligent and powerful, but can change its habitat into a paradise or nightmare at will, just in case someone decides to visit. Then again, that didn’t stop it from losing a fight to Thor, so maybe being a planet with a mustache isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
The comics are no stranger to animal-themed heroes and villains, but some of them take the affect more seriously than others. Grizzly is a prime example, even if it’s not by choice. As a wrestler disgraced by his violent antics, Maxwell Markham decided to take his revenge on the man who ruined his life — J. Jonah Jameson, Spider-Man’s employer — once he got his hands on the aptly-named “Grizzly Exo-Skeleton”. He ended up losing to Spider-Man, and even in a rematch with a better suit, the wall-crawler had to fake a loss as a way to spare his feelings. It still didn’t save him from being named as a member of the “Legion of Losers”. The moral of the story is obvious, then: always follow the rules of wrestling.
Magneto is a supervillain out to have his mutant brethren crush human opposition, and true to his name makes use of a slew of magnetic powers. Professor Charles Xavier is the psychic mastermind behind a school for mutants, and aims to have them mingle with humans. Put the two together, and it creates Onslaught, a ten-foot tall armored menace with an army of killer robots. Apparently that’s the end result of taking a comatose Magneto’s anger and fusing it with Xavier’s negative thoughts — a very literal application of “mind over matter”. Speaking of minds, his plan was to merge humanity into a single collective consciousness, at least until he gave up and decided to kill everyone instead. That’s the mark of a real trooper.
Some have argued that if superheroes didn’t appear in their stories, neither would supervillains. It’s a necessary evil for writers, since only powerful villains can challenge powerful heroes — but that doesn’t explain who would ever try to challenge Spider-Man with what amounts to a fusion between a tank and a unicycle. Granted, it’s a machine in use by shady businessman Jackson Weele, so it seems as if he chose to run with his name as a theme — after someone made fun of him for his last name, of course. Clearly, Big Wheel has proved all the haters wrong by doing what no one else could: rolling through the New York streets in that contraption with a straight face.
Carl Creel — the titular Absorbing Man — might not have made it into the movies, but he has the distinction of appearing in the TV series Agents of SHIELD. On the air or in the comics, the ex-boxer has the same skill set: he can take on the properties of whatever he touches. It’s not uncommon for him to turn into wood, metal, or clay, but he can do more than that; not only can he mix those materials at his leisure, but in the past he’s become light, heat, or good old nuclear energy. That technically makes him one of the strongest villains ever, but paradoxically he’s one with the biggest weakness: in many cases, he’s had to absorb and become whatever he’s been exposed to. In other words, he’s a villain that can be beat by slathering him in applesauce and laughing as he turns into a pile of fruity goo.
For clarity’s sake: Man-Ape is more man than ape, no matter his appearance or brutish style. As a renegade warrior of the Wakandan civilization, M’Baku campaigned to drag the African country into a primitive state. To accomplish that, he used a sacred ritual to gain the powers of a sacred white gorilla — even if that meant making a meal out of one of them — and as such was reborn into a villain that harassed the similarly-themed superhero Black Panther. Speaking of, M’Baku started off as a mighty soldier, but still lagged behind Black Panther. Essentially, desecrating the corpse of an innocent and noble animal earned him nothing but a silver medal and regular defeats — to say nothing of the time he got drunk at a wedding.
Comic fans may have noted that Iron Man 3 features talks about AIM — Advanced Idea Mechanics — as part of its story. Thankfully, the movie had the foresight to not include one of its most notable villains, for fear of shattering humanity’s suspension of disbelief. The Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing is the result of a project gone wrong, who goes from computing middleman to energy-slinging psychopath and usurper of AIM’s command. His control over technology and psychic powers makes him a dangerous foe, but it takes the wind out of his sail when he looks like a cross between a soda can, a toilet, and an old man yelling at kids to get off his lawn. Whoever has to bring him to the big screen doesn’t have an enviable task.
It’s fairly common knowledge that the Hulk is the result of a gamma radiation experiment gone wrong — but he’s neither the first nor the last big brawler to be born from what might as well be pseudoscience. Enter Zzzax, the end result of a mix between terrorist gunfire and an atomic reactor; apparently those are the two ingredients needed to create a being of electromagnetic energy in human form, which for some reason also managed to develop human intelligence as it absorbed energy from human brains. Even for comics, that’s a bit of a stretch — but since beating him can effectively mean punching a bolt of lightning, it all evens out. Somehow.
Judging people by their appearances is neither fair nor advised, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. Sometimes there are characters like Sugar Man, whose mere presence goes against the very concept of reason. He’s Mole Man, Spiral, and MODOK all rolled into one; he’s a mutant from an alternate timeline; his tongue can stretch out and pierce through anything; his weapons of choice include a big hammer and an axe; on top of all that, he’s an accomplished biologist and geneticist. There’s creativity, and then there’s just pulling words out of a hat. Then again, one of Marvel’s A-list superheroes is an art student from the forties turned into a super soldier and frozen in ice for decades, so clearly the masterminds know what the people want. It’s either that, or pure random chance.