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The House of Ideas. Talking Time's 50 Favorite Marvel Characters!

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
Always a delight and surprise to see the Freedom Force get name dropped.

The name the Brother of Evil Mutants briefly went by when they realized they had a branding issue.
 

jpfriction

A most radical pontiff
(He, Him)
I definitely didn’t always assume Dazzler was some sort of weird Konami take on Jubilee whenever I played the Konami brawler because the cartoon was my only experience with the x-men. Nosiree.
 
Always a delight and surprise to see the Freedom Force get name dropped.

The name the Brother of Evil Mutants briefly went by when they realized they had a branding issue.

It's even better than that: Freedom Force are the US Government sponsored team, using former Brotherhood of Evil Mutants in a suicide-squad-esque scenario.

This is part of a broader shift form the 60s X-Men who were teen cops working with a government liaison, to Claremont X-Men who were outlaws on the run from cops. As part of that, a major group of villains make the reverse shift: from outlaws to government affiliated. The shift from Brotherhood of Evil Mutants to Freedom Force is part of the X-Men becoming the X-Men as they're known today.
 

Violentvixen

(She/Her)
Wow, I'm really glad to have learned about Man-Thing. That is just a wild character premise and I'm going to have to learn more about him.

A note on Dazzler (whom I also voted for; as I did Sinister): Bo Derek wasn't the first visual basis for her--Romita's intentions were to model her on Grace Jones. The artist unfortunately doesn't get to make the final call in circumstances involving that many cooks. It's always going to gnaw a little in the back of your mind, wondering what might've been.
Daaaaaang that would have been so cool. What a bummer.
 

Adrenaline

Post Reader
(He/Him)
#49: Spider-Ham
Spider-Ham.png

AKA: Peter Porker
Powers: Shoots webs, clings to walls, spider-sense
First Appearance: Marvel Tails Starring Peter Porker the Spectacular Spider-Ham #1, 1983
Created By: Larry Hama, Tom DeFalco, Mark Armstrong
2 votes, 53 points (Top voter: Falselogic)

In an experiment gone wrong, a mild-mannered spider named Peter was bitten by a radioactive pig, transforming his size and shape and granting him amazing superpowers. He now fights crime as the Spectacular Spider-Ham. He hails from an alternate version of the Marvel Universe where all the characters are cartoon animal versions of more familiar figures.

Spider-Ham has had plenty of comedic adventures on his own, but I'm most familiar with him from his various appearances in Spider-Man stories involving the multiverse. He was a member of the dimension-hopping team called the Web Warriors, and he was played by John Mulaney in the excellent Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse as one of several spider-people who cross into Miles Morales' dimension and help him prevent the destruction of all their worlds. Spider-Ham is one of the goofier Marvel characters out there, and is an example of the wide possibilities the universe allows.
 

Adrenaline

Post Reader
(He/Him)
#48: White Queen
Powers-of-X-Emma-Frost-feature.jpg

AKA: Emma Frost, Black Queen
Powers: Telepathy, diamond form
First Appearance: The Uncanny X-Men #129, 1980
Created By: Chris Claremont, John Byrne
Portrayed By: Finola Hughes, January Jones
2 votes, 54 points (Top voter: Adrenaline)

Emma is probably best known to casual fans for her various provocative outfits, but I like her because she's one of the more complex and interesting mutants among the hundreds in the Marvel universe. As time goes on, allegiances and morality get ever muddier in the X-Men stories, and the line between hero and villain increasingly blurred. Emma fits right into this idea. She first encounters the X-Men as a high-ranking member of the Hellfire Club, a secret society of pleasure-seeking elites, and starts her teaching career as head of an academy that tries to poach students from Xavier.

Emma was always a powerful telepath, but she discovered a second ability to turn her body into diamond when it protected her from a genocidal attack on the island of Genosha by Sentinels, after which she joined the X-Men and became a teacher for their students. She quickly became a leader in the organization, as well as Cyclops' romantic partner for a number of years. After his inadvertent death as a result of the actions of the Inhumans, she manipulated her fellow mutants into a war against them, once again playing an antagonistic role.

Not long after, when nearly all mutants were united in the new nation of Krakoa, Emma once again became a leader among them, providing financial backing through the reorganized Hellfire Club and sitting on the ruling council. She's known for her wit and commanding presence, but there's also insecurity there, evidenced by her fake British accent. She most notably appeared in film in X-Men: First Class, but I think they failed to capture the character's charismatic essence.
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
Voted for Emma. She has one of the best long-term arcs in X-books and in her case it's not even a case of having been focal during the Claremont and Simonson years and benefiting from that treatment (she was featured, but remained in her affected villain role for the most part). A lot of characters stagnated or were left to fall through the cracks but she was taken in a direction that nothing of her introduction would've suggested and as the definitive teacher of a line that ostensibly centers around an educational institution has become integral to what it is.
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
She's been a mainline X-Men for over a decade and I *still* have a hard time accepting Emma as being a good guy.

Then again, most of the main-line X-Men *have* tried to kill absolutely everybody at one point or another, and she only wants to be justificably very smug
 
I didn't vote for Emma because I figured she wouldn't need it to place highly, but it looks like I was wrong! Oops. Still worth it to squeak Dazzler onto the list and Boom-Boom onto the honorable mentions.

As Peklo says, Emma Frost is one of the characters who fared best in the post-Claremont/Simonson era. The 90s were a terrible time for many characters in the X-line and especially the women who were so central to the Claremont/Simonson stories. Emma was one of many legacy Claremont/Simonson characters who were unceremoniously killed off or written out by the soon-to-be Image Comics founders, but the circumstances of how they tried to write Emma out in a moment of grim and gritty Image 90s excess where all of her students were murdered set her up perfectly for a redemption story. (Also, with Betsy Braddock too often totally drained of any personality beyond Bikini Ninja in an orientalist body swap story for the next three decades, there was room in the X-line for a new morally ambiguous telepath who would do whatever it takes, even if it means forcibly changing her own allies' minds from time to time.) Emma's uneasy alliance with the X-Men in the 90s as the co-headmaster of a new team of young students and her transition into being one of the core members of the X-Men starting with Grant Morrison's X-Men relaunch and continuing until this day has been one of the best character arcs of the X-Line in the post-Claremont/Simonson era.

Her balance between being the teacher who cares most about the welfare of her students and being the most ruthless of the adults creates a great tension that has become a better and better fit for X-stories as the writers of those stories begin to grapple more with the limits of assimilationism.
 
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Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
She's come so far from the days of menacing various teenagers via science gadget body swap and pony murder-powered gaslighting schemes!
 

Falselogic

Techno-Threadcromancer
(they/them)
My experience of Spider-Ham is catching the tiny adventures of him in older Spiderman, and other, comics as a kid. While I enjoyed the comics (80s-90s) I often thought the Spider-Ham ones were more engaging, and certainly funnier.

I enjoyed their appearance in the recent movie but I actually found it quite distinct from how I remembered the character.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
You know, I forgot that while Grant Morrison definitely played a big role in developing Emma Frost as a hero (if with a veneer of antihero), I completely forgot she was the mentor to Generation X, a comic I was a BIG fan of at the time. I have a feeling a lot of the story telling doesn't hold up as well, though that might be opinions of the majority of Scott Lobdell's other output, but that Chris Bachalo art. Ironically, I also kind of can't with his art; I feel like it's good but hard for me to read and narrative. I love the look when he draws slick characters but a lot of it is a chaotic, dynamic look I can appreciate that doesn't appeal to me in terms of reading a book. Loved Morrison's take on her though and without that, I don't think she would have stuck around as a good guy (sorta) so long.
 
I have a feeling a lot of the story telling doesn't hold up as well, though that might be opinions of the majority of Scott Lobdell's other output, but that Chris Bachalo art.

Like a lot of Lobdell, it's a real mixed bag, but I think his characterization of Emma in both Uncanny X-Men and Generation-X is one of his most successful and lasting contributions. Morrison made it stick, but Lobdell really did lay the groundwork. Her possession of Bobby Drake to escape her comatose body and eventual path to reformation is one of the strongest stories of that era, and the extremes Emma goes to to protect her students during when Lobdell is on Generation-X do a lot to redefine the character. It's also a believable development from her history as a manipulative villain: Emma will do anything to keep her students safe, even taking away their free will and kidnapping them. The conflicts this creates leads to a gradual softening of the character while keeping the fundamentals. She originally ended up on Morrison's New X-Men and gained the diamond body because Morrison couldn't get Colossus (dead too recently), and you have to imagine she wouldn't have even been a candidate to replace Colossus in the roster if she hadn't already been reestablished as an ally for the years leading up to that reboot.

Another thing worth mentioning is that Generation-X ran for ~75 issues and Lobdell was only around for the first ~25! I'm less familiar with the later part of the run, though, so I'm not sure if anything of note happened with her there with Emma. Larry Hama takes over for a good period and I really like his Wolverine run in that era (I'd argue it's the last surviving remnant of Claremont/Simonson style X-storytelling and the end of his time on Wolverine is the door closing on that forever), but what I've read of Hama's Generation-X feels very custodial/wheel-spinning/mercenary by comparison. (Not very far into it though...)
 
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Adrenaline

Post Reader
(He/Him)
I'd really like to actually go back and read through the Claremont era and see what it was all about, but large chunks of it still haven't really been collected yet. I know I can mostly read through the issues on Unlimited but I still like having the existence of the collections to help organize it in my mind.
 
I'd really like to actually go back and read through the Claremont era and see what it was all about, but large chunks of it still haven't really been collected yet. I know I can mostly read through the issues on Unlimited but I still like having the existence of the collections to help organize it in my mind.

They're finally getting pretty close on the Claremont side of things. Once there's an Uncanny X-Men Vol 5 Omnibus it will all be collected, including his time on Excalibur (and Alan Davis' excellent issues wrapping up that run) and New Mutants (but not Simonson's conclusion of that title).

Unfortunately the Louise Simonson titles are extremely not collected in physical editions. Simonson X-Factor is not even all on Marvel Unlimited yet.
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
A comic store near me had a BOGO on Marvel Essentials collections, which is how I wound up getting the vast majority of the Claremont run, which was how I wound up breaking into this hobby earnestly.

thing I had everything from Giant Size to Fall of the Mutants
 

Adrenaline

Post Reader
(He/Him)
#47: The Dryad
clean.jpg

AKA: Margaret "Peggy" Carter, Agent 13, Captain America
Powers: None
First Appearance: Tales of Suspense #75, 1966
Created By: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby
Portrayed By: Hayley Atwell
2 votes, 56 points (Top voter: Patrick)

Peggy Carter originally appeared in flashbacks as an American member of the French Resistance and Captain America's love interest during World War II. After he was frozen in ice, she started working in law enforcement, eventually becoming an agent of SHIELD. What happened next is one of the odder consequences of Marvel's sliding timescale. To briefly explain, to prevent all their characters from aging too quickly, it's accepted that events in the characters' pasts are constantly moving forward in the timeline behind them. So while Captain America was originally recovered from the ice in our world in 1964, in the Marvel universe it only happened about 15 years ago. The time he spent locked in ice just keeps getting longer. However, Peggy's timeline can't slide forward, because it is established fact that she was an active participant in World War II. So when Steve started dating Sharon Carter, she was Peggy's younger sister. Now though, locked in time, Peggy is Sharon's great aunt. She continued being a supporting character in Cap stories, but she died of old age several years ago.

Of course, there were more comic book shenanigans, and she ended up getting restored to life in a younger body. She took up the name of the Dryad, and founded the Daughters of Liberty, an all-female anti-terrorist team that recently assisted Captain America. He was pretty surprised when he found out who the Dryad really was.

Hayley Atwell played a British version of Peggy in the first MCU Captain America movie, and the character quickly gained popularity because Hayley Atwell is fantastic. She kept playing the character in future movies, starred in her own show called Agent Carter, and eventually had a happily ever after with Steve in Avengers: Endgame. An alternate version of the character received the super-soldier serum instead of Steve in an Exiles series, another idea that was ported over into the MCU and portrayed by Atwell.
 
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Kirin

Summon for hire
(he/him)
I was the second vote for Peggy Carter, largely on the strength of the Agent Carter version of her in the TV series. I had no idea about this Dryad stuff. Comic books! Anyway, as Adrenaline mentioned, Haley Atwell is great, and and the series was a good time. The What If episode where she stepped in the Cap role was also pretty decent if a bit slight.
 

Adrenaline

Post Reader
(He/Him)
#46: Luke Cage
luke-cage-fights-display.jpg

AKA: Carl Lucas, Power Man
Powers: Unbreakable skin, fast healing
First Appearance: Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #1, 1972
Created By: Archie Goodwin, George Tuska, Roy Thomas, John Romita
Portrayed By: Mike Colter
3 votes, 57 points (Top voter: Johnny Unusual)

Luke Cage is a man who has worn many hats in the Marvel Universe. He was originally a petty criminal named Carl Lucas who ended up in prison, where he was the subject of a scientific experiment based on the Super-Soldier program (I love how many characters were empowered over the years as a result of attempts to recapture the lightning-in-a-bottle success of Captain America). The experiment gave Lucas impenetrable skin, and he escaped prison, taking on the alias Luke Cage and hiring his services out to those who needed help.

Over the years, Luke formed a lasting partnership with Iron Fist, founded the Heroes for Hire, briefly joined the Defenders and the Fantastic Four, had a baby with and married Jessica Jones, became an Avenger, ran the Thunderbolts villain rehabilitation program, and most recently became the mayor of New York City. He was created to cash in on the "blaxploitation" trend of the 70s, but over the years has evolved into a well-rounded character, and it's usually a fun time when he shows up.

Luke was a regular character in the Netflix corner of the MCU before it disintegrated, appearing first in the Jessica Jones series and then getting his own show. I had problems with the writing and pacing of that series, but it was buoyed by Mike Colter's amiable performance. Let's not talk about The Defenders, though.
 

Patrick

Magic-User
(He/Him)
Now that the Netflix shows are being phased back into the MCU, they should definitely bring Luke Cage back. They need more street level heroes.
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
Luke is a bit of a hole in my comic reading history, but both Mighty Avengers series were among my favorite things that Al Ewing ever wrote.

And that guy is batting a thousand in general so that’s saying something.
 

Adrenaline

Post Reader
(He/Him)
#44 (tie): White Widow
l-intro-1612289926.jpg

AKA: Yelena Belova, Black Widow, Super-Adaptoid
Powers: None
First Appearance: Inhumans #5, 1999
Created By: Devin Grayson, J.G. Jones
Portrayed By: Florence Pugh
2 votes, 58 points (Top voter: WildcatJF)

Yelena is a graduate of the same Red Room program as the original Black Widow, and the two quickly developed a complicated but functional working relationship. She has no special abilities, but she is a highly trained and capable spy and assassin. Over the last 20 years, she has had a typically complicated comic book history, working for SHIELD, having her mind transferred into a robot, working for AIM, et cetera. She returned to being Black Widow after Natasha's death, and when she returned to life but ended up brainwashed by her enemies, Yelena went undercover to help rescue her and took on a new title as the White Widow. Marvel's espionage-focused comics are usually good fun and I tend to like the characters who get involved in those.

If I had to guess a reason why Marvel recently gave her a distinct codename, it would be because of the success of the character in the MCU. We have another case of a relatively minor character getting boosted by a great performance by an actress, in this case Florence Pugh. In the Black Widow movie, Yelena and Natasha are depicted as adopted sisters who grew up in the US before returning to Russia after their cover is blown. The two are reunited on a mission that ends up ending the Red Room program and liberating the other Black Widows. Pugh later reappeared in Hawkeye, pursuing Clint Barton after being led to believe he is responsible for Nat's death. Pugh is one of the best working young actresses, and she gives Yelena both a great sense of humor and real dramatic depth.
 

WildcatJF

Mysterious Ghost World
(he / his / him)
Florence Pugh is doing such a tremendous Job with Yelena in the MCU, seriously. I didn't expect her to become one of my favorites, but she absolutely has.
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
Florence Pugh is definitely the best reason to watch the Black Widow movie.

A film which includes a boisterous goofball Dave Harbour
 
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