Marvel Top 10: Bad-AssesA column article, Comics Bulletin Soapbox by: Kevin Powers
One of my favorite fictional character personalities is the "bad-ass." The "Bad-ass of the Week" is a frequent category in my "The Good Stuff" column, and often the most popular characters in fiction and pop culture are referred to as "bad-ass." I have several different definitions for the term. The bad-ass could be an anti-hero; it could be a cool, calm figure who teeters the line of moral ambiguity; it could be someone who shoots first and ask questions later. The general idea of a bad-ass is pretty simple. One definition of a bad-ass that I found was "a person whose extreme attitudes or behavior are admirable." You know what? I think that pretty much sums it all up. While DC Comics is full of iconic heroes, their original bad-ass is no doubt Batman. Marvel is a haven for the gritty, extreme and tough characters that define bad-ass. From their origins right to their current day actions, these characters' attitudes and behavior stands out as extreme and most definitely admirable. So without further ado, the Marvel Top 10 list returns with the "Marvel Top 10 Bad-Asses," bub!
10. Ms. Marvel
There's little bit of bias right off the bat with this pick. Lately, I have come to love Ms. Marvel. Former fighter pilot Carol Danvers eventually became NASA's security chief and gained her Kree based powers when the "Psyche-Magnitron" exploded as the original Captain Marvel held her in his arms. His powers were siphoned into her and she would gain super strength, agility, the ability to fly, and the ability to instantly change into her costume. Ms. Marvel's powers are also directly linked to Rogue's of the X-Men. Rogue attacked her and siphoned her powers but not her subconscious, leaving her powerless until she became Binary, following an experiment conducted by the Brood. While she has adopted other identities such as Binary and Warbird, Ms. Marvel has always been a character on the verge of breaking through to mainstream popularity. Following Avengers: Disassembled and Civil War, Ms. Marvel's popularity skyrocketed and readers have been treated to a knock-out blond who was a veteran warrior and never backed down from a fight.
Ms. Marvel makes this list for one major reason, her role in "Secret Invasion." While Ms. Marvel has no doubt endured a great deal of hardships throughout her years, she is now leader of the Mighty Avengers and has become one of Marvel's flagship female characters. During "Secret Invasion," a different side to Ms. Marvel has been revealed. She left the battle in the Savage Land to lead the fight in New York City where she started to quickly help repel the Skrull invaders. But Ms. Marvel crossed the line of moral ambiguity and took a great deal of pleasure in killing the Skrulls. She even went so far as to take one into space and watch as it floated into the abyss and died. Ms. Marvel gained a new edge during the war with the Skrulls, not only is she a fearless fighter, but now she will do whatever is necessary to protect the people of Earth. You can currently see Ms. Marvel in Mighty Avengers and Ms. Marvel.
Two years ago, Cyclops would not even be in the Top 100 in a list of bad-asses. The first X-Man, Cyclops was always the boy scout of the X-Men, the leader who carried out the bidding of Professor Xavier while in the field. He played by the rules, always saw matters in black and white, and always found himself pining over his love, Jean Grey. Even through Jean's multiple deaths and resurrections, Scott Summers never gained an edge, never swayed from his "goody-good" image. However, when Grant Morrison took over New X-Men earlier in the decade, Cyclops began having a "mental affair" with Emma Frost. When Xorn/Magneto killed Jean, Emma and Scott were able to physically and emotionally act on their thoughts and began a full-fledged affair. Shortly thereafter, Scarlet Witch uttered the words "No More Mutants," and things began to change. But it was not until last year's big X-crossover that Cyclops' status quo changed and his whole personality and mission with it.
When a mutant child was born in an Alaska town, the first since Scarlet Witch said "No More Mutants," Cyclops has devoted everything to the preservation of the Mutant race. Not to discredit the fact that he's shacking up with one of the hottest and sexiest women in the Marvel Universe, but Cyclops has transformed the X-Men and Xavier's dream from education and advancement of the race, to a militaristic army devoted to the defense and preservation of the race. Cyclops has abandoned almost everything Xavier has taught him, knowing full well the dangers awaiting Mutantkind and the steps needed to protect them. Since his change in attitude, Cyclops has formed a new, violent commando unit in the form of X-Force, he has confronted Xavier in X-Men: Legacy and he is altering the dream of Xavier from family to army in Uncanny X-Men with "Manifest Destiny." No character has had such a quick and drastic personality change as successfully as Cyclops. He has moved from Boy Scout leader to complete bad-ass commander, earning a spot on this list. James Marsden portrayed Cyclops in the X-Men trilogy.
He's half man, half vampire. Modeled after many African-American celebrities of the 1970s, including bad-ass NFL Star Jim Brown, Blade is the son of a vampire and a human woman. After helping an old man fend off vampires, the old man, Jamal Afari took Blade under his wing and taught him to fight and kill vampires. Blade would eventually become an Olympic-level athlete due to his enhanced abilities and also became a master fighter in hand to hand combat. Blade also mastered weapons such as knives, daggers and eventually, a katana. When Afari fell victim to Dracula, Blade was forced to kill him and then devoted himself to finding Dracula. Blade staked Dracula many times over the years but was never able to completely destroy him. Blade has taken part in a few groups over the years including the Nightstalkers and the Bloodshadows, all involved with vampirism and killing vampires in some way. Today, he works primarily as a solo-vampire hunter. Whenever the government or a superhero groups needs help with a blood-sucking problem, Blade shows up and does what he does best.
Blade is the character that launched the current comic book movie storm and was the last successful franchise for Wesley Snipes. But that only adds to the character's bad-ass appeal. The fact that he's half vampire and had devoted his life to killing vampires makes him very dangerous while at the same time, more human. Perhaps the most bad-ass quality of Blade, aside from his mastery of a kick-ass arsenal of bladed weapons, is his nickname "The Daywalker." That name strikes fear throughout the world's vampire culture. Due to his human genes, sunlight does not affect Blade's ability to live and operate during the day, nor do the traditional vampire repellants such as garlic affect him. While Blade operates in circles beyond the mainstream concerns of Marvel's top heroes, he is without a doubt one of the top bad-asses of the universe. Wesley Snipes portrayed the Daywalker in the Blade Trilogy, and Kirk Jones played him in the short-lived TV series. Blade can be seen in the next issue of Captain Britain and the MI: 13.
7. Nick Fury
He knows when you are sleeping. He knows when you are awake. He knows if you've been bad or good. Nick Fury, whether in his original or Ultimate form, knows everything you've done today. Nick Fury knows everything there is to know about everyone in the Marvel Universe, and he maintains the balance that exists in said Universe. A product of World War II, the cigar-chomping, leader of an elite Army unit is arguably the original Marvel bad-ass. Fury has found his fountain of youth in the form of the Infinity Formula that stops his aging process and allows him to continue to do what he does at almost 100 years old. Fury has been Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., a liaison between superheroes and governments and basically the one man who maintains balance on Earth. There's nothing Fury doesn't know about, including the Skrull invasion currently taking place. It's also prudent to note that since Fury was ousted at S.H.I.E.L.D. following his last "Secret War," the superheroes broke out in a Civil War resulting in Cap's death and Tony Stark taking over S.H.I.E.L.D., the Hulk returned to Earth to SMASH!, and the Skrulls infiltrated the infrastructure of the heroes and Earth. You think if Fury was still officially in power that any of that would have happened? Not a chance.
When Fury became head of S.H.I.E.L.D. to combat the terrorist group Hydra, led by his arch nemesis Baron von Strucker, the organization grew exponentially and became the world's foremost and most powerful defense and intelligence organization. And while Fury is never one to shy away from a fight, every assassination attempt has resulted in the actual killing of a Life Model Decoy, not the man himself. Fury has a colorful and abundant history in the Marvel Universe, but he is still a man with an aura of mystery surrounding him. Fury is one of the original bad-asses of the Marvel Universe, portrayed by David Hasselhoff in a made for TV, which was actually pretty good, and by Samuel Jackson in the new Marvel film universe. He can currently be seen taking down the Skrulls in Secret Invasion.
6. Eddie Brock
The Venom symbiote brought out the dark side in Peter Parker. Strange dance numbers aside, when Spider-Man was bonded with the symbiote he became violent, short-tempered and left a different calling card than the world was used to. He became "Your Friendly Neighborhood Bad-Ass." But Peter Parker's righteous soul overcame the symbiote's influence, leading the alien entity to bond with Peter's rival, Eddie Brock. Eddie Brock had a lot of pent up rage that the symbiote fed off of, creating the popular villain that became known as Venom. The symbiote gave Brock whatever he needed, including Spider-Man's secret identity. While he initially set out to destroy Peter Parker and his loved ones, Venom was defeated and soon became transitioned from villain to anti-hero during "Maximum Carnage." Spider-Man knew he needed to kill Carnage and believed that only Venom can do it, creating a much more friendly relationship between the two.
Eddie Brock found himself in conflict over making peace with Spider-Man and the symbiote's desire to kill the web-head. But Brock became much more of an ally to Spider-Man, usually crossing the line that Spider-Man would not cross when it came to killing or disabling villains. One such moment came when Brock joined the Sinister Six. When the other members openly mocked Eddie Brock, he turned on them and crippled Sandman and Electro, effectively saving Spider-Man and once again making peace with the web-head. Eddie Brock's constant aiding of Spider-Man and his ability to override the symbiote's bloodlust has not only made him a popular anti-hero, but a bad-ass who is not afraid to cross certain lines when the situation calls for it. After all, he can just blame the symbiote. In the past few years, Eddie has separated with the symbiote and recently recovered from cancer. However, when the new Venom Mac Gargan and the symbiote find Eddie at a homeless shelter, it triggers something in Eddie's blood, a "cure" to the symbiote, the Anti-Venom. Eddie's status as the Anti-Venom is currently unfolding in Amazing Spider-Man.
Adding to her bad-ass credentials, this is the second time, actually twice in a row, that X-23 has taken a spot on the prestigious Marvel Top 10 list; she took the number 2 spot on the "Top 10 Young X-Men" list. X-23 is essentially a younger and female version of Wolverine. Originally created for the X-Men Evolution animated series, her popularity rose and her potential seemed endless. X-23 is the product of a top secret attempt to replicate the Weapon X program that created Wolverine. Expert mutant geneticist Doctor Sarah Kinney was hired to create a clone of Wolverine for the project. Because the only sample of Wolverine's DNA in the possession of the program was damaged, Sarah was eventually forced to become the surrogate mother of the child and use her own DNA to make sure the child lived. X-23 was born with Wolverine's powers and two claws in each hand, with a third coming from each foot. She's programmed to become a weapon, a "trigger scent" used to make her go into a feral rage, even killing her mother during one of the rages.
X-23 lived as a prostitute, eventually killing her pimp and work in mutant nightclub where the killing of a few patrons led the X-Men right to her. Eventually, X-23 lived with the X-Men and became one of them. Wolverine realized the connection between the two, and he often looks after her as if he always knew she was her daughter. However, X-23 is not a typical "teen X-Man." Her life experience and programming as a weapon has made her a formidable ally and addition to the X-Men. She has been able to curb her feral instincts, but she has come to realize that above all else, she was created to be an effective killing machine and under the guidance of Cyclops and Wolverine, she does just that. When Cyclops formed the new X-Force, Wolverine did not want her involved, but Cyclops knew how effective she was and drafted her without telling Wolverine. Even when he objected directly to her, she did not back down and Wolverine didn't argue. X-23 uses her skills to strike deadly and quickly but her impulsive nature tends to make her act first and think last. X-23 can currently be seen in X-Force.
4. Moon Knight
Marc Spector has always been a bad-ass. He was once a United States Marine and a respected boxer. After being discharged from the Marines, Spector became a mercenary working with the psychotic and dangerous Raoul Bushman. The two were friends, but Bushman was violent and would do anything for money, including ordering his men to kill the innocent. When raiding an Egyptian dig site, Spector fell for an archeologist's daughter and defended her after Bushman killed her father. After a hand to hand battle, Bushman seemingly killed Spector, only for him to be "saved" by a group of nomads who revived him in a temple of the Egyptian god of male virility, an aid with healing and eventually the Egyptian god of war and vengeance. After exacting revenge on Bushman and coming back to New York City, Spector became Moon Knight, Khonshu's avatar of justice and bloodlust. With the aid of his new love Marlene, a fellow mercenary named Frenchie and recruited common people who knew too much information, Spector created two personalities as cover: the billionaire philanthropist Steven Grant to fund his crusade and lowly cab driver Jake Lockley to scour the streets of New York for information on criminals.
Often in conflict with his god, Khonshu, and his mental state constantly in question, Moon Knight is one of the most feared heroes patrolling the streets of New York City. He does not abide by the rules of a typical hero; in his wake he has a tendency to leave a bloodbath--even bodies--without batting an eye. He strives to protect the innocent, but he doesn't believe that murderers, rapists and other vile criminals deserve a second chance. This often leaves the bad guys with broken bones, scars, and a half-moon carved into their foreheads. When at his peak, Moon Knight could make the Punisher and Wolverine think twice about crossing him. He is rarely ever involved in major Marvel crossovers, feeling that major threats often leave the "common man" vulnerable to attack. Moon Knight has even gone so far as to tell off Captain America during Civil War, even reminding the Star-Spangled Avenger that Spector is a Marine when Cap called him a soldier. However, the most bad-ass thing about Moon Knight is not only his attitude and the fact that he carved off Bushman's face, but his silver and white costume. In regards to his outfit, "I don’t wear the white to hide myself. I wear it so they'll SEE me coming." Moon Knight can currently be seen in his own title battling the Thunderbolts.
Wade Wilson is no doubt one of the biggest fan-favorites in terms of secondary Marvel characters. He's a fan-favorite anti-hero, a mercenary and another product of the same program that created Wolverine, Weapon X. Before enlisting in Weapon X, Deadpool was kicked out of the army and had already established a formidable reputation as a mercenary. However, a cancer diagnosis led him to volunteer for the Weapon X program that was supposed to give him a Wolverine-like healing factor. Instead, the cancer interacted with the gene manipulation and Deadpool was horribly disfigured. He became mentally unstable, and he developed enhanced strength, agility and reflexes. After escaping the Weapon X "washout" program where he was tortured and experimented on, he eventually returned to mercenary work and then got involved with X-Force, the X-Men and the rest of the Marvel Universe.
Deadpool is one of the most fun characters to come out of Marvel. His rapid rise in popularity is rarely seen for some characters but the wise-cracking, dark humored personality of the character has always been a hit with fans. Deadpool is trained in martial arts, a master of automatic weapons and an elite swordsman. He's not the typical hero or anti-hero for that matter. His moral ambiguity is notorious, and he often gets involved with some of the wackier Marvel characters. Deadpool is a great source of comic relief, even being decapitated at one point and having his head re-attached to his neck. But what really makes Deadpool appealing is the way writers script the character. He often breaks the fourth wall and talks directly to the reader, especially in Cable & Deadpool. The personality of the character is not the only thing that makes him a bad-ass; it's the sheer fact that writers are almost given free reign to the point that Deadpool actually takes control of them. The character actually acknowledges that he is in a comic book. Deadpool is one of the most fun characters in the Marvel Universe, but he's also one of the most deadly. He can currently be seen in his new ongoing series debuting this Wednesday, September 10th 2008, by Daniel Way and Paco Medina as well as regularly in Wolverine: Origins. Deadpool will also be appearing in next summer's X-Men Origins: Wolverine played by Ryan Reynolds.
Creating a "Top 10 Marvel Bad-Asses" list would be incomplete without Frank Castle. In fact, excluding the Punisher from a list like this would be a grave injustice. Originally conceived as a Spider-Man villain, the Vietnam Vet (or former Navy SEAL/FBI Agent depending on which version you prefer), is an expert in Martial Arts, hand to hand combat, and just about every gun, knife and weapon known to man. Enjoying an afternoon with his family in Central Park following his brutal tours of duty in Vietnam, Castle and his family witnessed a mob execution, an informant hanged from a tree. In order to make sure there were no witnesses, the mob gunned down everyone who saw the hanging take place, including Frank Castle's wife, son and daughter. Even though Castle was able to identify the shooters, the police were too deep in the mob's pockets to arrest the shooters.
Thus, the Punisher was born, and Frank Castle began a crusade to rid the world of the mob and other criminals that terrorized the common man. He's faced a number of bizarre and costumed villains such as Jigsaw and Bushwhacker, but those characters usually have heavy mob ties whether their boss is Kingpin or Ma Gnucci. The Punisher walks a thin line between the law and doing what is right, and the police and S.H.I.E.L.D. often turn a blind eye. Perhaps no one has cemented and captured the Punisher as well as Garth Ennis, who just concluded his phenomenal 60 issue run on Punisher MAX where Frank Castle took on the scum of the Earth, from his old partner Microchip, to the mob to a crazy old Soviet general. He's cut out a man's intestines and hung them from a tree, cut off every limb of mob boss Ma Gnucci and disfigured his MAX nemesis, Barracuda. The Punisher will forever be one of the greatest bad-asses in all of comics. You can see the Punisher in the Marvel Universe proper in Punisher: War Journal and in more violent, "real-world" scenarios in Punisher MAX. Ray Stevenson portrays the Punisher this fall in Punisher: War Zone.
Of course, the greatest bad-ass in the history of Marvel is no doubt everyone's favorite Canuck, Wolverine. James Howlett was born on a plantation in a Northern Alberta mining village in the 19th Century. He took the name Logan after the plantation groundskeeper and spent much of his younger years on the run. Logan forgets much of his childhood, but his mutant powers continue to develop and grow. Eventually, he joined the Canadian military and fought in both World War I and World War II. Soon Logan became involved in Canada's Weapon X project; his healing factor made him an excellent candidate for the procedure that would graft his skeleton with the indestructible metal known as adamantium. The rest is pretty much history.
Wolverine eventually joined the X-Men not only becoming the team's most popular character, but one of Marvel's most popular characters ever, second only to Spider-Man. Wolverine is a soldier, a samurai, an animal and a common man rolled into one package. His healing factor and violent tendencies make him an effective weapon against both mutant and "regular" super-villains alike. While he now knows some details of his past, it doesn't stop him from doing whatever is necessary to save his team members and do what many of the other X-Men won't do: kill. His attitude is essentially the blueprint for the modern comic book bad-ass: beer drinking, falling in love with women he can't have, cigar chomping, gruff, indestructible and a man who isn't afraid to pop the claws. Wolverine is neither hero nor anti-hero; he is pure bad-ass and that is why Cyclops made him field leader of the new X-Force. Wolverine has been portrayed by Hugh Jackman in the X-Men film trilogy and next summer's X-Men Origins: Wolverine. He can currently be seen in Uncanny X-Men, Wolverine. Wolverine Origins, New Avengers and X-Force.