Before The Avengers started breaking box office records like mad, only the true ComicCon devotee cared about Hawkeye and the Vision. Today, though comics have seeped into the greater mainstream consciousness, for every billionaire caped crusader who goes mano a mano with an extraterrestrial demigod, there’s a few dozen smaller heroes that only a select few have ever even heard of. That’s a tragedy, because the truth is that as spectacular as your Daredevils might be, there’s a few unsung saviors in the land of comics that are even more awesome.
So that you don’t miss out on the comics that have fallen by the wayside, we found 16 of the coolest comic book heroes you’ve likely never heard of.
Fans of Watchmen will see a lot of similarities between Dr. Solar and Dr. Manhattan. Dr. Solar was blown up by a prematurely detonating nuclear bomb who was then able to will himself back into existence. He flies, has lasers that come from his eyes, and can create an atomic shield to protect himself. Should his powers fade, all he needs is some radioactive waste or cobalt pills to get him back in crime-fighting shape.
A missed opportunity in the Age of Ultron Avengers film, Jocasta was originally built to be the bride of Ultron, but rather than being a protector-turned-villain like her husband, Jocasta forsakes her gruesome groom to join up with The Avengers. Born into evil and seeking redemption, while also a machine that is more human than humans, Jocasta has depth to go with her powerful brilliance and love of ass-kicking.
Grimjack grew up as a gladiator where he learned his adept fighting skills. He’s part mercenary, part detective, who can jump between Batman-esque morality (without the moping) and Punisher-grade vengeance. He doesn’t use super powers, nor a super trust fund, but does own a bar, and has a drunken lizard sidekick.
What began as an ordinary female paramour for Ben Grimm (the original ‘Clobberin’ Time Thing) became a super heroine in her own right. Sharon Ventura is the original name of the She-Thing, and she began as a serious addition to the Fantastic Four, but eventually became a punchline in the comics since her primary purpose seemed to be a girl version of The Thing who could hit other girls without anyone getting upset. A tragic tale, to be sure.
A former U.S. Marine and Korean War veteran, Anti-Man was swallowed up by an anti-matter reactor that was supposed to provide clean, safe energy for all. Only able to appear for brief periods in this universe because his powers are so unstable, his rare appearances show him to be both hero and villain. An enemy to bigots, but also a tragic character with a fractured mind, he’s a force to be reckoned with, no matter which side he fights on.
Gender-swapping has become common in the comic universe, with characters like Thor being given the female treatment; but before it was in vogue, there was a female Hawkeye. Her name is Kate Bishop, and she bears a backstory that includes being attacked and raped in Central Park, then choosing to fight against her own fear and seeking justice at the end of an arrow.
Matter Eater Lad
Born into a world where normal food is inedible, Matter Eater Lad only has the special ability of consuming anything and everything, which sounds fairly mundane. However, he’s proved useful when facing off against otherwise indestructible obstacles by chowing down on the likes of the Indestructible Miracle Machine.
Whip smart and deadly with a biting comment, she’s Jessica Jones without the egregious eye makeup. As far as tragic backstories go, Gert won the lottery. Instead of having her parents tragically slain before her, she had to deal with two evil begetters who can also travel through time. Luckily, they did provide her with a dinosaur to whom she is telepathically linked; so she’s got that going for her.
Darkhawk is actually alien armor that is worn by Chris Powell. Unlike the Venom or Carnage symbiotes, this armor has no murderous intent, but rather tremendous fighting and protective power, and is outfitted with the Datasong, which predicts possible future outcomes. The Datasong also gives access to memories of the Fraternity of Raptors who are Shi’ar assassins who created the armor.
Dust has powers similar to the Spider-Man villain Sandman, in that she can turn herself into sand or dust, altering her shape. A devout Sunni Muslim complete with abaya and niqab, Dust is a life-saving addition to the X-Men team thanks to her cunning as much as her compassion. Her capacities for infiltration are used time and again in circumstances where finesse is preferred to force.
An odd, Christ-like figure who was brought back from the dead by St. Peter, Kid Eternity was able to summon up heroes from the past and mythological figures to fight alongside him. In some incarnations, he was even able to become these larger-than-life individuals, giving him a deep bench of powers and allies.
The Justice League of America turned Raven down for membership, likely due to her sardonic wit being too far over the head of such glum heroes as the Dark Knight and alien altar boy Clark Kent. Being born in a separate dimension as the progeny of a human mother and an inter-dimensional demon father, Raven has a few issues, but she’s empathic, able to feel and influence the minds of others; though she’s usually kinder about it than her Marvel counterpart, The Scarlet Witch.
A much better representation of Native Americans than the Apache Chief, with his ability to grow big and…well, that’s it. Red Wolf holds no powers, but rather uses cunning, intellect, and exceptional survival training to overcome extreme odds, save lives, and thwart evildoers. Another orphaned hero, he burned brightly, but far too short.
Julia was the second lady to become Spider-Woman, but she came into her own later, when she donned the title of Arachne. Bearing the same basic skills as Spider-Man, but with a far more crafty and artful sensibility, Ms. Carpenter would later become the newest Madame Web after the Grim Hunt storyline concluded.
Congo Bill was a serious hand-to-hand fighter and conservationist, with survival skills to spare before he was killed. Luckily, he could also possess the body of a giant golden gorilla, where he lives full-time now that his human form has shuffled off this mortal coil. Part Black Panther, part Beast, Congorilla makes Caesar from The Planet of the Apes look like a strutting fool.
Like many female heroes, Natasha has gone through a lot of different names and outfits. She originally took up the mantle of Steel from her uncle when he’s injured, but later took on new personas such as Starlight and Vaporlock. Her powers tend to change as often as her moniker, but strength, speed, and attitude always seem to be in long supply.