Everyone knows Green Goblin, Magneto, and Thanos (not to mention their cinematic counterparts). But the Marvel Universe has a bad guy bullpen that goes much deeper than these big names. Even as the MCU has brought some strange characters into the popular consciousness, including M.O.D.O.K. and Killmonger, there remain many characters who haven’t been given their full due, either on the big screen, the small screen, or the comic book page.
Meet some of the most underused Marvel villains ready to cause trouble on a bigger stage.
1. The Molecule Man
Comic book nerds may remember when Doctor Doom recreated the Marvel Universe in his own image during the Secret Wars crossover. But they may forget how Doom pulled off this feat. He did it with the help of Owen Reece, better known as the Molecule Man.
Once a nondescript lab technician, a failed experiment gave him the ability to transform things on a molecular level, giving him the ability to control reality. That extreme power set, further increased by interference by the godlike Beyonders, often gets hampered by Owen’s timid personality, but with the right impetus, the Molecule Man could become one of the most dangerous Marvel villains.
One look at Mephisto explains his inclusion on this list. Mephisto is the devil, complete with red pointy ears and a penchant for flames. As the ultimate cosmic evil in the Marvel Universe, Mephisto has been involved in some high-level stories since he first appeared in 1968’s Silver Surfer #1. Not only did he convince Thanos to snap half of reality out of existence in the Infinity Gauntlet story, but he decimated Peter Parker’s marriage to Mary Jane.
In recent stories, Mephisto helped Phil Coulson, a villain in the comics, recreate the Marvel Universe in the form of the DC Universe. And yet, Mephisto has been blocked out of the MCU, making this A-list baddie feel like a C-list nobody among Marvel villains.
One can understand why Hobgoblin wouldn’t get top billing. He is a rip-off of the Green Goblin, pallet-swapping the original character’s green and purple with shades of yellow and orange. But that derivative nature makes Hobgoblin an interesting villain.
Hobgoblin stole some of Norman Osborne’s Goblin tech and gave it a fresh coat of paint, battling Spider-Man while irritating his predecessor. Even better, Hobgoblin has been the alter ego of several different people. First, Peter’s pal Ned Leeds took the Hobgoblin moniker, but the best has been Roderick Kingsley, Norman Osborne’s snotty and rich nemesis, who takes the name just to irritate his rival.
One of the oldest Marvel villains, Stilt-Man began his life of crime in a 1965 issue of Daredevil. He has one of the most obvious gimmicks of all time, a suit of armor that includes extendable legs, raising to the height of a skyscraper. To the surprise of no one, Stilt-Man has been reduced to a joke over the years and hasn’t even earned a reference in the MCU. Still, the pure silliness of the character offers a refreshing reprieve from the too-serious bad guys that have become the norm.
5. Cameron Hodge
For several years in the 80s, few Marvel villains antagonized the X-Men like Cameron Hodge. First introduced as the best friend of Warren Worthington III, better known as Angel, Hodge convinced several mutants to form a team called X-Factor. However, Hodge soon showed his true colors as a mutant-hating activist who led an evil organization called the Right. Hodge’s supervillain slide continued at a rapid pace, to the point that he had his entire body replaced with robot parts. And then, Hodge almost dropped all the way out of the limelight, relegated to a passing reference in recent years.
6. The Jackal
Like Hodge, Dr. Miles Warren, aka the Jackal, dominated Spider-Man stories for a couple of years. Of course, that popularity stemmed from his central role in The Clone Saga, cited by most among the worst Spider-Man stories of all time. Furthermore, Jackal’s origin as a professor obsessed with his young student Gwen Stacy does diminish the fun of his character.
That said, the Jackal does represent a legitimate threat, not only by creating a host of clones to mess with Spidey’s sense of responsibility but also in his furry green supersuit.
7. Absorbing Man
Crusher Creel may look like nothing more than a bald-headed palooka in an old-timey crook outfit, but his more than that, while still being a bald-headed palooka in an old-timey crook outfit. After Loki gave him a magical Asgardian elixir, Creel gained the ability to change his body into any material. That power makes Absorbing Man almost invincible, but he still likes to go into battle with his ball-and-chain, showing that no matter how strong he may become, Crusher never forgets his roots.
8. Mole Man
The Fantastic Four proved to be the best outlet for Jack Kirby’s boundless imagination, the medium through which he introduced Galactus, Black Panther, and so much more. Given these amazing characters, one might forget the first baddie to tangle with Marvel’s first family, the Mole Man.
An unattractive man with poor eyesight, explorer Rupert Elder never felt at home until he escaped civilization to go underground. There, he became the king of a race of mutants called Moloids, establishing himself as the Mole Man. Thanks to his new position, the Mole Man can return at any moment to conquer those who mocked him.
9. The Hood
One of the newer characters on this list, the Hood has had brushes with greatness. For years, Parker Robbins committed small-time crimes, failing to draw the attention of other crooks, let alone the Avengers. After stealing a hood from a powerful demon, Robbins took a new name and gained a host of abilities. As the Hood, Robbins became the new Kingpin of the underworld, playing a major role in a few stories from the 2000s.
After that initial pop, however, the Hood has fallen back into obscurity as Marvel villains go, even though Hamilton star Anthony Ramos may portray Robbins in the MCU series Ironheart.
10. Crimson Dynamo
The first Iron Man comics imagined Tony Stark as a captain of Western industry, battling Soviet villains in a superhero cold war. During this period, genius inventor Anton Vanko created a suit of armor for the USSR, a clunky piece of machinery he wore as the Crimson Dynamo. Since the end of the Cold War, the Crimson Dynamo has lost a lot of his appeal, often popping up as an anti-hero when he appears at all.
Perhaps the biggest insult came when Vanko was mentioned in the dismal MCU entry Iron Man 2, reduced to just the father of that movie’s antagonist, Ivan Vanko, Whiplash.
11. Paste Pot Pete
In fairness, the villain born Peter Petruski used the moniker Paste Pot Pete for just a few issues, and soon changed his name to the Trapster when he joined the Frightful Four in 1965’s Fantastic Four #38. And in fairness, the Trapster does better reflect his tendency to create elaborate restraints for his enemies. But Paste Pot Pete takes the crown as the more unique name, in particular with the character’s original M.O., in which he carried around a bucket full of glue and used it to stick the Fantastic Four to the ground.
Arcade most often shows up every decade or so and has even jumped to X-Men video games and cartoons. He may owe that scarcity to the fact that he is very, very bad at his job. A spoiled rich kid who inherits a fortune from his amusement park designer family, Arcade hires out his services as an assassin who kills targets in elaborate death traps. Yet, most of his stories end with his would-be victims, including Spider-Man and the X-Men, escaping unscathed. Despite these shortcomings, no one can fault Arcade with a lack of imagination, making him a pure delight in every appearance.
13. Terrax the Tamer
By their very nature, the Heralds of Galactus are overpowered. Made almost godlike by the world-devourer, Heralds such as the Silver Surfer and Firelord warn victims of the coming of Galactus, until they rebel and go their own way. While most become good guys to some degree, the Herald Terrax relishes the power he has over others. Brandishing a mighty axe, Terrax the Tamer drives his victims into submission, making him a frightening and malevolent bad guy who deserves more attention.
14. Unus the Untouchable
Here’s the thing about Unus: no one can touch him. That may sound like a dumb power, and his petty crimes do fall far short of the usual complex issues of his first antagonists, the X-Men. But that’s just what makes Unus the Untouchable such a delight.
Where the X-Men most often must stave off genocide committed by Marvel villains — either of the mutant population by Sentinels or of humanity by Magneto — Unus offers a welcome respite. Even better, his odd power lends itself to fun visual sequences, in which everything the X-Men throw at Unus just bounces off of him.
15. Moses Magnum
Unlike Unus, Moses Magnum has big plans and big dreams. The head of Magnum Munitions, Moses Magnum wants nothing less than to conquer the planet. Sure, he sometimes does it by selling guns that even Cable would consider excessive to the highest bidder. But more often than not, Moses just does it himself, creating giant robot monsters and ridiculous lasers, drawing the attention of a wide range of Marvel heroes, from Spider-Man to Power Man to the X-Men. Moses Magnum takes an old-school megalomaniacal approach to villainy, which never goes wrong.
Bodybuilders with cybernetic limbs and adamantium attachments flooded the pages of Marvel Comics in the 1990s, making it hard for anyone not called Wolverine or Cable to stand out. At first glance, Cyber shouldn’t be the guy to buck the trend. He wears a pretty basic blue leotard and has adamantium arms. However, Marvel managed to make Cyber into a legitimate threat to Wolverine and his son Daken. With his poison-tipped claws, Cyber doesn’t tear apart his enemies or bludgeon them to death. Instead, he lets them suffer with his poison, setting him above his rivals.
17. The Scourge of the Underworld
Don’t let his simplistic white costume fool anyone. The Scourge of the Underworld lives up to his name by mowing down Marvel’s B- and C-level bad guys (gunning for some of the folks on this list, in fact). In fact, that’s why writer Mark Gruenwald created the Scourge for his Captain America comics, thinning out the company’s over-stuffed bad guy roster.
Several different people have adopted the Scourge identity, but the most interesting is Thomas Holloway, who fought crime in the 1940s as the Angel. The fanaticism of Holloway and his followers often drives him to target even Captain America (albeit the less-respectable Johnny Walker version), making him a complex bad guy.
18. Count Nefaria
As his name suggests, Count Neferia harkens to other media, such as James Bond movies or Sherlock Holmes stories, in which the villains wore three-piece suits and came from aristocracy. For most of his existence, Count Luchino Nefaria had no powers and simply rose to the head of the Maggia (organized crime in the Marvel Universe) through his wealth and determination. With just that influence, Nefaria troubled the Avengers and the X-Men. But like every other megalomaniac, Nefaria wanted more and used his wealth to give himself superpowers. That might strip away some of what made Nefaria special, but he has enough old-world arrogance to make this list.
Puma can transform into a Puma. That may not seem like a big deal, but it took ten generations of genetic engineering to give Thomas Fireheart into the protector of the Kisani Tribe, located in New Mexico. To add further insult, Fireheart spends most of his time and energy as the CEO of the Fortune 500 company Fireheart International or working as a high-priced assassin. Sometimes, Fireheart’s relatives (or Spider-Man) convince him to use the Puma for good, making him one of the more compelling figures on this list.
20. Typhoid Mary
Typhoid Mary has appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But that was in Iron Fist, the little-loved Netflix series that most people forget. Despite that lackluster appearance, Typhoid Mary has a long history as one of the most dangerous assassins in Wilson Fisk’s organization. As a mutant, Typhoid Mary possesses telekinesis, which gives her an edge over Daredevil and other foes. In recent stories, Mary married Fisk, which allowed him protection on the mutant nation Krakoa, which allowed the Kingpin to hide out from U.S. law.
21. Mad Jim Jaspers
Mad Jim Jaspers came from the mind of Alan Moore, perhaps the most respected comic book writer of all time. However, Jaspers’s low profile stems in part from the fact that he appeared in Excalibur, the X-Men spin-off based in the UK. The other problem may be because, like Molecule Man, Jim Jaspers can alter reality at will, a power set so vast that it intimidates writers. Even before revealing those abilities, however, Jaspers created problems in the UN, leading a criminal charge against a reformed Magneto and limiting Excalibur. Those two extremes demonstrate the variety of stories that one can tell with Jim Jaspers, making him one of the interesting baddies in the Marvel Universe.
22. Grim Reaper
Despite his grandiloquent name, the Grim Reaper does not steal souls and ferry them to the netherworld. Instead, he has muscles and a mechanical scythe, pretty tough weapons in their own right. Rather the greater importance of Eric Williams the Grim Reaper comes from his relationship with his brother Simon, the Avenger known as Wonder Man.
Grim Reaper’s unstable mental state gets further plagued by the existence of the Vision, an android designed in part after Wonder Man. That confusion makes Grim Reaper both unstable and sympathetic, a complex bad guy who deserves more attention.
23. Baron Blood
On one hand, Count Dracula exists in the Marvel Universe and battles the Avengers and the X-Men on a regular basis, rendering most other vampires unnecessary. Still, Baron Blood has a more traditional supervillain appearance, which makes him a bit more interesting than the standard bloodsucker. Worse, Baron Blood joined the Fascist party in World War II, making him a bitter enemy of Captain America. In recent years, a new Baron Blood surfaced to torment Sam Wilson, the new Captain America, but few stories have taken full effect of a purple Fascist vampire villain.
“Here comes the Hulk!” So declared the cover of Journey into Mystery #62, the first appearance of Marvel’s Hulk. No, not Bruce Banner, who debuted two years later in The Incredible Hulk #1. Rather, Marvel’s first Hulk is the furry alien Xenmu. Xenmu doesn’t transform like the more famous latecomer. Rather, he possesses mental abilities that hypnotize his victims, turning them into mindless servants. Writer Al Ewing brought Xenmu back during the excellent series The Immortal Hulk, pitting him against Banner’s big green beast for a great, but too-short, story.
25. The Chameleon
The Chameleon was the first supervillain to ever face off against Spider-Man, making his debut in Amazing Spider-Man #1 (1963). Since then, the Russian agent known as Dmitri Smerdyakov has become a true master of disguise, using his ability to take any form to wreak havoc in Spider-Man’s life.
And yet, when it came time to assemble the Sinister Six, Chameleon was nowhere to be found. Across Spidey’s many cinematic appearances, he never comes to blows with the Chameleon. And even in the pages of Spider-Man comics, the Chameleon fails to earn the respect of his foe.
Greensboro, North Carolina resident Joe George writes for Den of Geek, Sojourners Magazine, The Progressive, Think Christian, and elsewhere. Joe’s areas of geek expertise include horror, science fiction (especially Star Trek), movies of the 60s and 70s, and all things superheroes. He posts nonsense from @jageorgeii on Twitter and from @joewriteswords on literally every other social media site in the world.