The Silver Age of comic books was a great time for creation, wasn’t it? Not only did it give the world the foundation for decades of stories, but it also introduced some of the greatest characters in history. Of course, not all characters are created equally. Some, for example, rise up and become the building blocks of the Marvel brand while others fade away into obscurity quicker than a droplet of water drying up in the desert.
This list focuses on those responsible for building the brand and standing the test of time. When you are dealing with a company with as many characters as Marvel, it’s a little trying to talk about just ten of them. Alas, we have and would like to bring it to you. Here are the 10 best Marvel Silver Age superheroes who have pawed the road to success!
10. The Incredible Hulk
The Hulk’s story is fairly well-known. While working for the military, Bruce Banner was conducting experimental work on a bomb; a Gamma Bomb. During the testing of the bomb, a friend walked right into the test area. Bruce, being noble, ran into and pushed his friend out of the way before the bomb went off. While he was able to push his friend out of the way, Bruce didn’t escape the explosion. As a result, he took the full brunt of the explosion and was bombarded with radiation.
The radiation changed him at the molecular level. This meant that when his adrenaline levels spiked (when he became angry), he changed into a giant green monster capable of incredible feats of power, speed, strength, and the ability to rapidly heal.
The Hulk has become the poster child for anger-induced power. Although he was created as a parody of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, he’s easily more familiar to people all over the world than they are. This is due to two important things. First, the success of the Marvel movies, and second, Jack Kirby and Stan Lee knew what they had when they created him and as such, he’s basically the same as he was 50+ years ago,
9. Silver Surfer
The Silver Surfer is imbued with the Power Cosmic. With it, he’s given superhuman endurance, and strength, and is able to both absorb and manipulate the Universe’s ambient energy. He’s also able to travel across time and space and knows nearly no limit to the speed by which he can do either. In addition, he does not need sleep and projects energy in whichever way he wants. This means that he can destroy planets, create forcefields, heal those around him, create interdimensional portals, manipulate and phase through solid matter, and can control the astral plane.
If the above isn’t enough, he can also see through time, perceive past and future events, can influence human emotion and thoughts, and possesses telepathy. None of that, however, is why he’s on this list of Silver Age Marvel superheroes. Instead, he’s here because he gave Marvel an avenue to explore something that they really had done too well before him…the cosmos.
Thor made his comic book debut inside the pages of Journey Into Mystery 83. He was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and has been gracing the covers of Marvel Comics for more than 50 years.
Thor is based on the Norse Mythology God of the same name. He comes from a place called Asgard and Asgard is home to some very prominent characters within the Marvel Universe. More specifically, it’s home to Odin, Looking, Sif, Fandral, Hogun, Volstagg, and Amora the Enchantress.
As a good, Thor can do many things that regular humans can’t. He can fly, possesses incredible strength, heals quickly, can transport across the galaxy, and, of course, wields the mighty Mjolnir. Thor is a fixture in Marvel Comics and since his appearance in their movies, has become a household name across the world.
7. Dr. Strange
Created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, Dr. Strange has allowed Marvel Comics to explore themes and ideas not typically associated with the publisher. However, for a short while, Stan Lee wasn’t too sure about him. “Well, we have a new character in the works for Strange Tales (just a 5-page filler named Dr. Strange) Steve Ditko is gonna draw him. It has sort of a black magic theme. The first story is nothing great, but perhaps we can make something of him– ’twas Steve’s idea, and I figured we’d give it a chance, although again, we had to rush the first one too much.”
Through Steve Ditko’s beautifully orchestrated drawings, the world that Dr. Strange lived in was as lively as an acid trip. Doctor Strange comics were so far-fetched and out there that many readers of the time thought that Ditko was on an acid trip each time he put a pencil to paper. This was as far from the truth as imaginable but his imagination made people believe it. Certainly, Ditko deserves a ton of credit for what he did with Spider-Man, but I’d argue he deserves more credit for Dr. Strange.
Over time, the character had become synonymous with the hippie movement. Not only did the pages of his books mimic a euphoric high, but the content inspired the readers to study Eastern mysticism, religion and philosophy. Strange’s books became a living and breathing metaphor for the age that they lived in.
6. Jean Grey
Say what you want about the perpetual cycle of life and death she lives in, but as one of the many Silver Age Marvel superheroes, there’s no one like her.
Jean Grey’s story begins inside the pages of X-Men #1 in September of 1963. She was created by the legendary duo of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee. Like all of the other characters introduced in that book, Jean Grey is a mutant.
As a mutant, Jean is one of the most respected and feared characters in the Marvel Universe. Her power set grants her telepathy, mind reading, telekinesis, and the ability to create telekinetic weapons. Jean Grey is also a powerful empath. As an empath, she can feel the pain of others and causes others to feel the pain they’ve inflicted. Jean reached her full potential after bonding with the Phoenix Force.
And why? Of all the beings in the Marvel Multiverse, the Phoenix entity is one of the most feared. This is because it possesses the power to maim, dismember, harm, and destroy any part of the universe. More impressively, once it does any of these, it can repair and mend that part of the universe to how it was before it attacked.
Jean did what very few Silver Age female heroes could do. She broke free of the helpless female trope mold and became more powerful than the men around her. In short, she helped pave the way for female superheroes.
First appearing on the cover of Daredevil #1 back in April of 1964, Daredevil was the creation of Stan Lee and Bill Everett. Daredevil wasn’t just one of the first prominent Silver Age Marvel superheroes to immediately change his costume, but he was also one of the first with a disability. Daredevil is a superhero who fights crime without the ability to see.
Daredevil changed the way that superheroes are viewed. Because of him, heroes didn’t need to be God, have an army of powers and abilities, or be involved in experimentation. Daredevil was and is a street-level hero who uses his own natural and trained abilities to carry out justice. Through his stories, Marvel has been able to create and give the world some of the most well-known heroes and villains in comic books. It’s also through his stories that Frank Miller was able to write one of the greatest of all time in Born Again.
4. Mr. Fantastic
Although there were four important characters introduced in one book, I’d argue that only two of them have actually helped to shape the Marvel landscape. The Fantastic Four’s Mr. Fantastic is one of those two.
Mr. Fantastic first appeared in November of 1961. Of course, the book he debuted in was Fantastic Four #1. He, alongside The Thing, Human Torch, and Invisible Girl became what is affectionately known as the first family in comics. They gave the reader an experience that hadn’t been seen before. Unlike most superheroes of the time who were incredible beings free from everyday worries, the Fantastic Four were a family worrying about family problems all the while trying to be superheroes.
Mr. Fantastic is their leader. Although his power set isn’t that impressive (being super stretchy), his intelligence is. Mr. Fantastic is widely considered the smartest person in Marvel Comics. His brain has given the universe weapons and machines that shaped the landscape and helped heroes all over the planet thwart planetary genocide.
3. Invisible Woman
The other of the two most important members of the Fantastic Four is the Invisible Girl, now Invisible Woman. Here’s why she’s so important as one of ten Silver Age Marvel superheroes. In the early history of Invisible Woman, she was merely a superhero that could turn herself invisible. Nothing more and nothing less. As she’s aged, Sue has learned and gained more control over her abilities. In addition to being able to turn herself invisible, Sue can also turn objects or others invisible.
She is able to affect up to 40,000 cubic feet of volume in this manner. Unlike normal retinas, Sue’s retinas estimate the value of shapes based on the reflection of cosmic rays. If that’s confusing, understand that she can see invisible objects and other invisible people. She can also make objects or people that are invisible, and visible.
Sue also possesses the ability of forcefield generation. More than just being able to create them, she can cause them to expand or contract at will. In simple terms, she can cause them to explode and/or cause physical damage to her target. Sue is able to mold her fields into invisible shapes and the like. This means that she’s able to make weapons as big as a building or as small as a child’s toy. Finally, she is able to shield herself from a few forms of psychic attack. She does this by sending out an invisible force from her body that kind of acts like a radar. Basically, Sue Storm transformed herself from a bit player into one of the most powerful women in comics.
2. Black Panther
In July of 1966, 28 years after the introduction of Superman, Marvel Comics gave us the first story of Black Panther. Black Panther first appeared in Fantastic Four issue number 52 and set the groundwork for industry-wide change that comic books so desperately needed.
Since their creation, comic books have played integral parts in popular culture. They echo real-world tragedies and discuss things that matter, all the while giving their readers glimpses into the lives of those that we don’t understand. Comic books have the ability to teach popular culture in a way that history books simply cannot. The X-Men have talked about prejudice, phobias, and discrimination. Green Arrow has spent time discussing drug use and the way it impacts lives. And the story of Black Panther is no different. He came at a time of civil unrest and gave a population of people the hero that was deserved…and he did it as one of the best Silver Age Marvel superheroes.
Hailing from the fictional African nation of Wakanda, Black Panther has become one of the premiere heroes in all comics. What makes him so important isn’t necessarily that he was an original thought or that he has any sort of special ability. Instead, what makes him so important is twofold. First, his backstory and abilities were unlike anything that comic books had ever seen. And second, he was Marvel’s first mainstream black hero.
Debuting in August of 1962, nobody could possibly have predicted just how important the Spider-Man character would eventually become to Marvel Comics. Spider-Man was created by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee. After the monumental success of Amazing Fantasy 15, he quickly received his own book. The Amazing Spider-Man became one of the most influential and popular comics of the Silver Age and remains this way today.
As a superhero, Spider-Man has many of the common superpowers but can also stick to walls and, due to his scientific know-how, is able to swing from building to building with webs. Spider-Man is the culmination of doing everything right in comics and is one of the most marketable characters of all time. Above that, he’s not only Marvel’s flagship character, but he’s also the one that they’ve built one of the best supervillains rogues galleries in all of the comic books around.