2021 marks the 60th anniversary of the start of the Marvel Universe in 1961's Fantastic Four #1. To celebrate the thousands of characters that have followed in the years since the Richards family took flight in an experimental rocket, Newsarama has been creating a Marvel Comics Yearbook consisting of our picks for the best Marvel Comics character to debut in each year of the Marvel Universe - 60 characters in all.
And don't worry - if you're looking for characters that debuted prior to the Marvel Universe but were incorporated later, like Namor, Jimmy Woo, and Captain America (who celebrates his own 80th anniversary in 2021), we haven't forgotten about them - but that's another list for another time.
So far we've counted down the best characters of the '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, and '00s, and now we conclude our Yearbook series, counting down the best characters of the '10s, with a look forward as well.
Appearance: Hit-Monkey #1
Recommended Reading: Hit-Monkey: Bullets and Bananas
Hit-Monkey may take the cake as one of the wildest, wackiest Marvel Comics characters in any year - not just 2010, in which he made his debut in Hit-Monkey #1, a Marvel Comics digital-first one-shot.
Hit-Monkey - who has no other name - is straight up just a gun-toting macaque monkey, who learned to kill by watching an assassin who was hiding among his troupe while on the run for his life from other killers. When the assassin's pursuers killed the rest of his troupe, Hit-Monkey vowed to become a killer of hitmen - a sort of simian Dexter, in a way.
Hit-Monkey quickly ran afoul of Deadpool and Spider-Man before going on to get his own limited series in which he got revenge on his troupe's killers and vowed to become a defender of the innocent. hasn't really shown up in Marvel Comics in a while, but his cult-favorite adventures remain on the minds of fans and creators, with an animated show in development for streaming service Hulu.
Didn't Make the Cut: Jimmy Hudson, Detroit Steel, Finesse, Hazmat, Mettle, Striker, Janice Lincoln (Lady Beetle), Power Man (Victor Alvarez)
2011: Miles Morales
First Appearance: Ultimate Fallout #4
Recommended Reading: Miles Morales: Spider-Man: Straight out of Brooklyn
Ten years after his 2011 debut, Miles Morales is a household name, with nearly as much love as Peter Parker himself - so there's no doubt he's the heir apparent to the name Spider-Man both in the Marvel Universe, and in the hearts and minds of fans.
But back when he debuted, Miles wasn't even part of the mainstream Marvel Universe, instead taking the place of the Ultimate Universe Peter Parker as Spider-Man after Ultimate Peter's death. After just a few years, he was brought into the mainstream Marvel Universe along with most of his supporting cast - one of the few elements of the Ultimate Marvel Universe to survive that world's destruction.
It's those early stories, however, including his first crossover with the mainstream Peter Parker, that formed the basis of the blockbuster animated film Spider-Man: Enter the Spider-Verse - the movie that made Miles a household name, with his own supporting cast, villains, and even a starring video game. And of course, he remains a leading character in Marvel Comics as well, with his own ongoing Miles Morales: Spider-Man title.
Didn't Make the Cut: Max Modell, Howard Anthony Stark, The Serpent, Broo, America Chavez, Jefferson Morales, Nova (Sam Alexander), White Tiger (Ava Ayala)
2012: Phil Coulson
First Appearance: Battle Scars #4
Recommended Reading: Agents of SHIELD: The Coulson Protocols
Dozens, if not hundreds of Marvel Comics characters have made the jump from comic books to TV and movies at this point - but only a select few have made the leap the other way around. Case in point, Agent Phil Coulson, who debuted as a bit role for actor Clark Gregg in 2008's Iron Man film before blossoming into a full-fledged MCU role in Avengers and eight seasons leading ABC's Agents of SHIELD MCU spin-off show.
In Marvel Comics terms, Coulson made his debut in 2012, the same year the character seemingly died in Avengers, as a SHIELD agent working alongside Nick Fury, Jr., the comic book son of the original Fury. True to his MCU roots (that's a funny sentence, turned back around on comics), Coulson went on to lead an Agents of SHIELD comic title that took place in the mainstream Marvel Comics Universe.
Recently, Coulson has taken a surprising Marvel Comics turn, becoming an out-and-out villain who made a deal with Mephisto to create the world of the Heroes Reborn 2021 limited series, in which he's the President of the United States and the leader of the villainous Squadron Supreme of America.
Didn't Make the Cut: Hummingbird, Nick Fury Jr., Alpha, Cullen Bloodstone, Death Locket, Ex Nihilo, Ms. Thing (Darla Deering)
2013: Kamala Khan
First Appearance: Captain Marvel #14
Recommended Reading: Ms. Marvel: No Normal
Kamala Khan first brought attention to Marvel Comics as a result of her Pakistani heritage and Muslim faith - both firsts for a leading Marvel Comics hero, especially one taking on the classic codename Ms. Marvel from Carol Danvers. But she won the hearts of fans by tapping into the longstanding Marvel tradition of teen heroes whose personal lives echo those of their readers and fans.
A teen girl who came upon her powers suddenly when her latent alien DNA was awakened, Kamala quickly felt right at home for fans who shared her love of superhero fan-fiction and dreams of joining the Avengers herself. Kamala's story deepens when those dreams start to come true in her life, teaching her that even superheroes have real lives to lead, and things aren't as easy as in comics.
Since her early days, Kamala has grown to become one of Marvel's most popular and recognizable characters across media, often taking on the role of a teen POV character that was once held by her spiritual predecessor Peter Parker/Spider-Man. She's even set to headline her own MCU Ms. Marvel show on Disney Plus, where she'll be played by Iman Vellani.
Didn't Make the Cut: Gorr the God Butcher, Goldballs, Anna Maria Marconi, Knull, Angela (Marvel debut), Thane
First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #1
Recommended Reading: Silk: Out of the Spider-Verse
If Kamala Khan is the perfect character to carry on Peter Parker's legacy as the Marvel Universe's 'world outside your window' POV character, Spidey spin-off character Silk is the perfect character to complicate his legacy - and his origins. Before she became Silk, Cindy Moon was a classmate of Peter Parker's who attended the same science field trip that gave him his powers - and was secretly bitten by one of the same spiders as Peter, developing similar powers.
The development of Silk's powers wasn't quite as freewheeling as Peter Parker's, even before the tragedy of Uncle Ben's death. Cindy was kept in a stasis vault for years, apart from the rest of the world - though when she was released and her secrets came out, she quickly became a hero in her own right alongside Spider-Man.
Since her introduction as a supporting character in Amazing Spider-Man, Silk has become a leading hero herself with multiple titles under her belt, including a current limited series. She's also been tagged for a starring role in a live-action film as part of Sony's Universe of Marvel characters, tying into their Spider-Man spin-off films.
Didn't Make the Cut: Dario Agger, Clash, Inferno (Dante Pertuz), Spider-Gwen, Spider-UK, Peni Parker & SP//dr
2015: Moon Girl
First Appearance: Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur #1
Recommended Reading: Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur: BFF
Jack Kirby created many of the most enduring concepts in the Marvel Universe as one of the most prolific artists and writers to ever work in the comic book medium. But it's one of more obscure ideas that got a major resurgence in 2015 when Marvel Comics introduced Moon Girl/Lunella Lafayette, a young girl genius who manages to befriend Devil Dinosaur, one of Kirby's latter-day Marvel characters who originally palled around with a monkey named Moon Boy.
In the case of Moon Girl, she's actually an Inhuman, a person whose latent alien DNA gives them powers when exposed to a substance known as the Terrigen Mist. When Lunella's Inhuman power establishes a psychic link to Devil Dinosaur, she begins a life of adventure that allows her to live up to her genius intellect, which she possessed even before developing powers.
Moon Girl is actually such a mega-genius that, despite being only around 9-years-old, she's considered one of the Marvel Universe's most intelligent people right alongside Tony Stark and Reed Richards - if not even the smartest. Outside of comics, Moon Girl has become a fan-favorite, headlining multiple volumes of her own ongoing title - and she's got her own starring Disney Channel animated series set to premiere in 2022.
Didn't Make the Cut: Teen Abomination, White Fox, Erik Selvig, Kobik, Luis, Guillotine, Hala the Accuser, Toni Ho
First Appearance: Invincible Iron Man #7
Recommended Reading: Ironheart: Those With Courage
The '10s marked an era of change and experimentation in the Marvel Universe when many of the publisher's biggest heroes, from Wolverine to Thor to Captain America, and of course even Iron Man were replaced with legacy heroes who took up their mantles in the event of their deaths or retirements. Among these legacy heroes, Riri Williams/Ironheart stands out not just as a wholly original character rather than a previously established hero in a new role, but for forging her own identity from the get-go.
When Tony Stark died (or went into a brain-dead coma - it's comic book complicated) he left his estate and tech to Riri Williams, a young engineering prodigy who had built her own armored suit in her garage - also bequeathing her his tutelage in the form of an AI hologram with his knowledge and personality. As Tony's replacement, Ironheart, Riri cut her own path through his legacy, taking on some of his biggest villains even as she was forging her own legacy alongside the teen heroes of the Champions.
Riri has kept up her superheroic career even though Tony has since returned, embodying her own identity of Ironheart. Riri will play a key role in the upcoming Disney Plus MCU streaming show Armor Wars, played by actor Dominique Thorne.
Didn't Make the Cut: Gwenpool, Viv Vision, Kid Kaiju, Robert Maverick (Red Hulk), Nadia van Dyne (Wasp), Mosaic, Kushala (Spirit Rider)
2017: Weapon H
First Appearance: Totally Awesome Hulk #21
Recommended Reading: Weapon H: AWOL
If there's one thing Marvel Comics has perfected, it's the 'illusion of change' - including remaking and repurposing popular characters into new concepts, or even simply mashing them together. Case in point, 2017's Clayton Cortez/Weapon H, a genetically engineered living weapon empowered by the combined DNA of Wolverine and the Hulk - a straight-up Hulkverine.
Marvel's creation of Weapon H wasn't even subtle - he went on to fight his progenitors Hulk and Wolverine in a limited series that was actually called Hulkverines - and that's part of the fun of it all. It may be bonkers superhero popcorn action, but when that's what's on the tin, it's nice for the flavor inside to live up to expectations.
Despite headlining his own Weapon H title and spinning off into limited series such as Hulkverines, Weapon H has faded from the spotlight in the last couple of years, partly owing to the return of the classic Hulk and Wolverine from the period of their absence in which Weapon H was introduced. Still, he's on the table for another wild mash-up story for any writer brave enough to try upping the ante on the concept again.
Didn't Make the Cut: Gazing Nightshade
2018: Cosmic Ghost Rider
First Appearance: Thanos #13
Recommended Reading: Cosmic Ghost Rider: Baby Thanos Must Die
In an era of legacy characters in the Marvel Universe, Cosmic Ghost Rider is definitely one of the most eccentric new takes on an old hero that came out of Marvel's mid-'10s wave of characters inheriting or sharing the mantles and identities of others.
Cause here's the thing: Cosmic Ghost Rider isn't just a version of Ghost Rider - he's a version of Frank Castle from an alt-future where he goes from being the Punisher to being chosen as a herald of Galactus, before falling into servitude as an agent of Thanos. And what's more, he's a time-traveler in his own right, who has traveled through his own past, making him even more mind-bendingly bonkers.
Following his introduction as the breakout character of writer Donny Cates and artist Geoff Shaw's run on Thanos, Cosmic Ghost Rider broke off into his own title in which he visited different eras of his own history to attempt to right his wrongs and even rode alongside the Guardians of the Galaxy for a while. Cosmic Ghost Rider has been quiet lately - a little too quiet, considering the type of character he is. But that means he's poised to make a big splash whenever he inevitably returns.
Didn't Make the Cut: Voyager, One Below All, Aero, Swordmaster
First Appearance: X-Men #2
Recommended Reading: X-Men by Jonathan Hickman Vol. 1
A mysterious pale being from another world with a warning of imminent disaster is something of a staple for the works of writer Jonathan Hickman, and his X-Men run kicked off with the introduction of a character of this archetype in Summoner, the first mutant of Arakko to be introduced in Hickman's era.
Summoner constituted the first major indication at Hickman and his fellow writers' overarching story for the first year of the era of Krakoa, hinting at deeper connections between Apocalypse and Krakoa and leading directly to 'X of Swords,' which brought the tale of Arakkoa and Krakoa full circle, and set the stage for the recent creation of Planet Arakko as a new mutant homeworld.
Though Summoner himself died in 'X of Swords,' the whole concept started with him - and with the ominous mutant history he represented.
Didn't Make the Cut: Nyx, Fauna, Wave
2020: Pogg Ur-Pogg
First Appearance: X of Swords: Stasis #1
Recommended Reading: X of Swords
The first X-Men crossover of the Krakoa era introduced a whole host of new characters, including most of the roster of the Swordbearers of Arakko, and a whole new crop of Horsemen of Apocalypse. But among the new introductions, one character, in particular, stood out to fans - partially because the enigmatic Arakko mutant known as Pogg Ur-Pogg towers above most of his countrymen and their enemies, the X-Men.
'X of Swords' was predicated on a series of contests between the mutants of Krakoa and their cousins from the island of Arakko, meant to determine who would be allowed passage through the Otherworld. While most of the combatants carried actual swords, Pogg Ur-Pogg, who was depicted as a giant, four-armed crocodile monster carrying a scimitar - though he was in fact a much smaller mutant hiding inside the body of the crocodile monster, which functioned as a "sword" itself.
Though Pogg Ur-Pogg hasn't had the ongoing presence that characters like Isca the Unbeaten and Bei the Blood have had since the crossover, he quickly became a favorite among fans both for his zany, monstrous design and the kooky concept it hides, as well as his almost sing-song name, which has become something of a meme among X-Men fans.
Didn't Make the Cut: Isca the Unbeaten, White Sword of the Ivory Spire, Bei the Blood Moon, Redroot the Forest
2021 is just barely half over, and already Marvel Comics has introduced several new characters such as the villainous Harrower from Curse of the Man-Thing - with more new additions still expected on the horizon.
Just this month, Marvel debuted two new characters in its Marvel's Voices: Pride anthology. The Pride anthology introduced Somnus, a new character with a secret Marvel history, as well as a mutant named Gabrielle Diwa.
Marvel isn't slowing down on new characters any time soon - and we'll count no chickens before they hatch - meaning it's too soon to pick the best Marvel Comics character to debut in 2021 as we haven't even met them all yet. So stay tuned to Newsarama, as we'll make sure and highlight all of Marvel's major new character debuts.