2021 is a wrap.
The historic year for Marvel Comics marked the 60th anniversary of the start of the Marvel Universe in 1961's Fantastic Four #1 (opens in new tab). Recognizing and celebrating the virtual thousands of characters that have followed in the six decades since Susan, Reed, Ben, and Johny tried to win the space race in an experimental rocket without enough shielding to keep out the cosmic rays, Newsarama created a Marvel Comics Yearbook presenting our picks for the best new Marvel character to debut in each year including and since 1961 - 60 characters in all.
Well, 61 now…
And just for the record, if you're looking for characters that debuted before the debut of the Marvel Universe but were drawn in later, like Namor, Jimmy Woo, and of course, Captain America (who celebrated his 80th anniversary in 2021), we didn't forget about them - but that's another list for another time.
Appearance: Hit-Monkey #1 (opens in new tab)
Recommended Reading: Hit-Monkey: Bullets and Bananas (opens in new tab)
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.(opens in new tab)
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 for the streaming service Hulu debuting in 2021.
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 (opens in new tab)
Recommended Reading: Miles Morales: Spider-Man: Straight out of Brooklyn (opens in new tab)
Now over a decade since his 2011 debut, Miles Morales is now 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.(opens in new tab)
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 (opens in new tab)
Recommended Reading: Agents of SHIELD: The Coulson Protocols (opens in new tab)
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.(opens in new tab)
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 (opens in new tab)
Recommended Reading: Ms. Marvel: No Normal (opens in new tab)
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.(opens in new tab)
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, who will later co-star with Brie Larson (Carol Danvers) and Teyonah Parris (Monica Rambeau) in 2023's The Marvels feature film.
Didn't Make the Cut: Gorr the God Butcher, Goldballs, Anna Maria Marconi, Knull, Angela (Marvel debut), Thane
First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #1 (opens in new tab)
Recommended Reading: Silk: Out of the Spider-Verse (opens in new tab)
If Kamala Khan is the perfect character to carry on Peter Parker's legacy as the Marvel Universe's 'world outside your window' point-of-view 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.(opens in new tab)
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 the Amazing Spider-Man film, Silk has become a leading hero herself with multiple titles under her belt. 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 (opens in new tab)
Recommended Reading: Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur: BFF (opens in new tab)
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.(opens in new tab)
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 (opens in new tab)
Recommended Reading: Ironheart: Those With Courage (opens in new tab)
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.(opens in new tab)
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/Ironheart will star in the eponymous Disney Plus MCU streaming series, played by actor Dominique Thorne, who will reportedly debut in the Black Panther sequel Wakanda Forever.
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 (opens in new tab)
Recommended Reading: Weapon H: AWOL (opens in new tab)
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.(opens in new tab)
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 (opens in new tab)
Recommended Reading: Cosmic Ghost Rider: Baby Thanos Must Die (opens in new tab)
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.(opens in new tab)
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 (opens in new tab)
Recommended Reading: X-Men by Jonathan Hickman Vol. 1 (opens in new tab)
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.(opens in new tab)
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