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Marvel's most underrated superheroes

Great Lakes Avengers
(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

There's a saying in comic books that every character is somebody's favorite, even (and sometimes especially) the ones who seem weird or uncool at first glance, or who have never really gotten their due on the page. In other words, underrated.

Taking that idea one step further, there are more than a few characters that should be everybody's favorite, or at least they could be if they were able to rise above their much-maligned reputations.

In the 60 years since the Marvel Universe launched, Marvel Comics has had its share of studs and duds when it comes to introducing hot new characters. But some of those so-called 'duds' are actually hidden gems - characters with potential for greatness, or even actual greatness on the page that remains unsung.

So without further ado, it's time to give these black sheep a bit of love as we count down ten totally underrated Marvel Comics characters who are actually incredibly cool!

Cypher

Cypher

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

So much has been made of the ineffectiveness of Doug Ramsey/Cypher's mutant power to speak and interpret any written or verbal language he encounters in combat that Doug's total lack of fighting prowess was a key plot point in the 'X of Swords' crossover. 

That idea that Doug's power is somehow 'useless' cause it doesn't involve lasers or claws has led to a tradition of dunking on Cypher as a character, and even sometimes questioning his place on the New Mutants or other X-teams.

Even long time X-Factor writer Louise Simonson once lamented that no one loved Cypher until he was killed in 1988's New Mutants #60.

But even before his death, and especially since Cypher was resurrected a few years ago, he and his abilities have been invaluable to the X-Men and to mutantkind many times over. In fact, in the Krakoa era, he holds the distinction of being the spokesman and interpreter of the living mutant island itself.

Dazzler

Dazzler

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Created as a movie and music tie-in with Bo Derek as the proposed actor to portray her in all media, Dazzler is the gimmickiest, campiest, most ridiculous concept Marvel has ever let come to fruition - if you only judge her by her Abba-meets-roller-disco '70s costume. 

Though her proposed movie and album tie-ins never came to fruition, Dazzler herself went on to join the X-Men, becoming a cult classic fan-favorite mutant along the way.

And why not? The fact is, Dazzler kicks ass. Her ability to turn sound into light has been expanded in creative and crafty ways time and time again, and her look has evolved from disco queen, to aerobic video model, to an angst-inspired, darker look, and finally to her current style that combines elements of her previous looks with a modern twist. 

Still, Dazzler has somehow captured our hearts and fought tooth and nail to earn our respect, even earning a slot on the one-time all-female Avengers spin-off A-Force.

Frog Thor

Throg

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

What a world. What a beautiful, magical, lovable world, when one of the zaniest, most inaccessibly wacky plot lines from Walt Simonson's legendary run on Thor can become a cult favorite character. While Frog Thor is undoubtedly, outwardly bizarre, his appeal is undeniable.

The original Frog Thor was Thor himself, transformed temporarily into a frog by his scheming brother Loki. But later, a second Frog Thor, known adorably as Throg was born when an actual amphibian found a sliver of mighty Mjolnir, turning him into the Frog of Thunder.

Throg has only had sporadic appearances since his debut (and maybe that's for the best - too much of a good thing and all that), with perhaps his most prominent appearances being his membership among the Pet Avengers, and as part of the Thor Corps in 2015's Secret Wars limited series.

Jack of Hearts

Jack of Hearts

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Jack of Hearts' costume may look like a disco playing card gone mad, and he may have a tough-to-parse origin story, but that didn't stop him from getting a revamp and a revitalized place (all too briefly, some might say) among the Avengers in the late '90s that showed exactly what even the most unlikely characters can be capable of.

The product of convoluted storytelling combined with a bizarre aesthetic, Jack of Hearts was the kind of character most writers have nightmares about. But, in his brief stint at Marvel, Geoff Johns leaned into the character, making him a key part of his Avengers team.

Though Jack of Hearts still maintained the elements that made him terrifyingly hard (or if you're of a certain disposition, impossible not) to love, he managed to be something of a break-out character for Johns's run, even when he departed for space towards its end. Jack died in 'Avengers: Disassembled,' and is one of the few characters who has yet to permanently escape that fate. 

Longshot

Longshot

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Talk about a name fitting a concept. 

This mullet-haired weirdo is called Longshot, and he's a wacky alien from the TV dimension who was genetically engineered to be the perfect film star. Even though Longshot had a well-loved limited series in the late '80s, he quickly became something of a joke thanks to his bizarre backstory and dated appearance.

But with just a few snips here and there (mainly on the back of his head), Longshot has become a fan-favorite character with an honored place among fans of a certain era of both Marvel Comics and the X-Men.

Longshot has had a few revivals over the years, many of which have taken strides to bring him into the now, so to speak, but he's yet to break out again the way he did with his original title. 

Given that original story's cyberpunk style and satirical take on the process of creating media for ever-more-demanding masses, now might be the exact right time for Longshot to get his due.

Ka-Zar 

Ka-Zar

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Ka-Zar may seem like your run-of-the-mill Tarzan rip-off, but he's the kind of character that could only exist in the Marvel Universe – meaning he's the lost child of a rich family raised in a world of hidden dinosaurs.

The original Ka-Zar actually predates the Marvel Universe, having debuted in a 1936 pulp story written by eventual Marvel Comics publisher Martin Goodman which was later adapted to Marvel Comics #1.

The modern Ka-Zar first showed up in 1965's Uncanny X-Men #10 in the team's first adventure to the Savage Land, a hidden world in the antarctic where dinosaurs, prehistoric creatures, and other more mysterious beings dwell.

Ka-Zar went on to star in a mostly forgotten '70s title that left him in Marvel limbo for many years. But he got a new lease on life in the ‘90's when Mark Waid and Andy Kubert launched a cult favorite Ka-Zar  series which brought the character back into the Marvel Universe.

Since then, Ka-Zar has had regular appearances as a supporting character in many titles, especially alongside his wife Shanna the She-Devil (a fellow pulp adventure jungle character brought into Marvel Comics) but he has yet to take on another starring role.

Doop 

Doop

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

A flying green blob who speaks gibberish should not work. And yet, the X-Men's resident Slimer lookalike manages to remain popular not just with readers but apparently with ladies (and sometimes fellows) as well. A product of the Weapon X program, Doop seems to be as powerful as he is bizarre.

If it seems like we're down on Doop, we're not - his baffling nature is all part of his charm, in fact. But sometimes appearances aren't deceiving at all, and Doop is as inscrutable as he looks from the outside.

Doop's popularity began with his introduction in Peter Milligan and Mike Allred's X-Force. Doop managed to stand out as quite possibly the weirdest part of a book full of weirdness. It's actually kind of impossible to explain Doop's powers, as he seems to be able to do whatever the hell he needs to at any given moment, even surviving in the vacuum of space. He also speaks in his own unique language, which was partially adapted into the language of Krakoa in the current X-Men era.

Supposedly a product of the Weapon X program, Doop floated his way into the hearts of fans, many of whom have wholeheartedly embraced the mystery that is Doop, to the point where he's even received his own limited series titled All-New Doop.

Man-Thing

Man-Thing

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Has there ever been a better accidental pun than "Giant-Size Man-Thing?" 

Those who know fear may burn at the Man-Thing's touch, but those who never matured beyond sophomoric jokes laugh at his name. Add to his pun-tastic moniker a lifetime of relative obscurity and a movie so bad most people have erased it from their brains, and you've got a monster man who guards not just the nexus of all realities, but the nexus of all bad jokes as well.

And yet, Man-Thing isn't just an unfortunately named rip-off of Swamp Thing (he debuted two months earlier, for one thing). He is the keeper of the place where the many dimensions and timelines of Marvel comics come together, and one of Marvel's most unique and tragic characters. 

Since writer Steve Gerber used a unique narrative style to tell the story of Man-Things devolution from man to, well, thing back in the '70s, he's become a cult-favorite character and a staple of the larger Marvel mythos.

In fact, he's celebrating 50 years since his 1971 debut this year, with a series of one-shots titled Curse of the Man-Thing in which he teams up with other Marvel heroes.

Great Lakes Avengers

Great Lakes Avengers

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Comprised entirely of nearly useless and bizarre characters, the Great Lakes Avengers have had a few rides on the merry-go-round, and have often opportunistically changed their branding to match whatever super-team was successful at any given moment.

But despite having characters like Flatman, Dinah Soar, Big Bertha, and even Squirrel Girl (a candidate for this list herself, in some ways) among their ranks, there's something to be said about a group of characters that manages to hold together despite seeming collectively unlovable to their peers and to the people who they wish to protect, but who simply want to use their talents to save the world.

Some of the team's characters almost made it to TV in a scrapped adaptation of Marvel's New Warriors that was closer in both cast and premise to the idea of the Great Lakes Avengers, but the show never came to fruition.

Still, there's a great comeback story for the Great Lakes Avengers just waiting to be told, like the Bad News Bears of comic books.

Darkhawk

Darkhawk

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

The breakout character of 1991 - sorry Deadpool! 

After a well-received 50-issue solo run that included team-ups with the New Warriors and the Avengers, Darkhawk faded into relative obscurity, though many writers who grew up reading his adventures have attempted to bring him back over the years.

Despite the nostalgia for the character that exists among fans of a certain age, for many fans who got into comic books post-Darkhawk, his Iron Man-meets-Wolverine-meets-Spider-Man vibe comes off dated and alienating. And it doesn't help that the best parts of his original title have been mostly out of print or hard to find for years.

Nonetheless, Darkhawk has remained on the minds of Marvel-ites for 30 years as of 2021 - and Marvel is taking notice of the milestone with a new Darkhawk title that even features a new hero with a new costume in the title role.

Newsarama staff writer who learned to read from comic books and hasn’t shut up about them since.