When we think of Marvel, we typically think of characters like Iron Man, Captain America, and that mumbly guy with the bow and arrow. But Marvel comics have a long, expansive history, and sometimes featured iconic characters you wouldn’t expect, from the Star Wars gang to ALF. While they may not have pitched in during Infinity War, there have been Marvel comics featuring some really unexpected superheroes. There are 5 super hero’s you had no idea were in the Marvel universe.
Number 5. Godzilla.
Godzilla is the iconic Japanese monster who hates tall buildings and legendary basketball players in equal measure. Long before he was battling Ferris Bueller and whoever starred in that 2014 remake we already forgot about, Godzilla was similarly repurposed for an American audience in Marvel Comics’ Godzilla King Of The Monsters. This wasn’t just a one-off movie adaptation. Godzilla got his own series and, insanely, it was actually part of the Marvel Universe’s continuity. Nick Fury is in the first issue, complaining about the drudgery of combating giant fire-breathing lizards. Because Marvel didn’t pay Japan’s Toho Studios for the rights to other monster characters, the writers were forced to invent new creatures for Godzilla to tussle with. So instead of, say, Mothra, Godzilla squares off against bizarre creatures seemingly birthed from Hunter S. Thompson’s nightmares. Or, because coming up with monsters can be a pain in the ass, they often just pitted him against classic Marvel characters, such as the Fantastic Four and the Avengers. Spider-Man even made an appearance, realizing that he probably should have pitched in to help fight that giant murder-dragon that’s been rampaging across town. Hell, J. Jonah Jameson does more than Spidey, leaning out his office window and giving Godzilla a dose of an angry old man. After 24 issues, Toho asked Marvel for a “large license increase,” and rather than pay up, Marvel scrapped the series. They then brought back a new “mutated” dinosaur character who decidedly wasn’t Godzilla. After all, he looked slightly different and no one referred to him by name.
Number 4. Conan The Barbarian.
Before he was a future governor in a fur diaper, Conan the Barbarian was a Marvel character. Based on the 1930s pulp stories by Robert E. Howard, Conan first graced the pages of Marvel in 1970. He proved so popular that Marvel created a second Conan series, for readers mature enough to handle beheadings and women with upper thigh fetishes. Since Conan’s stories are set in a fictional ancient time, having him cross paths with classic Marvel characters proved difficult but not impossible. Thanks to Marvel’s wacky What If series, writers could throw continuity to the wind and have Conan cross paths with, say, Thor. So basically himself, only blonde and with more clothes. In one What If comic, Wolverine travels back in time to the Hyborian Age and slices Conan’s hand off. Surprisingly, the issue was not called “What if Wolverine Cut Conan’s Friggin’ Hand Off, Holy Crap!” Bizarrely, Wolverine then stays in the past, hooks up with Red Sonja, and becomes a king, presumably because it was time for whoever wrote this to have dinner. Even stranger is an issue called “What If Conan Were Stranded in the 20th Century?” in which Conan is thrown into the future and immediately makes a beeline for the nearest red light district. Things somehow get even goddamn weirder when Conan tries to impress a lady friend by dressing like a pimp which isn’t as effective a strategy as you might think. Naturally, all of this leads to Conan stabbing Captain America. While Marvel lost the rights to the character in 2000, it was recently announced that Conan will be coming back to the publisher, thus paving the way for Spider-Man to hang out with a hulking bodybuilder dressed like Huggy Bear.
Number 3. The Star Trek Crew.
After a bumpy and surprisingly genocidal start in comics, Star Trek moved to Marvel, beginning with an adaptation of Star Trek The Motion Picture. This meant that subsequent comics only had the rights to stuff from that one movie, not the iconic TV series everyone liked. So instead of battling Khan or wrangling Tribbles, the first original story found Kirk and Spock meeting Count Dracula. The following issues weren’t any less wacky, such as the one featuring a planet populated by crossbow-wielding garden gnomes Or the issue, were as far as we can tell about is the ghost of Spock convincing McCoy to shoot a woman wearing an evening gown in the back with a cover by Frank Miller! Marvel eventually lost the rights to Star Trek but reacquired them in 1996. Their first move? Have the Enterprise crew improbably meet the X-Men. This wasn’t a one-off joke issue, it was the big debut of the new Star Trek line. Marvel actually doubled down on this insane premise, releasing not just a comic but a full-length novel about the X-Men meeting the Next Generation crew, which even highlighted the similarities between Captain Picard and Prof. Xavier two years before Patrick Stewart would play both parts. Of course, all of these pale in comparison to the best Star Trek series of all time a webcomic about the abject crappiness of Chief O’Brien’s life.
Number 2. Chuck Norris.
The late Steve Ditko is best remembered as the co-creator of Spider-Man and generally being a Marvel Comics legend. After feuding with Stan Lee, Ditko “abruptly” left Marvel in 1966, and went to work on, well, a bunch of intensely objectivist comics and some other not-very-Spider-Man-like stuff. In 1979, the reclusive Ditko returned to Marvel but wasn’t exactly given the best gigs. After working on an adaptation of the Micronauts toy line, Ditko was handed the assignment to draw Chuck Norris. Not a character based on Chuck Norris, but a comic series starring the real guy, Chuck Norris Karate Kommandos. The first issue takes place inside a school ironic, given the flagrant misspelling in the title, which is promptly taken over by gun-wielding ninjas. The class of hostages includes Chuck Norris’ young “ward,” whose name is “Too Much” because that’s a thing he often says, and apparently Chuck Norris can’t be bothered to learn people’s real names. Chuck Norris eventually shows up looking like a Ken doll going through a midlife crisis. The terrorized children and even the goddamn ninjas are completely star-struck. Despite being evil terrorists, the ninjas won’t shoot Norris, seemingly because they’ve read his future memes. Naturally, Chuck soon kicks ass and even uses the power of learning to win the day, by literally kicking a book at the gunman. Of course, that isn’t the most effective tactic, since the gun goes off, though thankfully it only hits the book and not, say, one of the many nearby children. Still, Chuck’s “only regret” is that the book was damaged. At this point, Too Much, the little scamp, reveals he hadn’t read it, prompting laughter from the class. Anyway, Thanos better hope this dude got snapped.
Number 1. 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Before the days of home video, Marvel would often adapt movies into comic books for fans too lazy to read an entire novelization. In 1976, Marvel released a comic version of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey for readers who thought Iron Man didn’t have enough existential confusion. The book was kind of a big deal because it was written and drawn by the legendary Jack Kirby. Soon, Marvel enlisted Kirby to create a recurring 2001 series not because it was a particularly good idea to turn a ponderous work of cinema into a monthly comic, but because the licensing fee from the adaptation essentially gave Marvel the rights to use the title “2001” for free. The first few issues mirrored the perplexing story arc of the movie, but with new characters. The first story tells of a caveman who symbolically evolves into an astronaut and because it’s Jack Kirby, grotesque tentacle monsters totally show up at one point. In the end, the astronaut gets sucked into the black monolith, where, like Dave from the movie, he lives out an entire lifetime before dying and being reborn as a magic space baby. Kirby did this story over and over again, each with a different protagonist. Why? Because Marvel was worried that if he created any fun original characters for 2001 A Space Odyssey, the movie studio might own the rights. So we get the same story repeated with, say, Vira the She-Demon, who goes from prehistoric figure to astronaut, to dead astronaut, to somewhat incredulous Starchild. It’s basically the arthouse equivalent of Groundhog Day. Eventually, Kirby was able to break from that mould, telling a story about the future year of 2040 in which, get this, grown men are obsessed with superheroes. Our protagonist, Norton, is playing a futuristic role-playing game where he dresses up like a superhero, but he immediately calls it off when he saves the princess and she’s not the model he was expecting. Then he gets sucked into the monolith, which randomly shows up at a beach, presumably with a space towel and space Gillian Flynn novel. Kirby eventually did create a popular new character in the comic Mister Machine, a cyborg who helps people fix flat tires. While Marvel cancelled 2001, Mister Machine was liked enough to survive, and became part of the Marvel universe, fighting both Hulk and later Iron Man. Though sadly, the Punisher vs. Vira the She-Demon somehow never happened.
These were some superheroes you never knew existed in the Marvel Universe. If there are other heroes that should have made it to this feel free mention them in the comment section to let us know. So we can include them in the next one.