See which heroes from the Marvel Universe made their mark with us during this crucial decade!
As we continue to celebrate Marvel’s 75th anniversary all year long on Marvel.com, we move into the 1980’s, and “Marvel’s Main Event,” where established characters exploded, often times spinning off in new directions and encountering exciting new friends and foes while attempting to survive tumultuous events.
This week, we count down our top 10 Marvel heroes to debut during the 1980’s. Have your own thoughts? Let us know on Twitter using the hash tag #Marvel75!
Excalibur by Alan Davis
First Appearance: EXCALIBUR SPECIAL EDITION #1
Why They’re #10: “For comic fans outside of the United States it’s often exciting to see their own country represented in their favorite books—even when they’re not always represented very accurately! As a Brit I was always thrilled to read the adventures of Captain Britain, but I was also a big X-Men fan, so when those two worlds collided in Excalibur, the United Kingdom-based team created to replace the feared-dead X-Men, it felt like a comic made just for me. Kitty, Kurt, Brian, Meggan, Rachel and Lockheed were all such great characters that any of them could easily be my favorite, and together this oddball family went on some of the wildest adventures I’d ever read. Creators Chris Claremont and Alan Davis did some of their all-time best work on Excalibur—and because they were both born in the UK, their version of Britain was actually recognizable!” – Andrew Wheeler
Digital Comics Spotlight: EXCALIBUR (1988) #1
First Appearance: UNCANNY X-MEN #130
Why She’s #9: “Whit Stilman chronicled the torrid early 1980’s in his 1998 film ‘The Last Days of Disco.’ It was into that time of transition and dusky rhinestones that Alison Blaire first brandished a microphone. Originally envisioned at the height of disco’s popularity in the mid-70’s, Dazzler didn’t see her first single and series of duets hit the charts until February of 1980. Pitched as a multi-media tie-in meant to coincide with a flesh-and-blood songstress, the character transcended her origins and original purpose with a level of staying power none could have predicted. As a member of the X-Men, Excalibur, and even S.H.I.E.L.D., the ever adaptable pop sensation provides her own pyrotechnics with the mutant ability to reprise sonic vibrations as light emissions. The last scion of disco, once pegged as a potential one-hit wonder, outshone all her critics and continues to serve as the mutant ambassador in the world of glamour and celebrity.” – Paul Montgomery
Digital Comics Spotlight: DAZZLER (1981) #1
8. THE NEW MUTANTS
First Appearance: MARVEL GRAPHIC NOVEL #4
Why They’re #8: “The first ever X-Men spin-off series featured characters from all over the world as Professor Xavier continued his mission to help mutantkind by welcoming a new batch of students. The five original New Mutants—the Brazilian Sunspot, Vietnamese Karma, Dani Moonstar of the Cheyenne Nation, the Scottish Wolfsbane, and Cannonball from Kentucky—constitute one of the most diverse mutant teams ever. As their ranks grew to include a number of fan favorite female characters—Magma and Magik—as well as the dynamic duo of Cypher and Warlock, the teenagers experienced a dramatic shift when Magneto assumed headmaster duties from Xavier. Their education continued through triumph and tragedy, and they eventually struck out on their own, only to find a new purpose with the militaristic Cable. By learning from three drastically different mentors, the no longer new mutants possess diverse skill sets that now benefit such teams as X-Factor, the X-Men, and the Avengers.” – Brett White
Digital Comics Spotlight: NEW MUTANTS (1983) #1
First Appearance: AVENGERS ANNUAL #10
Why She’s #7: “The enigmatic Rogue made first contact as a villainous pawn of Mystique and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants in November of 1981. Like the streak of white coursing through her russet mane, she sent a violent shockwave through the mutant community, robbing opponents of their minds and talents with the slightest touch. At the behest of the Brotherhood, she attacked Carol Danvers, and in the process permanently assumed her traits of resilient skin, augmented strength, and flight. In time, she fell under the wing of the Xavier School, where, over the course of many years, she learned to control the abilities that left her a pariah from an early age. Rogue remains a quintessential example of the mutant metaphor, overcoming the stigma of fear others attached to her uniqueness. Now this irrepressible Mississippi firebrand removes her gloves with her teeth, unashamed and eager to put her skill to good use, to contribute to the cause of her adopted family.” – Paul Montgomery
Digital Comics Spotlight: UNCANNY X-MEN #173
6. EMMA FROST
First Appearance: UNCANNY X-MEN #129
Why She’s #6: “Revealed yet guarded, cold but passionate, seemingly a pawn but always the master—few mutants revel in contradictions the way that Emma Frost does. Frost made her debut as the White Queen of the power hungry Inner Circle of the Hellfire Club, a villainess holding her own in the most patriarchal mutant group in the Marvel Universe. She subverted expectations with her revealing wardrobe and manipulated both her ‘superiors’ in the Club and her adversaries in the X-Men, usually without the aid of her telepathy. Even as one of the X-Men’s fiercest opponents, Emma still shared common ideology with the mutant heroes: the belief that young mutants should be protected, educated, and empowered to live their best lives. This shared belief eventually brought Emma to the X-Men as she became the team’s leading educator and, eventually, one of their most passionate and prominent faces.” – Brett White
Digital Comics Spotlight: UNCANNY X-MEN #151
5. CLOAK & DAGGER
First Appearance: PETER PARKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #64
Why They’re #5: “Two societal concerns of the early 1980’s—drug peddling and teenage runaways—proved the perfect combination as the foundation for the origin of Cloak and Dagger. While vastly different childhoods prompt the two 17-year-olds’ arrival in New York, circumstances quickly intertwined Tyrone Johnson and Tandy Bowen’s separate paths into one. Maggia henchmen ensnare the naive teens as test subjects for a new synthetic heroin. The normally fatal experimental drug actually triggers their powers: Johnson envelops evildoers in darkness while Bowen harnesses light as a weapon in the form of debilitating blades. While Cloak and Dagger burst into the Marvel universe within the pages of SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN, the vigilantes’ war on drugs grew to a limited series before long. The bond between Tyrone and Tandy runs deeper than their respective symbolic opposite powers, as Cloak finds himself constantly hungry to feed his dark powers with Dagger able to temporarily satiate him with her light. Indeed over time Dagger also convinced Cloak to lighten their vigilante approach to a more acceptable pursuit of justice. While born in the 1980’s, this duo still fights evil, winning new fans with every victory.” – Tim O’Shea
Digital Comics Spotlight: CLOAK AND DAGGER (1983) #1
First Appearance: SAVAGE SHE-HULK #1
Why She’s #4: “By placing herself in harm’s way while going head to head with the mob in a court battle, lawyer Jennifer Walters ended up with a bullet in her side. A blood transfusion from her cousin Bruce Banner—the Incredible Hulk—saved her life and gave her powers, but she already possessed a hero’s heart and determination. Unlike her gamma-irradiated cousin, Jen quickly learned how to control her transformations and utilized that knowledge to become the person she always aspired to be. Confident, inspiring, compassionate—you’ll be hard pressed to find a super hero more loved by her peers than She-Hulk. She never backs down from a fight, she’s always the last to leave any party, and she spends her time away from the Avengers fighting for justice in a courtroom. Just as the Hulk represents the danger of male repression, She-Hulk represents the strength and confidence that can be found in unrestrained femininity.” – Brett White
Digital Comics Spotlight: FANTASTIC FOUR #265
First Appearance: DAREDEVIL #168
Why She’s #3: “The flash of red, the whisper of steel, and she arrived. In 1981, Elektra Natchios slipped silently and lethally into the annals of Marvel history in the pages of DAREDEVIL. Despite her talents for stealth, she quickly asserted herself as the sort of character who could not be ignored, an antagonist as complex as the book’s titular hero. In less than a year, she became an icon of Marvel publishing, helped contribute to the dramatic reinvention of the Man Without Fear, and participated in one of the most brutal, tragic fights in the House of Ideas’ history. Then she would return some five years later, starring in ELEKTRA: ASSASSIN. A dose of surreal, mind altering storytelling, it remains one of the best second acts in Marvel Comics history. Importance must be measured in impact, not just ubiquity, and Elektra’s brief moments in the spotlight in the 80’s hit hard and left a mark for years to come.” – Tim Stevens
Digital Comics Spotlight: DAREDEVIL #181
2. BETA RAY BILL
First Appearance: THOR #337
Why He’s #2: “Created by the legendary Walt Simonson, Beta Ray Bill is so heroic and selfless that he’s one of the very few people in the universe worthy enough to wield the enchanted uru hammer Mjolnir and take on the powers of Thor. He’s so worthy that he even bested Thor in combat, and Odin gave him his own hammer, Stormbreaker, that is the equal of Mjolnir. And on top of all that—he’s a golden horse-faced alien called Beta Ray Bill! Honestly, it doesn’t get much more awesome than that. Simonson designed Bill to appear like a monster, to demonstrate that heroes don’t always look the way you expect, and that’s still a useful message to take to heart today. The character also helped establish another idea that’s still very relevant today: Mjolnir can bestow the title and power of Thor on anyone, so long as he—or she—is worthy.” – Andrew Wheeler
Digital Comics Spotlight: THOR #338
1. KITTY PRYDE
First Appearance: UNCANNY X-MEN #129
Why She’s #1: “Katherine Anne Pryde developed severe headaches in adolescence, as her latent mutant abilities began flickering into being. To her own dismay, Kitty discovered she could turn immaterial long enough to ‘phase’ through solid objects like a living specter. In time she would master such abilities and slink through walls, nimbly as a ‘Sprite,’ stealthily as a ‘Shadowcat.’ But at age 13 in January of 1980, she emerged as a reluctant yet highly valued free agent in the ongoing battle between Charles Xavier’s X-Men and Emma Frost’s Hellfire Club. It played out like a fairy tale, with Frost as the imperious, predatory White Queen, and the X-Men as the young woman’s motley protectors. Kitty eventually enrolled as the youngest student at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, a new role model for young readers. The character offered a more contemporary voice, overcame prejudices, and found community and family amongst the X-Men. Wolverine and Storm came to present parental figures and mentors while Colossus arrived as the love of her life.
“Young fans lived vicariously through Kitty’s misadventures and relationships, representing the ultimate fulfillment of youthful daydreams. That someone so unassuming and ordinary, from a household not so different from those we passed through every day, could take flight with our heroes and enjoy their respect and camaraderie, was tantamount to personally donning the blue and gold. So many readers grew up with Kitty, stared down the dissolution of family, wrestled with the natural—and supernatural—ebb and flow of relationships.
“In 1981, just a year after her first appearance, Kitty headlined ‘Days of Future Past,’ a landmark story line from Chris Claremont and John Byrne that practically rewrote the very DNA of the X-Men saga. It stands not only as one of the most pivotal works of the 1980’s, but continues to influence the topsy turvy timeline to this day.
“Kitty Pryde still gets headaches, though now they stem from ill-timed video calls from Star-Lord or a student’s request for an extension on their paper. Once a pawn, she now holds sway over her own allegiances, her own comings and goings, as well as the shepherding of young mutants fearful of the walls closing in on them. If she knows anything, it’s that there’s often more than one way around—or through—every obstacle and she’s keen to share that knowledge in good faith.
“Her power is intangible. Her impact is anything but.” – Paul Montgomery
Digital Comics Spotlight: UNCANNY X-MEN #143
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