Marvel Comics has some of the most iconic superheroes ever created, but it also created some great new characters in the current century.
One thing that has kept Marvel Comics so successful for so many years is the fact they have recognizable heroes and villains that have a proven track record with fans. However, while Spider-Man, Iron Man, and Hulk are still popular with readers, young and old alike, Marvel has tried to keep things fresh by introducing new heroes and villains to the lineup and there have been some heavy hitters introduced in the last 20 years.
In the early 2000s, Marvel Comics felt it needed to freshen things up for readers with updated origins, bringing heroes into the 21st century. They did this with the Ultimate Marvel Universe, but at the same time, the company began to implement new heroes into its main timeline as well, giving some fresh voices to a new generation of readers and fans.
One of the first new characters introduced turned out to be one of the oldest Marvel superheroes in the universe. Robert Reynolds is Sentry, and he made his first appearance in Sentry #1 by Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee in 2000. However, his origin story predated most of the superheroes in Marvel Comics, as Sentry was one of the first – and most powerful – heroes in Marvel’s early days.
Soon, Sentry realized he was under the control of an evil entity known as The Void, and he ended up retiring and using his powers to make everyone forget that he ever existed, which is why no hero or reader ever knew he was once Earth’s mightiest hero. Since his introduction, he has served as an Avengers member and is one of the few heroes who can go toe-to-toe with The Hulk.
Spider-Man saw his origin story begin to change in the 2000s, and while he was still bitten by a radioactive spider, it was not the accident that Peter Parker and most readers grew to believe. Instead, it was part of the Spider-Totem, a multiversal phenomenon where characters in every world gained the powers of the spider. With the new origin came a new enemy in Morlun and his brethren in the Inheritors.
While they were all-powerful, Morlun was the most powerful member of the Inheritors, his sole purpose in life is to seek out and consume heroes and villains who used animal totems. First appearing in Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 2 #30 by J. Michael Straczynski and John Romita Jr., he quickly became one of Spider-Man’s deadliest villains.
When Netflix began releasing its Marvel series based around street-level heroes, one of the best characters in any of the shows was Jessica Jones. She was a superpowered private investigator with a dark past and one of the scariest villains in the Netflix Marvel world. Unlike the other Netflix heroes, Jones was still brand new in the comics.
Jessica Jones made her debut in Alias #1 in 2001 by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos, but like Sentry, she had been around longer than that. Marvel retconned her into an early issue of Amazing Spider-Man as an unnamed girl in a random scene. Since her debut in Alias, Jessica has been an Avenger, married Luke Cage, and is a superhero mother in Marvel Comics.
In 2003, Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona brought the children known as Runaways to the Marvel Comics universe. These were all children born to supervillains known as the Pride and they all inherited powers from their parents. Since Pride was a criminal organization operating in Los Angels, they never crossed paths earlier with Marvel’s heroes.
However, when the kids learned their parents were supervillains, they ran away and ended up becoming superheroes, planning to bring down their parents’ criminal operations. The group became very popular and ended up getting their own Hulu Marvel streaming series while crossing over in comics with the Avengers, X-Men, and Doctor Strange.
The breakout from the Logan movie was Laura, also known as X-23. She is a clone of Wolverine, with the same powers as the X-Men member. In the comics, she never made her first appearance until 2004 in NYX #3 by Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost. In All-New Wolverine #1 in 2015, she took on the codename Wolverine.
Laura has become one of Marvel’s most important mutants over the years, working in X-Force, Avengers Academy, and is presently a member of the X-Men. She has also earned her spot with the mutants, one of the few clones considered a real mutant with the rights of all mutant residents in Krakoa.
Amadeus Cho made his first appearance as a runaway child in Amazing Fantasy Vol. 2 #15 and then moved on to the pages of The Incredible Hulk. While Cho was an interesting character – one of the smartest people in the world and a person who could accurately predict almost anything that could happen – he went through a lot of changes.
Cho went from Hulk to Hercules, where he became a legitimate sidekick for the Prince of Power. He also became a Hulk and a founding member of the Champions before losing a lot of those powers and ending up as Brawn. However, he has remained a key hero in Marvel Comics in all his roles and has grown up in front of readers over the last 16 years.
If the current direction of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is any indication, the Young Avengers might be the most important new additions to the Marvel Comics world in the 21st century. Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung introduced the team in Young Avengers #1 in 2005 and became involved in several big storylines over the next decade.
So far, Speed, Wiccan, Kid Loki, Patriot, Kid Loki, and Stature have all made debuts in the MCU. Kate Bishop will debut in the upcoming Hawkeye series and America Chavez in Doctor Strange’s next movie. That leaves Hulkling as the only main team member who hasn’t yet appeared in the MCU.
Not only did Wolverine learn he had a clone in X-23 in the new century, but he also learned he had a son. Daken made his debut in Wolverine: Origins #5 in 2006, the son of Logan and Itsu, who Winter Soldier killed while she was pregnant with their child. Daken was born anyway and raised by a wealthy Japanese couple.
Daken started out as a villain, wanting to kill his father for not being there for him as a child. He eventually joined up with Norman Osborn’s Dark Avengers before Wolverine finally killed him. Daken is very different now, a hero on Krakoa and part of the X-Factor Investigations team.
Miles Morales was the most important superhero introduced in the Ultimate Marvel Comics Universe, and this is because he transferred over to the mainstream timeline when the Incursion ended the Ultimate Universe. Since then, Miles has become a close associate of Peter Parker’s Spider-Man, and both are heroes in the Marvel Universe.
Miles has gained an even bigger footprint in pop culture with his own Oscar-winning animated movie and a bestselling videogame based on his character. Miles still has his own solo comic series and is a member of the Champions.
Kamala Khan made her debut as Ms. Marvel in 2014 in All-New Marvel NOW! Point One #1.NOW. She was the first Muslim character to headline her own Marvel Comics series, a teenager who gained her powers thanks to the Terrigen Mists in the Inhumanity series. Since that time, Kamala has become one of the most important teenage heroes in Marvel Comics.
She has since become a founding member of the Champions, was the center of the recent Outlawed storyline, and was the main character in the Avengers console videogame. In 2022, Kamala Khan will headline her own Disney+ series, leading the teenage Marvel heroes into the future.
NEXT: Ms. Marvel’x Main Comic Book Villains, Ranked Lamest To Coolest
Shawn S. Lealos is a senior writer on ScreenRant who fell in love with movies in 1989 after going to the theater to see Tim Burton’s Batman as his first big screen experience.
Shawn received his Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma with a minor in Film Studies. He has worked as a journalist for over 25 years, first in the world of print journalism before moving to online media as the world changed. Shawn is a former member of the Society of Professional Journalists and current member of the Oklahoma Film Critics Circle. He has work published in newspapers such as Daily Oklahoman and Oklahoma Gazette and magazines such as Vox Magazine, Loud Magazine, and Inside Sports Magazine. His work on the Internet has been featured on websites like The Huffington Post, Yahoo Movies, Chud, Renegade Cinema, 411mania, and Sporting News.
Shawn is also a published author, with a non-fiction book about the Stephen King Dollar Baby Filmmakers and has begun work on a new fiction series as well. Visit Shawn Lealos’ website to learn more about his novel writing and follow him on Twitter @sslealos.