We live in the era of the superhero.
OK, maybe not real superheroes. Thor and Captain America are not actually wandering the streets in their brightly colored outfits, but interest in these costumed defenders—particularly Marvel heroes—has reached an all-time high. As superhero films continue to dominate the box office, they invite more people into their fandoms and beg the question: Who are the strongest Marvel heroes?
Even for experienced comic book readers, the near-constant superhero movie releases can be overwhelming. It can be especially difficult for new fans to keep track of these champions' world-changing abilities. For those wondering who can possibly top Captain Marvel's impressive power portfolio, here are the most powerful Marvel heroes. (Then see how they stack up to the other most powerful Marvel characters, from villains to gods.)
The most powerful Marvel heroes
If the strongest Marvel heroes were to duke it out, it would likely mean the destruction of a planet or two. The Hulk's impressive strength is difficult to compare to Scarlet Witch's reality-altering powers or Professor X's telepathy, so these characters are listed in no particular order.
Franklin Richards / Powerhouse
Thought up by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the late '60s, the son of the Fantastic Four's Reed and Susan Richards vastly outmatches his parents in power levels. Though his parents boast their own impressive list of abilities, Franklin's reality-warping powers are on their own level.
Franklin was born into a loving family in New York City. Unlike most mutants, his powers didn't wait until he hit puberty to manifest. Instead, due to his parents radiation-infused genes, Franklin began developing his mutant abilities as a toddler. As a child, he engaged in numerous battles with malevolent villains, including Ultron, Norman Osborn, and Onslaught.
Due to the reality-warping nature of his abilities, Franklin Richards is capable of almost anything. A mere thought from Franklin can create or destroy matter, even on a cosmic scale. With power levels equal to the Celestials, Franklin once created a miniature universe that he literally carries around in his pocket. To top off his already-impressive resume, Franklin also harnesses incredible psionic powers. Telepathy, telekinesis, psychic blasts and astral projection are but a few of his extensive abilities. Franklin may even be immortal, based on hints dropped in his storylines.
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Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch
Originally written as a villain, Wanda Maximoff has flipped between ally and enemy of the X-Men for decades. When Lee and Kirby first introduced her in 1964, Scarlet Witch's powers were undefined. Over the years, her abilities have fluctuated between manageable and overwhelming.
Wanda, the child of Magneto and his wife Magda, was born in secret in the fictional country Transia. Her twin brother, Pietro, accompanied her throughout their difficult childhood. At least some of Wanda's magic-like abilities come from the god Chthon, who intended to use her body as a vessel when she was old enough. The twins eventually joined the Brotherhood of Mutants under Magneto. At the time, they were unaware of their connection to the metal-powered mutant.
As previously mentioned, Wanda's powers were initially vague. Her magical abilities had an echo of Black Cat's "bad luck" powers, causing chaos wherever she directed them. Wanda's abilities were defined as "chaos magic" for some time, before they shifted into the realm of reality warping. Despite the "magical" properties of Scarlet Witch's abilities, they come from her mutant genes. When utilizing her reality-warping talents, Wanda is capable of completely reshaping the universe.
Thor Odinson / God of Thunder
Created in the silver age of comic books, Thor has been a Marvel mainstay since Lee, Kirby, and Larry thought him up. Chris Hemsworth's charming depiction—not to mention those stellar abs—brought the character into the mainstream with 2011's Thor.
Based on the Norse god of the same name, the comic book version of Thor deviates from his inspiration in many ways. While he still harnesses the power of thunder and lightning, Marvel's Thor has extra levels to his story. After Odin sends him to Earth with no memory of his prior life, Thor embraces his alternate identity as medical student Donald Blake. In the process, he meets and falls in love with Jane Foster, a nurse. While Loki's manipulations often draw him away from Earth, our little planet has long been a favorite of the blonde-haired god. Thankfully, his status as a founding member of the Avengers—also thanks to Loki—keeps him in close touch with his friends and allies on Earth.
Thor's Asgardian origins grant him a remarkably long life and impressive strength. While not entirely invulnerable, Thor can resist staggering damage. He possesses superhuman speed, eyesight, durability, and excellent hand-to-hand combat skills. His hammer, Mjolnir, focuses his power as the God of Thunder. Using it, he can better direct his ability to summon a storm upon his foes. This Marvel hero can travel through time, regenerate portions of his body, and his stamina is enough to engage in combat for months on end with no breaks. On top of everything, Thor can enter a "berserker rage" in combat, which enhances his strength and stamina tenfold.
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Charles Xavier / Professor X
Inspired by Martin Luther King Jr, Charles Xavier—created by Lee and Kirby—first appeared in Marvel comics in the early '60s. Even to non-comic lovers, Professor X has become a household name thanks to Sir Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy's portrayals of the character.
Born to a wealthy nuclear scientist in New York, Xavier came into his mutant abilities as an adolescent. After the death of his father, Xavier's mother married Kurt Marko and brought Cain Marko–also known as Juggernaut—into the family. After receiving Ph.D.s in biophysics, psychology, genetics, and anthropology, Xavier was drafted into the Korean war. After trekking around the world, he lost the use of his legs thanks to an alien named Lucifer. Eventually, Xavier returned to New York and founded Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters.
Xavier is one of the most powerful telepaths of all Marvel heroes. Before Magneto limited the Earth's electromagnetic field, Xavier's telepathy was strong enough to cover the entire planet. His mind-reading and thought-projecting abilities typically span about 250 miles, but outside of Earth's bounds, he has reached much further.
Professor X can learn entirely new languages by digging deep enough in a fluent person's mind, and teach them a new language using the same method. He can project illusions, erase memories, limit powers, communicate with animals, and even shoot psionic blasts. His psychic abilities are great enough to match Ego the Living Planet, and to top it off, he is incredibly intelligent, driven, and kind. Charles Xavier's power portfolio stretches far beyond what this article allows.
Bruce Banner / The Hulk
If this were a numerical ranking of the most powerful Marvel heroes, the Hulk would likely come in at Number One. While the "strongest Avenger" has lost several battles over the years—including one to Deadpool—his overwhelming power and stunning intellect generally land him on top. Created by Lee and Kirby in the early '60s, the Hulk is one of the most iconic Marvel heroes of all time.
Bruce Banner was a hero even before he became the Hulk. The massive amounts of gamma radiation that lead to his aggressive alter ego hit him when he saved a teenager who had wandered into the testing area. While Banner didn't initially see any side effects from his gamma shower, the Hulk gradually revealed himself to his scientific counterpart. After realizing that anger prompted his alter ego, Banner sought methods to control his rage. The character has appeared as both a hero and antagonist during his Marvel comics tenure.
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Best known for his anger-induced rampages, the Hulk has seemingly unlimited power. In the comics, his strength, regenerative ability, and endurance all increase with his rage. As long as the Hulk is angry, he is all but unstoppable. His immense strength allows him to punch between spatial dimensions, and coupled with Banner's brilliance, the Hulk is a truly staggering powerhouse.
Jean Grey / Phoenix
Jean Grey is at her most powerful when affected by the Phoenix Force, but because that version of her is technically a villain, she won't be included here. Even without the enhancements that Dark Phoenix brings with her, the character—whom Lee and Kirby conceived in the early '60s—is an Omega-level mutant.
Jean's powers first manifested when she was quite young. After seeing a friend struck and killed by a car, Jean mentally linked to her friend and nearly died herself. Thanks to Charles Xavier, she survived, but he was forced to block her telepathic abilities until she was old enough to learn control. Her relationship with Scott Summers persisted for decades, despite Jean harboring a secret desire for Wolverine.
As an Omega-level mutant, Jean is among few telepaths who can communicate with animals. Her telepathic skills are less refined than her telekinesis, but Jean is still among the strongest telepaths on Earth. Her telekinesis allows her to fly, lift thousands of pounds, and create force fields. Once she melds with the Phoenix Force, these powers multiply, making Jean one of the most powerful Marvel heroes of all time.
Carol Danvers / Captain Marvel
Roy Thomas and Gene Colan first introduced the world to Carol Danvers in the late '60s. The film version of Captain Marvel's origin story is surprisingly accurate and created a host of new fans.
Danvers was an officer in the military before she gained her superhuman powers. After a nearby Kree device exploded, catching her in the blast, Danvers developed her enhanced abilities. Initially named Ms. Marvel, the character also went by Binary and Warbird before eventually claiming the title of Captain Marvel. Captain Marvel has long been considered a feminist icon, particularly given Danvers' fight for equal pay as far back as the mid-'70s.
Superhuman strength, endurance, and stamina are just the beginning of Captain Marvel's formidable power lineup. She is physically durable and can access what Marvel writers call a "seventh sense," which allows her limited precognitive abilities. She can absorb and redirect energy, and eventually gained the power of flight. The explosive blasts that she shoots from her fingertips are powerful enough to destroy a nuclear weapon, and her ability to bounce back from a hit is almost unmatched.
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Stephen Strange / Doctor Strange
In the early '60s, Steve Ditko and Lee created this mystical hero. Once an egotistical surgeon, Strange began his journey into mysticism following a crash that ruined his ability to perform surgery. He stumbled across the magic that came to define his character in his quest to restore his dexterity. A rumor led him to the Ancient One, a sorcerer who trains Strange in the mystic arts. In a very Deadpool manner, Doctor Strange has acknowledged his status as a comic book character, albeit in an alternate reality.
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One of the few non-mutants on this list, Doctor Strange is human despite his magical abilities. Often, Strange uses outside tools to boost his magic. His Cloak of Levitation allows him to fly, an amulet protects him from evil magic, the Book of the Vishanti boosts his magical knowledge, and he even occasionally finds use for a literal crystal ball. He is a capable fighter and is acknowledged as one of the most powerful magicians in the universe.
By 1968, Lee and Thomas' search for a new addition to the Avengers birthed the Vision. While several questions linger about the upcoming Disney+ series WandaVision, many fans are looking forward to more of the hyper-intelligent android.
The robot Ultron created the Vision for insidious purposes. Though he was initially intended as a weapon against Ultron's creator Hank Pym, the Avengers eventually convinced the Vision to turn against his creator. Though his romance with Wanda Maximoff helped ground him, the Vision was often struggled his mechanical ability to be turned against his teammates. His children with Wanda were, obviously, not his—or children at all, it turns out—but their romance has long been a mainstay in Marvel comics.
The Vision closely resembles a human, apart from his crimson skin and the Solar Jewel embedded in his forehead. His artificial nature grants him superhuman strength, speed, stamina, flight, and the ability to shoot optic beams from his forehead bling. The Vision is also capable of gaining or losing mass at will. This allows him to switch between extraordinarily dense—boosting his strength and durability—and nearly intangible. His skills as a tactician have come in handy through the years, as has his expertise in repairing himself.
This Marvel hero might sound familiar, as Lee and Kirby adapted Hercules from his mythological roots in the mid-'60s. Marvel's iteration of the immortal beefcake borrows much from his Roman origins, though he still has plenty of unique characteristics.
Hercules first appeared in Marvel comics as a similarly-powered counterpart of Thor. Occasionally a friend, but often manipulated or tricked into an enemy, Hercules popped in and out of comics for years. He briefly ruled the Netherworld and once tried to take down the Avengers. Eventually, however, he became a trusted ally of the superhero team and founded the Champions.
Hercules is a divine hero, so he harnesses your typical god-like powers. Once, this Marvel hero even fought the Hulk to a standstill. He can run up to 100 mph, jump to incredible heights, and possesses staggering physical strength. He is skilled in archery and wrestling, and he's mastered the art of the earth-shattering punch. His ability to heal from most wounds often comes in handy, as do his immortality and immunity to some degree of magical influence. To top it all off, this chiseled hero boasts a pair of perfect pecs. A hero to us all.