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Top Five Cosmic Comic Characters

The incredible success of Guardians of the Galaxy film, both at the box office and with fans, has jump-started speculation about the future of Marvel Studios movies that are not set on Earth. Space has always been an important part of comic books – after all, the first superhero is an alien from a destroyed planet who grows up in Midwestern America. There have been peaks and valleys of interest in cosmic comic characters, but we seem to be entering a period of renewed interest.   So who are the top five space-based cosmic comic characters? I left out the Guardians of the Galaxy because that seems like an obvious choice right now. I also am talking mostly about characters who spend most of their time in space, not just aliens, so that’s why I haven’t included Darkseid and similar characters. I also choose not to include Green Lantern or Captain Marvel (formerly Ms. Marvel) since although space is an important part of their stories, I don’t consider them primarily space characters.  

5. Adam Strange

  cosmic comic characters   One of the oldest cosmic comic character on this list, Adam Strange dates back to the DC Comics title Showcase in 1958. He is in some ways a bridge between the old movie and comic serialized science-fiction characters like Flash Gordon and the modern Lee/Kirby exploration of space that occurred in Fantastic Four. Adam Strange was teleported from Earth to the planet Rann, where he used the planet’s technology to defend their world and others. In the pre-“New 52” world of DC, Strange was getting a large amount of usage in a number of crossovers in the 2000’s. In the New 52, Strange became a member of Justice League United.  

4. Adam Warlock

  cosmic comic characters   Adam Warlock has long been a cult comic book characters. The majority of comic readers haven’t read many of his stories, but those who are fans are very enthusiastic in their adoration. Like many of Marvel’s best space characters, Warlock was created by Lee and Kirby in Fantastic Four, though he was only referred to as “Him.” Warlock as he came to be known was a product of a revamp by writer/editor Roy Thomas and artist Gil Kane in 1972. However, his most iconic stories come from writer/artist Jim Starlin in the mid-1970’s in Marvel’s Strange Tales. The Starlin stories of Adam Warlock are often heralded as some of Marvel’s most original and adventurous comics ever. Although Warlock appeared again in the 1990s, he has been an under-utilized property until the recently-revamped Guardians of the Galaxy comics. There is a real chance that Warlock will show up in future Marvel Studios movies because Guardians movie writer/director James Gunn confirmed that The Collector possesses a cocoon that contains Warlock.  

3. Thanos

  cosmic comic characters   Although there is definitely a connection between Thanos and Darkseid (visually at least), I’ve always thought Thanos is the more cosmic comic character, while Darkseid seems more of an alien villain. Thanos was the creator of Jim Starlin in the 1970’s, and has frequently been a foe to the Avengers and Fantastic Four. Additionally, he has also been a big foe to Marvel’s cosmic comic characters. His highpoint – at least in terms of comic book notoriety – was the Infinity Gauntlet series, though he also played a central role in the recent Marvel event Infinity. I’ve always enjoyed that Thanos, whose name is derived from Thanatos, the Greek mythological version of Death, is in love with the Mistress Death in the Marvel universe. I also find it quite strange that now the general public knows the name Thanos.  

2. Legion of Super-Heroes

  cosmic comic characters     There are so many iterations of the Legion of Super-Heroes and while not all are great, the team itself and many of its members are so imaginative and fun that I have to include them on my list of top five cosmic comic characters. The Legion first appeared in DC Comics in 1958 (which, as an interesting coincidence, is the same year that Adam Strange first appeared), created by Otto Binder and Al Plastino. Superboy was often a member, but he wasn’t necessarily the focus of the group. There are so many members of the team, which is usually set in the 30th and 31th Centuries, but some of the most enduring have been Brainiac-5, Chameleon Boy, Lightning Lass, and Timber Wolf (reportedly partially the inspiration for Wolverine). DC has rebooted and revamped the team so many times that the team’s reputation has been damaged a bit, but many Legion stories are still really excellent.  

1. Silver Surfer

  cosmic comic characters   Most people associate the Silver Surfer with Galactus, the world eater. While the Surfer’s origin is directly tied to Galactus, he’s had many other interesting tales. The Silver Surfer was originally Norrin Radd, an astronomer on the planet  Zenn-La, who made a deal with Galactus – he would become Galactus’ herald, finding planets for him to consume, if Galactus would spare Zenn-La. The Surfer tried his best to find uninhabited worlds before finally breaking away from Galactus. Another Lee/Kirby creation, the Surfer later became a member of the Defenders and has aided Earth heroes on many occasions. The Silver Surfer animated TV series from 1998 is actually one of the better comic book-based series from that time, and features many cosmic characters.   One of the unfortunate elements of the Fantastic Four license for 20th Century Fox is that they also own the Silver Surfer property. So unless the studio makes a deal with Marvel, we won’t see the Silver Surfer interact on screen with the Guardians or Avengers. Fortunately, Dan Slott and Michael Allred are producing a new Silver Surfer comic, which is different in tone (lighter) than many other Surfer comics and has become a surprise hit.   What do you think – does one of these (or another) deserve a place in the top five of cosmic comic characters? Tell us what you think in the comments.


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