Marvel’s villains have gotten quite popular over the years, and for good reasons. The publisher revolutionized superheroes by adding a dose of the real world to them. With villains, they did something similar. They fleshed them out in ways that their distinguished competition didn’t, creating villains that eventually became as popular as many of the publisher’s heroes.
Popularity isn’t always a good thing, though. Some villains have been taken to places they never should have gone because Marvel wanted to capitalize on the fans’ love of them. Being popular is a double-edged sword, and it’s cut many villains both ways.
10/10 Mystique’s Lost A Lot Of Her Edge
Marvel has some great shapeshifters, but few are as accomplished as Mystique. She led the best incarnation of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, battling against the X-Men and the Avengers. She was able to get that team a government commission, and it became the Freedom Force, its villainy federally sanctioned.
Then the ’90s hit. Like most of the big X-Men villains, Mystique got popular and started joining the rosters of the teams. She used to be a master manipulator, but that was a long time ago. After getting Destiny back in the Krakoa Era, she’s basically just a snarky bad guy; a far cry from the dangerous villain she used to be.
9/10 Venom As A Hero Has Never Made Any Sense
Venom was amazingly popular from the beginning. Evil opposite villains like him were always popular, with the personal grudge between Spider-Man, Eddie Brock, and the Venom symbiote making for the perfect rivalry. Venom knew all of Spider-Man’s secrets and was immune to his spider-sense; he was the perfect Spider-Man villain. However, greed came before ideas at Marvel in the ’90s.
Wanting to capitalize on Venom’s already massive popularity, Marvel made him into a lethal protector so he could be in miniseries. However, there was really no reason for Eddie Brock or the symbiote to want to be heroic. It robbed Spider-Man of the best villain he had in decades.
8/10 Bullseye Has Gotten Beaten Too Much To Be A Believable Threat
Bullseye became a big deal when he killed Elektra. The sinister assassin proved to be a dangerous threat in that moment, a villain who could take out a foe at any time. And then it never happened again. Bullseye kept appearing, kept fighting Daredevil, and kept losing. This became a huge problem for the character.
Bullseye became a huge villain, but it was impossible to have him kill somebody every time he appeared to prove he was a threat. So, the threat of the character lessened over the years. He’s still popular, but he’s lost the dangerous edge he once had.
7/10 Sabretooth Got Held Back By Joining The X-Men & Uncanny Avengers
Sabretooth is a brutal killer, battling Wolverine and the X-Men to a standstill. He gained a surge in popularity in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Eventually, this would bring him to the X-Men. His first stint with the team worked; he was forced to wear special restraints that would stop him from hurting the X-Men.
After Wolverine lobotomized Sabretooth, he’d trick the team, brutally injure Psylocke and Archangel, and get beat on. After this, he joined X-Factor, but it was a ploy again, and he almost killed them all. Later Sabretooth’s existence, he’d have more tame times with the X-Men that hurt him as a character, especially the morality inversion that made him an Avenger. On top of that, he hasn’t had an amazing brawl with Wolverine in years.
6/10 Loki Is Basically Harmless Nowadays
Marvel is home to amazing rivalries, with the one between Thor and Loki being especially noteworthy. It birthed the Avengers and led to Loki creating multiple supervillains to destroy his brother. Then the MCU happened. Loki gained massive mainstream popularity, and Marvel decided that they wanted in on that in the comics.
Loki became a more heroic figure, often acting in a more humorous manner than he did before. The grinning killer was gone, and in his place was just a smiling trickster. He went from a supremely dangerous villain to a beloved fan favorite. At this point, it’s hard to even imagine him as a dangerous villain like he once was.
5/10 The MCU Is The Worst Thing To Happen To Kang
Kang is considered the best of Marvel’s time-traveling villains, having built up a rivalry with the Avengers that has spanned decades. While it’s hard to pinpoint any great Kang stories in the last twenty years. The closest thing is the Apocalypse Twins epic from the first volume of Uncanny Avengers, where he wasn’t actually the main villain, but he’s still a respected villain. However, Kang’s recent addition to the MCU has already borne poisoned fruit.
The MCU has been bad for every Marvel villain so far, and it feels like it’s put Kang in a holding pattern.The Timeless one-shots have been interesting, but the first one led to nothing. The second one might, since Kang is actually appearing in Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania this year, but even then, it feels like something interesting should have already happened with such a big villain sometime in the last twenty years instead of waiting til his MCU debut.
4/10 Galactus Isn’t The Threat He Used To Be
Some Marvel villains have reshaped the universe, Galactus chief among them. The World Devourer has destroyed countless worlds, with his destruction of the Skrull homeworld leading to Secret Invasion and the current Kree-Skrull alliance. He’s a feared menace throughout the Marvel Universe, but readers haven’t felt the same fear for him in a long time.
Galactus should be an event, and he used to be, but seeing him getting beaten so much over the years has hurt that. It’s impossible for readers to believe that Galactus will win, which kills his threat. There’s really no reason for him to show up again, since he’ll lose.
3/10 Apocalypse’s Origin Retcon To Make Him More Altruistic Invalidates Every Prior Apocalypse Story
Apocalypse has always been popular, but the last few years ruined him. For a long time, Apocalypse was “protected,” for lack of a better word. He didn’t appear all the time and was still very hard to beat. Then the Krakoa Era happened. Like the rest of the team’s villains, he joined the nascent mutant nation, but he was the only one who got an origin retcon to make him more sympathetic.
Marvel made Apocalypse’s survival of the fittest motto into something altruistic, as he wanted to do so in order to save the mutants of Earth as a race from the demonic hordes of Amenth. It takes every other Apocalypse story and makes them ridiculous. X-Men writers like to make popular villains heroes, but in doing so, they ruined Apocalypse.
2/10 The Loss Of Magneto As A Villain Only Came Because He Was Popular
Magneto has become an unlikely Marvel hero all because of his massive popularity. For years, Magneto was the perfect diametric opposite to the X-Men, a villain who was sympathetic yet still evil. There’s nothing wrong with fleshing out a villain, but doing so with Magneto actually made him too sympathetic.
Magneto’s popularity didn’t help, either. In order to capitalize on it, they had him join the X-Men in the Utopia era. Since then, he’s been with the X-men, although sometimes he’s a bit more villainous. Losing Magneto as a villain has hurt the X-Men and the character himself.
1/10 Thanos Can’t Actually Win, So It’s Weird To Keep Pretending He Does
Thanos leapfrogged to the top of Marvel’s most popular heroes because of the MCU. For years, Marvel has showcased the villain in his own books and other series, looking to take advantage of his popularity. They’ve taken a villain who used to be an event and made him commonplace.
Another problem with Thanos is that his reputation of being supremely dangerous has taken a hit as well. Readers have seen him lose so many times that his threat just isn’t serious anymore. It’s impossible to believe he’s going to win in the long run, which destroys his credibility as a villain.
NEXT: 10 Marvel Villains More Popular Than The Heroes