Space Race1 of 12A new era for Marvel Comics' Guardians of the Galaxy begins this January with a new series by Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw... and as the teaser image implies, this new incarnation seems to feature a lot more cosmic heroes than just the smaller Starlord-Gamora-led team that’s been inhabiting the title over the past several years. In fact, this new Guardians of the Galaxy seems to feature most Marvel superheroes (and some villains) that have called space their home over the last 50+ years.
With this in mind, we’re going to take a look at our countdown of the greatest cosmic superheroes from all comic book publishers.
And keep in mind we said superheroes – you won’t find sci-fi heroes like Captain Kirk or Luke Skywalker on this list, or even the gang from Saga, no matter how cosmic they may be.
Flash Gordon2 of 12OK, so maybe we’re breaking our own rules here right off the bat, as Flash Gordon isn’t exactly a superhero, but he’s the prototype on which many characters from this list are based, so we had to include him.
Created in the ‘30’s to compete with Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon is where pulp and sci-fi collide, telling stories of an Earthling traveling to far out worlds and having cosmic adventures. Like we said, he’s not superhero in the truest sense, but Flash Gordon set the stage for cosmic superhero stories for decades to come.
Legion of Super-Heroes3 of 12Inspired by the 20th century heroism of Superman, the Legion is less a team than a veritable army of heroes with dozens of members who hail from all across the cosmos. Since their inception in the ‘50’s, the Legion has been one of DC’s premiere cosmic franchises, even crossing over with Star Trek.
The teenage crimefighters of the Legion of Super-Heroes hail from a plethora of worlds populated by people with extraordinary powers and strange physiology. It’s no wonder, then, that their adventures so often take them back to those worlds and beyond.
Right now, the Legion are in mothballs, but the team's return has been repeatedly teased for the past two years in comic books and interviews with DC creators.
New Gods4 of 12When Jack Kirby moved from Marvel to DC in the early ‘70’s, he was allowed to carve out his own corner of the DC Universe inhabited by beings far beyond even the super-powered mortals of DC’s Earth. This corner, called the Fourth World, consists of the planets of Apokolips and New Genesis – with the concept collectively known as the New Gods.
While the Fourth World initially struggled to connect, in the decades since its inception, it has become a crucial part of the DC mythos. Characters such as Orion, Mr. Miracle, and Darkseid are integral to DC continuity, with Darkseid becoming perhaps the biggest foe in the DC Universe.
Adam Strange5 of 12Adam Strange is an example of a character that took the Flash Gordon archetype one step further into the realm of superheroics. With connections to the JLA and numerous other elements of DC’s superhero universe, Adam Strange is undeniably a superhero.
Transported to the planet Rann by the mysterious Zeta-Beam, Earthman Adam Strange falls in love with Alanna, a woman of Rann, and becomes the planet’s greatest hero. Not too dissimilar from Flash Gordon on a surface level, but Adam Strange’s superhero trappings truly set him apart from the classic pulp trope.
Nova6 of 12Nova has long been one of Marvel’s premiere cosmic heroes again, whether it be Richard Nova, Sam Alexander, or an entire corps.
Whichever version you prefer, Nova is the bearer (or currently, bearers) of the Nova Force, a cosmic power that puts the wielder on the level of Marvel’s top heroes. Nova is also heir to the legacy of the Nova Corps, an intergalactic peace keeping force, though they’ve been absent for some time now.
Guardians of the Galaxy7 of 12Call them the little cosmic team that could. A few years ago, If you told most comic book fans that the Guardians of the Galaxy would be a household name, let alone that Groot or Rocket Raccoon would have Halloween costumes on the shelves, you would have been laughed at. But nevertheless, Peter Quill and his crew are nothing if not tenacious, so here we are.
With two blockbuster films under their belts, it’s the modern incarnation of the Guardians that makes this list. Peter Quill, A.K.A. Star-Lord, Drax, Gamora, Rocket, and Groot are the heirs to a long legacy of cosmic heroism, and while they may often take an irreverent route getting there, there’s no question that the Guardians are Marvel’s premiere space-bound superteam.
Captain Marvel8 of 12There have been several Marvel superheroes to bear the name Captain Marvel, but the one that makes our list is the latest – and arguably greatest – of the bunch, Carol Danvers. Since graduating to the mantle of her mentor Captain Marvel several years ago, Danvers has carved a place as Marvel’s top superheroine.
In addition to being a premiere Avenger, Captain Marvel has also spent time among the Guardians of the Galaxy, and she’s months away from her own Marvel Studios film starring Brie Larson.
Superman9 of 12Many people will think of Superman as the greatest hero of Earth, but we all know his origins on the doomed planet of Krypton. And even though he’s saved the world time and time again, Superman has often returned to outer space both as a hero and as an explorer.
Superman’s cosmic adventures have taken him to every corner of the DC Universe, where he has been just as much a hero to the people of far-flung worlds as he is to those of Earth. Superman may not be the first cosmic superhero that comes to mind when you think of the archetype, but he ought to be pretty close.
Green Lantern10 of 12Over the years, there have been countless members of the Green Lantern Corps, and while everyone has their favorite, it’s hard to deny that Hal Jordan is the greatest of them all.
Hal remains the greatest wielder of the greatest weapon in the universe. Able to create anything the wielder can envision out of sheer willpower, there are few powers in the DC Universe that can rival the ring wielded by the space police of the Green Lantern Corps.
Silver Surfer11 of 12While it’s hard to determine the most beloved creation of a creator as prolific as Jack Kirby, Silver Surfer comes pretty close to the top of that list. Originally introduced as the herald of equally cosmic villain Galactus, Norrin Radd quickly spun out on his own when writer Stan Lee took a liking to the philosophical sentinel of the spaceways.
When it comes to cosmic superheroes, there’s no one more far out, more epic, and more adventurous than the Silver Surfer. He’s been all over the Marvel Universe, visiting the farthest reaches of space, and facing down the biggest intergalactic threats and pondering the greatest cosmic questions of all time.
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