Anti-heroes hold a special place in comics. They are the heroes who will stop at nothing to see justice done, even if that means killing their foes. While there have always been heroes who have killed in comics, even going back to the Golden Age, they were never as prevalent as they have been in the last forty years or so, riding a wave of violence from the darker pop culture of the late '70s to the present day.

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Marvel, with their mature characters and real-world concepts, boasts many different anti-heroes, some of whom are among the publisher's most popular characters. Let's take a look at Marvel's best anti-heroes.

Update on September 27th, 2021 by Bailey Jo Josie: Antiheroes have always been a huge part of the Marvel universe, striking a fascinating balance between being mostly on the side of good but also being willing to bend the rules in order to get justice. Obviously a list of only 10 barely scratched the surface of the full lineup of Marvel antiheroes, so we've updated the original article to call attention to a few more.

15 Silver Sable

After witnessing the murder of her mother, young Silvija Sablinova’s hair turned white, and she vowed revenge. Growing up, Sablinova became Silver Sable, a highly trained mercenary trained by her nazi-hunting father, Ernst Sablinova.

While Silver Sable uses her mercenary team the Wild Pack to get heroes (like Spider-Man) and reformed villains (like Sandman) paid for their good work, she is still a killer that isn’t exactly a villain or exactly a hero, making her one of the absolute best anti-heroes in the Marvel comics.

14 Cloak & Dagger

cloak-dagger

Originally appearing in Peter Parker, Spectacular Spider-Man, Clock and Dagger were teenage runaways Ty and Tandy who were experimented on with synthetic heroin, a drug that gave them superpowers. The two become murderous vigilantes who sought revenge on the man who drugged them, Simon Marshall, and the drug dealers under his control.

The duo were also the ones to kill Cyborg Silvermane but their vengeful tendencies haven’t kept them from teaming up with superheroes like Spider-Man or Captain America against a greater threat.

13 Elektra

Elektra was a born anti-hero. A ninja assassin with ties to Matt Murdock, she fought Daredevil before dying at the hands of Bullseye. After her resurrection, Elektra would go to war with the evil ninja clan, the Hand, and use her deadly skills to fight evil, sometimes working with S.H.I.E.L.D., sometimes working on her own.

While she's not as popular as she once was, Elektra has long been playing the role of an anti-hero. She does good, certainly, but she doesn't let the consequences of her actions stop her. Elektra will stick a sai through a bad guy's brain if she thinks that's what it takes.

12 Ghost Rider

There have been multiple Ghost Riders over the years and they all have a few things in common: Flaming skull heads, leather and chains, a cool vehicle of some kind, and a heaping helping of the good old ultra-violence, especially the Johnny Blaze and Danny Ketch iterations of the character. The Spirit of Vengeance, Ghost Rider's whole deal is enacting penance from those who have transgressed against the innocent.

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This is usually done with a heaping helping of violence. Ghost Rider really has never minded that sort of thing at all, doing his part in the war against evil with extreme prejudice.

11 Black Cat

Giant-Size Black Cat: Infinity Score #1 cover

Felicia Hardy’s father was a cat burglar and the beautiful acrobat decided to follow in his footsteps, adopting the moniker Black Cat. At first an enemy and adversary of Spider-Man, she eventually fell in love with the Wall-Crawler and decided to become his crime fighting partner.

However, Felicia couldn’t help but cause trouble as she at one point gets “bad luck” powers from Kingpin and even betrays Spider-Man. While she’s not as evil as Spider-Man’s other rogues, Black Cat is still a hard one to trust.

10 Venom

Venom started life as the anti-Spider-Man, a villain who hated the Wall-Crawler with all his soul. Peter Parker had cost Eddie Brock his job at the Daily Bugle and Spider-Man had rejected the alien symbiotic costume. The two joined up and Venom was born. However, the villain would prove to be so popular that Marvel would take steps to lighten him, making him into a lethal protector.

Venom would begin to fight crime and superpowered evil, but he'd do it his way and his way involved eating people's heads. He went out of vogue for a while before recently becoming a hot ticket again, as fans remember why he is such a great anti-hero.

9 Black Widow

Black Widow Comic Book Cover

Black Widow has always been one of the harder-edged members of the Avengers. Starting life as a Soviet spy who tangled with Iron Man, Black Widow would go on to join Earth's Mightiest Heroes and clean up her act. However, in recent years, creators have played up the spy side of her, making her more of a morally grey character.

While Black Widow doesn't indulge this side of herself very much with the Avengers, on her solo missions, she is much less inhibited and will do whatever it takes to win— even if she has to kill to do it.

8 Cable

Cable exemplifies a certain aesthetic as the gun-toting '90s bad boy, the hero who said that sometimes you had to shoot the villain in the face to make a difference. He took the bright, shiny young teens of the New Mutants and turned them into hardened soldiers in his own personal war.

While some things about the character would change over the years, Cable's penchant to take the most efficient route to victory, which often racked up a pretty impressive body count, would remain consistent. His founding of the X-Force would go on to change the way X-Men teams were looked at forever.

7 The Guardians Of The Galaxy

While the Guardians of the Galaxy of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are modeled more as “outlaws” and “a-holes”, Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax the Destoyer, Rocket Raccoon, and Groot are way better categorized as anti-heroes in the comics.

From Rocket’s eyebrow-raising catchphrase “Blam! Murdered you” to Gamora becoming the evil supervillain Requiem for a time, the Guardians really have no qualms about killing. While they all work for the greater good of the galaxy and are often seen as heroes, they all just barely toe the line.

6 Winter Soldier

The Winter Soldier started life as Bucky Barnes, the ultimate goody-two-shoes sidekick of WWII. Working with Captain America, Bucky was the embodiment of the light-hearted hero. However, a retcon would make things much darker, as it was revealed that Barnes was actually a highly trained black ops soldier who would sneak behind enemy lines and soften things up for Cap...in rather deadly ways.

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Retrieved by the Russians after everyone thought he was dead, Barnes would be transformed into the Winter Soldier, their top assassin. Years later, under the control of the Red Skull, he would clash with his former mentor, eventually rejoining the side of good. Barnes would become Captain America for a time and then go back to being the Winter Soldier, using his deadly skills to fight for good.

5 Namor The Submariner

A constant adversary for the Fantastic Four and anyone he perceives to be an enemy, Namor the Submariner is often written as an anti-hero as he’ll partner with some of Marvel’s biggest villains but he is also a character who will do what’s noble.

Over the years, Namor has been an arrogant king who seeks revenge on those who have destroyed his home of Atlantis to one of the Phoenix Five to becoming a member of the Avengers, the Defenders, the X-Men, and even the Fantastic Four.

4 Deadpool

The Merc With The Mouth, Deadpool is one of Marvel's biggest success stories of the last thirty years. First introduced as a villain battling Cable's X-Force, he would gain more and more popularity due to his flippant attitude and sense of humor, something that would snowball until readers got the irreverent anti-hero they have today.

Beneath it all, though, is a core of a great character, a man hiding his pain beneath jokes and violence and trying to do the right thing even if he screws up. Deadpool is more than just a funny guy who kills people with swords; he's a fully realized character who is good for laughs and tears.

3 Punisher

The Punisher started life by fighting Spider-Man but would go on to much bigger and better things. Gaining insane popularity in the '80s, the Punisher's logo is one of the most recognizable in all of comics. Even non-fans know his deal – Frank Castle fights a never-ending battle against crime, trying to avenge his family's death by killing as many bad people as he can.

Just a regular guy with a whole lot of training and ordinance, the Punisher is still one of the most formidable vigilantes in the Marvel Universe, even able to smack around superpowered heroes. The Punisher wasn't the first gun-toting vigilante but he would redefine that type of character for a new era.

2 Hulk

Most people wouldn't see the Hulk as an anti-hero, but looking at the character, it's hard to see how he's not. More after than not, the strongest one there is has been portrayed as a destructive force of nature, more of a monster than a hero of any kind. He would still do some good, but in-between destructive rampages that would pit him against his fellow heroes and the US military.

The Hulk is one of Marvel's earliest examples of an anti-hero. He is a destructive hero who does the right thing but doesn't care about the consequences of his actions or the violence and pain he leaves in his wake.

1 Wolverine

Wolverine became famous because of his loner, take no prisoners attitude. One of the toughest X-Men, Wolverine would cut a bloody swath through his enemies, gaining fans. What kept them around, though, was the man underneath the beast. As the tragedy of his life unfolded before readers' eyes, Wolverine would gain more facets and popularity, quickly becoming one of Marvel's most popular characters ever.

Star of comics, TV, and movies, Wolverine may be a better person than he's ever been but he still doesn't have a problem slicing and dicing his enemies. He has lead both the X-Force and X-Men and even served as an Avengers; through it all, Wolverine has taught evildoers that the wages of sin are death.

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