What is it, ultimately, that attracts fans to comic books? That’s a tough question, of course. One thousand different comic fans will have one thousand different answers. The art, the community experience, the stories themselves, the serial nature of it all (the same thing that kept us coming back to TV shows week after week, before binging box sets became an option)… all of these are totally valid answers.
So too is our simply, primal need for escapism. Cinemagoers will know all about this. That warm, blissful feeling of stepping into the theater and forgotten all about the foibles of the real world for a couple of hours.
The more utterly over-dramatic and flashy the action on screen is, the more effective the escapism is (for me, at any rate). This has probably contributed to the barnstorming success of the movies of the MCU. You don’t need to be one of the comic book faithful to enjoy the drama and explosive battles on screen. They’re like an outer-space, futuristic take on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s old action movies.
To ensure that the battles, destruction and explosions-amundo are up to snuff, Marvel’s got to call in some serious firepower. For Avengers: Infinity War, just about everyone who’s ever appeared in a Marvel movie returned to light everything up. It was fanservice at its chaotic finest.
With all of that in mind, when you’re opening the Pandora’s Box of Marvel’s strongest gods, you’re talking about some real power.
Marduk (solar calf) is the name of the Sumerian god of judgment, magic, water and vegetation. He sounds like a reasonable sort of guy, one who’ll treat you just fine and keep you safe and prosperous so long as you don’t cross him. If you do, however, he’s like the most vengeful and petty ex you’ve had.
In the Marvel world, he’s probably best known for trying to wrest power from the Asgardians (Earth-616). He traveled to Earth after his defeat at Thor’s hands, where he kept right on scheming.
Speaking of Asgardians, the first goddess of this rundown sure knows a thing or two about that powerful race. Hailing from Asgard herself, Karnilla boasts all the superhuman strength, reflexes and stamina and such that her fellows do, along with a whole heaping helping of powers on top.
As Goddess of magic, Karnilla can cast magic to teleport people and objects, send and deflect energy attacks, cause paralysis or sleep and so much more. Most impressively, she’s able to send permanent spells across dimensions. As CBR reports, her powers have been considered on par with those of Loki.
Both the Marvel and DC worlds feature a powerful sorceress known as Enchantress. Marvel’s take on the character is an old enemy of Thor’s, who goes by the name Amora.
Later, Loki would create a second Enchantress, bestowing great magical power upon Sylvie Lushton so that… well, mainly to mess with Thor. You know how this guy’s motivations work.
In both guises, the Enchantress has fantastic magical abilities. Transmutation, teleportation across dimensions (of other Asgardians as well as herself), a magical kiss that can bend men to her will for a week (unless she reapplies it), nothing is too much for this goddess.
Ah, yes. Here we go. We’re getting serious now. After all, you don’t just go ahead and name somebody the god of evil without a darn good reason, do you? This isn’t just a guy who remorselessly left the phone pen somewhere other than right next to the phone. This is someone who really means business, evil-wise.
For the uninitiated, Mikaboshi is loosely based on a malignant character from Japanese mythology.
Armed with the mystical Grasscutter Sword, he once raided Olympia and mortally wounded Zeus himself.
During the Secret Invasion of the Extraterrestrial Skrulls, though, he joined Hercules’ team defending the Earth, so I guess that’s something redeeming to have on your resume.
You know how it is. You’re walking down the street on an entirely normal day, when a bunch of enormous Frost Giants suddenly come strolling by. “Where in heckola did all of these Frost Giants come from,” you say, understandably having mixed feelings about the whole situation. “These guys’s king must be one powerful dude,” you think, and you’re right.
Laufey, King of the Frost Giants of Jotenheim, is notable for being Loki’s biological father. Loki defeats him, as seen in Thor, but not before we see a frightening insight into the Frost Giant’s raw strength and ice manipulation powers.
Over there in Thor’s Asgard, things are loosely based on the Norse mythology of old. All the major players, Odin, Thor, Loki and such, are present and correct, as is the realm of Asgard itself. Naturally, though, all manner of liberties are taken with the source material, for entertainment’s sake. It’s Norse mythology, Jim, but not as we know it.
One of the lesser-known denizens of this world are the goddesses of destiny; Urd, Skuld, and Verdandi. Equipped with the Threads of Fate, they can see and manipulate the future.
If you’re a parent (especially a new one), you might be feeling a little affronted here. After all, babies are the real gods of chaos/the night/chaos in the night. That’s what 3:17 am feedings and/or screaming fits are all about, after all.
Still Chernobog also wants to be known as a god of chaos and the night, and I suppose it’d be kind of cruel to take that away from him.
Go ahead then, guy.
Chernobog is notable for his ability to feed upon the souls of others and survive in the Earth plane by aligning himself to a mortal host.
Oh, dear. Here comes another heavyweight. Khonshu (meaning ‘traveller’) was the Ancient Egyptian god of the moon, which sounds fairly peaceful really. Then you notice that whole vengeance thing. That’s where it all goes a little awry.
Khonshu has an avatar on Earth, the crime fighter Moon Knight. Marc Spector became the Moon Knight after being defeated in single combat at an archaeological dig (his mercenary group were attacking the workers). Khonshu gave him a second chance at life (which is quite a party trick, let’s not kid ourselves) in exchange for Spector becoming the god’s instrument of vengeance on Earth.
To be honest, Kali is a goddess who has been grossly misunderstood. As Kashgar explains, she is often portrayed as vengeful — the goddess of destruction. The fact is, her story (as told in the Hindu religion) is much more complex than that. There’s no black and white good versus evil here.
The way Marvel tells it, though, there’s little room for interpretation. The Kali who serves as an opponent of the X-Men is a fearsome warrior, able to channel destructive energy from her body (and her weapons).
Now here’s an intriguing entry. Some may question the inclusion of Narya (or Snowbird, as she’s maybe better known) here. I totally get that. If you want to snark like the snarking snarksters of snark that you are, go right ahead.
It’s just… Snowbird’s story is fantastic. She’s an Inuit demigod, with the utterly incredible ability to transform into any animal that’s found in Canada. That’s right, there is that stipulation, and yes, she does have a sasquatch form. At one point, she was also unable to leave Canada without becoming ill.
Conventionally powerful? Perhaps not. Still, if you can’t appreciate the greatness of having a Sasquatch form, I can’t really help you.
The goddess of pain, you say? Huh. That rings a bell. I’m pretty sure I dated her for a while, some years ago. Still, you know what they say about hindsight.
My poor life decisions notwithstanding, Vammatar has her roots in Finnish gods. She’s the daughter of Tuoni (the underworld god) and Tuonetar (goddess of death).
In the comics, she appears in Conan The Barbarian’s story, as the Witch-Queen of (some of) Hyperborea.
She’s super malevolent and loves to oppose our hero, as you’d expect of somebody with parental role models like those.
It’s quite convenient, really, that these gods and goddesses are neatly labeled as they are. We regular mortals should try that, so we know exactly who to avoid. Oh, so they’re The Goddess of Destruction? I think I’ll give them a miss. Maybe people should put post-its on themselves at parties, for the same reasons.
Bia, the god of might, doesn’t sound like the friendliest of guys either. A handy one to have on your side, though. He’s the son of a Titan, Pallas, and the underworld river goddess Styx. He’s characterized (predictably enough) by his incredible physical strength, and for wielding a mace made by Cyclopes.
Okay, come on now. I know that the world’s a competitive place and you’ve got to sell yourself as best you can, but the God of Terror? How can you possibly live up to that title? It’s like trying to give yourself a super cool nickname like Striker or something.
As it turns out, though, Deimos is certainly worthy of the name. He’s the son of Ares, god of war and Nox, goddess of the night. Combine the two, and you’ve got a real force on your hands. After the loss of Deimos, Nox came to blows with Doctor Strange over her attempts to resurrect him. Deimos was resurrected and lost at least once more, proving that you can’t keep a spooky god down.
Now, you might think that the Marvel world has more than enough Furies already. Nick Fury, for one. X-Men enemy The Fury for another. Still, though, the classical Furies want to get in on the comic book action too.
The three Furies (Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone) were traditionally tasked with haunting those who do not seek retribution for unjust crimes, until they do so. In the Marvel world, they made quite frequent appearances as enemies of Ghost Rider. You’d have thought they’d sense a kindred spirit in him, all things considered.
I know, Bia. I see you there, feeling a little bitter about the whole situation. You might be thinking that this town ain’t big enough for the both of us gods of strength, but heck.
This is Hercules we’re talking about. That guy does exactly what he darn well pleases.
Interestingly, the Marvel Hercules is based more upon Heracles (the Ancient Greek take on the character as opposed to the Roman one). As a superhero, Hercules has served as a member of the Avengers, in Thor-esque fashion. He has all the abilities of an Olympian god, as the strongest of them (speed, flight, resilience, strength and so forth). He also has an adamantine mace, which is equal in power to Thor’s Mjolnir. Don’t tell Thor that, though, he won’t be amused.
Oh, evil again too? Sure, why not? Whatever makes you guys feel intimidating and important is fine with me. I don’t want to harm any immortal egos here.
Our next god, Erlik, is a curious case. The Marvel character has roots in the Turkic and Mongolian mythology, where he served as a god of the underworld. In the comics, he is an ancient presence that mostly opposes Conan the Barbarian and the heroes of his time. A harsh and powerful floating-red-angry-face-thing (to use the technical term), Erlik was still seen in the comic granting supporters boons, like regenerative abilities or even resurrecting them.
I know, Thor. Thunder is your thing. I totally get that. I hear you. You Marvel deities and your egos. If you all could learn to just share your toys and get along, the world would be a much happier place. Let’s let Kaminari do her thing as well.
This Japanese deity is another that has been adapted into the Marvel world. Coming with a full complement of characteristic abilities of the Kami, she also possesses the power to control thunder, storms and the weather in general, as well as command over noise. Quite what that means, in particular, is an interesting question.
A bit of a common theme has developed here. Have you spotted it yet?
Regardless of region and mythology, there are certain popular concepts (fire, say, or war) that are represented by a host of different gods. Weather and similar phenomena feature often, which is why we’re seeing a whole lot of thunder and lightning around here at the moment.
Leir, one of the Avalon gods of the Celtic people, wanted to get in on that sweet, sweet god of thunder/lightning action as well. Not feeling the whole hammer thing, he instead chooses to wield a spear made from the electrical energy he generates.
So, yes. As I say, it’s getting all kinds of stormy in here. Celtic thunder gods, Japanese thunder gods… it’s like it’s a thunder party and everyone’s invited. On that note, you can only go so far without mentioning Germanic mythology’s own take on the theme.
When it comes to Marvel gods, of course, the most notable would have to be Thor.
We all know what this guy’s capable of, having watched Chris Hemsworth’s bombastic portrayal of the character for a decade now.
From boomerang hammers to electrical storms, this guy’s got it all.
Long-time DC fans will know that the studio has always had a bit of a thing for gorillas. It’s just one of those quirks that becomes a defined thing over time, without anybody quite knowing why or how.
We’re not talking about DC today, though. At this very moment, we’re talking about Ghekre, Marvel’s own gorilla god. This being takes a King Kong-esque form, and inhabits the Spirit World. He’s fully equipped with the powers of a Vodu god, including a unique connection with nature.
Sagbata, or Baron Samedi, is a Marvel character that I consider criminally underrated. The character is based on a most interesting deity, one of the Ioa of Haitian Vodou. Samedi, or Baron Saturday, is usually depicted fully decked out in an immaculate suit and top hat, with cotton in his nostrils (as per Haitian burial customs).
All of this translates super well to the comic book world, where characters have always been keen to focus on dramatic flair. With his super suave appearance and habit for twirling that staff of his, Marvel’s Baron Samedi commands respect and fear just as the deity itself does.
Now, nobody’s going to want to mess with Hela. We all saw her effortlessly catch Thor’s hammer in mid-air, before proceeding to crush it like it was made from soggy Styrofoam. She spends all her free time listening to the Spice Girls’ hits of the 90s, and she’s taken everything they ever said about girl power ALL the way to heart.
Born in Jotunheim, land of the giants, it’s only right that Hela has proven to be a giant pain in Thor’s cheeks on countless occasions. We’re talking about one of the most powerful warriors in Asgard here, that’s for darn certain.
For gamers everywhere, the name Amaterasu will probably be all kinds of familiar. This is the title of the protagonist of Clover Studio’s much-revered action adventure, Okami.
Mystical white wolf gaming heroes aside, though, we’re looking at the Amaterasu that this character was based on just now. As the goddess of the sun, Amaterasu is another of the Amatsu-Kami (Heavenly Ones). She has the ability to command heat and light, able to exude both with a strength that rivals a sun. In Marvel’s comics, she was first seen in 1990’s Wolverine Vol 2 #32.
Over in the Mesopotamian pantheon of gods, another super interesting character awaits. Anu is the god of sky and heaven, which is a pretty darn large domain to rule whichever way you slice it. That probably tells you all you need to know about the sort of power that this deity commands.
The Sky Father, as he was known, was the authority that all over gods bowed down to and respected.
His specific powers are shrouded in mystery, but who knows what a being like that may truly be capable of? Anu made his Marvel debut in Thor #300.
So, yes. Over the course of this rundown, we’ve seen all manner of deities from all kinds of cultures. Like the Marvel universe itself, this is a rich and varied world, though there are constants (so many thunder gods).
Whoever they are and whatever they’re gods of, though, the more benevolent beings are usually committed to one thing: ridding their realm of demons. Which is where Lilith comes in. If Anu is the supreme authority of the gods, then the mother of all demons should make for a great grudge match.
The Marvel Lilith who introduces herself as such served as another nemesis for Ghost Rider. She had the ability to ‘birth’ demons in Ghost Rider’s dimension, and her powers grew as she created more and more.
I’m not sure how it is that Thor seems to come into contact with all of these various deities. I suppose that, as a god himself, he needs some kind of challenge. It’s not always that interesting to just try and overwhelm the Avengers with sheer numbers, after all. They need rivals (as seen with Thanos in Infinity War).
In the Marvel universe, Brahama of Nirvana is among the supreme gods of Hinduism. He forms a trio with Shiva the destroyer and Vishnu the preserver, together making for a perfect cycle. It’s like the circle of life. Notably, he also once tested Thor’s worthiness to succeed his father, Odin.
Speaking of the soap opera-like intrigues of Odin and his wayward family, here comes the most unpredictable of all: Loki.
Now forever immortalized as Tom Hiddleston, Loki has always been known as the god of mischief. Famous throughout Norse mythology for his wily ways, the betrayals and ghastly deeds you see in the movies are totally Loki-accurate.
He’s so much more than a malevolent trickster, though. As we’ve also seen in the MCU, Loki is a powerful adversary, boasting magical abilities similar to those of the Enchantress.
Crossing back over to the world of Inuit mythology, Sedna is the goddess of the sea and the animals that live there. With the Inuit being indigenous to Alaska, Greenland, and Canada, her role is hugely important to the people. She is not a spirit to mess with, that’s for dang sure. The ruler of the Inuit underworld to boot? You’ve just got to respect Sedna.
In the Marvel universe, she can control the ocean, utilize a siren call to entrance men and boasts superhuman strength.
She once fought Thor, apparently oblivious to the fact that Electric attacks are super effective on Water. Has Pokémon taught you nothing, Sedna?
Now, I’m all for all-powerful beings simply raising a hand and eradicating their opponents from existence in a huge fireworks show. All I’m saying is, there’s a time and a place for that. Sometimes, you’ve got to respect someone who jumps in hand to hand and fights their opponents on an even keel.
In a way, I guess you could say that Marvel’s Athena is very similar to DC’s Wonder Woman. A super accomplished swordswoman with supernatural powers (she can fire bolts through her weaponry, as she’s demonstrated on occasion). She can also see into other dimensions without detection, by means of her scrying pool.
I guess ‘god of demise’ is just the sort of qualification that employers truly value. Much like lightning and thunder, everyone wants to be the god of this.
In the case of the great Anthony Hopkins, though, I’m totally fine with that. Among the extraordinary denizens of Asgard, there’s some debate as to who’s truly most powerful, but Odin is always right up there. The true measure of that is that we never quite see his true potential, only awe-inspiring glimpses of it. Final Fantasy’s Odin is famous for being able to sweep away all of his opponents in a single strike, and there’s a reason for that.