Published March 5, 2019

10 Greatest Character Debuts of the 1990's

Find out who made our top ten 1990's debuts list.

Deadpool Ghost Rider

The 1990’s saw a variety of different characters spin out of established franchises to make their own indelible mark on the Marvel Universe. Below, we count down our top 10 Marvel heroes to debut during the 1990’s.

10. GHOST RIDER (Danny Ketch)

First Appearance: GHOST RIDER (1990) #1
Why He’s #10: So-called legacy heroes almost never survive in the Marvel Universe, but Danny Ketch is the exception that proves the rule. The second Ghost Rider debuted in 1990 and soon blazed his own trail. Flaming chains whipping about him, the anti-hero clashed with the likes of Spider-Man, the X-Men, and especially the Punisher. But most often the Rider saved his vengeance for Blackout, the dark villain who murdered his sister. Ketch soon learned he was the long-lost brother of original Rider Johnny Blaze, and the pair teamed up both as a duo and with the mystic team known as the Midnight Sons. Since then, Ketch has remained an active part of the Rider’s world.

Ghost Rider (1990) #5

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First Appearance: WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #118
Why He’s #9: Created to be a villain and destroy Spider-Man, the clone who would come to be known as Ben Reilly had every reason to take the easy way out: slay Peter Parker, steal his life, and no one would be the wiser. In the end, however, Reilly was too much like the man whose DNA and memories he shared to either kill Peter or reject the axiom of with ‘With great power comes great responsibility.’ Thus, although it often left him grieving for the life he could not have, Reilly donned the costume of the Scarlet Spider and protected people, alongside his genetic twin, on his own, or with the New Warriors. The Scarlet Spider, time and again, rejected that which seemed to promise him his best chances at happiness so he could do the right thing proving, clone or not, he was unquestionably a hero.

Web of Spider-Man (1985) #122

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First Appearance: UNCANNY X-MEN #266
Why He’s #8: Gambit defines the idiom ‘lucky at cards, unlucky in love.’ The charismatic mutant from New Orleans exemplifies cool. He has slick powers, an incredibly tragic love life—you gotta pull for him and Rogue—and he’s got style to spare. Since bursting on the scene in 1990, Remy LeBeau has pretty much batted the cycle as far as mutants are concerned. He’s been an intricate part of the X-Men and X-Factor, he’s partnered with Storm, had a piece of his brain taken by Mr. Sinister, and he even rolled with the Horsemen Of Apocalypse as Death himself. Trained by the Thieves’ Guild, the Ragin’ Cajun has more than a few tricks up his sleeve and continues to prove why it’s always best to play with a full deck of cards—especially when you can make them explode.

Gambit (1993) #1

    • publishedDec 1, 1993
    • added to marvel unlimitedApr 28, 2011
    • ratingT
    • colorist
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First Appearance: NEW MUTANTS #98
Why She’s #7: Thanks to her probability manipulation powers, things just seem to fall into place for the mercenary-turned-super hero named Domino. Don’t let her black and white demeanor fool you; this gun slinging and wisecracking mutant has one colorful personality. She even has a few different first appearances under her pouch covered belt, making her a contender for the most ‘90’s member of the extremely radical X-Force. She first appeared in NEW MUTANTS #98 as one of Cable’s go-to allies, and she helped him make the teen team more militaristic. A later visit from Deadpool revealed that Domino to be an imposter and also brought the genuine article into the fray. With her identity straightened out and her place on X-Force secured, Domino has evolved into the X-Men’s resident black ops specialist and good luck charm—accept no substitutes.

X-Force (1991) #107

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6. WAR MACHINE (James Rhodes)

First Appearance: IRON MAN #282
Why He’s #6: It cannot be easy to be the follow-up act, especially when the person you are following is named Tony Stark and the role is Iron Man. That was life for James Rhodes who was recruited and periodically donned the armor of his friend and boss. But Rhodes became more than a stand-in and before long he had to strike out on his own. Rechristening himself War Machine and piloting the Variable Threat Response Battle Suit armor, he quickly proved that he was no mere second fiddle. Guided by his own morality now, Rhodes did not always fall into lockstep behind his friend or the Avengers, but there was never any doubt that he was every bit the hero.

Iron Man (1968) #310

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First Appearance: THOR #411
Why They’re #5: By the time we reached the 90’s, we had the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, the Avengers, and all their various spin-off groups, but these teams represented the past—those of us just coming into comics needed heroes for our generation. Enter the New Warriors, a new team with a diverse line-up featuring dark vigilante Night Thrasher, experienced hero Nova, conflicted mutant Firestar, straight arrow Marvel Boy, hot-tempered Namorita, and, of course, Speedball. The interpersonal drama generated by their extremely varied backgrounds and social beliefs—also: kissing—proved just as enjoyable to read about as them taking on foes like Psionex or The Sphinx. Two themes pervaded the initial run of the New Warriors: figuring out how to do the right thing in a more complicated world than other heroes came up in and making the hard choices that came with that mission statement. The original New Warriors have been often imitated, but never quite duplicated due to the unique love this combination of characters and their complex adventures yielded.

Avengers (1963) #341

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First Appearance: NEW MUTANTS #100
Why They’re #4: After years of waiting to become the next X-Men, the New Mutants had become impatient. Abandoned by their supposed mentors, from Professor X to Magneto and the rest of the adult mutant group, they lacked direction. Enter Cable. The mysterious soldier from the future took control of the teen team and forged them into the paramiltary X-Force unit, proactively attacking threats ignored by the X-Men and X-Factor. However, before long, Cannonball and company would show their new leader as much as he imparted on them, and X-Force would prove to be the melting pot of all their teachers' philosophies. With or without Cable at the head of the table, the one-time X-Men-in-waiting turned out to be the mutants who could balance multiple dreams and do what needed to be done in order to advance their cause.

X-Force (1991) #1

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First Appearance: INCREDIBLE HULK #449
Why They’re #3: Do not pretend otherwise. There is no shame in it. The Thunderbolts surprised us all. Looking for all the world like a generic Avengers, a sort of copy of a copy standing in for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes after the events of Onslaught caused most of that team to disappear, the T-bolts hardly seemed to be poised to provide one of the biggest twist endings of the 90’s. And yet, there, on the final page, stood the team revealed as their true selves: the Masters of Evil in hero drag. What makes the Thunderbolts endear, however, comes after that moment. They were not just a twist ending in their first issue, but a complicated and challenging story of loyalty, redemption, world domination, love, interdimensional travel, and more. That template, established from the moment they arrived on the scene, has kept the team relevant through multiple volumes and lineups. Not bad for a team that had us all thinking they were Avengers-lite.

Thunderbolts (1997) #1

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First Appearance: NEW MUTANTS #98
Why He’s #2: Who’s Deadpool? Some call him an opportunist, some call him an anti-hero, still others call him late for dinner, but there’s no denying that the infamous ‘Merc with a Mouth’ himself thinks he’s the greatest mutant manhunter this poor world’s ever been saddled with. Wade Wilson’s got this incredible personal healing factor, see? With that in his arsenal, plus a few big guns and even bigger knives, he’s the guy you hire when all the smart people say ‘no!’ Deadpool will go anywhere, do anything, eat anything! And like it! I mean weird, right? All this along with his inimitable sick sense of humor made him a standout in his early appearances; when the razor’s edge walk between moral and unhinged kicked in not long after—a balance he struggles to maintain to this day—he became one of Marvel’s most indelible additions in recent memory.

Deadpool: The Circle Chase (1993) #1

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First Appearance: NEW MUTANTS #87
Why He’s #1: For better or worse, no Marvel character better embodies the 1990’s better than Nathan Summers, aka Cable. He burst on the scene enshrouded in mystery, his striking design and massive weapons assuring that nobody would ignore him. Whereas the New Mutants had forever been the overshadowed younger siblings to the X-Men, Cable imparted his ‘get them before they can get you’ philosophy on them and created X-Force. As the decade wore on, the enigmatic origins of the character came unraveled, revealing his ties to Cyclops and a troubled childhood he overcame through grit and faith in his destiny. The Cable who exited the 90’s only superficially resembled the one who entered it; embracing his lineage but not letting go of the experiences that forged him, he became equal parts soldier and philosopher. Early on, Cable may have seemed a fleeting figured destined to fade with his era, but the deeper layers to the character ensured his vibrant march into the modern day.

Cable: Blood & Metal (1992) #1

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