Stan Lee's Most Dazzling Super Villain Debuts
Read up on some of the brilliant baddies that Stan helped usher into the world.
Stan Lee and company may have developed a stable of intriguing, daring, and fascinating heroes, but even the best champions need challenges to face. Luckily for them–and for us–Stan, his artistic collaborators, and the rest of the Marvel staff proved adept at developing equally engrossing enemies.
These villains range from international dictators and super geniuses to globe-spanning criminal empires and interdimensional would-be despots. These antagonists test the heroes, making them prove time and time again why they stand on the side of justice. And no matter the result of the fight, they keep coming back–not just because we love to hate them, but because creators love the challenge of adding on to the foundation that Stan helped establish.
Here are some of Stan's greatest Super Villain debuts.
For their first few adventures, the First Family faced off against a giant monster, shape-shifting aliens, a master hypnotist, and an amnesiac sea king, but thanks to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, they met their greatest foe in issue #5 with the introduction of Doctor Doom!
The issue not only set up Doom's past with Reed, but also his scarred face, brilliant mind, and knowledge of sorcery as he wrapped the team up in a net and flew them to Latveria where he sent the male members of the team back in time to steal Blackbeard's treasure. Even though he ultimately didn't get what he wanted, Doom still showed his nature as a man who craves power and thinks several dozen steps ahead to get what he wants.
Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby didn't stop bringing on the bad guys during that first formative year as they later delivered Loki, the Asgardian god of mischief! He used his trickery to escape from his tree prison on Asgard before hopping the Rainbow Bridge to fight Thor as vengeance for his incarceration. The brothers battled, but Thor proved his heroic nature by ultimately saving Loki's life.
This first appearance set up the entire relationship between these two, while presenting the Marvel Universe with one of the most complex characters around who would go on to become the catalyst for bringing the Avengers together in their first issue!
The Master of Magnetism debuted at the exact same time as his adversaries-turned-allies, the X-Men. As important to the young heroes as Professor X, Magneto represents the alternate path, the one of violence and terror to achieve domination, instead of equality.
In his debut–by Stan and Jack–he took control of an entire weapons base and would have done far worse had the X-Men not surprised him. Over the years, Magneto's gone much further to prove his point, but has also changed his viewpoint altogether, serving alongside the X-Men on several occasions, illustrating the layers that Stan built into the character from the jump.
Thanks to Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's epic run on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, the Wall-Crawler boasts one of the strongest rogues' galleries in all of comics. However, with issue #14, Spidey met the man who would become his greatest foe: the Green Goblin.
In that story, the villain proved his brilliant madness by showing off his incredible inventions, but also weaving a plan to off the Web-Head by setting up an entire film production that would get the hero out into the desert so the Goblin and the Enforcers could attack him. Spider-Man won, of course, but the villain eventually went on to reveal his true identity as Norman Osborn, a man who has broken Peter's heart on more than one occasion and caused a severe amount of trouble for the entire planet ever since.
Kang the Conqueror - AVENGERS #8
Thanks to Lee and Kirby, Kang burst onto the scene and immediately surprised, impressed, and frightened the world's leaders with his highly advanced technology that quickly felled the Avengers. They became even more concerned when he explained his time travel abilities, previous appearances as Rama-Tut, and his possession of weapons from thousands of years in the future.
Just as he intended to live up to his sobriquet of conqueror, having vanquished most of the Earth's Mightiest Heroes, the Wasp, Rick Jones, and the Teen Brigade managed to free the others who worked together to stop the time-traveling titan. Kang, however, still returns time and time again to cause all sorts of trouble for the Avengers.
Over the years, Doctor Strange has vanquished more than a few dark entities, but none seem so determined to keep dogging him than the dreaded Dormammu. Created by Lee and Ditko during the doctor's second year, the head of the Dark Dimension proved so fearsome that even the Ancient One didn't think he could stop him. Stephen leapt into action, facing all manner of uncanny creatures before facing his foe. Ultimately, he and the demon worked together to stop the Mindless Ones from rampaging, placing Dormammu in Strange's debt; an advantage he used to make the villain promise not to invade Earth.
In the wake of his victory over Dormammu, Strange got one step closer to becoming the Sorcerer Supreme and even earned the Eye of Agamotto and the Cloak of Levitation for at least temporarily stopping such a powerful force.
The Leader - TALES TO ASTONISH #62
The beauty of the Hulk as a character lies in the fact that one brilliant, scientific brain gives way to a form of rage and astonishing strength. So with the creation of the Leader, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby put that idea on its ear by creating a character who may not have been the brightest bulb in the box originally, but became a full-fledged genius after being exposed to gamma radiation. Though not a match for Hulk physically, Leader used all that gray matter to come at the Jade Giant from the shadows for several issues before actually facing him one-on-one. He continues to use those traits to this day, always plotting and scheming for some way to wreak havoc on the Earth's populace.
In STRANGE TALES #135, Stan and Jack brought their World War II hero Nick Fury into the modern era with a bang, as he interviewed to become the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. During the exam, he got a first hand look at the dangers of a new group called Hydra intent on overthrowing justice and democracy. Understanding the threat that this then-faceless, yet apparently limitless, organization offered, Fury signed right up.
It seems like Hydra hasn't stopped trying to take over since, offering just about every hero in the Marvel Universe a clear-cut enemy to fight against.
Galactus - FANTASTIC FOUR #48
Whether you believe the Devourer of Worlds to be a simple force of nature or a calculating destroyer, he still constantly wants to eat the Earth, which he attempted to do for the first time in FANTASTIC FOUR #49-#50, another Lee-Kirby classic. And he very well may have feasted that day had both the Watcher and the Silver Surfer not broken their vows and worked to save the planet.
Since then, the heroes of Earth have spent countless hours and resources planning for further Galactus attacks–even figuring out a way to change his very nature–but the threat always remains.
Mephisto - SILVER SURFER #3
Stan Lee and John Buscema added an incredibly sinister villain to the pantheon of Marvel baddies when Mephisto crept from the depths of his own dimension to torment the man once known as Norrin Radd for messing with humanity in a moment of sorrow-soaked weakness. Mephisto would have none of that, because he needed Earthers to keep on plodding along in their unthinking way so that he could claim their souls during Armageddon. The Surfer handled the demon that day, but Mephisto, far from a one-hero villain, works his dangerous magic upon anyone he can find, trying to make deals that his devilish brethren would be proud of.
Thanks to Stan, the Super Heroes of the mighty Marvel Universe will always have a challenge on their hands.