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Take 10

Take 10: Top Heroes of 2009

The champions of good who managed to shine brightly in a year where darkness reigned



Every week, a secret cabal of Marvel staffers gathers to discuss the best of the best when it comes to the House of Ideas.

2009: Not an easy year to be a hero in the Marvel Universe.

With Norman Osborn seizing control and letting his Dark Reign run wild, the world turned on its head, with villains being hailed as the good guys and true heroes being forced underground. Yet in spite of it all, champions for right still managed to fight for their just causes.

In some cases we had to look to more ambiguous sorts than usual to find our top heroes for 2009, but here's who the Secret Cabal chose to honor.

For each fight you get the quick rundown as well as a special spotlight comic courtesy of Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited.

As always, these picks reflect the personal choices of the Secret Cabal, not the official opinion of Marvel or Marvel.com, and can be considered subjective at best. Enjoy!


First Appearance: UNCANNY X-MEN #107 (1977)
Learn More...here
Why He Makes the List: He started the War of Kings on the side of the mad Shi'Ar ruler Vulcan, loyal as always to the throne, but when Gladiator finally rebelled against the tyrant giving orders, his actions shook the stars. Though his efforts to save his beloved Lilandra proved for naught, Kallark did shift the advantage away from the mad Emperor. Now in the fragile aftermath of war, Gladiator has assumed the Shi'Ar thrown and given the Imperium's people a ruler they can believe in for the first time in years, sacrificing the life of action he longs to return to.
Spotlight Comic: WAR OF KINGS: WARRIORS - GLADIATOR #1-Find out what shaped Kallark into Gladiator!

First Appearance: THOR #129 (1966)
Learn More...here
Why He Makes the List: Yes, Ares stood alongside Norman Osborn as he committed some unspeakable atrocities this past year, but when you're the God of War, that type of thing does tend to be par for the course. Despite his poor choice of alliances, this Dark Avenger somehow maintained his nobility in the face of it, doing his best to train and honor agents of H.A.M.M.E.R. entrusted to his care and looking out for the well-being of his son, Phobos of the Secret Warriors. We don't condone all his actions, but we still hold out hope for this guy to do the right thing.
Spotlight Comic: DARK AVENGERS #9-The God of War against Nick Fury!

First Appearance: NEW MUTANTS #98 (1990)
Learn More...here
Why He Makes the List: In dark times like these, we look for our heroes wherever we can find them, and that means, yes, even Deadpool deserves props for his attempts to do good. Sure, he still has a nasty habit of killing people for money, but Wade Wilson made an honest-or as honest as he gets-go at genuine heroism this year, tangling with the likes of Norman Osborn and Bullseye, liberating an island from pirates, and helping the X-Men protect their good name. He certainly tries, you have to give him that.
Spotlight Comic: DEADPOOL: SUICIDE KINGS #1-The Merc With a Mouth gets framed!

First Appearance: THOR ANNUAL #1
Learn More...here
Why He Makes the List: The maturation of Hercules continued this year, as the Lion of Olympus joined his fellow Mighty Avengers against the awesomely powerful Unspoken, stormed the gates of Hades to save his father Zeus, filled in for Thor against the Dark Elves, and finally assaulted New Olympus to foil the nefarious schemes of his mother, Hera. Whether with or without Amadeus Cho at his side, Herc maintained a busier schedule than half the Marvel Universe but was never at a loss for wit, women, wine and the other finer things in life.
Spotlight Comic: INCREDIBLE HERCULES #126-The awesome origin of Hercules!

First Appearance: JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #83 (1962)
Learn More...here
Why He Makes the List: While his former compatriots struggled with the machinations of Norman Osborn and his allies, Thor continued to grapple with more godly challenges, suffering trials but continuing to prove his valor. Though the Thunder God managed to at last reunite with his lost love, Sif, he also experienced exile from Asgard after being forced to slay his own grandfather, Bor, as a result of Loki's devious handiwork. Nonetheless, Thor still came to his people's aid when they needed him against Doctor Doom, proving stripping one's crown does not rob them of their nobility.
Spotlight Comic: THOR GOD-SIZE SPECIAL #1-The God of Thunder fights to honor the memory of his fallen comrade, The Executioner!

First Appearance: UNCANNY X-MEN #129 (1979)
Learn More...here
Why She Makes the List: When the year began, it seemed as if Emma Frost sat at Norman Osborn's side as a trusted member of his Cabal, having betrayed the X-Men and resumed her villainous roots. However, as time wore on, the erstwhile White Queen more than proved both her loyalty and her worth, insinuating herself into Osborn's good graces only to help her lover, Cyclops, and their team deal him a crushing and humiliating defeat. Emma not only sewed the seeds of discord within the Cabal by her own about-face, she also persuaded the powerful Sub-Mariner to join her rebellion, brining Namor over to the side of angels, dark though it may seem these days.
Spotlight Comic: UNCANNY X-MEN #506-Emma offers Colossus some back-up!

First Appearance: TALES OF SUSPENSE #57 (1964)
Learn More...here
Why He Makes the List: Many chipped away at the Dark Reign of Norman Osborn over the course of 2009, achieving little victories here and there, but only Clint Barton-the former Hawkeye who saw his one-time identity usurped by the psychotic Bullseye-was brassy enough to take on the one-time Green Goblin head-on. Ronin went on television and publicly decried a criminal taking charge of the Avengers, forcing Osborn to the defensive, then later assaulted Avengers Tower solo in hopes of bringing the would-be tyrant down. Though Clint ultimately did not succeed in all his goals and may have let his brashness get the better of him, give the guy points for intent and sheer guts.
Spotlight Comic: DARK REIGN: THE LIST - AVENGERS-Clint Barton storms Avengers Tower intent on taking Norman Osborn down!

First Appearance: X-MEN #1 (1963)
Learn More...here
Why He Makes the List: For the first half of 2009, Norman Osborn ran roughshod over the Avengers, Iron Man and everybody else in his path to seemingly ultimate power. However, when The Iron Patriot brought his Dark Avengers to San Francisco, the X-Men drew a line in the sand, and Scott Summers of all people dealt the megalomaniac his first true defeat of the Dark Reign. Cyclops stared the most powerful man in the Marvel Universe straight in the eye and from behind his visor refused to blink as he outwitted and outmaneuvered his adversary at every turn, leading the X-Men to victory in a battle where they seemed grossly overmatched and establishing a new safe haven for mutantkind at the expense of Osborn's pristine public image.
Spotlight Comic: UNCANNY X-MEN #505-A journey into the mind of Scott Summers!

First Appearance: TALES OF SUSPENSE #39 (1963)
Learn More...here
Why He Makes the List: Going into 2009, Tony Stark had many sins to atone for: his decisions during Civil War possibly cost Captain America his life; he failed to prevent the Skrull invasion and Norman Osborn's rise to power; he alienated the bulk of his friends and allies save for his inner circle. However, when it came time to step up to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Iron Man knocked it out of the park-or made the ultimate sacrifice out, if you prefer. To prevent Osborn from gaining access to super human secret identities gathered during Registration, Tony went on the run as an international fugitive and fried his own brain bit-by-bit in order to conceal the data. Iron Man proved that human beings may make mistakes, but heroes always come through in the end.
Spotlight Comic: INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #8-Tony Stark becomes the World's Most Wanted!

1. CAPTAIN AMERICA (Bucky Barnes)
First Appearance: CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS #1 (1941)
Learn More...here
Why He Makes the List: We've spoken before of the incredible challenge Bucky Barnes has faced in recent times as far as living up to the incredible legacy of Captain America, but this year he encountered perhaps an even greater obstacle: surrendering that mantel upon learning Steve Rogers still lived. A lesser man may have hesitated to save his predecessor, preferring to bask in the glow of reverence after years of torment as an outcast, but Bucky isn't most folks, choosing to put his own ambitions aside and risk everything-including his life-to save his friend and mentor. Unselfish and relentless when it came to protecting those he cares about and the values his country was founded upon, Bucky Barnes not only measured up to Steve Rogers this year, he taught the old man a thing or two about being a hero.
Spotlight Comic: CAPTAIN AMERICA #50 (2004)-Bucky reminisces about birthdays past alongside the Invaders and more!


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[quote@spider-warrior Once again, the secret cabal makes another stupid list. The sad thing is,this may even be the worst list ever, and I'm not overexagerating when I say that. Spider-Man stoped DR. Octopus from taking over the city (and possibly the world) and he doesn't even get at #10. I'm not even going to continue typing characters I think should have been on the list. Because I know some one will either disagree with me or not even care.[/quote] I think that Spider-Man not really being involved in any of the "events" is what counts against him. That and some of the lame villains he has gone up against.The thing I am surprised at seeing is that Gladiator is in this list...guy hasn't really done that much. But I am not surprised that Deadpool is there...more pushing for that character.


I'm a Deadpool fan, but I don't think he belongs on this list.


Im happy gladiator made the list seeing as hes my fav character but Ares damn u will be missed lol .


This term hero is probably more relevant as 'stars of their book' which is the only way this is not a popularity contest list, as you so aptly describe it, Thorbiscuit.And Ironbat8082, I'll assume you can tell from my post that I do not blame Stark for things that were circumstantial, twisted or falsely placed on him to get Norman ahead. All your points are factual about Atlantis, compromised Starktech, and the changed course of Hulk's ship not being his fault. Other things he can be faulted for aren't his fault alone; another true point. Doesn't take away from the major point that his deeds so far don't make him a top hero, and more specifically the No. 2 slotted Top Hero. Now that's what people are finding a problem with (even if some blame him for more than he is truly culpable). He's still a hero in my book regardless, and I agree all he did was with him believing the outcomes he aimed for would've been for the best... pity the executions lacked so much and burned so many. I'd even applaud Marvel for being so bold to [allow a writer to] make a top tier hero of so long do so much to get hated for, just as I applaud them for making [a writer make] him plausibly likable again, or on a path to being (some people may still find it too hard to forgive him even though he is doing the right thing by ensuring the destruction of the list of identities).Reed isn't getting the hate because they're not touting Reed as all'a that and a bad of chips after their colossal mutual screw up, but even knowing they launched their 'character failure' treatment on Iron Man, they've been consistently placing him tops on a bunch of lists that many can argue he had no place on [and wrote up supporting blurbs that made it seem so noble when his actions led to chaos]. All the while it's not to go as far as to say he wasn't still heroic, but recognize that at one point he became the World's Biggest Bully. Norman's secured that spot now though, just as he co-opted all else Stark had, just that he underhandedly got the media on his side to keep smelling like roses (and there were many depictions where Os truly seemed like a changed, well-meaning, patriotic citizen, which I'd applaud Marvel for again, had he not been so inconsistently depicted from writer to writer - and no Marvel, this was beyond his sanity swings. They could/should have woven that into his paradoxical behavior though).I've spotted that the entire Illuminati ended up suffering a fall from grace after their acts of hubris. Each of them were maneuvered into a sympathetic position and then either given a reset or a new treatment where they can then soar.None of that takes away the true problem being the inability by too many to back these lists. In this case this should've been, not the Most Popular Heroes of '09, but at least the Most Popularity Gained Heroes of '09. With that 9/10 of these have really bumped themselves up from where they were in '08, Stark included. The only one who really gained nothing of consequence is Clint, and it is not that he hasn't done good, it's more that the Ronin thing really hadn't done anything for him as a character, and counteracted his cool factor. To me anyway, his reasons for being Ronin weren't all that profound in the full scope. It would of worked better had Bullseye done greater public damage to the Hawkeye persona early on and forced Clint to need to hide out under a new identity, otherwise, nothing DA related forced Ms. Marvel, Spider-Man or Wolverine not to be who they are, even while on the lam.All the others on the list had great gains in '09:- Gladiator is less of a background homage character and is a prominent piece in major stories.- Herc's book is great and he's all over the place producing- Cyclops has made himself noticeable after forming X-Force and founding Mutopia.- Emma got tons of face time and was an instrumental piece in sticking it to Osborn and bringing Namor to the mutant fold.- Deadpool's surge may have been helped by the movie coincidentally, but he's an enjoyable laugh (most of the time) in 3 ongoing titles.- Ares is great to watch tearing through... well, everything (ahh the irony of that statement)- Thor, Iron Man and Bucky have both had A-game writing making their series stand out (and for as great as Thor is in concept, he always had this inaccessible feel to his world that I suppose kept him back)Pym is literally being promoted as an improved hero and is taking out major baddies left and right. I'm surprised he also hasn't been pimped here. Even if it seems too soon we wouldn't have argued that he technically qualified as a top hero of '09. I'd have put him in place of Stark and/or Ronin. Sigh, and I really favored Clint Barton, but I finally get it, having him show up as a supposed TOP sword & nunchuk guy after being known for ONLY his bow for decades (and yes I know he is such to be good with many weapons) didn't work as a step up for his character. Marvel should take the opportunity to stick a pair of nunchuks, and possibly a sword, in his arsenal if/when he takes back the Hawkeye persona though. It'd make his time as Ronin mean something after the fact, and it'd make sense that being a bowmaster doesn't mean situations might not call for the use of some other weapon.


I don't follow Deadpool much--I've always seen him as a two-bit Spidey lookalike with guns, but from what I've seen, any list that considers Deadpool to be in the top ten heroes is immediately suspect, if not null and void. We are talking HEROES here, not popularity contest. No doubt people LIKE Deadpool, but he is hardly a HERO. He occasionally chooses to fight the good fight every now and then, but ultimately he is driven by money, and will kill people to get it. "Great" hero. I will be glad to see Spidey give him another beat-down in his own comic soon. XD


@ frogleg: I can separate issues with comic-Tony not belonging on a list from a studio producing an enjoyable movie. Unfortunately the pimping of comic-Tony is going hand in hand with the fact that the first movie was a critical success and the next is just around the corner. I wouldn't even boycott the Iron Man comic because of what this site is pushing - Fraction did well to turn him back towards the light, all I am saying is that the journey is still far from done, and now we need consistent heroism to show the new Tony as a Tony we can stand behind as a hero.I just read wayyyyyy too many titles to believe this is the best a 'Cabal' [who should've had access to an entire library of '09 comics] could do in choosing who were top heroes for that time. What Stark is doing is great and at great personal sacrifice to himself, but we have to look at it in the grand scheme... it's the least he could do after painting himself into that situation. I wouldn't blame the Skrull invasion on him either, as is often done because his tech was infiltrated, rather, I figure anyone who was backing the defense grid at the time would've gotten compromised, contrary to what Osborn claims about Os-tech [while chomping at the bit to unlock repulsor tech and Tony's other secrets].And I agree about the Bruce Wayne comparison, plus I add this particular point... the literary device used to make Tony bring about all the rifts in the hero community, showing his arrogance and flawed approach, was designed to generate resentment. He was a hero that messed up big time, and that was the point. It made him more real, unique(ish) in a sea of comic characters, and resulted in a sentiment that one would expect people around a jerk to feel.


Tony Stark is Marvel's Bruce Wayne, flawed & without the cliched alterego masquerade. That's why he's that IN these past 5 years and on.So now do you feel the urge to boycott Iron Man 2? Pathetic.


Actually They Made A Mistake When Put Uncanny X-Men #505 As A Spotlight Comic For Cyclops Because That Issue Doesn't Have Anything To Do With Cyclops. They Should Have Written Uncanny X-Men #519.


...but I think Iron Man has officially become that dude/gal on the office that gets promoted all the way to VP of something when all know him/her can barely manage their rolodex and everyone knows to keep quiet because he/she is a B.o.Director's grand-kid. I think he belongs in a 'Comeback of the Year' list, as it is indeed honorable that he knew not to give up everyone to Osborn, and went as far as he did to cement that, and I give the Iron Man character props for a slamming movie [and await the second], but c'mon... by now we all know it's strictly the movies and their desire to keep him in the limelight that keeps Shellhead popping up on lists. He's redeeming himself and is getting the sympathy of a wounded puppy, but he's not at top hero status yet. He can be though... like Prof X's mind wipe, Stark's behavior post recovery can be judged on its own merits away from the sins of the past. He won't be who he was before a point.But shock at Stark coming in at 2 (or being on the list at all) does overshadow the things I raised eyebrows at long before I got to the 2nd spot. Some of these explanations can pull water out of stone, making what some did seem a bigger deal than it actually was when weighed against other happenings in the very book if not the MU on a whole. Herc, Thor, Cyclops, Bucky (but not for what was written) definitely have legitimate claims to this list, even if only in my opinion; and Emma and Gladiator (much as I like 'im) only get my vote with no real other extreme out-doers around. Now, Deadpool really stretches the term 'hero', but come on now; Ares? Sure I wouldn't brand him an outright villain anymore, but a top hero among heroes? At least Emma was prominent, and besides the trend to hate on her, confounded by joining the Cabal then the Dark X-Men, she threw a wrench in the biggest evil's plans by it all turning out to've been her and Scott's master plan....And all'a dat brings me to Ronin. No, Secret Cabal, no. Now I do like me some Clint Barton, but the hair-brained [plus, as expected, failed] attempt on Osborn's life shouldn't mark him as a hero amongst heroes. If it did, then Spidey's personal victory with Harry during American Son dwarfs Ronin's run that would've caused even more problems for the heroes. More noteworthy would've been War Machine's even larger and coordinated efforts - that actually ended in a success! (Should'a taken Stark's spot on the list - would've still plugged the movie, but y'all wouldn't wanna go and steal Stark's thunder with his friend and back-up, would ya?). With WM's fair victory in mind, I'm reminded of another Spidey blow to Osborn's reign, exposing the illegal secret human testing (add to that his out-Doc-ing Doc Ock - and here I was not even considering Spidey at first, but he actually counts as more deserving the more I think about it).So we have Spidey and War Machine that seem far more deserving than some who made this list, and I will also add Cable - for the mere fact that here's a dude giving up likely over a decade of his life to battle a myriad of dystopian futures to protect the suspected hope of all mutant-kind, while trying to evade a hellbent killer. My final entry would be Crystal, for shining out of that War of Kings event to become the people's princess to the Kree. All more deserving, to me, than definitely Stark and Ronin.Now, I'm all for Bucky making the list if even just for being all-out a cool character, but the reasons stated are a bit flawed. The readers can actually discern that it was never about Bucky given up or foregoing his own interests to put Steve back in his mantel - have we not seen him time and again saying he never wanted the title but felt stronger that he'd allow no one else? He'd definitely put his life on the line to get him back though, and otherwise made a good Cap, which puts him on the list, but not for all of that inaccurate "...sacrificing ambitions..." crap.On a side note, Marvel needs to get some grammar editing up in this piece for these errors all up in the list: 'thrown' in Gladiator should've been 'throne', 'sewed' should have been 'sowed' in Emma's - seeds are sown not stitched into garments (well, maybe they can be, but you get my point), and 'overmatched' has the incorrect meaning for where you needed 'outmatched' since the DA had the power advantage during that crossover.Still, let me give the Secret Cabal due for righting the Thor entry a fair bit after the last list Thor got put on (greatest battles) totally misrepresented the happenings of the Thor/Bor battle. Forced to slay due to Loki's machinations is now way more spot on to the events of the issue. Maybe Thor should've been higher though (and maybe he needs the movie pimping from now on) as the guy who selflessly will run to the aid of those that would exile him, lay his life on the line, then calmly drift back out to that exile after aiding them.

spider-warrior member

Once again, the secret cabal makes another stupid list. The sad thing is,this may even be the worst list ever, and I'm not overexagerating when Isay that. Spider-Man stoped DR. Octopus from taking over the city (and possibly the world) and he doesn't even get at #10. I'm not even goingto continue typing characters I think should have been on the list. Because I know some one will either disagree with me or not even care. Can somebody remind me why the secret cabal even bother making these kind of lists anyway?


r they serious? iron -man is 1 of the main causes of the recent downfall of the marvel u the past couple years. he didn't back the mutant population during decimation or during the messiah complex, just sat there like a fat ceasar threating every1 to follow his rein of arrogance. he used spidey to further his politcal goals then thru him under the train. he cloned thor how very dr. venture of him. HE'S A WAR PROFITTEER! he played on everybodies hopes 4 a better tomorrow. and clipped the strings as soon as he thought they would disagree(i.e. she-hulk & bruce banner) not to mention his shoddy stark tech helped the skrull invasion wow sounds more like the worst hero of the decade not second best this year. yes he didnt sell evey 1 out 2 osborn wow even a broken clock is right twice a day. so we'll just have to wait for another 12 hours to see if he does anything else worth mentioning. he couldn't even keep things legit with his own illuminati turned on black bolt 2 seconds b4 he turned on namor which was a 1/2 second b4 he stormed illeagally mind dr. strange's sanctum. yeah he's had a rough year but look what's he done to 3 civilizations atlantis destroyed, attilan is now on hala, and the crown city sakaar also destroyed due to iron -man's heroic feets. wow how's gonna win next year the red skull or will it be dr. doom ? they should be eligible if tony is.