If you want to connect with a young, comic reading audience, you don’t create superheroes that look like me, a 41-year-old nerd. No, you create cool, interesting, teenaged superheroes, and that’s what Stan Lee did, even if the dialogue he wrote for those teenaged characters makes it sounds like Stan Lee has never been, nor has even heard an actual teenager talk in his life.
So there are hundreds of superhero teenagers from the Marvel Universe, meaning a huge amount of fantastic characters won’t make the roster since my self-imposed rule is that this list only counts to 7.
It killed me to cut Kate Bishop, particularly since she is so well done in Hawkeye. Likewise, it hurts to cut the Cuckoos, particularly because I’d be able to add multiple teenagers at once. Leech would’ve been fun, but he’s just a kid. Quentin Quire is a snarky little brat, which would’ve been a nice add. Broo would’ve been great if his alienness allowed us to calculate his exact age. Veil would be a good add, if only because it feels like Avengers Academy needs representation. Pixie is a great new X-Men character, but I can’t in good conscience add her above some of the iconic X-Men teenagers. Jubilee has been wrecked as a character, despite a nice start a decade ago. Finally, it would’ve been fun to add Butterball, if only as a goof.
But, alas, there can only be 7, so I must be judicious in my cuts.
7 Superhero Teenagers from the Marvel Universe
Modern comic readers have seen Peter married (and retconned), cloned (and retconned), and about a million other whackadoodle things in his decades as a character in comics, but I would be remiss if I didn’t give the appropriate props to Peter Parker, the comic character who popularized the teenaged superhero.
For over 50 years, we have learned from a teenaged Peter Parker that with great power comes great responsibility. He held to that even as he was pushed around by Flash Thompson in the lunch room and mocked for being a geeky science kid. We’ve seen the teenaged Peter Parker pine for Mary Jane, all while his new-found powers served as a metaphor for the changes that come with adolescence.
Spider-man is a hero, to be certain, but the greatest hero has always been young Peter Parker.
Based upon my respect for Peter Parker’s “earlier work”, it’s inconsistent for me not to recognize the teenaged original 5 of the X-men, but screw it, I’m going 80’s on this one and listing Kitty Pryde instead of say a teenaged Jean Grey or Bobby Drake.
From reminding us that Professor Xavier is indeed a jerk to her growing up and falling in love with Peter Rasputin, Kitty Pryde was one of the great teenaged superheroes.
Recently, we’ve seen her as an all-grown-up teacher in Wolverine’s school for the gifted, but long time comic fans will always remember her as the teenager home alone on Christmas, fighting the Brood, with only her best friend pseudodragon, Lockheed, to keep her company.
Kitty maintained her innocence and had an enjoyable teenaged experience, even if she was chased by Sentinels from time to time. Rahne Sinclair, not so much. Instead, Wolfsbane is as heart-breaking case study of innocence lost as you’ll find.
Rahne Sinclair was born in Scotland, the child of a priest and a prostitute, and was subsequently unwanted by both. Her priest father, Reverend Craig, had a strong sense of faith, but he became a cruel, mean-spirited drunk, overtaken by the shame of the illicit activities that resulted in Rahne’s birth.
At age 14, her mutant abilities manifested, the ability to turn into a wolf. Reverend Craig believed that her powers were actually signs that Rahne was possessed by the “devil” and to rid her of the evil, he was going to burn her at the stake. Cutting a long story short, she ran for her life and, luckily for her, that ran her into the arms of the New Mutants, friends who would ultimately become her family.
Unfortunately for Wolfsbane, her adult life has come with as much pain as her teenaged years, but that’s a story for another post.
Speaking of being possessed by the devil, let’s talk about young Illyana Rasputin, a second teenaged character to represent the New Mutants. The younger sister of Colossus, Illyana Rasputina is a mutant teleporter, sorceress, and the Queen of Limbo, whose teenaged years makes Wolfsbane’s look like roses and sunshine.
Illyana was kidnapped at a very young age by the evil Belasco and and forced into servitude in a “Hell” dimension named Limbo for 7 years. There, her soul was corrupted by black magic, and a portion of it turned evil.
Besides teleporting, she is proficient in black magic and fights using a Soulsword. That alone is worthy of the list.
The themes of The Runaways involve finding a place for yourself away from home, estrangement from parents, and discovering who you really are, so they needed representation on this list. Apologies to Gertrude Yorks or Karoline Dean, but I chose Molly Hayes as my representative.
If many of the others on this list have their teenaged years behind them, Molly Hayes is really just stepping into them. Positioned as an early jr. higher in the comics, Molly is the daughter of two evil mutants who made a dark pact to rule over Los Angeles along with several other sets of parents. Molly and the other teenagers had become friends because their parents being close, but once convinced their parents were evil knew they needed to runaway together, becoming heroes to make up for the misdeeds of their parents. Aren’t comics grand?
Storylines predict Molly – now known as Bruiser – to be a key X-Man in the future. Her powers of strength and invulnerabilty are sometimes seen to be off-the-charts, with Molly once being able to rip off Cloak’s cloak, something even a god could not do. But using her powers come with a catch. Molly’s powers work off her adrenaline, so after she exerts her super strength she needs to go nigh-nigh and take a little nappy.
There are lots of females on this list, but could I really go with Alex Power over Julie Power? And could I really not have Power Pack represented, even though they’ve been known more as a kiddie comic and not a teenaged one?
Julie is the 2nd child of Margaret and James Power, inventors who once made a device which inadvertantly could destroy large parts of the universe. An alien race known as the Snarks came looking for the device but first had to go through the Power kids, who moments before had received powers from another alien who died trying to warn the Power family of the approaching Snarks.
Julie was given the power of flight and took the codename Lightspeed, although subsequent stories sometimes had the 4 Powers kids swap powers among themselves.
Lately, she’s been seen with Avengers Academy but there is always hope that Power Pack could be resurrected in some form.
How could I not go for a two-in-one? Cloak and Dagger are two lonely runaways who ran to New York City to seek a better life. They also have this weird are-they-dating-or-aren’t-they-dating thing, but you just let that slide because teenage hormones are weird and Cloak and Dagger have cool light and dark powers.
Dagger, Tandy Bowen, grew up in Ohio, the daughter of a multimillionaire and his supermodel trophy wife. Her dad abandoned the family while Tandy was very young, and her mother was too busy with her career and social life to pay much attention. Feeling empty and alone, Tandy headed to New York City with dreams of becoming a dancer.
Cloak, Tyrone Johnson, had a very different background. Ty was raised in the slums of South Boston. Ty had been born with a speech impediment and when his best friend died because Ty was unable to say the words that could have saved him, the distraught teenager hopped a bus, ending up in Manhattan, hungry and ready to turn to stealing to eat.
The two teenagers met up after Tyrone thought about stealing Tandy’s purse, but was ashamed when she offered him money. Afterward, the pair became fast friends.
An evil chemist was luring homeless people to his lab with promises of food and shelter, but he’d instead use them as test subjects for his new drug. Tandy and Tyrone were caught, knocked out, and injected with the drug, but they managed to survive, becoming superpowered.
There it is, my list of 7 superhero teenagers from the Marvel Universe. I went with a couple of obvious picks, balanced with a few deep cuts. It’s a list that’s also steep in 80s nostalgia, and I missed the most important teenaged superhero of today’s Marvel Universe. To make up for that, I’m writing Ms. Marvel as its own post.