In August of 1962, Spider-Man first appeared in Amazing Fantasy #15. The superhero was created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, but the teenaged Peter Parker needs little introduction.
One year later, X-Men #1 was released, featuring the appearance of a team of teenaged superheroes: Angel, Beast, Cyclops, Iceman, and Marvel Girl, under the tutelage of Professor Charles Xavier.
From its earliest days, Marvel Comics has presented teenagers as core characters. In fact, they’ve introduced entire teams of teenaged superheroes nearly every decade of their existence. Let’s walk through the decades and take a look at Marvel’s teenaged superheroes.
When the aforementioned X-Men felt too old for Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, Marvel released what was arguably the most enduring teen book (apologies to the Teen Titans).
New Mutants was created by Chris Claremont, the writer who defined the X-Men and made it the runaway best-selling comic book. New Mutants introduced brand new teenaged character that kept one foot in Xavier’s School while also rebelliously running off for adventures of their own, as teenagers are won’t to do.
It featured iconic storylines like Inferno and the Demon Bear Saga, but it has been the characters who are the most enduring. Cannonball, Wolfsbane, Dani Moonstar, Sunspot, Warlock, and Magik (among many others) continue to be some of the most loved characters in comics, now some 30+ years later.
Continuing their success with mutants, Marvel introduced a new team of teenagers the 90s. Generation X oozed the slacker, flannel-wearing, Grunge music Gen X cynicism of the times, which was intensified by the stylistic art of Chris Bachalo.
Unlike its predecessor the New Mutants, Generation X was not mentored by X-Men founder Professor X, but by former supervillainess Emma Frost, as if the deconstructionist Gen X overtones weren’t explicit enough.
Generation X consisted of Chamber, Husk, Jubilee, M, Mondo, Penance, Skin, Synch, and three child wards, Leech, Artie Maddicks, and Franklin Richards.
Although a hugely popular book, Generation X never developed a broad “gen pop” appeal but it had a passionate and devoted fanbase that was drawn to the quirky sarcasm of the title.
Existing characters Firestar, Marvel Boy, Namorita, Nova and Speedball were brought together with the newly created Night Thrasher to form the New Warriors in 1990 by Fabian Nicieza.
Click here for a deeper dive into the New Warriors, but the short version is the initial run of the New Warriors comic is among the absolute best “teenagers as superheroes” comics, even if the individual members haven’t always reached the level of pop culture proliferation as members of other teenaged may have.
Created by Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung, Young Avengers features adolescent superheroes who typically have connections to established members of the Avengers.
Young Avengers followed the events of the 2004–2005 “Avengers Disassembled” storyline when Iron Lad, Wiccan, Patriot, and Hulkling gather in the interim before the New Avengers were assembled.
Here is a deeper dive into the Young Avengers, but note that this teenaged superhero team appears to the be first one assembled for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
Runaways featured a group of teenagers who discovered that their parents are part of an evil crime organization known as “Pride.” It was created by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona, and debuted in July 2003.
On the lam after stealing weapons and resources, the Runaways learn that they themselves inherited their parents’ powers. Their roster:
- Alex Wilder, a prodigy, leads the team.
- Nico Minoru learns she is a powerful witch.
- Karolina Dean discovers she is an alien with light powers.
- Gertrude Yorkes has a telepathic link to a dinosaur.
- Chase Stein wield’s his father’s futuristic gloves.
- Molly Hayes learns she is a mutant with incredible strength.
Runaways was made into a television series for Hulu and it’s been argued that it drew inspiration from a 1970s cultural obsession with the Charles Manson cult.
Created by writer Mark Waid and artist Humberto Ramos, the Champions first appeared in Champions #1 in October 2016. They were formed as a team of teenage superheroes who were disillusioned with the older generations of superheroes, splitting off from the Avengers following the events of Civil War II.
The first iteration of the team featured a roster of Kamala Khan, Miles Morales, Nova (Sam Alexander), Hulk (Amadeus Cho), Viv Vision, and a teenage version of Cyclops.
Champions was launched to be decidedly upbeat and has since seen a relaunch. Only time will tell if the Champions as a teenaged superhero team will be as enduring as Marvel’s previous creations have been, but there is no denying that Marvel Comics has a decades-long knack for teenaged teams.