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Top Ten Cosmic SuperheroesComics have a rich history in space, from superheroes that were born on alien planets to warriors who harness the power of the stars.
Here are 10 of the best and most compelling examples of comic book characters with cosmic origins, along with some of their iconic adventures.
FIRST STOP: Space Ghost
NovaSlide 2 of 22
NovaNova is the space-faring alter ego of one Richard Rider, a young man granted immense power by an alien species, and tasked with protecting the universe as a part of the inter-galactic peace-keeping force, the Nova Corps. If that sounds familiar, you may be thinking of Green Lantern, whose most iconic incarnation has a very similar origin story.
Fortunately, this more cliché characterization of Nova didn't last long. In fact, it wasn't until years later that the character came into his own identity and gained popularity as a part of a team of young superheroes called the New Warriors. After many of the New Warriors died in an encounter with a powerful super villain, Nova saw a revival as a solo character, taking a starring role in Marvel's cosmic oeuvre.
Nova's greatest story is undoubtedly "Annihilation," a cosmic epic in which much of Marvel's space-bound characters united against a threat of unimaginable strength. Nova also had his own title for some time, which spun out of "Annihilation." Recently, Richard Rider, the original Nova, died, and a new Nova, Sam Alexander, took over Rider's powers. Marvel has announced a new series starring Nova, to be produced by top creators Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuiness, as part of the Marvel NOW! Initiative. Nova will also appear on the Marvel NOW! Avengers team.
NEXT: Captain MarvelSlide 3 of 22
The Legion of Super-HeroesSlide 4 of 22
The Legion of Super-HeroesThe Legion of Super-Heroes are a vast team of teenage superheroes assembled from various planets, each possessed of unique, often iconic, but sometimes bizarre powers. From Ultra-Boy — who possesses super strength, invulnerability, flight and super speed, but can only use one power at a time — to Matter-Eater Lad — whose physiology allows him to consume almost anything — each of the 20 to 30 active Legionnaires present unique twists on well-known comic archetypes.
While their adventures sometimes tend more toward soap opera than space opera due to their 30th century teenage hormones, the Legionnaires have had their share of action facing a variety of villains and threats as colorful as they are. These range from the Fatal Five, a group of bizarre sci-fi miscreants, to Starfinger, a cosmic crime boss with delusions of grandeur. Still, the true heart of the Legion of Super-Heroes lies within the team's interpersonal dynamics.
One of the most accessible (though occasionally frustrating) aspects of the Legion is that, more than most superhero teams, their stories have been re-launched, re-imagined and rebooted over and over again. Each era holds its own reading gems, starting with the early days, in which Jim Shooter, who later became the editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics, created many of the team's most memorable characters and adventures, while himself still a teenager. Later, Paul Levitz, a former editor-in-chief of DC Comics, alongside artist Keith Giffen, defined a more mature take on the team and crafted one of the group's greatest adventures in "The Great Darkness Saga." In this story, the Legion takes on Jack Kirby's creation Darkseid, an evil god of immense power. [Pros Choose: The Top Ten Legion of Super-Heroes Stories]
Also of note are the early issues of Mark Waid's take on the Legion of Super-Heroes, which presented a team based around a common sense of youthful rebellion, turning many of the group's classic concepts on their heads, and taking the heroes to sometimes even stranger places.
NEXT: NovaSlide 5 of 22
Space GhostSlide 6 of 22
Space GhostDesigned by legendary animator and comic artist Alex Toth for Hanna-Barbera in the 1960s, Space Ghost is known primarily for his animated adventures, but he also has an indelible connection to comics.
Space Ghost is a space-bound superhero who dwells on his own Ghost Planet, traversing the stars armed with his gauntlets, which produce strange energy beams with a variety of effects. Alongside his sidekicks Jan and Jace, and their pet monkey, Gleek, Space Ghost faces off against cosmic monsters such as the insectoid Zorak, the feline twins Brak and Sisto, and the robotic Metallus.
Many fans will know Space Ghost from his latter-day reinvention in Cartoon Network's parody talk show, "Space Ghost Coast to Coast," but the original 64 episodes of his Hanna-Barbera series are unbeatable among sci-fi action cartoons. In comics, his early appearances are hard to find, but echo the fun, exciting tone of his TV series. In more modern comics, Toth-devotee Steve Rude drew a single issue from Comico. It presents a slightly more mature take on the character, as does a DC Comics series from 2005, which featured art from legendary comic painter Alex Ross.
NEXT: Legion of Super-HeroesSlide 7 of 22
Captain MarvelSlide 8 of 22