Defend the Block- Who are Marvel’s Street Level Heroes?
In a Marvel Universe full of Asgardians and aliens, where the Power Cosmic and Infinity Stones can alter the very fabric of reality, where do vigilantes fit in?
Not all heroes have access to the best tech, the most mystical weapons, or ships suited for space travel. That doesn’t mean they can’t protect, avenge, or defend with the best of them- they just take it block by block. With the majority of the Marvel Universe situated in New York, heroes like the Defenders and the Heroes for Hire are needed to help out in Hell’s Kitchen, stop bad guys in Brooklyn, and catch criminals in Queens.
Real Name: Carl Lucas (formerly)
Alias: Power Man
Powers: Superhuman strength, unbreakable skin, accelerated healing factor
Carl Lucas, born and raised in New York’s Harlem neighborhood, would eventually become a hero for hire under the name Power Man. Wrongfully imprisoned for a staged crime, Lucas was sent to Seagate Prison, where he met Dr. Noah Burstein, a man who was experimenting with a variant of the Super-Soldier formula that gave Captain America his powers.
After prison guard tampered with Burstein’s process, Carl Lucas emerged empowered and used his newfound strength to break out of the prison and forge a new life for himself. He adopted the alias Luke Cage, and returned to his home to launch a career as a Hero for Hire. He eventually partnered with Iron Fist in this business, and joined the Secret Defenders, then later the New Avengers.
In Hell’s Kitchen, Cage crossed paths with a former costumed hero, Jessica Jones, and after a brief affair, the two had a daughter and eventually got married. Currently in Marvel Comics, Luke has ties to the newest iteration of the Defenders, consisting of himself, Jones, Daredevil, and Iron Fist.
Real Name: Matthew “Matt” Michael Murdock
Alias: Daredevil, the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen
Powers: Superhuman senses, radar sense, skilled fighter utilizing clubs
As the son of boxer Jack Murdock, Matthew had a big legacy looming over him all throughout his childhood. After being blinded by a radioactive substance in a truck crash, the young man’s remaining senses became heightened, giving him a radar sense. His father was killed by gangsters when he refused to throw a prize fight, and so Matt decided to don a costume and take revenge as Daredevil.
By day, Matt Murdock worked as a lawyer alongside his best friend Franklin “Foggy” Nelson. His dual identity caused a lot of strain, as he tried to protect his civilian lifestyle while also making himself a known vigilante. The public knowledge of Murdock’s identity has been a source of contention, but also humor, throughout the comics (a sweater with the phrase ‘I am Not Daredevil‘ being one of the more famous incidents). Matt has also rotated through several costumes, including the yellow suit, his iconic red, and a black Shadowlands costume.
At this point, Matt Murdock’s secret identity is once again safe, and he wouldn’t even reveal his name to his Defenders teammates Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and Iron Fist at first until they had defeated several foes. Due to a series of legal entrapments (and dealings by The Hand) Matt is currently the legal mayor of New York City, allowing him to free wrongfully imprisoned heroes who had been incarcerated by the Kingpin, Wilson Fisk.
Real Name: Jessica Campbell Jones Cage
Alias: Jewel, Knightress, Power Woman
Powers: Superhuman strength and endurance, flight
Orphaned at a tender age in a car accident involving radioactive compounds, Jessica Campbell was adopted by the Jones family and discovered that she had developed mysterious powers. She was enrolled in Midtown High and witnessed a battle between Spider-Man and Sandman, inspiring her to use her powers for positive means.
As the hero Jewel, Jessica Jones was captured and tortured for eight months by the villain Zebediah Killgrave, also known as the Purple Man. Eventually, she gave up her costumed life and opened Alias Investigations, a private detective agency. Jessica crossed paths with several notable heroes, including Carol Danvers as Ms. Marvel, Scott Lang (the second Ant-Man), Daredevil, and most famously, Luke Cage, before exacting her revenge on the Purple Man.
After defeating her tormentor, Jones admitted her feelings for Luke Cage, confessing that she was pregnant with his child. She went to work for the Daily Bugle during her pregnancy, and then the power-couple got married and joined the New Avengers together. Currently in Marvel Comics, Jones is affiliated with the Defenders with her husband, while trying to balance her detective agency as well as motherhood.
Real Name: Daniel “Danny” Thomas Rand-K’ai
Alias: Immortal Iron Fist, the Living Weapon
Powers: Skilled martial artist, utilizes chi energy to use the power of the Iron Fist
Daniel Rand was the son of weathy parents Heather and Wendell Rand, who perished in an incident on an expedition to seek out the mystical city of K’un-L’un. Adopted by stoic monks, Danny desired to learn martial arts to exact vengeance on Harold Meachum, his father’s scheming business partner who took over Rand Industries following the Rands’ deaths.
A gifted student, Danny quickly took to all his teachers’ instructions and at age 19, he was given the chance to attain the power of the Iron Fist. After defeating Shou-Lao the Undying, Danny plunged his fist into a molten brazier and took the power of the dragon’s heart, gaining his dragon-brand on his chest and his incredible power. Returning to New York, Danny eventually decided to use his powers to fight crime, joining the Heroes for Hire with Luke Cage.
During the period of the superhero Civil War, Iron Fist posed as Daredevil, to distract the media from uncovering Matt Murdock’s identity. He spent time learning about the legacy of the Iron Fist, encountering his predecessors and even successors, learning to channel his strength to its fullest extent. Currently, he and Luke Cage are planning to resurrect their Heroes for Hire enterprise, while he also fights alongside Daredevil and Jessica Jones in the Defenders team.
Real Name: Elektra Natchios
Alias: Elektra, Black Sky
Powers: Peak physical condition, weapons expert, master assassin, (sometimes) low level telepathy
Elektra Natchios studied martial arts as a child at the behest of her father, a Greek ambassador who wanted his daughter to learn self-defense. She took to the training quickly, and became an expert fighter. While in the US with her father, she began political science studies at Columbia University alongside her classmate Matthew Murdock and the two eventually fell in love.
After an incident in which her father was killed, Elektra withdrew from Murdock and left America. She furthered her physical studies in Japan, aligning herself with a secret organization of martial artists led by Stick, Murdock’s own teacher. An infiltration mission went awry, and Elektra ended up in the service of The Hand, a clandestine organization of ninjas. She became an assassin and bounty hunter for hire.
Eventually, she crossed paths with Daredevil again, and still had feelings for him, though she proved to be an enemy for some time. She seemingly died after a fight with Daredevil’s nemesis Bullseye, but was later resurrected, and kept herself hidden for many years before reemerging once more. Currently, she is working as a hired assassin and patrols Hell’s Kitchen, often running into Matt Murdock while on the job.
Real Name: Marc Spector
Alias: Moon Knight, the Fist of Khonshu
Powers: Expert detective, martial arts proficiency, increased strength and agility depending on the lunar cycle
Born and raised in Chicago, Marc Spector left the US military to become a mercenary and travel the world. On a tour in Egypt, he and his group of compatriots stumbled upon an ancient temple housing artifacts and statues of the moon god Khonshu. After Spector was betrayed and left to die in the desert, worshippers of Khonshu found the man and tried in vain to save him before his heart stopped. In death, the moon god offered the man a second chance at life.
Marc Spector became Khonshu’s avatar on Earth, becoming the Moon Knight. He exacted revenge on the ones who left him for dead, and returned to America to become a vigilante and serve the moon god. He began to famously create alternate identities for himself, including millionaire Steven Grant and civilian cab driver Jake Lockley, in order to better navigate life as a crimefighter.
Under Khonshu’s blessing, Marc Spector gained strength and ability depending on what phase of the lunar cycle was in the sky at the time. He also adopted a secondary costumed identity, Mr. Knight, who dealt with more administrative tasks while Moon Knight tackled supernatural threats. Currently, Marc Spector has been forced to confront the avatar of Ra, who calls himself the Sun King and stands against Moon Knight.
Real Name: Johnny Blaze
Alias: Ghost Rider
Powers: Penance stare, hellfire weaponry, immense strength and agility, immortality
While there have been many heroes using the alias of Ghost Rider, Johnny Blaze was a former stuntman who sold his soul to Mephisto in exchange for the entity curing his adoptive father’s cancer. When the devil came to collect, he was driven away and sought revenge for being unable to claim Blaze as his prize. Instead, Mephisto bonded Blaze to the demon Zarathos, turning him into the Ghost Rider through this curse.
As the Ghost Rider, Johnny Blaze transformed into a skeleton surrounded by hellfire, dressed in leather, riding a flame-spitting motorcycle. Johnny was forced to punish the wicked and evil souls at the demand of Mephisto, in order to send the sinners to hell where they belonged. Eventually, he was freed of the Ghost Rider curse, and became a wandering adventurer until Zarathos returned and transformed Blaze back into hell’s emissary.
Hellfire is the supernatural flame that empowers Ghost Rider and gives him his iconic look. Along with his motorcycle, Johnny Blaze is known for his chain-whip weapon, although other Ghost Riders have driven cars, ridden horses, and used hellfire shotguns. Currently, Blaze and other Ghost Riders help to mentor Robbie Reyes, the latest in a long line of Spirits of Vengeance. Meanwhile, in a distant future, Frank Castle serves Thanos as the Cosmic Ghost Rider…
Real Name: Francis “Frank Castle” Castiglione
Powers: Spec Ops training, skilled in guerilla and military tactics, marksmanship, demolitions
Frank Castle, the son of Sicilian immigrants, enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and served several tours of duty in Vietnam. Before leaving, he married a woman named Maria, and over the years they had two children in between his deployments. While on leave, he and his family stumbled upon the scene of a mob killing. The gangsters, fearing witnesses, killed Castle’s family in cold blood.
Frank Castle vowed to spend the rest of his life avenging his family, using his battle prowess and access to weapons in order to enact his own brand of justice, warped by his trauma. Eventually, the Punisher clashed with Spider-Man, mistaking the webslinger for a common crook, but they became uneasy allies. Castle also ran into Captain America, but the two were so idealistically different that they butted heads all the while.
Throughout New York, the Punisher has taken it upon himself to deliver vengeance to all sorts of lowlife criminals- but sometimes he even takes on the heroes, confronting the likes of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and even Deadpool! He has no powers, but is in peak physical condition for an adult human male. He is a skilled fighter and a weapons expert, making him a serious threat even at the street level.
The heroes of Harlem, Hell’s Kitchen, and even Hell itself prove that you don’t have to travel the galaxy and protect the entire planet in order to make your mark on the Marvel Universe.
Who is your favorite street level Marvel hero? Let us know in the comments!
Be sure to add these vigilantes, antiheroes, and more to your universe of Marvel collectibles.