Marvel’s Unsung (Supporting) Heroes

As much as every superhero fan loves the flights of fancy of seeing super powers in action, battles against super villains and world saving feats, they would be nothing without the down to earth drama of these heroes’ personal lives.

The soap-opera aspect of comics was really pushed by Stan Lee at Marvel, though obviously in superhero fiction there has always been the personal dilemmas our heroes. Prior to Lee, however, most of the characters’ personal issues amounted to little more than silly devices like Lois Lane trying trick Superman into marrying her.
Lee was one of the first to really master this dynamic, making these personal problems at least as interesting as any superheroics going on in that issue. Sometimes these smaller, more personal sub plots ended up consuming half the page count, e.g. the famous Spider-Man drugs issue.
This grounded and more mature approach cemented Marvel as the power house that it has grown into today. One of the earliest, most famous examples of this was when The Fantastic Four were evicted from The Baxter Building for not keeping up with the bills, something unheard of in a Batman or Superman story at the time.
Spider-Man is probably the best example of this; trying to balance his job, school, ailing Aunt, love-life and super hero career all at the same time. Again, their personal turmoil wouldn’t be anywhere near as compelling without their friends, family and enemies that keep you coming back time after time, so join me in  celebrating those characters that support our heroes through thick and thin…
Jean DeWolff
A rough and ready police Captain who took no nonsense from the lawless and heroes alike. She rose quickly in law enforcement despite having to deal with the inherent sexism she encountered in the force.  Much of the police don’t exactly get along with vigilante masked types too well, but Jean saw them as a tool to be utilised and struck up working relationships with Iron Man and Spidey. Even though they didn’t always get along, she had a lot of respect for heroes and with her progressive attitudes she even had the potential of reaching the position of commissioner.
Unfortunately, like many promising supporting female characters she was cut down in her prime by The Sin-Eater (giving us one of my favourite Spidey/DD stories of all time).
Thaddeus ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross
The_Thunderbolts_in_thier_civilian_attireThe Hulk has never had a more dogged pursuer than General ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross; named for his impact on the battlefield.  From Hulk’s very first appearance he’s been been there.  What started out as merely a mission soon became a life-long vendetta, going to extreme methods just to put the Jade Giant down.
Teaming up with super-powered villains and even becoming the one thing he hated most… a Hulk, his mission has become so all consuming that it has effected his mental state (so much so he shot Rick Jones at Bruce and Betty’s wedding).
I mean, usually the worst thing the father of the bride does is drink too much and dance like a dick!
His love for his daughter Betty is the one thing that gives him pause no matter how far he goes down that road to hell, he’ll always look back for her.
He recently found some redemption as a member of The Avengers and The Thunderbolts but he is still a soldier first and foremost and will do whatever it takes to protect his country.
Amadeus Cho
choAmadeus is that insufferable know-it-all-we-all-know, the self professed World’s 7th Smartest Person.
Soon after entering a ‘young genius’ competition his parents die mysteriously.  Realising that these things are connected, Cho goes on the road with pet dog Kirby (gotta love that).
After being saved by The Hulk he considers him a friend and endeavours to protect him even when he turned against Earth.  After a time he teamed up with The Incredible Hercules which soon became the best buddy road comic I’ve ever read. The ancient lovable oaf and the high tech young sage make a most unusual pairing but the bond they share is one of the strongest despite their differences.
Huge props to anyone who can bring down SHIELD when his only real superpower is Maths!
Cho went on to become a hero in his own right as the Totally Awesome Hulk!
Jean-Paul DuChamp
Moon Knight’s pilot and best friend whom he nicknamed “Frenchie”; a fellow former mercenary who has stuck with Marc Spector through everything including insanity (lots of) and death (occasional).
Though Jean-Paul’s legs were so badly damaged in an explosionthat they had to be amputated, don’t underestimate him; he can still put you on your derrière without much effort!
In recent years it was revealed that Jean-Paul had, in fact, been in love with Marc all along (it explains why he put up with his shit). As such, he couldn’t stand to watch Marc slowly destroy himself.
Even through all of this he’s still got Marc’s back whenever he may need it in his various guises.
To my mind Frenchie will always be the right hand man to The Fist Of Khonshu! Whatever you do don’t say anything disparaging about the French.
Aunt May
mayWho doesn’t love Aunt May? Who doesn’t want someone like this maternal masterpiece in their lives? Her early depiction was that of an old, frail worry wart but over the years her character has evolved into kind of a badass!
She once drugged The Chameleon, dated a gangster and even became a herald of Galactus once upon a time.
May Parker is loving, kind and caring but none of this undermines her strength as an experienced woman who has been through the ringer emotionally, psychologically and physically as well as coming back from the dead more times than the cast of Marvel Zombies.
Living by her husband Ben’s example, she has become the kind of everyday hero who has helped at homeless shelters and even turned her house into a home for the elderly.
Because she’s learned the same lessons as Peter it makes her Spider-Man’s most trusted advisor.  The bond that she and Peter share is undoubtedly the most beautiful in comics.
Bethany Cabe
Hired as a bodyguard for Tony Stark, Cabe is highly proficient in hand to hand combat and in the use of firearms. Cabe was once married to a German politician who became addicted to popping pills and soon left him after he began to spiral out of control.
He soon wound up dead and she promised herself that she would never again be dependent on anyone emotionally, financially or otherwise.
Cabe is the definition of a strong, clever, assertive female character. In her early appearances she kicked the collective asses of various Iron Man villains, figured out Iron Man’s secret identity, fell for Tony (she’s only human) and helped him through his initial bout of alcoholism. She soon found out that her husband’s death had been faked and with Iron Man’s help she rescued her husband. Unfortunately for Tony she decided to stay with her husband and ween him off the pills. Say what you want about Bethany Cabe, but she’s a woman who lives by her own rules.
Jim Wilson
A street-wise dreamer from Harlem who longed to see the world after seeing an elderly jazz singer die a sad and lonely death. He decided not to end up like that so he jacked school in and ran away from home. While finding shelter in an abandoned tenement building he bumped into The Hulk another kindred spirit and their friendship grew from there. Soon Jim assisted in battles with Leader, Abomination, Rhino and so on. Through his superheroics he discovered his Uncle Sam was in fact The Falcon via this reveal he soon reconnected with his family. Unfortunately Jim’s life took a turn for the worse as Jim contracted AIDS and died in a heartbreaking issue written by Peter David.
Flash Thompson
Everyone has known a bully in their lifetime but rarely does the bully like you and hate you at the same time, anyone familiar with any incarnation of Spidey from page to screen will know Flash as a misunderstood jock who was Spider-Man’s biggest fan but Peter Parker’s biggest rival.
Over the years their hatred gave way to friendship as their relationship has gradually changed. Flash may have been a bit of a dick in his high school years but scratch the surface and you get to know a guy who’s been through child abuse, heartbreak, alcoholism, war and disability. His friendship with Spider-Man is one of the strongest in the entire MU as no matter what they’ve been through they are always there for each other.
agentvenomIn recent comics Flash is a decorated war hero who lost his legs and became the most recent recipient of the Venom symbiote; making him just like his childhood hero Spider-Man. For better or worse…
Moira MacTaggert
Genetic researcher and first love of Charles Xavier, Moira has had tumultuous life. After Xavier left for war she met Joseph MacTaggart, fell in love and married him. MacTaggart was not all that he appeared to be, however, and Moira found herself physically & sexually abused by him.  She was eventually left in hospital beaten and pregnant.
Despite her domestic nightmares she excelled in her field even winning a Nobel prize working specifically on mutants with special needs or requirements such as her own son Proteus and Xavier’s son Legion.
Were it not for Moira’s help, Charles would never have been able to form the X-Men.
‘Nuff Said!
Her life was sadly cut short by Mystique in an explosion but before she died she was the only human to contract The Legacy Virus while coming very close to curing it.
Foggy Nelson
foggy-nelson-0As much as Matt Murdock supposedly hits the books, Franklin ‘Foggy’ Nelson hits them harder. The real backbone behind Nelson & Murdock. Nelson is the substance to Murdock’s style. Without Foggy I doubt Matt would win half as many cases.
A dogged researcher and loyal friend Foggy he is prone to bad life choices (something he shares in common with Matt).
Choices like… dressing up as Daredevil to impress women and his poor diet.
Though they often disagree and fall out (because let’s be honest Matt can be a conceited dick however much we love him for it) their bond of friendship is never broken for long.
In short, there’s a reason why it’s called and Murdock.
J Jonah Jameson
We’ve all had a boss we can’t stand for various reasons, a power-hungry control freak who we struggle to relate to on any level.
But nobody has it worse than Peter Parker.
J Jonah Jameson is the oft- disgruntled editor in chief of the Daily Bugle who despises everything he feels Spider-Man represents. After his first wife was killed by a masked gunman when he got too close to a story you can understand his inherent mistrust of anyone wearing a mask.
Over the years JJJ has been represented in various ways from comedic foil, to a reporter of staunch integrity, to out and out super villain having a hand in the creation of The Scorpion & The Spider-Slayers.
All these interpretations work because of the strength of this character. Stan Lee apparently created Jonah to be a caricature of himself which only makes the character more real and compelling.
I could spend a whole article talking about Jameson and I’m sure he would love that… as long as I didn’t mention Spider-Man…
Rick Jones
Hey Ricky, you’re so fine.
You’re so fine you blow my mind.
Hey Ricky!
Stan Lee hated the idea of teenage sidekicks; mostly because of the idea of child endangerment.  It’s the reason he killed off Bucky.
In spite of this, he ended up creating the best one ever!
Rick Jones is famous for (inadvertently) creating The Hulk by driving on to the Gamma-Bomb test site… C’mon Rick get a clue!
Bruce Banner rushed out to save him and ended up in the epicentre of the bomb’s explosion.
Whoops!
rickjones2After this, he swore he’d always look out for his behemoth buddy no matter what, and for the most part he has. Rick Jones is one of the most human characters in the MU just a simple folk/rock & roll singer giving us an exceptional point of view when he is offset against huge cosmic events like The Thanos War.
He’s not just known for being The Hulk’s traveling companion but also being the only person Captain America has ever allowed to wear Bucky’s uniform, being bonded physically and mentally to the Kree hero Captain Marvel and single-handedly stopping The Kree-Skrull War.
Rick Jones is the beating heart of the MU and he’s not going anywhere soon…
Thanks for supporting these supporting cast of characters everyone!
Peace out My Merry Marvel Marching Society!
Honourable Mentions:
Jim Rhodes, Dave Cox, Stevie Hunter, Weasel, Blind Al, Dum Dum Dugan, Beverly Switzler, Clea, Wong, Trish Tilby, Cameron Hodge, Silver Fox, Lilandra, Ana Maria Marconi, Marlene Alarune, Thunderbolt Ross, Glenn Talbot, Night Nurse, Dai Thomas, Lady Dorma, Vashti, Detective Flint, Betty Banner, Jack Norris, Harry Osborn, Frankie Raye, Willie Lumpkin, Lei Kung The Thunderer, Sif, Heimdal, Warriors 3, Herbie, Lockjaw, MJ, Pepper Potts, Karen Page, Ben Urich, Nick Fury, Jarvis, Balder, Richard Rory, Microchip, Rachel Van Helsing, Crawley, World Mind

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