Marvel: 10 Characters Whose Popularity Dramatically Declined (& Why It Happened) – CBR – Comic Book Resources

For one reason or another, these Marvel Comics characters saw a massive decline in popularity over the years following periods of great success.
Marvel has been redefining what it means to be popular in comics for a long time. Almost from the moment the Marvel Universe burst onto the scene in the Silver Age, fans just couldn’t get enough of Marvel’s mighty roster of respected heroes or the terribly intimidating villains they battle. Some of the biggest modern-day success stories have been Marvel characters, with heroes and villains leaving an indelible mark on pop culture.
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However, not every character can always be popular. Even some of the most popular and well-known Marvel legends have had some rather precipitous falls in popularity for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes, they’ve been able to bounce back but others haven’t.
Venom’s debut proved that symbiotic characters could be popular and not long after his debut, Carnage showed up. Quickly becoming one of Spider-Man’s most terrifying villains, Carnage made a name for himself and headlined the fourteen-part crossover, Maximum Carnage. Not long after that, Carnage would go away for a long time and never really be as popular again.
Carnage is a very simple character and that’s mostly the problem. He’s not all that interesting of a villain and his stories are pretty much all the same. Maximum Carnage was the last time he really made any kind of splash until Absolute Carnage, which only worked because of the massive symbiote storyline it led into, The King In Black.
It’s weird to say right now but the Avengers were once a non-entity in the comic industry. The ’80s were the team’s last hurrah for a long time, all because of the rise of one little book- Uncanny X-Men. It quickly became the number one Marvel title and soon, the best seller every month. All of the best talent went there and the Avengers just sort of languished.
The Avengers have won a lot of brutal battles, but they couldn’t fight reader indifference. Not even bringing Rob Liefeld in could save the team. However, when Marvel put writer Kurt Busiek and artist George Perez on the book, things started to look up and by the mid-’00s, the Avengers would get back to the top.
Captain America may be one of the most inspiring Marvel heroes of them all, but even he wasn’t immune to the ’90s. Throughout the ’80s, Captain America just kind of stayed the same, if anything getting more jingoistic during the Reagan Administration, which was weird for a character who had gone through so many ups and downs because of the government in the ’70s.
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By the time the ’90s hit, Cap was considered uncool in the extreme and readers voted with their wallets. Heroes Reborn would barely move the dial but writer Mark Waid and artist Ron Garney would come in and do wonders with the character.
The Fantastic Four were Marvel’s first super-team and the characters that brought them to the Silver Age dance. For years, they would be one of Marvel’s flagship titles and lived up to the “World’s Greatest Comic Magazine” slogan emblazoned on the cover. However, after writer/artist John Byrne’s run on the book, they would begin playing the game of diminishing returns.
As comics got bigger, the FF just sort of stayed the same. The X-Men kept stealing readers from everyone and the FF were the titans of a bygone era. It’s pretty much been like that ever since, as even when things were looking up for the FF, they never really reached the heights they had been at before.
The Silver Surfer is one of the most powerful characters in the Marvel Universe but he rarely makes appearances anymore. At the height of the early ’90s, Silver Surfer was helming a book that did respectful numbers and was riding high off his role in Infinity Gauntlet and Infinity War. Unfortunately, Infinity Crusade would happen and underwhelm, taking the once resurgent Marvel cosmic books with it.
Surfer held on a few more years but away from the spotlight of the Marvel event scene, the character would languish. His book would get canceled and Marvel moved away from the cosmic side of things until Annihilation. Ever since, he’s never really soared as high again.
Ghost Rider was one of Marvel’s big success stories, a legend from the ’70s dusted off and repackaged for the readers of the ’90s. Fan ate up the new Ghost Rider and he quickly took his place at the core of a new, more extreme horror-oriented Marvel line, spinning out of The Midnight Sons crossover. Unfortunately for Ghost Rider, the extreme wave would subside and he’d be left high and dry.
Marvel tried to salvage the character’s popularity for a few more years in the ’90s but it was futile. Ghost Rider was pretty much DOA throughout the ’00s. A new character was put into the mantle but Ghost Rider would never be as popular again.
After crossovers like The Mutant Massacre and Inferno, Mister Sinister seemed like he was poised to be the next big X-Men villain. He was revealed to have been working behind the scenes for years and was primed to steal the spotlight from Magneto. The problem came when a new villain was introduced – Apocalypse.
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Apocalypse stole all of Mister Sinister’s thunder. It got to the point that Mister Sinister literally started playing second fiddle to Apocalypse and that was pretty much it for Sinister. He’d remain well known but he’d never get his chance to be the X-Men’s biggest villain.
The Clone Saga is one of the most infamous periods in Spider-Man history and it was almost the end for the character. The biggest problem is that the story kept going on. Even though fan reaction was negative, they kept buying the book, hoping for the eventual end and Marvel, misreading the signs, just kept things going.
After the story, Marvel tried to reboot the character but that barely moved the needle and it took years until Spider-Man truly recovered from the ill-fated story. Even today, any mention of the Clone Saga is enough to send fans of a certain age into paroxysms of rage.
Cable quickly became one of the most popular X-characters of the ’90s but his time at the top would be short. The first blow was co-creator Rob Liefeld leaving Marvel but it wouldn’t be the last. His popularity would prove big enough to get him his own book and keep it for years, but then a curious thing happened- the popularity of Deadpool.
Deadpool would overtake Cable in terms of popularity. Ever since, Cable has been a bit of a hard sell. He’s still moderately popular but he’s more of a ’90s throwback than anything else, going long periods without a solo book or appearances.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when Iron Man stopped being popular. Like many of Marvel’s Silver Age heroes, the ’90s is where it all started, as the character started hemorrhaging fans then. He’d get an uptick when writer Warren Ellis and artist Adi Granov came on his book in the mid-’00s but then Civil War would happen. Iron Man would come back to the forefront of Marvel but no one really liked him.
Ever since then, Iron Man has been around but it honestly feels like he still gets a comic because of his MCU popularity. Iron Man in the comics is nowhere near that popular and never will be again. He’s front and center but his time as a top guy are long over.
NEXT: Marvel: 10 Villains Who Have Had To Fight A Version Of Themselves
David Harth has been reading comics for close to 30 years. He writes for several websites, makes killer pizza, goes to Disney World more than his budget allows, and has the cutest daughter in the world. He can prove it. Follow him on Twitter-


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