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5 Best And 5 Worst Marvel Mash-Up Characters

Hey, if one thing is great and another thing is great, putting them together should make something even better! Right?

I mean, sure. Mash-ups work sometimes. Mash together two great things and you might get chocolate peanut butter cups, Westworld, or He-Man/Thundercats. But, you could also wind up with Aliens vs. Predator, Cop Rock, or Crystal Pepsi.

Marvel Comics has been succeeding with mash-ups for a while now. In June different Marvel creators fed fans with sketches of "warped" Marvel characters like Iron Hammer (Iron Man + Thor) and the Soldier Supreme (Captain America + Doctor Strange) with the hashtag #WhoGetsWarped. The sketches were eventually revealed to be a part of Marvel's upcoming Infinity Wars event, which will include a series of one-shots called Infinity Warps.

This is hardly the first time Marvel has had fun with mash-ups. For decades the creative teams of Marvel have smooshed together characters to see if they could produce new money-makers, or – judging by the results — just have a good laugh. Here's the 5 best and 5 worst Marvel mash-up characters.

Best: Weapon H, a.k.a. Hulkverine

The Incredible Hulk and Wolverine circled each other for years in a long, bloody rivalry. They both have their strengths. Wolverine sports claws that can slice through anything and his bones are unbreakable. The Hulk boasts strength to rival that of the gods. Both have healing factors rendering them nearly unkillable. Put all of that together and, according to Weapon H creator Greg Pak, you get Marvel's ultimate weapon.

Weapon H, aka Hulkverine, was introduced with the Marvel event Weapons of Mutant Destruction that ran primarily through Totally Awesome Hulk and Weapon X. The assembled heroes learn the infamous Weapon X program — responsible for the creation of Wolverine among others — is experimenting again, but this time their goal is to create mutant-killers. Stealing DNA from the Totally Awesome Hulk, Old Man Logan, and others, Weapon X is trying to create an utterly unbeatable weapon, and in spite of the heroes' efforts, they succeed.

The idea of a "Hulkverine" sounds like an unimaginative marketing ploy that's hoping more for toy sales than good reading, but Pak and co. told a compelling, action-packed, and suspenseful story when they introduced Weapon H. Not surprising anyone who read Weapons of Mutant Destruction, Marvel greenlit the ongoing monthly Weapon H not long after the event's conclusion.

Worst: Captain Punisher

Civil War changed the Marvel Universe drastically, and one of its darkest moments brought the assassination of Captain America. In the aftermath, the Punisher decided he would take the job.

In Punisher War Journal #7, while investigating a violent white supremacist group, Frank Castle donned a new red, white, blue, and black costume complete with both the white stars of Captain America and his own signature skulls. Castle's apparent admiration for the late Captain didn't inspire Punisher to change his methods. He still preferred shooting people in the head or beating them to death to the late Rogers' acrobatics and shield skills, and unfortunately wound up unwittingly killing an innocent woman — his partner's lover — during his short career as Captain Punisher.

Captain Punisher lasted four issues, from Punisher War Journal #7 to #10, and never felt like it was meant to last much longer. He goes after the white supremacist group by going undercover, and his grand reveal of his new Captain Punisher outfit is right before he begins his infiltration (just seems a little strange to choose the moment you're supposed to be going under the radar to reveal your garish new outfit). In Punisher War Journal #11, Bucky confronts Frank, who has already decided that being Captain America isn't for him.

Best: Franken-Castle

There are a lot of Marvel mash-ups that didn't take place on Earth-616 — the multiverse's assignment for the version of Earth on which most of Marvel's history takes place. Some of the best mash-ups are the ones so bizarre you think they had to have taken place on an alternate reality — that there's just no freaking WAY Marvel would let one of their most well known properties go so insanely sideways — and then you find out you're wrong. Such a beast is Franken-Castle.

At Norman Osborn's orders Wolverine's son Daken killed the Punisher — literally cut him to pieces. In the following issue, Mole Men appeared and carried away the chunks of Castle's corpse. Punisher awoke to find himself being pieced together by the vampire Morbius, and watched over by other classic Marvel monsters like Werewolf-by-Night and Man-Thing. Morbius took the news of Punisher's death as an opportunity to recruit him. And so Frank Castle became Franken-Castle.

Fans enjoyed it so much, the Punisher remained monster-ified for a full year. He became Franken-Castle in Punisher #11, but with the 17th issue the series was officially renamed Franken-Castle. With the help of the magic from the legendary Marvel artifact the Bloodstone, Frank regained his human form in Franken-Castle #21.

Worst: Piecemeal

Superheroes aren't the only ones who get to play mash-up; but in the case of Piecemeal, maybe it would've been better if they were.

Shortly after its explosive 400th issue, Incredible Hulk teased its readers with the introduction of a new villain so scary even the unstoppable Juggernaut was worried about him. Starting with Incredible Hulk #403, readers saw just little bits and pieces of the villain Piecemeal: just a claw here and a sinewy tail there; just enough to whet the appetite. Finally Piecemeal struck in Incredible Hulk #407, and when he did? He was just kind of unimpressive and goofy-looking.

Piecemeal absorbed and reproduced the powers and appearance of super-powered people with whom he came in contact. Upon first revealing himself, he looked to have the cybernetic arms of Silvermane, the clawed hands of Sabretooth, the face of the Red Skull, the chest piece of Attuma, and the facial hair of...Abraham Lincoln maybe?

After months of build-up, Piecemeal failed to be much of a threat to the Hulk, even though he had the gamma-powered villain Madman backing him up. The Hulk speared Piecemeal through the torso and flung him into Loch Ness like an unwanted fish. That was the last anyone ever saw of him.

Best: Ororo, Goddess of Thunder

In a classic two-part story since dubbed "The Asgardian Wars" spanning through 1985's New Mutants Special Edition #1 and X-Men Annual #9, longtime X-Men writer Chris Claremont and artist Arthur Adams brought all of Professor Xavier's School of Gifted Youngsters to Asgard. During a time when Storm of the X-Men had lost all of her weather-controlling powers, Loki tempted the mutant by gifting her with what seemed to be the power of Thor. When the New Mutants and X-Men arrived, Loki's magic clouded her senses, making her see them all as villains.

At the story's climax, in front of a crowd of Asgard's warriors, Loki unveiled a hammer he'd crafted for Storm. Though likely not as powerful as Mjolnir, Storm nearly killed Wolverine with its magic, and even gave the death goddess Hela a run for her money. Eventually, Ororo was able to see through Loki's magic and she relinquished her power, knowing that keeping it would mean being Loki's pawn.

Though she gave up her power, X-Men Annual #9 wouldn't be the last appearance of this version of Storm. She was shown to be one of the alternate versions of Thor acting as Doctor Doom's police force in the Secret Wars tie-in miniseries Thors. And a recent issue of X-Men: Gold revealed a future glimpse of Storm once again becoming an Asgardian goddess of thunder.

Worst: WendiHulk

When Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness took over the Hulk's title in 2008, they already gave the world one popular alternate version of the green goliath: the Red Hulk. The following year, in Hulk #9, readers got a brief look at a version of the Hulk who was nowhere near as compelling: the WendiHulk. 

Finding himself in a tussle with not just one Wendigo, but a whole army of them, the green Hulk was transformed into a giant, green, clawed, fanged, furry monster who did little more than look gnarly and yell "WENDIHULK!" a lot. Brother Voodoo appeared out of nowhere (literally), cured him, and that was that. WendiHulk serves as an extreme example of a time when Marvel was oversaturated with Hulks — with a green Hulk, a red Hulk, a Red She-Hulk, and two green She-Hulks. If you could take a word and put "Hulk" on the other side of it, there was a Hulk for it.

Best: Spider-Gwen

On another Earth, Gwen Stacy never died. She never found herself in the position of being the helpless hostage of Green Goblin with only her superhero boyfriend Spider-Man to save her. On this other Earth, it was Gwen — not Peter Parker — who received a fateful bite from a radioactive spider and used the resulting powers to fight crime as Spider-Woman.

Spider-Gwen was introduced in the Spider-Verse tie-in miniseries Edge of Spider-Verse, and she was a hit with readers right away. Of all the alternate reality Spider-Man spinoffs introduced in Spider-Verse, hers was the only character to exit the event with her own regular monthly title. She's since become a fixture in Marvel, appearing in multiple Marvel video games, cartoons, and she's one of the characters set to appear in the upcoming animated film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Spider-Gwen is more than just a cool spinoff with a killer costume design. The death of the more well-known Gwen Stacy in 1973's Amazing Spider-Man #121 is generally seen as one of the more important moments in superhero comics. It also made Stacy one of the earliest comic book characters to become known as "Women in Refrigerators"; i.e., a female character who is killed just to spur a male protagonist's plotline. That Gwen Stacy proves to be one of Marvel's newest hits could be a sign that superhero comics are going in the right direction. 

Worst: Rick Jones Hulk, circa 1978

In the late '70s, Marvel published the speculative What If? In What If?, readers were given alternate versions of classic Marvel stories. In the alternate Earth presented in What If? #12, Bruce Banner didn't get caught in a gamma blast while trying to save a teenager named Rick Jones; instead it was Rick Jones who got belted with gamma rays, and Rick Jones who became the Hulk. 

The Rick Jones Hulk of What If? #12 was hilarious. He was basically the Hulk if the Hulk were a teenager being written by adults who were trying, and failing, to reproduce teenage slang. The RJ Hulk called Bruce Banner "Square." "Bah! Square is too chicken to fight!" he yelled at Bruce. The soldiers who hunted him? "Soldiers ... uncool!" When an enraged RJ Hulk decided to leave, he would "split" or "cut out." When he agreed to join the Avengers, it was because, "Hulk digs it!" When he battled Annihilus in the Negative Zone, he urged the villain, "Don't jive Hulk!" The Rick Jones of Earth-616 would actually become the Hulk for a short period, but never enjoyed this kind of wonderful dialogue. 

The Rick Jones Hulk of What If? #12 lived again a few years ago. He was briefly a contender in Contest of Champions, where he was bonded with a Venom symbiote. We hope he could dig it.

Best: Cosmic Ghost Rider

In Thanos #13, Donny Cates introduced Cosmic Ghost Rider — a mash-up of the Punisher, Ghost Rider, Silver Surfer, and maybe even Deadpool. 

A few issues later, Cosmic Ghost Rider's origin was revealed. After the last of Earth's superheroes fell at Thanos' hands, a dying Frank Castle — aka The Punisher — made a deal with Mephisto. Marvel's Devil cursed Castle with the power of Ghost Rider, but with no one left on Earth, he went insane. His dialogue began resembling Deadpool's, both in its comedic tone and its non-white coloring. Galactus eventually journeyed to Earth, looking for allies against Thanos. Cosmic Ghost Rider offered to become the Devourer's new herald; Galactus agreed, imbuing Castle with the same cosmic power he gives all his heralds. 

Of course Thanos eventually killed Galactus, but he could not kill Cosmic Ghost Rider, nor could CGR kill Thanos. With no other purpose left to him, Castle agreed to become Thanos' right hand man. 

With the popularity he found after his appearance in Thanos, Marvel greenlit a Cosmic Ghost Rider miniseries for the four-way-mash-up character. The five issue miniseries will include, according to Cates, "the craziest s— you've ever seen." To wit: a team whose roster includes Juggerduck. Yes, Juggerduck. A mash-up of Howard the Duck and The Juggernaut.

Worst: D-Man

D-Man — aka Demolition Man — is so bad at being a Marvel mash-up, he isn't really a Marvel mash-up. He just designed the worst costume in the world so he could look like one. 

Dennis Dunphy was introduced in The Thing's first short-lived shot at a regular monthly series. Dunphy was a wrestler who was a part of the UCWF (Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation) — a wrestling league for people with superhuman physical attributes. With enhanced strength he received by using an addictive drug peddled by the Power Broker, Dunphy eventually left the UCWF and helped Captain America take down the Power Broker. As Cap's sidekick he designed the costume he's most known for — with a mask made to look like Wolverine's, and the rest of the outfit based on Daredevil's original Silver Age red-and-yellow get-up.

D-Man has since become little more than a joke in Marvel Comics. He's a character so minor and so unloved he regularly goes through traumatic changes like dying or going insane, and often by the next time he shows up no one even bothers to explain how he got better. He was most recently killed in the Secret Wars tie-in miniseries Secret Wars Too, only to reappear after the conclusion of Secret Wars with no one bothering to address how he managed to survive.