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Christmas Gift Guide

Daredevil

Jessica Jones

Luke Cage

Iron Fist

Ant-Man

Ultron

Deadpool

The Vision

Vixen

X-Force

Shazam (previously Captain Marvel)

Aquaman

Cyborg

Preacher

Dr Strange

Inhumans

Suicide Squad

Batman. Spider-Man. Wonder Woman. We're all familiar with the big names in comics, thanks to years of appearing on the big and small screens. But the explosion in popularity of movies and TV shows based on superheroes means that a large number of unsung comic book heroes are getting their moment in the sun too.

In a post-Robert Downey Jr. world it's easy to forget that Iron Man wasn't actually so well known when he burst onto our screens back in 2008; that Captain America looked like a gamble for 94 percent of the planet; and that the Guardians of the Galaxy, well, even hardcore comics nerds were scratching their heads. So maybe these new faces will join the X-Men and the Avengers in mainstream popularity -- and with our handy guide you can be ahead of the caped crusader curve too.

So click through our super-powered gallery to meet the lesser-known superheroes leaping from page to screen.

Caption by / Photo by Marvel

First appearance: Daredevil #1 (1964)

Created by Stan Lee and Bill Everett, conscientious lawyer Mat Murdock has a devilish secret: by night, he prowls the streets and alleys of New York using martial arts to beat up bad guys -- even though he's blind. An accident involving toxic waste enhanced his other senses, even giving him a sort of radar sense. Some of his definitive stories were written by Frank Miller, with another classic run written by Brian Michael Bendis.

Coming soon: "Daredevil" is the first of four new Marvel-based TV series that will appear on Netflix. Starring Charlie Cox as the horned hero, the show will hopefully wipe out bad memories of the 2003 movie starring Ben Affleck.

Caption by / Photo by Marvel

First appearance: Alias #1 (2001)

Created by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos, Jessica Jones is a former superhero who hangs up her cape for a career as a private eye. Close to fellow New York-based superhero Luke Cage, Jones often tackles problems at street level, although she still has powers and is later affiliated with the Avengers.

Interestingly, Jones' adventures as the superpowered Jewel were never actually covered in Marvel comics -- she was first seen in retirement, and her adventures were retroactively inserted into comic continuity.

Coming soon: Jones will be played by Krysten Ritter in "A.K.A. Jessica Jones", the second of the four Netflix adaptations.

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First appearance: Hero for Hire #1 (1972)

Also known as Power Man, thick-skinned Luke Cage is a near-indestructible street-smart superhero. Created by Archie Goodwin and John Romita, Sr. he's one of the first major black superheroes. He's been a member of various teams including the Avengers and Thunderbolts.

Coming soon: Mike Colter plays the hero for hire in "A.K.A Jessica Jones" and his own show "Luke Cage".

Caption by / Photo by Marvel

Danny Rand is so adept at martial arts he can tap into the power of his spiritual energy, or chi, to enhance his fist to superhuman levels -- an iron fist! Created by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane, he has often teamed up with Luke Cage over the years.

First appearance: Marvel Premiere #15 (1974)

Coming soon: "Iron Fist" completes the quartet of Marvel heroes headlining their own Netflix shows. The four heroes: Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist will all gang up to form The Defenders in a miniseries.

Caption by / Photo by Marvel

First appearance: Tales to Astonish #27 (1962)

Created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby, scientist Dr. Hank Pym developed Pym particles, enabling him to shrink down to a tiny size as Ant-Man, or grow to giant size as, er, Giant-Man. A founding  member of the Avengers, over the years he has passed the mantle of Ant-Man to other characters including reformed thief Scott Lang.

Coming soon:The character of Ant-Man appears on big screens in summer 2015 when Michael Douglas plays Pym and Paul Rudd plays Lang.

Caption by / Photo by Marvel

First appearance: Avengers #54 (1968)

Originally designed by Hank Pym, Ultron is a sentient robot -- who just happens to be criminally insane. Various versions of the character have troubled the Avengers over the years, even splitting into an Ultron army.

Coming soon: As you can tell by the title, Ultron is the main baddie in this summer's "Avengers: Age of Ultron". He's voiced by the sleazeball's sleazeball James Spader.

Caption by / Photo by Marvel

First appearance: New Mutants #98 (1990)

Created by Fabian Nicieza and Rob Liefeld, mercenary Wade Wilson's regenerative healing powers and deadly combat skills are only matched by the speed of his speech -- hence his nickname "The Merc with a Mouth".

Coming soon: Ryan Reynolds will take on the role of Deadpool in an R-rated extravaganza in 2016.

Caption by / Photo by Marvel

First appearance: The Avengers #57 (1968)

Originally created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby and updated by Stan Lee and Roy Thomas, the Vision is a member of the Avengers -- who just happens to be a red, green and yellow android. He was created by another android, Ultron, and is powered by a solar jewel on his forehead that also fires energy beams.

Coming soon: British actor Paul Bettany, whose dulcet tones you may recognise as Iron Man's computer Jarvis, finally appears on screen playing the Vision in "Age of Ultron".

Caption by / Photo by Marvel

First appearance: Action Comics #521 (1981)

One of the the first African female superheroes from DC, Vixen is the alter ego of model Mari Jiwe McCabe, who can mimic the ability of any animal.

Coming soon: Vixen will appear in an animated online series on The CW Seed in autumn. The show will be set in the same universe as The CW's live action superhero hits "Arrow" and the "The Flash".

Caption by / Photo by DC

First appearance: New Mutants #100 (1991)

Created by Fabian Nicieza and Rob Liefeld, this team of mutants is like the X-Men, only angrier. Often taking on black ops-style missions, the team's past members include Psylocke, Domino, Colossus, Bishop and X-23. Although it has been led by Wolverine, X-Force is usually headed by Cable, a time traveller with a penchant for enormous guns.

Coming soon: Rumours suggest X-Force will spin out of the X-Men movies in 2016 or 2017.

Caption by / Photo by Marvel

First appearance: Whiz Comics #1 (1940)

When knee-high nipper Billy Batson utters the magic word "Shazam!" he is transformed into an adult superhero with the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the will of Atlas, the lightning blasts of Zeus, the power of Achilles and the speed of Mercury. His personality is however retained in the transformation, giving him a sunny or even naive outlook.

Created by artist CC Beck and writer Bill Parker, the red and gold-clad was originally known as Captain Marvel, complete with a whole family of friends and allies. But that became confusing when DC's rival Marvel comics rose to prominence, prompting a name change for this venerable superhero in 2011.

Coming soon: DC and Warner Bros are planning a Shazam movie in 2019, probably tied into Justice League. One of Shazam's most formidable foes is Black Adam, a corrupted ancient Egyptian version of the hero who also draws magic powers. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson will muscle into the role.

Caption by / Photo by DC

First appearance: More Fun Comics #73 (1941)

Exiled from Atlantis as a baby, Arthur Curry grew up on land, only to return to the undersea kingdom as its ruler. Created by Paul Norris and Mort Weisinger, his fishy powers include breathing underwater, swimming at high speed and telepathically communicating with the other creatures of the sea. Aquaman is a chum of Batman and Superman in the DC Comics line-up, and a member of the Justice League.

Coming soon: Aquaman will be played by "Game of Thrones" star Jason Momoa in "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" before headlining his own watery movie in 2018. Like Marvel's superhero society the Avengers, the Justice League are expected to gang up in a movie in 2017.

Caption by / Photo by DC

First appearance: DC Comics Presents #26 (1980)

Victor "Vic" Stone was experimented on by his scientist parents to enhance his intellect, and then, to add insult to injury, one of their experiments led to him being horribly mutilated. Poor kid just can't catch a break. He was outfitted with cybernetic implants that give him enhanced sensors and weapons including a sonic cannon.

Created by writer Marv Wolfman and artist George Pérez, Cyborg is best known as member of the junior hero team Teen Titans.

Coming soon: Ray Fisher is already suiting up as Cyborg for "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice", and will headline his own movie in 2020.

Caption by / Photo by DC

First appearance: Preacher #1 (1995)

Not exactly a superhero, lapsed preacher Jesse Custer is nonetheless instilled with a strong sense of righteousness, a sweet right hook -- and the power of the Word of God. Seeking answers from the Lord Almighty, Custer joins forces with dead shot Tulip O'Hare and incorrigible Irish vampire Cassidy to cut a swathe through cowardly angels, murderous rednecks and the most devious conspiracy ever hatched. Oh, and in the ruthless Herr Starr and unstoppable Saint of Killers, it boasts two of the most terrifying villains ever. Created by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, "Preacher" is full of sexual deviance, shocking violence and unspeakable blasphemy. It's brilliant.

Coming soon: A TV show has long been talked about, and now Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are finally bringing Jesse and his buddies to the small screen on AMC in 2015. Ruth Negga will play Tulip and British actor Joseph Gilgun from "Misfits", "This is England" and "Lockout" will play Cassidy.

Caption by / Photo by Vertigo / DC

First appearance: Strange Tales #110 (1963)

Created by Steve Ditko, Doctor Stephen Strange was a brilliant surgeon who lost the use of his hands and searches the world looking for a way to heal himself. Coming across a hermit called the Ancient One in the Himalyas, he learns the mystic arts and becomes one of the most powerful sorcerers in existence. Strange is also a member of the Illuminati, a secret council made up of X-Men leader Professor Xavier; Iron Man billionaire Tony Stark; the Fantastic Four's Reed Richards; underwater ruler Namor the Submariner; and Inhuman leader Black Bolt.

Coming soon: Two words: Benedict Cumberbatch. Mentioned in passing in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier", Stephen Strange will headline his own movie in 2016.

Caption by / Photo by Marvel

First appearance: Fantastic Four #45 (1965)

Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the Inhumans are a race of superheroes in the Marvel universe. Evolved out of alien experiments with ancient man thanks to the transformative "Terrigen Mist", the Inhumans lived in seclusion as the human race developed. They're ruled by the silent but deadly king Black Bolt, with his Royal Family Medusa, Karnak, Gorgon, Triton, Crystal, Maximus the Mad and Lockjaw. Oh the (in)humanity!

Coming soon: With the concept of "mutants" tied up by Fox, which owns the rights to Marvel's X-Men on the big screen, Marvel is looking elsewhere for a way of giving its movie adaptations superpowers. That's where the Inhumans come in. TV show "Agents of SHIELD" is sewing hints, and there'll be an Inhumans movie in 2019.

Caption by / Photo by Marvel

First appearance: The Brave and the Bold #25 (September 1959)

Originally conceived in the late 1950s, the Suicide Squad was reimagined by John Ostrander in 1987 as a team of supervillains tasked with dangerous missions -- a sort of caped Dirty Dozen -- to pay their debts to society. Various villains and antiheroes have passed through the ranks, including the Joker and his unhinged paramour Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Deadshot and the Australian Boomerang.

Coming soon: "Fury" director David Ayer is directing Margot Robbie and Jared Leto as Harley Quinn and the Joker in a movie based on the team in 2016, with Will Smith as Deadshot and supermodel-turned-actress Cara Delevingne as Enchantress.

Caption by / Photo by DC
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