Superhero comics have a proud tradition of tough guys. You know who we’re talking about: costumed adventurers who talk mean through perpetually clenched teeth, and who make sure we never forget they’re ready (and eager) for their next fight. Some of the most popular characters of all time adhere to this imposing archetype – including the likes of Batman and Wolverine – so we’re not knocking it.

But the “hard man” routine can grow a little tiresome, especially when you realize that there are plenty of spandex-clad crimefighters who are capable of the same results without resorting to posturing. That’s why we’ve pulled together this list of non-traditional superhero tough guys (plus a couple of tough gals): as a celebration of all those characters who don’t need to remind us just how scrappy they are!

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10 Spider-Man

On the face of it, Spider-Man is the complete opposite of a tough guy. Not only is the webslinger’s light-hearted mid-battle banter a huge part of his appeal, but he’s known for openly acknowledging when he’s in over his head. So not exactly the qualities you’d expect from a stereotypical gruff bruiser. But these glib remarks and self-deprecating comments mask Spidey’s genuinely steely core.

Indeed, over the past five decades and counting, Peter Parker has slugged it out with some of the Marvel Universe’s fiercest foes, even bringing the supposedly unstoppable Juggernaut to a halt. As our hero himself notes in Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse: “No matter how many hits I take, I always find a way to come back” – sounds pretty tough to us!

9 The Phantom

Arguably the first true superhero in history, The Phantom has been battling piracy and injustice with little more than his wits, fists and trusty Colt .45s for over 80 years. During that time, he’s resorted to the kind of intimidation tactics you’d expect from a guy known as “The Ghost Who Walks” – but that kind of standover schtick isn’t his default modus operandi.

On the contrary, the Phantom is by nature an open and approachable figure, who – despite being a formidable hand-to-hand fighter – always tries to resolve hostile situations peacefully first. What’s more, he’s not afraid to display affection towards his wife Diana and their children publicly, either. Actor Billy Zane (who portrayed the character in 1996’s The Phantom) once observed “He’s not superhuman, he’s superhumane” – which perfectly sums up the Phantom’s hard-hitting yet kind-hearted personality.

8 Colossus

Much like the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz, X-Men stalwart Colossus’ metal exterior hides a heart of gold. So despite (or perhaps even because of) his unbreakable outer shell and titanic strength, Piotr Rasputin has always ranked among the gentlest and most sensitive members of that supergroup’s roster. But just because Colossus is in touch with his feelings doesn’t mean you should write him off as a wimp.

Far from it, in fact – during his career to date, this good-natured giant has gone toe-to-toe with some of the heaviest hitters in the Marvel Universe. He even set aside his pacifist beliefs to (temporarily) take the life of crazy-powerful rogue mutant Proteus when he realized no one else could… and there’s few things tougher than that.

7 Martian Manhunter

The Martian Manhunter is one of the elder statesmen of the DC Universe’s superhero community, and he behaves accordingly – rarely dishing out threats or beating his chest. Seriously: dude’s chilled demeanor makes even Superman seem belligerent by comparison, especially thanks to his obsession with Oreos!

But that doesn’t mean J’onn J’onzz isn’t capable of raining down ruckus. As you’d expect from someone with a powerset that includes super speed, strength, and endurance – not to mention shapeshifting and telepathy – the Martian Manhunter can bring the hurt. And when he does, you know whoever’s on the receiving end dang well deserved it.

6 Jean Grey

The first of two female characters on this otherwise male-centric list, Jean Grey – much like the cosmic Phoenix Force that augments her already formidable mutant powers – is the embodiment of all that is nurturing in life. But while this one-time Xavier Institute for Higher Learning headmistress is beloved by practically everyone she meets, that doesn’t make her a pushover.

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No, we definitely wouldn’t recommend starting trouble on Jean’s watch, as just because she rarely seeks out a fight doesn’t mean she can’t finish one. This foundation member of the X-Men is capable of obliterating entire planets and has withstood attacks from god-like beings such as Galactus – which underscores just how scrappy this demure redhead really is.

5 Invincible

For those unfamiliar with Invincible, he headlines his own series co-created by The Walking Dead scribe Robert Kirkman and artist Cory Walker. In terms of personality, Kirkman and Walker cast their hero very much in the Spider-Man mold – right down to his geeky-cool vibe, cocky sense of humor. But much like Spidey, Mark Grayson’s likeable everyman fa├žade conceals his dogged, never-say-die spirit.

When backed into a corner, Invincible is also something of a force of nature, too – he’s survived countless knockdown, drag-out melees and seen off not one, but several alien invasions. Toss in his downright staggering ability to absorb punishment – he’s shrugged off being practically disemboweled! – and Grayson is one undeniably of the toughest cats on the block.

4 Captain America

Captain America represents all that’s good about old fashioned values: he’s principled, selfless and humble. At the same time, Cap is also a career soldier with a pronounced sense of fair play and marked aversion to bullies – so it goes without saying that he’s prepared to fight the good fight, no matter the cost.

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But what really cements Steve Rogers’ place on this list is his staunch refusal to back down from a punch-up, no matter how outmatched he is. From loudmouthed street toughs to intergalactic warlords like Thanos, Cap has stood up to them all over the course of his artificially extended lifespan.

3 Wonder Woman

As Themyscira’s ambassador to the outside world, Wonder Woman approaches conflict with the aim of defusing it. However, there are only so many peaceful avenues available when you’re going up against bloodthirsty supervillains, and Diana is regularly forced to accept that negotiations have failed.

When that happens, buckle up – because Wonder Woman isn’t just a highly-skilled diplomat; she’s also one of the fiercest fighters in the DC Universe! Hard as nails and trained in armed and unarmed combat for centuries, this Amazonian warrior can give as good as she gets.

2 Hellboy

In some respects, half-demon hero Hellboy fits the tough guy archetype – most notably in his occasionally gruff manner and gift for talking mean when the situation calls for it.

Even so, there’s much more to this reluctant Beast of the Apocalypse than these two traits, including his appetite for pancakes and preference for tipping beers over cracking skulls.

Of course, that doesn’t mean Hellboy can’t take all comers – his exploits as a paranormal investigator provide all the proof you could ever need on this score. It’s just that he’d rather be smoking a stogie or cracking a joke, instead.

1 Superman

Superman’s clean-cut image and “Big Blue Boy Scout” reputation has led critics to dismiss his tough guy chops. However, as none other than Lex Luthor himself – the Man of Steel’s archenemy and most vocal detractor – remarked in All-Star Superman: “You just haven’t seen him in a fight.”

And it’s not just because Superman is invulnerable, either. In those instances where the Last Son of Krypton has encountered an adversary capable of fatally injuring him, he’s entered the fray without hesitation. The bone-crunching brawls that followed – particularly his city-demolishing scuffle with Doomsday – are the stuff of comics legend, and the ultimate reminder that you can be a tough guy without being a “tough guy”.

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