25 of Marvel’s best spacefaring characters

20 of 26

Gladiator (Image via Marvel)

19. Gladiator

You may have heard me mention the Shi’ar here and there throughout this article. They’re humanoid, though they’re cold-blooded and have birdlike characteristics. The Shi’ar have also created a massive, powerful star empire that envelops many different worlds and peoples. The X-Men were some of the first superheroes in Marvel comics to encounter the Shi’ar, though they certainly weren’t the last.

Gladiator, however, isn’t Shi’ar. He works for them as praetor (leader) of the Shi’ar Imperial Guard, but he’s actually a Strontian. The Shi’ar, fearing a Strontian rebellion, ordered them to kill their own elders. Only Gladiator was willing to follow through with the orders; he won his leader position as a result.

For most of his comics history, Gladiator has served Shi’ar empress Lilandra Neramani. He’s been a champion, an undercover agent, and general bodyguard for her. Sometimes, this means that Gladiator is a friend to our Earth-based superheroes. At other times, this places him in opposition to human interests. For instance, the Dark Phoenix saga culminated with a confrontation with the Shi’ar and their constituents, including Gladiator himself.

Strontians like Gladiator are generally strong, fast, and have great durability. He’s also got x-ray vision, heat vision, microscopic vision, something called “super breath”, and a healing factor, among other abilities. Pretty nice to be a Strontian, it seems. Well, as long as you’re not an elder.