Marvel Created Their Own Bizarre Villains To Stay Safe From Real World Criminals

By Zack Zagranis | Published


Marvel has always prided itself on using real-world locations for most of its characters: Spider-Man was from Queens, NY, not some fantasy city like Gotham and the Fantastic Four didn’t operate out of some Fortress of Solitude but a Manhattan skyscraper. And yet, for all of Marvel’s efforts to ground their universe in the real world, the big organized crime syndicate in their version of NYC is not the Mafia, but something called the Maggia.

The Maggia

The Maggia made its first appearance in The Avengers #13 in 1965 by way of Count Nefaria. While there’s never been a definitive answer as to why Marvel didn’t just use the Italian mob, the rumor in the comics world is that Stan Lee and Don Heck created the Maggia as a way to do organized crime stories without angering any real-life gangsters. The reasoning was that several comic book distributors allegedly had ties with the Mafia, and Lee was worried about offending the criminal outfit.

As for why Lee went with such a silly name for Marvel’s organized crime family is anybody’s guess, but we wouldn’t be surprised if he just replaced the F in Mafia with the next letter in the alphabet and then, as an afterthought, decided to double it just for good measure. Heck, we wouldn’t be surprised if Stan actually thought Mafia had two Fs in it to begin with.

Remember, we’re talking about a guy who would occasionally forget the names of his own characters—hence why the Hulk’s name went from Bruce Banner to Robert Bruce Banner

Maggia Families

On the surface, the Maggia is similar to its real-world counterpart. The organization started in Europe in the late 19th century before spreading to America and making a fortune during prohibition. Just like the Mafia, the Maggia consists of several independent groups known as “families,” with the heads of each family meeting regularly to discuss the organization’s business.

The Maggia Likes To Outsource To The Super Powered

Unlike the Mafia, the Maggia makes heavy use of superpowered individuals to commit its various crimes. Some of these individuals, like the adamantium-skulled Hammerhead and Count Nefaria—a being made of ionic energy—even lead their own families. Even solo villains like Spider-Man rogue Mysterio, Daredevil’s Leland Owsley (aka The Owl), and Iron Man nemesis Whiplash have worked for the Maggia at different points in their criminal careers.

Street-Level Adversaries


The Maggia’s main role in the Marvel Universe is to give street-level heroes somebody to fight. Heros like the X-Men and the Fantastic Four are usually too busy with global threats or cosmic adversaries to track down drug dealers and bookies. Vigilantes like Daredevil and the Punisher, however, are better suited to go up against thugs like Tombstone and the Bushmaster than they are Magneto or Galactus.



Despite being a staple of Marvel Comics for almost 60 years, the Maggia has almost no presence whatsoever in the MCU. The LA branch of the criminal organization appeared briefly during the second season of Agent Carter, but so far, that’s it. Though some characters who have canonically been affiliated with the group — such as Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk, Bob Gunton’s Leland Owsley, and Mustafa Shakir’s Bushmaster — have appeared in the universe, no mentions of the Maggia were made.

With Daredevil: Born Again currently in production, however—not to mention Marvel’s recent decision to make the Netflix Defenders universe canon—there’s a good chance that the Maggia will start to become a bigger part of the MCU.

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