Marvel heroes span a wide variety of origins, abilities, secret identities, and even publication styles. Each hero is notably different from the ones around him or her. That being said, there are basically 3 styles of heroes in Marvel that all seem to have similar patterns. Beyond that, the Marvel cinematic Universe is doing the same thing, establishing 3 different stages on which these characters act. These are the three basic classifications of heroes.
The Defender-type heroes are those that fight on the street. They are the true crime-fighters, taking on numerous crime organizations, such as Kingpin or even The Hand. These heroes include Daredevil, Luke Cage, Moon Knight, most of Spider-Man or my beloved Iron Fist. Things get personal much quicker in these stories. When the villains wish to hurt these characters, they go for the loved ones. These characters may occasionally save the Earth, but mostly they are limited to crime fighting.
The MCU is establishing these characters now in their Defenders series, although also with the upcoming Spider-Man movie. The Defenders will likely turn into a multiple-phase work, similar to the Avengers phases.
Not limited only to the Avengers, these type of heroes fight on a global scale. Their villains are more likely to be alien invaders or men with nuclear arsenals. In order to hurt these characters, they just threatened the Earth more. The characters include the Avengers and the members thereof, The Fantastic Four, or most of the X-Men. They may fight crime, but they are more likely to save the planet.
The MCU began with these heroes. These characters are the most popular on screen and we will likely see more of them in the future.
The Guardian-type heroes are those that fight on a galactic level. They are less concerned with Earth, although they may claim origin from there, but they will rarely go there anymore. These villains are more titanic in nature, such as Galactus, Annihilus or Thanos. In order to hurt these heroes, entire planets may be threatened, or simple torture, pain, or disfigurement. These heroes may include Nova, Guardians of the Galaxy, Adam Warlock, or the Silver Surfer. They may come to Earth, often in fact, but they are not based here.
The MCU is opening up this theater obviously in the Guardians of the Galaxy movie. After three Guardians movies, I predict other films in the galactic scale. Eventually, I predict a Nova movie, which will fit well.
Although these three categories fit most of the characters known in Marvel, there are a couple exceptions. I’ll be brief with them.
They may have been heroes at one point or another, but Deadpool and the Punisher behave differently than other heroes. They act similar to Defenders, but their stories are notably darker.
Some characters just want to be left alone. Characters such as the Hulk or X-men (at some points during their life) attempt to be reclusive, but end up being Avengers in the end, almost accidentally.
These are how I see most of the characters in Marvel dividing. There are definite borders between the stages, although some characters (Spider-Man) have fought on all levels.
What do you think? Do you see this reflected in what you know of Marvel? Which stage will be developed more in the MCU? For now, only time will tell.