(Out of pocket this week, so if the Direct Market burns to the ground, I won’t be able to talk about it until Sunday.)I don’t envy Brian Cronin’s task of compiling a list of 100 favorite DC and Marvel characters. When I coordinated a list of 52 DC characters last year, it was a lot of work. Still, it was fun to see who people liked. Writing up the final list also let me figure out my feelings for the characters.
In that spirit, here are my lists of favorite Marvel and DC characters. There’s 20 of each, and they’re not ranked, in order to obscure my real selections and avoid influencing Brian’s poll too much.
The Marvels are first. As you might expect, I’m not that much of a Marvel scholar, so this list might not be too exciting. Nevertheless…
Awesome Andy. One of the best reinventions to come out of Dan Slott’s imagination, and that’s saying something. I hope we don’t see him return as the Mad Thinker’s Awesome Android — that would just be tragic.
The Black Panther (T’Challa). A versatile character really appeals to me, and being an ancient hereditary ruler of a remote high-tech society lets the Panther participate in a wide range of adventures.
Captain America (Steve Rogers). I like the fact that Cap was just a regular guy made into a symbolic, almost propagandistic, figure. I especially like that he knows how much power that gives him, and how he shouldn’t abuse it.
Doctor Strange (Stephen Strange). Marvel has a lot of “professional superheroes,” but I think I like Doc’s attitude the best. He tends to be the grownup of the group, especially in the Defenders. Also, I never get tired of the cheesy, alliterative spellcasting.
Doctor Doom (Victor von Doom). A villain who becomes too sympathetic risks losing much of his menace. Not Doom, though. As much as we’ve been told about his attempts to save his mother’s soul, or reconnect meaningfully with humanity, he still manages to be threatening. It doesn’t hurt that he can blame most of his shortcomings on Doombots.
Hawkeye (Clint Barton). Here’s another character whose appeal lies in his attitude. He just loves his work.
Howard the Duck. “But — you’re a duck!!” A great satirical figure, tailor-made for the target-rich ‘70s.
The Invisible Woman (Susan Storm Richards). There’s a kind of stereotypical hypercompetent-sitcom-mom vibe around Sue — the Clarice Huxtable/Debra Barone syndrome — but as with Dr. Strange, most times it falls to her to be the grownup. Besides, when she’s really “on,” as she was when she browbeat the Wizard last week, she transcends all of that.
Edwin Jarvis. Even being the Avengers’ butler, Jarvis is maybe the most regular guy on this list. I don’t compare him to Alfred Pennyworth (who’s not on my DC list), because as far as I know, he doesn’t have the military/espionage background DC saw fit to give Alfred. Therefore, he has to face all of the Avengers’ menaces without any particular special training, and still he doesn’t let it faze him.
J. Jonah Jameson. The Jolly One gets all the practical, real-world speeches (or at least he did up to Civil War) about how superheroes are inherently dangerous, can’t be trusted, etc. If he were at DC he’d be Lex Luthor’s biggest fan. The fact that he’s just another working schlub sums up Marvel’s basic philosophy.
Mister Fantastic (Reed Richards). I never thought Reed was a “classic” — which is to say, tormented — Marvel character until I read his sublime soliloquy in FF vol. 3 #61. The idea that the Fantastic Four’s celebrity came out of Reed’s guilt, and his need to celebrate his best friends’ ever-altered lives, was a great insight by editor Tom Brevoort, well-realized by Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo.
Rick Jones. More than a few of the characters on both lists “grew up” with superheroes. While Rick wasn’t the first teenage super-fan, he’s been a trendsetter. Peter David probably did Rick best, both in Hulk and Captain Marvel.
Machine Man (Aaron Stack). Specifically, the Nextwave edition. Because the fleshy ones annoy me too.
The Maestro (Bruce Banner). The Hulk taking over the world really is a great idea.
The Red Skull (Johann Schmidt). Ain’t no evil like Nazi evil. Occasionally, you might feel sorry for Doom. The Skull, not so much.
The Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff). I’ve always liked her design, and the recent Colleen Coover backup story probably helped boost her standing.
Spider-Man (Peter Parker). For some reason, Ben Grimm gets to work through his problems — over a few decades, maybe, but he gets to work through them. Spidey doesn’t get that luxury. If everything’s going right for him, something’s wrong. Still, I think he deserves to have a reasonably happy life.
Squirrel Girl (Doreen Green). Another character who just loves what she does. I am all about the happy characters.
The Thing (Benjamin J. Grimm). The purest Marvel character. Like I said, it’s great that he’s been able to work through his original issues. The fact that he’s remained popular even without those “hooks” speaks to the extent to which he’s been allowed to grow and develop over the years.
Jimmy Woo. Sure, today he’s famous for Agents of Atlas, but when I met him he was still fighting Godzilla. You don’t send just anyone to fight Godzilla.
And here’s the DC list. It was hard to assemble both lists, but it was hard to limit this one to just 20 characters. Still…
The Atom (Ray Palmer). To me he’s the best of DC’s Silver Age “science heroes,” because he is all about said science. His first impulse isn’t to punch something, but to analyze it.
The Batman (Bruce Wayne). Batman is a mess of contradictory elements, so much so that I think the only way to hamonize them is to take virtually a metatextual approach to the character. If he’s Bruce Wayne playing a scary role, he seems a lot healthier than if he’s the broken psyche from Bruce’s lost childhood. I like a healthy Batman, and I’m glad DC does too.
Batgirl/Oracle (Barbara Gordon). Babs I like because she’s just plain real smart. She can do better than Dick Grayson. It therefore pleases me to think that the upcoming Batman and the Outsiders revival will be more like Birds Of Prey than Justice League Elite.
Lucas “Snapper” Carr. See Rick Jones, above. Snapper is DC’s go-to slacker, and come to think of it, would be a welcome presence in Jimmy Olsen’s Countdown arc.
Crazy Jane (Kay Challis). Speaking of broken psyches, though, Jane did a fine job symbolizing Grant Morrison’s anything-goes approach to the Doom Patrol. The chemistry between her (and her multiple personalities) and Cliff “Robotman” Steele was really something special.
Cyborg (Victor Stone). I love the Wolfman/Perez Teen Titans, but even I have to admit they can be portrayed pretty broadly. I never really got that vibe from Vic, though. He kept a group of superhero insiders honest.
The (World-Famous) Elongated Man (Ralph Dibny). Yes, Plastic Man is wacky. Yes, he makes Ralph look boring by comparison. However, I never found Ralph to be boring. Indeed, Ralph always came across to me as a good friend, a valued teammate, and a fine detective.
Firestorm (Jason Rusch). I own a good 90 percent of Ronnie and Prof. Stein’s adventures, but I kinda like Jason just a little more. The fact that he can bond with random strangers makes the difference for me. Watching him mature while in the driver’s seat has been fun.
The Flash (Wally West). As much as his Wolfman/Perez iteration wouldn’t have believed it, Wally is now one of DC’s professional superheroes. Like his predecessors in the Golden and Silver Ages, Wally represents DC’s Modern Age. He’s a legacy hero who developed from sidekick to headliner, and who has now created his own legacy. That presents a lot of possibilities.
Green Lantern (Hal Jordan). From the O’Neil/Adams days up through “Emerald Twilight,” Hal’s big struggle was apparently against the Guardians’ authority. However, I don’t think that’s entirely accurate. Hal always struggled to maintain his roots in Coast City and specifically with Carol Ferris, and resisted the Guardians’ orders which took him away from them. His “time away” now means he can move on — or does it…?
Green Lantern (John Stewart). Hal is a military man and a test pilot. Kyle is an artist. Before he became a boor, Guy was a social worker and teacher. I like John because he’s an architect. Mosaic made him the Ben Sisko of the GL Corps, building a new world out of others’ stolen patches. That’s the John I’d like DC to focus on.
The Huntress (Helena Wayne). The daughter of the Earth-2 Batman and Catwoman represents the legacy that few of DC’s mainstream heroes will ever enjoy. Tragically for fans of the Earth-2 Batman, being part of that family means that she must also be an orphan. However, it made those moments with her “Uncle Bruce” from Earth-1 more meaningful for both of them.
Lois Lane. The challenge used to be making her worthy of Superman. Nowadays, her game has been raised so much that he has to be worthy of her. I second this motion for a Lois solo series, which could work along the same lines as Gotham Central.
‘Mazing Man (Sigfried Horatio Hunch III). Not a mainstream DC Universe character, and not really a “serious” superhero at all. Still, Maze is an excellent role model for any aspiring crimefighter. His good deeds aren’t things that no one else could do. Quite the contrary. They’re what he thinks everyone should be doing.
Robin/Nightwing (Dick Grayson). I don’t begrudge Dick any of his independence, but I always enjoy seeing him work with the Batman characters. I’d love to see him recast as a globetrotting Wayne Enterprises troubleshooter, although I’m pretty sure that will never happen.
Starman (Jack Knight). Wally West might be the prototypical modern legacy hero, but with Starman, James Robinson took the legacy concept and ran with it. Jack’s story played out in such a way that it made sense for him to walk away from the life, just as it makes sense for Wally again to embrace it.
Superman (Kal-El/Clark Kent). To me, the core of Superman’s character comes from the trust he places in humanity, and it in him. He’s probably idealistic enough to believe that a reporter can bring more lasting change than a guy who can change the course of mighty rivers. He has to keep himself in check, and that sometimes makes him look stodgy or dull. As those glasses (theoretically) show, however, looks can be deceiving.
Supergirl (Linda Danvers). Until Linda came into the mix (literally), the post-Crisis Supergirl was actually something of a metacommentary on what “Supergirl” should be. Matrix/Supergirl got passed around from one Lex Luthor to another, filled in for the dead Superman briefly, and even spending some time in deep space. Without the Kryptonian connection, though, Supergirl needed some other way to live up to the “S,” and Linda provided an appealing avenue for that exploration.
Wonder Woman (Diana of Themyscira). Diana works great in the Justice League and doing superhero stuff, but I have to agree more with her post-Crisis interpretation. She works better as a social reformer. I don’t mind the super-spy phase, as long as it doesn’t last too long.
Zatanna (Zatanna Zatara). Tseb gnitsaclleps kcimmig reve. Also, apparently there’s nothing better than a Grant Morrison miniseries to wash away the blemish of mind-wiping.
So there you go. I’m surprised at the number of characters in their indeterminate twenties (comic-book time, that is) — ten, if you count Jack Knight. Peter David is also more of a presence than I might have expected, as is Dan Slott. No X-Men, no Joker, and no Luthor either. There are also a few characters I don’t ever expect to see again.
Still, they’re my favorites. Ask me again in a month and you might get different results, but not by much.
See you next week!