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  xThursday, October 16, 2003

(guest) comix post of the day


The other day, my friend Sparky emailed me a list of his picks for the 25 greatest comic book heroes and villains. He explained the ground rules:
Characters from comic strips (Flash Gordon, etc.), pulps (The Shadow), novels (Tarzan), etc., were excluded. And great means great in terms of cultural impact, not necessarily/exclusively great in terms of quality.

He generously gave permission for me to cite his list here, so here goes:

  1. Superman - The original, archetypal super-hero. The Golden Age --
    and everything else -- begins here

  2. Batman - The second great archetype: The self-made super-man.

  3. The Spectre - The final archetype: The supernatural super-hero.
    Although not recognized to the same extent as Superman or Batman,
    The Spectre (an earthbound ghost) blazed the trail for a wide
    variety of future characters: Dr. Fate, Dr. Strange, Werewolf by
    Night, even Neil Gaiman's Sandman. Ad infinitum.

  4. The Joker - Greatest and best-known of the great super-villains.

  5. The Silver Age Flash - The character that rescued super-heroes
    from oblivion and kick-started the Silver Age.

  6. The Fantastic Four - The characters that put Marvel Comics on the
    map, and the first super-hero team conceived of as a team (not a
    collection of independent characters).

  7. Spider-Man - Greatest of all the Marvel super-heroes. More than
    any other character, summed up the Marvel appeal. 40-plus years on,
    still the company's flagship title.

  8. The Justice Society of America - The first super-team, although
    they rarely actually functioned as a team.

  9. Robin - First and still best of the once-pervasive "kid sidekick"
    characters. Has developed a mythos all his own.

  10. Wonder Woman - The only female super-hero to truly enter the
    mainstream consciousness.

  11. Captain America - A true American idol, and the character that
    kept Timely afloat so it could one day turn into Marvel.

  12. The Modern X-Men - For better or worse, Giant Size X-Men #1
    (which introduced the team's new lineup, including Wolverine)
    changed the face of comic books forever.

  13. The Punisher - Another character that changed the comics
    landscape, introducing the word "gritty" (ie, ultraviolent) to the
    vocabulary of comicdom.

  14. The Hulk - Another character whose popularity transcends comics,
    the lackluster recent film notwithstanding.

  15. The Spirit - Will Eisner's postwar Spirit comics influenced a
    generation of comic book artists and remain unsurpassed in terms of
    story-telling.

  16. Spawn - Not a great comic book, but an influential one. Its
    success helped create (spawn?) the current creator-owned
    marketplace, now a serious rival to Marvel and DC.

  17. Lex Luthor - Another of the truly great comic book villains.

  18. Green Lantern - A great character that always seems on the cusp
    of crossing over into the popular consciousness like Superman,
    Batman, Wonder Woman, without ever fully breaking through.

  19. Dr. Doom - Greatest of the great Marvel villains.

  20. Captain Marvel - Shazam! The Big Red Cheese coulda been a
    contender, if DC's lawyers hadn't shut him down in mid-flight. At
    the character's Golden Age zenith, Fawcett's hero outsold Superman
    and every other comic on the market.

  21. Plastic Man - Jack Cole's Golden Age comics are absolute
    classics and remain unique, zany delights. The pliable paladin also
    paved the path for future characters such as The Elongated Man and
    Reed "Mr. Fantastic" Richards.

  22. Lois Lane - Maybe not exactly a hero, but she did have a comic
    book and a TV series with her name in the title. Of all the
    supporting characters in comics history, she's probably the best
    known. (Rivaled only by Batman's butler, Alfred.)

  23. Swamp Thing - Birthplace of DC's "Vertigo" universe and a very
    influential book in the early 1970s. Introduced Berni Wrightson and,
    later, Allan Moore to the comics world.

  24. The Justice League of America ? Just doesn't seem right for the
    JLA not to be on this list.

  25. Cerebus - If not for pioneering, creator-owned books like this
    one, Spawn could never have happened. (Take that as a good thing or
    a bad thing.)

  26. The Sub-Mariner - The original undersea super-hero (sorry,
    Aquaman) and, along with Captain American, one of only two Marvel
    characters to have survived from the Golden Age to the present.

  27. Nick Fury - In his Agent of SHIELD role, popped up in every
    Marvel comic in sight during the Silver Age. More than any other
    character, illustrated Stan Lee's vision of a fully integrated
    comics universe. He was also the first Marvel character to star in
    two different comics (HOWLING COMMANDOS and TALES OF SUSPENSE/AGENT
    OF SHIELD).

  28. Iron Man/Daredevil (tie) - Two progressive Marvel characters who
    exemplified the idea of the imperfect super-hero: Daredevil was
    blind, and in the beginning Tony Stark couldn't live without the
    chest plate of his suit. Later, Stark developed alcoholism, in a
    landmark storyline. Daredevil introduced Frank Miller to the comics
    world, and Miller gave Daredevil some of the most memorable stories
    in comics history with his Elektra and Gang War epics.

  29. The Crypt Keeper - Personification of the EC Comics horror
    titles, which nearly destroyed the industry, but are now venerated
    by generations of horror fans, authors and film makers. The Keeper
    himself remains a popular figure: Also featured on the TV series and
    movies inspired by the comics. (I even have a Crypt Keeper Christmas
    ornament!)


Honorable mentions: Sgt. Rock, Dr. Strange, The Avengers, The Red
Skull, The Penguin, Catwoman, J. Jonah Jameson, Dr. Octopus, The
Green Goblin, The Lizard, The Watchmen.


I'm currently reading some reprints of the old EC horror comics. Here's a page at RetroCrush devoted to the Crypt Keeper in his classic and modern forms (warning: embedded sound).

Update: And speaking of comix, Thursday's edition of 8-Bit Theatre goofs on the proclivity of fanboys to imagine endless hypothetical scenarios...





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