Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Review: Stalker #1

Hello everyone. It's Anj from  Supergirl Comic Box Commentary. When Diabolu Frank set up this blog and  asked me to join, I was honored. I am a long-time DC fan, a true fanatic for over 3 decades, and loved the idea of having a place where I could occasionally post a review of a non-Super book as well as discuss some of the dustier parts of the DCU. I don't post here as much as I would like to but I thank Frank for giving me a place to go when struck by the muse.

But a review of Stalker #1? I don't know if it can get dustier than that. So why this post?

Stalker, as well as Beowulf, and Claw the Unconquered, and Tor, and Tarzan were fantasy books that DC put out in the mid-70s. I wasn't reading comics back then but I have bought enough comics from that time period to know the characters by name just from the ads within the issues. And, as odd as it sounds, I always thought that 70s DC fantasy was sort of a hole in my knowledge. None of these books lasted a long time but they certainly had tremendous talent associated with them. Tor was written and drawn by legend Joe Kubert. Claw the Unconquered was written by Dave Michilinie with art by Ernie Chua and later Keith Giffen (some of Giffen's earliest work). And Stalker was written by then neophyte Paul Levitz and drawn by mega-legends Steve Ditko and Wally Wood!

I put the idea of looking for these issues in the back of my head and frankly it got lost in the old mental warehouse. 

In 2008, Gail Simone was in the midst of an underappreciated run on Wonder Woman. One of the arcs ran from Wonder Woman #20-23, a 4 issue story called 'Ends of the Earth' in which Diana teams up with Stalker, Beowulf, and Claw the Unconquered to battle Dgrth, the demon god from Stalker.

It was a great arc, showing Diana as a warrior with compassion. It was very interesting to see her interact with these characters - the noble Beowulf, the cursed Stalker, the angry Claw. And it allowed Simone the opportunity to also delve into those 70s stories. After I read the story, I remembered my prior idea of investigating these stories in their original series.

The story ends with a great battle between Wonder Woman and Dgrth in Washington D.C. It ends quickly ... maybe too quickly ... but it is fantastic.

And I have said it many times before, Aaron Lopresti might be the perfect Wonder Woman artist for me. His Diana is everything she should be strong and beautiful, powerful and regal. Lopresti just rocked on this book.

And in this arc, he gets to draw Diana in a variety of battle outfits, variations of her costume for the more medieval settings of  northlands, deserts, and jungles. With such varying settings, Lopresti really gets to stretch his legs.

But that arc came out in 2008. Despite rekindling my interest in those fantasy comics, it wasn't until a recent convention that it finally came to fruition ... at least a little. As I was leaving the Boston Comic-Con, I walked past a dealer with a box marked '70s DC books, $1'. How could I not thumb through the box? And there I discovered, in near mint condition, Stalker #1 and 2, and Beowulf #1. Just a great purchase.

And so ... the story of Stalker ...

I have to say, I expected this to be a clunky read but was surprised at how good the first issue was.

Levitz gets us right into the action, the first several pages shows Stalker working his way into a well guarded castle, defeating palace guards, and the throwing a dagger at the castle's Queen, the blade embedding itself into the throne right next to the Queen's face.

We have really no idea who these characters are or what the motivations are behind Stalker's assault. But it certainly grabbed me.

I also liked the opening little blurb above. The idea of a 'nameless' hero always intrigues me like in the some of the best Clint Eastwood westerns.

And I thought this was just a great hook for the series. There was a note on the dagger. Stalker writes of being wronged by the Queen and taking his revenge by killing her a year and a day later.

I can imagine, had the series continued long enough, a sort of countdown feeling as that day of reckoning approached, how the Queen would become more desperate to rid the world of Stalker as that day approached. That unraveling of the Queen would have been fun to watch.

It turns out that Stalker has some history with the Queen. Living in abject poverty, the nameless boy who would become Stalker runs up to the Queen one day and begs to join her court, to become a knight and soldier in her army. The Queen 'accepts' the boy's request but instead puts him to work as a slave inside the palace, scrubbing floors and hauling trash.

Years later, the boy shows his courage and confronts the Queen saying he wished to be a knight, not a slave. The evil Queen orders him to be flogged. But before the beatings can happen, the now young man escapes and wanders into the land, coming across a temple devoted to the demon god of warriors, Dgrth.

Wishing to become a warrior, the nameless young man prays to Drgth who appears to him.

Dgrth promises to give the boy all the gifts he would need for a new life ... expertise in all forms of combat, unerring marksmanship, the ability to follow any trail while leaving no trace. And he would give him a name ... Stalker. But all these gifts had a price.

Stalker must hunt those Dgrth asks him too. And he has to give Dgrth his soul as payment.

Feeling dead already, Stalker accepts.

I will talk about Steve Ditko later, but I love this panel. Look at how Stalker looks like a marionette whose strings have been cut while his soul shrieks as it is pulled free. Fantastic.

And just like that, Stalker becomes a soulless warrior.

His first act with his new skills is to return to the palace and leave the Queen that note. And while there, Stalker kills the man who tried to beat him earlier.

However, the victories and revenge isn't as sweet as Stalker thought it would be. His lack of soul makes any positive emotion unavailable. He feels no joy ... no relief. Suddenly this deal doesn't sound as good as it did.

Stalker returns to a Dgrth temple hoping to rescind the deal. Unfortunately, Dgrth isn't there, only a faithful priest. Determined to regain his soul, Stalker kills the priest, hurling him into a fire pit.

Again, another great scene here as Ditko changes the point of view, moving the angle from above the battle, to parrallel, to below the battle, to back above. That adds some energy to the scene, especially that last panel as we sense the height the priest is plummeting down.

The issue ends with Stalker vowing to find Dgrth and regain his soul.

Boy, there is a lot of story in that one issue. It is amazing just how much was in those issues. This story would probably be a 6 issue opening arc these days. More importantly, it did just what a first issue should do for me ... gave me some back story, and gave me a great hook to come back, the parallel stories of Stalker's quest for his soul as well as his quest for revenge against the Queen.

Levitz does a good job here with dialogue, letting us feel Stalker's emotions as he moves from pauper to slave to soulless warrior.

I could write many posts gushing about Steve Ditko's work. I can't afford early Ditko, so this 'middle' Ditko will have to do. He clearly has a great sense for panel composition, using close ups, wide shots, and points of view to add to the story. I see mostly Ditko here. But Wally Wood is another legend. I can't believe the two of them worked on this together.

I tend to read these Silver Age issues with a different critical sense. I tend to be kinder when it comes to overlooking some of the sillier aspects. But truth is, I would probably read this book if it came out today. I really thought the story and the ongoing plotlines were interesting. This was definitely ... definitely ... worth $1.

Overall grade: A

Friday, May 27, 2011

JLA #98 (Early August, 2004)

Batman did not wish to spring any of Crucifer's traps by following obvious leads, so he instead directed the League toward one he had generated that was only tangentially related: Key Mordaz, Floria. The Flash scouted ahead, and found very modern improvements concealed under the appearance of an old Spanish fort turned "abandoned" Confederate island prison. The Scarlet Speedster found Nudge, and assumed she was running in fear from Grunt, so a clash with another gorilla commenced. Martian Manhunter's telepathy detected intellect and consciousness within the four-armed beast, and allowed it to pass intangibly through him. Batman performed a judo move and Green Lantern John Stewart caged grunt.

John recognized Nudge as the girl who'd played "Jedi" mind tricks on him, and tried it again on other heroes. "Your mental wiles are wasted on the Dark Knight, child... and are even less effective against a trained telepath. A psychic scan should reveal the truth--! By the twin moons!" The Martian Manhunter was pained by his psychic violation from, "Voices! A multitude, crying out in rage... and hatred... not a part of her. From... somewhere else!"

At Castle Crucifer, Vortex was branded a traitor by an attacking vampire, who tore his blue face mask off. The sight underneath sent the vampire cowering in despair, declared incurably mad by Vortex, then executed. "...No witnesses."

Themyscira. The Amazons managed to take Wonder Woman from death's door to a speedy recovery, but not a complete one. Diana was already up and donning her armor, which proved upsetting to her sisters. "Charon's boat still waits below, to carry your shade to the domain of Hades." Diana insisted that the fate of the world was on the line, that she had to warn her team about Superman and-- oops! Wounds reopened. Too bad she wasn't conscious in her hospital room to tell the JLA everything they needed to know, or that the team didn't have a resident telepath, nor the Amazons any sophisticated communications equipment. What a stupid story.

Speaking of which, the JLA finally located Niles Caulder, Rita Farr, Larry Trainor and Cliff Steele in a secret lab within the decaying prison. Everyone was introduced, literally, because the creators had decided to pull a Hawkworld and try to treat the Doom Patrol as a brand new addition to the DC Universe. Yes friends, the entire JLA arc was just a backdoor pilot for a relaunch that would last less than two years. Anyway, Nudge told everybody her story, which allowed the Sleuth from Outer Space to deduce that "Her psychic discontinuity comes as a result of trying to integrate her already chaotic consciousness... with that of Manitou Raven." The ancient Native American mage almost uncovered the 10th Circle's plot, so he was neutralized by Crucifer. Nudge happened to capture Superman, Crucifer came to possess him, then Faith through Kal-El, plus the near killing of Wonder Woman. The logic behind this sequence of events as presented is confused, because there's no strong indication Crucifer directed Nudge to Superman, yet happenstance led him to target the JLA. Manhunter felt, "He left me alone because Superman and I are too evenly matched. Open conflict between us would alert the League before he was fully prepared." Except get over yourself, J'Onn, because Wonder Woman consistently fares better against Superman than you, and she was explicitly directed to the JLA as a warning. Maybe Crucifer just figured you'd spend four issues going, "Dur-- where'd Atom go," and if not, he could just light a fireplace in your presence. "I am now able to shed light on the whereabouts of the Atom." Well finally!

The Chief had Rita Farr shrink down to millimeter size, a power I don't recall her possessing, and one she herself only employed with complaint. I suppose if you're going to reboot a character, the early going would be the time to do such a thing. A line was attached to her and equipped with an audio-visual transmitter, Rita climbed into Manitou Raven's stones. Down she went through a "dimensional nexus," then off to the crystal palace, guided by alien worshipers to "Doctor Atom, I presume?" Ray offered, "Dr. Palmer, actually." He recognized Rita as a former associate of Dr. Caulder's who had an "accident," but she claimed not to have actually perished, as long reported. "Nope. Not permanently, anyway." The Atom explained that Crucifer had been using this place as a "side-door dimension" to get around from place to place and, during layovers, set himself up as a sadistic deity. Palmer showed Farr the "sacred relic," which was broadcast back to Caulder's lab, and seen on screen by the Martian Manhunter. "If Manitou Raven's opinion is any guide," J'Onn believed he knew what it was, "And more important, how it may be of use in our overall situation."

Barnes, Saskatchewan. Crucifer drained a host of human life energy, directed it into a small group of metahumans under his control, and laid the leftover mound of bodies in the shape of a Times New Roman font X in a football field. Apparently, ancient vampires hunted humanity for sport and meat, "Until we faced the Amazons. And found ourselves banished to a realm of unending torment." The banished Tenth Circle vampires merged with the metahuman hosts, just as the JLA arrived to quip on the grounds of a mass murder. Nice.

"Convergence," part five of "The Tenth Circle," can be blamed on the famous X-Men creative team of John Byrne and Chris Claremont, but leave inker Jerry Ordway alone. He was just following orders, and the book at least looked good most of the time through his efforts.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

DC/WS DreamWar #5 (October, 2008)

Doomsday was rampaging, and Mr. Majestic vouched for the man this "Superman" was supposed to be, so the pair flew off to help Apollo and Midnighter.

In Tranquility, Oregon, a whole host of DC super-villains fought the assembled heroes. Among them were the Golden Age Cheetah, Mano, Blockbuster, Solomon Grundy, Captain Cold and the Royal Flush Gang. Golden Age Flash Jay Garrick convinced a skeptical and justifiably hostile Grifter that the assembled heroes needed a field commander with military experience. "We're outnumbered and on the defensive. That's how these things are lost... Tactics, son. Organization. Looks like you're just the man for the job..."

In Siberia, Stormwatch and the Legion of Super-Heroes battled Validus and the Thunderers of Qward.

Back in Larkin, Arkansas, Midnighter let the Superman tackle Doomsday while he ran into the trailer in hopes of gutting the sleeping Chimera and ending this mess. He was halted by an armed Joker. "Batman Lite, I presume."

WildC.A.T.s headquarters was being torn apart by Giganta, with help from Dr. Light, the Iron Age Cheetah, the Weather Wizard, Firefly, Charaxes, Dreamslayer and more. Martian Manhunter, Jack Hawksmoor and Zealot emerged from a door to help.

The Aegean was dominated by Starro the Conquerer, whose possession of various Amazons, Coda warriors and followers of Kobra troubled Wonder Woman and Wetworks. One had trouble with the term "Super-villains?! And said with a straight face?" Diana replied, "I'm glad you find this so amusing." The Amazing Amazon was just about to take the battle directly to Starro when it fell from the sky dead from indigestion related to a Wildstorm character.

The Carrier continued traveling the Bleed and observing the situations from afar. The Doctor explained to Jenny Quarx that Chimera hadn't recognized the intrinsic heroism of his first constructs, and was retaliating against their betrayal of his goals with the second batch. The Doctor could affect Chimera on his home turf, so other avenues had to be pursued.

In Tranquility, the Flash helped relay Grifter's orders to the troops. Vampires joined the other warriors in the Aegean, who easily routed Kobra to secure the Aegean. Siberia was still in play overnight, as the Legion refused to use lethal force, which gave Stormwatch fits. Cyborg managed to talk down the New Teen Titans and Gen13, but not before the Atom was confirmed as "squished." The Halo Corporate headquarters was wrecked, with casualties in the triple digits. Martian Manhunter was shown confronting Charaxes.

In Arkansas, Midnighter dodged gunfire until Apollo blasted the Clown Prince of Crime in half with eyebeams. Unfortunately, Superman prevented the killing of Chimera, giving him time to find an even more dangerous threat from out of his volume from the Athenaeum...

DC/Wildstorm: Dreamwar part five, "Bad To The Bone" was by Keith Giffen, Lee Garbett and Trevor Scott.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Post-Flashpoint Justice League?

The prospect of a new Justice League of America based on recent continuity following Flashpoint has kept J. Caleb Mozzocco awake at night. He discusses his selections for the team here, and inspired a comment from me long enough that I decided to post it as an article here with my own suggestions.

Supergirl: If the character had been more consistent, I'd be fully behind her joining the JLA. As things stand now, it's more a desire for different flavors while maintaining a Super legacy. I don't feel a burning need to read about Superman in JLA stories, and I think Supergirl can better serve his role on the team without throwing the Man of Steel or other heroes under the bus to serve the necessities of team storytelling dynamics. Supergirl offers more options, because she can have a romance, get knocked out by Villain-X without a score of protests, etc.

Batman (Dick Grayson):  Dick can fill the role Wally West was pushed out of as the pupil who assumes the responsibilities of the mentor and ably carries an esteemed mantle. Besides, I get sick to death of Bruce Wayne telling everyone what a loner he is while showboating and dictating to fellow heroes. He's a better team player and leader, after all, and allows an entirely different way for heroes relate to a Batman.

Wonder Woman: No matter how much DC would like it to be otherwise, in 2011, they still only have three iconic female characters: Supergirl, Catwoman and Wonder Woman. Only one was a League founder, and especially with the most recent team so estrogen rich, it just doesn't look right to have Jesse Quick or Jade on the team in her stead. Unlike Dick or Kara Zor-El, Donna Troy cannot in any way pick up the slack of a Wonder Woman absence, and frankly, Diana benefits from the handicap of being the JLA's official female. Hell, she even has the freedom to wrestle and romance with whomever, because outside of stunts like JMS' Odyssey, the average reader is not up on her solo doings, anyway. It's not like there's a Steve Trevor around to jock block anybody.

Martian Manhunter: J'Onn was left off Brad Meltzer's team because I feel the writer wanted to reenforce the Bronze Age status quo and remind everyone that the "Heart and Soul" of the team was absent for about seventeen years. I can live with that, not only because J'Onn was still the constant between the Detroit era, JLI, JLTF and JLA, but also because it highlights how off-tasting the late '00s League was without him. Besides, it begs direct comparison between the Manhunter from Mars and his replacement in the '70s & '00s, Red Tornado, which will hopefully insure we never get stuck with Emobot 2000 again. Keep the Scarlet Curse with the YJ kids.

Aquaman: I didn't cry too much when harpoon-hand would come and go in JLA or got scrubbed from the cartoon. However, the Sea King is one of the world's most recognizable heroes in his classic form, which is finally back in effect, and he brings that to the table with a reformed team.

Green Lantern: Weight of expectations, here. I can live without a GL, but the power type fits the team mold too well to ignore. For me, Hal Jordan is kind of pointless, because I don't find he relates to the individual Leaguers in a meaningful, entertaining way. Anyone else, from John to Kyle to Guy or even Alan Scott, spices up the dish far better.

The Flash: Ditto from above, with either Barry or Wally serving with equal efficacy.

While I'm against trying to spin-off a League book when the core team is still such a mess, I think down the road a second unit would make sense. These would be the guys who tend to rotate in and out of the League, like Hawkman, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Firestorm, and the Atom. Another way to go would be to juggle the counterpart characters. Since I voted for Supergirl on the JLA, wouldn't it validate JLA2 to have Superman? Maybe play with other quality substitutions like Hawkgirl and Mera, or spread the Green Lanterns around?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

2006 The Question Mo-Kan Comics Conspiracy Commission by Phil Hester

Click To Enlarge

"Phil Hester's eyes lit up when I asked him to draw the Question. When I mentioned that it was part of my Question sketchbook, he complimented me on my taste. And after I received the sketch back, all I can say is that I hope someone at DC wises up and gets someone to write a Question ongoing so that Hester can pencil it!"

Sunday With Hester
2007 Wizard World Texas Convention Sketch by Phil Hester @ The Idol-Head of Diabolu
2009 Red Tornado & the Atom Planet Comicon Sketch @ Power of the Atom
2005 Wonder Woman Meets Swamp Thing Commission @ Diana Prince
Zatanna @ Justice League Detroit

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Direct Currents: Friday, May 20, 2011


The Absorbascon
What Kids Don't Know: Bizarro's Powers
What Kids Don't Know: Bizarro, Part II
Superman and "The Incident"

The Aquaman Shrine
Superheroes Margarine Ad - 1978
Gulliver Action Figure
Aquaman by Mikel Samson
Brave and the Bold: "Night of the Batmen!"
Brave and the Bold: "Shadow of the Bat!"
Wonder Woman Loves...

Armagideon Time
Nobody’s Favorites: Azrael
The good, the bad, and the Tawny

Being Carter Hall
Read: Hawkman v.2:no.3
Read: Brightest Day #23
Read: Brightest Day #24

Comics Make Me Happy!
Booster Gold on Smallville: A Review!
Adam and Alanna Strange by Chirs Samnee
Happy Belated Mother's Day?

Mike Maihack corners SUPERGIRL

Diana Prince: Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman: The Blue Amazon (2003)
1995 Wonder Woman Unused Cover Concept Rough by Brian Bolland
Jaimie Alexander on Wonder Woman in Maxim Magazine
2010 Long Beach Comic Con Wonder Woman Commission by Eric Canete

El Jacone's Comic Book Bunker
Unbridled Capitalism: FCBD 2011
Everybody's Linking For The Weekend
You Are Not Ready For This Cuteness

Every Day Is Like Wednesday
If this is Brightest Day, can you imagine what a dark one might look like?
Speaking of comics that I didn't read the first time around that I'd like to read now
Dream Trades: The Complete Vertigo Visions
DC Comics Presents: Green Lantern: Mosaic

The Factual Opinion
My Wife: Reads Big Summer Event Super-Hero Comics For Your Pleasures, Audio Edition

Firestorm Fan
Ethan Van Sciver drawing of Firestorm and JLA
Firestorm Patches
Firestorm Super Powers Action Figure Card
McDonalds Happy Meal Firestorm Toy: The Low Down
Arabic Superman #703 (1992)
George Perez draws Firestorm in JSA #50

Girls Gone Geek
Friday Favorite: Jeannette

The Idol-Head of Diabolu
2010 The Martian Manhunter by Ryan Jenkyns
2011 Cosplay: Aigue-Marine as Miss Martian [M'gann Morzz]
Flashpoint #1 (December, 1999)
Flashpoint #2 (January, 2000)
Flashpoint #3 (February, 2000)
JLA Classified: Cold Steel #1 (2005)
JLA Classified: Cold Steel #2 (2006)
2008 Miss Martian [Colored Version] by Todd Nauck

J.M. DeMatteis's Creation Point
Green Lantern: Willworld

Justice League Detroit
Vixen: Return of the Lion #3 (February, 2009)
Vixen: Return of the Lion #4 (March, 2009)
2009 Heroes Convention Zatanna Commission by Eric Canete
1984 The Vixen "Wanna Good Time..." Sketch by Chuck Patton

Pappy's Golden Age Comics Blogzine
Plastic Man in Police Comics #30, 1944
"The Secret City," from All-Flash Comics #31, 1947
"Phantoms of the Desert" from All American Western #126, 1952
"Sivana's Capsule Kingdom"from Captain Marvel Adventures #134, 1952

Power of the Atom
1995 The Atom Special #2 Alternate Cover Concept by Brian Bolland
Captain Atom: Armageddon #5 (April, 2006)
Captain Atom: Armageddon #6 (May, 2006)

Silver Age Comics
A Graphic Analysis of the Adventure Comics Superboy Swipes
The Superboy TV Show Swipe
Martian Manhunter's Powers
Thank You For Not Smoking

Subject : THE SUICIDE SQUAD (Task Force X)
Suicide Squad fan art in all it's awe inspiring forms
Fall of The Wall: Operation Salvation Run & Project Omac
Multiplex, the Star Trek security guards in red shirts of Task Force X
The Force of July, now just gone with the wind.

Supergirl Comic Box Commentary
Boston Comic Con Wrap-Up And Commission #1: Dave Johnson
Boston Comic Con Commission #2: Oliver Nome
Review: Supergirl #63
Bullet Review: Justice League Of America 80-Page Giant
Review: Justice League Of America #56
Review: Legion Of Super-Heroes #12
Supergirl Comic Box Commentary Is Three Years Old

The Thought Experiment
Daily Batman: Say it with fists

Weekend Review Section

Comic shop comics: April 20-27 by J. Caleb Mozzocco

The Buy Pile by Hannibal Tabu:
APRIL 27TH, 2011
MAY 4, 2011
MAY 11TH, 2011
MAY 18TH, 2011

Comics Of The Weak by Tucker & Nina Stone
My Wife: Has Some Choice Words For Brightest Day
Sometimes Being A Parent Means Hanging Your Head In Horrified Shame At What Your Loins Brought Forth
Comics Of The Weak: Live?

Wednesday Is Any Day For All I Care by Diabolu Frank
FCBD is Embargoed For All I Care #105
Fear of a Brightest Day For All I Care #106

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

JLA #97 (Late June, 2004)

From out of a pink portal in the sky fell Wonder Woman tied up in burlap. Ma and Pa Kent an older couple swerved their RV to avoid the mass, and ended up rolling it. The couple was okay, and the man was a doctor, which was handy. Diana was soon at Memorial Hospital in Las Vegas, lying unconscious on supplemental oxygen, having miraculously survived her wounds. Batman, Green Lantern, the Martian Manhunter and the Flash watched over her. Inspecting Diana's removed costume, the Dark Knight Detective found a secreted bit of paper with the 10th Circle "X." John Stewart figured out it was a way of challenging the League, mafia style.

A group of haughty Amazons (are there any other kind?) demanded their injured sister be turned over to their care. Stewart insisted that she was in no condition to travel, but Batman ordered him to "Stand down, Lantern. They're here at my request." Batman felt Diana's injuries were far beyond the scope of modern medicine, so that advanced Amazon science was her only hope. However, Diana managed to get out of bed to protest by sheer moxie, which the Caped Crusader blew off as stupid. "You can barely stand... You've done your part. Leave the rest to us."

Crucifer presented Superman to his demonic overlords, but still had to explain why this story was dragging on, and was punished for his vanity. Nudge tried to help the blood-drained Faith, who remained unconscious, and was visited by the spirit of Manitou Raven.

The Atom was told the wardens who attacked him would be tortured to death for their transgression against his divine self, but he asked that they be spared. The priestess agreed, but pointed out that "The Precursor took delight in such suffering." This would be the first divinity, who appeared to the people scores of generations prior, and left them a sacred relic that Ray got an eyeful of.

Barnes, Saskatchewan. The writer made a point of naming a slew of citizens and assigning them admirable professions which benefit the lives of others. All the better to murder them violently, so that everybody really hates Crucifer and his metahuman thrall. The vampire also killed one of his minions for giving him the slightest hint of lip, and set a big fire in the shape of a Times New Roman font X.

Batman continued to sit on the League's hands, not taking the 10th Circle's bait, but instead seeking out more information on the group. The Caped Crusader was also able to connect the residue from Green Lantern's costume to limestone & coral from Key Mordaz, Florida.

Vortex helped Nudge and Grunt escape Crucifer's castle to Key Mordaz, Florida.

The members of the team still not explicitly identified as the Doom Patrol argued at their base on Key Mordaz, Florida. Robotman finally received his completed armor, with lots of bells and whistles and strength purported to rival Superman's. Just then, the JLA burst in on them, "And we're not in a nice mood."

I've read a lot of hate online for this story arc, which I thought was overheated, since the first half was just plodding and the storytelling quaintly anachronistic. With this issue, I'm starting to see where the venom comes from. Why wouldn't Crucifer chop Wonder Woman into pieces just large enough to identify if she was completely in his power and near death anyway? Why is it that only the female team members are brutally beaten and left for dead in this series? I can only recall two instances of Wonder Woman lying helpless in a hospital bed throughout my decades of reading her adventures, and both times John Byrne was the responsible party. Why is it Batman specifically orders John Stewart around like his pet soldier, but also gets to boss everyone else around like they were Outsiders? Four issues in, and neither Martian Manhunter nor the Flash have done anything. Superman has remained a total mind slave the entire time, unable to prevent himself from all but murdering Wonder Woman. The Atom keeps popping up for a few pages per issue in what appears to be a massively tangential b-plot. Instead of advancing the plot, the spectacularly unimpressive Crucifer keeps sadistically tormenting innocents to impress no one. Then there's the least subtle teasing of a new Doom Patrol possible, which not only seriously mucks with continuity, but tosses in two awful new members in Nudge and Grunt. Byrne keeps doing these annoying dutch angle layouts, which are a pain to scan. Finally, and most importantly, this book is relentless in its treading of water.

"Interlude on the Last Day of the World," part four of "The Tenth Circle," and possibly the most pretentious story title of all time, was by the famous X-Men creative team of John Byrne and Chris Claremont, joined by the inks of Jerry Ordway.

Monday, May 16, 2011

IGN's Top 20 Comic Book Heroes of All Time

In 2009 or so, the comics department of the popular video game website IGN.com put together a list of their Top 100 Comic Book Villains of All Time, and have finally followed up with the vastly less well considered Top 100 Comic Book Heroes of All Time. There is much here to mock and debate (in that order,) so I'll have to do it on an installment plan. Watch the video if you like, but expect a poverty of speech content...


20) Catwoman
The top twenty is too low. Despite constant costume changes, Catwoman is one of the most recognizable characters on the planet, breaking boundaries of both gender and race within the cultural consciousness. Her solo publishing track record is surprisingly solid, and in my experience, female fans are far more likely to embrace Seline Kyle that Wonder Woman. Truly one of the greats.

19) James Gordon
I'd have far less trouble with this if the rest of the list wasn't such a sham. Of course Commissioner Gordon is widely recognizable and worthy of inclusion, but at his heart he is still a supporting character, so where is Alfred Pennyworth? This also begs the question of where other significant others are, like Lois Lane and Mary Jane Watson? If you don't draw that line, you open yourself up for serious criticism.

18) The Thing
I've only known one guy whose favorite hero was Ben Grimm, a guy who has never carried a solo series longer than three years (unless you count the team-up title Marvel Two-In-One, which broke 100 issues.) The Thing has turned up in animation since the '60s, so he's hardly obscure, but he doesn't seem to work on his own, either. Once again, I feel you need a Fantastic Four group entry, not thinned out and rather dubious solo listings.

17) Barbara Gordon
Who doesn't love Batgirl and/or Oracle? Great character, versatile, uplifting... still not quite at Jim Gordon's level, which gets into the supporting character boondoggle. At the end of the day, Babs sits at a computer and tells other people what to do, which is problematic on a list like this, especially when her primary proxy is in the '90s somewhere.

16) Rorschach
I kind of hate Rorschach a little bit. I suppose he's here to represent for Watchmen, but he's also the poster child for pretentious, pointless deconstructionist super-heroes and anti-heroes with nauseating motivations (not to mention personal hygiene.) He's also at heart just a proxy for Steve Ditko's the Question, who is not on this list at all beyond such legacies/knock-offs.

15) Dream of the Endless
Neil Gaiman's The Sandman is one of the high water marks in comics, and doesn't seem to be going anywhere, despite the series ending better than a decade ago. That said, Morpheus was essentially a cypher that stories were created around, which is why his bubbly sister Death is the one everybody really loves.

14) Thor
The Odinson has had quite a comeback in recent years, with a big summer movie release doing okay numbers. I want to like Thor more than I actually do, and the enjoyable (if familiar) feature helped. Still, even with his elevated status at Marvel, the top fifteen seems a bit high.

13) Jean Grey
I liked this character growing up, but she is now one of the finest examples of everything I hate in mainstream comics. She's incredibly powerful, but her personality is less than distinct, and she's still defined by her relationships with the douchiest of male characters. She's the poster child for very dead characters dying in a spectacular fashion necessitating commemorative editions who still manage to come back to die some more. She's gone through a series of generic codenames until finally giving up and going by her Christian one. She's the queen of heel turns, which marks the only time in her career that she's actually had a good costume. She's been repeatedly cloned, whether literally or in role, and her powers are terribly inconsistent. Most damningly, she is best known as a victim, whether of her husband's emotional abuse, her teammate's unwanted advances, her latest cause of death, or her own instability.

12) Iron Man
One of my best friend's favorite heroes, and while it took me years to get it, one of the greatest super-heroes. While he's done the occasional left-appeasing "no more arms dealing" shows, Tony Stark is the conservative wet dream of money, power, influence, and magnificent toys. I love Robert Downey Jr.'s portrayal, and even if my value set is quite different, I can see the appeal of this type of character. It's also nice to finally see the guy make the A-list after years of skimming the Cs.

11) Dick Grayson (Robin)
The first comic book sidekick, and one of the most recognizable characters in the world... as Robin. As Nightwing, not so much, so his current gig as the alternate Batman who stays in Gotham City and deals with Bruce's brat will likely be good for him in the long run. Hopefully, a better Nightwing will come out the other end, because Spider-Man with a plunging neckline/vampire collar/yellow armpit gliders/mullet/really long ponytail/batons ain't cutting it.

10) Daredevil
Exactly the problem with a list like this. Matt Murdock is absolutely a fantastic character who has benefited from a number of exemplary runs receiving critical acclaim. However, part of the point of the character is that he's unpopular with the public, underpowered, handicapped, and has grim noir-influenced adventures in a book that skirts the line of mature readers. The Man Without Fear does not exist to be a top ten favorite super-hero, but as an alternative to that sort, especially if that means no more crappy Ben Affleck vehicles.

9) The Hulk
Strongest one there is. Before Wolverine, the Incredible Hulk was the personification of the rageaholic anti-hero, and he's still the dreamiest to steroid abusers the world over. He's big, he's unpredictable, he's got a solid creative pedigree, and we actually do like him when he's angry.

8) Wally West (The Flash)
Yeah, no. Look, I dug it when Mike Baron played up West's less admirable traits as a right-wing, money-grubbing, adulterous creep. Once Mark Waid recast him as a Silver Age style legacy hero, I was bored to tears. He's Runs-Fast-Man, the single least interesting power in my book. If you're so fast, you should beat everybody before I can turn the page. If you don't, you don't know what you're doing. Barry Allen works around this by balancing police work and the sheer outlandish nature of his villains, but all Wally did was run fast while fighting other guys who ran fast. Plus, he now has a young family, thoroughly domesticating him. I don't think a Flash has been built yet that the general public will embrace outside of a team, but whatever Barry Allen's faults, they go double for Wally West.

7) Hal Jordan (Green Lantern)
The last of the lazy combos, but it occurs to me this means only Hal and John Stewart made the list. I can live with that. It remains to be seen how well white Green Lantern will go over this summer on film, seeing as black Green Lantern has shown the most traction outside the comic book audience. Personally, I've never forgiven Hal for "Emerald Twilight," and the more I read of his Bronze Age adventures, the better I recognized Hal within Parallax. DC marketing has been pushing GL, Flash, Superman and Batman as their big guns, and I'm curious to see if that will prove a mistake.

6) Captain America
Well, the latest movie trailers have been much less terrible than the early ones, and I've had no desire to read the Captain America comic book for years. Still, f-yeah, I love the Star-Spangled Avenger. I would have bet on Thor at the start of the summer, but Cap's recognition factor is way higher, although it remains to be seen if the rest of the world wants patriotic shield slinging. Flogging the horse one more time, I believe characters like Supergirl and Aquaman are better known and loved internationally, while Blade, Green Arrow, the Punisher and the Crow probably play much better to younger generations. Not only do I like confidence in Cap's relevance, but I think another box office bomb could do irreparable harm to his standing in the super-hero community.

5) Wonder Woman
An argument could be made for the fourth spot, but I'm just glad Princess Diana was awarded the lion's share of her due respect. If only more comics stories reflected her stature.

4) Wolverine
The most popular super-hero created since the Silver Age ended, and the sole truly successful X-Man on his own merits.

3) Spider-Man
Peter Parker and Bruce Wayne tend to swap out the top spot in terms of dinero and fan love, but IGN was clearly working off of their own weird, subjective standards. "The Clone Saga" and "One More Day" can't have helped.

2) Batman
It's kind of nice to see the Dark Knight out of the top spot for once, even if it's totally unrealistic. Besides outselling Superman by a wide margin for decades and being the far superior merchandising machine, the Caped Crusader's last movie was the seventh highest-grossing film of all time in unadjusted dollars. My interest in Batman died long ago, so when I note his accomplishments, it's purely objective.

1) Superman
I have such a love/hate relationship with the Man of Steel, but he's (kind of) the first, and (sometimes) the greatest. However, he inflicted Smallville on the world. Send him back three spaces for that.

Bonus Round:
IGN collects celebrities interviewed about their favorite super-heroes.

Jason Statham: The Hulk
Theresa Palmer (I Am Number Four): The Flash
Seth Rogen: Batman
Carla Gugino: Catwoman (Prrrrfect!)
James Cameron: Spider-Man
Matt Damon: Chris Nolan's Batman
Amy Adams: Superman (with a shrug)
Steven Yeun (The Walking Dead): Spider-Man
January Jones: Emma Frost (White Queen indeed)
Owen Wilson: The Silver Surfer (great delivery)
Isla Fisher: Wonder Woman
Diane Kruger: Wonder Woman
Minka Kelly: Wonder Woman
Jenna Fisher: Wonder Woman
Olivia Wilde: Wonder Woman
Channing Tatum: Gambit (ex-male stripper, folks)
Mark Wahlberg: Underdog (WTF?)
Michelle Rodriguez: Catwoman (no thanks to the movie)
Michael Sheen: Superman and the Sandman (Morpheus)
Aaron Eckhart: Green Lantern
Robert Kirkman: Spider-Man (Celebrity?)
Djimon Hounsou: The Black Panther
Dianna Agron (Glee): Donatello
Michael Peña (Crash): Preacher
Timothy Olyphant: The Silver Surfer
Joel Silver: Lobo
William Fichtner: Superman (George Reeves version)
Dan Fogler (Who?): Wolverine
Elton John: Superman
Jamie Bell: Tin-Tin
James McAvoy: Batman
Nicholas Cage: The Hulk or Ghost Rider
Helen Mirren: Catwoman
Liam Neeson: Superman
Jeff Bridges: Green Lantern
Johnny Depp: The Sub-Mariner (also, Sgt. Rock)
Christian Bale: Batman (also, Superman)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

IGN's Top 100 Comic Book Heroes of All Time: 40-21

In 2009 or so, the comics department of the popular video game website IGN.com put together a list of their Top 100 Comic Book Villains of All Time, and have finally followed up with the vastly less well considered Top 100 Comic Book Heroes of All Time. There is much here to mock and debate (in that order,) so I'll have to do it on an installment plan. Watch the video if you like, but expect a poverty of speech content...


40) Reed Richards
Question: Why isn't he listed as "Mr. Fantastic?" That's his nom du s'étirer. Superman isn't going to be listed as Clark Kent. Did Reed have a stint in the X-Men or something?
Question: Have you or anyone you have ever known of held Reed Richards up as their favorite super-hero? I've known some Elongated Man fans, and there's a deep love for Plastic Man, but Reed Richards? Sure he's the official genius of the Marvel Universe, but the guy was never been lead feature in Strange Tales, he's never had a solo series to fail in, and as soon as he gets a fill-in stint on the Avengers, the fans start counting the days to his departure. He's Dad-Man. Worse, he married a girl decades his junior and can get a bit creepy sometimes, so his lack of a libido and perm are the only things keeping him out of Terry Long territory.

39) Cyclops
God, this list is so lazy. Take the two unappealing guys who lead prominent super-teams, figure out which one is "best" (A: Not Cyclops,) and dump them as a couple into the next available slot. At least there is an actual fan base for Scott Summers' sleazy soap opera life, even as he continues his glacial pace toward outright villain status.

38) Dr. Strange
The Master of the Mystic Arts is one of the Marvel characters that can't seem to be ruined for me, no matter how hard they try. I think he's got one of the finest origin stories, and he'll always have cache with writers. However, I think the general public lost interest in the character as their consumption of psychadelia declined. He's another hero who should probably hover well into the back half.

37) The Crow
Say what you will, but "killer mime" makes for a great visual. The comics were racist, dumb, and nauseatingly pretentious. The films are good soundtracks that proved goth friendly enough to inspire allegiance, even if they are just Charles Bronson revenge fests in drag. With a television series and four feature films (a fifth on the way,) I'd say the Crow is actually too low on this list.

36) Spawn
Why, if it isn't another ultra-violent creator owned character resurrected from the dead and placed on a trail of weepy "poor me" vengeance in service to broad multi-media penetration. I swear, this is a top 50 list puffed-up with +1s. Once again, Spawn is probably too low on this list, considering he had the top book in the industry for a number of years, and still holds the record for best-selling indie. His toy line kept the speculation industry alive for a while after they burned through sports cards and comics, plus there's the film and cartoon series. Finally, like the Crow, there are an awful lot of fan tattoos out there, and that means something (besides shaking your head and stifling a chuckle.)

35) Judge Dredd
Oh dang, they went for the triple. Actually, Dredd is the icon of corporate-owned comics in the U.K., and his strips have a sense of humor to go with their outrageous bloodshed. His flagship book broke the 1,000 mark ahead of Superman, and Dredd remains a solid parody of the fascistic leanings of U.S. entertainment.

34) Jesse Custer
Sigh. I've said this many times, but I'll give it another go: Preacher was True Romance as a comic book, and True Romance was a lesser Tarantino work to begin with. It was simply a diluted, deluded continuation of the stuff Ennis and Dillin had done better on Hellblazer. Plus, the ending didn't have half the balls of Ostrander and Mandrake's The Spectre, which wrapped in truly sacrilegious fashion within a year or so of Preacher. I don't see it ever translating to the screen, and it would be too late besides. It's been so long since this book mattered, I expect it will eventually fade into one of those series you have to explain to a younger generation, like Howard the Duck.

33) Nick Fury
There was an article in Amazing Heroes decades ago about comic book properties that should never be adapted. It was pointed out that if you want to do Nick Fury, just create something like Jake Anger, Agent of B.O.S.S. and save the licensing fees. I grew up on Steranko Fury, so I have a definite affection for the character, and he's proven useful as the lynchpin of the Marvel movies (although I really prefer Agent Coulson at this point, especially after Thor.) Still, go to the back fifty, goldbricker!

32) Tim Drake (Robin)
Dick Grayson will always be my Robin, and I felt like he was thrown under the bus by Chuck Dixon to make Tim Drake look good, but I can't hold that against Tim. For a generation, Drake was Robin, and I'm sure those fans are just waiting for the Damian Wayne thread to play itself out to get their guy back. He's a good kid, and the best of the Robins to date.

31) Deadpool
Against my better judgment, I was excited about the Merc With A Mouth when he first appeared in New Mutants, but he was eventually revealed to be Spider-Man by way of Deathstroke the Terminator. The more derivative and ridiculous he became, the more folks liked him. Now, he's Marvel's Lobo, and I'm anticipating his eventual burnout.

30) Green Arrow
Thanks to great artists and a swashbuckling vibe, I thought Green Arrow was cool as a kid. As I got older, I recognized how irritating his kneejerk liberalism was, only compounded by his joining the Big Chill gang as a midlife conservative. His most successful series mistook plodding and mundane for "mature," so I found myself vastly preferring his boys Roy and Connor. Still, Ollie Queen has put in the years as a Golden Age veteran, he was one of the first political heroes (however shrill,) and he seems to have gained his broadest audience yet through Smallville by going back to his origins as a poor man's Batman.

29) John Constantine
Either the last great Bronze Age character, or the first Modern Age one. Who would have ever predicted Hellblazer would end up as not only the grand dame of Vertigo, but one of the few series to have held up its numbering through to the present? Constantine is the quintessential London cool that defined the cliche.

28) Swamp Thing
Argh! Again? In whose book did John Constantine debut and spend the early years of his career before they both moved to Vertigo before they were both reintegrated into the DCU? Swamp Thing hasn't had Hellblazer's longevity, but he managed to hit the triple digits on his longest lasting title. Swamp Thing was an early example of a book driven largely by its creators (Bernie Wrightson's art in the early days, Alan Moore's writing in the sweet spot) as opposed to the character. That said, it's tough to argue with two films, a cartoon, a toy line and a TV series (R.I.P. Dick Durock,) no matter how relatively minor they might have been (a box office bomb, a five-episode retroactive "mini-series," a single assortment, and three seasons on the dregs of basic cable.) Swamp Thing at least has a cult following outside comics and high esteem within.

27) Punisher
While owing Mack Bolan an enormous debt and still playing the same single note after all these years, the Punisher is still the ultimate vigilante icon of the super-hero set. The simple costume is still among the finest, and Frank Castle has crossed over to just about every media you can think of (no matter how embarrassingly incompetent those appearances may have been.)

26) Rick Grimes
One of the major problems with a list like this is their trying to spotlight "character actors" in ensemble pieces and stack them against proven performers that can carry their own weight. On the TV show, Grimes is very much the action hero saving the day, but in the comics he's more of an everyman whose life and humanity have been stripped away piece by piece. Not only do I think The Walking Dead could get by without Rick, but I honestly think he's outlived his usefulness, becoming a bit of a drag on the series. At the end of the day, Rick is just a survivor in a zombie feature, whereas Groo and Usagi Yojimbo have proven themselves stars for decades while they chart in the '90s.

25) Hellboy
Another character I've never been able to get into, as I find his personality flat, equating him to Ben Grimm the Vampire Slayer. Regardless, he's become the central figure in one of Dark Horse's few franchises, the star of two films, and some DTV animation.

24) Yorick Brown
People love Y, the Last Man like they did Preacher, and all I have to say to that is that it all comes down to monkey poop.

23) Raphael
Truly the crown prize winner of stupidity with regards to this list. Leonardo was the leader, Donatello was the brains, Michelangelo was the dude, and Raphael was virtually indistinguishable from any of them beyond most directly aping Frank Miller. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have been outrageously popular for decades, but only as a unit.

22) Professor X
A highly recognizable and majorly important figure from the X-Men franchise, but does anybody actually like him very much? He's a downright villainous manipulative jerk in comics, and he's the guy who gets knocked out in the first or second act in most stories outside comics. Isn't he more of a supporting character or story device than an actual "hero?"

21) The Spirit
I assume that a pedantic IGN staff member insisted that Denny Colt was too important to be overlooked, or these guys really loved the Frank Miller movie, but they didn't seem to get what a can of worms he opens. The Spirit was a newspaper strip, which opens the door for Dick Tracy, Little Orphan Annie, the Phantom, and countless other strip features with far broader reach and significance than most comic book heroes. Do we really want to get into Prof. X versus Popeye the Sailor Man? Further, the Spirit as a character isn't nearly as important as the cinematic storytelling methods and design aesthetic employed in telling the tales. The Spirit got hit a lot and ran around without socks. The star of the show was perspective and how the logo would get integrated into the art.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

IGN's Top 100 Comic Book Heroes of All Time: 60-41

In 2009 or so, the comics department of the popular video game website IGN.com put together a list of their Top 100 Comic Book Villains of All Time, and have finally followed up with the vastly less well considered Top 100 Comic Book Heroes of All Time. There is much here to mock and debate (in that order,) so I'll have to do it on an installment plan. Watch the video if you like, but expect a poverty of speech content...


60) Fone Bone

I remember sampling Bone a time or two in the early '90s, including a second or third printing of the first issue, and shrugging. I never really hopped onto the Carl Barks wagon, either. Meanwhile, IGN editors are probably young enough to have followed the story serialized in Disney Adventures. Jeff Smith can have their love, and if possible, one can may please buy my copy of his crappy Captain Marvel trade.

59) Booster Gold

I decided a while back to stop hating Booster Gold. I bought his first issue solely because the ad promised me a free pin, and I didn't realize that offer did not extend to the comics rack at Circle K. I resented that, and his playing second fiddle to Blue Beetle in JLI and lacking a clear direction beyond the niche really turned me off. Only in recent years have I recognized his being a money-grubbing fame whore has finally descended to the level of infernal archetype among super-heroes, making him in his own way as iconic as the Magnificent Seven. Well, Martian Manhunter, anyway.

58) Beast

I like Hank McCoy. I think I generally prefer him furry, but not as much as Nightcrawler. I also prefer him as an Avenger, which helps avoid the Nightcrawler comparison. Non-furry adds further distance, but I never really warmed to pre-Claremont X-Men or pre-PAD X-Factor, so scratch that. The Cocteau Beast thing strikes me as pretentious, so none of that. People know who he is as well as your average X-Man. Seems a bit high here.

57) The Tick

Y'know, it seems to me living in the shadow of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, people forget what a great Ambush Bug rip-off the Tick was. DC failed to realize Irwin Schwab's full potential, so Ben Edlund gave the nationally advertised retailer New England Comics a good enough lift that they sold through something like nine printings of each of the early issues and manufactured a late entry into the black & white boom (which come to think of it had probably already busted by then.) Anyway, the comic was cute, the cartoon was even more fun, and the live action show lasted just long enough (a fraction of a season) to not burn through its good will. I don't think he's earned billions of dollars, but he could have bought and sold Booster Gold in his day, which amuses me greatly.

56) Hawkman

Obviously, the Winged Wonder is one of the most famous and long-lived B-listers in comic book history, even if he was just a blatant lift from Flash Gordon, complete with Alex Raymond swipes. He's gotten a hell of a lot more done than Prince Vultan, and his marriage to Hawkgirl has been one of the best examples of how to make matrimony work in comics. He was one of the first overtly political (ideologically, anyway) characters in mainstream comics, and still the killjoy to beat in super-hero teams.

55) John Stewart (Green Lantern)

I really do hope the Green Lantern movie tanks and opens a national debate about why they made him white. One of the many reasons I hate Hal Jordan is that Stewart is such a vastly superior character in every way but has to take a seat at the back of the bus behind every other non-alien GL, at least in the comics. Yeah, how is that licensing going, Kyle Rayner? Got a regular cartoon yet? They giving you away in Happy Meals?

54) Elijah Snow

It would be great if someone would take random dialogue from Pete Wisdom, Jack Cross, John Constantine, or any of the Authority or just a random sampling from Warren Ellis' creator owned work and set up boxes where you match the balloon to the speaker. Better yet, take actual comic panels and shade out the figures. "Hmm, here's a cynical bastard in a trench coat lighting a fag. I guess the one with breasts is Jenny Sparks?" Twenty years earlier, one of Howard Chaykin's characters would have been here. Writer Proxy 1138 will be here in another twenty.

53) Bucky Barnes

Remember when people were congratulating Ed Brubaker for making Bucky "cool." Judd Winick got a little of that action with Jason Todd. How's that working out now? For me, Bucky is like A Serbian Film. The last remaining rule of comics was that nobody stayed dead but Bucky and Uncle Ben, both of whom now seem to show up at least quarterly. Once you've destroyed all the boundaries and broken every taboo, what's left but a sick, gnawing feeling in your gut that nothing matters and whether your life is torturous or pleasant we all have an expiration date before descending into the black abyss of nothingness. Bucky Barnes is my existential crisis... my personal journey into the heart of darkness. Bucky lives, but I die a little more every time I see him and his demoralizing sub-U.S. Agent variant costume.

52) Aquaman

Like Supergirl, this is the sort of snub that reaches the level of "how dare you?" I go to Target and I see pink Supergirl floor mats. Michael Phelps wins Olympic gold and breaks world records to be compared to Aquaman. This is a character that has transcended comic books to become part of our global culture.

51) Black Panther

Yeah, one of the greatest non-white super-heroes in comic book history can't break the top fifty. But hey, even though he's barely known outside the U.S., at least he's greater than Aquaman, right? Right?

50) Captain Marvel

From an historical perspective, Shazam is huge and deserving of far better than the fifty slot. However, every passing decade sees a further slide into obscurity and editorial malfeasance. It comes from the Big Red Cheese having to endlessly lick the Big Red Boot of the Man of Steel.

49) Barry Allen (The Flash)

> Wally West. Sorry guys, but Barry double-footedly revived the super-hero genre, and plain works as a character and story engine far better than his distinguished successor. I'm just not necessarily sure Geoff Johns has proven himself the best person to convey that objective truth.

48) Mitchell Hundred

I think Brian Vaughn will stand the test of time better than Warren Ellis by not writing the same characters and exploring the same themes endlessly, but that doesn't mean I've ever made it past the first trade collection any of his series except Runaways. At the end of the day, does The West Wing by way of The Sopranos have a shelf life in the common consciousness? I have my doubts.

47) Kitty Pryde

My first girlfriend (fantasy division.) Hated by some as a Mary Sue, I only had to see her drawn by Paul Smith to fall hard, and you never forget your first love. So of course Claremont tried to turn her into a Suicide Girl, and she's never going to get out of Xavier's yellow and black, is she? Oh yeah, totally greater than the Beast. Hell, Nova's carried more series for longer.

46) Human Torch

Rank dependent on recent heroic demise? Check. A character I never much cared for? Check. Still worthy, preferably in a group entry with the Fantastic Four? Check.

45) Spider Jerusalem

American Flagg. Chaykin will always have American Flagg.

44) Hawkeye

You know what makes Clint Barton such an icon not only in comics, but as part of the international community? That Avengers paperback Otto Binder wrote in '67? His inability to carry an "ongoing" solo series longer than eight issues? His assuming numerous heroic guises in the hope than at least one will be successful? A thirteen episode stint in the failed cartoon The Avengers: United They Stand while wearing a Liefeldian costume? His marrying a baldfaced analogue of Green Arrow's girlfriend? His dedicated leadership of the other Avengers team (left coast) in the '80s? Stealing Wolverine's mask? A season of The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes on basic cable? Changing his m.o. entirely in The Ultimates? His punk-ass death "not like this?"

No, what makes Hawkeye is that I like him only enough to be semi-interested in his life and activities without supporting them with my dollars, just like everyone else. We are united as a planet in this variable level of relative indifference. That makes him the guy who should be in the bottom ten if no one better comes along, and they will.

43) Martian Manhunter

I referenced J'Onn J'Onzz earlier in a somewhat disparaging light. I love the character enough to have devoted 3 1/2 years of my life to something approximating daily blogging about the guy. My words of praise and promotion will appear early in most web searches related to the character (besides Microsoft's Bing, which is about as relevant as AltaVista.) My credentials clear, I must confess, the Manhunter from Mars is B-list on his best day. Compared to Hawkeye, he's Neil Diamond, but one summer blockbuster will overturn that applecart/mix that metaphor. There is no feature film in development. His ensemble cartoon has been off the air for years. His longest headling gig was three years. His action figures keep store pegs warm. I'm sure I will find fault with many of the characters that precede him, but the first is Storm, and she's the more important, successful figure. Silver Surfer? Fills one with envy.

42) Storm

When I was younger, I found the mohawk exceptionally off-putting. In retrospect, it was rad. Remember when Storm led the X-Men for something like half a decade? How she's been a consistent presence in animation and film since the early '90s? I haven't enjoyed a single actor, but Storm is still right at the top of the B/B- food chain.

41) Silver Surfer

Black light posters. Album covers. Video games. Silver Surfer is a genuine cultural figure with surprising longevity.

Monday, May 9, 2011

IGN's Top 100 Comic Book Heroes of All Time: 80-61

In 2009 or so, the comics department of the popular video game website IGN.com put together a list of their Top 100 Comic Book Villains of All Time, and have finally followed up with the vastly less well considered Top 100 Comic Book Heroes of All Time. There is much here to mock and debate (in that order,) so I'll have to do it on an installment plan. Watch the video if you like, but expect a poverty of speech content...


80) Nightcrawler
I bought the first issue of Dave Cockrum's '80s Nightcrawler mini-series off the newsstand, and realized that however much I liked the character in the context of the X-Men, I just couldn't get excited about him as a solo character. I don't want to see him try to be funny or mournful or determined or anything else on his own. I just want him to be a protagonist's sounding board, a wonderful team player and a nice guy who has moved beyond his past.

79) Captain Britain

I tried for several years in the '80s to like Brian Braddock, but not even Alan Moore could get me to see past his being a privileged abusive douche bag sorely lacking any personality. How this guy has managed not to get killed and permanently replaced is beyond me. Even the British don't particularly like him. Give me Dragon's Claw or Death's Head any day.

78) Sgt. Rock

This is another character that totally matters, that I absolutely respect, but I have never been particularly interested in.

77) Sub-Mariner

I'm glad an effort is being made to recognize Namor as the first mutant and a mover in the Marvel Universe. He was the original anti-hero with a bad attitude, and a load of abrasive fun in a team book.

76) The Rocketeer

GTFO. My apologies to his fans, but this guy just does not matter in the grand scheme of things. He was drawn by Dave Stevens as part of his paltry output of sequential art, helped turn Betty Page into a cultural icon, and starred in Disney's second attempt to ride the wave of Tim Burton's Batman. Otherwise, the Rocketeer was a nostalgic relic thirty years ago, and all the more so today.

75) Marv

Frank Miller's Sin City could never top its initial outing, and was the creator's too brief return to greatness. That said, Marv should totally haunt these latter parts of the hundreds while more important and prolific characters (many already discussed) exceed him.

74) Black Widow

Very much Marvel's Black Canary. An early character who has spent several gaps in limbo and too much of the Bronze Age as the fairer but lesser half of a romantic super-partnership. Several half-hearted solo attempts in the '80s and '90s finally yield a modestly successful series of mini-series, some multi-media exposure, and increased relevance in their universe. However, Dinah's pulled it off better, even accounted for her unfortunate backslide with Green Arrow for a couple of years.

73) Jonah Hex

Too high on the list, but still the most successful western character since the Bronze Age.

72) Luke Cage

I personally find the character a lot more embarrassing and possessed of much less potential today than when he was a baldly blaxploitative '70s refugee, but I still love and respect the guy.

71) Wildcat

This is one of those listings that kind of slap me across the face. I just talked about another streetwise tough guy, but where Luke Cage has been one of the eminent black heroes of the past four decades, Ted Grant is just a likeable but forgettable old fart. Seeing Wildcat on a greatest heroes list is like seeing Ed Asner on a greatest actors list. Asner is one of the great crusty old boss character actors, but he's no Ernest Borgnine, much less an Olivier. Wildcat was a back-up strip in a Wonder Woman comic and a lesser JSA member before '70s revivals chose to emphasize the Earth-2 exclusive members, and he's still just a roughneck in a silly costume among giants.

70) The Spectre

The cutting edge of both unbelievably powerful and remarkably brutal characters. Not often handled well, but deserving nonetheless.

69) Scott Pilgrim

I have read exactly one short story that was thoroughly okay. That's the sum total of my noteworthy exposure.

68) Iron Fist

Marvel Comics had two successful bids at cashing in on the '70s kung-fu craze, and Iron Fist was the lesser of the two in every single respect. That's why his short-lived series was merged with the more popular Luke Cage, Hero For Hire to form Power Man and Iron Fist (note second bill.) Less a "Top" and more an "Afterthought."

67) Hank Pym (Ant-Man)

I do not like Hank Pym. I do not like the original Ant-Man. I do not like Giant Man. I do not like Yellowjacket. He has never worked, he has never been loved, and he serves no purpose others couldn't handle better. I can't believe he hasn't died spectacularly and stayed that way.

66) Invisible Woman

I'm not really a fan, but she's nice and I recognize her power/importance.

65) Gambit

People friggin' hate Gambit for his sleazy costume, his stinky trenchcoat, his stupid accent and his central role in the decline of the X-Men franchise. I disagree, and the chicks dig him, so there.

64) The Atom

I love how the article with this entry is entirely about Ray Palmer, but they picture Ryan Choi. No respect for either, and it's hardly uncommon. Doll-Man might have been the biggest of the early tiny heroes, but the Silver Age Atom clearly eclipsed him to become the best of a bad lot. I've got love for the Ray Palmer version, and contrary to popular misconception, the guy has a lot of cool potential that remains less than fully realized. At least he ranked above the wife beater.

63) Blade

I still have trouble getting past my conception of Blade from Tomb of Dracula, and I wish Marvel could figure out how to do the guy right, but a movie trilogy, TV spin-off, and contribution to the popularity of tribal tells the tale.

62) Dashiell Bad Horse

I've read one issue of Scalped. It was okay. I've read a few Jason Aaron scripts. He's no Alan Moore, and I'm no fan of Moore, but they were alright.

61) Blue Beetle

The original was one of the bigger Golden Age heroes from a smaller publisher, and the star of his own radio show. The new kid just appeared on Smallville, and is a positive image of a young, Latino super-hero. The one in the middle is the only one acknowledged. Ted Kord was an industrialist recasting of Steve Ditko's Spider-Man more in that co-creator's image. He was funny in JLI, and I know he has a vocal following, but I just fell very "meh."