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 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.

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