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 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.

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