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 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)

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