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CSBG Archive

Top 50 Marvel Characters #50-46

Now it’s Marvel’s turn!

49 (tie). Bucky/Winter Soldier (James Buchanan Barnes) – 128 points

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Created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, Bucky was Captain America’s young partner during World War II.

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Phased out for a short time after the war, when Cap made his return in the pages of Atlas Comics’ Captain America, Bucky was right back along with Cap, smashing commies.

When Marvel brought Cap back in the pages of the Avengers, however, it was sans Bucky. In one of the earlier retcons in Marvel history, Bucky now died back during World War II, in an explosion that left Captain America thought dead, as well.

Decades later, in the pages of the current Captain America series, writer Ed Brubaker revealed that Bucky had, in fact, survived and was revived by the Russians, who gave him cybernetic implants and brainwashed Bucky into becoming a killing machine for them. He also trained the operative, Black Widow, for the Russians.

They would send Bucky on a mission and then put him into suspended animation until he was needed again – this allowed Bucky to remain a mystery, as people looking for a young man in one year would not still be looking for a young man five years later, which is when he’d be unfrozen for his next mission. This is how he got the name the Winter Soldier, because they would basically just freeze him between missions.

Bucky eventually broke free of the brainwashing, due to the help of Captain America, and now Bucky is a free agent once again, with his current mission being taking down Tony Stark, who he blames for the death of Captain America.

Here is why Scott Stafford had him high on his list of favorite characters:

Bucky was as dead-in-the-water as any character in the history of comics. To bring him back in any type of respectable or serviceable way seemed impossible to me. Brubaker not only pulled that off but also made him damn cool in the process.

The Winter Soldier is now your prototypical Marvel archetype: a fine soul at the core with some big flaws and major ghosts in the closet. Suddenly the ultimate sidekick is a complex character with depth and inner conflict. Plus, we find out that the squeaky clean, smiling teenager we all knew is actually one of the most dangerous characters in the Marvel U….and it all makes sense! The government had to keep Cap clean, so Bucky was actually doing the dirty work?! Genius. The visual redesign was perfect as well. Add in all the espionage and intrigue of Soviet mind control and where the Soldier has been in the last 60 years and you’ve got a great new character whom, in my opinion, is interesting enough to carry his own book.

Thanks, Scott!

49 (tie). Mister Fantastic (Reed Richards) – 128 points

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Reed Richards (created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby) is quite possibly the smartest man in the universe, although it was a mistake of his that led to him becoming one of the most FAMOUS men in the universe, as Richards led his college friend, Ben Grimm, his girlfriend, Sue Storm and her little brother, Johnny Storm, into a hidden mission aboard a spacecraft he had designed for hyperspace, but the government would not allow him to launch. Their journey ended with the four being bombarded by cosmic rays aboard the spacecraft, and upon their return to Earth, the quartet were each given fantastic powers. Reed gained the ability to stretch and contort his body into various shapes.

Reed convinced the other three to band together as a force to help humanity (while also constantly searching for a way to cure Ben, who was affected the most mercilessly by the radiation, turning him into a rocky thing of a man).

I asked reader Eyevan Guerrero why Reed was #2 on Guerrero’s list, and this is what Guerrero said:

There’s this one line I always enjoy quoting whenever I tell people why I like the character so much…. I think it’s better than any explanation. The quote was delivered by Jean Grey during the height of the “Onslaught” saga…

“Amazing… In many ways, this man is sort of the father of the modern age of heroes… The Fantastic Four are what the X-Men — What the Avengers, for that matter — Aspire to be… To think that in the midst of all this personal tragedy, he manages to hold it all together.”

-Jean Grey (The Uncanny X-Men #336)

Thanks, Eyevan!

48. J. Jonah Jameson – 130 (2 first place votes)

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J. Jonah Jameson, who was created by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee, is the publisher and editor-in-chief (although both titles have varied over the years) of the Daily Bugle, the newspaper for which, until recently, Peter Parker (Spider-Man) worked for as a photographer.

Jameson has led many a tirade against Spider-Man, certainly helping to establish the enmity many New Yorkers have against the wallcrawler, while at the same time, Jameson realizes that his anti-Spidey stories also help sell papers.

Over the years, he has tried many strategies to capture Spider-Man himself, including hiring such bad guys as Alistair Smythe, the Spider-Slayer and Mac Gargan, the Scorpion.

Jameson’s son, John, was an astronaut, and Jameson adores his son, and is often irked that Spider-Man takes attention away from a REAL hero like his son.

Jameson is married to Dr. Marla Madison, a noted scientist. The two adopted Jonah’s nice, Mattie Franklin (who was secretly the superhero Spider-Woman).

Currently, Jameson is still at the Bugle, where he is outraged upon learning, during Civil War, that Peter Parker and Spider-Man are the same person.

47. Howard the Duck – 131 points (1 first place vote)

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When Steve Gerber and artist Val Mayerik first depicted Howard the Duck in the pages of Man-Thing, he was basically a throwaway character. Thirty-four years later, that throwaway character is just about to have a NEW series coming out from Marvel Comics!

After debuting in the pages of Man-Thing, and getting a back-up feature in Man-Thing’s giant-sized issue, Howard was granted his own series, where Gerber (mostly working with artist Gene Colan) used Howard to tell hilarious, surreal stories about Howard, who is from a world of ducks and is trapped on a planet ruled by humans, and his human ladyfriend, Beverly Switzler.

Gerber was given strong creative control over the character, but eventually Marvel had a problem with that, and removed Gerber from the comic. Gerber would not work on the character for almost two decades.

Since Gerber’s departure, Howard has only made a few appearances over the years, having a guest spot here, a one-shot there (Gerber even did a MAX series a few years back).

He is due a new mini-series by Ty Templeton and Juan Bobillo that is due out soon.

Here is what my pal Gilda had to say about him (she had him #1 on her list):

Howard is an everyman . . . er, an everyduck. He’s a character who is fairly ordinary in most respects, with the one exception being something that draws to him unwanted attention and is constantly interfering with his goal of being left alone to a comfortable, ordinary life. He’s a bit like a Hitchcock protagonist in this way, a person who thinks of himself as ordinary, but is drawn into a series of extraordinary events he initially has no interest in, revealing extraordinary depths of character that were there already.

It’s hard to really relate to most superheroes on anything but the most basic level because their fundamental characteristic involves putting on a costume and putting themselves in harm’s way to protect others. We can easily admire the willingness to do this, but few of us can imagine actually doing it. We’ve all, however, been an outsider at one time due to looking or acting in a way that feels natural to us but doesn’t fit someone else’s preconceived notions of how we should be.

And he’s fun. His outsider status allows him to say and do things that most characters wouldn’t be able to get away with and still be likable, to comment on how ridiculous the situations he finds himself in are. Batman has to accept the bizarre world he lives, take it seriously, or the reader can’t. Howard isn’t constrained like this; he’s free to say and do just about anything without drawing us out of the story. He’s funny, witty, and cynical, at least on the surface, in a way that most characters are prevented from being by the nature of their character.

Thanks, Gilda!

46. Iceman (Bobby Drake) – 132 points (5 first place votes)

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Bobby Drake was the youngest of the original X-Men, and was the goofball of the group. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Bobby had the ability to freeze the moisture in the air around him and turn himself to ice (although at first, he looked mostly like a snowman).

Bobby was a valuable member of the X-Men for years. Once the original team disbanded, Bobby enrolled in college in California, where he became a founding member of the superhero team, The Champions, alongside his friend and fellow original X-Man, Warren Worthington (The Angel).

After the Champions disbanded, Bobby returned to school and earned a degree in accounting. However, another of his former X-Men teammates, Hank McCoy (the Beast) roped Bobby and Warren into joining yet ANOTHER superhero group, the Defenders.

After THAT team disbanded, Bobby began his career as an accountant. However, that was short-lived, as he was roped into yet another reunion, this time in X-Factor, which was made up of the original members of the X-Men.

Bobby stayed with the team for awhile, until the members of X-Factor merged with the X-Men to form one BIG X-Men team.

Bobby served on the X-Men on and off for a number of years, but a few years ago, he devoted himself more fully to the X-Men, and has been on the team for probably the longest continuous tenure since his run on the original X-Men.

Now a little older, Bobby is a veteran member of the team, and has begun to use his powers in more and more creative ways.

Here is what Ian Astheimer had to say about Bobby, in placing him #1 on his list:

The first class at Xavier’s Institute was a microcosm of the high school experience. Hank was the genius and the jock. Warren was the wealthy pretty boy, living fast, so he could die young. Scott was the
proto-emo kid, Charlie Brown with fancy shades. Jean was the girl next door and the most popular girl in school. And, Bobby — the youngest of the group — was the class clown, using humor to draw attention to himself to try to fit in. He never seemed to take anything seriously,
earning a reputation as a slacker. His grades more than likely reflected that attitude. He was probably a C-student.

Even if he wasn’t, he grew up to be the most average of the X-Men. He didn’t become a supermodel or a scientist; he became a CPA, working a desk job between gigs as a Defender and an X-Factor…er. Of the many women he’s dated, only one has tried to kill him, a stellar average
for any superhero. The best of the rest, Zelda, worked in a coffee shop (watch the romance blossom all over again, hopefully, in X-Men: First Class where Zel makes the occasional cameo). She was the kind of girl Bobby could take home to meet his folks. Yeah, that’s right: Bobby’s parents are still alive, and they even care about him. In the ’90s, he split his time between the X-Men and his parents’ Long Island residence, helping to care for his father, who
overcame prejudicial feelings to defend his son against Graydon Creed’s anti-mutant followers. Bobby Drake’s a normal guy with a normal family in a world populated by Gods, God-like beings, and megalomaniacs who want to be God. That normalcy is, well, pretty uncanny.

When Bobby got his start as a snowman in shorts, he was an overeager kid, vying for the spotlight; now, he’s a laid-back adult, content with his place in life as a son and a team player. If only he and Zelda would get back together…

Thanks, Ian!

That’s it for today! More tomorrow!

47 Comments

I’m really excited that Jonah made it! He didn’t make my top 10, but he’d have been close! If I’d been allowed 13 characters…

Something about the presence of characters like Bucky, whose popularity comes from something so recent, concerns me, but it probably shouldn’t.

Anyways, I’m glad to finally see this up! I’ve had many sleepless nights in anticipation.

Iceman? Really?

Huh.

He actually dropped a good deal in the later half of the voting.

He was in the top 20 at one point. That’s why I love the amount of votes that were received.

128 points would make Bucky one of the top 10 cartoonists.

Yeah, the high point totals needed for inclusion on the list are really awesome.

Bobby Drake is very popular with the X-Cres crowd, apparently.

X-Cres? Explain please, and make me feel like an idiot.

I’m surprised that other people are surprised at the inclusion of Bobby. He has some huge fans out there.

It is a chat thread over on the Comic Book Resources’ X-Men forum.

Now *this* is interesting. A funny animal, a powerless supporting character, and a revived sidekick left completely ignored for about half a century. Congratulations, Brubaker – it’s a damn impressive feat to come up with so memorable a character these days.

J Jonah Jameson was my number 1 choice! It’s a shame he’s so low on the list

Oops, sorry Will, my bad.

I think it is really interesting that Mister Fantastic didn’t get any first place votes. For one of Marvel’s core characters, he is no ones favourite.

I’m amazed that the Winter Soldier placed so high. To me, it’s one of the big stumbling blocks of reading Brubaker’s Cap run…every time he pops up, I just think, “It’s Grim N’ Gritty Cyborg Bucky!” and my ability to care just checks out until he’s off-panel again.

I don’t care what cool things Brubaker did with him, I don’t care how well he used him, Grim N’ Gritty Cyborg Bucky is just a singularity from which no storytelling credibility can escape in my book. It’s the sort of thing I’m amazed Rob Liefeld didn’t think of for the Heroes Reborn Cap.

Sorry, Winter Soldier fans. I’m glad you’re enjoying the concept, at least.

A lot of people grew up and could relate to Bobby. He was younger than the original X-Men. He was younger than the original X-Factor (obviously). He was on Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends, and he’s had that “not living up to your potential” sort of character that a lot of comic fans I can think of can relate to, for good or ill.

Iceman is the favorite X-men among my friends. Never figured out why…

I too am surprised by Bobby being 5 people’s favorite. Than again, with so many votes, I guess it shouldn’t be too surprising. I am excited to see who makes the rest of the list. I too am happy that JJJ made the cut; in my opinion, he is the best non-super super hero character since Jimmy, Lois, and Lex.

I was suprised to see J Jonah on the list, but then realized I shouldn’t have been. He’s one the most entertaining people Stan ever created.

The list so far really proves the adage; Everybody is somebody’s favorite character.

I’m not a Marvel person, but I actually would have expected Bucky to make it even if he hadn’t been revived. He stayed famous (if famously dead) all along. And you get the Golden Age nostalgia angle.

Interesting. Jonah was on my list. And I think he was fairly high. What I said about him last year at CBR Classic.

“J. Jonah Jameson

I’ll argue long and hard that Spider-Man has the best supporting cast of any major super-hero. In the Number Twelve spot is Spidey’s greatest enemy, J. Jonah Jameson. Forget the Goblin. Forget Doc Ock. Forget Flash Thompson. Over the years Jolly Jonah has given Spidey more problems and more sleepless nights than any mere super-villain.

Jonah is a complex man. Insecure in his abilities, yet blustering. Petty and vindictive, but deep down caring. And besides, my son Nathan really loves Ol Smiley.”

But Bucky? That is perplexing.

I’m a little surprised by Iceman too – never particularly *dis*liked him or anything, but I’ve never seen any particular appeal either. Never been big on the Marvel mutants in general, though, so that may blind me to his “star turns.”

Unfortunately, I dithered about writing my Marvel list out and didn’t get one together in time, but JJJ definitely would’ve had a high spot on it. He’s always a fun character, especially when Stan Lee is writing him. This is even true in his lesser work, like Stan’s current Spider-Man newspaper comic strip. It’s not great stuff, but his JJJ is *still* a terrifically entertaining character there! I love the recent bit where he inadvertently saves the life of his LA TV news-babe love interest (while really just trying to save his own skin!)

Wow, I’m a little more surprised with the Marvel list than the DC one. J. Jonah Jameson? Go Jonah! And I’ll admit, I was surprised at first to see Bucky on the list too, but after thinking about it, Ed Brubaker has done such an amazing job of making his revival both compelling and believable, that I think he deserves the nod from the fans.

And as for Iceman, was never a huge fan personally, but I’ll always cherish my childhood memories of when he was an “Amazing Friend” on TV… :)

Interesting. If I’da voted, JJJ would’ve been in my top three. So that’s gratifying.

Howard MIGHT have made it, but I only like Gerber Howard, and absolutely despise the character if anybody else writes him.

I actually swapped out Aunt May for J. Jonah at the last second, so I like to think it helped put ol’ Jonah into the Top 50.

Yes, obviously Iceman is popular. I mean, he got votes. I just find him awfully… generic as characters go. He is the epitome of Fourth Superhero On The Left, most notable for being Hank’s buddy more than anything.

Ah, well, no accounting for people’s preferences, it is a varied world, etc.

New HOWARD THE DUCK? Awesome. I’ve been thinking of picking up the Essentials volume.

JJJ needs to be higher. I would read an ongoing series focusing just on him.

I’m not surprised that Mr. Fantastic is near the bottom of the list. He’s a character in a team title where all the other team members are more intersting/fun. Don’t get me wrong– I love Mr. Fantastic, but I doubt a series staring him alone would be very interesting. He’s a character who has been around for almost 40 years, has never had a memorable solo adventure.

Wow, see, if I were to vote for least interesting X-Man, I’d probably choose Iceman, but then I’ve been out of touch with him since the New Defenders, so maybe they’ve X-Tremed him up or something in the interim.

But then, one of my list actually made the cut along with all these hairless apes, so I’m not complaining.

Well, maybe a little bit: When I say that I’m afraid of anyone but Giffen/Fleming bringing back Ambush Bug, I’m thinking of pretty much anything that’s happened with Howard post-Gerber. Waaugh.

Most notable for being Hank’s buddy, mightygodking?

See, I would have pegged Bobby as being Angel’s sidekick, seeing as how he followed Warren around to the Champions and New Defenders and all.

I have a feeling this section’s going to get a lot of “Arrested Development”-style utterances of “…Him?” by the time we get to #1.

Beast was also in the New Defenders.

Bobby just wasn’t allowed to join the Avengers. He settled for Warren and the Champions.

I knew Reed was less popular than the other members of the FF, but I’m still surprised to see him so low on the list. Even though I didn’t vote for him myself. I suppose he could be in my top 20 list, but not my top 10.

The first time I thought Reed was cool was during John Byrne’s classic run. One of the many reasons why I like Byrne’s FF so much was that Byrne actually would include some science fiction (as opposed to comic book technobabble) in the comic, and Byrne had Reed solving scientific mysteries and such.

Reed also was great in Mark Waid’s run, probably my second-favorite FF run. But I know a lot more people that are indifferent to the character than that like him.

No surprise with the other characters. Howard, Bucky, and Jonah, the sort of characters I’d expected to be in the bottom of the list. Iceman too. He is the least popular in a immensely popular franchise (I wonder whether characters like Cable or Bishop or Gambit are on the list? Internet fans usually are snobs about such characters, but they must be more popular than Iceman among X-Men fans).

I can’t wait to see where John Doe, the Nth Man places!

I’m guessing he’s right after John Kowalski, manifestation of death, Dane.

Iceman too. He is the least popular in a immensely popular franchise (I wonder whether characters like Cable or Bishop or Gambit are on the list? Internet fans usually are snobs about such characters, but they must be more popular than Iceman among X-Men fans).

If this were a Top 50 X-Characters list, I’d be willing to grant that Iceman’s popularity has waned. But, this isn’t. This is the Top 50 Marvel Characters, which encompasses thousands of heroes and villains. Drake breaking into the Top 50 is, therefore, rather impressive (and I say that as one of the five who gave him a first place vote) since the competition is undoubtedly fierce.

As for the others you mentioned, it’s anyone’s guess (well, except for Brian’s; he already knows). I’ll be genuinely surprised if Cable or Bishop ranks, though. Neither seems to be much of a fan-favorite these days. But, Gambit, for all his polarizing, might be able to eke out enough votes to land on the list. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him land in the 40s or 30s.

What do I know, though? I voted for Iceman.

Count me in for a mini-series starring J. Jonah Jameson, especially if Roger Stern would write it. Loved JJ’s interaction with the Kingpin during Stern’s run on Amazing Spider-man. Great JJJ story in Spectacular Spider-man #80!

I’ll be genuinely surprised if Cable or Bishop ranks, though. Neither seems to be much of a fan-favorite these days.

Cable was until recently the star of Cable & Deadpool which is an internet favorite. And before someone says “it’s because of Deadpool!” For every Deadpool fan, you’ll find someone who loved what Niceza did with making Cable one of Marvel’s most complex characters.

Vincent Paul Bartilucci

September 13, 2007 at 6:00 pm

Interesting.

I’ve got one character in my top 10 on this list (Mr. Fantastic) and one character on the DC list (The Huntress).

But JJJ is a great choice.

Nope, didn’t have any of these in my top ten.
Reed would probably have made my top twenty-five, but barely. Though I always did have an affection for him, especially when he didn’t get a chance to shave while locked away with the Watcher, desperately trying to stop the Surfer, and screamed at Sue for bothering him with dinner. Love the way Kirby drew that five o’clock shadow.
But I think he was always just too darn smart for me to identify with.

And, wait a minute… Iceman?

Hmmm…
Iceman’s ranking at #46 coincides with the number of people who would by his solo book.

Yes Iceman made it to the top 50!
As i gave him a first place vote, he will always have a place in my heart for taking down Bastion, as immortalised by Carlos Pacheco.

But before that it was because of Spiderman and friends.

Bucky, Reed, JJJ, Howard, Iceman

Bucky / Winter Soldier – I can totally see this, although I’m surprised he wasn’t higher on the list.

Reed – Kind of surprised he made the list, but his status in the Marvel U is solid.

J Jonah Jameson – Can’t remember if he made my Top 10 list or not, I think he did. Love JJJ !

Howard the Duck – This guy I did vote for and I’ve always loved. Marvel should utilize him more. Great character. Loved the Howard for President campaign back in ’76.

Iceman – I’m not the biggest X-fan, and haven’t been for years, but this surprised me too.

The trouble with Reed Richards is that it’s understandably hard for people to write characters who are much, much smarter than themselves convincingly. Mark Waid’s the only guy who’s REALLY pulled that off for me with Reed. Most other writers (including Stan) have to fall back on technobabble that sounds good and moves the plot forward, but doesn’t really make any sense.

I voted for Reed (7th or 8th place I think). I expect that he would have been higher if it wasn’t for Civil Bore.

Walt Simonson’s run was actually what made Reed for me; the scene where he stares down the Black Celestial is just awesome.

Iceman is underrated. As one of the founding members of the X-men, he should be in the lead now rather than just following orders. In Operation Zero Tolerance, he led a team and defeated Bastion. Thanks Scott Lobdell for that. After that, he’s back to being another background character. Thank goodness, Mike Carey’s run in recent X-men book shows new power and character development he deserves. In X-men #201-203, he’s in the forefront. Though at the bottom list, I’m still glad he made it to the top 50. He still, after all, is one of the most popular X-characters.

I think the reason Bobby is so appealing isn’t the fact that he has ever had a particular “star” moment. It’s that he is probably the most direct character for a reader to connect to. At least in my eyes when i read X-men i didn’t associate myself with someone like Colossus, Wolverine, or Nightcrawler. I enjoyed them as characters, but never would i connect with them. Bobby’s rather ancillary role would be the role i would envision myself having. His power’s were fun and with an imagination one could imagine him being extremely overwhelming. He usually had a light quip to lighten up the situation. He doesn’t stand out as much as other characters because he is just an average guy. That’s why i like him, where others tend to have very striking personality elements, Bobby’s just a guy. I don’t have deep scars, i like b/s’ing around, i would love to have a giant ape like friend with a brilliant mind, and wouldn’t mind dating a hot asian or girl with green hair(hot long green hair and she can fly). I personally didn’t vote in this poll, but i do think he’s a worthy inclusion in the Top 50. He’s the most grounded character for me, the entry point for the world of the x-men.

I am old school and would like to see Marvel and DC get together like they did in 1976 with superman and spiderman but this time it would be the justice league and the avengers vs a out of galaxy threat in a movie done by one of the giant producers.

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