Top 50 Marvel Characters #50-46
Now it’s Marvel’s turn!
49 (tie). Bucky/Winter Soldier (James Buchanan Barnes) – 128 points
Created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, Bucky was Captain America’s young partner during World War II.
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.
49 (tie). Mister Fantastic (Reed Richards) – 128 points
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)
48. J. Jonah Jameson – 130 (2 first place votes)
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)
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.
46. Iceman (Bobby Drake) – 132 points (5 first place votes)
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…
That’s it for today! More tomorrow!