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Top 50 DC Characters #35-31

And so it goes…

34 (tie). Swamp Thing (Alec Holland) – 225 points (3 first place votes)


Swamp Thing was created by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson, as a scientist who was almost killed in an explosion, but somehow survived, mixed in with swamp plants, etc. and became the Swamp Thing.

The book had a few different takes on the basic concept of a man who became a swamp monster, but fought for the side of right!

In a later series, which opened with Swamp Thing trying to stop the Anti-Christ, writer Alan Moore took over, and revealed that when Alec Holland “died,” he REALLY died, and Swamp Thing was an elemental made up of the actual plants from the Swamp who THOUGHT they were Alec Holland.

Moore’s run was legendary, specifically on the relationship between Swamp Thing and his wife, Abby, and the introduction of John Constantine, who helped spur plots along by convincing Swamp Thing to help him out on various tasks.

Eventually, Swamp Thing became an Earth Elemental. And that’s what he’s been ever since, although he rarely shows up nowadays, despite the occasional stab at a new series (Brian K. Vaughan did a series with Abby and Swamp Thing’s daughter, Tefe, while Joshua Dysart did one with the whole family).

This is the reason Jesse Acosta gave for putting Swamp Thing #1…

Swamp Thing isn’t your usual comic book character running around in tights and yelling some crazy battlecry like ‘Excelsior!’ Alan Moore took Swamp Thing into a new realm by resuscitating the story with new vigor. Another amazing thing about Swamp Thing is that it touches on current events without feeling like a red flag public service announcement. Simply, what Alan Moore touches turns to gold.

Thanks, Jesse!

34 (tie). Spider Jerusalem – 225 points (9 first place votes)

spider jerusalem.jpg

Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson’s Spider Jerusalem, star of the series, Transmetropolitan, is a writer who was living off of advance payments on some books he was supposed to write. Once the money ran out (and he had no books), he had to return to the City, and work as a journalist again to support himself while he finished the books.

The series is basically all Spider investigating and exposing various political problems, while doing copious amounts of drugs (oh, and also chain-smoking).

Here is the reason why Camilo Mahecha had Spider #1…

Well…Spider is the only cynic who can afford to give a damn, a sick miserable bastard that nobody should like (but hell…you can’t help but like him, he’s fun to watch). Screw the role models; in a future that smells as bad as our present, he represents the piss-off voice of the people who cant speak for themselves, (usually in a blasphemous fashion). Plus: The fact that he was loosely based in Hunter S. Thompson gives him extra points in my book.

Gracias, Camilo!

33. Death – 229 points (2 first place votes)


Death is one of the Endless, the group of siblings who represent powerful forces or aspects of the universe, like, well, Death. Created by Neil Gaiman and Mike Dringenberg, Death often stops by to chat with her brother, Dream, and sometimes to get involved in other plot points.

In a clever approach, Death is portrayed as a hip young woman, who is really quite nice.

She often has interesting encounters with mortals, which made up the bulk of the two Death mini-series (also by Gaiman, but with artist Chris Bachalo).

Here’s why she topped lilacsigil’s list…

Death’s first appearance in “Sandman” suddenly dragged the series from being an interesting cosmic/supernatural take on edges of the DCU to being a fascinating look at the universe itself, and the powers of creation, life and death. She was a wonderful ego-pricking big sister, as well as someone who respected both the tiny details of individual lives and the grand sweep of existence; without her, the series would have been much poorer, and Dream would have been unbearable.

Thanks, lilacsigil

32. Jesse Custer – 230 points (9 first place votes)

jesse custer.jpg

Jesse Custer (created by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon) was a small town Reverand who was possessed by “the word of God,” the ability to tell people to do something (anything) and they would do it. He gained this by being basically possessed by a forbidden offspring of an angel and a demon.

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Jesse goes off on a travel to find God, and make God answer for his actions. Along the way, Jesse is paired with Cassidy, an Irish vampire and Tulip, Jesse’s former girlfriend who has now become an assassin.

Jesse is a big Western fan, carrying on conversations with John Wayne the way Clarence in True Romance talked to Elvis Presley.

Jesse’s family upbringing was quite psychotic, so it is quite an impressive accomplishment that he turned out so honorable.

Here’s my pal, Jeffrey Kramer, explaining why he picked Jesse #1…

Man, what’s not to like about Jesse Custer? He’s a straight-forward, American-archetype hero… a hard-drinking Texan inspired by John Wayne that kicks ass while wearing jeans, cowboy boots and either a minister’s outfit or just a plain, white t-shirt. He’s got one of the most horrific background stories in comics history, yet he doesnt’ spend any time whining and agonizing about it or become a dark, tortured avenger. He’s not infallible, but he faces his fears, he’s brave to a fault unless it comes to putting his girl at risk, he sticks by his friends yet calls them out when they fuck him over, he takes responsibility, he often does the wrong thing for the right reason, and he learns some lessons and changes somewhat along the way while remaining being true to himself. Sometimes he’s a bit full of himself, but he likes dogs and Laurel and Hardy, and he gets the girl in the end. Again, really, what’s not to like?

Beyond that, Jesse represents something DC needs more of, and Marvel needs to start getting behind… characters with finite stories. Yeah, a lot of the ongoing, archetypal characters are great – Batman and Spider-Man and piles of those guys are on my lists too – but it’s hard to tell stories that really matter about characters that are pretty much unchanging and all but guaranteed to continue on indefinitely.

Thanks, Jeffrey!

31. Catwoman – 251 points (1 first place vote)


Catwoman, Selina Kyle, was created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane, and first appeared in the very first issue of Batman, as “The Cat.”

She was a cat burglar, and that was basically all she was for her first, oh, say twenty years of existence. Her popularity on the Batman TV series, though, marked her return to the comics.

Over the years, she was basically turned into a heroine, and even a love interest of Batman.

Later on, she returned to her life of crime, but now mostly as a hobby, while getting involved in various other adventures.

Most recently, under Ed Brubaker and Darwyn Cooke, Catwoman has re-invented herself as a hero of the the underdog. Although that may soon be changing…

Here is Colin Fong explaining why Catwoman rated #1 on his list…

Catwoman is the character who I always knew and read about as someone who is apparently held in high regards with the older generation, however she was a character I didn’t realise I really loved until her spiritual re-invention much like Madonna.

She is the ultimate Femme Fatale and everybody loves those, with her mysterious past and moral ambiguity she even possesses the ability to seduce Batman despite his preferred celibate lifestyle with the unique ability of being able to easily fend for herself. Despite this she never loses her femininity nor feels the need to be like one of the boys unlike say, Wonder Woman. Although in the past she has come off as somewhat as a bad girl bimbo stereotype, since she got a new stylist in the form of Darwyne Cooke and Ed Brubaker she has regained much of her former resemblance to Ava Gardner – All Class!

Like Bats she has no real superpowers, however she does not possess unlimited wealth, all she has are the skills which she learnt over the years and an ultimate reliance on instinct.

Her decision to remain in the gray areas of crime fighting make her an outcast, being constantly hunted by Heroes and Villains alike she presents a beautiful and realistic portrait of vigilantism, particularly when she fought black mask the first time.

Starting off as a villain and slowly establishing herself as a crime fighter has in effect made her incredibly fun to read since her nature dictates that she never has to play by the rules.

However what I love most about her, is that like a lot of women she is incredibly complex and a ball of full of fun contradictions.

Thanks, Colin!

That’s it for today!

Check back tomorrow!


I was wondering when vertigo characters would start to show up.

Then they came out in force this time, my first two characters to show up among them in Swamp Thing and Death.

Catwoman is among my favourites as well, though she didn’t quite make my list.

Catwoman’s relatively low position surprises me. personally, I like the character but I’ve always found it hard to pin down what I consider to be a definitive version of her. Stories featuring her like Brave and the Bold 131 I can read repeatedly but her current series never really clicked with me, despite the talent working on it.
All the Vertigo selections so far are logical and probably would have made my top 10 if I’d tried not to exclude them all except Morpheus himself.

All right. Spider Jerusalem, Jesse Custer, and Death all made my list, with Spider at #1. Cool beans.

For some reason I don’t really think of Spider Jerusalem as a DC character, otherwise I’d have given him a couple of votes.

I was also torn between Jesse Custer and Tommy Monaghan. I gave my points to Tommy. It’ll be interesting to see if he turns up.

This is the first batch with no one from my list.

I considered both Jesse and Tommy, but discarded them both for the same reason — I’m only halfway through their respective series. So just in case.

Yorick is Vertigo and he was in the last batch.

Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing is one of the few horror titles I brought myself to read. Defining horror as deeply creepy and frequently gross. Not my thing. But the characters were compelling enough that I had to stick with it anyway. And he had all the best (ie, mystical) guest appearances.

I voted for Swamp Thing and Catwoman (as well as Mister Miracle and Spectre). Both Swamp Thing and Catwoman have had exceptionally well-written runs. When I read an arc, and wish I’d drawn it, that’s a big plus to me in making a list of favorites.
Both of these characters have a lot to offer an artist. On the one hand there’s the combination of organic, natural elements merged with horror and a sort of mysticism in Swamp Thing. And in Catwoman, there’s that beautiful athletic female form cast onto a “street” version of Batman’s world.

I can’t believe I forgot to put Spider on my list.

:bangs head on keyboard:

Great to see Death here, although I’m a bit surprised at how low on the list she is.

I’m almost more relieved when characters I almost voted for show up than I am excited when characters I did vote for appear.

Custer and Catwoman both came very close.

I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve never heard of Spider Jerusalem. How long ago was he published, and are there trade paperbacks of him?

Way to go Vertigo! I love Death, so while she didn’t make my list, I am particularly excited to see her, especially so low.

Black Lutefisk —

Transmetropolitan ran from 1997 to 2002. The whole thing (60 issues) is available in 10 trades, plus an addendum volume.

Love your stuff, Patrick.

Thanks, DCD!

Gotta love Swampey. He was on my list too, thanks mainly to all the brilliant stories told by Alan Moore and Rick Vietch in the 80’s. Mark Millar had a nice run on the book too towards the end of the second series, and the Brian Vaughan series was highly underrated and underappreciated. The less said about the Joshua Dysart series, the better.

I’m hoping DC finishes off the trade run of the Rick Vietch issues, and then returns Swamp Thing to the DC Universe, if only for a little while. Some of his best stories were the ones guest starring Batman. I’m glad to see many of the current DCU titles still referencing him, even if it’s been awhile since he last showed up in one of their books.

Pleasantly surprised to see so many Vertigo characters on the list. I’m waiting to see if we get any of the Fables. And what- no Arseface?!

Kristen said:
“Black Lutefisk –

Transmetropolitan ran from 1997 to 2002. The whole thing (60 issues) is available in 10 trades, plus an addendum volume.”

Some of the trades are starting to slip out of print. Apparently DC has plans to start consolidating the series into fewer, thicker trades sometime in the coming year. They’re just waiting on all of the old volumes to go OOP.

So, we’re 60% through the top 50 list and I thought
I’d mention a couple interesting stats. (well, interesting to me.)

50th place : 128 points
40th place : 152 points
31st place : 191 points

That’s roughly a difference of 3 points between each place (with a couple ties).

50th place : 144 points
40th place : 171 points
31st place : 250 points

That’s roughly a difference of 5.25 points between each place (with a couple ties).

Comparison :
DC’s values are much higher than Marvel’s, however the rate of change between 40th and 50th place was both about the same (each place had roughly 2.5 more points than the previous one).
This changed between 30th and 40th where DC picked up to almost 8 points between each place and Marvel was almost 4.
Does that mean that Marvel’s top spots have more votes than DC’s top spots? Could it be that Spiderman is THAT much more popular than Batman? OR does it show than Marvel has more popular characters and split the points more? Time to wait and see.

I think one obvious trend here is that the lower tiers held a large number of people whose appeal was roughly equal but as we countdown, the differences seem to be increasing. aka the votes for each place will continue getting bigger. I suspect the top ten will narrow down again but we’ll have to wait and see.

Another notable fact is that so far we’ve seen 3-4,000 points on each group. That leaves 27-28,000 points left. Each of the top ten will probably have more points than the sum of the 40-50th ranks, but still there are lots of points left.

Great stuff, Danar. I have some answers to your questions, but you’re right, it’s probably better to just wait and see.

I voted for ALL of these guys! :) Unfortunately, I think that they include my top three, so I’m curious to see what ends up on the high end, although I’m sure that I can guess who the top five will be.

Swamp Thing! I had a few close cuts on my DC list, so I’m not sure if I voted for him or cut him at the last second, but I’m glad he’s done this well. :) Death and Catwoman too. Nice group. (Transmet never grabbed me.)

[…] so here is the explanation reader Camilio Maheca gave for why Spider was his #1 pick in the Top Characters vote I had last year: Well…Spider is the only cynic who can afford to give a damn, a sick miserable […]

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