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Comic Books, Video Games
30. Aquaman (Orin) – 269 points (6 first place votes)
Created by Paul Norris and Mort Weisinger, Aquaman is one of the few comic book characters to last from the Golden Age of superheroes, as a backup in the pages of Adventure Comics.
Aquaman was notable in that he had TWO distinct origins at first. The first one, the son of an explorer who, through science, taught his son to breathe underwater. The second one is the one we have all grown to know and (sorta) love, which is Aquaman being the son of a fisherman and a woman from under the sea, who later grew up to be the King of the lost city of Atlantis. That has later been adapted to say that the human, Arthur Curry, discovered Aquaman as a child, and that both of his parents were Atlantean.
Aquaman (known as Arthur Curry then, now also known by his Atlantean name, Orin) was a founding member of the Justice League of America, where he served for many years.
Aquaman married another underwater denizen, Mera, who became his Queen and bore his son, who was sadly killed by the evil Black Manta.
More recently, Orin was tranformed into a weird magical creature known as the Dweller of the Depths, and became a mentor to the NEW Aquaman, ALSO called Arthur Curry, oddly enough. Very recently, Orin APPEARED to have been killed, but who knows with these things?
Here’s why H (of the awesome blog, The Comic Treadmill) had Aquaman #1…
Aquaman was a beneficiary of my attempt to find an affordable title I could collect in full. The other two factors in his favor were:
1) the Filmation cartoon – Aquaman was (ironically given the general lack of them in his own title over the years) the cartoon in that series with the most colorful foes – I wanted to read the original Black Manta, Fisherman and Brain stories (who knew the Brain never appeared in the comics?) – the cartoons had mesmerized me as a youngster. I wanted more of that world in the comics; and
2) Aquaman is the hero made for fans of the underdog. His power set is remarkably impressive when you stop to think about it, but easy to mock if you don’t. His skill set is also hard for a writer to convey the significance of, especially when Aquaman is hanging around on land with Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. But those in the know, recognize that Aquaman is extraordinarily powerful.
Reading the stories, the other things that sold me on Aquaman was how, even though he was seemingly out-shadowed power-wise by those around him – in the JLA or at home (by Mera), he never resented his lot, felt sorry for himself or snapped at others. He was comfortable with who he was, his powers and his heroism. The consistently stellar Nick Cardy and Jim Aparo art on his title didn’t hurt. I was also sold on the idea that Aquaman was a hero of the wide open world of the seas – a hard realm to protect and predict and one rarely used in super-hero stories.
Obviously that Aquaman is long-gone and the one who has been in comics the past couple of decades wouldn’t earn a spot in my top 100, let alone my top 10. But for the enjoyable stories he gave me way back when, Aquaman gets the spot of honor (by a nose over Flash).
29. Flash (Barry Allen) – 281 points (4 first place votes)
Barry Allen was a police scientist when a bolt of lightning hit a bunch of chemicals which splashed upon Barry, making him gain the power of super-speed!
Inspired by his boyhood hero, the Flash (Jay Garrick, who was actually living on a separate Earth!), who Barry read about in comics, Barry became the NEW Flash, with a snazzier outfit than Jay’s. Barry was created by Gardner Fox, Bob Kanigher and Carmine Infantino.
For years, the Flash was a steady force for good, as a solo hero and as a founding member of the Justice League of America.
Sadly, tragedy struck the Flash after he married his longtime love, Iris West, when his rival, Professor Zoom, murdered Iris. Some time later, when Barry was prepared to move on an re-marry, Zoom showed up again to kill Barry’s NEW wife! Barry stopped him, but in the process, killed Zoom.
This haunted Barry for quite awhile.
Good news came to him, though, when he discovered that his wife, Iris, was not actually dead, but living in the future! Barry joined her there, and the two WOULD have lived happily ever after, if not for the events of the Crisis on Infinite Earths, where Barry had to come out of retirement to stop the evil Anti-Monitor.
Barry was successful in his attempt to stop the Anti-Monitor from destroying Earth, but in the process, Barry died.
His legacy lives on, though, with his nephew and former sidekick, Wally West, who went from being Kid Flash to becoming the new Flash.
27 (tie). Power Girl – 289 points (5 first place votes)
Kara Zor-L, created by Gerry Conway, is the cousin of the Earth-2 Superman. She traveled to Earth at the same time of her cousin, but her ship landed much later, as she had already grown to be a young woman.
Entering the hero scene, Kara quickly joined the Justice Society of America, where she stayed for a number of years until the Crisis on Infinite Earths. After the events of Crisis, Kara was misled into believing that she was not of Earth-2, something that she only recently discovered was, in fact, the case.
Kara was a member of the Justice League for a number of years, and more recently became re-involved with the Justice Society of America, where she is currently the team chairwoman.
Here is why Chris Cook had her at the top of his list…
What stands out about PG for me is that she’s at the top of her game – she’s chairwoman of the JSA, and is portrayed as a clever, brave, capable hero and leader. I think she’s as deserving of being considered a top-rank hero as Superman or Batman or Wonder Woman, in terms of her abilities and experience and capabilities – she’s earned the position of respect and command she occupies. There’s very few heroes who rise that high, be they male or female, Marvel or DC or other – that’s why Power Girl stands out from the crowd for me.
As a side note, I also like the way she’s portrayed physically – I don’t mean the generous bust (well, not *just* that), but that she’s muscular, physically powerful, in a way most heroines aren’t. To be very, *very* simplistic, the average male hero is drawn to look physically admirable, suggesting a capable, inspiring person you’d trust; the average female hero is drawn to look physically desirable. I like that Power Girl is both: she’s attractive and feminine, but also inspirational and admirable on a non-sexual level.
27 (tie). Captain Marvel (Billy Batson) – 289 points (5 first place votes)
Created by C. C. Beck and Bill Parker, Captain Marvel was originally published by Fawcett Comics, and told the tale of a young boy named Billy Batson who, when he says the word “Shazam,” transforms into the world’s mightiest mortal – Captain Marvel!
He gains the wisdom of Solomon; the strength of Hercules; the stamina of Atlas; the power of Zeus; the courage of Achilles; and the speed of Mercury.
Soon, Billy was joined by his sister, Mary Marvel, and another boy, Freddie Freeman, Captain Marvel, Jr.
The Marvel Family fought on the side of good for many years.
More recently, DC has attempted to integrate the character into the DC Universe, proper, with mixed results.
Naturally, I asked Joe Rice (who had him #1) why the good Captain is so cool…
Captain Marvel so perfectly represents superhero comics that writing about him almost immediately becomes metatextual comment. Captain Marvel is the escape of a child into a world of fantasy and adventure. He’s delightful, full of wonder and fun, easily recognizable, and almost totally ruined by modern mainstream comics’ pandering to an aging, dwindling fanbase. But to hell with all that. Brian asked me to write up why I voted for the Big Red Cheese as my number one character at DC.
I guess when I was little I first just liked his costume. Vaguely military, but bright and unthreatening. Best of all, he wasn’t Superman, who I knew even then to be WAY OVEREXPOSED. He was powerful and funny and got to do awesome things and he was actually just a little kid like me! And soon I found out he had his own family of superheroes. He went from being an orphan to making his own family.
As an adult, that part is even more endearing to me. As we go on in life, we begin to choose who will really be close to us, who our real “family” is. Some are blood relatives but others are just people that you encounter on the way. We’re all going through life making our own Marvel Families; pantheons of personal loves and heroes.
I’ve shared my love for Cap and company with family and friends. I’ve gotten my students hooked on the magic. Former students still ask me about Cap sometimes, as often as they ask about my wife. He’s that perfectly real to a child: a friend, an self-identifying avatar, a hero, a symbol of what you can really do if you want, of the infinite possibilities.
Captain Marvel is the best.
26. Darkseid – 293 points (3 first place votes)
Darkseid was the first of Jack Kirby’s notable “Fourth World” characters to show up in comics.
Darkseid is an evil cosmic tyrant who reigns over the dreaded planet, Apokolips.
He is constantly waging war against the other New Gods, who are much nicer than him.
Darkseid is fascinated with Earth, because Earth contains somewhere the key to the Anti-Life Equation, which Darkseid desires.
Darkseid is known for his Omega Beams, which are laser blasts from his eyes that can seek out and destroy a target from countless distance away.
Darkseid has been featured prominently as a DC villain since Kirby’s Fourth World titles folded, most prominently probably during Jim Starlin’s Cosmic Odyssey and in Levitz/Giffen’s Legion of Superheroes (as Darkseid shows up in the future).
Here is why Kevin Feeney had him #1 on his list…
I should probably note at the start though, that I have always had an affinity for villains since I feel they tend to make deeper characters, so a lot of this will simply be why I see him as better than other VILLAINS. But they make him a better character as well, I think. To my mind, Darkseid is a villain who is not like any other. On the surface, some might regard him as “just another megalomaniac alien”, but the reality is much deeper.
Villains are typically associated with chaos, and heroes with order- that’s the way it’s always been. Heroes represent “law and order”, villains want anarchy and chaos. With Darkseid, it’s the exact opposite-Kirby was all about freedom, so Darkseid symbolizes ORDER at it’s very worst- strict, controlling, all defining order, control in every aspect of life. Absolute, infinite control, leading to absolute, infinite order. He’s the exact opposite of what you expect from a villain, but his position really makes much more sense. To me, that makes him a more compelling character than most super villains who are just in it for themselves, or to cause mayhem- Darkseid wishes to restore order, something normally seen as a NOBLE goal.
Another very interesting thing about Darkseid is the sheer scale of his evil. All heroes are flawed heroes, and almost all villains have a shred of humanity in them- even Lex Luthor cares for humanity’s fate. But Darkseid is evil itself personified, without any sort of redeeming feature. There was a time when this is clichÃ©, of course, but so much work has been done on other villains that he’s now virtually unique- most importantly, he is not 2 dimensional. Unlike with other villains, writers have been able to flesh out and expand Darkseid’s character WITHOUT compromising the evil at his very core, without softening him. Darkseid is a guy who will kill you for displeasing him at all- he’s not a Doctor Doom driven by ego, he’s not a Magneto who wants to save his race, he’s Darkseid, and he is nothing less than, in his mind, rightful lord of all. As one blogger once put it, he’s who Hitler *wanted* to be- absolute, all powerful, and unrelenting.
The third big facet of Darkseid that makes him interesting is his objective and scope. An villain with a goal is infinitely more interesting than one who just wants to “kill the hero”. In Darkseid’s case is goal is FAR beyond heroes. This is a villain who looks on SUPERMAN as an annoyance and a distraction to his purpose, which is the Anti-Life Equation… which again ties back to his inherent nature as a controlling figure, as the Anti-Life Equation will give him total control and allow him to restore order. The all consuming search for the equation is so vast and on such a massive scale that all of the world’s greatest heroes together are just pests compared to it. Grant Morrison put it best when he gave Darkseid the perfect slogan: “Darkseid Is”. Just that. He’s so incredibly powerful, so omnipotent, that he doesn’t even have to say what he is, because in a way, he is everything.
I could literally rant for ages about the great things about Darkseid- about his unique relationship with Orion, how he inspired Darth Vader, even how he was so successful Jim Starlin would later create almost a carbon copy simply so Marvel could have a similar cosmic dictator. But I’ve already gone on way too long, sorry.
No apologies necessary, Kevin! Thanks!
That’s it for today! More tomorrow!
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