Luke Cage History: From Hero for Hire to Hollywood
TV, Comic Books
And now, DC…
10. Oracle (Barbara Gordon) (79 (1) as Batgirl) – 470 points (3 first place votes)
Created by Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino, Barbara Gordon was the daughter of Police Commissioner James Gordon, but was also secretly the crimefighter, Batgirl. Barbara was brilliant, and eventually realized she could do more good in the world with her mind than by patrolling Gotham City at night, so she retired as Batgirl.
Tragically, soon after her retirement, Barbara was paralyzed when the villain Joker shot her, in an attempt to rattle Batman. Thanks to the efforts of writer Kim Yale and her husband, John Ostrander, Gordon was re-modeled as Oracle, the wheelchair bound computer genius of the DC Universe.
Chuck Dixon made Oracle a major player in the Batman books, as support for Batman and his fellow crimefighters. Eventually, Dixon created a title called Birds of Prey built around Oracle, who would employ superhero operatives to do missions for her. Her most prominent operative was Black Canary, and the two women became great friends. The Huntress was Oracle’s second major operative (not chronologically, as a number of heroines had preceded Black Canary).
Oracle was so important in the DC Universe that she even joined the Justice League!!
Barbara is still running her Birds of Prey operation, all the while supplying superheroes with information if they need it, making Barbara one of the most prominent heroes in all of the DC Universe.
Here is why Luke Z. had Babs #1…
I admit I always liked Barbara Gordon’s as Batgirl. She was probably the first female superhero I ever liked as a character, as opposed to because she was played on TV by Lynda Carter (sorry – I was young and shallow). She didn’t have powers or battle-armor or immense wealth, and she wasn’t out for revenge or redemption; in fact, she had no good reason to be a superhero at all except that she really, really wanted to be one. The unique thing about her was her enthusiasm. Tragic, reluctant, or world-weary heroes can make for compelling stories, but I always related to the only character I knew of who seemed like she wanted to be a superhero as much as I did as a kid.
So it says something about Oracle that as much as I liked Barb as Batgirl, I don’t think I’d want to see her change back.
Barbara rebounded from one of the most blatant “Women in Refrigerators” moments in a major comic (no offense to Alan Moore or Commissioner Gordon fans, but an established superheroine being sacrificed solely for the explicitly-stated-in-story purpose of getting a reaction from a male member of Batman’s supporting cast is kind of extreme) to be consistently and believably portrayed as having become stronger for what she’s been through.
Regardless of its original intent, today The Killing Joke is more notable as part of Oracle’s story than James Gordon’s. No to sound corny, but Barb fought her way out of the refrigerator. Batgirl was the rare vigilante with a sense of fun; Oracle is an indispensable asset to the forces of good. She runs her own team; heroes – both male and female – come to her for help; and she is respected by the entire superhero community. Despite being confined to a wheelchair, she’s arguably the strongest female character in the modern DCU. And while it’s a clichÃ© to say a hero’s intelligence in his or her greatest asset, Barb’s in a class by herself: a heroic mastermind. She’s just a great idea for a character, and one of the few that you can look at and say that there should be more characters like her.
9. Robin (Tim Drake) – 502 points (3 first place votes)
Created by Marv Wolfman, with a costume designed by the great Neal Adams, Tim Drake burst on to the DC Universe scene with a storm in the early 90s. After the death of Jason Todd, the second Robin, Batman was getting a bit too serious, and young Tim Drake realized this. Drake had also used detective skills to figure out that Batman was Bruce Wayne, so Drake approached Dick Grayson to go back to Batman to be Robin again. Grayson turned it down, but recommended instead that DRAKE become the next Robin.
And after a long time training, finally Batman agreed to let Drake be the new Robin.
Since then, Tim has served with distinction, while also leading the superhero groups Young Justice and Teen Titans.
Robin is currently a member of the Titans while continuing his patrol with Batman, who recently officially adopted Tim after Tim’s father was murdered.
Here is why Ian Astheimer had Robin #1 on his list…
If anyone deserves a break, it’s Tim Drake. Lately, he’s been a magnet for death. His ex-girlfriend died (and totally deserves a case in the cave). His dad died, prompting his stepmom to have a mental collapse and end up in a psychiatric facility. His best friend died. One of his former love interests died a second time. And, his other best friend died after losing his powers.
Tim’s life wasn’t always mired in death, however. Once upon a time, he was a happy-go-lucky kid with the best deductive logic on the block. After seeing the Flying Graysons in action and watching surveillance footage of the Dynamic Duo years later, Tim put two and two together and realized, oh, hey, Dick Grayson is Robin. And — wait a second…! — Dick’s the ward of Bruce Wayne, multimillionaire playboy, a natural fit for the Dark Knight. Tim came to the conclusion countless cops, crooks, and caped crusaders couldn’t when he was the rip old age of nine. He’s one of the greatest minds in the DCU.
He parlayed that brilliance into becoming a fairly accomplished hacker and would probably be at MIT right now, if (a) DC was willing to let him age; (b) he wasn’t such a colossal Batman & Robin fanboy that he refused to let Bruce slip into darkness after the Joker blew up Jason Todd; and (C) his mother didn’t die, spurring him to put on a domino mask and forever avenge her. Yes, another death. At some point, Tim really needs to throw down with the Grim Reaper.
How Drake’s managed to keep himself together, in the face of so much tragedy, is beyond my comprehension. Maybe he’s in deep denial. Maybe he’s keeping his emotions bottled. Maybe it’s a testament to his strength of character. Maybe it’s bad writing. I don’t know. I just hope he takes the time to cope before he becomes as dark and jaded as Batman was after Jason’s “death.”
Drake is, of course, the ideal candidate to pick up the cape and cowl, should Bruce ever retire. Dick’s the fun-loving acrobat, turned soloist who gets his ass handed to him every month by the lamest of villains. Jason’s the petty punk, turned anti-social zombie vigilante, thanks to a wall-punch. Tim’s the brilliant mind, who understands the balance between light and dark that the role needs. His initial reluctance to accept his heroic fate was understandable; Bruce’s are some giant, scalloped boots to fill. Now, Tim is Bruce’s adopted son, and he seems more than willing to walk in his father’s footsteps.
But, first, can we add a little levity to the poor guy’s life? Tim Drake deserves a break.
8. Wonder Woman – 542 points (13 first place votes)
Created by William Moulton Marston, Wonder Woman is Diana, of the Amazons, who won a contest to win the right to represent the Amazons in the world of Man.
That is just what Diana does, serving as an Ambassador of Peace, while at the same time, also fighting crime, including being a prominent member of the Justice League of America.
More recently, Wonder Woman became a controversial figure when the whole world saw her kill the villain Maxwell Lord. Wonder Woman has established a secret identity as Diana Prince, an operative for the United States’ Department of Metahuman Affairs.
She is currently reeling from very recent events, where her mother, Queen Hippolyta (thought dead) returned and waged a war upon the United States. Now Wonder Woman is one of the only Amazons left, and the world might not think so highly of her at the moment.
Why did Michael Rankins have Wonder Woman #1? Let’s find out…
Why Wonder Woman?
Because she is the one DCU superheroine — heck, the only superheroine, period — who NEEDS to exist. If there is a powerful Superman, and a brilliant Batman, there must necessarily be a Wonder Woman who is the equal of both, and in her own way, better than either.
Diana is the mother Eve to the two-headed Adam represented by Kal-El/Clark (brawn) and Bruce (brain). She serves as a reminder to men that without women, we don’t even exist — even the metahuman among us. She is superior to any man, without yielding the undeniable power of her
womanhood. In fact, she flaunts it. Her hilariously impractical — yet undeniably compelling — costume roars: “Yes, I’m a woman. I have breasts and hips and bare skin and legs that go on for days. And I will kick your flaccid man-butt into the middle of next week, buddy boy.”
Let’s be honest: Wonder Woman is a female power fantasy, cooked up by a psychosexual whack job — psychiatrist and polygraph developer William Moulton Marston — with a bondage fetish. As such, she could easily have degenerated into little more than self-gratification fodder for emotionally stunted fanboys (as too many of today’s comic book females have). And yet, by her very nature, she refuses to be so limited, because the world needs an awe-inspiring female image — one that transcends the boundaries of fevered male imagination to exemplify that which simultaneously fascinates and terrifies men most: A beautiful woman who can, as Maxwell Lord discovered, snap any man’s neck. And just might.
When I began reading comics in the mid-1960s, more than 20 years after Diana’s debut, there were still very few truly powerful female characters. Superheroines got stuck with stereotypically wimpy powers — either paranormal mental abilities, like Saturn Girl in the Legion of Super-Heroes or Marvel Girl in the original X-Men, or the sort of superpowers best exercised from a distance, like the Invisible Girl’s force fields or the Scarlet Witch’s hex blasts. Wonder Woman was the only super-female in those days with the strength and grit to duke it out with the big boys. It wasn’t until Ms. Marvel came along in the late ’70s that another superheroine possessed the raw toughness to get her hands dirty.
On top of that, Wonder Woman shines as a role model for young women, a testament to the fact that sisters can, indeed, do it for themselves. And, to paraphrase Ginger Rogers, she does it all in a bustier and high heels.
My teenage daughter doesn’t share her dad’s comic book compulsion. Even so, I’m glad that there’s a Wonder Woman out there to remind her that she can be whatever her talents, interests, and abilities enable her to be. Even a superhero.
7. Green Arrow (Oliver Queen) – 552 points (12 first place votes)
Created by Mort Weisinger and George Papp, millionaire Oliver Queen was basically like Batman-lite throughout the Golden Age. It was only during the Silver Age, when writer Denny O’Neil decided to change Arrow around that Queen became a standout creation.
O’Neil decided to strip Queen of his fortune, and make him a liberal “man of the people,” who would clash with his friend, Hal Jordan, who was cast as the more conservative of the pair. The two would travel America, trying to explore it and see its people from a way impossible when you are hanging out on the moon.
Around this time, Queen began a relationship with his fellow Justice Leaguer, Black Canary. The two have remained together for many years, with some time apart.
In the late 80s, writer Mike Grell recast Queen as a more serious, older hero. Grell used Green Arrow to explore various political themes in a pretty mature manner for comics.
After Grell left the title in the mid-90s, Green Arrow was killed off and replaced by his illegitimate son, Connor Hawke, for a number of years. Later on, Queen returned, and took up the hero game again.
Recently, Queen ran for, and won, mayor of Star City. After that ended, he proposed to Black Canary, and just last week, the two were wed. (Spoiler Warning) Tragically, it appeared at the end as though Queen was brainwashed into attacking Canary, who was forced to kill Ollie. Hopefully, that was not the real Ollie.
We shall see.
Reader Jo had this to say on why she picked Green Arrow #1…
Why Ollie for No.1? Green Arrow was always my favorite superhero as a child and he’s never given me a reason to jump ship and I’ll be 40 next year. I probably took to him in the first instance because I always loved the underdog, here’s a guy with no real superpowers who was easily one of the most exiting members of the JLA and was able to duke it out with the big boys. I know Batman has the same credentials but Batman always appeared to me as being less real than Ollie, hiding behind his cape and cowl. Green Arrow just seems more like one of us, where Batman has no chinks in his armour, Ollie has many faults, his womanizing, his attitude, he formed real partnerships where there was real warmth, love and humour with black canary, Hal Jordan and the flash and his confrontations with Hawkman were always essential reading. As an older fan I have always enjoyed Ollies tempestuous family life, his treatment of Roy, his relationship with Conner etc. Yeah Ollie has a temper and his anger can be misplaced, how human of him, but he always stands up for the poor and beaten down (just like Johnny Cash…cept wearing green…not black…ignore that bit), Ollie was believable even as a politician, I’d vote him in as my Mayor! Following Ollie all this time we’ve seen him transform from a Robin Hood Character to an eco warrior (ohhh…the Grell days….), we’ve seen him resurrected (ahhhh…the Kevin Smith issues…) and rise to the forefront of the superhero community once again, through good times and bad I don’t think fans have really been following Green Arrow, they’ve been following the man, Oliver Queen…we can see ourselves in him….and now just when he finally gets his girl they go and stick an arrow in his neck Doh! I had feared the worst when I saw the broken arrow in the villains teaser, but come on, give the guy a break, how many times do they want to kill him? Sorry have to go now, I’m making Chili in tribute to Oliver Queen!
6. Robin/Nightwing (Dick Grayson) – 665 points (11 first place votes)
Created by Bob Kane, Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson, Dick Grayson was a young acrobat whose parents were killed in front of him. Bruce Wayne was in the audience, and seeing himself in young Dick, took in Dick to be his ward, eventually training him to be his crime-fighting partner, Robin.
The two were a Dynamic Duo for many years, until Dick grew older, and went away to college, and soon began spending more and more time with his team, the Teen Titans. Eventually, Dick decided to move on from being Robin, leaving that to younger heroes than him. He decided to take the name Nightwing, in honor of a Kryptonian hero that Superman had told him about.
As Nightwing, he continued with the Titans for many years.
More recently, he led the grittier superhero group, the Outsiders.
Dick is still out there, fighting the good fight, using the skills taught to him by Batman – except maybe not the people skills part. Dick has Batman beat there easily.
Here is why Ellen Fleischer had Nightwing #1 on her list…
Nightwing is a bit of everyman. He’s got the skills and training to be Batman but there’s always been more of the light in him. (Leaving aside a brief period during Devin Grayson’s run). He’s someone easygoing and quick to crack a joke, but when trouble comes… it’s not that he becomes a totally different person, but more that different aspects of his personality shift to the foreground. Unlike Batman, who seems to have a bit of a fragmented psyche, Nightwing is an integrated whole. Despite the evil and the horrors that he’s witnessed, he remains an optimist.
His hangups and weaknesses are those that the average joe on the street can relate to.
Not meaning to blow my own horn, but I write fanfiction. Nightwing is the character I find I’m closest to and one of the easiest ones to write. I’ve got to love a character who–when I’m trying to get into his head–figuratively grabs my camera and starts to show me the points of interest.
I guess when all’s said and done, if I was in trouble and needed someone with the skills to protect me, but at the same time wouldn’t intimidate me, he’s the one I’d pick.
And here is why German Acton picked him #1…
ItÂ´s a character that I have always admired, is the best possible outcome of Batman, he has all the skills but none of his drawbacks. He could have been an annoying brat that expends all of the money that he has but instead he works in low pay jobs trying to help people 24 hours a day, in the day to day basics and in the night as Nightwing. also he is the perfect leader, smart and charismatic.
He also always get the chick, the only one that remains for him is Donna. but he doesnÂ´t look only the physical because he dated and try to marry a handicapped. I think that he has all the potential to be the best hero, the Batman archetype but with the Superman motivation and inner self. And I hope that he would be one day.
Thanks, Ellen and German!
The top five begins tomorrow!!
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