Luke Cage History: From Hero for Hire to Hollywood
TV, Comic Books
The countdown continues…
10. Cyclops – 604 points (13 first place votes)
Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Scott Summers was an original member of the X-Men. His ability to blast concussive beams from his eyes (controlled only by his ruby quartz glasses) made him a powerful force to be reckoned with.
Scott was the leader of the X-Men, and when the team was replaced by an All-New, All-Different group of X-Men, Scott stayed behind to be the leader and elder statesman, as it were, to the new group.
Scott had been dating his teammate, Jean Grey, and the two stayed together even as she left the team. She soon returned, but (unknowing to Scott) soon was replaced by a cosmic being that looked like Jean. The cosmic being eventually went nuts, and killed itself rather than continuing to kill others. Scott was distraught, and left the X-Men.
The retired Cyclops met a woman who looked just like Jean, and the two married and had a child. However, when the REAL Jean returned, Scott quickly went to rejoin her. His wife was then revealed to be an evil clone of Jean.
Scott formed a new team called X-Factor, made up of the original X-Men. Eventually, X-Factor merged back into the X-Men, where Scott was once again leader of the X-Men. Scott and Jean married.
Over time, their marriage became more of a close friendship than anything, so when Emma Frost joined the X-Men, Scott was drawn to her, and the two began having a psychic affair. Jean found out about it and Scott broke it off, but when Jean was killed, he reunited with Emma, in a more conventional relationship.
He and Emma are currently the co-headmasters of the Xavier Institute.
Here’s why my pal, Matt Bib, picked Scott #1…
Cyclops is a character that I’ve always identified with.
What makes Cyclops such a great character is that his greatest flaw is that he believes that his self-imposed responsibilities outweigh his own personal needs. Scott Summers carries the weight of the mutant world on his shoulders. He feels himself responsible for not just his family and
the X-Men, but for the legitimacy and pursuit of Xavier’s dream. Over the years Scott has actually come to believe in the dream more than the man who created it.
Scott has always denied his feelings and wants in favor of protecting others and fulfilling his duties. He was repressed boy, hiding behind a visor. He held himself to impossible standards, constantly striving for perfection and control and ideals that nobody could hope to achieve. And
while his loyalty was absolute and his determination unwavering, his world was black and white.
Fortunately for him he met someone who loved him, despite himself. She helped him to grow and to feel and to love and to become a man who could see shades of grey. And they were happy. But unfortunately it wasn’t enough. Both of them changed. One accepted the universe. The other was tainted by evil in order to save the future. And they outgrew each other. But their love remained. So much so that Jean let him go, wanting his happiness most of all.
In the end, through all he’s been through…the loss of his childhood…two wives…a son…a mother and a father…the decimation of his people…betrayal by a mentor…Cyclops has remained strong and true because he’s had to. For the mutants. For Xavier’s dream. But now he does so just as much for himself. For his own happiness. For his own dream.
9. Thor – 605 points (12 first place votes)
Created by Stan Lee, his brother Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby, Thor is the Norse god of thunder, who was banished to Earth by his father to teach him humility, trapped in the frail human form of Dr. Donald Blake.
However, soon, Blake found an enchanted cane which allowed him to transform into Thor, and Thor was a hero on Earth, using his god-like powers and his powerful magic hammer, Mjolnir, to fight the good fight.
Thor often visited his home in Asgard, and had adventures there, as well, mostly due to his evil half-brother, Loki.
Thor was a founding member of the Avengers, where he served for many years.
More recently, Thor and all of Asgard were destroyed. Thor has just now returned from the dead, and he is currently trying to find the rest of Asgard, as well.
Here is why Josh picked him #1…
Growing up, I was a huge fan of Greek, Roman and Norse mythology. Several critics have claimed that comics are the mythology of 20th century America but Stan Lee took that literally when he created Thor as a superhero character. Unlike the other characters in the Marvel Universe, Thor fully embraces the epic scale of comics in a way that is usually reserved for DC comics (the Fantastic Four also come close). Although Thor was originally infused with the romantic entanglement with Jane Foster, the series really took off when the character was cut loose of his Earthly drama and allowed to play out epic action on a massive scale.
Thor is my favorite concept in the Marvel universe because writers can tell super-hero stories just like Iron Man and Captain America but also adventure stories, science fiction, fantasy and action equally well. For full disclosure, the Walt Simonson run is the run that got me into Thor when I was just a wee lad and it still holds up as my favorite Marvel comics run of all time (although Miller’s DD is close). I keep thinking that if Marvel movies wants a Lord of the Rings style franchise, this is the storyline that needs adapting. In all the discussion of the Simonson
run I never see people mention the thing he did best, make mythological villains into super-villains. Malekith, Kurse, the Midgard Serpent, Hela and Surtur were exactly of the scale of destruction and evil that a larger than life character like the Thunder God requires. Of course, other writers have handled the big guy really well (I recall a great arc from the late 70s (255 to 263) wherein Thor, Sif and the Warriors Three went on a cosmic odyssey that was a fun
read. Also, the 80s war against the Egyptian Gods with the Black Knight as guest-star was pure comic book fun at its finest.
Yes, he speaks in a faux-Shakespeare way and yes, he does have hippy hair; but if you want earth-shaking action and larger than life characters to entertain your ass, he is the Marvel guy who can give you the most bang for your buck.
And here is why Alex Miller had him tops…
When I was a kid I read two books without fail, The Avengers and X-Men. There was something about Thor’s mysticism that appealed to me. I’ve always enjoyed mythology, and the loose mythology tied into Thor’s character was compelling. I left comics for a little over 10 years, early 90’s to around 2002, and when I got back in I found that Thor’s stories appealed to me even more than before. This was before Disassembled. I went back and read the Walt Simsonson run and was blown away by the depth he brought to the character. It wasn’t that Thor needed a great rogues gallery which is since he doesn’t really have one. But how many characters in the Marvel Universe can withdraw from Earth to a different dimension? Thor can have entire adventures that don’t impact any other books. He can have battles in space, in Asgard or on Earth. That’s entirely unique to Thor.
Mike Oeming’s Disassembled run was, to me, the best arc of any of the Disassembled comic books. My expectations were extremely high for Ragnarok since I had read as much Thor as I could leading up to it, and he owned it. He even had me on board for the Beta Ray Bill mini-series.
Even the whole Clor thing didn’t dissuade my love of Thor. When his book launched I did have some trepidation as I wanted Mike Oeming to write it. I felt he had earned the spot. The first two issues didn’t blow me away, but the third issue more than made up for it.
Hell…my dog’s name is Thor Odinson.
Thanks, Josh and Alex!
8. Hawkeye – 676 points (17 first place votes)
Created by Stan Lee and Don Heck, Hawkeye showed up originally a villain, but Clint Barton was basically an accidental villain, as he was so caught up in his love for the Russian spy, Black Widow, that he was in the dark that she was making him do some pretty bad things.
Luckily, Iron Man, who was Hawkeye’s foe, realized Hawkeye was really a good guy, and that he should use his archery skills for good, so he sponsored Hawkeye as a member of the Avengers.
Hawkeye served the team with distinction for many years (for a time, as the size-changing Goliath), as he went from having an antagonistic relationship with Captain America to a strong friendship with the man.
At one point, Hawkeye was even given the opportunity to head up a NEW team of Avengers, on the West Coast of the United States. It was around this time that Hawkeye married the heroine, Bobbi Morse, Mockingbird.
Sadly, after a number of years together with the West Coast Avengers, Bobbi was murdered by the villain Mephisto.
Hawkeye had some dark days after that, but he recovered, and returned to his normal self. Sadly, he was then killed during Avengers Disassembled. Luckily, he returned during House of M.
After returning from the dead (where he was killed AND resurrected by his former teammate, the Scarlet Witch), Clint had no interest in taking up the superhero game again, even though Iron Man almost convinced him to become the new Captain America. Instead, Clint joined up with a renegade group of Avengers, and took up the now available identity of Ronin.
Here is why H, of the great comic blog, The Comic Treadmill, picked him #1…
His early days in the Avengers made me a fanatic for life. Hawkeye was the cynic who wouldn’t let anyone push him around. He had a smart mouth and a big ego that showed he wasn’t perfect, but his flaws didn’t blind him to recognizing a person’s true merits (the arc where he went from Cap hater to Cap loyalist was fantastic reading) or stop him from doing what a hero needed to do. Once you earned his respect, he was fervently loyal (a favor I’m returning by ranking him #1). And he was a non-powered guy who always held his own with the elite. Never a hostage or liability, but always a factor in defeating the bad guy. And displaying his unsolicited sparkling wit throughout. A hero it was always fun to read about.
Hawkeye is the team player with a smart mouth, but who can always be counted to watch your back and risk all in the name of heroism. Who couldn’t admire a guy like that?
And here is why poster Mutt picked him #1…
Clint Barton became a superhero for the only reason that ever made sense to me: He was trying to get laid. I could relate to Hawkeye in ways I couldn’t relate to the other Marvels. He wasn’t a doctor or scientist or mutant. He was a performer. A carny. A professional wise-ass. Brash, cocky, dreaming of stardom and used to seeing the world in “Me vs. The Rubes” terms. No wonder the Black Widow found it so easy to seduce him into taking on Iron Man for her. The results were predictable, but he took on Iron Man! With a bow and arrow! For a girl! That’s romantic foolishness worthy of Cyrano.
Iron Man was impressed enough to draft him into Cap’s Kooky Quartet; a move I hated at the time. But Hawkeye became my window into the world of superteams. No powers. Big ego. Clumsy with women, but never shy. Bucking authority, but always getting the job done. He became The Avenger for me. The team isn’t complete without him. In fact, no superteam is complete without a Hawkeye. He defined the role. The Watchmen may have been based on Charlton characters, but you can’t tell me that The Comedian wasn’t a Hawkeye. And Hawkeye was a professional superhero, with no secret identity or day job, a decade before that would start to become a standard model at Marvel. I could never be Thor, but I could train to be Hawkeye.
Hawkeye never has his own title, but he never goes away. He’s always there, fighting alongside the big guns in his garish, showman’s costume. Sure, he’s egotistical. Sure, he screws up. Sure, he’s a horndog. But he’s trying. He works hard to be a hero. When he tried on Cap’s uniform I almost shed a tear.
(Hawkeye is also at the center of what for me is still the coolest moment in Marvel history. During the Kree-Skrull War, a ship is headed towards Earth with a bomb capable of destroying the planet. The Avengers can’t get to it. Captain America calls on Clint Barton, who is in his Goliath identity at the time and has been waiting in a Quinjet because he’s stuck without growth serum or his bow. He’s just a man. In a short, but stunning sequence, the veiled words and perfect facial expressions make it clear these two men understand that this is a suicide mission with the Earth at stake. Clint calmy agrees. And Cap never gives it another thought. He sent Clint Barton. Problem solved. Rick Jones and the Avengers may have won the war, but they wouldn’t have had a planet to come home to if it weren’t for Hawkeye. And we don’t even find out he’s alive for a couple of issues.)
Avenger. Defender. Thunderbolt. Hero.
Hawkeye took on Iron Man with a bow and arrow for a girl.
Now he’s a morose, tubby ninja.
Thanks, H and Mutt!
7. Wolverine – 728 points (10 first place votes)
Created by Len Wein, John Romita and Herb Trimpe, Wolverine was originally a foe for the Hulk. But when Wein was tasked with created a new group of international X-Men, he quickly thought about Wolverine, who was Canadian.
He joined the X-Men, but it was not until fellow Canadian, John Byrne, took over as X-Men artist that Wolverine began to shine.
Eventually, his personality would begin to be flushed out. Wolverine was a man prone to berserker rages, but he also had a noble warrior side to him. His mutant healing powers served him well in battle, along with the nigh unbreakable metal skeleton he had (complete with claws!).
Wolverine served with the X-Men for many years, and is currently both a member of the Avengers AND the X-Men.
Here is why Peter Nilson had Wolverine #1…
To some Wolverine is a overblown representation of machismo manhood. This coupled with overexposure has created a lot of backlash and naysayers.
Make no mistake… Wolverine is the best there is at what he does.
Most boys (men too) are drawn to Wolverine for his strength, confidence, loyalty, his ‘fight til you die’ attitude and indomitable will. As the saying goes, “Girls want him and guys want to be like him…” As young vulnerable people, these are traits that are desired to be learned and practiced. In a lot of ways he is the equivalent of the Humphrey Bogart, John Wayne, and Clint Eastwood role-models of past generations.
Role-models are hard to find.
What makes Wolverine a better hero than most is that, as a character, people can relate to him as well as respect him. He’s not a millionaire, doesn’t fly, his powers are believable, and most of the time he’s not even in spandex.
His relationships make him a sympathetic character. His sulking over Jean and Scott, his tenderness with Mariko, Jubilee, and Kitty, his drinking buddy Nightcrawler, and fatherly sternness with Amiko all create an picture of a man who loves and is loved.
The qualities that are respectable are counterbalanced with weaknesses. Something we all experience and identify with. He’s a drunk and a killer. He’s anti-social. He has anger management issues. He struggles daily with the mistakes of his past. It’s this counterbalance that makes the deep and interesting dichotomy of his character.
He is the classless biker with the soul of a Samurai. He is the unforgiving killer and the protective patriarch figure. He is insanity and often the voice of reason.
There are so many interpretations of his character and they can all be taken in stride because they are all sides of the same coin. Chris Claremont and Larry Hamma laid such amazing groundwork. Wolverine has been around since 1975 and is more recognized than many superheroes.
On a personal note, I’ve read Wolverine since I was in Junior High. I was that kid that wanted be tougher and more confident. It seemed that every time I faced a new challenge this character spoke to me. In high school there was a lot of pressure to do drugs when my friends and I went camping on the weekend. Around that time issue #75 came out and when offered something to dull the pain caused by the loss of his adimantium he says, ‘He’ll have all the time in the world to be numb after he buys the farm’. Different scenario from my own? Yes. Did I choose not to dull the pain of adolescence by escaping though abuse? Yes. A few years later I broke up with a girl I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with. In an issue that came out within days of this, there is a scene where Wolverine was standing at Silverfox’s grave and he states: “I ain’t afraid of no man or beast, and I’m not afraid to love again.” This was a kind of strength I’d never had to muster before and the concept of strength of heart was a benefit to me.
Even now as a married 30 year old father of two sons, working two jobs to make ends meet, and dealing with all the things life throws at you… It’s nice to have a overblown representation of machismo manhood around to remind me to never give up, stick to your convictions, the hardest
choice is usually right one, ‘fight ’til you die’ and do it all with a lot of heart.
Wolverine is the best there is at what he does.
6. The Hulk – 730 points (15 points for Joe Fixit, 9 for “Professor Hulk”) (13 first place votes)
The Incredible Hulk was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby as the ultimate Jekyll and Hyde tale. Scientist Bruce Banner is caught in an explosion of the gamma bomb he created, resulting in Banner becoming a violent, destructive green-skinned monster called the Hulk when Banner is stressed or becomes angry. The Army wishes to capture the Hulk, so Banner becomes a fugitive.
That basically was the plot of the book for many years, changed only really when Banner gained control for a time, and then, when writer Peter David began a long run, having Hulk become an enforcer for a Casino boss and then later, merging the various Hulk personalities into one cohesive “Professor Hulk,” who joined a secret peacekeeping group called the Pantheon.
Ultimately, though, Hulk returns to, well, smashing. A few superheroes got tired of it, so they sent Hulk into outer space to settle on an uninhabited planet. That plan did not work, as the Hulk ended up on a warrior planet, which he eventually conquered. Finally content, the Hulk was married with a pregnant wife. Then the shuttle he was sent in exploded, killing his wife and most of the citizens of his capitol.
Now craving vengeance, the Hulk has returned to Earth to avenge himself upon the heroes who sent him away.
Here’s why my buddy, Mike Gillis, picked the Hulk #1…
I love the Incredible Hulk because he has a versatility that no other major comic book character can match. He’s been a monster, a superhero, an Avenger, a Defender, kind, cruel, a Las Vegas legbreaker, a gladiator, a dystopian dictator, a scientist, a fugitive, a king, brilliant, childlike, cunning, mindless, green, grey… you name it.
And underneath it all, there’s one unifying theme: the duality of man and monster. That both the Hulk and his human counterpart, Dr. Bruce Banner aren’t trying to save the world or fight crime, they both just want to be left alone and live a normal life. But the tragedy is that their shared existence makes that impossible for both.
And that’s what makes Hulk unique. In a world of superheroes, he’s the outcast; the monster.
Here is why Adam L. picked him #1…
Contrary to popular belief, I am not a walking behemoth teeming with raw power. I am also not 8 feet tall, near unstoppable and green. But I still have a number of traits in common with Hulk, and those reasons are what led me to choose the incredible Hulk as my #1.
The Hulk is Marvel’s ‘ Jekyll & Hyde’, with the weak Bruce Banner transformed into his worst nightmare when he becomes angry. As outdated as that is becoming, I can still relate to it. I know what it is like to be taunted and jeered, and I know how much that hurts. So I can understand why the Hulk seeks revenge. But even after he has been attacked, for no more reason than being different, all he wants is to be left alone.
The first comic I ever bought was towards Peter David’s run on the Hulk, and I still collect ‘Incredible Hulk’ to this day. He has a wide supporting cast (Rick Jones, Doc Samson, Betty Banner, Thunderbolt Ross, She-Hulk), some fantastic villains (Abomination, The Leader, Bi-Beast), fantastical adventures (Planet Hulk, Mr Fix-It, the merging of the minds) but it all boils down to one man struggling with himself. And that is what keeps me coming back.
Finally, here is why JR had him #1….
The Hulk has been a favorite of mine since I was a kid watching the old Bill Bixby, Lou Ferrigno television series along with the old Stan Lee narrated Saturday morning cartoon. There’s just something immediately appealing about the notion of being able to let loose and gain a great level of strength from that. But of course, there’s also the underlying awareness of the kind of damage that can happen when someone does let loose as well.
I think that inherent duality, along with his versatility as a character is what’s kept The Hulk interesting to me over the years. He’s been gray, green, intelligent, childish, gentle, brutish, hero, monster, desert roamer, space traveler, dimension hopper, gladiator, emperor, and a number of various other things over the years that creators have found a way to make work by keeping that core, internalized conflict, even when the natures examined or in conflict are rarely the same.
That and it’s just fun to watch the big monster smash stuff. Go get ‘em Hulk!
Thanks to Mike, Adam and JR!
The top five begins tomorrow!!
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