Tuesday, May 23, 2006

50 Greatest Comic Characters

I feel all left out because I don't know DC characters well enough to, in good conscience, supply a top fifty list for the "best of" at The Great Curve. And I wasn't part of the Marvel poll recently taken either. So, I'm just going to go ahead and present my 50 greatest comic characters of all time, from DC, Marvel, Image, Fantagraphics, manga, whatever. And I'm unapologetically listing them, with Darkstar next to Hopey or whatever I feel like. So sit back and enjoy!! (With commentary!)

1. Kitty Pryde (X-Men, Excalibur) - What can I say about my favorite comic character of all time? She's what drew me into comics in the first place, from a Marvel Universe trading card to my first issue of Excalibur, to her fiery, innocent personality in Uncanny X-Men. She was my first true love, the inspiration behind Buffy Summers of my favorite television show. Wearing her religion proudly alongside her idealistic attitude - a purple dragon, her constant companion.

2. Luba (Love & Rockets, Luba) - The big-breasted, loveable Luba, from the mind of Gilbert Hernandez, is complex. She's full of innate prejudices, neglects her children to go partying, is drawn to harmful relationships, had a harsh life growing up, yet she can still be soft, beautiful and forgiving. And she carries around a hammer.

3. Elektra Natchios (Daredevil, Elektra: Assassin) - Frank Miller's creation is more a force of nature than a mere human being. Silent and deadly, with a tragic past that's turned her into a machine, she strikes fear into the hearts of anyone she has marked, and kills without discrimination. Do yourself a favor and read Elektra: Assassin if you haven't already and see how screwed up and scary this character can really be.

4. Emma Frost (X-Men, Generation X) - The lovely Miss Emma Frost is the perfect British bitch, with a cold diamond exterior, a dangerous mind, and snappy, rude comments. She provides a tongue-lashing when any opportunity presents itself in an attempt to continually prove her superiority and sophistication. Once the White Queen of the Hellfire Club, she stands with the X-Men as "the other woman" for Scott Summers.

5. Courtney Crumrin (Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things) - The sarcastic, embittered outsider girl who comes to live with her warlock uncle has a wicked streak, but also a soft spot behind her constant scowl. She gets into mischief on a constant basis as she insists she can dabble in things that may be beyond her.

6. Nana Komatsu (Nana) - Both characters named "Nana" in Ai Yazawa's manga can deeply affect me with anger, depression and happiness at the author's whim, but it's really Nana Komatsu who I feel closest to. She's a sensitive girl who's been hurt and I feel like I need to protect her or something, so I feel for her. And Yazawa can depict her mood with but a few beautiful, elegant lines.

7. Meggan (Excalibur, Captain Britain) - The shape-changer Meggan is an empath who can change into things based on the feelings of those around her, and is drawn to a man (Brian Braddock) who has hurt her as often as he's provided for her. She's a scared, pathetic character in a way, especially in face of the great potential her powers harbor.

8. Poison Ivy (Batman) - A visually-stunning villain tied to the Earth, who only wants to protect her precious plantlife. I always found Pamela Isley a really sympathetic character. In face of the harsh environment of Gotham City and a world that is dying, she's prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice when no one else is, and so she takes matters into her own hands to preserve the planet for the future. She may kill half the planet to achieve that goal, but hey, worthy goal, right? She's just a perfect example of Man vs. Nature.

9. Charlie Brown (Peanuts) - Charlie Brown is another sympathetic character, but because he's always depressed and we empathize with that. Fans prove it by sending Charlie Brown valentines every year. He's comics' most beloved loser.

10. Scott Pilgrim (Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life) - The hipster comic-reading, videogame-playing, pop-culture-referencing loveable two-timer will face anything to be with the girl of his dreams (even ex-boyfriends). Comics' second most beloved loser.

11. Peculia (Evil Eye) - She's kind of the opposite of a princess - raven-haired, speaking kind words to bats instead of birds, taking walks at night and thwarting the plans of monsters on all sides, this is one capable, if odd, girl.

12. Jessica Jones (Alias, The Pulse) - The rough-around-the-edges detective turned in her cape years ago in wake of some superhero disasters. She swears, she drinks and she doesn't mind a tumble in the sack with a friend (well, pre-getting-knocked-up).

13. James Kochalka/Magic Boy (American Elf) - James Kochalka presents himself as an elf in his Sketchbook Diaries, and there is no one funnier. The strip is often just a slice of life, but I love it. He brings a smile to my face and I always think I'd like to have a friend like that. He's real, throws tantrums and gets drunk. Often.

14. Spider-Man/Peter Parker (Spider-Man, New Avengers) - Obviously, this character holds an important place in comic book history. But I don't care about that. What I care about is that I like Peter Parker. I like his indecision, his burden, his complicated soap operatic life, and his wisecracks during super-villain tussles.

15. Batman/Bruce Wayne (Batman) - Bruce Wayne is messed up. But he's really cool because of it. Who couldn't love a madman who dresses in a batsuit with a utility belt full of useful gadgets and a sidekick who isn't old enough to shave? This is one complicated, disturbed individual. And he kicks ass.

16. Marlys (Ernie Pook's Comeek) - Lynda Barry's Marlys is a wonderful, realistic character. We really experience, as readers, the hardships of adolescence and first love, through this little red-headed freckled girl.

17. Artesia (Artesia) - Artesia has many faces - a warrior, a captain, a lover, a queen, a sorceress, an avenger...She is a multi-layered woman in a complex, rich world created by Mark Smylie. Uninhibited, proud and brave.

18. Fritz (Love & Rockets) - This psychologist with a lisp (but not while speaking French) has more issues than probably anyone in the screwed-up Palomar universe. She plays the people around her and usually gets what she wants, whomever she may hurt. Another great character from the pen of Gilbert Hernandez.

19. Promethea (Promethea) - Alan Moore's character is, well, she's several Prometheas who are brought about when people start learning about her and then...become her and...she's imagination, or...just read the damn book if you want to know.

20. Lucy (Peanuts) - I have a thing for bitches. Lucy may have been one of the first I've ever encountered. She wants things her way or else. Gotta admire that.

21. Death (Sandman, Death: The High Cost of Living) - When Neil Gaiman created Death for DC/Vertigo, she became an instant hit. And it's no wonder why - a goth girl with an umbrella, who talks so casually of the job at hand. Death was never so inviting as this.

22. Amanda Sefton (X-Men, Excalibur) - Nightcrawler's magician girlfriend has gone by several names (Daytripper, Magik), but has cut a real path for herself in the X-Men universe, beginning as nothing more than a girlfriend/childhood friend, then following in the footsteps of her magician mother, the evil Margali Szardos, only to logically move into the next step on her journey, to take over the job left empty when little Illyana Rasputin's life was cut so short - that of Magik of Limbo. She had her character arc and we got to see her move steadily toward it over a span of years. It was all a logical character progression, yet we didn't see it coming until it was fully-realized. Plus, she really came into her own, as a powerful female character rather than the sidekick, when she became a regular guest in Excalibur.

23. Catwoman (Batman, Catwoman) - Characters that live on the verge of being hero and villain usually make the best of characters. It speaks to a priority of values, a complexity on their outlook on life. Catwoman is one such character, and if any of the women who have flaunted themselves at the Dark Knight over the years can handle him, it's her.

24. Fone Bone (Bone) - Jeff Smith's loveable Bone wouldn't have been the same without Fone Bone to be the rational voice of the Bone Brothers, the balance between the ambitious and the lazy, the scheming and the dumb. He leads us through an epic journey with a heart of gold, facing incredible odds, for love and for what's right.

25. Jimmy Corrigan (Jimmy Corrigan, Smartest Kid on Earth) - Those human moments depicted by Chris Ware are what make Jimmy Corrigan such an interesting character. He harbors prejudices, secret lust, awkwardness, etc. and we witness all of that through this very trying time in his life, as he meets his father for the first time. Plus he's a loser and we can empathize with that.

26. Nausicaa (Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind) - The girl of prophecies is connected to the Earth, is daring and bold, intelligent and caring, and we love her for it. From a beautiful, epic manga that is really a must-read.

27. Enid (Ghost World) - Ah. Sarcastic, bitter Enid.

28. Morpheus (Sandman) - Dream personified as a pale skeletal figure, with a sharp mind and a sense of humanity, despite his immortality.

29. Nana Osaki (Nana) - The other Nana. In contrast to Konatsu, she is the wild, unruly girl. A rocker chick. Blunt. And also tender and sweet, watching out for Nana Konatsu, a girl that needs looking after.

30. Astro Boy (Astro Boy) - A cute little manga robot with guns coming out of his ass. Come on, the Japanese may be a little odd sometimes, but this stuff is awesome!

31. Rusty Brown (Rusty Brown, Acme Novelty Library) - The comic book nerd grows up and god, is he a troubled nightmare. Can you say "arrested development" times ten? You have to sympathize for the poor guy. He has no idea he's so pathetic.

32. Snoopy (Peanuts) - The only animal on the countdown. But this is an animal with personality. He can be stubborn, act ferocious (even though he isn't) and has a wild imagination.

33. Doctor Gull (From Hell) - An extremely complex character. But you'd have to be to do the things Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell depict him as doing in their opus.

34. Vladik (Maus) - I guess I lied. Another animal, though he doesn't seem like one. Based on Art Spiegelman's father, Vladik is a pack rat who did what he had to to survive as a Jew during World War II.

35. Sat-yr-9 (Excalibur, Captain Britain) - An alternate reality version of Courtney Ross, this Nazi-inspired doppelganger took the place of the beloved Excalibur ally and sweet-talked her way into their hearts, ripping them out after about fifty issues worth of attachment. Total bitch.

36. Magneto (X-Men) - If there was ever a sympathetic villain, this is him. He watched his family die in a concentration camp and strives for mutant rights, no matter the cost, to avoid that scenario from reoccurring. He just takes it a little too far sometimes. World Domination...well, you can't say he's not ambitious.

37. Batgirl/Oracle/Barbara Gordan - (Batman, Birds of Prey) - She was cool as Batgirl, and then she gets crippled by one of her greatest foes and has to live out the rest of her crime-fighting days from the confines of a wheelchair as the computer mastermind Oracle. An inspiring character that doesn't allow for pity.

38. Selene/The Black Queen - (X-Men) - The Hellfire Club's Black Queen is one of the most powerful villains of the Marvel Universe. She doesn't appear very often, but when she does, she's pitiless and brutal. Queen bitch.

39. Kate Spencer/Manhunter - (Manhunter) - Kate Spencer is a tough cookie. A brilliant lawyer who takes law into her own hands because she knows how the justice system works. And she has to juggle a kid and a failed marriage and killer relatives, not to mention supervillains seeking revenge... Tough as nails is what she is.

40. V (V For Vendetta) - Like Elektra, V is a force of nature. He's more than a person. He's anarchy incarnate.

41. Silver Sable (Spider-Man, Silver Sable & the Wild Pack) - She sticks out like a sore thumb, wearing all that silver, but she looks damn good doing it. She runs Roxxon and her Wild Pack follows her gruff commands to bring in their bounty at any cost. If you haven't caught on, I like strong women.

42. Horridus (Savage Dragon, Freak Force) - She's only a sidekick from Savage Dragon, but it's always a treat when she appears. Found half-starved in her basement after her religious parents committed suicide, this "devil child" is a spiny, orange girl whose best friend is her TV. She's always good for a laugh when she shows up, a grown woman with the mind of a child.

43. Black Widow (Iron Man, Avengers) - The Russian spy Natasha Romanov looks killer in black leather and she can blow things up better than most men. And she's got those cool bracelet thingies.

44. Hellboy (Hellboy) - Mike Mignola's Hellboy is great. This mighty monster raised for wicked purposes was just a cute little thing when he first appeared, and grew up to be a burly red demon who cuts off his horns to appear more human.

45. Rorschach (Watchmen) - The badass superhero detective from Watchmen showed little regard for breaking into friends' homes, but would hunt their killers to the ends of the Earth. Vigilante justice at its best.

46. Gwen Stacy (Spider-Man) - A cool human character in superhero comics that was snuffed out way too soon. She had real personality and was a real part of that book, making readers of Spider-man suffer a real shock when she died.

47. Captain Britain/Brian Braddock (Excalibur/Captain Britain) - This big hunk of man is an angry, hurt individual. He strives to live up to his title, even though it often seems more than he can chew.

48. Ultra/Pearl Penelosa (Ultra: Seven Days) - The lead character of my favorite superhero comic of all time is a celebrity/superhero/cop. She's the public's bitch really, and she learns that the hard way, and when she tries to fell like a normal girl for once, she gets dealt another blow. Pearl felt real. That's what good characters should aspire to.

49. Octopus Girl (Octopus Girl) - The half-monster, half-girl that can turn into a real girl is schizo. One moment she's a gentle, fun-loving love-sick girl, the next she's slamming a mallet into someone's head. She's capricious, sweet, fun, disgusting and she lets her friend (a half-girl, half-eel) eat her tentacles because they'll grow back!

50. Thing (Fantastic Four) - I was never a big Fantastic Four fan, but if there was a character from the team that was sympathetic, it was the Thing. Monstrous with a heart of gold. And a little angry, but that only makes him human, right?

A few of my favorite extremely obscure characters:
Ms. Steed (The Black Queen of The Hellfire Club's London Branch) (Excalibur)
Aleta (From the beginning issues of Guardians of the Galaxy)
Scatterbrain (originally named Fascination by Alan Moore) (Part of Gatecrasher's Technet, from Captain Britian and Excalibur)

1 comment:

Luis K. said...

Hooray for Kitty Pryde! I echo your sentiments, and applaud your decision to place her at the top of your list. I watched the third X-Men film recently, and am happy to report that while they could have given her some more screen time, the movie version came off pretty well, actually.

Hooray for the Peanuts characters and Nausicaa, too!