Sunday, December 2, 2012

My Top Ten DC Comics Characters

So tonight we're swinging on the low hanging fruit of blogdom-The LISTING. If someone makes a list of, say, their top ten favorite DC characters and their choices aren't YOUR choices, you're going to feel  MAD and my esteemed colleague, Paul O'Connor at Long Box Graveyard, has done just that. His list does include some true winners, but, ahem, Wildcat? Wildcat is no one's favorite anything. And you will speak with RESPECT when referring to Aquaman! 
Deep breath-let it out-focus.
I've decided to make this list devoid of Batman (family or rogues) to get at the depth of awesome that is the DC line up. Other wise we're talking Batgirl (Barbara Gordon), Nightwing, Red Robin, Robin (Damian Wayne), Talia Al Ghul, Riddler, Catwoman, Scarecrow, Batwoman, and Batman and we never get to these fantastic four color heroes and villains...
10. Deadman
The ghost of an acrobat who has to possess the bodies of the living to interact with them. Boston Brand is a compelling character and part of DC's darker line of heroes. Mike Baron and Kelley Jones probably told the best Deadman stories until he became a major player in Brightest Day.

9. Phantom Stranger
The classic version of the Stranger could be explained pretty simply by his his name, it's what he was and everything else was a mystery. The new series has given him a proper origin that's pretty interesting. The Stranger has often dropped in on the DC universe to be creepy and cryptic and awesome. Sometimes a direct force in the action, sometimes just there to advise or warn. When the Phantom Stranger arrives something cool is about to happen.

8. Animal Man
There's something cool about a lot of DC's characters; no matter how goofy they may have been in the early days, there was always at least a sliver of awesome to be capitalized on later. Grant Morrison did just that to Buddy Baker aka Animal Man and turned him into one of the most compelling and entertaining characters in comics. After Morrison left, the series went on to get darker and weirder, evolving into an adults only Vertigo title and pushing the envelope of what a super hero comic was. The New 52 Animal Man series continues with that attitude keeping him one of the most unique and original heroes out there.
7. Raven
I actually became a Raven fan because of the Teen Titans cartoon series. The teen Titans comics could never hold my interest very long when I was a kid-I really only cared about Robin, but times and attitudes change and I've developed bit more interest in the Titans, with Raven being my favorite. The daughter of a demon and a human, Raven possess powerful magic powers that she must always be careful to control.
6. Starman
Let's be specific here. I'm talking about the 90's version, the reluctant hero who takes up the mantle when his brother (who had become Starman after their father had retired) is murdered. Industrial/punk/geek. Cool look. I want to see this guy come back.
5. Green Arrow
Same with Animal Man, you've got a goofy guy with a goofy suit with a goofy gimmick and in the right hands one of DC's best characters. Start with the Neal Adam's in the stuff in the 70's and go forward. Green Arrow stays good almost the whole time, especially with Mike Grell and most recently with Ann Nocenti.
4. John Constantine, Hellblazer
The good old Vertigo stalwart. Piss poor attitude, aging punk rocker, magician, and all around asshole that manages to do some good. Pals around with Swamp Thing, screws with Satan, and puts everyone he knows in mortal danger at some point. Constantine has been one of DC's most enduring and beloved characters. It's nice to see him back in the regular DCU with Justice League Dark!
 3. Swamp Thing
Here's one Long Box Graveyard and I agree on. Swamp Thing has to be in everyone's top ten list, or their list is broken. That's a judgement call and I'm making it (as Bill Hicks said). Some the best creative minds in the history of comics have laid their hands on Swamp Thing over the years and in all of comics there are few characters that provide as rewarding and exciting stories as this rip off of the Heap. The Alan Moore years are most famous but the last Vertigo series, starting with Bad Seed and the current New 52 incarnation get high marks from me and are extremely recommended.
2. Deathstroke
This was a character that I thought looked really cool, but never cared about until Identity Crisis, then he became one of my favorite villains. His origin owes a nod to Captain America, but he becomes the world's greatest assassin and mercenary. The main enemy of the Teen Titans, Slade Wilson is a tactical genius and one of the coldest bad asses in all of the DCU.
1. Gorilla Grodd
I can understand people raising an eyebrow at this one, but I love talking monkeys, sorry. Planet of the Apes ranks high with me, so does King Kong. The idea of an evil genius talking ape is  a pretty good foundation for weirdo/fun storytelling. Part of Flash's rogues gallery, he gained his powers from exposure to a meteorite. He now sees himself as a superior to man. Hell, he even ran for governor once. Not to mention that he makes a damn cool action figure.


  1. It is impossible to argue with any list headed by a talking supergorilla.

    Nice choices. We reach on Swamp Thing, of course, but there's no one else here I'd throw down the stairs (except maybe Starman -- tried to re-read that series recently and found it too precious).

    Interesting that you stick mostly to the darker side of the DC tracks here. You deliberately excluded the Bat books, of course, but you still had plenty of capes to choose from. Still, no Superfriends here. For my part I also enjoy these more fringe DC characters, but I like them in small doses, usually in supporting roles rather than trying to carry their own books. Aside from Constantine you have a lot of second bananas on your list.

    Curiously these are the kinds of characters that have most interested me in DC's New 52 lineup, where for the greater part I have avoided their bright and shiny superheroes. Did you check out Deadman in Justice League Dark? I thought he was the best part of that book.

  2. Second bananas, but DC's secret weapons too! I've always felt the strength of the DCU, outside of Gotham, lay in their second stringers. There are some stories you just cant tell with Superman-maybe you can, but people don't. Proven time again with Animal Man, Deadman, Swamp Thing, Doom Patrol, Sandman, etc. Kyle Baker's Plastic Man run was fun as hell too! DC has always been willing to take wild risks with obscure characters and have more times than not come up artistic winners, where as in the mainstream field Superman has never been able to hold a candle to Spiderman story wise.
    I agree about small doses with Constantine and the Phantom Stranger, though Constantine has had some amazing storylines, I'd rather have had those as mini series than suffer through lesser stories. (I feel the same about Punisher-I love him, but he does not hold up in an ongoing. Kudos to Remender for his great run!)
    Yea, I definitely gravitate toward the darker stuff, but I'm a horror nerd, so I'm never gonna have much enthusiasm for, say, the Flash. And, yea, I love Deadman in JLD. Rot World has been really good as well!

    1. Now I need to do a Marvel Top Ten...

    2. You may have hit on something by mentioning Superman. With that guy in your lineup nearly every other superhero is rendered meaningless. The Justice League are basically his caddies. About the only things Superman doesn't handle well are street crimes and mysteries, and magical/supernatural stuff ... which coincides with thriving storytelling niches filled by Batman and the various DC occult characters.

      Marvel has equivalently powerful characters but they seem to have more proscribed spheres of influence. Thor battles mythological monsters and intergalactic threats, the Fantastic Four explore the Negative Zone and waltz with Galactus, the cosmic heroes like the Silver Surfer and Warlock patrol the spaceways, and the Hulk and the Sub-Mariner can solve any problem with a knuckle sandwich (when they aren't causing problems themselves). Those characters aren't trumped by an invulnerable, time-traveling, super-competent Superman who can always swoop in at the last moment and put things to rights. Perhaps as a consequence Marvel hasn't felt as compelled to develop the mystical side of their line, which aside from Doctor Strange doesn't have the bench strength of the DC lineup -- there is enough room for scope and variety in their traditional superhero books that they don't need to far depart from the formula.