My buddy Paul over at Longbox Graveyard occasionally posts Top Ten lists, and holy hamburgers, Deasley is KING of the Top Tens, so now I’ma copy them with “10sday,” which sounds lot like Wednesday, which is today, not to be confused with 2day, which is only one-fifth of 10sday and I’m a complete loser. Inspired by Longbox Graveyard’s Top Ten Marvel Characters, I give you my…
Top Ten Comic Book Superheroes
10. Ka-Zar: I have never frowned on a Ka-Zar appearance. I’ve seen him in various X-Men comics and their cartoon series; I cherish my old Ka-Zar comics, and loved the Mark Waid/Andy Kubert series from ’97, even if taking on Thanos was completely ridiculous. The Savage Land has become played out, courtesy of Brian Michael Bendis, but its master is still and forevermore awesome. I have always had an affinity for Tarzan and this is mainstream comics’ answer, so I’m down with that.
Required reading: Uncanny X-Men #115-116 (1978); Ka-Zar Vol. 1 (2011, collecting 1-7 and -1 from the 1997 series)
9. Beta Ray Bill: There have been a handful of Thors over time in the Marvel Universe, but my all-time favorite isn’t even the original, it’s this horse-faced hero, who I first encountered in the Blood and Thunder story during the early 90s. He speaks in a flowery language as off-putting as Thor’s, and his closest attribute to human characteristics is that his skin is the same hue as Hulk Hogan’s, but for some reason, Beta Ray Bill has always been my favorite Thor character. I think it’s all in the name. BETA. RAY. BILL. Oh, and his ship is called Skuttlebutt!
Required reading: Blood and Thunder (1993-94); Stormbreaker: The Saga of Beta Ray Bill (2005)
8. Aquaman: The Sub-Mariner is likable because he’s so unlikable, but I gravitate to Aquaman because he’s the ultimate underdog. For most of his dubious history, he’s been the butt of jokes, both in the inductry and in the actual stories. But recently, Geoff Johns has breathed new life into King Arthur Curry’s gills, turning the character into everything I imagined he would be when I got his Super Powers action figure 25 years ago. Like Ka-Zar, I’m drawn to these characters that live with nature, and while talking to fish sounds lame, never having to come up for air while you’re exploring coral reefs and shipwrecks is pretty much my life’s ambition.
Required reading: Aquaman: The Trench (2013)
7. Nova: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning took a C-list Marvel hero, who in all honesty was more joke than hero, and turned him into a galaxy-spanning megastar. I always thought Nova and Night Thrasher deserved better than what they got during their New Warriors days. At least one of them graduated to the ranks of Marvel’s heavy hitters. I’m currently digging the early stages of this current incarnation with Sam Alexander, which is quickly expanding the mythos Abnett & Lanning began. Black helmet Novas as the SWAT team of the otherwise-gold helmet Nova Corps? Yes, please.
Required reading: Nova, Vol 1: Annihilation – Conquest (2007); New Warriors Omnibus (JUST RELEASED! May 14, 2013; collects a LOT of New Warriors history)
TANGENT: I once wrote a plot – I guess it was a fanfic, which sounds so demeaning – a few years before Civil War and The Initiative, in which Night Thrasher winds up on the payrole of the local Miami government, becoming the first hero to become a public defender, like the police, taking on druglords and street level super villains. The whole hero-as-a-paying-job thing would have set up so many stories: wannabes coming out of the woodwork and getting into heaps of trouble; other cities vying to obtain the exclusive services of heroes, which in turn would have led to legal/moral dilemmas when Thrasher was confronted with saving a life in another city, thereby breaking his exclusive contract. There were a lot of ideas that I think still need some exploring in comics, and some that have since been done, so I can pat myself on the back knowing I’m in tune with “real” writers’ ideas.
6. She-Hulk: Some dig the John Byrne 80s run, which frequently broke down the 4th wall, but all I remember of that is a cover featuring Howard the Duck moping about on an oversized roll of lunch meat and the word “BOLOGNA-VERSE” somewhere on the cover. And that’s completely stupid. What was completly un-stupid, however, was Dan Slott’s run in 2005, in which She-Hulk was actually funny and charming. My love for the character, like Daredevil, doesn’t extend further beyond this creator-specific run, but it was a treat while it lasted.
Required reading: Sensational She-Hulk Vol. 1 (2011, collects John Byrne’s initial 1989 run); She-Hulk: Single Green Female (2007)
5. Ghost Rider: The comic book epitome of form over function, Ghost Rider is guilty of many things (trite, unmemorable stories; sparse rogues gallery), but an uninspired look has never been among them. In addition to looking cool, writers such as Jason Aaron and Garth Ennis spun straw into gold with their takes on the Spirit of Vengeance. Remove Nicolas Cage, insert a no-name enter and use any of those authors’ stories, and a new Rider movie would be sheer kickassery.
Required reading: Ghost Rider Omnibus (collects Jason Aaron’s run); Ghost Rider: Road to Damnation (2007)
4. Batman: I mean, its effing Batman. Adam West. The Animated Series. Paul Dini on Detective Comics. Scott Snyder on the same title. Hush. The Long Halloween. There are so many different variations of the same character that he almost defies a true characterization. The amazing thing is, every iteration has a die-hard following. I like ’em all.
Required reading: This is tough, so I’ll go with the cliche. The Dark Knight Returns (1986); The Killing Joke (1988); Detective Comics #821-850
3. Butcher Baker: If Captain America, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, B.A. Barracus and a monster truck were smashed together like Play-Doh, they’d come out like Butcher Baker. His series was only eight issues long, (with a ten month gap between #7 and #8), but it went down as one of the craziest stories I’ve ever read. A lot of credit goes to the artistic qualities of the book, but this character is SO. BAD. ASS.
Required reading: Butcher Baker, The Righteous Maker 1-8 (2012)
2. Daredevil: Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev roped me back into the comic book fold after a five-year hiatus with Daredevil #41, a book with a cover price of 25¢. It was a genius marketing ploy coinciding with the release of the movie (which I also liked!). Gritty, sad, depressing… this was a comic book set in a real world, and Matt Murdock has never looked more tormented throughout the run. I couldn’t wait to come home, hoping a new Daredevil hit my mailbox. And I was in my mid-20s. Pathetic, I know, but that’s how awesome this character was. The free-spirited, happy-go-lucky Daredevil is not for me. He works best as a bastion of noir fiction.
Required reading: Daredevil Bendis/Maleev Omnibus (2010)
1. The Goon: Mob muscle with a soft spot and a tragic backstory, the Goon, both comic and character, fills the pages with humor and tough guy antic simultaneously. He’s equal parts beer-swilling anti-hero and noble protector of the innocent. It’s Superman without the bland boy scout mentality. (Or the powers.) It’s Captian America without the preachy rhetoric. Goon is the everyman, the lonely guy getting hammered at the end of a hole-in-the-wall, the guy who needs the cash to pay the electricity, the guy who eats tuna out of a can. The only difference is he’s also punching squidmen and knocking out zombies with a wrench.
Required reading: EVERYTHING.