Comics are the blending of words and images. One never has to wonder what the rooftop that Batman is perched on looks like - an artist has painstakingly rendered it in fine detail. Yet, the reader's imagination is still given room to roam: between the panels is the place where all of us can become the next Jim Shooter, Chris Claremont, or Stan Lee. With the growth of comic book characters moving from the page to the theater and TV, what better time to take a look at what I consider to be the five greatest characters to come from comic books.
5: Carl Grimes - The Walking Dead.
Carl is a little boy. That can easily be forgotten when reading Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead. Where many of us would be cowering in the corner of our bedroom hoping the hoard of zombies would pass us by, Carl is a courageous fighter - standing defiantly in the face of fear with a gun in hand and his dad's hat on his head. It is not the instances of strength that make Carl amazing though, it is his ability to still be a kid that make him truly great. When he looks at his dad it reminds you of how at some point all little boys want to be their dad. He may have lost his mother, sister, friends, and even an eye; but Carl Grimes never loses hope that the world is worth living in. He may not be a superhero, but isn't the purpose of superheroes to give us hope that no matter how bad the world gets that they will be there to save us? Carl shows us that we don't need that - hope comes from within.
4: Jim Gordon - Batman
The Penguin is ruthless, The Riddler is an evil genius, Mr Freeze is calculating, and the Joker is pure insanity. Batman may have all the gadgets, money, and training that money can buy to combat these nefarious foes - Capt. Jim Gordon of the GCPD has only his badge and gun; and I haven't seen him back down yet! Gotham is a corrupt place filled with dirty politicians, cops on the mafia's payroll, and more crazy super-villains than Arkham can hold. What is a good cop to do? Turn to a vigilante? Sure - and he does. But, that doesn't stop Gordon from kicking down doors - leaving Batman to have all the fun. My city does not have costumed freaks running around saving the day - however, I hope we do have a few Jim Gordons on the force, making life safe for me to read my comics.
It's been said by better writers than me, but the beauty of Spider-Man really must be that it cold be me under that mask. If you read comics the chance that you are good at science or math and find it hard to talk to the people you think are cute is probably rather high. Isn't that exactly what Peter Parker and Miles Morales have to go through themselves? Even after receiving powers that can make them scale walls, fly through Manhattan on webbing, and beat up the Rhino - these two dorks still seem scared of their own shadow once the mask comes off. This doesn't make them less likable - it is exactly what draws us to them. We would all love to have the swagger of Tony Stark or the will power of Hal Jordan, but lets be real - we are Peter and Miles. We can only hope that a red-headed super model will say "Face it tiger, you just hit the jackpot"! Maybe if we ever get bitten by a radioactive spider and go on to do the right thing our dreams will come true.
2: Havok - X-Men
Alex Summers has never been a big hit in the Marvel Universe. He's the little brother of the longest serving (and arguably best known without adamantium claws) X-Man - Cyclops. His power set can be seen on a dozen other heroes. He's nothing special. Yet, when Steve Rogers wanted someone to lead a new team of Avengers as a mutant peace keeping force - he came to Alex. Never one to just coast on his brother's fame - Alex has led Avengers, X-Men, and Space Pirates into battle. He's been in a long term relationship with the princess of magnetism, and Magneto's daughter, Polaris. He's made what easily could have been a mundane life (or as mundane as super-powered mutants can have) into one amazing story.
1: Nightcrawler - X-Men
If anyone had good reason to be an evil mutant - its Kurt Wagner. Born with the appearance of a demon, abandoned at birth, and raised by circus performers. His real low point came when he was framed for his brother's death and hunted like an animal. Even after joining the X-Men his life has taken some nasty turns. He even died saving the life of a teammate. To me, Nightcrawler is the most relatable of all comic characters. When he looks in the mirror he is unhappy with what he sees. He is surrounded by people who are more skilled and gifted than him in nearly every way. He is judged be everyone before they even get to know him. He is teenage angst personified. Yet, he never loses faith! Faith in his friends, faith in his God, and faith in himself. He even left Heaven to help out his team.
Comics have never been made to only be a source of entertainment. The best ones are always a lesson in morality. Comics make us want to be better versions of ourselves. Not by pulling on a mask and tights. Not by flying though the night shooting fire blasts from our hands. Comics show us that by being like Carl Grimes we can have hope in the darkness. Like Jim Gordon we can stand up to evil even when we are overpowered. Like Spider-Man we may be what society calls the weakest among them, but with a little responsibility secretly be the strongest. Like Havok we blaze our own path and be our own person. Like Nightcrawler we should have faith that pushes us through any adversity.
Comics shouldn't just keep you entertained, they should make you a better person.