Being a comic-book fan is a little tricky sometimes. Even though you know you have this great support-system and kind of a secret camaraderie with that dude at work with a Batman statue on his desk, you can never quite be sure until you talk to them if they like the same kind of Batman as you. Maybe you're a die-hard Adam West fan and he writes fan-fiction where Frank Miller's Batman ties up Adam West in a basement and works him over with a tire-iron until he gives up what he knows. So, not to put too fine a point on it, talking and sharing this with other people is essential! Here are a few of my favorite characters on the great stage we call comic-books and why they're so freaking awesome.
1. The Green Lantern—I know, I know. Cheap shot. In its heyday, the Green Lantern Corps boasted over 3600 different intergalactic policemen, women, slimes, a planet, and even a math equation named Dkrtzy RRR, so complex that it had gained sentience and was known for entering villains’ minds and rewiring them. (Do NOT let the NSA know about that idea.)
I love the Green Lantern Corps for so many reasons: their passionate struggle with their apathetic “police chiefs” the Guardians, the dream of being chosen to wear one of the most powerful weapons in the universe on your finger; but mostly I love the power itself. A green ring that can do literally anything, create and destroy worlds all at the whims of the person. It’s only limits? The willpower and imagination of the mind attached to it. Without imagination or willpower, the rings are nothing but colorful trinkets. It takes drive and vision to create anything in this world, and the ring takes that to its logical conclusion. With enough willpower and imagination anything is possible.
P.S. If I have to pick ONE Green Lantern, it’s easily Kilowog. Ya poozers.
2. Spider Jerusalem—This one might be a little more obscure. Perhaps the easiest way to describe him is to look to writer Warren Ellis’s inspiration for the character, Hunter S. Thompson. For those unfamiliar, Thompson is the father of what he liked to call ‘gonzo journalism,’ a style in which the writer accepts that objective assessment of the world through writing is impossible. Instead of detaching himself from the subject, the journalist flings himself, naked and screaming (sometimes literally) into the discourse he is trying to provide insight into.
Jerusalem is Thompson in a vague future, in a sprawling sci-fi dystopia known only as “The City.” Not a comic for the kiddies, in disgusting yet undeniably fascinating style, Spider Jerusalem spends his time in the City doing frightening, mind-bending amounts of drugs and trying to take down the President of the United States himself with the power of his writing. “Journalism is just a gun. It's only got one bullet in it, but if you aim right, that's all you need. Aim it right, and you can blow a kneecap off the world.”-Spider Jerusalem, Back on the Street
At his best, the irreverent Spider Jerusalem reminds us all that the measured, detached, and “objective” approach to world events is sometimes completely inappropriate. When the world has gone to Hell, sometimes it makes complete sense to paint yourself red and start finding creative uses for a pitchfork. And speaking of Hell…
3. Hellboy—Hellboy is almost 7 feet tall, nearly 400 pounds, has red skin and one massive stone hand, fights demons, vampires, zombies, and was brought to Earth by Nazi cultists under the direction of the unkillable mystic Grigori Rasputin. I’m not even trying to make him sound awesome. It just comes out that way when you describe him.
Rasputin, contracted by Hitler to help him turn the tide of his faltering war efforts, decides to instead attempt to bring about the apocalypse. You know you’re headed in the right direction with your villain when they start acting on the assumption of “Hitler is thinking too small.” The summoning is a success but the key to the apocalypse, Hellboy’s stone right hand (which Hellboy is rather attached to) is recovered by Allied forces. The engaging yet borderline minimalistic art of Mike Mignola aside, Hellboy is just supremely easy to love. With all the sardonic Nazi-whooping of the best Indiana Jones films (you know the ones I mean) and the tragic fate of a demon raised on morals of duty and compassion, Hellboy is much more than your run-of-the-mill supernatural ghost-hunter narrative, he’s a study in self-conflict. He fights this pantheon of supernatural threats with all he’s got, knowing deep in his heart that he’s got just as much in common with them as with the human race that adopted him. All these beautiful story-telling aspects have provided me with days of adventure and enthrallment. Also, possibly my favorite scene ever from a comic:
Need I say more?
4. Wonder Woman—Sometimes it’s hard to reconcile being a hippy-dippy left-wing Socialist and loving comics at the same time. Like any medium, the content changes as the politics of the country advance and become more widespread, but we still seem to come out a little backwards when it comes to feminism a lot of the time. If you go back and read old Fantastic Four comics, Sue Storm is treated HORRIBLY by her male compatriots. Even now as we critique the stylized visuals that are the trademark of heroes and heroines, we’re finding more and more often that we’ve made some pretty egregious oversights when it comes to how our super-powered women are treated. One comic-book character however has been fighting the good fight for over 70 years now though; Wonder Woman. While I’m sure I’ll get slammed in the comments with scans of Wonder Woman being less than enlightened throughout the gold and silver-age, her story has always rung true for me as a representation of female strength and independence. An Amazonian warrior from the entirely female-populated isle of Themyscira, Wonder Woman acts as an ambassador to the world of man, using her tremendous powers to right inequalities of all sorts. If you’ve never actually picked up a Wonder Woman comic, give it a shot. I particularly suggest anything by the incomparable Gail Simone.
5. Magneto—I have been alerted that my membership to the Nerd Republic of America (we’re working on getting a different acronym, shut up) makes me contractually obligated to include at least one Marvel character. I’ve always been more drawn to DC and there will always be that rift in the fandom of Marvel vs. DC; however, this is one entry that I’ve never heard anyone dispute. No matter what side of the fence you fall on, Magneto is just a nigh-on perfect villain.
For those who don’t read X-men, or watch movies, or love the hell out of some Ian McKellen, I honestly have no idea why you’re reading this. Was the ESPN site down or something? Is your adorable kitten video buffering? Anyways, if that’s the case, I’ll break it down: In a world where some children are born with fantastic abilities that trigger around puberty, those possessing the “x-gene” that grants them these powers are outcast by society at large as dangerous freaks. The loving Professor X and his band of scrappy X-men fight on the side of good, trying to get mankind to understand and work with one another in prosperity. As a Jewish man who grew up in Nazi-occupied Poland, Magneto has an understandably different stance on the discrimination he and his fellow mutants experience on behalf of their genetic differences. Magneto is one of the most troubling villains in all of comics: a genocidal maniac desiring the destruction of homo-sapiens and the rise of “homo-superior,” Magneto is a product of the viciousness of humanity at what it does not understand. Terrifying in his power, righteous fury, and amazing ability to make purple go with anything, Magneto is an undeniably dynamic character.
No characters or images are owned by me, even though I really wish I had thought of them. All character and character related names, images, and favorite sandwiches are the property of their respective owners. I’m just a nerd that likes this stuff and wanted to write a thing, don’t sue me, don’t sue me, don’t sue me. Special thanks to whoever came up with the Magneto meme, I almost busted a gasket laughing at that.
By Jeff Burzynski