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Thursday, July 14, 2011

14 Superheroes Who Get No Respect

In all the grand tradition of superheroes, there are a number which seem to be eternally whipping boys — scourged by both fans and writers alike. Characters with interesting stories, intriguing personalities, and a whole bunch of potential who just become the butt of everyone’s jokes. These 14 characters all deserve better, because they’re all incredibly cool in their own right.

14. Jubilee

At some point Marvel decided that Wolverine always needs a creepily young female sidekick to keep around him.

It started with Kitty Pryde, then Jubilee, Marrow, Armor, and most recently X-23. Jubilee gets a lot of flack for her dated outfit and seemingly useless powers, but it was the 90s, enormous dayglo trenchcoats were very cool in the world of comics, and the whole valley girl persona was quite topical. Yeah, she was designed to fill a niche. And yeah, her power seems kind of lame, but once you delve into her character, she’s actually pretty interesting. She’s one of the few Asian characters in comicdom who isn’t some sort of stereotype — there’s nothing geisha, ninja, or samurai around her. She doesn’t talk about honor or anything. She’s a teenager who the world hated, and found a family. Now she’s been depowered and turned into a vampire, but we’ll just ignore that.

13. Daredevil

“Herp-a-derp, Daredevil’s a blind guy with the power to see! Lamez!” Yeah, he’s blind and his power is not to be, but completely ignoring the crazy boosted sense and radar vision that he has (and some awesome writing that’s come from that), Daredevil under the right hands is one of the most emotionally wrenching characters in comicdom. There’s this great scene in the Kevin Smith run of Daredevil, where he’s trying to forget his girlfriend who disappeared, but due to his enhanced senses, he smells her everywhere, he can feel the tiny dent left behind by her in the bed. He’s also the person who gets shat on the most by the Marvel universe. No matter how bad things get for Spider-man, he just says “at least I’m not Daredevil!” His secret identity got sold out for smack money, every woman he’s ever loved has died horribly, he’s ended up on the streets more times than I care to think, and his law firm is constantly falling apart. The world hates Matt Murdock, but that’s what makes him such a strong character.

12. Cypher

Cypher has one of those power sets which should be absolutely useless, but under the right writer is just brilliant. He understands all forms of communication, be they written, verbal, electronic, anything. Probably one of the cooler ones to have in real life, when a decent author takes on Cypher they always manage to do interesting things. He can talk to, and control, machines, making him invaluable in any sort of tech heist. Aliens, animals, any sort of living creature he can interact with, and if he applies himself he’s an excellent fighter because he predicts your moves before they come. He may seem like a boring-ass whitebread character, but there’s a lot of heart and soul there.

11. Dazzler

Even when she attempts to modernize, Dazzler his a hilariously out of touch, ex-B-list disco superstar, and that’s what makes her amazing. Yes, she’s totally lame, and wishes she could still perform, which is absolutely perfect. She can work equally well as a comic or tragic character, either playing up just how out of touch she is, or how much her life got fucked up by being a mutant. Or some writers just have her embrace it, being an acid-tongued ex-starlet who can kick ass and take names. Yeah, she’s a horrible disco throwback, but embrace it! It’s amazing!

10. Blue Beetle

Nobody respected Ted Kord — even the people who liked him. An aging Batman clone with a paunch and a heart problem, he was mostly used for comic relief, despite being a genius level inventor and expert detective. Okay I’ll admit, he was awesomely funny, and everything Giffen and DeMatteis did with him was comedy gold, but when he died because none of the other heroes would believe him? Oh man, that was fucking low. And then when the world got mindwiped into believed he committed suicide, it was an even worse blow. In terms of both readers and in-continuity characters, nobody gave Ted Kord the time of day, which is a real shame because he was a fantastic character who could be used for both comedy and straight roles.

9. She-Hulk

Iron Man sleeps with half the women in the Marvel universe and is labelled a stud and a player. She-Hulk sleeps with a handful of guys, and suddenly she’s the superhero bike. Jeez, what a double standard. What kills me is that so many fans and writers treat her like crap, even though she’s one of the more entertaining characters in Marvel’s roster. She’s one of the few heroes who isn’t a walking bucket of angst. She’s not a victim, doesn’t need rescuing, was never raped. She tries to keep a normal life on the side — usually with little success — is unusually self aware about the silliness of her business, and occasionally breaks the fourth wall. Frankly, the world needs more characters like her.

8. Kyle Rayner

Rayner gets a lot of flack for being a 90s character, and generally steeped in bad costume design, a criticism I’ll gladly accept. However, that doesn’t explain why the recent runs of Green Lantern have relegated him to such a minor role after the return of silver age yawnfest Hal Jordan. Replaced as Lantern no. 1 by a character with all the personality of screen door, Rayner deserves better. He was the first lantern that we really saw grow as a character, from his first fumbling attempts with constructs and as a rookie hero to a cosmic powerhouse in his own right, and respected member of the JLA. He actually had character development! So why the hell do they keep ignoring him?

7. Captain America

International readers often brush off Captain America as the pinnacle of American jingoism, which is understandable if you only look at his outfit, but that ignores the fact that Cap is probably one of the most open hearted and accepting characters in the Marvel universe. It’s weird to think so, but for his time period Cap was pretty much a hippie. He was a starving, sickly artist who was a strident supporter of FDR’s New Deal, and whose art was purchased the Government. Again and again he’s shown his willingness to accept the friendship of all people and creeds regardless of where they come from. Heck, he even says nice things about the French (unless you count Ultimate Cap, who’s a troll version). The guys a brilliant leader, proud of his country, and a lover of all humanity. Don’t just paint him with the broad brushstrokes of a weird, overly nationalistic superhero.

6. Martian Manhunter

Another all too often forgotten character, Martian Manhunter puts scoff to anyone who suggests that Superman is overpowered. Everything he can do, J’onn J’onzz can do better. He’s just as strong and fast, can fly, super senses, has super…I mean Martian vision. Beyond that he can phase through objects, completely change shape, and is an incredibly strong telepath. To counteract this, they gave him a very easy weakness — complete vulnerability to fire. I’ve heard it described that he’s Superman but for the Southern hemisphere, hanging out in the Amazon rather than the Arctic, and helping people out — but how come we never see this? Let’s see him rescuing the fuck out of Sao Paulo and Durban and Port Moresby! That’d be so fucking awesome.

5. Tim Drake

Another 90s creation fallen by the wayside, Drake deserves to be lauded if only for being the first Robin to ditch the chainmail briefs. There was this theory I heard a few years ago that explained how the various Robins relate to Batman in terms of skillsets. Where Bruce is overall the biggest of the badasses, Dick Grayson is a better acrobat, Jason Todd was a better brawler, and Tim Drake a better detective. The new kid, Damien, is evidently a bigger sociopath, but Drake’s crazy smarts and detective skills got ignored for years. Nicezia’s work with him in Red Robin is finally making the character stand on his own two feet, but for years he was a total dogsbody.

4. Hank Pym

Hank Pym gets a really, really bad rap for hitting his wife. Which did happen, but to be fair Reed Richards, Spider-Man and Tony Stark have both done it too, and Pym was actually going crazy at the time, and trying to create an evil robot to defeat to impress the avengers. Yeah, not his finest hour, but not that far above the general douchebaggery of your standard superhero. Hell, the only reason he married Wasp in the beginning was because he had been mind wiped, and she convinced him that they were in love. And since that one stupid move, he’s been forever branded as a wife-beater, which isn’t fair because he’s redeemed himself far more than just about any other Avenger. Strangely, the original script called for him to accidentally hit his wife, but it got cranked up to 11 by the artist.

3. Cyclops

It’s not really a surprise that Wolverine gets all the fans, as he’s a bad-boy loner that provokes homoerotic obsession in many readers — but the actual leader of the X-Men seems to get a huge amount of flack for being boring. Which is weird, because he’s one of the biggest badasses in the Marvel universe. Behind Captain America, he’s the best leader in their universe, one of the best tacticians, has beaten the entire X-Men single-handedly using only non-lethal methods while burdened broken ribs. He’s trained every day since a young teenager to be the saviour of his species and will stop at nothing to do so. But you know what’s the biggest clue that he’s awesome? He beat Batman. On his own. So, yeah. Badass.

2. Wonder Woman

Despite being part of the holy trinity of DC heroes and being the most recognizable female comic hero in existence, Wonder Woman’s comics continually sell averagely and fanboys keep mocking her — but I can’t figure out why. She has an interesting set of villains — even though they’re not widely known — and Circe and Cheetah are both fantastic foils for the Amazon. She’s had some terrific writers (though some horrible ones) and her runs under Greg Rucka and Gail Simone were both utterly fantastic. Simone especially captured the mythical and epic feel that Wonder Woman can really have if well written. Yet somehow instead we get an Ally McBeal-ized version of her on TV. Say what?

1. Aquaman

I’ve never quite understood why Aquaman is the butt of so many superhero jokes. Do people honestly not realize just how powerful and badass of a character he is? He doesn’t just “talk to fish” he has mind control over all aquatic life. This guy can fucking tell Cthulhu what to do. He’s even tapped into the primitive chunk of the human brain before to control their emotions. He’s ludicrously strong, and fucking hardcore. He’s the ruler of ⅔ of the planet Earth, and will happily fuck your shit up if you mess with him. You know what happened after his hand got chewed off by animals? He stuck a goddamn harpoon on the end. That’s goddamn crazy! None of this super-friends BS, he’s one of the most interesting and underappreciated characters in comics.
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