I started loving literature because of comic books. And comic books have some of the most interesting characters in literature. Some of them even became global pop culture icons. Who does not know Superman? Nobody. We can’t deny the impact that these characters made.
Here are my top ten characters from comic books – Western (American) comic books specifically. No manga characters here (I’ll probably make one exclusively for manga characters in a future “top 10” list). So, here we go:
10.) SIMON ARCHARD
Archard is the hero of the comic book “Ruse” – published by Crossgen (which is now bankrupt). The elements of “Ruse” are very Sherlock Holmes-like; a brilliant detective (Archard), a Victorian setting, logic, mysteries, and all that… but with a touch of fantasy. Yes, Archibald deals with magic and the supernatural, but he doesn’t have any superpowers at all (He does have an assistant – Emma Bishop – who is a sorceress. Archibald is aware of this fact, even though Bishop conceals her powers to him). Aside from his “Sherlock Holmes”-esque intelligence and persona, he also makes use of a network of agents that works for him when on a case.
So, why did he make the list? (People who know my preferences will easily understand why) Simple. Sherlock Holmes-like.
Forysthe Pendleton “Jughead” Jones III is the bestfriend of Archie Andrews – who is Archie Comics’ flagship character (obviously). Jughead is the deepest and most interesting character among Archie’s gang, thus, he is my most favorite character in Archie Comics (in fact, I have more Jughead books than Archie ones).
Jughead has several hobbies and interests, in which girls are not part of them. But above all of these is his love for food and eating. The amazing thing about him is that no matter how much food he eats, he remains skinny. And even if he consumes large amounts of food, he always have room in his belly to eat some more. More amazing still is, since he’s a lazy and easy-going person, it makes you wonder why he isn’t fat since (the lack of) physical activity does not explain the burning of the food he eats. A very rapid metabolism might explain it.
It’s not that Jughead is lazy and inactive all the time. He is sometimes portrayed as someone that is into sports and even part a varsity sports team, particularly basketball. It is also shown the he is an adept skateboarder. Indeed, Jughead does venture into physical activities when motivated or if he thinks it's going to be fun.
He is probably the most versatile character in the gang. He can play the drums. He is a skilled food critique and cook (obviously, because of his love for food). And he has an above-average intelligence and has vast knowledge on different subjects and topics, which surprises friends and teachers, even if he’s not the studious-type (his I.Q. is just behind Dilton Doiley’s and equal with or probably even higher than Betty Cooper’s). My favorite thing about Jughead, though, is his wry and sarcastic type of humor and his ability to psyche out opponents with this.
The greatest comic book villain ever is the Joker. I think a large amount of comic book fans will agree with me. Joker’s characterization and creation is so well done. The Batman mythos is made more enjoyable because of the Joker, as Joker’s twisted sense of chaos is a perfect antithesis to Batman’s gritty sense of justice. He is batshit (no pun intended) insane but a highly intelligent criminal mastermind. His madness is an advantage to him since it enables him to make lots of risky decisions without second thought. He is definitely one of the most dangerous and evil villains in comic books, even if he does not have immense powers like Darkseid or Thanos (imagine if Joker has that kind of power... yikes!)
Why is he so popular and fascinating? Because we can easily see the evil he personifies. Joker is the greatest supervillain in comics because he is the perfect evil ever epitomized in comic books.
Venom is an alien symbiote that possesses several powers including shapeshifting, regeneration, and augmentation of its host strength and speed. Its weakness includes fire, loud sounds, and electricity. First worn by Spider-Man (in Secret Wars), it initially helped Spider-Man and allowed him to become stronger and provided him with new abilities. However, when Spidy learned that it was a murderous sentient being that wants to permanently bind with him, he got rid of it. Then, the symbiote merged with Eddie Brock, which allowed him to physically manifest his hatred on Spidy (Brock is driven by his desire for revenge on Spidy, who he blames for the demise of his life, marriage, and career). The symbiote is currently with Marc Gargan (the former Scorpion), but Brock is the most popular Venom. The Brock Venom, aside from being a major Spidy supervillain, also served as a vigilante, though the murderous desires were still present.
Venom is very popular because it is a rich and charismatic character, and because of these, it earns a place in this list. However, I am not a fan of Marvel’s decision of making the Scorpion as the new Venom (and Eddie Brock as the Anti-Venom antihero/superhero). Nonetheless, Venom is one of the best supervillain/antihero ever created.
6.) GAMBIT (Remy LeBeau)
Gambit is an early favorite of mine. The X-Men animated series of the 90’s and the “Marvel vs. Capcom” game made me grow fond of Gambit. His graceful bo-staff fighting skills and ability to throw explosive cards (due to his mutant powers) easily won me over. Or maybe I grow to like Gambit because he used his “hypnotic charm”, another mutant power of his, on me. His character is just oozing with charisma and suaveness.
A former thief and revealed to have had connections with Mr. Sinister, Gambit was accepted by the X-Men. And he has proven himself a loyal and invaluable member, though there are a few times that he had made wrong decisions to alienate himself from the team. But no matter what the flaws of Gambit are, he sincerely loves the X-Men and feels that they are family to him and does his best to redeem himself.
Gambit is one of the coolest comic book heroes ever. Ironically, he is also one of the most underrated.
5.) SUPERMAN (Clark Kent)
The Man of Steel. The Man of Tomorrow. The Last Son of Krypton. “It’s a bird. No, it’s a plane. No, it’s Superman.”
As I’ve said, who does not know Superman? We all know him as, probably, the most powerful superhero – only rivaled by Thor – there is. He has several powers like flight, super speed, super strength, super hearing, X-ray vision, heat vision, and freeze breathe. But – non-comic book fans does not know this – he often “holds back” and would only go “all out” when his opponents are the most powerful kind like Darkseid or Doomsday. This is to avoid killing or making too much (collateral) damage. Thus, he’s actually not operating at full power most of the time!
Non-comic book fans found it ridiculous that people around Clark Kent can’t determine that he’s Superman in disguise. But actually, the glasses are not the only thing that separates Superman and Clark Kent. As Clark Kent, he has a different hairstyle, voice, mannerisms, posture (Clark Kent is shorter), psyche, and other minor but accumulated details that greatly distinguishes the alter egos from each other.
What I like most about Superman is his character. Power corrupts. And Superman has too much power. But he never abused it. Remember, that he often “holds back” with his powers. And this is really admirable about him. He adheres to a strict moral code because of his Midwestern (i.e. Bible belt) upbringing (by foster parents Jonathan and Martha Kent). And because of this, he is called a “Boy Scout”, either in insult or good humored teasing. He is, in my opinion, the superhero with the highest E.Q. He seldom loses his cool, always patient, always having self-control, and having a healthy mental/emotional equilibrium.
4.) WOLVERINE (Logan, James Howlett)
In anyone’s “best comic book characters” lists, Wolverine will always rank high. In fact, he ranked as the number one comic book character of Wizard Magazine. He’s only number four in my list since I have three more characters who I think are cooler than Wolverine. Even so, this should not discount Wolverine’s greatness as a comic book character. He’s one of the best.
Wolverine is badassery personified. If you look up the word “badass” in the dictionary, there would be a picture of Wolverine on it (I know… I know… this wordplay is old already). If Gambit is oozing with charisma, Wolverine is just overflowing with badassery… the claws and the sound of “Snikt!” when he extends them… his unbreakable adamantium skeleton…. his “devil may care” act first, ask questions later, anti-authority attitude… his toughness and durability, which are enforced by his healing powers… his “berserker”-mode… we love him because of these… for being the perfect down-to-earth, tough, antihero.
Moreover, because Wolverine is rough and savage in nature, he is mistaken as the “all-brawns, no-brains”-type by non-comic book fans. Wolverine is actually very intelligent. Though he overcomes opponents with brute, he is actually a very cerebral fighter and a proficient strategist. He has a wide range of knowledge and skills, like flying planes and being able to speak several languages. Wolverine is both brains and brawns.
3.) RORSCHACH (Walter Joseph Kovaks)
Definitely, Rorschach is the most favorite character in Watchmen by comic book fans. He is a crazier, grittier, extremer version of the Question (who is a major inspiration for the former’s creation) and Batman (another inspiration). Unlike his fellow costumed crime fighters, he did not quit adventuring (crime fighting) when it was outlawed. He, instead, started a one-man crusade against crime. He brutally hunted and punished criminals and he would even kill them without hesitation if he thought they deserved it. He’s an extreme right wing vigilante. His intense cynicism and methods are attributed to him being mentally ill. However, this does not prevent him from thinking analytically and deductively. Rorschach showed some merit as a detective.
As a combatant, Rorschach – similar with the other non-Dr. Manhattan characters in Watchmen – has no super powers. But he is highly proficient in close-quarters street fighting. He uses any available weapon or potential weapon – e.g. pepper, toilet bowl, cooking fat, etc. – to aid him. He also possesses high tolerability to discomfort or pain.
2.) BATMAN (Bruce Wayne)
Aside from being referred to as “The Dark Knight” and “The Caped Crusader”, he has also been called “The World’s Greatest Detective.” And rightfully so. Since he has no super powers, Batman’s main weapon is his intelligence. He has brilliant analytical and deductive skills and he is an excellent strategist, always thinking one step ahead. This plus the support of his (Bruce Wayne’s) wealth – arming himself with high-tech gadgets, equipment and vehicles – allow him to function and survive in the world of superheroes.
He’s the model for the grittier, darker side of the superhero character (in which Superman is the “sunny”-model of the superhero character). He believes that the ends justify the means. That sometimes, to obtain justice and to make things right, he has to break the rules. This is probably because he is vengeance-motivated; wanting to avenge the murder of his parents by fighting crime. He makes use of this grim and cynical nature of his to his advantage.
The trait of Batman that I like the most is his focus and work ethic. He trained – and continues to train – himself hard; toughening himself both mentally and physically. Thus, he is a brilliant scientist and logician, an expert in psychological warfare, adept in several forms of fighting styles, an above-average Olympic-type athlete, and a multi-skilled artist. He continually makes himself better, in the best ways he can.
1.) SPIDER-MAN (Peter Parker)
Spidey is my most favorite comic book character (and fictional character, before I encountered Sherlock Holmes) since I first picked up a comic book. His greatest charm is of him being, probably, the most “human” among superheroes. Yes, he has superpowers and all that, but, like the rest of us, he has human problems that we can relate to. Girl problems, school problems, how to pay the bills, etc. These he has to juggle with along with the hustles of being a superhero. As a superhero, he is sometimes (or often?) underappreciated by the populace and even thought of as a menace – thanks to the anti-Spidey media campaigns of the number one Spidey hater, J. Jonah Jameson (ironically, the employer of Peter Parker). But no matter what, appreciated or unappreciated by the people he saves, with or without the pressure brought by his personal problems, he continues to do the right thing. He saves people. He fights crime. He battles supervillains (even those more powerful than him). He indeed lives by his “with great power comes great responsibility” motto, that God gave him a gift, thus, he must use it for good, no matter what (this he learned the hard way when his Uncle Ben got killed by a robber he did not capture when he had the chance). Heavy stuff, right? More admirable still is that Spidey started being a superhero when he was fifteen! A mere fifteen-year older already having a high sense of duty and morals amidst the heavy emotional burdens of being a teenager and a superhero? Totally inspiring.
Spidey possesses a genius level of intellect. He is a science wiz as he invented the formula for his “webs” and the web shooters to shoot from. When he goes against opponents, especially those that have more resources or are more powerful than him, he regularly makes use of his intelligence to aid him. Aside from intelligence, Spidey also possesses a high-level of wit. This he uses by frequently making jokes or clever statements, even when he is fighting. In fact, he even uses his wit to “psyche out” opponents, to his advantage.
His powers are cool and unique. Besides superhuman levels of strength (spider-strength), balance, reflexes, stamina, durability, speed, and agility, he also has the ability to cling to walls like a spider and an early warning ESP device called “spider-sense” that tells him of a danger approaching. Because of gaining spider abilities, he moves in a graceful arachnid motion and mannerism (thanks mostly to Todd McFarlane’s interpretation of the character) which is very appealing to see.
And because of these – cool powers, cool and fashionable mannerisms, intelligence, charisma, high entertainment-value, and rapport – (even if he has undergone some of the worst storylines in comic book history) he remains one of the most enduring and iconic comic book favorites of all time.
Spider-Man is number one. The greatest comic book character ever.