Every year, someone on Comic Vine inevitably decides to hold a vote to try to determine the most popular superheroes and villains. Whenever these votes are held, I tend to end up spending way to much time trying to figure out just who would be in my to 5, 10, 100, or however many ever person long list is being created.
While it may seem superficially silly, comic superheroes and villains are, in many ways, modern, and mostly American, mythology. The superheroes and villains that individuals find interesting or important has quite a bit to say both the individuals that select them and, when aggregated, about the social group to which those individuals belong.
While there are many super powered characters I like and I could have longer lists, I decided to stick to my top three superheroes and villains in this blog. In all honesty, when I rattle off 60 characters in popularity votes, I feel like I’m largely padding my favorites with characters I think are important or deserve recognition (but I don’t connect with), or who aren’t really heroes or villains.
Who doesn’t qualify
There are lots of characters I like in comics. However, quite a few of them aren’t clearly heroes or villains. Some have switched back and forth between being both heroic and villainous rolls so much that their character is muddled (Deadpool, Magneto), while others never really fit into either in the first place (Death, Dr. Manhattan).
Further, I’m not including characters from Japanese manga. This means my favorite character of all time (Major Motoko Kusanagi) is not included on my list of heroes. While I enjoy anime and manga, both share a different cultural legacy and social space than ‘Western’ comics and animation; and, when referring to comics, lots of people refer to the largely shared worlds of DC or Marvel.
Top 3 Supervillains
A survivor from the universe before ours, he can only sustain himself by devouring planets. Hunger – such a great motivation for genocide! “I’m only killing all 7 billion of you so I can live…”
Like some characters I mention later in this blog post, Galactus’s concept is stellar – though his execution is sometimes questionable depending on the writer.
The smartest man alive. And the best way he can think to end the cold war, bring the world back from the brink of nuclear holocaust, and unite humanity for the future is by killing millions of people and blaming it on a giant alien squid (or god-like post-human, if you prefer the movie version).
The main reason Ozymandias is on my list is because he beats the heroes. By the time the heroes figure out what’s happening, he’s already finished implementing his plan, and the heroes (save one) acquiesce to his vision. He’s so good that no one, including the post-human who can see the future and bend the laws of physics to his will, could stop him.
After being taken in from the street, this cat’s owner was brutally murdered and he was kicked out onto the streets again. For fun, a couple of people caught him and decided to toss him off a bridge. He was angry enough to attract the attention of a red ring of power – the power of rage. I think the above panel says all that needs to be said. It breaks my heart every time I read it.
In general, I think it’s pretty rare for art to invoke strong feeling in me, especially on repeat viewing, and when the basic concept is something seemingly gonzo like ‘Berserk Super Powered House Cat.’ But Dex-Starr’s an exception. Honestly, I tend to forget about this character because of how profoundly sad he makes me.
Top 3 Superheroes
I have to admit I love the concept of Wonder Woman; a goddess-like, Amazonian warrior-princess who leaves Paradise on a diplomatic mission to the world of men – a mission to spread peace and love. What’s not to like? Heavily flavored by Greek mythology, she is a smart, independent woman who as a strong moral center and mission, and is powerful enough to go toe-to-toe with the likes of Superman.
However, Wonder Woman’s depictions are something of a crapshoot. After she left the hands of her creator, she slowly turned into a more romance-focused character. In the 60’s, she was briefly de-powered and gained an interest in modern fashion – going so far as to own and operate her own clothing boutique.
Her modern incarnation doesn’t necessarily fair a whole lot better. For the past year, she’s been in a romantic relationship with Superman. Also, for some reason, her fans seem hate the idea of her wearing pants. DC has tried it in the modern era (see the above), but can’t seem to make it stick. Even though she’s strongly influenced by ancient/classical Greece, people are really attached to her pants-less red, white, and blue, star-studded costume.
I love Jennifer Walters. She’s strong, intelligent, self-confident, funny, and successful. (She’s a a lawyer!) Physically, she’s pretty much on par with Hulk, but she can transform back and forth whenever she wants. Plus, she is able to break the fourth wall without her character descending into complete madness.
Growing up, Caitlin Fairchild (of Gen 13) was probably my favorite superhero, and she is still the first person that pops into my head when someone says ‘superhero’. Exceptionally intelligent, socially awkward, physically weak, and generally nerdy would have described Caitlin Fairchild before her genetic-based powers activated during her sophomore year at Princeton. Her strength and stamina increased to the point where she could compete with She-Hulk and Supergirl, her resilience was such that she could withstand the explosion of nuclear bomb, and she suddenly became much more physically attractive.
A couple of other details stand out to me. Almost immediately, she became the leader of a superhero group. Additionally, I seem to recall a very fun adventuring-archeologist-meets-super-spy, jet-setting feel to her stories.
While I haven’t gone back and re-read the Gen 13 comics, I have seen reviews from people who have done so, and I suspect I remember her through rose-tinted nostalgia glasses. Reviews I’ve read have mentioned that, while she is clearly described as highly intelligent and technologically inclined, she is seldom displayed as such in the comics. (If I recall correctly,when her powers activated, her body adapted to become as impressive as her mind. Given her body can tank nukes, she should be pretty fucking brilliant.) Further, though Fairchild is supposedly smart and is pretty impressive physically, she spends an amazing amount of time getting captured.
In the process of trying to find artwork for this entry, I had came across a lot of images of her, and I never really realized or completely forgot just how skimpy and sexualized they were. (I was 14 when she first came out.) Also, I was amazed to find so many pictures of her being tied up, and/or suffering insane wardrobe malfunctions.
Never the less, I still consider her my favorite superhero. Much like Wonder Woman, I find her concept especially compelling, even if the execution didn’t quite work.
The images in this post were used without seeking permission. I believe their inclusion falls under fair use. If they are yours, and you feel their use is inappropriate; please contact me and let me know.