Saturday, October 6, 2007

On the top 50 character countdown at Comics Should Be Good

No, I'm not the one who voted for Cable at #1. I actually didn't send in a ballot, because I was either sick or sleepy or something when that was going on. I mean, I vaguely remember it happening, but it all seems like a dream now....

Anyway, since I was thinking about it while cooking last night, here's my top 10 Marvel characters:

1. Spider-Man
2. Silver Surfer
3. Thing (note that he should always be barefoot with pro wrestling trunks)
4. J. Jonah Jameson
5. Galactus
6. Thor
7. Captain America
8. Dr. Doom
9. Green Goblin
10. Hulk (the green one)

And what the hell, here are my top 10 DC characters. A few caveats: I didn't include any Charlton, Fawcett, or Wildstorm characters, because they don't seem like real DC characters to me (this reflects the overall Silver Age bias to these lists). I also didn't include any Vertigo characters, since I'm interpreting this as more of a "shared universe" type activity. This also excludes any Watchmen characters, who otherwise probably would have filled up every spot south of Darkseid. Having said that:

1. Batman
2. Darkseid
3. Brainiac Five
4. Green Arrow (the version with the goatee)
5. The Joker
6. Hawkman (doesn't matter which one--I just like the costume concept)
7. Spectre
8. Commissioner Gordon
9. Orion
10. Creeper

So, looking over these lists, it's pretty clear that I don't have much interest in any character created after 1970 (though, to be fair, Thanos would probably have made my hypothetical top 20 list). This also reflects my general opinion of superhero comics: they primarily appeal to me on a visual level. I strongly associate every character listed with a specific artist. Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko dominate (the Question would have come in somewhere around the middle of the DC list had I not imposed additional rules on myself). Just for the hell of it, here are the lists with the artists I most associate with the characters appended:

1. Spider-Man (Ditko)
2. Silver Surfer (Kirby and Buscema)
3. Thing (Kirby)
4. J. Jonah Jameson (Romita Sr., actually)
5. Galactus (Kirby)
6. Thor (Kirby and Simonson)
7. Captain America (Kirby and Zeck)
8. Dr. Doom (Kirby)
9. Green Goblin (Ditko)
10. Hulk (Kirby and Severin)

1. Batman (Mazzucchelli and Bolland)
2. Darkseid (Kirby)
3. Brainiac Five (Cockrum and Grell)
4. Green Arrow (Adams)
5. The Joker (Rogers and Bolland)
6. Hawkman (Kubert and absolutely no one else, even Murphy Anderson)
7. Spectre (Aparo and Mandrake)
8. Commissioner Gordon (Mazzucchelli)
9. Orion (Kirby)
10. Creeper (Ditko)

Actually, that DC list kind of surprises me. I always think of myself as a Silver Age ├╝ber alles type of guy, but there are a lot of post-Silver Age artists on that list. I've always thought that DC's Silver Age books were less interesting before Adams hit the scene. But that would discount the appeal of Kubert and Kane, who are two of my all-time favorites. Hmm. I like Kubert's Hawkman enough to include him, despite having limited interest in the actual character beyond the initial SA concept. I guess I would put the Atom in my top 20, based largely on the strength of Kane's art and design. Yet I would hesitate to put the SA Green Lantern that high, just cause I don't especially like the character. (Outer space cops who dress like hawk-themed barbarians are much cooler than outer space cops who dress like regular old superheroes (albeit especially nicely dressed ones, given that Kane was such a great designer), I guess.) Perhaps this bears further investigation.

Also, I must have pretty fond memories of The Killing Joke. I think a lot of people consider Bolland's Joker to be one of the definitive visual portrayals, but my memory of Bolland's Batman is just as strong. The last scene in the book still seems like the definitive Joker-Batman moment to me. Actually, it's almost the definitive Batman moment as well. I should re-read it to see if it holds up. My opinion of Batman: Year One is evidently pretty high as well, but that's a bit less of a minority opinion these days.


JK Parkin said...

Do you also associate them with specific writers?

Dick Hyacinth said...

Well, obviously all those Marvel characters I associate with Stan Lee. But then again, Stan Lee was co-plotting (or maybe just scripting sometimes, depending on who you believe), so the artists had a stronger hand in the early formation of these characters. Which is probably why I'm such a huge fan of these 1960s Marvel titles--the greater power of the artist pushed them closer to what I consider the ideal form of the superhero comic. I'll probably elaborate on this later.

It's a bit more complicated for the DC characters. Green Arrow, for instance, I associate more with Denny O'Neill than any single artist. For others, like the Spectre, my attraction is less visual and more conceptual. Again, I'll try to expand on this at some point in the future. It's kind of fun to think through what I like about superhero comics; I haven't done that too much lately.

Jones, one of the Jones boys said...

I prefer the list I ran on my site. Naturally, I associate The Whizzer most strongly with Rascally Roy Thomas, and the Spirit with Darwyn Cooke.

And Kubert over Anderson on Hawkman? Interesting choice. I mean, Kubert was the better artist on the whole, and his brief, early run is wonderful stuff, bringing his scratchy, brooding intensity to the character. But Anderson's elegant, feathery line was just made for Hawkman. Who else could draw wings like that, I ask you?

Dick Hyacinth said...

I don't see how we can take seriously a list which places Daken, a character I would have to Google in order to even form an opinion of, with the In-Betweener, who is clearly the coolest of all those Ditko/Starlin cosmic god type characters. He was half black and half white, and he had a boxing match with Galactus. And I've never heard of Daken, thus (s)he must suck. QED.

(Okay, I just Googled Daken. Never mind, I see your point. Good review of Checkmate, BTW. I read a couple of issues and determined that Greg Rucka is waging his own, personal war on fun.)

Dick Hyacinth said...

Oh, almost forgot about Kubert vs. Anderson. Look, I like Murphy Anderson as much as the next guy, but Kubert drew the only version that makes me feel like I'm not wasting my life by singing the praises of an outer space cop who dressed like a barbarian hawk fetishist, and who could communicate with birds in their own language (and relied upon these communications to solve crimes, despite being a member of an alien race sufficiently advanced to travel thousands of light years to Earth). I think it's the way he drew his face. Hawkman always looks pretty depressed. I think this reflects the reality of the character.