Monday, September 1, 2008

The Coolest But Sorely Underused Characters in Comics

Not everyone can be a Batman or Spider-Man. Someone has to play "extra" in those massive battle scenes and give up the spotlight so the big guys can have it. Unfortunately, there are some heroes who deserve a little more spotlight time but never seem to get it. Here's my list of who we should see more of:

Plastic Man

During his latest run in the JLA, this character was hilarious. He brought the much-needed comic relief to the team, while still having a power set that made him invaluable to many missions.

Unfortunately, since the JLA has been revamped recently, Plas has pretty much dropped out of sight. DC gave him a kiddie-style series recently, but the artwork was sorely lacking and the stories didn't always make sense.

All in all, this is a character that still hasn't reached his full potential. I don't know that he's strong enough to hold his own in a solo title, but they need to get him back into the JLA as soon as possible. The guy can become anything (including, as in this example, Big Barda's dress), so how can that not obviously be useful?

Stingray

You saw him on my list of the coolest hero costumes a few weeks ago. Besides an incredibly cool costume, he has some pretty neat powers that allow him to swim underwater at incredible speeds and fire power rays from his hands, which puts him one above Aquaman and Namor.

Since Namor is being snobbish right now and every super-team needs their Aquaman-type secondary, why not bring him into the spotlight a little in a team book? He's been an Avenger before, so now that there's two different Avengers teams, why couldn't he slide into one after the Skrull Invasion settles down?


Union Jack

Marvel rebooted him in Captain America 181 and then promptly dropped him for years. Then Blade came out and the world had "Vampire Slayer Mania", so Marvel gave UJ a new lease on life and a miniseries killing the undead. It took Marvel about a year to realize they didn't have to rip off the Blade character since they actually owned him, so UJ went back on the shelf for a while.

Then they decided it was time to dust him off and give him a little boost. Another miniseries (this time with a team of his own full of super-powered beings) and a guest spot in Captain America again, and then he's back on the shelf. He's a cool character, and deserves better than he's getting now. His last miniseries showed what it would be like to be the only normal person in a group of super-powered heroes, and it was really cool to see him push himself to be worthy of leading them. Yes, I know Batman does this on a regular basis with the Justice League, but how many times have you seen Batman break a sweat during a battle? Or worry about losing? Union Jack has the frail humanity other heroes seem to lack.

Nighthawk

A member of the Squadron Sinister in his beginnings, Kyle moved on to the Defenders and eventually even became their leader. The problem? Go and read Essential Defenders Volume 3 to figure it out. Over the course of those twenty-something issues, Nighthawk is captured or replaced in over a dozen of them. This makes them the only super-team on record that ever had to spend more time rescuing their leader than fighting the bad guys! Eventually Marvel killed him off, only to bring him back a few years later. Nighthawk was a member of the Thunderbolts for a little while and played an incredibly minor role in Civil War (basically, a cameo as he resigned from Captain America's rebel team). He was recently seen in The Last Defenders, but that series ended with him turning in the costume to allow someone else to take it. It was a stupid reboot done just for a gimmick's sake. Marvel again took an established hero and rebooted him as yet another minority character. You have Night Thrasher, Firestorm, 3-D Man, Blue Beetle, White Tiger, Mister Terrific, Ultimate Nick Fury, Jon Stewart/Green Lantern, and The Spectre all as major minority characters in their various Marvel and DC titles--but they're all reboots of an established character! Marvel, why not quit being lazy and create another original hero like Black Panther, Blade or Luke Cage? You used to be called "The House of Ideas", but now you're just "The Recycling Bin of Worn Out Ideas".

What could Kyle do if they used this character right? Work through this with me: he's a billionaire playboy who dresses like a superhero to fight crime...could this concept work? Could you possibly make this hero...I don't know...grim and brooding, give him a sidekick named Robin, and turn him loose on criminals everywhere? Yeah, I think Nighthawk's been getting the short end of the stick for quite some time.

Sunfire

He was there in the reboot of the X-Men that brought them into modern times and made them the most popular comic book title for decades. True, he'd been in guest shots before that, but he was finally part of the team. Then he left and went back to being Japan's protector who always showed up to yell at whatever hero happened to stumble into Japanese airspace.

He did a miniseries of his own, a guest shot in Rogue's series, lost his legs and became one of the Horsemen of Apocolypse, then broke from that. Sunfire deserves better. Yes, he's too pompous and reminiscent of Prince Namor, but he's got the power and ability to be a heavy hitter in the Marvel Universe. Hey, what would happen if you took Wolverine out of one of the dozen titles he's in every month and let some other mutants have a shot at the spotlight?

Mister Miracle

DC gets a small mention on this list because they usually give their secondary characters face time through either a team-up book like Brave and the Bold, or in one of their never-ending weekly series. Still, Scott Free isn't being used like he could. I know there's actually three different heroes using the Mister Miracle title right now, but let's stick with the original and best. He's an escape artist who can't be held. In this magic-frenzied world of television magicians today, why would this character not be a smart bet? Yes, he just lost his wife in the Death of the New Gods, but wouldn't this make for a perfect starting point for the character? Now he could be an escape artist with a death wish, never sure if he really wants to escape or not! The tension would be there because you'd never know if he was going to just let this time be his last.

Alex Ross gave him the honor of being in charge of the super-villain prison in Kingdom Come. Even though Scott failed and eventually died trying to keep them contained, it made sense. There's a lot of untapped potential in what this character could be if DC would just put some thought into it.

Doc Samson

This is one character Marvel has really dropped the ball with. They give him super-strength, make him very intelligent (he's a doctor, for crying out loud!), start him with a cool costume that over time becomes incredibly lame, and never move him beyond ever fighting the Hulk or She-Hulk.

I know they gave him a fairly cool nod by turning him into the Red Hulk and basically making him the strongest character in the Marvel Universe, but we all know that's not a change that's going to stick. Most likely he'll end up completely depowered by some SHIELD ray and become just another normal guy. It's a shame because Doc Samson would have made a great leader for some team somewhere if they'd just tried to work with him. A super-hero team in every state, and we can't make him leader of even Rhode Island's team? A crying shame.

The Sentry

He has the power of a thousand exploding suns, but Marvel has given him the worst weakness ever: he's crazy. Listen Marvel: drop the "I'm cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs" routine every time he gets into a fight and give him some real quality time!

Yes he's had 2 miniseries, but they were essentially the same thing just replayed over and over (even during his six-issue story arc in New Avengers). We understand: Sentry is the Void! We get it! Now drop it, straighten him out, and move on! For more on my thoughts about this character, go to this previous post.

5 comments:

Rick said...

I agree with all. Plastic Man needs to be taken more seriously. They always treat him as a joke. He took his crime fighting very serious. The comedy was left to Woozy. He maintained his own title for years in the golden age. I have an idea for a story for him. One day I may write it as fan fiction. If DC wanted to hire me to write if for them I have no problem with that.

Brian said...

Sounds good! If you ever break into comics, don't forget us out here still in the trenches reading what you folks crank out! :)

Hey, do I make it into the P.A.L. now?

Rick said...

Yeah! Why not?

The Groovy Agent said...

Dude! I just discovered your blog, and it rocks! I totally agree with you that comics just ain't what they used to be. There's not much out there right now to get excited about (there are a few exceptions like the recent Bat Lash mini-series, the Spirit, and the upcoming Warlord series).

I really dug your list of cool but underused characters. You named some great ones! (Nighthawk and Stingray are special faves!) I'd add the Vision to that list, as well as the Black Knight.

Brian said...

Thanks for the kind words, groovy! I absolutely agree with both choices. It's good to see the Black Knight back in action in the "Captain Britain" miniseries going on right now, and Vision is getting some time in "Secret Invasion", but they could both use more action once the Skrull situation settles down.

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