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My Top Ten Favorite Superheroes:
Number 1 – Superman

14

Jun

Posted by Steve

superman_1.jpgIs there really any surprise here? I think the minute that Superman wasn’t number 2 and Batman wasn’t number 1, everyone knew where this thing was going.

I am unashamedly a fan of Superman. I have been for years, even though I forgot that for a while. I said from the outset of my top ten list, and I have said several times on Geek Out Loud, that my favorite super heroes are the ones who are heroes. Superman epitomizes this. He is a hero at his very core. Every villain he’s ever faced, every evildoer to ever cross his path, even those who claim to fight for the same tenants of truth and justice have pointed out that Superman’s biggest weakness is not krypronite, rather it is his concern for the people he has chosen to protect.

I also think it’s important to point out that Superman has CHOSEN to protect the people of the world. Wonder Woman is a warrior. Batman is on a crusade. Superman would love to be able to live a normal life, but he realizes he can’t sit back with all of his power and do nothing to save mankind. It can be a bit cheesy at times, and Superman has for years suffered criticism because of his do-gooder nature. It is that nature that interests me about the Man of Steel.

A lot of people complain about how powerful Superman is, but that appeals to me as well. It is a strong individual that can wield the power of Superman and not abuse it. His immense power speaks volumes about the strength of his character.

I guess I was introduced to Superman on a bath towel in our home. Seriously. It’s a towel with an image of Superman in the pose from the famous Superman #1 cover. Only instead of the Metropolis skyline as a background, there’s space and some kind of domed city. As a kid, I watched Superfriends on Saturday mornings, and reruns on whatever channels would show them. Christopher_Reeve.jpgI also watched the old Filmation cartoons thanks to Bozo the Clown every now and again. I also watched the classic George Reeves Superman show every now and again when it happened to be showing on a Saturday afternoon. Then, of course, there was Superman the Movie and Superman II. I vaguely remember when these movies were being shown on television and how my family scrambled for a blank video tape on which to record them when they aired. Superman II was recorded after a Little House on the Prairie reunion movie. I never watched that movie…except for the end, the littel town was destroyed and there were bunnies all over the place. I digress.

My point is, that Superman has been with me for as long as I can remember, in many different forms, and he has been my favorite super hero for a long time.

Over the years, there have been many criticisms leveled at the Man of Steel. Among those criticisms are that he’s too good, he’s too powerful, and the combination of these things makes Superman boring. Therefore, I think the best way to explain my enjoyment of the character is by answering those criticisms.

As I’ve already said, I like the fact that Superman is so powerful. Let’s face it, through the years, Superman has been given some of the coolest super powers of any super hero. Invulnerability, super strength, x-ray vision, heat vision, super speed, and of course flight. Some would argue that his super breath is kinda lame. I like the power, but I can’t argue with that particular opinion. The thing about Superman is that his powers do not define him. Rather, what defines him is the use of his power. Ask anyone what they would do with the power Superman possesses and the real world answer would be something that would benefit the wielder of the power nine times out of ten. Superman, is completely different. He chooses to use his power to help others rather than himself. He chooses to serve rather than to lead. He chooses to inspire rather than to enforce. The most interesting stories to read about Superman are the stories where he has to make the decision to continue to walk that line. Mark Waid and Alex Ross’s KINGDOM COME is an excellent example of this. Superman crosses the line just slightly and begins to force others to do things his way and the results are quite destructive.

The other main criticism that people level at the last son of Krypton is that he is too good.  Referring to Superman as a boy scout has become somewhat of a backhanded comment, a little bit of an insult.   I disagree with people who think that he’s too good and that makes him boring.   Quite frankly, the fact that Superman chooses right and tries never to skirt the line of darkness makes him more interesting than Batman, Wolverine, The Punisher, or any number of anti-heroes.   Why?  Because in a world as filled with darkness and people who choose moral ambiguity over moral fiber, it’s harder to be a light than ever.  Superman is not naive.  He is not ignorant of the way the world is, but he chooses to keep his light shining as brightly as he possibly can.  That’s something that few super heroes are seen doing anymore.   It’s easy to blend in to the shadows and be a Dark Knight, there are a lot of shadows.  It’s easy to allow rage and revenge to consume the soul and become a Punisher.  It’s easy to shut out the world and ferociously attack like a Wolverine.  What’s not easy is to never cross the line.   It’s not easy to choose the light.  It’s not easy to carry the burden of doing the right thing over and over again.  Superman does it though.  Even when it’s hard to know what is right, when everything seems to be shades of gray, Superman chooses right.  That’s intriguing to me.  That’s interesting.

Finally, I find it amazing that an alien would inspire humanity the way Superman has.  How is this possible?  I think it’s because within every child there is the desire to grow up and be great.  Every child dreams of doing something with his life.  No one ever plans to fail.  No one every plans on being stuck in a monotonous job.  No one every plans on being ordinary their entire life.  Superman appeals to the child that still resides in all of us saying, “You can take what you have and do great things with it.  Don’t abuse your talent, your abilities, you time.  Use them to do the greatest things you can do.”  Though, we often don’t, we always wish we did.  Superman uses what he has to it’s fullest for the best of reasons.  That’s inspirational.  That’s something to work for.  That’s why he’s my favorite.

You know, I just realized that for the past two or three paragraphs, I’ve been writing about Superman as if he were real.  That’s what talking about the character does to me, he gets me talking like a kid again.  So, that’s it, that’s my top ten.  Now, up, up, and away.

My Top Ten Favorite Superheroes:
Number 3- Batman

8

May

Posted by Steve

Batman_Poster.jpgOf all the top ten posts I’ve written so far, this may end up being the most controversial. Everyone loves Batman. There are so many people (maybe even you as you read this) who say that Batman is by far their favorite super hero. For me though, he’s not my number 1. He’s not even my number 2. As you can see, Batman falls into the number 3 slot as my favorite super hero. Keep in mind that I’m not saying Batman should be number 3 on everyone’s list, that’s just where he falls on mine. Batman is almost as iconic if not as iconic as Superman. Thanks to multiple television series, cartoon series, and movies, he is one of the few super heroes who is readily recognizable to the general public.

Batman is an appealing super hero for several different reasons. For many, the first thing they jump to is that Batman has no super powers. That’s never been a selling point for me when it comes to super heroes. While it makes for an interesting character, it kind of takes the super out of super hero. So what makes Batman a super hero? Not his lack of super powers, but the fact that he has honed his mind and body to the limits of human perfection and beyond. The key there is the “beyond.” Bruce Wayne has pushed himself to be the world’s greatest fighter and the world’s greatest thinker. That is pretty super. Sure, bullets don’t bounce off his chest, and he can’t shoot lasers out of his eyes, but compared to even the best fighters and detectives out there, he’s super.

What I like most about Batman is a combination of things that go beyond what he can or cannot do. Batman has a sincere respect for life, he has a no nonsense attitude, and he’s got some pretty cool gadgets and machinery at his disposal.

Starting with the Batmobile, Batman – thanks to the riches at Bruce Wayne’s disposal – has some of the coolest toys a super hero could ask for. Helicopter, personal jet thingie, motorcycles, submersible, a belt full of cool stuff.CP1290_Mythology_Batman.jpg Add to that a belt full of gadgets and gizmos ranging from batarangs and suspension lines to a lead lined pouch where Bats may or may not be keeping a kryptonite ring entrusted to him by Superman and you have yourself the man who has everything. Back in the fifties television show (and to some extent the Superfriends cartoons) Batman had anything and everything he could ever imagine strapped to his waste or at least near at hand. (Bat-Shark Repellent anyone?). In the comics though, the gadgets and tech take on a much more practical feel for the urban warrior. Night vision, listening devices, lock picks, everything a detective and vigilante needs to fight crime and bring down the baddies.

Even though Batman having everything he needs for every possible occasion makes for an easy humor target, he takes his work and his mission VERY seriously. I really tend to like and appreciate people who (as I say) just don’t give a dook. Batman tells it like it is to those around him. He’ll match wits with a mystic like Dr. Fate and put gods in their place all with his sharp wit and willingness to say whatever he feels needs to be said to get his point across and motivate others to action. One of my favorite examples of this is in the first issue of DC’s big crossover event of a couple of years back Infinite Crisis. As he, Superman, and Wonder Woman stand in the midst of the ruins of the JLA watchtower, he calls on Superman to get to Earth and lead people and heroes alike to rise up and stand firm. Superman, not wanting to take on that role tells Batman that he’s not a dictator, he’s not even a leader, it’s not what he does. At that, Batman explains to Superman that he inspires people. Then he adds, “And frankly, ‘Superman’, you haven’t inspired anyone since you died.” OH SNAP!!!! But you know what Superman did? He got to work.

Finally, the thing that makes Batman my number 3 is exactly what he stands for.batman_poster.jpgWhile Batman’s mission is birthed out of the death of his parents at the hands of a mugger, his quest is not one of vengeance, but justice. Yeah, he skirts the line between sanity and insanity. Sure, he’s obsessed more than just about any other hero in comicdom. Yes, he uses fear and intimidation as his favorite weapons, but at te end of the day, he wants justice. His shares with Superman (the hero to whom he is most often compared to or chosen over) a profound respect for life. He will not cross that line. While other vigilantes that are comparible to Batman (Punisher) would waste guys like the Joker and Two Face, Batman prefers to trust the system that he so effectively works outside of…even after repeatedly facing these criminals again and again.  That’s a big deal, because it says that at his core, Batman not only trusts the law he seeks to uphold, but he trusts life as well.   Kind of inspiring for one of the darker heroes out there.

So, while I know that Batman tends to test better in geek circles than the Big Blue Boyscout,  that’s not quite the case with me.  However, his iconography, his neverending battle for life and what’s right, his refusal to beat around the bush, and all of those cool gadgets work together to put Batman near the top of my top ten favorites.

My Top Ten Favorite Superheroes:
Number 4 – The Thing

26

Apr

Posted by Steve

BenGrimmMyspace.jpgAunt Petunia’s favorite Nephew, The Ever-Lovin’ Blue-Eyed Thing. You know the origin, while on a space flight with Reed Richards and Sue and Johnny Storm, Ben Grimm, test pilot extraordinaire was bombarded by cosmic rays. Upon safely crash landing (seems oxymoronical….I know.) back on Earth, Grimm found himself growing and changing into a monstrous looking form. He would from that point on be known as The Thing.

Arguable one of the most-liked members of the Fantastic Four, and one of the most-loved characters in the Marvel Universe, The Thing brings phenomenal strength, a sarcastic wit, and big heart to the game of the superhero biz.

I was introduced to The Thing through an old T-shirt of the hand-me-down variety that was floating around our house when I was a little kid. I wasn’t old enough to have seen the old Fantastic Four cartoon (where H.E.R.B.I.E the Robot replaced The Human Torch) or the even older cartoon where a kid named Benji had a ring that would turn him into the Thing. “Thing ring do your thing!” But I was always intrigued by this character. The look of The Thing always appealed to me. However, I never really knew anything much about him.

Then I was perusing some books in the school library when I was in fifth grade. I have no idea how to find these books today or when they were published, but my library had three hardback books for kids that explored the Fantastic Four, The Hulk, and Captain America. On the cover of Thing__comics_.pngthe Fantastic Four book, I saw him…The Thing. So, I checked that book out, promising the other two I would come for them. It was in this book that I first read the origin of the Fantastic Four and began to discover who this big orange guy was. I was hooked. On comics. On The Thing. And The Fantastic Four would be a book I would collect to this day.

I am a sucker for super-strength. I don’t know why, I just really like the big strong guys in comics. The Thing is one of the strongest…not THE strongest mind you, but he’s up there. It seems a prerequisite for being a team of superheroes to have a member that is primarily about strength. Near-indestructibility doesn’t have to come with the package, but it helps. I wonder if it’s not the Fantastic Four that kind of started that whole trend. I mean, sure you had the Justice League, but wasn’t that just putting all the top heroes in DC together? I digress. My point is I like the fact the Thing is strong, and even though he’s not the strongest joker in the Marvel U, it’s always fun to see they ways that various writers use that strength for Ben Grimm.

Like most of my favorite superheroes though, The Thing’s power is not what makes him great. Ben Grimm’s personality is a great fit into just about any situation. He’s serious enough to be a straight man to guys like the Human Torch and Spider-Man, but he’s funny and lighthearted enough to be the comic relief in situations with Reed Richards, Captain America, or even Dr. Doom. He is likable in every sense of the word. His brotherly fights with teammate Johnny Storm, his sarcastic wit employed whenever Reed Richards begins a scientific diatribe, and his tender heartedness with children Franklin and Valeria all add up to make Ben Grimm a well rounded character who is easy to enjoy.

200px_Fantastic_Four_310.jpgOn a more serious note, if Spider-Man had an appeal for kids because he started out as a kid, The Thing appeals to people because everyone has looked at themselves and not like what they’ve seen. One of the driving forces of the character of Ben Grimm since he became The Thing is his loathing over his appearance. Ben Grimm is constantly plagued with unhappiness because of what the cosmic rays turned him into. In a cruel twist of fate though, Ben Grimm could not turn back into his regular form like his teammates. In fact, Reed Richards once hypothesized that Ben had some mental blocks in place for various reasons that kept him from reverting to his human form at will. Ironically, this is a common problem people with low self esteem have. Instead of doing the things they need to do to try and improve their self esteem, they tend to wallow in their misery. (Stop preaching Steve.) There have only been one or two times though when Ben’s self loathing have kept him from being effective. Those times have provided interesting stories though. Ben’s lack of self confidence based on his appearance have made the big guy pretty easy for mere mortals to relate to.

Finally, The Thing has provided some of my favorite fights of all time. I’m referring to his battles with The Hulk. I love a good slug fest, and when those two tie up, even though a Hulk win is usually the outcome, it’s always a good slug fest. One of my favorite Thing/Hulk fights took place between Ben in his augmented Thing state and the gray Hulk. It started in FF #321 and ended in The Incredible Hulk #350. Dr. Doom started it…long story. Anywho, Ben finally beat the Hulk, but didn’t realize it til after the fact, because the Hulk was supposed to be dead and just before Thing finished The Hulk off, a robot Green Hulk showed up. The real Hulk came back in the end, but it was a cool fight that spanned two comic books and was a blast.thing.png

It started as a kid intrigued by an image on a T-Shirt. It’s carried on with me to this day. As I’ve read and become more and more familiar with the character, he’s only remained one my most favorite super heroes. The Thing is one of the biggest reasons that for most of my childhood comic collecting I was saying, “Make Mine Marvel.”

Finally, this final picture of The Thing was drawn and given to me to use by Michael Cohen. Michael is responsible for the current look of the site and is currently getting a new even cooler look for the site together for me. Michael does web design, and you can check him out at Arkwulf.com or his deviant art page at www.arkangel-wulf.deviantart.com. He’s recently gotten his one thousandth hit, so help him get to two thousand as quickly as possible, and if you have a business looking into a website, throw his name in the pot.

My Top Ten Favorite Superheroes:
Number 5 – Spider-Man

19

Apr

Posted by Steve

Spiderman.jpgHe is quite possible Stan Lee’s greatest creation. Lee along with artist Steve Ditko first introduced Spider-Man to the masses in the fifteenth issue of the failing Amazing Fantasy comic book. In fact, Lee’s publisher didn’t like the idea of a hero based on a spider because he thought spiders creep people out. So, when it was apparent that Amazing Fantasy was going to fail and Lee needed a story to fill the comic out, he stuck Spidey in there. All was forgotten, then the sales figures came back. Spider-Man was a hit. So, he got his own book. From then, Spider-Man grew in popularity and became a staple of American culture.

Spider-Man is a great superhero not only because of his powers, but because he is a great character. His witty banter and snappy comebacks always make his battles with the baddies so much fun to read. His unwavering bad luck adds a touch of drama and sympathy for the character. His deep sense of responsibility brought on by tragedy often brings more conflict into his life than any super villain.

amz_sm_fcbd_7avc.jpgSpider-Man is endowed with the proportionate strength, speed,and agility of a spider. His sharp reflexes and acrobatic ability allow him to fearlessly swing high among the skyscrapers of downtown New York on webs eminating from webshooters that Peter Parker designed. His strength allows him to pull of some remarkable rescues and hold his own against some pretty tough villains. His spider sense is an early warning system in his head that alerts him to danger. (Wish I had that.) He is still as vulnerable to pain and physical harm as any human though, so when he’s in the middle of a fight,the danger to Spidey is very real.

His powers aren’t really the appeal for Spider-Man though. Spidey has to be one of the funnest characters in comics to read when he’s written well. His one liners, snappy comebacks, and generally sarcastic and funny attitude make for one entertaining friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Nicknames given to supervillains from fat jokes about Kingpin to quips about the Shocker’s costume tend to be quite hilarious. It helps the reader know that even when Spidey is in danger, he enjoys the super hero biz.

Then, there’s Peter Parker’s constant bad luck. If things are every going good for Petey, just hold on, it’s about to get ugly. When he was sucked away to Battleworld in the Secret Wars, his costume was ripped to pieces, his web shooters were empty, and he got a crazy cool new black suit that responded to his thoughts and provided him with unlimited webbing.
backinblack.jpg It seemed great for a little while, but then we find out that it’s really a parasitic symbiote feeding off of Peter’s power and fueling is rage and aggression. When Peter was finally able to get rid of it, it wasn’t easy. Then it escapes it’s prison at the Four Freedom’s Plaza and comes back bonded with Eddie Brock as Venom. Talk about a good thing gone bad. Web shooters are always running out of web fluid. There is always something wrong at work. And don’t even get me started on the lady troubles. (Culminating in a deal with the devil that ended Peter’s marriage and brings us right back to the lady trouble.) Pete’s bad luck though only makes us sympathize with him more. Even when it’s Peter’s fault that things have gone wrong, we still feel for him, because we can all relate. We’ve all had days that go terribly wrong and one bad decision only makes the day worse. So, as we read the adventures of Spider-Man, we find ourselves rooting for the character because we know how it feels and it would be nice to someone get the upper hand on bad luck for once.

Ultimately what makes Spider-Man one of my top ten (and top five) superheroes is his sense of responsibility. Peter Parker’s mantra ever since the death of his Uncle Ben on that fateful night has been “With great power, comes great responsibility.” I have always bought into that. I love the idea of a hero so burdened with doing the right thing, that which right thing is best becomes the conflict for him. That’s a hero. Peter Parker, with all his powers (as I’ve said) is not invulnerable. His bones break, his skin can be easily pierced, he gets tired, and it is dangerous business every time he goes out. Yet, because he has the power to do something. Because the ability is his to stand in the gap. Because someone must help the helpless, and he can….he does. That’s a hero. Peter Parker could easily be a villain. He could (and did) only use his powers for personal gain, but due to a tragic and painful lesson he goes out and fights the good fight. That puts him pretty high on my list.

So, that’s number five, what do you think. Anyone missing so far? Predictions? Agree? Disagree? Let me know.

If you need to catch up on your Spidey, check out some of the stuff below…

My Top Ten Favorite Superheroes:
Number 6 – Captain America

10

Apr

Posted by Steve

captain_america3.gifHe is the Sentinel of Liberty, a man out of time, he is a war hero, a superhero, and a legend. He is Captain America, and he is number 6 on my top ten favorite superheroes list.

Captain America is as iconic as Wonderbread. His shield is as iconic as the character. He’s American as jazz and comic books. He is the conscience of the Marvel Universe, and he can kick butt.

I’ve never been a fan of the “darker” super heroes. I’ve never liked the Punisher types who would consider killing the criminal bringing them to justice. However, a hero who struggles with doing the right thing in tough situations, a hero who inspires other heroes, a hero who will give his all to protect the weak and save the world, that’s the hero for me. Captain America is that hero.

Captain America had his start as the equivalent of war propaganda. A scrawny polio afflicted kid with a heart to serve his country was injected with a super secret super soldier serum. The serum’s formula was known to only one man who was killed by a spy right after administering the serum to young Steve Rogers. Thus it was that there would only be one super soldier…Captain America. Throughout World War II, Cap fought alongside the soldiers in the trenches and his sidekick Bucky Barnes, fighting the forces of the Axis powers and thrilling comic readers everywhere. As the war came to an end, though, there seemed to be no place for Captain America in the world of comics. But leave it to the duo of good ole’ Stan Lee and Jack “The King” Kirby to bring Cap back in a big way and turn him into a classic Marvel character complete with the internal struggle that the very human super heroes of the Marvel U all seem to possess.

avengers-4.jpg In Avengers #4, readers were treated to the return of Captain America. We found out that a bomb that he jumped on to stop, when it exploded, killed his sidekick, and landed cap in icy arctic waters where he was frozen and thanks to the serum running through his veins was able to be revived. His return to the world after being thought dead for twenty plus years affected everyone. Cap most of all. Everyone he knew and loved had either grown old or died.

Dealing with this new time, and new ways of life, Cap did the one thing he knew how to do, he stepped up, he led, he became super again.

That’s Captain America, and that’s why he’s one of my top ten favorites.

Captain America stands for more than just the United States. He stands for doing the right thing. He stands for being the hero. In a day and age where so many people have become disenfranchised with America and the American dream, Captain America still believes that whether or not this is this greatest country in the world, we can still choose to be the greatest people in the world. He believes in people, he believes in his team, and he believes in doing what’s right no matter the cost.

Aside from the super soldier serum, Captain America has no super powers. The serum gives cap enhanced strength and reflexes, but other than that it’s almost simply an inoculation. He’s not bullet proof. He doesn’t have super speed or super strength. He does have a keen, resourceful mind, a resilient spirit, and the heart of the greatest generation. He puts himself in harms way and has found himself in situations of cosmic proportions. Every time he comes out the hero.

Then, there was Marvel’s Civil War.  Cap took the side of the non-registered heroes.  While there was a lot of debate over Marvel’s big crossover event, one thing was agreed on pretty much across the board.  Cap came down on the side of the angels.  Why?  Why would people not see Tony Stark’s side of things?  Why were the lawbreaking unregistered  heroes the good guys in that whole fiasco?  Well, there were some pretty shady things done by Tony Stark, Reed Richards and their side, but I also have to believe that Cap making the huge decision to turn his back on his country and go underground to keep doing what he does caused a lot of people to look and say, “These must be the good guys.”  Why?  Because Captain America does the right thing.  Period.

A leader, a hero, and a man committed to doing the right thing.  These attributes along with the resourcefulness of MacGuyver give Captain America the number 6 spot in my top ten countdown.  What do you think?  Is he worthy?