Welcome back to Comical Musings! We are so happy that you stuck with us through the hiatus and we have been chomping at the bit to bring you all of the content that we have been stockpiling. As it stands right now, we should be able to provide at least one new blog post a week for the rest of the year! So, yay. As a way of thanking you for continuing to read, share, and support Comical Musings, we bring you a double-sized top five list for November. It’s the month for giving thanks and we give thanks for your readership.
In comic books, there are characters that are typically written certain ways and there are tried and true concepts that sell. The entirety of the visual storytelling industry is based on the hundreds of characters that inhabit these fictional worlds. Marvel has Spider-Man and Wolverine and God knows that Iron Man moves units. DC relies heavily on the big three of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. In recent times, both companies have elevated B and C list characters and supported them into relevancy through event books and crossovers. Let’s face it, not every character can be a Wolverine. Through all of this, there still seem to be some unsung heroes in each universe. There are always characters that for some reason, end up underrated or under-appreciated. It is in the spirit of celebrating these folks that we present to you the Top 5 Most Fabulously Underrated Characters for each universe.
Suggested by JK Leo, this one makes tons of sense to me. As the smartest man in the world, Mr. Fantastic can’t seem to catch a break. In the Fantastic Four, he is often overlooked as people see the rocky exterior of the Thing or the glowing personality and fiery charm of The Human Torch. Even Sue Storm steals the show from her husband as writers have found more insidious and violent ways to utilize her powers in recent years. Yet, Reed abides. He leads the team and is typically consulted, in crisis, by every group of super-people on the planet. Reed’s name is “Mr. Fantastic,” but the half-hearted innovation that many writers give to his power set, the credit that he receives for his position in the Marvel Universe, and adoration that he receives from fans is anything but.
Friend of Comical Musings, John M. suggested we bark up the mystical tree. Look, Dr. Strange and Dr. Fate are kind of the same. It’s kind of embarrassing, but also kind of true. Each universe needs a supernatural magic guy and for whatever reason, they both are MDs. Mystical characters are fan favorites with writers, but all of that favoritism rarely generates compelling stories that launch them to stardom. Dr. Strange is a stalwart in books like Avengers and Defenders, but Dr. Strange solo books are usually looked over as un-inspired. There is so much continuity red-tape surrounding Hector Hall, that Dr. Fate is regularly choked out of stories. These insanely powerful and relevant characters are criminally underrated.
Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. Beast is featured in tons of different stories. He is a founding X-Man, a teacher at Wolverine’s school, an Avenger, a Defender, and a genius scientist. He can also whoop your ass with brute strength and animal reflexes. One thing Beast seems to be incapable of doing is being drawn the same ANYWHERE. In every title, we are always delighted to find out if Beast is going to be drawn as a lion, a monkey, or simply a blue dude. For being so important to the Marvel Universe, it seems that no one cares about him enough to make him look right. This isn’t why he is underrated, but it is a glaring symptom of neglect. Although Beast is featured all over the place, his rightful position is number three on this list.
Man-Thing is an elemental and magical force of nature. He also exists as the guardian of the nexus of all realities. His power set is incredible as he can silently teleport anywhere (even alternate dimensions), he has inhuman brute strength, he can regenerate his form (even resurrection), and burns anyone who has fear in their heart. Man-Thing is so freaking cool and I didn’t even know it until I read Jeff Parker’s Thunderbolts. You probably didn’t know until you read this list. He is deeply feared and respected by magical creatures, but can’t get much respect from readers in the mainstream market.
Miles is the spiritual successor to the mantle of “Ultimate Spider-Man.” Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley’s famous run on the fiercely popular Ultimate Spider-Man series lasted for more than one hundred issues (an amazing feat in modern comics). To make things even more epic, <SPOILER ALERT> the conclusion of the first volume of the Ultimate Spider-Man story ends in the death of Peter Parker. Bendis kills one of the most known and beloved characters ever in what was his most popular story at the time. To make things eve more shocking, Bendis starts a new Ultimate Spider-Man follow up with a younger, multi-racial, teen getting a different variation of the spider powers and taking up the great responsibility that comes with great power. To read that, it sounds like the most ham-fisted, doomed, “money grab” move ever…but it’s not. Miles Morales is a wonderfully fleshed out character. He is easy to relate to and Bendis is quickly succeeding at making us care about another kid in tights. The reason that Miles is number one on the list is that although he is a great character, he is not iconic. He may delight me monthly with his adventures and grow up into a legitimate placeholder in the Ultimate Marvel Universe, but to the average consumer, he will always be “that black kid in the Spider-Man costume.” He deserves far better than that.
Now, the reason that Swamp Thing is number five on this list and not higher is because recently, this book has been a hot seller. The creative team of Yanique Paquette and Scott Snyder are moving some units with a terrifying story and wonderful art. The reason that Swamp Thing makes the list is because he is an incredibly powerful and elemental force of nature, yet if he is without a good writer, he fades into obscurity. John M. rightfully suggested him for the list. It took years to get Swamp Thing to a place of respect, but for what he has been all of this time he is underrated. Hopefully a long and storied run by Snyder will remove him from the list all together.
It’s a shame that until DC’s New52 Swamp Thing was best known for two terrible movies and a decent TV show rather than for being the first mainstream comic to ABANDON THE COMICS CODE.
Friend of Comical Musings, John M. suggested we bark up the mystical tree. Look, Dr. Strange and Dr. Fate are kind of the same. It’s kind of embarrassing, but also kind of true. Each universe needs a supernatural magic guy and for whatever reason, they both are MDs. Mystical characters are fan favorites with writers, but all of that favoritism rarely generates compelling stories that launch them to stardom. Dr. Strange is a stalwart in books like Avengers and Defenders, but Dr. Strange solo books are usually looked over as un-inspired. There is so much continuity red-tape surrounding Hector Hall that Dr. Fate is regularly choked out of stories. These insanely powerful and relevant characters are criminally underrated.
Hal suggested Elijah Snow. While Planetary is a Wildstorm title, Wildstorm is a DC imprint and Elijah is too good to pass up. Elijah Snow is the main character in the universe-spanning epic, Planetary from the superstar creative team of Warren Ellis and John Cassaday. We are treated to rich characters with deep connections to each other and a brilliant sci-fi story that dips into all different genres in quirky and creative ways. Elijah snow is the hub of the story wheel and all of the spokes connect to him. We is written beautifully and really drives the series to unexpected places. As the single-most important character, the fact that many don’t remember him or wouldn’t think of him for this list justifies his position on it.
If you have a character that is magical (see number 4) and can beat down Superman, you would think that he would be utilized often. For Captain Marvel/Shazam, this is not the case. His super-powers are nearly infinite, but his readership is minuscule. Case in point, in the backs of the New 52 Justice League comic books, they ran a Captain Marvel/Shazam story that was critically praised as excellent. The reason that it had to run a few pages at a time in another publication is because DC is smart and knows that Captain Marvel/Shazam books don’t/can’t sell. Due to this inconsistency, Captain Marvel/Shazam is relegated to only being a part of great stories. The sad part is that if you think about stories that have featured Captain Marvel/Shazam (Kingdom Come, Batman/Superman Public Enemies, etc.) he is always the best part. A character that is critically successful, but hopelessly under-supported is underrated.
Booster Gold is a sell-out, arrogant, jerk-face. Hal loves that in a hero. Booster Gold is self-absorbed to the maximum and literally has worn sponsorship patches on his spandex uniform. He is lovable in that way that you love people that you don’t trust, but make you laugh. Booster Gold comes from the future and is cheating at super-heroics by using knowledge from that future to thwart crimes here in the past. <SPOILER ALERT> He also saved the entire DC Universe in the 52 event crossover. Nobody remembers that though… He has earned his bad rap, but his accomplishments and abilities define him as underrated. Booster has always had a heart of gold buried deep in his selfish star-emblazoned chest, he just rarely follows it.