After over 1,000 ballots were cast, YOU the reader ranked your favorite DC and Marvel comic book characters from 1-10. I assigned point totals to each ranking and then tabulated it all into a Top 50 list. We’re now revealing that list for the rest of November and into December. The countdown continues now…
I used to do sort of “biographies” for each of the characters on the list, but you know what, they’re on the Top 100 DC and Marvel characters list, so I think we should be working under the assumption that you all pretty much know the basic information about these characters. Instead, I’ll just write about whatever interests me about the character in question, including a notable comic book moment featuring the character.
We continue our countdown of YOUR picks for the 50 greatest DC Comics characters of all-time with 25-21!
20. The Captain (Billy Batson) – 609 points (8 first place votes)
Created by C. C. Beck and Bill Parker, Captain Marvel was originally published by Fawcett Comics, and told the tale of a young boy named Billy Batson who, when he says the word “Shazam,” transforms into the world’s mightiest mortal – Captain Marvel!
He gains the wisdom of Solomon; the strength of Hercules; the stamina of Atlas; the power of Zeus; the courage of Achilles; and the speed of Mercury.
It’s one of the coolest origins of all-time…
Soon, Billy was joined by his sister, Mary Marvel, and another boy, Freddie Freeman, Captain Marvel, Jr.
The Marvel Family fought on the side of good for many years. For a while there in the 1940s, Captain Marvel was actually THE most popular superhero comic book PERIOD, selling even more copies than Superman for a little bit (they were both selling well in the millions at the time, so it wasn’t like Superman wasn’t selling a whole lot, as well). In fact, after some contract shenanigans led to a Superman film serial getting canceled, the company turned to Captain Marvel next and so he actually became the FIRST superhero to get a major motion picture (well, film serial, but still). It was actually that film that pushed National Comics (now DC) to sue Fawcett, claiming that Captain Marvel infringed on Superman.
Fawcett eventually lost the case and ceased publication of their superhero comics. In the 1970s, DC began to license the characters and eventually, DC just purchased the character from Fawcett outright. Initially, DC mostly kept the Fawcett characters in their own universe (in the same time, Marvel had taken over the trademark on Captain Marvel, so DC couldn’t even sell comics CALLED “Captain Marvel” – they had to use the name “Shazam!” in the titles while continuing to call him Captain Marvel inside the comics) but eventually tried to integrate them. Jerry Ordway did a good Power of Shazam series that integrated them well while still keeping them sort of unique.
Towards the end of the Post-Crisis DCU, though, they were even further integrated, with mixed results.
In the New 52, the whole concept was rebooted and now Billy Batson turns into Shazam instead of Captain Marvel, as DC is embracing the fact that they can’t call him anything BUT that in marketing. Geoff Johns and Gary Frank revamped the concept entirely, and now Billy is a member of a foster family and after he gained his powers, he was able to transfer some of his powers to his foster brothers and sisters (Mary and Freddy are two of them).
Mark Waid recently revamped the hero, returning his “Captain” superhero name, but now just The Captain rather than Captain Marvel.
19. Swamp Thing (Alec Holland) – 672 points (9 first place votes)
Swamp Thing was created by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson, as a scientist who was almost killed in an explosion, but somehow survived, mixed in with swamp plants, etc. and became the Swamp Thing. What’s amusing is that the initial concept for the series was in a House of Secrets short story set in the past and when the story was well-received, Wein and Wrightson re-told the story in modern times (with Alec Olsen becoming Alec Holland now).
The book had a few different takes on the basic concept of a man who became a swamp monster, but fought for the side of right! It was most famously known for the striking artwork by Bernie Wrightson and when Wrightson left the series, Nestor Redondo took over and did a wonderful job living up to the high standards Wrightson left for the series.
In a later series, which opened with Swamp Thing trying to stop the Anti-Christ, writer Alan Moore took over, and revealed that when Alec Holland “died,” he REALLY died, and Swamp Thing was an elemental made up of the actual plants from the Swamp who THOUGHT they were Alec Holland.
Moore’s run was legendary, specifically on the relationship between Swamp Thing and his wife, Abby, and the introduction of John Constantine, who helped spur plots along by convincing Swamp Thing to help him out on various tasks.
One especially poignant moment was when Abby and Swamp Thing decide to have sex…
Once they’ve begun, their sexual experience is shown in a series of double page spreads. Here’s a couple of them…
Eventually, Swamp Thing became an Earth Elemental. Right before the New 52, Swamp Thing was sort of brought back and in the New 52, he has fully returned to mostly the pre-Alan Moore state, as Alec Holland mutated into Swamp Thing (although much of the Alan Moore set has been maintained, like the Plant Elemental stuff).
Swamp Thing served with Justice League Dark during this time. Eventually, when Alec Holland had to leave Earth, a new Swamp Thing took over for him named Levi Kami. Kami is basically the current Swamp Thing.
18. Martian Manhunter – 691 points (7 first place votes)
Created by Jack Miller and Joe Certa, J’onn J’onnz was brought to Earth by a scientist who was attempting to communicate with Mars. Tragically, the scientist died soon after J’onnz arrived here, so J’onnz was stranded on Earth. That was not THAT big of a deal, as J’onnz was actually the last survivor of his Martian race.
He quickly acclimated to Earth, and used his power of shapeshifting to appear as an Earthling. Going by the name John Jones, he became a detective. He would also shape shift into a form of his actual alien form (although more human in appearance) and use his other Martian powers (flight, telepathy, strength, heat vision and more) to help fight crime.
J’onnz, as the Martian Manhunter, co-founded the Justice League of America.
He took a good deal of time off from the League, but returned and was a stalwart member of the League, seeing it through the dissolution of Justice League of America and the formation of Justice League International.
One of my favorite Martian Manhunter moments is when Despero returns from the seeming dead to hunt down the last Justice League that he fought, which had Gyspy and others on it. He kills Gypsy’s parents and is about to kill her…
J’onn was a stalwart member of the reformed Justice League during Grant Morrison’s run. After that League ended, though, J’onn floundered for a few years and was even temporarily killed off. He was one of the heroes brought back to life during Blackest Night.
In the new 52, J’onn started off as a bit mysterious (and a member of Stromwatch after a disastrous time as a member of the Justice League) but he has slowly but surely rounded into the hero we always knew him to be. He eventually ended up on the Justice League again, as that is where he is sort of destined to always be.
We continue our countdown of YOUR picks for the 50 greatest Marvel Comics characters of all-time with 30-26!
17. Robin (Tim Drake) – 720 points (10 first place votes)
Created by Marv Wolfman and Neal Adams (Pat Broderick first drew him in an actual comic), Tim Drake was introduced as essentially the personification of a fanboy. He used attention to minutiae, obsessive fan behavior and, of course, a desire to have things go back to the way they were when he was a kid, to both figure out that Dick Grayson was Robin (Tim had memorized a move Dick had done as an acrobat and then saw Robin do the same move) and that he had quit. He became obsessed with having Dick become Robin again.
Instead, young Tim found himself as the new Robin. Not before training for seemingly twelve years before Batman let him go into action as Robin (and yet Batman let Jean-Paul Valley become BATMAN with pretty much no extra training).
One of the most interesting aspects about Tim Drake was that he was one of the few superheroes with both parents still aliv…oh wait, never mind, his mom was just killed by the Obeah Man (the Obeah Man should never play a significant part of your character’s back story. That should be a rule) Okay, so Tim was one of the few superheroes with at least one living paren…oh wait, never mind, his dad was just killed by Captain Boomerang. Tim Drake, like every other superhero ever, lost both of his parents to tragedy.
Tim as Robin became basically the best sidekick a guy could ask for, probably even more so than Dick Grayson, in the sense that Tim never had the temper tantrums that Dick was having constantly (the only time Tim ever gave Batman any crap was when Batman was a super jerk to him – like the time that Batman made up some elaborate ruse involving time travel just to screw with Tim as a “test.” Sure, Batman, a “test”).
Tim had a series of impressive moments as Robin, so it is hard to pick out a single moment, but how about the time that he took on KGBeast, the same guy who was so tough that Batman had to lock him in a room to starve him to death rather than face him head on, all while trying to protect a badly injured Harvey Bullock…
Over time, Tim’s prowess extended beyond the Bat-circle, as well, as he became the leader of first Young Justice and then the Teen Titans.
During a period that Bruce Wayne was believed to be dead, Tim decided to take on a new identity, Red Robin, as he needed to do some slightly unsavory things in his mission to prove that Bruce was not really dead (while at the same time, protect Bruce’s legacy against bad guys like Ra’s Al Ghul, who Tim had a dramatic confrontation against).
Tim was proven right about Bruce, but he also realized that Darkseid WANTED Tim to figure it out, so he had to keep the Justice League from helping him rescue Bruce while an alternate plan had to be devised (as Darkseid knew all along that Batman would find a way back home, so he rigged it so that Batman’s return would destroy the universe – that Darkeid, always thinking ahead!).
Then the New 52 happened, and Tim got rebooted. He went through a number of different versions before they eventually returned him to more of a classical take on the character following DC Rebirth. Tim also recently came out as bisexual, and began a relationship with an old high school friend of his…
16. Supergirl (Kara Zor-El) – 753 points (9 first place votes)
Created by Otto Binder and Al Platino, Supergirl had one of those amazingly condensed origin stories that were so popular in the 1950s and 1960s…
Plastino’s Kara is practically a cuteness overload!
Anyhow, that was the status quo for a number of years – Kara operated as Superman’s “secret agent.” She should have been mad at Superman, because when he finally revealed her to the world, they loved her. “This is what you were so afraid of, cousin?!” Over the years, Supergirl also found herself adoptive parents, as that is where the Danvers part of her background comes from.
That version of Kara went through many different relaunches until she died during Crisis on Infinite Earths, sacrificing herself to save her cousin. After an alien version of Supergirl came around during the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s (and then a weird future version at the turn of the 21st century), a new version of Kara was introduced about twenty years after the Pre-Crisis Kara died.
This version, too, needed to go through a few different relaunches (all within a single book, oddly enough) until it finally settled on a nice status quo…just in time for the New 52 to come around and reboot the character!
Once again, this version of Supergirl went through a couple of different approaches (she was even a Red Lantern for a time!) before roughly settling on an approach similar to the original Supergirl (it always happens like that – they try new takes on the character before they ultimately say, “Hey, the nice teenage female version of Superman is a pretty good character approach – why not just do that?”)
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