Top Four: Characters

Spider-Man and Peter ParkerThe Top Four series looks at certain aspects of the comic book world from two perspectives: Rob’s, as a relative newcomer to mainstream comics, and Kristine’s, as an older hand in the world.  Each installment evaluates the top four choices from both Rob and Kristine and why they chose their picks.



By Robert J. Baden and Kristine Chester

 


Characters are what make up a comic, be they superhero, villain, or just a supporting civilian that gives funny quips.  Without these people, such things as superhero teams or armies couldn’t function; they’d be empty, and, thus, useless.  Characters are the glue that make comics work, and how they’re portrayed and shown helps the readers empathize—or hate—them to the point where we see them as real people.  And, in a way, they are real people: other people created them, gave them a purpose, wrote how they interact with others, and how they show their feelings to others.

Throughout our experiences, we’ve seen several characters, both good and bad, and feel that we have picked the top four that make great characters.  These picks represent who we feel stand out the most in the comic world.



Rob’s Picks

#4: Wolverine (Logan)

Background:

One of the most visible members of the X-Men, Wolverine has healing abilities that make him immune to most injuries (though he still can experience pain).  His adamantium skeletal system allows him to pack quite a punch (with or without retractable claws) and deliver home some deadly kicks.  He also has an amazing sense of smell and has a keen dislike for fellow mutant Sabretooth.  He has the ability to be a leader, though not the desire, and is more comfortable being the loner than a team player.  Wolverine is often uncomfortable with his bloody past and attempts to make amends for it.

Pros:

The most appealing part of what makes Wolverine, well, Wolverine, is that he is aware of what can be done and isn’t happy about it.  He’s been through several wars, is probably best described as a typical grunt, and he’s been up against every Big Bad imaginable, but he goes out of his way not to kill unless he has to—because when he does, it reminds him that killing is what he’s best at.  He also knows his limitations and works with them as best as he can.

Cons:

Wolverine suffers from what many superheroes have: rushing straight into action without a given plan.  Once a plan is hatched, he’ll follow it—mostly—but he has a rather large problem standing around waiting for a plan to happen.  It’s often gotten him, and the people he fights with, into bad situations, particularly against Magneto. (I mean, the guy’s got a metal skeleton, and he’s fighting a guy who can manipulate metal; not a good situation.)



#3: Batman (Bruce Wayne)

Background:

One of the oldest superheroes around, Batman is the product of crime.  His parents were killed when he was young, and he vowed to fight crime, so people wouldn’t have to grow up without their families like he did.  He uses his wealth to secretly fund his endeavors, along with the help of his trusted Gentleman’s Gentleman (Butler).  He has no actual super powers, but instead relies on detective work and physical martial arts.  Works sometimes with partners, but mostly prefers to work alone.

Pros:

I’ve always enjoyed the idea of Batman: a rich guy who actually uses his wealth for good by battling crime—without resorting to lethal exchanges.  He absolutely refuses to use guns, mostly because of how his parents died, and often looks to immobilize rather than permanently disable offenders.  He may work outside of the law, but he takes great steps not to outright break it, trying instead to work with police to fight crime.

Cons:

A major problem that Batman has is that he is very much an egocentric pain in the rear.  Things have to be his way or else it’s the highway.  Even in Gotham City, he more or less has to be in charge of all the superheroes and vigilantes—even if only tacitly—or else he’ll take them out himself.  He’s also very distrusting of other superheroes that have extensive power, often carrying around a shard of Kryptonite as a way of keeping Superman in check should he ever try to use his powers for evil.  Even with the formation of the Justice League (of America), he still considered himself only a partial member, working on his own terms simply because he didn’t really trust anyone else.



#2: Snake-Eyes

Background:

Very much a man of mystery, the enigmatic Snake-Eyes has been a central member of the G.I. Joe team since its inception.  A first-rate commando with ninjutsu skills, Snake-Eyes cannot talk due to a combat injury that severed his vocal chords irreparably, disfiguring him for several years.  He has a romantic relationship with fellow teammate Scarlet, and has a close friendship with Stalker and Storm Shadow (both members of his unit prior to returning from Vietnam).  Perhaps the main protagonist of the Joes, Snake-Eyes comes into conflict with several top Cobra operatives.

Pros:

Snake-Eyes has a sense of honor and duty that preclude nearly everything else (including, at times, his relationship with Scarlet).  He doesn’t let things slide, and he is hard to win over in a friendship, but he isn’t cruel or mean.  He takes his duties within the Joe team to a personal level, and his ninja skills allow him to infiltrate several places that a normal commando would never be able to.

Cons:

A major problem associated with Snake-Eyes is that he always ends up fighting the same battle with the same people over the same situations.  These situations never seem to get fully resolved—they just get pushed to the side for a future recurrence.  Also, even though it makes his character different than many others, the fact that he can’t talk makes it very hard to truly get to see what Snake-Eyes thinks about in his life; we never get to really see what he thinks and feels, because he can’t talk about it.



#1: Spider-Man (Peter Parker)

Background:

Bitten by a genetically mutated (or radioactive) spider, Peter Parker receives the proportional powers of a spider himself: agility, wall-crawling, strength, and senses.  An academic genius and very handy in the field of science, Parker uses his knowledge and abilities to fight crime in NYC.  He first begins as a teen—one of the few non-sidekick teens in the superhero biz—and progress through his life, battling both large and small criminals.  Often seen as a menace by J. Jonah Jameson’s publications, Spider-Man protects people as best as he can, though he learns from mistakes as he goes along.

Pros:

One of the outstanding aspects of the character is his sense of responsibility to the public and to himself.  With the power he has, he could take advantage and not have to worry about money or a place to live, but the death of his uncle (and subsequent death of his first true love interest) shows him that he has to take responsibility for his actions (and inactions).  It is also appealing that as a teen, and one who is considered the class geek/nerd, he turns his life around because he wants to, despite the overwhelming desire to pummel people like Flash Thompson.

Cons:

The one major problem with Peter Parker is that he allows his personal life to greatly interfere with his superhero activities—and vice versa.  He spends nearly as much time trying to balance the two without them interacting as he does actually battling criminals and supervillains.  As a teen and young adult, he tries to do most of the things that people his age do—go out on dates, go to parties, hang out with people—but ends up having to always come up with an excuse as to why he’s absent; it gives him quite a lot of stress.



Kristine’s Picks

#4: Magneto (Erik Lensherr)

Background:

Survivor of the Holocaust, Erik Lensherr took on the name Magneto when his mutant powers, the ability to control the force of magnetism, developed.  Once an ally and close friend of Charles Xavier, the two men both struggle to help mutant-kind but took two very different approaches.  While Xavier focuses on making peace between mutants and humans, Magneto founded The Brotherhood of (Evil) Mutants, an organization promoting mutant rights to the exclusion of humanity.

Pros:

Magneto is charismatic, able to rally others to his cause.  He's a survivor, having made it past some incredibly tough situations, and though his morals may be twisted now, he once worked alongside Xaiver to bridge the gaps between humans and mutants.  Magneto is also one of the world's most powerful mutants, giving him the power to match his ambition.

Cons:

Erik has never stopped viewing himself as the victim.  While no one will argue that Magneto had a good childhood, he's let these moments warp him, now leading him to repeat the same crimes on humans that were once inflicted upon him.  His approach of the ends justifting the means has led to much death and pain on all sides and have actually had the opposite effect he desired, making humanity fear mutants rather than want to coexist.


#3: Robo (Atomic Robo Tesla)

Background:

Robo was built by Nikola Tesla in 1923 to be his assistant and to prove artificial intelligence was possible.  Robo has since been many things since then - vigilante, soldier, spy, action scientist, CEO - but one thing hasn't changed: his willingness to put himself in between humanity and the likes of destructive forces be they Nazis, a portal to the vampire dimension, or an intelligent time-traveling dinosaur armed with crystals.

Pros:

Robo is just so freaking lovable.  He's sarcastic, smart, incredibly strong, and literally one-of-a-kind, but he's human at his core (well, nuclear anyway).  He's taken the time to address the families of soldiers he's once served with and to foster an interest of science in youth in addition to his many responsibilities.  Robo's creation of Tesladyne and the Action Scientists have given humanity a weapon to use against the paranormal, and Robo is always at the front of any operation not just because he's nigh-indestructible...actually, probably because he's nigh-indestructible.

Cons:

His sarcastic nature and penchant for destruction hasn't won Robo many supporters.  In fact his enemy list includes Nazi scientists, Thomas Edison, extra-dimensional demons, Stephen Hawking, Dr. Dinosaur, other robots, aliens, and much, much more.  Robo has even managed to piss off whole countries. (Apparently, Egypt doesn't like it when you blow up one of their pyramids.)  It's also worth noting that probably half the supernatural dangers Tesladyne puts down come from within the organization as they go about their studies.


#2: Oracle (Barbara Gordon)

Background:

Daughter to Commissioner James Gordon, Barbara grew up with a love of adventure and a desire to make a difference, and so she took on the mantle of Batgirl.  Years later, Barbara was shot by the Joker, crippling her.  She then took up the identity of Oracle, where she made use of a mastery of computer systems and a vast network of contacts to assist the likes of Batman and Robin, the Birds of Prey, and even later Batgirls.

Pros:

Barbara's tenacity is incredible.  She was placed in a bad situation and made the most of it.  Her technical skills and knowledge have helped solve hundreds of cases and saved the lives of many a hero.  She's also responsible for creating the team the Birds of Prey, an all female superhero group based out of Gotham and later Platinum Flats, CA, which undertook a variety of missions both espionage and heroic in nature.  Barbara also later trained Stephanie Brown as Batgirl and Wendy Harris as Proxy, helping another set of fallen heroes find a new means to help fight the good fight.

Cons:

Barbara throws herself into her work as a means of escape from her circumstances.  She's often seen taking on too much and ignoring her personal life, much to the frustration of her father.  Pre DCnU, Barbara was still rather sensitive about being in a wheelchair and would have done anything to get out of it.  Barbara's stubbornness has put her at odds with most of her teammates in the Bat family and the Birds of Prey at one point or another, as she refuses to hear their ideas or betray their trust in order to keep focusing on a problem.


#1: Spider-Man (Peter Parker)

Background:

Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive/genetically engineered spider giving him the proportional strength, reflexes, and abilities of a spider.  Despite this happening when he was only a high school student, Peter took up the mantle of Spider-Man and started to swing around town as a hero, and has only taken on more responsibility since.

Pros:

The phrase his Uncle Ben told him, “With great power, comes great responsibility,” has stuck with him and has led Peter to throw himself into many dangerous situations in order to help the innocent, regardless of his poor reputation thanks to the likes of newspapers like The Daily Bugle.  When he remembers to turn on his brain, Peter is a genius, able to use his intelligence to solve problems rather than brute force, but, perhaps, what makes him most appealing are his everyman qualities, as he struggles to balance his home life and careers.

Cons:

Peter has what has been dubbed “Parker Luck.”  No matter how well things seem to be going, sooner or later he is struck back down.  Odd circumstances have prevented Peter from successfully balancing his double life.  On a hot date, Hobgoblin's tearing apart the city; need to spend time with Aunt May who's fallen ill in the hospital, your dead clone returns and wants a confrontation; try to visit your wife who's in LA at the time, she's flying back home to New York to see you.


There are certainly other characters to explore, and you may find that you identify better with others that aren’t mentioned here.  Each has their own flaws and strengths, but the one thing that they all have in common is that they’re people (sort of).

 

 

Last modified on Thursday, 27 December 2018 17:43

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