The Shelf Is Half Full

An optimistic geek's blog on comic books, movies and professional wrestling.

Archive for the category “Superhero Spotlight”

Superhero Spotlight – Green Lantern (Hal Jordan)

As the 1950’s drew to a close and the genre of superhero comics was about to enter it’s most successful period since the Golden Age, DC Comics was having to expand their roster of superhero characters. While Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman and even Aquaman had managed to maintain a level of popularity, most other heroes failed to capture the imagination of post World War II readers. America was more enamored with real heroes than fantastic superheroes, and genres like westerns, war comics and teenage humor comics had taken over as the most popular genres. But after finding success with retooling one Golden Age hero (The Flash) by giving him a new identity and a more modern costume, DC decided to try their luck again with another hero: Green Lantern.

Hal Jordan

Showcase #22

The original Green Lantern was a railroad engineer named Alan Scott who discovered a magical green lantern and ring that gave him the power to fly, walk through walls, fire energy beams and a wide variety of other powers. This mystical take was not going to capture the imagination of an America about to enter the “Space Age”, where science fiction reigned supreme, so the idea of the power ring charged by a lantern was heavily retooled for a new story. And in October of 1959, Showcase #22 introduced comic book readers to the new Green Lantern; a test pilot named Hal Jordan.

In this new take on the Green Lantern idea, the ring and lantern are inherited by Hal when an alien named Abin Sur crash lands on Earth. Dying, he sends the ring out in search of a replacement Green Lantern, and Hal is chosen for his ability to overcome fear. The ring allows him to create hard light constructs; basically he can make anything he imagines as long as he has sufficient willpower and charge in his ring, which gets its power from the energy in the lantern (also called a power battery). It also enlisted Hal into an intergalactic peacekeeping force known as the Green Lantern Corps. Controlled by wise blue elfs called the Guardians of Oa, the Corps had a wide variety of members all around the universe, with Hal Jordan becoming the Green Lantern of Space Sector #2814.

GL Corps

From Justice League Founder to Super Villain

As one of the premier heroes of the time, Hal Jordan was one of the seven founders of The Justice League, alongside Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, and Barry Allen. In addition to his solo stories, Hal was also known for his close friendship with Barry Allen and perhaps most famously for his confrontational partnership with Green Arrow. The creative team of Dennis O’Neal and Neal Adams famously put the two together as a way to talk about relevant social issues, including racism, corporate corruption and teenage drug addiction. Due to the nature of the Green Lantern Corps, the books also introduced readers to other, “reserve” GL’s from Earth: Jon Stewart and Guy Gardner.

DC Comics continued to struggle with their sales in the early 1990’s, and made some controversial, headline grabbing story choices to catch the public’s eye. Superman was famously killed by Doomsday, Batman had his back broken by Bane, and Green Lantern was similarly shaken up. Hal Jordan was perhaps the biggest victim of this period in comics; rather than give him a heroic death or retire him gracefully, DC had Hal’s hometown of Coast City destroyed in a battle between Superman and Mongul. Hal was driven mad by his lack of ability to save everyone and went on a rampage killing all the Green Lanterns in the universe, leaving only his replacement, Kyle Raynor.

And suddenly I just realized where George Lucas got the plot for his Star Wars prequels from…

Rebirth

Rebirth and the Geoff Johns Era

Hal’s rampage eventually made him a supervillain named Parallax, and he was eventually killed off and then sort of revived as the host for the Spectre, DC’s interpretation of a punishing angel of God. Thankfully, Hal Jordan was destined for more than being remembered as a popular character of a bygone era. Hotshot DC writer Geoff Johns was a dedicated fan of the character and had several fresh ideas for the Green Lantern Mythology, and in 2005 DC editors gave him the go ahead to bring Hal Jordan back from the dead. The Green Lantern: Rebirth mini-series was a godsend to fans of the character; instead of being a simple reboot that ignored years of history, Johns tied up the stories that had been done with Hal to that point, spotlighted Jon Stewart and Guy Gardner while keeping Kyle Raynor around, and even managed to address some of the odd plot holes along the way.

Most notably, he explained the Lantern’s ridiculous weakness to the color yellow as being an impurity in the rings’ power source, the power battery on Oa, homeworld of the Green Lantern Corps. This impurity was the result of the Guardians trapping the fear entity known as Parallax in the power battery, who took over Hal Jordan in Hal’s bid for power. This introduction of other colors tied to emotions paved the way for new stories with the Green Lanterns, building a rich mythology that elevated Green Lantern to be one of DC’s most popular and critically acclaimed series of all time. Not bad for a character that arguably should have died for good in the 1990’s.

Green Lantern

The Jerk With a Heart of Gold

DC Comics is known for characters that are more archetypal than Marvel’s, more mythic figures that embody an ideal than a fully fleshed out characters. And while I would argue that is a bit of an unfair statement, I will grant that there is some validity to that; Superman and Batman tend to feel a bit flat compared to say, Spider-Man and Wolverine. However, I feel that of all of DC’s big names, Hal Jordan is the one that feels most human. Hal is brash and opinionated and often reckless; he challenges the authority of the Guardians of Oa and the Justice League, but also takes his duty as an intergalactic cop seriously. He’s a jerk and a screw-up, but ultimately he is a hero and that’s hard to dislike.

I think most readers can find a lot to like about Hal Jordan; things never seem to go quite right for him, and he often seems in over his head. He makes mistakes and falls on his butt quite a few times, but he never gives up. After all, Hal’s defining trait is the ability to overcome fear. I strongly encourage comic book fans to give Green Lantern a shot; he’s one of the most interesting, likable and well-developed characters in comic books.

Superhero Spotlight – Wolverine

Since the X-Men debuted in September of 1963, literally dozens of mutants have joined the team for at least some length of time. Naturally, some are going to be more popular than others; everyone knows who Storm and Cyclops, but you’d be hard-pressed to find any casual fan who knows who Maggot is. Don’t look him up, his mutation really isn’t pretty. However, there is one member of the X-Men who has definitely broken out from the pack, it’s the man with adamantium claws. He’s the best there is at what he does, and what he does isn’t very nice.

Wolverine

Wolverine

Wolverine was created by writer Len Wein and artist John Romita, Sr. at the suggestion of then editor-in-chief for Marvel Roy Thomas. It may be a surprise that one of the most popular superheroes of all time actually debuted as an antagonist for another hero: Hulk. Debuting in the final panel of The Incredible Hulk #180 and making his full debut an issue later, the man we would come to call Logan was a mutant with enhanced senses and metal claws. Working for the Canadian government, he fights the Hulk to a stalemate and somehow survives his ridiculous original mask to become part of the “all new, all different” X-Men team that debuts in Giant-Size X-Men #1. Wolverine was now a part of the X-Men, and rest is history.

#181

Logan stood out from his fellow X-Men in several ways. First and foremost was his age; physically in his forties, Wolverine is in actuality much older that that, born in the nineteenth century. While most of the X-Men were young adults with little formal training, Logan was a grown man with a ton of combat training and a willingness to kill those who deserved to be stabbed with his claws. Wolverine was also a victim of experimentation; his ability to heal at an extremely accelerated rate allowed him to survive the process where the virtually indestructible metal known as adamantium was bonded to his skeleton. This process made Wolverine an even more deadly killing machine, and also cost him most of his long-term memory.

The Wolverine

The Beast and The Samurai

The character of Wolverine is a man at odds with dual natures. On one hand, he is essentially a good man, a noble warrior who wishes to protect the innocent. Logan has trained as both a ninja and a samurai, and his body is a lethal weapon even without the metal bones (or the claws). He wants to be a good man, a protector, but this puts him at odds with another aspect of his mutation. In addition to his animal like senses, Wolverine occasionally falls victim to a berserker rage in the heat of battle, This anger has caused Logan to take several lives that he wishes that he hadn’t, and is something he always struggles to control.

Logan is a loner both by the nature of his personality and the fact that his anger makes him a danger to those closest to him at times. Not to mention people like Sabretooth and Silver Samurai who are always trying to kill him. Logan tends to discourage people from making friends with him, but once he considers someone a friend he is an incredibly loyal one. When he first joined the X-Men his gruff, cynical and sometimes violent nature put him at odds with many of the team, but he gradually comes to accept them as his family and has formed several close relationships. He has served as a father figure to Kitty Pryde, Jubilee, and his clone (and eventual successor) X-23. This trait even made it into the movie adaptations where he serves as a protective father figure to Rogue.

Best There Is

The Best There Is

Chances are that is somebody only knows one member of the X-Men, it’s Wolverine. He was the ensemble dark horse of the Claremont era and starred in both a mini-series and a separate ongoing series before the 1990’s. By the time I was first getting into superheroes as a kid Wolverine was literally everywhere; along with Spider-Man and Batman he was definitely the superhero that everyone thought was cool. Logan’s status as something of anti-hero who wasn’t afraid to kill made him stand out and it inspired a new kind of comic book hero. Though one can argue the merits of having so many anti-heroes, it’s impossible to argue the impact Logan has had on the comic book business.

Despite being a relative newcomer to comics with just forty years of publication, Wolverine has already cemented himself as one of the most popular and enduring icons of the industry. In fact, one could make the argument that Wolverine is responsible for bringing superheroes to the point of mainstream acceptance they enjoy today. Hugh Jackman’s take on the character was the centerpiece of the X-Men movies and were it not for their success I would argue that we would not be enjoying Avengers movies today. He’s the favorite of many and certainly a favorite of mine.

Superhero Spotlight – Jean Grey

With the commercial and critical success of such superheroes as The Fantastic Four, The Amazing Spider-Man and The Avengers, Stan Lee found himself in need of still more superheroes to meet the increased demand of the buyers. Once he developed the concept of mutants, people who were simply born different who developed extraordinary powers in their teenage years, Lee developed five young heroes who would become the first X-Men, debuting in the pages of The X-Men #1 in September of 1963. They were all taught by Professor Charles Xavier to control their powers and to defend humanity from mutant terrorists such as Magneto. Those five were Scott Summers (Cyclops), Bobby Drake (Iceman), Henry McCoy (Beast), Warren Worthington III (Angel) and today’s spotlight character..

Jean Grey

Jean Grey

From Marvel Girl to Phoenix

Jean Grey was one of Professor Xavier’s first students, even before the X-Men were formed. Jean’s telepathic powers (the ability to read minds, in layman’s terms) first emerged when her childhood friend Annie was killed in a car accident. Her mind connected with her friend and she felt the fear and pain Annie suffered in her death, leaving Jean traumatized. Being the most powerful telepath in the world, Xavier created psychic barriers in Jean’s mind to keep her telepathy under control. Jean and Xavier developed a close bond when she became a charter X-Men member (now using her telekinetic powers), and was trusted even more so that Scott. In her initial experiences Jean was introverted and shy, but grew to care deeply for her teammates, especially Scott, who would be the love of her life.

Being created in the 1960’s, Jean suffered from what many fans call “Smurfette Syndrome”: being the only female character in a sea of male characters. Like Sue Storm before her, Jean was treated more like a princess than a warrior in her early stories. Thankfully, Chris Claremont saw the potential in Jean Grey’s telekinetic and telepathic abilities; when the X-Men were relaunched in the 1970’s, Jean had gone from being the “weakest” of the X-Men to being their most powerful weapon. Using all of her telekinetic powers, she saved her teammates from death by creating shields around a spacecraft as it entered the atmosphere; the strain should have killed her, but instead unlocked her true power as she arose as The Phoenix.

Phoenix

The Dark Phoenix Saga

With her increased powers, Jean also began to break out of her shell. She became more forward in her relationship with Scott, and was much more aggressive against threats than she had been before. This would take a dark turn as her mind was manipulated by the mutant illusionist known as Jason Wyngarde, a.k.a. Mastermind. Phoenix became Dark Phoenix, the Black Queen of the Hellfire Club, a secret society of mutants that Mastermind was working with. The X-Men’s most beloved ally had become their greatest enemy; the Phoenix Force was a cosmic entity whose rage destroyed an entire planet of sentient beings, and was only stopped when it’s vessel, Jean was killed. The Dark Phoenix Saga is arguably the X-Men’s most legendary story and Jean was the centerpiece, forever establishing her place in comic book history as a tragic hero and victim of a godlike entity’s power.

Okay, so technically this all got retconned to the Phoenix Force sensing that Jean was dying and taking her form while Jean recovered from her injuries. This starts an entirely too convoluted series of events where Jean finally heals from her injuries and comes back to the land of the living, the idea being to distance Jean from the Phoenix so as not to confuse readers… by confusing them more. But that wasn’t Claremont’s original intention; Phoenix was written to be Jean with the Phoenix’s influence, not the other way around, and I prefer that as my personal “head canon”.

Jim Lee

Rebirth, Death, and Time Travel

Anyway, the important thing in all of this is that Jean Grey came back to life and was a superhero again. She initially teamed up with her original X-Men teammates in X-Factor before eventually returning to the X-Men. This is how Jean Grey was when I first started paying attention to the X-Men in the 1990’s. That costume just has not aged well… but in abstract terms, this is how I remember the X-Men and thus how I tend to think of Jean Grey. Married to Scott Summers, capable X-Men veteran with awesome psychic powers, kind and gentle soul who serves as the team mom for the X-Men. I loved this Jean and still do. And I’ll never forgive Grant Morrison for killing her off.

But thankfully, good characters have a way of coming back. But rather than do another cheap resurrection, Brian Michael Bendis had a rather clever idea of how to reintroduce her to the Marvel Universe. After the events of Avengers vs. X-Men positioned Scott Summers as at best an anti-hero and at worse a justified villain, Henry McCoy decided to travel in time to when Scott and the other X-Men were still innocent; that is to say, when they were teenagers who hadn’t even encountered Sentinels yet. They traveled through time, Jean Grey’s telepathy kicked in, and now there’s a sixteen year old Jean Grey roaming around the Marvel Universe knowing the entire messy history of the woman she would have grown up to be. Heavy stuff… and the basis for my favorite interpretation of the character yet.

Marvel Girl

Endless Possibilities

I’m ashamed to say it took me a while to start reading All-New X-Men because I just assumed that the time displaced original X-Men was going to be a short-lived gimmick, not a viable new creative direction that would last for several years. Once I decided to give it a chance after several recommendations, I promptly tried to kick myself. Unsuccessfully so, but I tried. These comics are awesome, and after living in a world where Scott is a villain, Jean is dead and Warren’s lost his mind and is basically an entirely different character, it was incredibly satisfying to see these characters be good guys again. Not to mention young teenagers that make mistakes, sometimes huge mistakes.

Jean is clearly positioned as the star of this comic, carrying a lot of anger and resentment over the negative things that have happened to the older Jean and looking to change it. She quickly establishes herself as the leader of the original X-Men and this is a pretty refreshing take to be honest. I adore this Jean, I love how she takes the best qualities of the original character (and some alternate versions) but also has her own identity, and I look forward to seeing more of how her character develops. Everything seems unpredictable, in a good way; and maybe, just maybe this Jean will be able to have a happy life that doesn’t get ruined by the Phoenix. She deserves it.

Superhero Spotlight – Dick Grayson

When Batman was introduced to comic book readers in the spring of 1939, he was a brooding vigilante who had no regard for the life of criminals, a far cry from even the modern Dark Knight. He was a product of the times; America was in the Great Depression and Batman’s grim stories connected with audiences. However, as the costumed crime fighter became more popular with young readers, it was decided by the creative team to soften the character. A major part of this process was the addition of a teenage sidekick, someone the younger readers could relate to (and by proxy giving Batman someone to talk to). Detective Comics #38 labeled him as Robin “The Boy Wonder”, and these days he usually goes by Nightwing. But his real name is

Dick Grayson

Detective #38

The Dark Knight’s Squire

Dick Grayson was the son of circus acrobats John and Mary Grayson, and like Batman he is orphaned by crime when the owner of Haley’s Circus refuses to pay off extortionist Tony Zucco. Zucco cuts the line when the Flying Graysons are performing their trapeze act and they fall to their death. Bruce Wayne takes him in as his ward and Dick becomes the first “sidekick” in superhero comics; Robin was synonymous with Batman for the next three decades; they were the dynamic duo and along with Superman were probably the most well known superheroes until Stan Lee kickstarted the Marvel Universe in the 1960’s.

Of course, being well known doesn’t mean that Robin didn’t have his fair share of critics. Many kids failed to connect to the character and often found him to be something of a nuisance who causes more problems than he solved. The Dynamic Duo also came under fire for supposed homosexual undertones… scourge of decency everywhere. (This is sarcasm.) The important to know here is that Robin as Batman’s sidekick became a bit played out by the 1970’s and in order for Dick Grayson to continue to be a viable part of DC’s universe. Fortunately, Robin had another major role to play.

New Titans

The Teen Wonder: Leader of the Teen Titans

In a world where teenage heroes like Spider-Man and the X-Men were able to operate independently without having an adult watch their back, the idea of a teenage sidekick seemed to be a quaint and outdated concept. However, Robin was still an iconic character, and DC began throwing various sidekicks like Kid Flash, Wonder Girl, Speedy (Green Arrow’s sidekick) and Aqualad together as a group called The Teen Titans. It didn’t exactly work, but eventually the creative team of Marv Wolfman and George Perez fine tuned the idea, introduced some new characters to compliment the ones who had been around forever, and created one of the most popular and high quality comic runs of all time. The New Teen Titans is a masterpiece of character development with dozens of characters given unique fleshed out personalities that play off of each other in diverse and entertaining ways. And Dick Grayson benefited greatly from his involvement.

Despite lacking any superpowers, Robin’s experience as a crime fighter and his years of training under Batman made him the natural choice for a leader. He is a tactician on the battlefield and a diplomat off of it, reigning in the various personalities and making them work together as a cohesive unit. Writing Robin as an intelligent and capable leader helped to make him cooler than he’d ever been, and to give him his own unique identity outside of simply being Batman’s sidekick. For comic book readers, the name “Robin” is as synonymous with the Teen Titans as it is with Batman. But in order to complete the transition, Dick Grayson would have to adopt a new persona, inspired by the Bat but completely his own.

Nightwing

Dick Grayson Grows Up

One of the unique things about Dick Grayson is that he has grown up throughout the years. While his character was largely stagnant throughout the Golden and Silver Ages of Comics, Robin started going to college in the 1970’s. He became independent from Bruce Wayne and began to clash with him. Readers who might have found Robin uncool as a kid now got to see him develop into a young adult, challenging the standards that his father figure set and becoming his own man. He had gone from being a sidekick to a team leader to being a solo star as Nightwing, headlining his own comic book series and defending his own town from criminals: Bludhaven.

We have also seen Dick take the mantle of Batman from Bruce Wayne for a few significant periods of time, which have shown that he has grown exponentially as a hero. Despite their personality differences, putting Dick in the Batman suit has never felt wrong; it fits like a glove. And I’d like to imagine that in some imaginary future Dick does become Batman full time, but I have to say that to me, Dick Grayson is Nightwing. It’s not the identity given to him by Batman, and it’s not the one he is destined to inherit. It is his persona, the name he chose for himself.

Dick Grayson was created so that kids would have somebody to relate to; he has become a character that comic book fans have literally grown up with, going through the same things they do. In some ways, he is DC’s answer to Spider-Man, and along the way he has cemented his own legacy as one of the greatest characters in the history of comic books.

Prodigal

Superhero Spotlight – The Flash (Barry Allen)

The idea of an ultra-fast superhero named “The Flash” was first introduced to comic book readers in 1940 in Flash Comics #1, created by Gardner Fox and Harry Lampert. Jay Garrick inhaled “hard water vapors” to get his powers and began fighting crime as one of many popular superheroes of the era. After World War II the superhero genre took a sharp decline in popularity and Garrick’s last adventures in a starring role came in 1951. But the idea of The Flash was too good not to run with. In 1956 DC Comics created a second character with the powers and the name, but with a brand new costume, secret identity and backstory that would transform The Flash into one of DC’s most popular and enduring characters.

Barry Allen (The Flash)

Showcase

The Comic Book Origin

Barry Allen was a forensic scientist whose life to a dramatic change when he was struck by lightning and doused in the chemicals in his lab. Surviving the accident that should have killed him, Barry soon learns that he has been gifted with super speed, becoming the Fastest Man Alive. Using his powers, he defends his hometown of Central City as their resident costumed hero, fighting everyone from petty criminals like The Rogues to Gorilla Grodd, a hyper-intelligent gorilla with psychic powers. Barry also had many adventures through time and dimensions, using his powers and a device called the Cosmic Treadmill to travel backwards and forward in time. And of course, The Flash would also be a founding and iconic member of the Justice League.

Flash’s personal life was different from many superheroes of the time. He was one of the first heroes who didn’t keep his life hidden from his parents and the first to tell his love interest Iris West of his identity. While this occasionally lead to tragedy when Barry’s most vindictive enemies decided to harm him emotionally (usually Professor Zoom, the Reverse Flash), Barry and Iris were mostly a happy couple. They married and Iris would even bear his children. Sadly, Barry would not live to see them, as he nobly sacrificed himself to defeat the Anti-Monitor in the climactic chapter of Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Infantino

The Real Life Origin

Barry Allen was created by writer Robert Kanigher and artist Carmine Infantino (pictured above), two of DC’s most imaginative creators of the era. Carmine’s dynamic art brought the Flash to life, truly showcasing the movement that the character was supposed to have, while Kanigher very nearly created the Silver Age of Comics by making Barry’s stories so heavily based in science fiction and helping define a new generation of superheroes. Barry Allen debuted in Showcase #4 in October of 1956 and was a staple of DC’s line-up for three decades before he was essentially killed off in George Perez and Marv Wolfman’s game-changing Crisis On Infinite Earths story.

The keyword, of course, is essentially. While Barry was absent from comics, The Flash legacy continued as Barry’s nephew and teenage sidekick Wally West took up Barry’s mantle, becoming the definitive Flash for a new generation of comic book readers. However, after twenty three years writers Grant Morrison and Geoff Johns decided to bring Barry Allen back to DC Comics. Using a loophole that Wolfman intentionally put into Barry’s “death”, they had him escape the void he had driven the Anti-Monitor into; Barry soon became the company’s premiere Flash once again.

Flash

Always Moving Forward

Barry Allen ended up playing a central role in another event that redefined DC’s universe. In a story called The Flashpoint Paradox, Barry went back in time to prevent his mother from being killed. Writer Geoff Johns had created this extra level of tragedy in order to further flesh out Barry’s personality, since he came from a time where characterization wasn’t as important to DC comics as the plot. This story gave Johns a chance to define Barry as somebody who is always moving forward, showing that we can’t spend our lives regretting what we couldn’t change, but we have to keep looking to the future and how we can affect it.

Given that he was written out of comics for thirty years, it’s odd to think that Barry Allen is now more popular than ever. His relaunched series was consistently one of the best comics for the first two years of DC’s The New 52 relaunch, with stunning art and excellent storytelling that introduced Barry to a new generation of comic book fans. And even non-comic readers are familiar with Barry Allen again thanks to a positively received television adaptation that spun out of the already successful Arrow TV show.

CW

Why Barry Allen Is My Flash

Wally West was The Flash when I was growing up, but he was never a character I particularly gravitated to. The Wally I knew was from the television show Justice League and was always making jokes and was rarely ever serious. He was a valuable part of the team, but not a character I enjoyed on his own. When I read comics with Wally as Kid Flash, I grew to dislike him even more, as he was always complaining about being a super hero and even when he took Barry’s mantle he just seemed to whine about not living up to Barry’s legacy. So I didn’t have a high opinion of The Flash when I really got into comics with DC’s relaunch in 2011.

Barry Allen pretty much changed all of that. I enjoyed that he was a scientist, someone who used his brain to solve problems and not just his powers. I liked how shy and awkward he was around everybody and came to realize that he was just a genuinely nice guy. I can’t picture Barry ever being a jerk to anyone, and that is always endearing. Over time I came to realize that he was the DC character I related to most. Superman and Wonder Woman inspired me, Green Lantern and Batman captured my imagination, but I genuinely felt an emotional connection to Barry as if he were me when I read him. Flash has gone from being a character I didn’t care about to one of my favorites.

Superhero Spotlight – Captain America

It is still Memorial Day in my timezone as I write this article, and I’d like to start by respectfully extending my thanks to every American soldier who has laid down his or her life in the service of my country. They paid the ultimate price so that I can enjoy the security and freedom to enjoy my life as an American citizen, and I will always be grateful for their sacrifice and for those who have served and continue to serve.

It only seems fitting that today I shine the spotlight on probably the most popular American soldier in comic books, the Star-Spangled Man with a Plan. Known to his friends as Steve Rogers, the super soldier is known around the world as…

Captain America

Steve Rogers

The Comic Book Origin

Steve Rogers was a scrawny, sickly kid from Brooklyn, New York, the son of Irish immigrants who wished to serve his country in World War II. After volunteering as a test subject for an experimental super soldier serum, Steve’s body was transformed to the absolute pinnacle of human ability. With his enhanced physical strength, agility and stamina, Steve was a weapon that the Nazis were ill-prepared to deal with. While these physical traits made Captain America a superhuman, it was the intangible traits of leadership, kindness and unflinching moral character that helped transform Steve Rogers into an inspirational figure. Fighting alongside the Howling Commandos and his sidekick and friend Bucky Barnes, Steve served his country until a fateful final battle that left him frozen in ice.

But Captain America’s story wasn’t done yet. When the Avengers discovered him frozen but still alive, they thawed him from the ice and Steve naturally found his place as the leader of the Avengers team. While he is a man from another era and often finds himself at odds with the America of today, Steve’s courage, charisma and compassion have made him one of the greatest superheroes of another era. He’s stood up in the face of certain death, as indomitable as his vibranium shield. He’s helped to save the world numerous times and become perhaps the most respected leader in the Marvel Universe.

Simon

The Real Life Origin

Captain America was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, two American Jews who were angry and afraid of Hitler’s Nazi regime. Consciously choosing to make a politically minded hero, they created Steve Rogers as very deliberate war propaganda; the first issue debuted a full year before the United States entered World War II after the Pearl Harbor Bombings. While not without their (sometimes violent) detractors, Captain America proved to be an extremely popular character. The iconic first issue where Steve threw a right cross at the Fuhrer sold close to a million copies and Steve’s popularity remained close to this level throughout World War II. Though his stories originally had him going against Nazi spies infiltrating America, Steve would soon become a soldier battling in Europe when America entered the fray. And many of the most loyal buyers were American soldiers.

It is interesting to note that Captain America’s celebrated return (and intro into the Marvel universe proper) in the 1960’s occurred only a few months after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The beloved president’s death weighed heavily upon the country, and it seems only fitting that a symbol of what is right and strong about the country was brought back to comics in response. Steve has been a steady presence ever since then, usually as a leading member of the Avengers cast but also in several of his own series. Though his popularity has waned at times as Americans have grown disenchanted with the nation, Steve is now enjoying a surge of public awareness thanks to his presence in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Captain

The Symbol of (Changing) American Ideals

One of the more interesting aspects of Captain America is that he is, by his very nature, a symbol of the United States and he thus has to be presented in a way that almost any American can relate to him and aspire to be more like him. To this end, Steve is almost apolitical in a sense, neither too conservative nor too liberal. If anything, one of his defining traits is his willingness to listen to all sides and to try to make a decision that will best serve everybody. And while the original Captain America was a gung-ho super patriotic soldier because of the time he was featured in, Steve has proven to have a more worldly view and to not possess any of America’s prejudices against various “enemy” nations or cultures. He is just here to defend the country and the world from evil, whatever form that may take.

Indeed, during periods where America was not at war and public conscience was more introspective, looking at the controversies and corruption in our government, Steve has proven to be a discerning citizen and not somebody who blindly supports the nation when it is in the wrong. He is a true patriot in that he loves America, but wants the best for it. If the country is doing something right, it should be kept that way, and if the country is doing something wrong, that should be changed. When Steve returned to comics in the 1960’s he had the first African American superhero, The Falcon, as his crimefighting partner during a time when the civil rights of black Americans was at a boiling point. This is an example of how Steve manages to be progressive simply by being a good man who treats people with decency and respect.

Chris Evans

What Steve Rogers Means To Me

Captain America has, over the course of the last year, become my second favorite superhero, behind only Wonder Woman. I initially had trouble connecting with the character because I’ve never considered myself to be especially pro-American, but came to enjoy Steve Rogers as a person. He is everything I want to be as a person; courageous, compassionate, discerning, and respectful of everyone regardless of their background. I think above all, it is his humility that really speaks to me; in a world where gods boast and inventors loudly proclaim their greatness, Steve is the quiet soldier who does what is right because it is the right thing to do. Whether he’s a super soldier or a ninety-pound frail kid, Steve’s inherent character makes him a hero.

But perhaps what Steve had done for me that is most meaningful is that through his adventures, I have found a way to be patriotic. Seeing a man who loves his country and is unafraid to loudly proclaim that he is American, but still possesses the moral fiber to question where America goes wrong and to hold it accountable is truly inspiring. Steve is what America’s values are; he stands for liberty and justice, not just for some, but for all. He is the ideals that we may never quite reach, but that we should always be striving for.

Superhero Spotlight – The Hulk

Most superheroes are not monsters, but there are a select few who qualify as both. Perhaps the most famous is the alter ego of Robert Bruce Banner, a brilliant physicist who is infamous for the beast he transforms into. He was one of the first Marvel characters to break through into the mainstream with a popular TV series in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, and he remains a popular character to this day.

The Incredible Hulk

Hulk

The Comic Book Origin

Bruce Banner was a scientific genius with some deep-seated psychological problems that came from an abusive childhood. While he was not known as a particularly social person, few would have suspected that he was capable of becoming a raging monster. But when he was caught in the radiation of a gamma bomb while saving an innocent bystander, that is exactly what Bruce became. When Bruce loses control of his emotions and anger, fear or other strong emotions take over, he transforms into the enormous green man known as The Hulk. Possessing impossible strength and seemingly impossible to kill, The Hulk may be the strongest living being in the Marvel Universe.

Hulk comics often tackle Bruce’s struggle to cope with his dual identity; sometimes he tries to cure it and other times he does his best to cope with it. The Hulk is often hunted down by the military, especially General “Thunderbolt” Ross, who wishes to use him as a weapon. These battles with the army often send Hulk into fits of uncontrollable rage, and as a result he has been pitted against almost every major and minor Marvel hero, almost always winning. Despite this, the creature has shown that he mostly just wishes to be left alone, and has even shown a heroic side, having helped to form both The Avengers and The Defenders to fight the forces of evil.

Grey Hulk

The Real Life Origin

Like most of Marvel’s most popular heroes, Bruce Banner and his alter ego were created by writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby, two absolute legends of comic book history. He debuted in May of 1962 in the first issue of his self-titled series, though more casual fans might be surprised by some of the ways in which he was different. The Hulk’s skin is gray in this comic; it only became green because the colorist had trouble with keeping the gray color consistent. The transformation is also not triggered by emotions, but simply by the sun setting and rising, making him seem more like a werewolf than anything.

Stan Lee’s main inspiration for the character of The Hulk was Frankenstein’s monster, from the classic Mary Shelly novel and the various adaptations of it. Lee was fond of the misunderstood monster, feared and hunted by people while simply wishing to be left in peace. Stan also drew influence from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde story, with Bruce transforming from one form to the other and never staying the monster.

The original series lasted only six issues, something that was indicative of a recurring problem throughout Hulk’s long life. While a great character, the very nature of the character somewhat limits the types of stories that can be told with Bruce and Hulk as the main character. Hulk has always worked better in comics when working with or against another popular character, with only a handful of runs truly standing out as truly special. But that doesn’t mean that The Hulk can’t bring a lot of value to something.

Movies and TV

The Hulk in Other Media

As strange as it may seem, I think The Hulk is a concept that may actually be better suited to film than comics. There is evidence in this from the successful TV show starring Bill Bixby as “David Banner” and bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno as The Hulk, an extremely popular show that elevated Hulk from an iconic but underperforming comic book star to a pop culture phenomenon. It says something when Ang Lee’s 2003 Hulk film, which honestly is closer to the comics than some would like to admit, drew criticism for being so different in tone from the TV show that people knew and loved. When Marvel rebooted the character for their Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, they paid tribute to many aspects of the show, from its actors to its music. And Lou Ferrigno is still providing the voice for Hulk in The Avengers films.

One of the reasons Hulk has fared so well in live-action media is that the monster is a force of destruction that is just fun to watch. When viewers watch a movie with Hulk there is a certain combination of anticipation and dread that comes from the concept that is just inherently engaging; we want to see the transformation and we want to see the Hulk in action. These are visuals that film can do extremely well. And when one thinks about the Hulk’s primary influences (Hollywood monster movies), it does begin to make sense.

While there has been plenty of demand for Marvel to release a third Hulk movie with Mark Ruffalo starring, I think that for now Marvel is utilizing the character in the most sensible way. Ruffalo brings a lot to the character of Bruce Banner that makes him enjoyable even when he isn’t going green, but The Hulk works best playing off of other characters. The strongest Hulk scenes on film have been his fights with and against his teammates in the two Avengers films. And Hulk is more popular than ever because of what he brings to those movies.

Banner

Everybody Gets Angry

Besides the idea of a super strong green machine of destruction being awesome, there is a reason that the idea of the Hulk connects with pretty much any audience on some level. The Hulk is a monster inside of a man, and Banner is constantly struggling to find a way to deal with the emotions that make the beast come out. While Hulk is usually associated with anger, he appears just as often because of fear; he is an exaggerated version of our biological “flight or fight” response, protecting Bruce when his life is threatened. When we are afraid or angry, we often lose our ability to think rationally and behave in a way that is destructive to ourselves and to the people around us.

The Hulk is simply an analogy for a universal problem. That’s why I connect with Bruce as a character, and if you are fan of Hulk I can almost guarantee it’s because you relate to that issue on some level. There’s a reason we cheer for Banner in the climactic scene of The Avengers; the monster isn’t controlling him, he is controlling the monster and channeling it in a direction where it could do some good. Anger isn’t evil; it’s what we do with it that makes us a hero or villain.

Superhero Spotlight – Spider-Man

When somebody asks me who the greatest comic book superhero of all time is, I usually say that it is a close race between DC Comics’ Batman and Superman. Those two are the most influential characters after all, and have stayed relevant for over seventy five years. While I am a fan of Marvel Comics as well and cannot deny the popularity of their characters, I do feel that deference must always be shown to DC for popularizing the costumed comic book hero in the first place. With that being said, if there is one Marvel Comics character who has a legitimate case for being the greatest comic book superhero of all-time, it is a certain wall-crawling New Yorker that the world knows as…

Spider-Man

Spider-Man

The Comic Book Origin

Peter Parker is a high-school science whiz and social outcast whose life is changed when he is bitten by a radio-active spider, an event that gives him amazing superhuman abilities. He has the proportionate speed and strength of a spider, as well as arachnid’s ability to cling to sheer surfaces such as walls and ceilings. Perhaps the most useful super-power is a heightened awareness that borders on pre-cognition, allowing him to feel when objects threaten his safety and to react accordingly. Ironically, the “super power” that Spider-Man is most famous for is not this “spider sense” or his increased physical abilities; it’s not even a super power at all. Parker designs adhesive webbing and a device to fire them, keeping them on his wrists and using the web fluid to travel across the skyscrapers of New York or as weapons.

Now armed with incredible powers, Peter initially tries his hand at fame by becoming a local television star. However, his life takes a tragic turn when he ignores an escaping thief, who later shoots Peter’s beloved uncle Ben Parker. When he tracks down the criminal and finds out that he allowed him to escape, he learns that with his great power must also come great responsibility. And thus he dedicates his life to fighting crime and helping the citizens of New York as the costumed hero “Spider-Man”.

Ditko

The Real Life Origin

Spider-Man was one of the earliest creations of Marvel godfather Stan Lee, who developed the character alongside artists Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko (pictured above). After the surprise success of The Fantastic Four showed that 1960’s readers were once again interested in superheroes after a decline in the 1950s, Stan Lee was asked to develop more superheroes. Knowing that teenagers were his primary audience, Stan decided to create a story about an “ordinary teenager” who became a superhero. After initially going to artist extraordinaire Jack Kirby for concept drawings and finding them to be “too heroic” for his idea, Lee consulted with inker Steve Ditko on ideas for the character. Ditko designed the distinctive costume, a fairly revolutionary one for the time but entirely practical for the character. He does not have thick clothes so that his feet and hands can still stick to walls, and he has a mask to cover the unintimidating face of a teenage boy.

Spider-Man debut in the pages of Amazing Fantasy #15 in 1962 and was soon starring in The Amazing Spider-Man, a smash hit for Marvel that proved that superhero comics could be huge business. Spider-Man became Marvel’s unofficial mascot and has generated enormous amounts of revenue for the company through movies, television cartoons, loads and loads of toys, clothes and other merchandise, and of course the comics in which he originated from.

Parker

The Hero You Can Relate To

Part of Spider-Man’s popularity can certainly be attributed to the superhero aspect of his stories. I have always said that he has one of the most visually interesting costumes of all time, and there’s a reason it hasn’t changed much. It’s bright and colorful enough that it won’t scare kids, but there is a certain amount of intimidation that can be achieved with the eyes, especially with proper use of shadows. His webs provide opportunities for endless creativity, and while he has enhanced physical abilities he is still vulnerable enough that he can take a meaningful beating, allowing us to sympathize with him. The Wall-Crawler also benefits from an excellent group of iconic bad guys: Green Goblin, Venom, The Lizard, Doctor Octopus, Kraven the Hunter, Mysterio and Sandman among many others. It’s also hard not to be entertained by the endless series of quips he throws their way; Spidey is one of the funniest comic book characters and made it acceptable for superheroes to be goofy and irreverent.

But what really makes Spider-Man successful in my eyes is that Peter Parker still has to deal with life’s problems. He isn’t a millionaire with time to kill or an alien ambassador; he isn’t even that trusted by the people around him. He’s just a kid who can’t keep a job, turns to jelly around girls, and feels guilt about not being able to help support his Aunt May. While some depictions of Spider-Man can be overly mopey or angsty (all writers bring something different after all), I think that a healthy amount of bad things happening makes the character more human. Things don’t always go right for Peter, the same way they don’t always go right for us. So when things do go right for him, there’s a sense of satisfaction knowing that he’s caught a lucky break. The fact that he experiences the same kind of life his readers do and has a career as a superhero is the true appeal of the character.

Webhead

Why Do I Like Spider-Man?

In the interest of complete honesty, Spider-Man is not a character that I would classify as a “favorite”. I do like and enjoy the character when he is written well, but feel that Peter Parker doesn’t work that well as someone older than college age and has had the misfortune of some really poor stories over the years. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that there is a large amount of Spider-Man lore that I do enjoy. I also have tremendous respect for the character because he popularized the idea that teenagers can be heroes, which paved the way for some of my favorite comic book characters like the original X-Men team and DC’s Teen Titans. Spidey’s influence on the genre is considerable and deserves recognition.

But I think what I do enjoy about Peter is that he is a very good archetypal hero. He’s a bit of a dork leading and unremarkable life, but then fate intervenes and he gets the chance to do something truly amazing. He has a lot in common with characters like Marty McFly and Luke Skywalker, and I feel that’s a valuable perspective to bring to superhero comics. While others have been influenced by him, there will probably never be a comic book character that so successfully captures that aspect of storytelling.

Superhero Spotlight – Batman

My first two Superhero Spotlights featured Superman and Wonder Woman, so it seems natural to complete DC’s “Holy Trinity” of top stars before moving on to Marvel heroes. While Clark Kent and Princess Diana are known for being super powerful flying bricks, DC’s most popular comic book “superhero” is really just a man. An extremely rich, well trained and uncannily driven one, but still essentially a more vulnerable, grounded character. Other than the Man of Steel himself, it’s hard to argue that any other single character has had more influence on the comic book genre than…

Batman

Bruce Wayne

The Comic Book Origin

Bruce Wayne was a child of privilege whose life took a tragic turn when his parents, Martha and Thomas Wayne, were gunned down in Gotham City’s infamous Crime Alley. Their murders inspired Bruce to fight Gotham’s criminals so that no other child had to suffer the same fate. Believing them to be a cowardly and superstitious lot, he sought a way to use fear against those who prey on the fearful. Taking inspiration from his own childhood dread of bats, he created the persona of Batman, a masked persona that will protect his identity and his loved ones while terrifying his enemies with his nightmarish image.

Of course, fear alone isn’t enough to bring criminals down. Thankfully, Bruce Wayne has many other skills that he’s acquired in his lifetime that aid him in his war on crime. He is DC’s most prominent detective, one of the most skilled martial artists in the world, and has the ingenuity and resources to create an arsenal of gadgets ranging from a simple smoke pellets to his signature grappling gun and “batarang” throwing weapons. And since he can’t fly or run at the speed of sound like other other heroes in his universe, Batman also has several signature vehicles: the Batmobile is the most iconic, but the Batplane and Bat-cycle are also strongly associated with the character. Equal parts James Bond, Sherlock Holmes and Dracula, Batman takes elements from many genres to create one of the most recognizable characters in pop culture.

Bob Kane

The Real Life Origin

Before the company was called DC Comics, the commercial success of the Superman character led to National Comics requesting more costumed heroes in order to capitalize on that initial hit. Bob Kane had created a rough blueprint for a character he called “The Bat-Man”, but it wasn’t until he sat down with artist Bill Finger and brainstormed that the character was first fleshed out into a version we would recognize. Bill Finger helped to create Batman’s iconic cowl as well as the gloves to help him be more visually distinct from Superman. The co-creators drew inspiration from many popular heroes of the time; Zorro from the movies, Sherlock Holmes from British literature, and The Phantom from pulp fiction books. Despite his considerable contributions to the Batman character, Bill Finger has never been given the proper credit by Bob Kane or DC Comics in a messy game of politics. Only comic book historians seem determined to give Finger the recognition that he deserves. To this day, Batman comics, movies and other material have the byline “Batman created by Bob Kane” with no official credit to Bill Finger.

Bill Finger

The character debuted in Detective Comics #27 as billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne, an aristocrat living in New York City. In his alter ego, Bruce was a dark avenger who showed little remorse for killing criminals and even used a gun and silver bullets to kill a vampire named The Monk. The only other recognizable character in the first issue was Police Commissioner James Gordon, who would prove to be a valuable ally in Batman’s war on crime and a legendary persona in his own right. Over the next several years more recognizable bits of Batman lore made their way into the comics; Robin “The Boy Wonder” was introduced as Batman’s sidekick in 1940, the fictional Gotham City became the new setting, and the costume was tweaked to include Batman’s signature winged gauntlets instead of the purple gloves he had debuted with.

More colorful villains were introduced, such as The Joker and Catwoman (both introduced in Batman #1, a sister comic to Detective Comics which now solely featured Batman as the headline character). Despite these new threats, Batman’s ethics were tweaked; instead of being a remorseless killer, Bruce became a strict believer in not taking lives. This new morality seemed to mesh better with the details of his origin and has since become one of Bruce’s defining character traits; he will bring criminals to justice but he is not an executioner.

Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight’s Influence

Over the last seventy five years Batman has evolved into one of the most recognizable characters in pop culture and one of the most successful marketing machines of all time. Batman has arguably surpassed even Superman in popularity and most consider him to be DC Comics’ flagship character in the modern age. He has starred in blockbuster movies, a campy yet charming TV show from the 1960’s, and a game-changing children’s cartoon series which have greatly increased his presence in the minds of the general public. Almost everyone knows who Batman is from his look and can probably give a solid description of him just from common knowledge. That’s a level of mainstream acceptance that very few superheros have enjoyed until recently.

While Superman is probably the overall most influential character in comic books, Batman is certainly a close second. He popularized the idea of a character that wasn’t invincible. Batman can’t afford to get hit by bullets or absorb knife wounds or even something as simple as falling on his head. This creates an extra level of tension in his stories that just isn’t present in Superman comics due to their nature. Everyone from Captain America to John Constantine owes a debt of gratitude to Batman for establishing that superhero comics weren’t just about flying and lifting heavy objects. Batman’s stories also tend to be grittier and aimed more at older readers than most other DC characters, paving the way for comics such as Watchmen to become successful.

Robin

Another important thing to remember is that Batman is the center piece for probably the richest setting in comic book history. Gotham City is more than just the Bat; it’s police officers like James Gordon and Harvey Bullock, the villains like Riddler, Two-Face and Poison Ivy, and Batman’s trusted allies like Robin, Batgirl and Alfred Pennyworth. The city is so filled with interesting characters of all kinds that one does not even have to like Batman himself to enjoy the world he lives in.  With all due respect to every other franchise in comics, there is no other character who has such a quality supporting cast. Batman comics aren’t just about the character, they are about Gotham City and everyone in it.

Batman

What Do I Like About Batman?

I suspect most people who are fans of Batman initially got into the character because the imagery spoke to them. Batman’s costume is one that lends itself to striking imagery, and Gotham City is full of character in and of itself. Comic books are a visual medium and Batman comics have always taken advantage of that. Beyond that, I have to admit that one of the reasons I become such a Batman fan is because of the quality of writing on so many of his stories. Whether it’s The Long Halloween or The Killing Joke or The Court of Owls, I know that I can pick up one of dozens of Batman stories and get an engaging read. I enjoy the detective elements and have become very fond of several supporting characters. As I’ve indicated, Batman comics are about more than Batman himself.

But if I’m asked why I enjoy Batman as a character, I guess I would have to admit that I have more in common with him than people may suspect. I relate to Bruce’s social anxiety, being more of a natural recluse and rarely feeling comfortable in public. I have a very black and white view when it comes to morality and feel passionate about what is and isn’t right, which is another trait we have in common. Bruce also shows the tendencies of a collector, keeping many trophies from his adventures in his Batcave. While I have been lucky enough to never endure the kind of tragedy that Bruce has gone through, I guess I imagine that if Bruce had lived a happier life he would be a lot like me.

Arkham

Now, some will claim that Batman is a sociopath who is just as crazy as the criminals he fights, and would say that the fact that I can relate to such a character is troubling. I can see the validity to that, but I guess for me it just lends me some extra perspective into Bruce’s mind that makes me more empathetic towards him. I don’t see him as some bloodthirsty maniac out for vengeance or some sad child that can’t get over a tragic event. I see somebody that took what could have been a crippling tragedy and used it as motivation to reach his full potential and change the world around him for the better. That’s not somebody who’s grieving; that’s somebody who dares to hope for a better tomorrow.

Superhero Spotlight – Wonder Woman

Male superheroes largely outnumber female superheroes, which is an unfortunate trend of media that has persisted for centuries. This post is not meant to be an analysis of the reasons for this, or the negative impact that it has. I simply want to use it as context for the following statement.

There is a good debate over who the greatest superhero of all time is, but to me there is very little debate over who the greatest superheroine is. With all due respect to other female superheroes, many of which I genuinely love, there is only one superpowered woman in comic books that has managed to have an influence on pop culture on her own merit. While that is likely to start changing as more and more women develop an interest in comic books, for now, there isn’t a really a strong, solid argument for anyone else being the Queen of Comics. So today, the spotlight is on her.

Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman

The Comic Book Origin

Princess Diana is the only daughter of Queen Hippolyte, the leader of the Amazons, an all-female race of ancient Greek warriors who are gifted with exceptional strength and long life. The Amazons live on the island of Themyscira where they have lived for centuries with little contact with the outside world, and consequently still live life as ancient Greeks did. A product of her culture, Diana has been trained as one of the most skilled fighters in the DC universe and is dangerous in armed and unarmed combat. The Princess’ life took a major turn when American Airforce Colonel Steve Trevor crashed his plane on Themyscira. After determining that he was not a threat, Hippolyte sanctioned a tournament to decide the greatest Amazon warrior, who would then escort Col. Trever back to his homeland in the world of man.

Despite her mother’s wishes, Diana entered the tournament secretly and proved herself the strongest of the Amazons. Her mother relented and allowed her to go into the outside world to return Steve home, and to work as an ambassador to the rest of the world. Gifted with her iconic Lasso of Truth and the Bracelets of Submission, she soon starts to defend the world from a variety of threats, embracing her new identity as Wonder Woman. Diana becomes a charter member of the Justice League and one of the DC Universe’s three most iconic superheroes, along with Superman and Batman.

Depending on the story, Diana was either formed from clay as a gift to Hippolyte from the Greek gods, or is the illegitimate daughter of Zeus. I prefer the later story as it fits more with classic Greek mythology tropes and explains why she is so much more powerful than her Amazon sisters, but feel free to use whichever origin you prefer as your person head canon.

Marston

The Real Life Origin

Wonder Woman made her debut in All-Star Comics #8 in December of 1941 and was created by psychologist William Moulton Marston, who would later gain fame for creating the systolic blood pressure test, the precursor to the polygraph test commonly referred to as a lie detector. Marston was a feminist who felt that comic readers needed a strong female role model and that Wonder Woman would appeal both to boys who were already into comics as well as to young girls. He was also a very odd cat with some unconventional ideas about gender roles that I don’t necessarily agree with, but this blog isn’t about him. However, I do want to spotlight one of his important quotes.

“Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength, and power… The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman.”

In simpler terms, Marston is expressing the need for female characters that are as independent and capable as men but are still written as women. It is important to understand that women in action and adventure genres were even more of a novelty in the 1940’s than they are now. Wonder Woman became a feminist icon, a hero to a generation of women who had shown their worth in the workplace when the men of America were fighting in World War II.

Perez

While Marston created the character, I want to give recognition to George Perez for his influential work on the character in the 1980’s following DC’s Crisis On Infinite Earths. Along with Len Wein, Perez helped to shape the new status quo for the character, with more elements of Greek Mythology and grander stories as well as a more fleshed out personality. His work largely defined the character for the modern age and I recommend reading his Wonder Woman stories as an introduction to the character.

Modern Wonder Woman

What Does Wonder Woman Stand For?

Wonder Woman is a complex character with one of the more developed personalities in DC Comics, and she stands for a great many things. While it tempting is pin her as a champion of feminism or as a symbol of truth because of her Lasso of Truth, these are merely aspects to who she is. Diana is certainly a symbol of female empowerment; she doesn’t need a man to protect her or make decisions for her. She is also a symbol of truth, one of the most honest characters in comics largely because she has nothing she feels the need to hide. But there’s a lot more to her.

Diana is not just a symbol of equality between men and women, but for equality in general. She is an ambassador from a culture that has unique religious views and where homosexual relationships are part of everyday life. She worships Greek gods but respects other people and their beliefs, simply wishing to educate people on her culture without forcing it on others. While it is not often relevant to her adventures as Wonder Woman and DC tends not to discuss it much, Diana has been heavily implied to be bisexual by several writers and I would imagine that a good deal of her fanbase interprets her as such. So it isn’t just a gender issue; Wonder Woman is a symbol of the belief that all people, regardless of their religious, cultural, racial and sexual differences, should respect one another and treat each other with love and understanding.

Which brings me to what the real central theme of Wonder Woman as a character; love. Diana, as a character, has a deep love for humanity in all of its diversity. She is compassionate and understanding and while she is a trained warrior, would rather settle differences through diplomacy and compromise than at the edge of a blade. But she is also fiercely protective and has little tolerance for monsters, whether that monster be some legendary Greek beast or a psychopathic serial killer. Diana understands that sometimes you have to take a life to protect others, a more reasonable approach that the the strict morals of Superman and Batman. Essentially, Diana functions as a maternal figure; fiercely protective but also devoted to teaching people to be better than they are.

Chiang

What I Like About Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman is my favorite comic book character and one of my favorite characters in any medium. On a base level I am drawn to her because I enjoy the epic mythological scope of her stories, which often times feel more like Lord of the Rings in tone than traditional supehero fare. That’s what drew to Wonder Woman comics, but I soon fell in love with Diana as a person. I appreciate the complexity of her personal ethics and the passion she has for teaching other people. Most superheroes are content to be detached symbols to normal people, but Diana is an activist who states her beliefs outright and for all of the world to see.

The short answer is that Diana is a symbol for the things I value most in this world; equality, understanding, love and protecting those who will stand up for these beliefs. She is the superhero that I most personally identify with and because of that she will always be my favorite.

Post Navigation