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Top 50 DC Characters #20-16

by  in Comic News Comment
Top 50 DC Characters #20-16

Now DC’s turn…

19 (tie). Lex Luthor (All Star version – 11) – 344 points (1 first place vote)

Possibly the second most famous creation of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Lex Luthor has worn many hats in his years in the Superman titles (and not even to cover his bald head!).

He’s been a criminal.

He’s been a SUPER criminal.

He’s been the head of an entire PLANET full of people!!

He’s been a battle suit wearing criminal.

He’s been an even BIGGER battle suit wearing criminal.

After Crisis, John Byrne and Marv Wolfman re-molded Luthor as a ruthless billionaire who only Superman knew was a criminal. This Luthor was used to being the biggest deal in Metropolis, so he was quite pissed when Superman took over.

He’s been a younger cloned version of himself.

He’s been President of the United States.

He’s been a crazy nutjob.

He’s been the head of a Society of Super-Villains.

Basically, Luthor has been it all. One of the smartest men on Earth, Luthor is disgusted at the attention people pay Superman, and has spent most of his adult life finding out ways to destroy Superman.

If only he used his genius for good…

Here’s why Koby Bailey had Luthor at the top of his list…

Luthor is absolutely brilliant embodying the paradigms of corporate executive, scientist and politician. He has effectively achieved the pinnacle in each of those areas as leader of a multi billion dollar corporation, a well-known corporate philanthropist, a brilliant inventor and president. At least in the last few years, he has been regarded as the reason behind Metropolis’ wealth and prestige. Yet, for all his achievements he is obsessed with Superman. He feels that Superman ultimately makes humanity weak as they become dependent upon him. He feels that Superman is stunting the growth of humanity. He feels that Superman is ultimately untrustworthy given Superman’s great power. And I think most of all he feels that Superman takes Luthor’s rightful place as the pinnacle of all that is the best of humanity. Luthor is Machevillian (sp) and ruthless in achieving his goals, running over, undercutting or co opting his opponents.

I don’t really like to think of Luthor as the whole battle suit facing off against the Justice League in the open concept. Luthor, I believe is likely to head up an Injustice League, but would use “supervillains” as his tools. Luthor always struck me as a figure more akin to a secret master of the Illuminati than a villainous Tony Stark in a combat suit.

Thanks, Koby!

19 (tie). John Constantine – 344 points (8 first place votes)

Created by the classic Swamp Thing creative team of Alan Moore, John Totleben and Steve Bissette, John Constantine showed up in the pages of Swamp Thing to advise Swamp Thing on supernatural matters, but mostly, he was there to con Swamp Thing into doing stuff Constantine wanted to get done. Luckily for everyone on Earth, Constantine mostly wanted to do GOOD things.

He soon became so popular that he graduated into his own title, which is now one of the longest running titles in DC history that does not star Batman or Superman.

Constantine is basically a con man who uses magic to get his way. One of his most famous deals was when he sold his soul to three separate demons, so when he died, they had to let him return to Earth, less hell go to war over the three battling for his soul.

Constantine mostly does magic as a rush, but he does get a lot of good things done, too. All while usually wearing his trademark trench coat, white shirt and black tie.

Here is Derek Pears explaining why he had Constantine #1…

For me John Constantine is a truly unique creation. Anyone can come up with a spandex-clad puncher-and-kicker (we’ve all played the TSR Marvel game, right?) but someone like John, someone who just by himself alone demonstrates the very purpose of the Vertigo line, that takes a spark of genius. In a day when most ideas are just derivations on a theme, an archetype, or a twist on the past, a John Constantine is something we all should treasure if we like to think of ourselves as ‘comic book fans’. If someone were to ask you to recommend a character ‘like Superman, but not him’ you could probably rattle off half a dozen names from around the industry. If that same person were to ask you for a character ‘like John Constantine, but not him’…who could you say? The man is just so damn distinct and that is something we, as fans of this industry, should treasure and never let die.

This Top Fifty list highlights an awful lot of good characters, characters representative amongst my collection of TPBs. When The Wife was flicking through them for something to read in the bath that title she eventually settled on was Hellblazer (the one about the whole icky cancer thing, not the cheeriest bath-time reading, sorry love!). She really enjoyed it. I tried her out on a few other more…’traditional’ titles after that, but to no joy. Her reason why she picked John’s book over theirs (by a country mile)? “Because he’s much more like a real character.” That says it pretty well i reckon.

Plus he looks a bit like Sting.

Thanks, Derek!

18. Black Canary (Dinah Lance) – 352 points (4 first place votes)

Black Canary debuted during the Golden Age, created by Robert Kanigher and Carmine Infantino. Dinah Lance, like a lot of her soon-to-be Justice Society of America teammates, was basically just a brawler.

When the Justice Society began showing up again in the 60s, and teaming up with the Justice League, Black Canary (Dinah Lance)’s husband was killed by the villain Aquarius. Distraught, Canary decided to leave Earth-2, where the Justice Society resided, and move to Earth-1, where the Justice League was.

While there initially an attraction between Dinah and Batman, she eventually began a long-term romantic relationship with Green Arrow.

The two stayed in the Justice League for years, until Green Arrow quit the League, and Canary ultimately joined him.

Along the way, we learned that Canary had a superpower – the ability to emit a piercing sonic scream. We ALSO learned, through a pretty convoluted way, that Canary was actually in the body of the DAUGHTER of the first Canary. Yep, they moved her memories into the mind of her secret daughter no one knew about.

After Crisis, they just made it so that there were ALWAYS two Canaries. One was the mother, and she was in the JSA. The daughter had the superpower, and was in the JLA.

Amusingly, Green Arrow went from being the May part of the relationship to being the December part!

After Dinah left the Jusrice league (shorty after the Justice League International version started), she was captured and tortured by some bad guys, leaving her without her sonic scream.

After Green Arrow was presumed dead for awhile, Canary became an operative for Barbara Gordon, the former Batgirl. Dinah stayed with Barbara for quite awhile, even when Green Arrow returned.

Recently, though, Canary left Barbara and became the chairwoman of the current Justice League of America.

Here is Ryan Bristow on Black Canary…

I first encountered Black Canary in, where else, Birds of Prey (Gail Simone-era). What made like this character is her character growth or development. Prior to BOP, she was mostly known as Green Arrow’s girlfriend who gets kidnapped (one would mostly remember her torture during Mike Grell’s GA run) or being Ollie’s wet blanket.

Dinah Lance isn’t a faux-goddess or a deux-machina. She, like everyone else, started at the lowest of the lows and has risen her way to the top. She doesn’t give crap on what others think of her and she values her friendships. When deciding she’s had enough of being a damsel-in-distress, she begins a training with Lady Shiva that may corrupt her into something that’s worst than Shiva herself. But in the end, she pulls back from the dark stuff and decides to become a heroine and a foster mother.

Not to mention she’s now the JLA’s chairwoman.

That’s the best I can give about Black Canary. I think others may give better opinions on her.

Coincidentally enough, I also have one from Susan, as well!

Black Canary is my favorite character because I find a kindred spirit with this character. She is a survivor. She has had really bad luck with men and has pulled through it. Also, despite the attempts of artists and writers to do otherwise, she’s been around a while and is a cheerfully hot woman over 30 with a cool job and no babies, but still has time for her extended family and good friends. She has always been written as someone with a really normal core and even though she had every right to play the victim card, she refused to be the victim. She is someone I can relate to who gives me hope.

What can I say?

She’s my hero.

Thanks Ryan and Susan!!

17. Rorschach – 363 points (5 first place votes)

Rorschach was created by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons in their classic mini-series, Watchmen.

Based on Steve Ditko’s The Question, Rorschach was a ruthless investigator who believed in absolutism and objectivism, and also was probably more than a little bit insane.

It is Rorschach who leads the drive of the murder mystery in Watchmen, as he attempts to discover who killed the former superhero, The Comedian.

Rorschach is known for his mask, which is based on the Rorschach psychological test.

Why did Tyson Wright pick him #1?

I chose Rorschach as my #1 because I think he’s the most interesting character. Not the most powerful, not the best, certainly not the most admirable.

In general, I’m more of a classic Marvel guy than a classic DC guy. Marvel’s heroes tend to be defined by their flaws (Spider-man’s guilt over Uncle Ben, for example) and how they struggle with them, where it always seemed to me that DC’s classic characters were defined primarily by their strengths (Superman comes to mind here). Rorschach was different than either of those – his greatest strengths are his greatest weaknesses. His complete rejection of moral ambiguity, for example, enables him to do things that are morally ambiguous (at best!). His single-minded focus allows him to achieve things that most people couldn’t (surviving the prison riot, or tracking the mask-killer back to Veidt), but this same thing makes it hard on Nite-Owl to be his friend.

Rorschach is clearly a commentary on Objectivism – we all know about the connection between him and Ditko’s Question (and Ditko’s Mr. A, to a lesser extent). But I also think that Rorschach is the comic book, super-hero, real-world answer to Howard Roark in Ayn Rand’s novel The Fountainhead. (Dave Gibbons drawings of Rorschach’s alter-ego Walter Kovacs even look like Rand’s descriptions of Roark.) Rand uses Roark to exemplify the virtues of this uncompromising morality, and Moore answers this by using Rorschach to show that this is such an oversimplification that it’s ultimately meaningless. The writing and art are so good that the reader is forced to feel compassion for this compassionless character as we see how lost he really is.

The last scene with Rorschach is one of the best character scenes I’ve seen in super-hero comics. He tears off his mask (his “face”) as he’s goading Dr. Manhattan to kill him. He’s struggling with the fact that he can’t accept Veidt’s solution, but he can’t really assail it, either. Moore has said in interviews that he’s not sure why he had Rorschach remove the mask there, but that it just felt right. I’ve always thought that, since he finally faced a moral dilemma that he couldn’t resolve, he felt that he couldn’t be Rorschach any more, so he removed the mask. And, since Kovacs couldn’t be Rorschach, he got Manhattan to kill him. That was the end result of his black-and-white view of the world. It’s a heartbreaking scene – this merciless character can’t even extend mercy to himself.

And, even if you don’t buy any of that, let’s be honest: Rorschach is one of the coolest-looking super-heroes ever. That he is!

Thanks, Tyson!

16. Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner) – 364 points (6 first place votes)

Kyle Rayner, created by Ron Marz and Daryl Banks, was just an average struggling Los Angeles artist when a strange little man came up to him outside a bar and gave him one of the most powerful weapons in the whole universe.

For quite a time, Kyle was the last Green Lantern in the universe, given the responsibility to carry on for the entire Green Lantern Corps legacy. Kyle soon found that being a hero came with a price, as his girlfriend was murdered by a government agent looking for Kyle’s power source.

In fact, Kyle has had three notable girlfriends, all of whom have been killed at one point. Luckily, one of them at least, Donna Troy, has returned.

Kyle soon got the hang of being a superhero, joining the Titans and then the Justice League of America, where he served with distinction.

When the Green Lantern Corps were finally reborn, Kyle was honored as being the torchbearer for the Corps. He was also given a NEW responsibility, the “Ion” power.

Recently, though, Kyle was possessed by the yellow fear monster, Parallax, and became a bad guy. Luckily, this did not last long, and now Kyle is back to being a Green Lantern once again!!

Who else could I get to write Kyle’s explanation than the biggest Kyle fan I know, Lisa Fortuner…

Kyle Rayner’s likable and relatable because he is a daydreamer artist with the power to make those daydreams take form in my favorite color. He’s entertaining because he could be forced to crawl naked through the mud on a distant solar system, completely lost and with no way home, and his internal monologue would consist of gripes about his love life and resentful statements about Wally West.

He’s at the top of my list because even when he comes off as a spoiled, self-absorbed slacker you can still believe he’ll jump blindfolded and powerless into the Grand Canyon (even if the bottom was lined with broken glass) if there’s a way it will help someone else. This is a guy that has jumped into an alien hell and dragged another character out of the afterlife. He makes a hobby of resurrecting (and helping to resurrect) dead heroes at the same time his own romantic history proves he has the kiss of death. How can you not want to read that?

Thanks, Lisa!

That’s it for today!

More tomorrow!!

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