After over 1,000 ballots were cast, YOU the reader ranked your favorite DC and Marvel comic book characters from 1-10. I assigned point totals to each ranking and then tabulated it all into a Top 50 list. We’re now revealing that list for the rest of November and into December. The countdown continues now…
I used to do sort of “biographies” for each of the characters on the list, but you know what, they’re on the Top 100 DC and Marvel characters list, so I think we should be working under the assumption that you all pretty much know the basic information about these characters. Instead, I’ll just write about whatever interests me about the character in question, including a notable comic book moment featuring the character.
40. Alfred Pennyworh – 288 points (5 first place votes)
Introduced by Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson, Alfred initially was a rotund goofy little man. He eventually became thin (to tie in with the Batman film serial of the time).
Up until the 1980s, though, Alfred was someone that did not come into Bruce Wayne’s life until much later. It was first the Super Powers cartoon but then most notably Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One that changed this, and it was Miller who established Alfred’s new sarcastic wit, which Miller patterned after the butler in the film Arthur. Up until this point, Alfred was very much just the loyal servant, offering criticism only when asked. Now he served as a dissenting voice to Batman’s crusade. His role as Batman’s field doctor also expanded. He went from being a character who consistently appeared in the comics but rarely got much of his own plots (although Gerry Conway notably DID add an espionage background to Alfred during his run on the Batman titles). Now that he was established as Batman’s main confident, his role has grown considerably.
In their last regular issue of Batman (before moving on to Batman and Robin and then Batman Incorporated), Grant Morrison has Alfred explain his role in the life of Batman beautifully…
He’s definitely a unique supporting character. He has been one of the most translated supporting characters in outside media, as well, as while Robin comes and goes in Batman’s film depictions, there is always an Alfred in the movies. Recently, he even received his own TV series where we get to see the stuff that he got up to before he became the Wayne’s butler.
39. Death – 291 points (2 first place votes)
Death is one of the Endless, the group of siblings who represent powerful forces or aspects of the universe, like, well, Death. Created by Neil Gaiman and Mike Dringenberg, Death often stops by to chat with her brother, Dream, and sometimes to get involved in other plot points.
In a clever approach, Death is portrayed as a hip young woman, who is really quite nice.
She often has interesting encounters with mortals, which made up the bulk of the two Death mini-series (also by Gaiman, but with artist Chris Bachalo).
38. Darkseid – 293 points (2 first place votes)
Darkseid was the first of Jack Kirby’s notable “Fourth World” characters to show up in comics, debuting in, of all places, Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen!
Darkseid is an evil cosmic tyrant who reigns over the dreaded planet, Apokolips.
He is constantly waging war against the other New Gods, who are much nicer than him. He also does this very slyly at times, like the classic “The Pact” where he sets up a peace treaty that involves giving up his own son, Orion, as part of a truce that he KNOWS must be broken (because he plans on creating a scenario where Highfather’s son, Scott Free, would be forced to escape from Apokolips, thus breaking the deal)….
Darkseid is fascinated with Earth, because Earth contains somewhere the key to the Anti-Life Equation, which Darkseid desires. A number of his storylines have involved his quest for the powerful equation. In the classic Final Crisis crossover, Darkseid actually succeeded in acquiring the Anti-Life Equation and, for a time, was even in total control of the Earth itself!
Darkseid is known for his Omega Beams, which are laser blasts from his eyes that can seek out and destroy a target from countless distance away.
Darkseid has been featured prominently as a DC villain since Kirby’s Fourth World titles folded, most prominently probably during Jim Starlin’s Cosmic Odyssey and in Levitz/Giffen’s Legion of Superheroes (as Darkseid shows up in the future).
In the New 52, invasions of Earth by Darkseid inspired not only the regular New 52 Earth but also the New 52 Earth 2. The classic storyline, The Darkseid War, was the conclusion of Geoff Johns’ long run on the Justice League.
37. Mister Miracle (Scott Free) – 298 points (4 first place votes)
Mister Miracle was a creation of Jack Kirby, as part of his Fourth World line of comic books.
Scott Free was the son of Highfather, the leader of New Genesis, but as a part of a truce, was swapped with the son of evil Darkseid, leader of Apokolips. Scott grew up on the wretched planet, Apokolips, with his heritage unknown to him. He eventually grew to despise Darkseid, and began to rebel against the tyrant’s regime (it was here that he met his future bride, Big Barda).
Free escaped to Earth (which nullified the truce, just as Darkseid had planned it all along), where he apprenticed to an escape artist named Mister Miracle (Thaddeus Brown). Brown was murdered, leaving Scott to take up the name and the costume (although refitted with technology from New Genesis).
Kirby made sure to try to work in at least one amazing escape into every issue of the series (Kirby was influenced by Jim Steranko’s stories of working as an escape artist when he was a young man. Those stories would later inspire Michael Chabon’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, as well).
Eventually, Barda escaped as well, and the two were eventually married. Outside of a brief revival in the late 1970s with Marshall Rogers drawing the book, Mister Miracle was mostly in comic book limbo for a decade or so. That was changed in 1987 when he became a member of the then-newly rebooted Justice League.
The approach that Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis took to the character was that Scott and Barda moved to the suburbs and were trying to adjust to life on Earth as yuppies. The success of the Justice League series led to a spin-off featuring that take on the couple. Scott also continued to be a successful entertainer with his escape tricks.
After their time in the Justice League ended, Scott and Barda were mostly peripheral characters for the next couple of decades, with Barda’s time in the Birds of Prey oddly enough briefly making her the MORE prominent character of the two. When the New 52 happened, it took a few years before Mister Miracle and Big Barda finally showed up.
Recently, though, Tom King and Mitch Gerads had a critically acclaimed maxiseries spotlighting the couple, bringing new prominence to Mister Miracle. The series opens with Scott attempting suicide and the rest of the series deals with the ramifications of that act…
It’s an inspired look at life, love and mental health that redefines the character for today.
36. Hawkman – 306 points (2 first place votes)
Hawkman is a tricky one, as he is basically a merger of two heroes who were quite distinct for many years. Luckily, this year, the votes were all pretty consistent as being just for “Hawkman” as a whole, so I didn’t have to worry about combining votes for Carter Hall with votes for Katar Hol (and the always difficult “Carter Hall ranked in one spot and Katar Hol ranked in another spot on the same list” dilemma).
Carter Hall was created by Gardner Fox and Dennis Neville, while Katar was created by Fox and Joe Kubert.
The former was an archaeologist who discovered an ancient metal that allowed him to fly, and discovered that he was the reincarnation of an ancient Egyptian prince. Hall used weapons from his museum to help fight bad guys. He was in the Justice Society of America, but Post-Crisis he would later also became a member of the Justice League, as a sort of senior adviser.
Katar Hol was a tough space cop from Thanagar, a world where people fly around with fake wings using basically the same metal. Hol was a member of the Justice League of America. He (and his wife and partner) was kicking ass right from the get go.
Dig that Joe Kubert art! He did not do a lot of superhero work, but what he did was excellent.
After some confusing continuity over the years, Carter and Katar merged together – forming one Hawkman. But this was kinda weird, so he literally went into limbo at the end of his series.
When he returned, in the pages of JSA, Hawkman was just Carter Hall. Katar was dead, and it was just Carter Hall controlling the body (while sharing the memories of Katar and Carter). So Hawkman was then back to basics – archeology, flying, museums, and big maces.
Here, James Robinson, Geoff Johns, Rag Morales and Michael Bair show the combined Hawkman, as he and Hawkgirl discuss the fact that they are recincarnated lovers who also happen to have a space connection to Thanagar…
In the New 52, Hawkman went through a whole bunch of different takes until they finally settled on just going back to the tried and true set-up that Geoff Johns had come up with in JSA, the idea that there is just one, reincarnated Hawkman who has lived all sorts of outrageous lives in a variety of settings, but in general, is just an archaeologist who flies and carries a big mace.
It’s been over 80 years and no one has really upgraded that original character design from way back when.
Read More:Top DC Characters 40-36