Top Comic Characters III

32 Iron Man: Even before RDJ took the character to new heights, Marvel’s version of Batman had a little more to it than his counterpart. A weapon’s manufacturer who realizes what he’s done and decides to do something about it. Not just throwing money to a good cause, he fights the cause himself. In the comics, he eventually becomes the head of SHIELD. He would have been on this list regardless, but after the last few movies and RDJ’s outstanding wit he’s moved up quite a bit.

33 Superman: A refugee from a doomed planet, he comes to Earth. And then we get lucky. He is raised by good people with strong values who manage to impart on him a sense of love and respect for mankind. He should think of us as his pets, his slaves, or even his worshippers. Instead he protects us, especially from ourselves, while hiding his identity and abilities from the public. It’s hard to believe that a character like him is still one of the most visible comic characters in the world. He deserves something for that.

  

34 Brainiac: There have been a lot of Brainiacs over the years and just as many versions of Brainiac. I like the basic concept though, a sentient machine. In human form, as a cyborg or simply mechanical whether he is sucking up all knowledge or has something more sinister in mind he is somehow more frightening than Superman’s other villains-he is dispassionate above everything.

35 Rogue: She drains the power of whatever she touches, knocking out and eventually killing normal people and borrowing the powers of mutants. You have to love the idea, but what always got me was the life she had to live. She never had any control over her powers, which meant she could never touch anyone. She’s almost like a sadder version of The Thing.

36 Mister Fantastic: The most brilliant person on the planet in the Marvel universe, he is capable of learning and advancing knowledge in any science. His creativity makes his limited ability, being stretchy, one of the most dominant in the universe. And all the while he is the “dumbest smart man” out there, a social moron with the dating skills of a preadolescent. Adorable!

37 Loki: Granted, the movie portrayals have made him a favorite hero for many, but they had some great material to begin with – a god as intelligent as Odin but whose only interest is in mischief and chaos. In the Norse myths, though, he never made any sense because he never did anything useful. The comics, and the movies, have overcome that flaw.

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Top Comic Characters II

38 Scarlet Witch:  So basically this daughter of Magneto has all the powers of a Green Lantern, plus telepathic abilities, but she doesn’t have to worry about charging up or losing a ring.  In the comics she is extremely temperamental.  We’ll have to see how that plays out in the next Avengers movie.  I just like the fact that she has some overwhelming power and has no leanings about good and bad per se.

39 Hal Jordan: The new Green Lantern doesn’t seem like much – an ex-fighter pilot jockey. Still, this incarnation has a lot more depth than his predecessors. He isn’t the simplistic character from Justice League and SuperFriends any more, he is human and has relationships. And hey, having a ring that will create anything you can can think of is a pretty neat idea. Theoretically, he should be able to stand toe to toe with anyone in the DC universe too. I hope they try a sequel or a reboot in the movies.

  40 Skip: This guy with a nothing role in a few Angel episodes is big, intimidating looking, and acts like a guard. Then he opens his mouth and he is the friendliest guy you could ever imagine. And yet every time he shows up you think the other shoe is going to drop. But no, he helps the seer Cordelia when her powers are killing her, he works with Angel on a few occasions.  Well, until it came to that whole Jasmine thing.  One of Whedon’s great inventions.

41 Dr. Octopus: A brilliant scientist who loses his mind to his inventions and the power and money he needs to make them. I know its a bit overdone, but you have to love the concept of the mad scientist who has become one of his own failed experiments. Especially when its given him some extra, nearly indestructable appendages. Alright, and the fact that his moral enemy is also a spider is kind of funny.

  42 Namor: In the beginning there were basically three Timely characters. One was kind of resurrected in the Fantastic Four, one was the ideal of U.S. values, and then there was the Atlantean who was angry with with the land-walkers. He was a neat idea, especially considering that he was a creature of the 1930s. Namor wasn’t a big character after World War II, but a hero who behaves like a criminal is something that wasn’t “in” until the 1970s.

43 Emma Frost: Still undeveloped in the movies apart from being the sister of Wolverine’s wife, Frost’s telepathic powers and diamond form make her interesting. Jean Grey has more powers but she is physically defenseless and Professor X literally helpless. In the comics, Magneto eventually takes over Xavier’s Academy. That Frost eventually makes the same transition without the bond that Eric makes her character very interesting. I hope they develop her more in the next X-Men movie.

44 Sinestro: A character whose power is based on fear. He makes for a nice counter to the Green Lantern corps even if he is usually portrayed as a little cowardly himself. The odd thing is that he used to be a member of the Green Lanterns which means he was extremely strong-willed. Still, it’s hard not to like any character who’s confident to strut around wearing yellow all the time.

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Top 50 Comic Characters I

With the recent rash of Marvel movies and the upcoming barrage of DC movies coming, I thought my ideas for the top 50 comic characters of all time would be timely.  I’ll warn you though, I’m not much for anything without superheroes and supervillains.

And by the way, I have been tinkering with my list of SciFi characters since I originally posted them.  They are on a separate page.

44 The Thing: There isn’t much to the Thing; he’s basically a bunch of rocks. That makes him strong and heavy. Boring, right? It’s his personality that makes him so interesting, though. He doesn’t even look vaguely human any more, but he is in some ways the most human and the most connectable member of the Fantastic Four. He’s also the one you respect the most. While the other members of the team can have normal lives, he can’t. But he recognizes how important he is. In the movie he has the chance to be human again, but chooses to stay a monster in order to help the others.

45 The Leader: Now this is an original in the comics, a mutant whose brain is the only thing effected. He’s disappointing though. I’ve elsewhere guessed his intelligence at 238. That’s well over twice that of your average human, and yet all he can think to do is the same kind of things everyone fantasizes about – money and power. Dude, go to Tibet, meditate on your navel for a bit. If you need money do some investing or create an online company. If you want power start convincing people of how smart you are. If you want to challenge yourself play a game of Sherlock/Moriarty.

46 Ant-Man: DC has a character like this, that can shrink to a tiny size. Ant-Man, though, isn’t just that. In the Marvel movies we are dealing with a second-generation hero who is a former thief. Trying to reform, he takes on the role of Ant-Man to make up for his past. And to make things really interesting, the former Ant-Man is his mentor.

47 Parallax: Fear given a physical form, I can’t imagine a cooler bad guy. Parallax is yellow and grows stronger the more he ingests. That makes him the perfect enemy for a guy like the Green Lantern, whose power is based on his will and creativity.

  48 Galactus: This guy survived the end of the last universe! He eats entire planets for their life energy and has a cadre running around the universe searching for life. It’s too bad this guy doesn’t show up more and his character isn’t ever really explored, nor is his technology is ever explained. He might be the best character in the Marvel Universe if it was.

49 Beast-Boy: He can change into any animal he can imagine, only everything is always green. Doesn’t matter how big or small, how realistic or mythological it might be, Beast-Boy can imitate it. Now that power would make for an interesting character regardless, but his personality makes him fun. Beast-Boy is a kid, with a pre-adolescent sense of humor and absolutely no self-confidence.

50 Aquaman: A native of Atlantis, his muscles are extra dense because he lives so deep in the sea. His subspecies can communicate with the sea animals, and of course because Atlanteans have been watching us for centuries and have made their own ecological advances, he has superior technology too. I know it sounds a little hokey for us adults, but it was a pretty great idea for a kid.

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Comic Movies are Ruining the Cinema

  This year Avengers 2:  The Age of Ultron, Ant-Man, Fantastic Four, Star Wars:  The Force Awakens.  Next Summer a Batman movie, the first Justice League, and so forth.  Dr. Strange, Wonder Woman, and several other characters are due to have their own movies in the next couple years too.  How many times over the last few years have we been told that all these movies are going to wreck everything in Hollywood?

So let’s look at this realistically.  It looks like we are going to have three groups of interrelated, intelligently written movie universes going on in Hollywood for the next few years.  Most of them will be blockbusters, and those that aren’t will generate more money than they would otherwise because they will be a part of a larger universe.  Wait a minute, that doesn’t sound like the devolution of anything.  It feels more like the evolution of the action movie into something beyond cheesey, muscley, or specialists (martial artists, UFC fighters, and so forth).

So, is the change in action movies going to mess up romances, science fiction, and dramas?  Why would they?  Sure, they have some of the same viewers, but they satisfy very different interests.  If you want to watch a modern love story it won’t be found in a Captain America movie.  The beauty and elegance of Interstellar can’t be matched in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 or an Ender sequel, and those YA dystopian movie series – Maze Runner, Hunger Games, and Divergent – seem to be gaining interest as they come out even while the Marvel universe is going full steam and DC is generating interest.

You know the action movie came into its own in the 1980s with muscular men giving one-liners that are a little painful to hear now.  In the nineties they got better, but many of the actors remained the same.  The people I have seen in the Expendables movies are what I remember of the action hero genre.  It’s great to see them all, and nice to see them still fit, but I don’t mind that they are almost the only game in town any more.  There’s something better now – improved plots, stronger characters, deeper themes, fuller arcs.  I don’t see the down side here.  Come to think of it, I kind of hope the other genres continue to improve along the same lines.

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Joseph Campbell

In the summer of 1976, while a young director worked with his more experienced cast, an old professor sat just off the set trying to stay cool in the Sahara heat.  After every take, the 30 year-old director would come over to ask him if he had gotten the scene right.  The old man hadn’t written the script, and in fact he had no personal feelings about the science fiction movie being made.  After all, in 1977 science fiction was a haven for second-class directors, scripts, actors, and effects.

And the director did care.  For him it was no silly script he was working through for his next payday, it was his life’s dream.  But that was why he kept asking the old man for his input.  You see, Star Wars might have been a film about aliens and laser swords, but it was based on a universal mythology that had been laid out by Joseph Campbell over the previous decades.  George Lucas wanted it done right, and there was only one person who could ensure that.

Lucas managed to please his mentor and in the process captured the world’s imagination.  His take on the ancient theme of “Six go around the world” along with his basic ideas of twins inheriting, good and bad, and the hero from obscurity hit a chord with people that resounds to this day.  It accomplished what I hope for in my own writing, what any writer who has something to say shoots for.

  Over a decade ago, Lucas returned to his universe for three more films.  They were good, they had beautiful effects, and the acting was effective.  They weren’t as good as the originals though.  They didn’t follow the same universal themes as Episodes IV through VI.  The plots were interesting but not magical.  That, and we already knew what was going to happen and how the characters were going to get there.

Later this year Episode VII will come out.  I’m excited.  I love the Star Wars universe, I appreciate what Lucas can do with a movie, and Disney has been coming out with some great stuff over the last few years.  I just hope that Lucas has handed them the same formula he used in the 1970s, a formula that worked and touched us all.

Joseph Campbell was a brilliant man.  Where the rest of us read myths and remember them, he found patterns throughout the world and discovered a common consciousness in humanity.  He wasn’t one-dimensional, either. He worked with Carl Jung on that very subject.  He worked with Marijas Gimbutas in her studies on prehistorical matriarchal cultures.  To both subjects he added an understanding of humanity that may never be matched.

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Two Eyes?  Really?

  A Neti, Tree Species

 So just a thought on alien species.  What do you think they would look like?  Science fiction writers have always been great about pointing out how their thinking and values might seem strange or even backward to ours.  Of the masters, Clarke had the most amazing ideas on perspectives and appearance.  Childhood’s End had a race that looked like devils, and the Rama series had some nifty descriptions.  I especially enjoyed the creatures with three eyes, three arms, and three legs.

But it makes me wonder, could an intelligent being work with three eyes?  Spiders operate with multiple eyes.  What would have happened if they’d become the dominant species on the planet?  How about bats.  For all intents and purposes they can’t see.  What would things have been like if they had been forced to adapt or die?  How about if a species didn’t have eyes the way we would understand them?  Something that registered heat, radioactivity, or elements?

Is two or four legs a necessity.  Four gives greater speed but reduced mobility.  Would six legs have its own advantages?  Does it need to be a multiple of two.  Are fingers necessary for the development of higher functioning?  Our technology couldn’t be worked by hoofs or tentacles, but could a race develop technology that could be?  Gears, dials, buttons – all larger for less sophisticated digits?  Could they ever work with miniaturized technology?  Or would their deficiency force them to develop intelligent robots to do it for them?

 A Lyran

 I’ve often wondered about skin colors.  Would our race have a different color on a planet other than brown, black, pale, and yellow?  Different sun, different radiation, different chemical compounds in the air?  In time would develop more efficient lungs for a low oxygen planet, more efficient muscles for a higher gravity?

Would a sentient life form have different sense organs than us?  Maybe a species living in space could have an organ to detect gravity?  Or time in a way foreign to us?  I wonder if there is any evolutionary reason why a species might develop microscopic or x-ray vision.

Must all life forms be aware of at least four dimensions?  Would it be seriously neat if one was aware of more than four?  I keep coming back to the wormhole beings in Deep Space Nine.  I wonder if something like living without linear time is even possible.

That brings up another question.  Does life need to have a tactile form?  Does it need to be a solid, liquid, or gas?  I know science fiction is filled with creatures of light, but really?  I find it hard to believe that a gas could be intelligent.

Just a thought.  Have any?

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Better Plots, Better Stories

  Even the least interested science fiction fan over the last century could tell you that plots are becoming more complex and interesting.  The updates between versions of Battlestar GalacticaStar Trek, and V are only the three most obvious examples.  Watch the original Flash Gordon and compare that to Sliders.  Buck Rogers against Stargate.  You get the idea.

So why is it that aliens aren’t a mainstay?  You can’t argue there aren’t any different sentient species out there.  Even the most conservative estimates are that there should be thousands of different species in our galaxy alone.  Nor can you say that they don’t make the plots more interesting.  Watch an episode of even the original Star Trek and try to make the argument that the constant clashing of different cultures isn’t the best part of the show.

You might argue that even the grandmaster of science fiction, Isaac Asimov, didn’t feature them.  That’s true, but it’s also true he had stories with aliens.  The atmosphere of the time was a fear of the unknown, so any plots where aliens weren’t technologically inferior or comical were generally rejected.

  We have no excuse now.  Again, Stargate was immensely successful and it had humans confronting technologically superior aliens nearly every week.  Edge of Tomorrow and Independence Day both featured superior aliens and both have sequels coming.

Why aren’t they a mainstay?  Just a suggestion here, but generally either a story (t.v. show or movie) has been about either humans fighting each other or their creations, OR about humans united against a common foe.  The plots couldn’t have handled both.  But with the storytelling we’ve seen now with BSG, Gotham (from what I’ve been told), and a couple of the new crop of shows on Sci Fy, I think the storytelling has reached a point where it can accommodate both at one time – and I can’t wait to see what comes out of it.  Imagine meshing the depth and variety that would be possible.  Well, you imagine.  I’ll wish my mind was capable of seeing all the possibilities.

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