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Wednesday, November 27, 2013 

A look at IGN's lists of top DC heroes and villains

IGN published two articles listing their picks for top 25 heroes and for top 25 villains from DC. Some of the choices for both are pretty odd ones, while others suffer from an inability to be objective and bold, and admit that the editors did some very bad things with their heroes.

Let's begin with what's in the heroes list. For example, there's Damian Wayne:
As much as Tim Drake and Dick Grayson have become like sons to Bruce Wayne, there's only one true son of Batman. Damian exploded onto the scene in 2006 as part of Grant Morrison's Batman run. By the end, he had proven himself worthy of the Robin mantle despite his prickly, arrogant personality. Many consider him to be the greatest Robin of them all. Though Damian heroically sacrificed himself in battle, he lives thanks to DC projects like Injustice: Gods Among Us. And we think it'll only be a matter of time before he becomes a prominent player in the Batman books again.
No doubt. It's not like Morrison would have any problem either. But it was still a tale best left untold, and that's awfully funny how they consider Damian worthy when nobody thought the same about Jason Todd. Unless maybe Jason had been Bruce's biological son too?

And isn't that something, he was picked to appear in a video game! I haven't the faintest clue why.

They bring up the Silver Age Atom next:
He shares his superhero name with the Golden Age Atom, but Ray Palmer is more a scientist than a pugilist. His patented size-changing belt allows him to shrink down to subatomic size. This versatile power allows for all manner of superhero adventures, from mind-bending sci-fi to swashbuckling adventure. Ray's fortunes have risen and fallen in recent years, from the tragic fallout of Identity Crisis to his return to his return to prominence to his current, reduced role within the New 52. But regardless, he remains the greatest hero to call himself "The Atom."
Sure, but it's terrible they won't write a deeper article with the courage to call out Identity Crisis for what it was - an insult to the Mighty Mite by striking at him through his ex-wife in one of the worst abuses of a minor character ever published (and at the end of the miniseries, Ray wears the same costume Jean Loring was said to be wearing in that cesspool, obviously to make him look stupid). Furthermore, if he's been reduced to a bit player, isn't that something to be dismayed by? Of course. Ditto the editors' rejection of Jean as a legitimate character.

On Cyborg/Vic Stone, they say:
...thanks to the New 52 relaunch, he's now firmly established as one of the founding members of the Justice League.
But since when did we ask that Vic be written out of the Titans, and, most importantly, why is the New 52 something to admire? It's done no favors for Vic or the rest of the League. Not even the Titans, who've been turned unrecognizable as Red Hood and the Outlaws. Not even for Starfire, who comes up next:
[...] Much of Starfire's appeal comes from her joyful personality and unfamiliarity with Earth culture and customs, elements that were heavily emphasized in the popular Teen Titans animated series. Unfortunately, little of that joy seems to have made its way into DC's New 52 books [...]
Well at least they admit the New 52 is a disaster as far as princess Koriand'r's status is concerned. But it's still pretty weak objectivity, and they could've done far better, proving they weren't sell-outs to DiDio's mandates.

On Black Canary:
...thanks to shows like Smallville, Justice League Unlimited, and now Arrow, her Hollywood presence is increasing all the time.
Why does the Hollywood output matter, but not the state of the comics? I don't see why this is so crucial.

Now, here's another weird choice: Kyle Rayner:
Comic book fans tend to stick to what they know, and it's always difficult to replace a familiar hero with a newbie character. But Kyle Rayner beat the odds. Kyle was introduced as the new Green Lantern after Hal Jordan went insane and all but destroyed the Corps. In terms of personality and temperament, Kyle couldn't have been more different from Hal. But he thrived in the role and became the Green Lantern for a full decade. Even though Hal has been redeemed and returned to duty, Kyle remains an active hero and one of the few worthy deemed enough to wield a White Lantern ring.
First off, I don't tend to stick with what I know, or what's selling the biggest. And second, Kyle did not beat any odds. If they'd given Hal a respectable sendoff, and not resorted to the cliche of killing the hero's girlfriend, out of apparent disinterest in relying on brand new co-stars, Kyle might've had a chance.

And was Kyle really that different? By the end of his run - kept afloat by obsessive collectors and other people who just don't know when it pays to quit - he'd already become enough of a cypher no matter what crummy situations they put him in, almost none of which made for organic character drama. I don't think Ron Marz and Kevin Dooley ever cared to build any convincing scenarios character-wise, because the only girlfriends he had post-Alex deWitt were Donna Troy, Jade, and the later GL Corps member called Soranik Natu. So either they were established veteran creations reduced to mere co-stars to buoy lesser known ones, or, they were otherworldly protagonists and no civilian humans. Till this day, it's hardly ever been a case of "thriving", when sales eventually sank, and now, they don't know much else to do with him.

I also take issue with their description of Green Arrow:
...the character really came into his own several decades later, when he ditched the playboy billionaire routine and became more a socialist crusader for the people like his inspiration, Robin Hood.
I beg pardon? To my knowledge, Robin Hood in the original tales was an aristocrat whose properties were wrongfully confiscated and became an outlaw to get back all the money stolen by a corrupt government. Isn't that the real socialism, where politicians tell you that your money isn't yours?

As for Oliver Queen, he sure didn't go around robbing government businesses in broad daylight. But a form of social worker he was, trying both in and out of costume to help people living in poverty who got no help from incompetent authorities, as Denny O'Neil established in 1969. If Green Arrow had turned to flat-out thievery, the Justice League would've been too embarrassed to let him be a member, and even Green Lantern would have a hard time partnering with somebody taking questionable steps. If anything, Ollie's past depiction was nowhere near what they imply.

On Capt. Marvel, they say:
Shazam has never quite regained that popularity, but he's remained an important part of the DC Universe since they acquired the character from Fawcett Comics. He recently underwent a modern revamp in the pages of Justice League, and he's poised for even bigger things in the months and years ahead.
Gee, why don't they say what that "revamp" was? Are they chicken or something? Another weakness and lack of objectivity in motion, my my.

For Barry Allen, they have a slight inaccuracy:
Despite his incredible speed, Barry always has a reputation for being late.
As someone who's got a couple issues from the Bronze Age, I can say that's not correct. Sure, there was a joke in the early tales where Iris West complained he was a slowpoke, but after they married, there came a few where she argued he was moving too fast, forgetting to give her a kiss goodbye before he left the house. Though not nearly as fast as the writer of this piece, who failed to do his homework. Wally West comes up next, though it's not really what they say about him that's worthy taking issue with:
Kyle Rayner may have managed the difficult task of establishing himself as a worthy, lasting hero alongside Hal Jordan, but only one DC hero has filled the legacy so completely that he's surpassed his predecessor. That man is Wally West. This former teen sidekick to Flash became Flash himself after Barry Allen died in Crisis on Infinite earths. For the next 20 years, Wally became the defender of the twin cities of Keystone City and Central City. His status as a family man and his struggle to live up to Barry's reputation lent him a depth his mentor never had. It's telling that the Justice League animated series skipped straight to Wally rather than featuring Barry as Flash. And even though Wally has been MIA ever since the New 52 relaunch, we're holding out hope he'll be racing back into action again soon.
Maybe they shouldn't, because it's bound to be as awful as the newest depictions are now. But did Kyle succeed in establishing himself? Yes and no. The only reason why he's still around is because truly, as unengaging as his adventures were, that's no excuse for killing him off, and he can't be faulted for mediocre storytelling; only the writers can. All the same, what's been told with Kyle - both then and now - is nothing to write home about, and after Flashpoint did away with his previous interactions with other heroes, he's lost even that much significance.

As for Wally, it's a shame they can't admit that ultimately, bringing Barry back at his expense, to the point where they'd obliterate him from the DCU, history and all, was one of the worst things DiDio's regime could do.

Now, here's what they say about Hal Jordan:
They used to call Sinestro the greatest Green Lantern. Now Hal Jordan holds that title. As with Barry Allen, Hal Jordan helped usher in the Silver Age at DC by taking on the mantle of a familiar Golden Age hero. But with Hal came an entirely new mythology featuring the intergalactic police force known as the Green Lantern Corps. Hal became the first human ever to wield a ring, and his adventures have taken him from one end of the universe to the other, and places beyond. He's starred in one mediocre Hollywood movie and one criminally under-appreciated animated series. Hal has suffered as much as any hero in comics, and yet the fierce willpower that fuels his ring is never dimmed.
That still doesn't excuse all the bad ideas they have for how to deal with him story-wise. At least they admit the big budget movie was a grave mistake, and the worst part is, that's probably the real reason he was brought back. Not because a terrible error was made in 1994 from an artistic view, but because they wanted to exploit Hal for merchandise. For all the good it's done to date. Alas, Hal's light had been dimmed as a result.

Now, what do they say about Superman:
...what makes Superman great is that it's not about "the American Way." He cares about everyone, regardless of creed, color, or nationality.
Which is a lot more than can be said of the writers who coughed out that tale where Supes went to Iran and back without doing anything; a story that should never have been greenlighted. And why do they say that his selflessness isn't an American thing to do, or not part of the best culture you can find in America? If anything, I don't think they should've brought that up, as it only dampens their point.

Now, with that told, I will comment on their list of villains. And, here's what they say about a villain called Krona who's been a thorn in the side of the GL Corps:
...This bitter rivalry even formed the basis of the first Green Lantern movie.
For all the good it did, critically and financially, yeah. They honestly shouldn't have brought it up since it's such an embarrassment, the worst mistake being their choice of Parallax as the chief villain.

On Amanda Waller, they say:
...lately, her profile has been higher than ever thanks to movies like Green Lantern and TV series like Arrow.
You're kidding, right? If her profile's been upped, it's only in movies and TV, not back in the comics. Her role in the former was pointless.

Then, there's the Flash's Rogues:
They may be criminals, but they have a close bond and a strict set of morals that set them apart from the rest of DC's villains. As a result, the Rogues have become every bit as compelling as Flash himself.
Really? When Geoff Johns wrote the book, he spared no time wounding that perception, as his take on the Turtle should make clear. At one point, the new Mirror Master certainly suffered, as Johns signaled in the Ignition storyline that he'd sexually assaulted a woman. And in Identity Crisis...well. Brad Meltzer just made Capt. Boomerang out to be willing to stoop to murder if that's what it took to make a name for himself; so utterly stupid and offensive. By the end in 2005, the Rogues were made to look as alienating as can be, and the story where they kicked Bart Allen to death didn't help. Yeah, some morals alright.

When they bring up the Reverse-Flash, they bring up quite a dud in the process:
Wally West, meanwhile, has been pitted against Hunter Zolomon, a speedster who can freeze time and is obsessed with tormenting heroes so that they can become better.
Oh, did I ever mention just how cardboard a caricature Zolomon was? The whole idea was practically based on the time when Eobard Thawne murdered Iris West Allen, and at one point he gleefully told Barry Allen he made him "a better hero". Zolomon didn't even last; Johns depowered him later before ruining Inertia by turning him into a baby killer in Rogues Revenge. Speaking of killing, that comes up in their paragraph on Black Adam:
It's often been a struggle for DC to update Shazam/Captain Marvel and make him appealing for modern audiences. But somehow, that's never been a problem for Shazam's most iconic villain, Black Adam. This ancient Egyptian monarch was the previous wielder of Shazam's powers, defending his homeland of Kahndaq for centuries until he became corrupted. Even with his penchant for ripping the limbs off his enemies, Adam is ultimately a tragic and compelling figure. He believes in a very old-school form of justice, and he has the power to enforce it.
After all these years, I found that superfluous too. Most of that portrayal comes courtesy of Johns to boot. But Teth-Adam's never had problems being compelling? With Johns as a scripter, that's disputable. Even villains can be boringly written, and that was certainly the case with the new Reverse-Flash, mentioned above. In fact, it became the case after a while with Black Adam too.

Next comes Deathstroke:
Whether he battles the Teen Titans or the Justice League, Deathstroke is a one-man army that can give even heroes like Flash and Green Lantern pause. But beneath that armor, Deathstoke has an aura of tragedy that makes him compelling as a protagonist too. That's a quality that the TV series Arrow has been tapping into.
Well now, aren't we really missing bigger pictures and concerns here. He definitely wasn't compelling one single bit in Identity Crisis, where he served as nothing but a sadistic plot device, saddled with a fanfiction portrayal. I'm sorry, but while Slade Wilson did prove formidable to the former Kid Flash in the New Teen Titans, he's got less of a chance of doing this with GL. At least, the Kyle Rayner version, whose power ring has less weaknesses than Alan's and Hal's, yet there he was punching away at Deathstroke like a pissed-off teenager. Meltzer only compounded the wimpish portrayal of Kyle from the 3rd GL series, and no matter how unjust Hal's replacement was in 1994, that's still no excuse for depicting Kyle as he was in IC.

And what do they say when Sinestro comes up?
Sometimes villains are just more interesting than the heroes they oppose. They're more flawed and more tragic.
Yeah, that's just soooo important, isn't it? Always dig the villains far more than the heroes; that's all we need. No wonder superheroes have become damaged goods. I suppose Pol Pot is more interesting than his opponents too, eh? This kind of propaganda makes me sick and tired.

What a shame they have to riddle these articles of theirs with so many distortions and poor thinking. And once more, they've missed a chance to write a list of the best co-stars.

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About me

  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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