By Caesar “stop saying ’shaken not stirred’” Martini
10. The Punisher (Frank Castle)
In the seventies, the Punisher appeared in a Spider Man comic as a Vietnam vet who’d lost his family to mob violence and decided to fatally punish criminals for their crimes by shooting them until they had perished. By no coincidence in those comics-are-for-kids days, he had terrible aim and hardly ever hit anybody. In the more grown up world of comics, such is no longer the case. Now he’s killing goombas (the mobster kind, not the waddling mushroom kind) like cows in a slaughterhouse. And that’s the interesting thing about his character; Frank Castle is doing a job. A job that he’s decided he’s the only one qualified to do. He gave up things like compassion and humanity and the ability to see beauty in things, and he gave them up because it’s more important for the scum of the Earth to be wiped out than it is to know the tiniest bit of happiness. In comics, when so many heroes are doing good for goodness’ sake, this is a fascinating divergence.
“They laugh at the law. But they don’t laugh at me.”
9. Beta Ray Bill
Goddammit, I love this guy. He’s basically Thor, but with a cooler costume and the face of a scary-ass horse. I have a hard time explaining why I love him so much; I just do. He’s a tortured warrior with immense power and he doesn’t muck about. He calls Thor his oath-brother and would do anything to help his friends and his people. And if you don’t like it he will beat you in the face with his magic hammer.
8. Jessica Jones
She’s on a few lists so far. Jones is a character so complex she borders on neurosis. She tries to hard to be a good person and to be nice but she only gets it right half the time. The other times, she falls into patterns of self-destructive behaviour and fucks her life up all over again. The reader can sympathize, because we all have aspects of our psychology that control our actions against our better judgement. And when Jessica tries to get her head on straight, but ends up getting hammered and flying through her fuck-buddy’s glass window and crushing his fridge in the pursuit of a booze-fueled night of sexin’ that she’s going to regret in the morning, we’re all too disappointed. Plus, this is a girl who tried the whole spandex-shiny-super-hero route and then decided, “yeah, that’s lame. I’ve got better things to do.” You gotta admire that.
7. Captain America (Steve Rogers)
On the surface he looks like a bland “eat your vegetables and God bless America” type, but when you get down to it, Steve Rogers is much more interesting than that. Captain America is a WWII soldier made of guts and ideals, and has a wealth of history to draw on: extensive ties with Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D., the Avengers, and many more. Also, he’s a man out of time; falling asleep in the forties only to wake up fifty years later to a very different world that he’s not terribly comfortable in. If presented wrong, his old-school ideals would make him a boring boy scout, but presented correctly, you sympathize with Cap’s struggle to spread his message of honor and national spirit.
A cosmic-scale villain who usually troubles characters like the Silver Surfer, Adam Warlock, and the entire universe. At a young age Thanos fell in love with Death (yes, Death…the supernatural being that comes to get you when you die. Represented in the Marvel Universe by a hot girl in a purple robe, or a skeleton on a purple robe, depending on her mood) and decided a fitting tribute to his love would be to kill as many things as possible. But unlike most super villains with crazy evil plans, he actually figured out a feasible way to do it on a grand scale by amassing omnipotent power. Then he wiped out half of the population of the universe with his new powers and forced Death to be his creepy anorexic-looking girlfriend. Of course, these things never last, but the two-part story, The Thanos Quest, in which he goes about gaining infinite power, is the perfect example of why Thanos is an excellent character. He attacks his foes with strategy and cunning as well as considerable brawn, and in the end, they all play right into his big purple hands.
“Death, Thunder God, is akin to lovemaking. It gets better every time.”
5. Iron Man (Tony Stark)
Certainly not the most popular character since Civil War hit, but arguably now a far more interesting one. Tony Stark already has the distinction of being recognized as the first alcoholic mainstream comic book character. His battle with the bottle was groundbreaking in the comics industry. Plus he’s a genius playboy inventor that climbs into a cool looking iron suit and kicks the crap out of people. He has always been presented as a complex and principled character, and even though you might not agree with the things he does, he does them because he truly believes it’s for the greater good, even if he hates himself for doing them. As the leader of the Avengers, director of S.H.I.E.L.D., winner of Civil War, and mastermind behind The Initiative, he’s positioned as the most important person in the Marvel Universe right now.
4. Wolverine (James Howlett)
I know, I know. “Wolverine? PUH-leeeze. How OBVIOUS.” It’s true, Wolverine is by far the most overused character in Marvel, maybe even comics history. I believe just last month he appeared in 12 different titles. You may be tired of him, but the reason he’s so overexposed is because he’s such a cool-ass character. He’s a mixture of animal aggression, samurai nobility, tortured soul, trash talk, and drunken brawler, all in a hairy, cigar chomping, 5 foot 4 inch package. He’s probably the best badass character comic books have ever seen. He’s basically Clint Eastwood with claws and a meaner disposition.
“I… don’t like being nearly cut in half, bub…think you would…?”
3. Doctor Doom (Victor Von Doom)
Victor Von Doom – that’s just a cool-ass name. Villains don’t get any cooler than Dr. Doom (most heroes don’t, either). A genius on par with Tony Stark or Reed Richards, a tyrant of his own country, Doom possesses a rare nobility amongst villains, an iron will, and an incomparable arrogance that serves as his greatest weakness and his greatest strength. Only Doom could have the temerity, ingenuity, and willpower to challenge the omnipotent Beyonder…and win. Doom is but a man, but a man that gods would do right to fear.
“A Renoir. I have three myself…I had four, but I ordered one burned. It displeased me.”
2. Spider-Man (Peter Parker)
There’s no denying that Spidey is one of the greatest characters in comics, ever. Stan Lee conceived Peter Parker as the hard-luck hero, the everyman, a decent person like you or me (well, I don’t know about you – maybe you’re a bastard, but I’m a goddamn sweetheart) who happens to fall into amazing powers and tries to do his best to help people with them. He always tries his best but he never has it easy. Spider Man is an awkward, lovable loser with the heart of a hero that you can’t help but cheer for.
1. Daredevil (Matt Murdock)
I’ve always been a huge fan of Daredevil. First off, he’s a ninja, and science has proven that ninjas are awesome. Secondly, his super senses are just cool and provide a rich well of story elements to draw upon; everything from his being able to detect liars from their heartbeats to being tortured by the lingering scent of lovers long dead. But he’s got flaws and weaknesses too: his blindness, the sensitivity of his hearing, and his tenuous grip on his rage. To be fair though, I’d be half nuts too, if I went through the shit he’s been through. It seems that ever since Frank Miller destroyed DD’s life in his second run, every new writer feels obligated to beat the hell out of him, blow up his house, kill half his friends, and drive him insane. I mean, really: Daredevil versus Ultron? That’s just not fair. Ultron’s an evil indestructible robot with super strength and energy blasts. Give a blind guy a break.