For every overrated character in comics, there’s often a hero or villain that’s constantly overlooked. Sometimes the character has played second fiddle to more popular comic book creations. However, more often than not, people usually don’t take the time to read a comic that features the character. In an effort to correct that, I have constructed a list that covers five superheroes who are deserving of recognition. Also, please take the time to read my article on the most overrated comic book characters.
Often ridiculed by the public and comic fans alike, Aquaman is one of the founding members of the Justice League and has played the role of superhero, world leader and husband for decades. Born Arthur Curry, Aquaman’s upbringing was complicated to say the least. The half-human son of fisherman Tom Curry and Queen Atlanna, Arthur would eventually inherit the throne of Atlantis and would often go on diplomatic missions to the surface world. After helping form the Justice League, Aquaman would try to balance his responsibilities to his two shared homes, receiving little love for his capabilities as a leader. Battling enemies like Black Manta and his power craving half-brother Orm, Aquaman has struggled to maintain his sovereignty, while enduring the lack of respect from humans and Atlanteans who question his right to rule.
The mocking that Aquman has endured has been overplayed for years, and those who still take pleasure in ridiculing him are either too stubborn or too dense to see that the character has had some damn good stories. Anyone wanting to give Aquaman a chance should read Geoff John’s (Green Lantern, Flash) recent character defining run on the King of Atlantis. His fist book is about Aquaman fighting man-eating fish people. Scary stuff!
4. Moon Knight
Often called Marvel’s Batman, Moon Knight has been a supporting character in numerous books and has received several titles of his own since the 1980s. Created by Doug Moench and Don Perlin, millionaire Marc Spector, who after having a near-death experience in Egypt, takes on the persona of Moon Knight, the living embodiment of the Egyptian Moon God Khonshu. Overtime, Spector developed dissociative personality disorder (multiple personalities), which would both aid and hinder his superhero career.
Moon Kinght has had trouble maintaining a long lasting solo series, often due to the hero’s obscurity among his more well-known Marvel compatriots. His original run, written by Moench and Perlin, barely made it to 38 issues. Throughout the late 80s and early 90s, the character made sporadic appearances in The Amazing Spider-Man and Punisher before finally getting a well-earned 60-issue run in the form of Marc Spector: Moon Knight. Spector battled the likes of the Hobgoblin, teamed-up with Spider-Man, joined and later quit the Avengers. Recently, the character has undergone a series of changes that focused on his multiple personalities. Brian Michael Bendis’ (Daredevil, New Avengers) controversial take on the character, in which Spector’s alternate personalities are those of Captain America, Wolverine and Spider-Man, is often regarded as a low point for the hero. Writer Warren Ellis (Transmetropolitan, The Authority) eventually moved the character back to his normal level of insanity in the ongoing Marvel Now series, Moon Knight.
3. Martian Manhunter
While never mocked or made the butt of jokes like Aquaman, Martian Manhunter has hardly been one of the more popular members of the Justice League. His origins have been retconned many times since his original appearance in 1955, but DC readers probably best know J’onn J’onzz as one of the last few surviving Martians of Mars. Originally a telepathic detective on his home planet, J’onzz witnessed the death of his wife, children and the majority of his species by the Imperium (White Martians). Eventually coming to Earth, he becomes a founding member of the Justice League, usually acting as the team’s level headed voice of reason.
In case anyone doesn’t believe that J’onzz has something interesting to offer readers, take the time to read Darwyn Cooke’s astoundingly well-written and drawn graphic novel, Justice League: The New Frontier. Martian Manhunter figures heavily into the plot and spends a good portion of his time studying and growing to love many of Earth’s customs. Turns out, he’s a pretty big fan of Bugs Bunny. I wonder why?
2. Black Panther
Debuting in 1966, Black Panther has the honor of being one of the first black superheroes to premiere in mainstream comics, paving the way for other notable heroes of color, including Luke Cage, the Falcon, Storm (Ororo Munroe), Green Lantern (John Stewart) and Static. Originating from the fictional African nation of Wakanda, T’Challa suceeded his father as the country’s ruler and inherited the mantle of “The Black Panther.” Acting as Wakanda’s head-of-state, T’Challa has used his skills as a diplomat and role in the superhero community to promote the interests of his country. Eventually becoming an Avenger, Black Panther has developed lasting friendships with heroes like Captain America, and established long-standing rivalries with others, most notably Iron Man.
If people are looking to read a Black Panther series, starting with Christopher Priest’s Black Panther Vol. 1: The Client is certainly a good start. After being lured away from the safety of his kingdom during a diplomatic mission to the United States, T’Challa is hunted by supervillains on the streets of New York City. Using limited resources and committing to bold strategies, Black Panther avoids assassination attempts while investigating political conspiracies involving Wakanda.
With Black Panther set to make his big screen debut in Captain America: Civil War in 2016 and later star in his own solo film in 2017, T’Challa will hopefully receive the recognition he so richly deserves when he’s finally introduced to the general public.
1. The Question
If comic readers think there’s a character more deserving of recognition than DC’s the Question, then they clearly have never read a comic that featured the deeply troubled detective. Originally a creation of Charleston Comics in the 1960s, the Question was acquired by DC when the former publisher closed its doors in 1983. Living in the fictional Hub City (eerily reminiscent of my hometown of Buffalo, NY), Investigate Journalist Victor “Vic” Sage spent years covering stories on the city’s poverty and rampant criminal organizations. Sick of the violence and turmoil that plagued his city, Sage would take on the guise of the faceless vigilante known only as the Question. Using his genius level intellect and skills as a journalist, Sage would systematically dismantle criminal hierarchies and expose corrupt political leaders. Overtime, Sage would develop a deeply paranoid personality, often investigating conspiracies many would think were improbable or insane.Pre-New 52, Sage would eventually pass on mantle of the Question to Gotham Police Officer Renee Montoya.
Sadly, many of the character’s critically acclaimed runs are notoriously difficult to get a hold of, most notably Dennis O’Neil’s (Batman, Green Arrow/Green Lantern) The Question series. In addition to the acclaimed runs, Sage has been a favorite of many veteran writers, most notably Alan Moore (Swamp Thing, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen),who based the look and the personality of Watchmen’s Rorschach off of the borderline-psychotic investigator.
For many DC initiates and comic readers, their first introduction to the Question came in Bruce Timm’s Justice League Unlimited animated series. Voiced by Jeffrey Combs (The Re-Animator, The Frightners), the animated Question was much like his comic book counterpart. Mistrustful, manipulative and mentally unhinged, the Question frequently investigated government conspiracies and world-ending plots. His fellow Justice League members often kept him at arm’s length, though he did develop friendly (if somewhat strained) relationships with Green Arrow, Supergirl and Huntress. While they rarely met face-to-face, Batman even praised the Question’s abilities as a detective, implying they were superior to his own. Anyone wanting to see the character in action would do well to watch Justice League Unlimited to get a crash course on why the Question is one of DC’s best.
What about you reader? Do you agree with this list? Any characters that you feel don’t get the recognition they deserve? Let us know in the comments below!
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