Sunday, December 21, 2008

Most Unappreciated Super Heroes (that don't suck)

It's not all glitz and glamour in the world of super heroes. In fact, there are dozens if not hundreds of costumed weirdos who don't receive anywhere near the credit they deserve. My criteria for this list was simple mathematics: the overall quality of the character times the amount of recognition he/she receives from his/her peers divided by the square root of their total popularity among us, the reading and/or viewing public. Enjoy.

5. The West Coast Avengers/Avengers West Coast
Originally created simply to keep Avenger Hawkeye out of everyone's hair, the West Coast faction of Earth's Mightiest Heroes got a raw deal right from its inception. Sure, Hawkeye could be pretty annoying but the other Avengers could have treated him a little better than "Hey, why don't you create your OWN awesome team, champ? ...over there."'

Eventually referred to as the Wackos by the snooty East Coast team (who got to keep the name, Avengers), these guys actually did some real good, fighting legitimate villains like Dr. Doom, Ultron and Mephisto. And their ranks weren't always filled out by C-list rejects either. Even Dr. Pym, the Scarlett Witch and Iron Man were members at one time or another. Although the stupid government eventually stuck them with the insufferable US Agent.

On the fan side of things, they managed an impressive 102 issue run along with a couple annuals and one-shots.
Eventually dissolved by the Avengers core team, the last issue is a symphony of pettiness and outrage. Captain America and the Vision in particular are extremely condescending, pointing out the "flaws" of the Wackos (including - get this - "a constantly fluctuating roster"!! those fucking HYPOCRITES) and then lead a vote to disband the team. Iron Man, still a Westie at that point, agrees but only because he wants to break off from the Avengers altogether. And who can blame him? "Earth's Mightiest Heroes" apparently thought of themselves as "Earth's High and Mighty Heroes".

The West Coast Avengers would briefly become Force Works and then nothing. Several of them were absorbed back into the core team and I'll always be pissed that they rejoined them at all.

4. Darkwing Duck
Not taken too seriously because he was a Disney hero, Drake Mallard's dark alter ego was actually a pretty stellar crimefighter. Of course the show was primarily a satire of the super hero genre and was always full of jokes but the tone was still fairly dark for something that was part of The Disney Afternoon. It was a show before ever hitting comics (in the pages of Disney Adventures, at least) but I'm still including it here.
And even within his own world, Darkwing had to suffer the embarrassment of the public and media always preferring cyber boyscout Gizmo Duck. Their relationship was a great take on that of Batman and Superman.

True, he could sometimes be a little overly dramatic and showy but he always got results. St. Canard, Disney's version of Gotham City, could always rest easy with DW on the job.

3. The Scarlet Spider (Ben Reilly)
Look, it wasn't his fault he was a clone. And it wasn't his fault he was believed to be the real Peter Parker for awhile either. This guy was in a lose-lose situation from the moment he first appeared and he always did the very best he could. Not to mention his badass nineties take on the Spider-Man costume with that cool, sleeveless blue hoodie. He also invented "impact webbing" which is something Peter Parker never thought of.

Aside from a couple limited series, he only got his own comic insofar as he was Spider-Man for a brief run of that series. He did the job pretty well too, helping save New York from chaos during the whole Onslaught thing. I've always believed that even though he was a clone of Spider-Man and thus looked exactly the same and had the same powers he could still be used well and stand on his own as a character. Marvel though, had different ideas. Instead of maybe moving him to a new city and developing his own storylines and rogues gallery separate from Spider-Man, they only saw him as a huge reminder of the retarded Maximum Clonage and decided to kill him off. Those punks.

2. Moon Knight
Alright, so anyone who knows me well knows this guy is my favourite Marvel hero so I do have a bit of a bias here. However, the fact remains that even though he did manage to have two different ongoing series (with a six issue limited series in the middle) and now has a new series of his own, people have always seen him as C-list. It's even mentioned (repeatedly) in this new series that the hero community as well as general public and villains don't see him as a respectable hero.

Nowadays, that angle actually works pretty well, only enhancing his reputation as a badass maverick. But still. So many people (you know, stupid people) see him only as a poor man's Batman without bothering to take into account any of the massive differences between the two.

How disrespected was this guy? Well, he actually was a West Coast Avenger for a little while and none of THEM even really liked him. Except for Tigra, who had a thing for him. After leaving that group he did get to be a "reservist" Avenger but he never bothered with them and eventually burned his membership card. (take that, snobs)

The new ongoing series has been very well done so far and while fans such as myself mostly agree he is best kept separate from a lot of the major goings on in the Marvel Universe, I would like to see him be part of SOMETHING. I'm still waiting. He's saved all of New York several times and even once pretty much single-handedly averted World War Three. Show this guy some love.

1. Booster Gold
Now we come to the poster child for disrespected super heroes. He's even been billed as "The Greatest Super Hero You've Never Heard Of". For those who have heard of him, he is known as a self-promoting attention seeker who came from the future because he was too much of a loser in his own time to get noticed. He's been constantly snubbed and outright insulted by members of the Justice League and when he became friends with the second Blue Beetle, Ted Kord, instead of that enhancing his reputation, it actually HURT Kord's.

But Booster is a real hero. Instead of just quitting and heading back to his own time where he could at least be rich if not a hero, he's stuck with it, taking all the slander and jibes in stride. When Doomsday showed up and Superman was yet to make the scene, Booster didn't hesitate to face the monster (an encounter that didn't go so well for him) even though with his knowledge of future events, he must have had some idea of what Doomsday was capable of. He later actually loses an arm in a battle with another powerful being. The guy has balls.

There's a great episode of the Justice League cartoon where, after being talked down to by Batman and ignored by Wonder Woman, Booster actually winds up saving the fabric of reality from...folding in on itself or something but no one's around to see it. It sums up beautifully the career of the world's most unappreciated super hero.


Shane said...

This is definitely a solid list all around, and I know I couldn't tackle one of this sort. I really need to sit down and investigate this Moon Knight character, he seems too cool.

Also, I'd like to suggest two potential follow-up lists to this one: Most Unappreciated Female Super Heroes, and/or Most Adored Super Heroes (That Totally Suck).

Cole D'Arc said...

great idea! let the sorting begin...