EMPIRE’S! 50! GREATEST! COMIC! BOOK! CHARACTERS! [1 of 5]
THE OVERVIEW EDITION
As you can probably surmise by the above image, the septuagenarian Man of Steel took the #1 spot on Empire’s list, and we take a closer look at him in the fifth part of this series—Afterthoughts (99), in the Archive.
For now, we look at the list in general, and a few of the notable names on it.
On the plus side, it’s a nicely inclusive list that features more than the average spandex-clad superhero.
On the minus side, no Grant Morrison characters. Not. A. One.
This kills and disappoints me, as I truly love Empire. The Morrison oversight—considering some other comic book names manage to get two or even three of their characters in there—is such a crime…
(If memory serves, Morrison is only mentioned twice in the entire list, in the Emma Frost entry [#30], making reference to his New X-Men reinvention of the character, and in the Joker entry [#8].)
To distract myself from the horrible slight, I’ll take a look at some welcome names on the list…
35 Hellboy (aka: Anung Un Rama)
There are few characters more original or striking (literally—Hellboy punches first, asks questions… well, almost never) than Hellboy, the genius creation of Mike Mignola, who uses the character as the outlet for his obsession with pulp comics, Lovecraftian horror and tales of ancient folklore and the supernatural.
Enhanced greatly by Mignola’s artwork—pitch-black shadows and popping reds—Hellboy is a lumbering but lovable giant of few words (although, “aw, crap” is usually high on the list) who interacts with talking corpses and giant tentacled horrors while trying to deny the destiny he was created for.
For the movies, Guillermo del Toro gave Hellboy more inner turmoil and emotions, but the comics version is a blast as he investigates the paranormal in much the same way Gene Hunt investigates crime—fists first!
FIRST APPEARED IN SAN DIEGO COMIC-CON COMICS #2 (1993)
CREATED BY MIKE MIGNOLA
22 Hunter Rose (aka: Grendel)
The original and best in Matt Wagner’s long-running series of masked anti-heroes, Hunter Rose was a young genius gifted with extraordinary physical and mental prowess and just a little too much time to spare.
Finding that excellence breeds boredom if not channelled correctly, Rose set about becoming a crime kingpin, hired killer and all-round roguish gadabout before dying at the age of 21 by the hands of his lycanthropic nemesis, Argent.
More Grendels have followed in Hunter Rose’s footsteps but few have done the job with such an innate sense of style.
FIRST APPEARED IN COMICO PRIMER COMIC-BOOK ANTHOLOGY (1982)
CREATED BY MATT WAGNER
16 Rorschach (aka: Walter Kovacs)
Choosing just one of the Minutemen—the stars of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ classic comic, Watchmen—was tough. But from a purely iconic point of view, it had to be Rorschach.
Who was in the first picture released from Zack Snyder’s upcoming Watchmen movie? Rorschach.
Who dominated online casting debates? Rorschach.
Like The Punisher, Rorscach can be easily dismissed as a fascist whose belief in moral absolutes—there are no shades of grey; only black, white, good and evil—drives him to take the law into his own hands.
But in the hands of Moore, the freckled, ginger Walter Kovacs is a taut, tortured, complex creation who, as well as being at the centre of some of Watchmen’s most memorable sequences (the prison riot, for one), ends up being perhaps the most pure out of the graphic novel’s characters, the only one who—SPOILER WARNING—isn’t interested in compromising himself for the greater good.
FIRST APPEARED IN WATCHMEN #1 (1986)
CREATED BY ALAN MOORE AND DAVE GIBBONS
The above write-ups are from Empire’s list.
For more on the above characters, just click on their names; the entire list will be accessible from there.
In Part 2—Afterthoughts (96)—we note some characters from Marvel’s X-Men franchise.
(Images courtesy of dccomics.com [Superman; art by Carlos Pacheco]; empireonline.com [Hellboy, art by Mike Mignola; Rorschach, art by Dave Gibbons]; impawards.com [Hellboy II: The Golden Army OS [design by Crew Creative Advertising]; darkhorse.com [Grendel limited edition print, art by Matt Wagner]; and watchmenmovie.warnerbros.com [Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach].)