To Better Know A Hero

To Better Know A Hero: Superman

Though Superman hasn’t always been the most popular superhero (these days, Batman, Spider-Man, Wolverine and heck, probably Iron Man and a few other Avengers most likely outpace him in that department), he was the first superhero, and superhero comics as they exist today wouldn’t without Superman. Even beyond the blatant knockoffs that cropped up in the wake of his immense popularity shortly after his debut (issues of his comics routinely sold in the millions throughout the forties), Superman can be pointed to as either a direct or indirect inspiration for nearly every superhero that followed. The entire field of superhero comics, the most dominant form of sequential art in American comic books, exists because of Superman.

To Better Know a Hero: The Punisher

Since then, Punisher has remained a viable character and maintained a consistent publishing presence, though his heyday of carrying multiple books and making routine guest appearances in all corners of the Marvel Universe are long behind him. And, really, that’s for the best: on his own, the Punisher is a compelling character. A shattered soldier, driven to extremes by the death of his family. He’s a Batman who eschews the theatricality of a costume and has no qualms about killing bad guys, and that type of character can be engaging and entertaining. But Punisher works less well as a protagonist in a shared superhero universe. Put him side-by-side next to guys like Daredevil or Captain America, and everyone gets watered down: the Punisher doesn’t kill anyone (because the heroes won’t let him), and the heroes look like idiots for not capturing this guy who willingly operates so far outside their usual “no killing” code.

To Better Know a Hero: Ant-Man

Ant-Man is a superhero identity that’s actually been used by three different characters of note and, despite the fact that Lang is the character being used in the Marvel Studios feature film, he is, arguably, the least of the three characters. Hank Pym originated the identity and though he quickly discarded it in favor of the more overtly powerful Giant-Man (using his size-changing Pym Particles to get bigger instead of smaller, a switch Pym-creator Stan Lee has said was triggered by artists failing to depict the world around the shrunken Pym in proper perspective), it was as Ant-Man that Pym helped co-found the Avengers (and come up with their name), and though he quickly left the specific Ant-Man identity behind, Pym remains a stalwart member of the Avengers.

To Better Know a Hero: Daredevil

Daredevil is a character more or less defined by two extended runs by two specific creators. Created in 1964 by Stan Lee and Bill Everett in a clear attempt to tap into the success of Spider-Man, Daredevil has one of the all time great superhero hooks: he’s a blind lawyer who puts on a superhero costume and takes the law into his own hands. Unfortunately, that hook only takes the character so far, and like the X-Men, Daredevil existed in his early years as something of an also-ran at Marvel

To Better Know a Hero: Storm

Storm, easily Marvel’s most high-profile female African-American character (and of the first such characters in superhero comics), is a character whose most prominent and well-executed storyline occurred nearly two decades ago. In the mid-80s, longtime X-Men scribe Chris Claremont crafted a long story arc for Storm, which found her shedding her ethereal, goddess-esque image in the face of the burden of leadership and a desire to experience life more fully in favor of a more striking punk look and sensibility. Then, she lost her mutant powers and was forced to prove her worth as leader of the X-Men on her non-superpowered skills alone, a feat she accomplished with aplomb, continuing to lead the X-Men through some of their darkest hours (including the massacre of the Morlocks) before ultimately finding a way to restore her superpowers.

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