41. SUPERBOY (Conner Kent)
The idea of Superboy and Supergirl always seemed like pandering to me, at least when it was Clark Kent and his Kryptonian sister. After all, he was supposed to be the only survivor. It cheapened the premise.
But the idea of a clone, part Kal El and part Lex Luthor? Genius. It was the kind of idea th
at made me say, “Of course someone would do that! How did nobody think of this sooner?!”
Conner’s slightly modified power set can be confusing sometimes, but it also helps set him apart, so that’s a good thing and not a bad one. His “costume” (a T-shirt and jeans) is so ordinary that it, too, sets him apart from his genetic parent: This isn’t a capes kinda guy. This is a kid who just wants to be normal.
Conner’s experiences growing up with superpowers always seemed to me to be more like what I think I would have done if I were in his place. Clark was almost too good to relate to, especially in his teen years when most kids are acting out and rebelling.
- Teen Titans Vol. 1 by Geoff Johns
- Superman/Batman #26 (reprinted in Supergirl Vol. 1)
- Adventure Comics Vol. 1 by Geoff Johns
40. KICK ASS.
Kick Ass may the best comic book that ruined comic books. As I’m sure you know, the main character is a kid who wants to be a superhero so he puts on some spandex and decides to go after muggers. And he gets his ass kicked. And then he learns how to kick some ass, with the help of some other folks who also do what he does. Kick Ass isn’t the best at what he does. Not even close.
The book, and the darn good movie, exposes the “real” side of being a vigilante in a cape, and showed writers how dark it could all get. The only flaw was in turning out a traditional, blow-everything-up ending. The best part of both the comic and the film are the first two thirds, and they’re genius.
“Realism” in comic books wasn’t created by Mark Millar, but he brought it to another level. The question is whether, post-Kick Ass, there’s anywhere else to go?
Post-Kick Ass we’ve seen real life folks emulating the storyline and quite a few more cinematic derivatives (and an HBO show), even one starring Rainn Wilson. But none of them have anything new to say. Millar seems to have covered all the bases.
A sequel comic is in the works, but production seems to have been delayed, so for now we’ve got the one story as a definitive example of “real” heroism. Not sure more is necessary or, if we got it, it would actually be worth reading.
- Reading: Kick Ass.
39. GREEN ARROW
I admit that my personal preference is for Hawkeye, but purple is just so clearly a copy of green that Ollie Queen has to place on the list. The Green Arrow character is kind of an answer to Batman: Rich dude, cool gadgets, but Green Arrow was always so much more approachable, so much more … Real.
Through the years, Green Arrow got much less cartoony (I can’t remember the last time I saw a “boxing glove arrow), and he was used to tackle some of the more complex storylines that DC experimented with. Everyone remembers the drug storyline, in which Speedy got hooked on smack, but in fact the entire Green Lantern/Green Arrow run was full of interesting, detailed human-interest stories. The partnership between a guy who can’t do anything super and a guy who can pretty much do anything super was always fascinating, and their mutual reliance on devices for their powers was a great juxtaposition.
Lots of creators have worked with the character. Mike Grell’s run was visually terrific (of course), but it also brought out the killer in Arrow. And really, a dude who shoots pointy sticks kinda should be a killer, no? Judd Winick gave Speedy AIDS. Andy Diggle made much more sense of Arrow’s origin, and his motivation to do what he does.
Most folks think of Green Arrow as a member of the Justice League. It’s important to remember that he’s a cool character on his own.
Plus, he gets to bang Black Canary.
- Green Lantern/Green Arrow Vol. 1: Hard Traveling Heroes
- Green Lantern/Green Arrow Vol. 2 (including the Speedy-on-heroin storyline)
- Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters
- Green Arrow: Year One
- Green Arrow/Black Canary: The Wedding Album