From the little zombie book that could, Micchone is that “black samurai chick.” Yeah, we’ve seen the type before. But this one is different. This one is slightly schizophrenic. This one can take being brutally raped, get revenge, and still care about children. This one has the heart to kill those closest to her if it serves the greater good. This one is a true hero, PTSD and all.
Rick Grimes and his son may be the entry point for readers of The Walking Dead, but for many of us it is Micchone who does the things we wish we could and feels the things we know we would.
Okay, so she matters to a black and white independent comic book that’s been pretty successful, but why is she one of the 100 most important comic book heroes of all time? Because a strong woman who realistically shows the symptoms of combat is pretty much impossible to find anywhere else. And a black woman whose depth has absolutely nothing to do with her race, but who is still written with a consciousness of the backgrounds of African Americans–in an America that no longer exists–is literally impossible to find anywhere else. Micchone is a lesson to the world: Comic books can dig much deeper than you’d expect. Her long-term impact remains to be seen–and if the TV series goes down the tubes next season (as seems likely, now that Frank Darabont has been fired), we may never get to be introduced to this strong character, which, in turn, may decrease the heat off this book and Micchone may fade into memory.
But I hope not.
- The Walking Dead: The Heart’s Desire (Vol. 4)
37. SILVER SURFER
Yeah, this one is mostly based on looks. But not entirely. Surfer captured the imagination of his fans also because of his whole zen-like approach to being a herald of death. (I’m sure it’s no coincidence he hails from Zenn La.) He didn’t really have a “surfer” attitude; it was more like detachment brought on by hard lessons about love and sacrifice.
Silver Surfer also represented a fairly different view on a common theme. Superheroes invite philosophical questions like whether it is okay to disobey the law in order to achieve a greater good; is the end okay if it requires a violent means? But Surfer asked: If someone has to die, is it better you than me? Is it better your family than mine?
Of course, his conflict is fairly similar to that of his master, Galactus, who eats entire planets. But the purple guy had no alternative, so he didn’t feel bad about it. Like a vegetarian eating soy beans, there was nothing he could do. Surfer could have resisted. He would have lost, but he could have resisted.
The most existential character in Marvel was also extremely powerful, and often (at least in the beginning) he would succumb to rage and lash out destructively. But over time, the character developed and changed. He’s still tragic, still an antihero, but he’s increasingly comfortable with his lot in life.
- Marvel Masterworks Vol. 1: Silver Surfer. The early Stan Lee stories are truly fantastic. They include Thor, Mephisto, and the amazing art of John Buscema.
- Silver Surfer: Requiem. So good, it almost became a movie.
36. PROFESSOR X.
The most radical superhero team created by Stan Lee, and the one with the most influential world view, was The X-Men. I think that’s pretty much not in doubt. I mean, even dystopian futures weren’t yet a tired concept in the early 1960s, but a somewhat dystopian present? And in this environment of cynicism, it made sense that an overly polite optimist would lead the children of the atom.
The X-Men almost immediately had a rich and fertile “culture,” and at the center of it was Charles Xavier. The perfect father figure who wouldn’t read your mind and let you play in a living gymnasium.
Over the decades, X was treated slightly differently by different writers; some made him overbearing, some made him kindly, some found a pompous center under a bristly exterior–but, always, he (not Cyclops) was the unconflicted moral center. Surrounded by Wolverine (a killer with a heart of gold); Cyclops (who doubted just about everything); Jean (possessed by an awesome power); Beast (I’m start but I’m ugly so I use humor!); Angel (poor little rich boy); Magneto (I hate everyone but I want to be loved!), Charles Xavier was the one guy who always seemed to have the same, unwavering purpose and direction. Even more than Captain America, he’s the moral constant for the Marvel universe, always believing in humanity’s ability to ultimately overcome its own prejudice and limitations.
Some cool stories with more Prof X than usual in them…
- X-Men Vol. 1 #12 (his origin, by Lee and Kirby, reprinted in several forms)
- X-Men Vol. 1 #105 (he meets Shi’Ar queen Lilandra, reprinted in many forms)
- New X-Men: E for Extinction