99. BATWOMAN (Kate Kane)
Although she was introduced in 2006 in the one-year experiment known as the “52” maxi-series, most people (me included) didn’t learn about Kate Kane until she took over Detective Comics in late 2009.
The big selling point was that Batwoman was the first major lesbian hero, but her sexuality is really a very minor part of her overall character. Part commando/spy, she’s an army brat goth-heroine, and also Jewish. If this sounds like a confusing mash of characteristics-almost like a desperate attempt to get some press coverage—it very well may be. But it’s not what makes her so cool. Or maybe it is.
The fact is, it’s very hard to launch a new superhero—and it’s doubly hard if that hero is a girl. Yet from the jump, Batwoman captured fans’ imagination and had them clamoring for more. Yeah, much of that was due to the brilliantly different artwork by JH Williams, but that’s not all of it. Her appearance in Batman, Inc., was also fascinating. There’s a mystery to her—but there are so many elements that feel worth developing. Her book has been marred by a terrible publication schedule, but I’m hoping that as part of the new 52 her story will finally be told on a regular, monthly basis.
- Detective Comics: Batwoman
98. JOE THE BARBARIAN
Everyone who makes a list like this gets a few oddball picks. They’re the ones that prove how “inside” the listmaker is, and establishes that he’s cooler than you, the reader. This one is mine.
Plus, my oddball selection should (I hope) give you a better sense of where I’m coming from with this. The idea is not just to list commercially viable characters that everyone has heard of—it’s to include characters that have moved the art form in a new direction or that epitomize the full potential of comic books.
Joe the Barbarian is such a book.
Grant Morrison’s 8-issue epic is powerful, beautifully illustrated (by Sean Phillips) epic that’s about the power of fantasy to overcome human frailty and the need for all of us, when we are confronted with terrifying, depressing realities, to be able to transport to another plane—to somewhere with hope.
Literally, the book is about a kid having a diabetic reaction trying to crawl down the stairs to get a can of soda. On the way, he is transported to a crazy, vivid world where Transformers, Star Trek characters, toy soldiers, and all kinds of other childish things come alive and fight a battle of good versus evil. It’s part swords and sandals, part mystical mythology, part mystery, and 100 percent incredible. Morrison has a clear vision in all of his work, and this one is one of his best. He’s able to do more with this art form than most others because he understands that the images and the words can tell different layers of the same story, and that the use of word bubbles, thought bubbles, and captions, all alongside the pictures, make comic books a medium that can do something novels, movies, and music cannot do. In fact, comics can do what all of those do, simultaneously.
Buy this book. You will not be disappointed.
- Joe the Barbarian