THE TOP 100 COMIC BOOK HEROES OF ALL TIME

16.  HULK

There have been several attempts to make Hulk movie-able, and all have failed.  Not failed miserably, but failed nonetheless.  I’m one of the few folks who really appreciated Ang Lee’s angst-ridden, internal approach.  It focused on the inner conflict between Banner and his violent inner nature, but it lacked approachability.  What made Bill Bixby’s TV version so great was Bixby’s “every man” nature.  Lee’s Banner is an outsider, and there’s nothing relateable about him.  The more recent Hulk was certainly more fun, but there wasn’t the depth there.  If we could take Bixby’s personality, Ang Lee’s texture, and the Ed Norton version’s popcorn-fun destruction, we’d finally have a Hulk movie.

Perhaps that’s also why the comic book, too, is more often than not little better than mediocre.  Comic books certainly make it easier to convey inner dialog, but at the same time it’s hard to balance all of the elements at work in a Hulk story.

The definitive Hulk writer, it turns out, is a recent one: Greg Pak.  I have to say that the various colored Hulks suck (and they’re not Pak’s fault) and, at least for me, ruined the entire Hulk concept and franchise by turning it into a joke.  But before Jeph Loeb inflicted that on everyone, Greg Pak delivered Planet Hulk, a long-form story of Hulk in exile, with a strong supporting cast and an opportunity to answer the question: What if Hulk’s violent nature made him a hero, not a source of fear?  And then his return to Earth with World War Hulks was exactly the kind of all-out brawl event that comic books need more of: Fun, violent, and not stupid.

Hulk originally looked a lot like Frankenstein and only transformed at night, like a werewolf, but he gradually became a wonderful symbol of the duality of human nature.  It’s just too bad that more writers aren’t able to successfully explore that concept.

Hulk want to read!

  • Hulk: Gray
  • Planet Hulk
  • World War Hulk

15.  LUKE CAGE (POWER-MAN).

Luke Cage was a Thunderbolt before there were Thunderbolts.  Except for the fact that he really was innocent.

The character, real name Carl Lucas, really started out as kind of a blacksploitation caricature: He spoke in exaggerated ebonics, came from Harlem, went to prison for being framed by “the wrong crowd,” wore silk shirts, and the ladies loved him.  Still, even way back in 1972, he was undeniably cool–if only because there were so few black characters at the time.  And because he was teamed up with a karate guy and some hot chicks including a white samurai and a bionic black lady.  The Power Man and Iron Fist books may seem dated to modern readers, but at the time is was most definitely one of my favorite comics-probably second only to Amazing Spider-Man.

But it wasn’t until Brian Michael Bendis took hold of Cage, in the pages of Alias and New Avengers, that the character really became a developed being.  In fact, Bendis brilliantly brought Cage out of his stereotypical mannerisms consciously, by having him gradually fall in love with Jessica Jones who repeatedly calls him on his shit.  She’s great, he’s great.  In fact, now that I think about it, Cage is at his best when he’s playing off of other characters, whether it was his longstanding team up with Danny Rand, his marriage, or his role as leader of the New Avengers team.

Want to read about Luke?  Check out:

  • Any old Power Man and Iron Fist comic (probably in a dollar bin at your local comic shop)
  • Alias Vol. 1
  • New Avengers Vol. 1

 14.  CYCLOPS.

Ignore the fact that it’s a visor and he doesn’t even look like he has one eye: Strategist, usurper-of-Professor-X, and occasional whiner, Cyclops is the second-best team leader in Marvel history (Cap is #1) and the one who most often wrestles with the heavy mantle of command.

And then of course there’s his pedigree: Son of Corsair, leader of the Starjammers; brother of Havok and Vulcan; father of Cable; grandfather of Hope.

For these reasons, he meets the criteria for a great comic book hero: Good look, cool powers, longevity, influence on the overall Marvel U, and a longstanding feud with Wolverine…All that, and he bagged not one but two of the hottest chicks in comicdom.

For further reading: Most of Cyke’s stories are team-based–he’s rarely on his own–but you can’t go wrong with these trades, which show off Cyclops’ contributions to the team:

  • Essential Classic X-Men Vol. 1
  • Dark Phoenix Saga
  • Essential X-Men vol. 3
  • Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men: Utopia
  • X-Men: Messiah CompleX

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