It’s National Superhero Day, or at least I think it is. Like many comic book readers, superheroes were the toast of geekdom. I’ve sat here and recalled so many moments of arguing with classmates over which hero was the strongest or which superpowers I could have if given the opportunity. I’ve decided—with little to no caffeine in my system—to highlight a few of my favorite superheroes and teams (in no particular order). Enjoy!
1. Moon Knight
There are few superheroes as misunderstood as Moon Knight except for possibly the Great Lakes Avengers. Since his debut in Werewolf by Night #32, Marc Spector has had quite a life. He’s done time as a mercenary, a cab driver and has served in a number of Avengers squads. Oh, and did I mention that he’s got dissociative identity disorder and is possessed by an ancient Egyptian god? He’s often derided as being a cheap Batman clone, but unlike the Caped Crusader, Moon Knight doesn’t hide in the shadows. He wears almost all white so that his enemies can see him coming.
In the character’s current run, which I’ve written on in a recent blog post, Spector is confined to a mental institution with a weak grasp of reality. Mental instability is the hallmark of Moon Knight and while writers haven’t always had the best handle on how to properly convey it, there’s no mistaking that the unpredictability makes for a compelling read.
2. Cloak & Dagger
Teenage runaways Tyrone Johnson and Tandy Bowen found themselves without any place to go on the mean streets of New York City. A crooked chemist by the name of Simon Marshall used transients to test a new form of synthetic heroin and the resulting side effects gave them superpowers. Tyrone (“Cloak”) gained the ability of intangibility and can pull victims into a “dark dimension.” Tandy (“Dagger”) became a being a pure light, being able to fire said light in the form of daggers, as well as providing “sustenance” for Cloak’s constant hunger for light.
A lot can be made of two heroes who are often misplaced in the Marvel universe. There’s some dubious racial subtext in their backstories and their early adventures were a less-than-subtle commentary on the “War on Drugs.” Also, in an attempt to distance the characters from their drug-related backgrounds, Cloak & Dagger were briefly retconned to be mutants and chilled out with the X-Men before they were summarily dismissed for no longer being mutants.
That’s comic books in a nutshell, folks.
3. Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E.
Back in 2006, writer Warren Ellis and artist Stuart Immonen teamed up to create a hilarious comic for Marvel entitled Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. The team was comprised of obscure Marvel characters like Meltdown (New Mutants/X-Force), Monica Rambeau (the former Captain Marvel and currently Spectrum) and Elsa Bloodstone. Together with Machine Man and The Captain, the latter an original creation for Nextwave, the team was hired to join the Highest Anti-Terrorism Effort to fight U.W.M.D.s (Unusual Weapons of Mass Destruction) which featured villains Fin Fang Foom and Broccoli Men.
Yes, Broccoli Men. You read that correctly.
Armed with irreverent, self-referential humor and even its own theme song (complete with guitar tabs), Nextwave was pure unadulterated fun. Ellis and Immonen were firing on all cylinders, finding ways to breathe new life into oft-forgotten characters and reference some major deep cuts like Forbush Man. Unfortunately, it met its end after 12 issues due to low sales, but since then its developed a cult following among fans and there’s still hope that Ellis may revisit it, but that wait may be a long one.
People can trash it all they wish, but the early 90’s is still my favorite era of X-Men, mainly because that’s when I started reading it. However, for a team that was meant to a diverse group of superpowered individuals, there weren’t many brown-skinned members at the time save Storm.
Bishop came from out of nowhere and not only changed the X-Men’s world forever, he also changed mine. He was a man out of time and short on patience. In his future, the world is a literal crap hole and the Children of the Atom are all but wiped out. But here’s the kick: somebody within the ranks of the X-Men were responsible! The bulk of the 90's run dealt with discovering the identity of said traitor, but it was obvious that the editorial staff stopped caring and made it Xavier. Yeah, don't bother. It's a headache-and-a-half.
Bishop was the epitome of badass yet his best moments were always those in which he was forced to reconcile his present with ours. He’s never known much in the way of recreation or simple living. Much like fellow short-tempered time traveler Cable, all he’s known is war and armed conflict. Still, Bishop exhumed a coolness that was difficult to match. Imagine if Richard Roundtree’s Shaft came from a post-apocalyptic future with a laser gun and you have Bishop.
5. War Machine
Speaking of awesome black superheroes, James Rhodes is the answer to the question: “What if Tony Stark were to ever stop self-destructing and get his shit together?” Cool and confident, Rhodes spent many years as Stark’s friend as well as personal pilot and chief engineer at Stark Industries. Thankfully, the Driving Miss Daisy routine didn’t last long, as Rhodes took up the mantle of Iron Man during Tony’s battle with alcoholism. After spending years on and off taking up the Iron Man persona, he was finally given his own suit stocked with all of the guns and unnecessary weaponry that 90’s superhero comics had to offer.
Unfortunately the last few attempts at making a strong solo comic fell short of expectations with me and seemingly the bulk of the comics community, often being canceled abruptly after launch. Be that as it may, that doesn't take away the fact that James Rhodes often embodies the true spirit of Iron Man more so Tony Stark himself.
Who are some of your favorite superheroes, popular or otherwise? Drop a comment below and let’s get some dialogue going!