Like I alluded to back in my first post, my very favorite comic book character of the many I dig is none other than Nova the Human Rocket.
Nova sometimes gets a bad rap as being a rip-off of Spider-Man and/or Green Lantern. I understand this to a degree, given that he's a teenager from Queens who got super powers and then became part of an interstellar corps of space cops. However, interestingly enough, it's by explaining why Nova is not like Spidey or GL that I'm best able to demonstrate why he's my favorite character.
In fact, I wrote an article for Marvel.com on the very subject in regards to the differences between Nova and Spider-Man. Hit the link to read the whole thing, but here's some tidbits...
Don't tell the folks that run this joint—I'm banking that they don't read my stuff—but I've never really been that into Spider-Man.
Oh, don't get me wrong, I've enjoyed many a great Spidey story and totally find the character to be innovative and appealing, but when the mask comes off, Peter Parker has just never really felt like "my character." Everybody has got that one character they feel like they'd be buddies with in real life, and for a lot of people, that's Spidey, but not for me. Married, single, young, old, nerdy, clone, whatever—I've just never connected with Spider-Man that way.
I guess you could say a big reason for that is because Nova is "my" Spider-Man.
I liked the fact that Rich Rider seemed more like a real teenager than any comic book alter ego I had ever encountered. Even with his dated 70's wardrobe and lingo, I related to Rich. He wasn't captain of the football team or the most popular kid in school, but he also wasn't a socially hapless science prodigy like a certain other Marvel hero of note. He was a normal, likable dude—he got picked on by bullies, but he still had some cool friends and a cute girl on his arm.
I've heard Nova called a Spider-Man knockoff, but that's bull. Spidey's beat is usually New York and occasionally like Jersey or something; he spends his time catching bank robbers or dudes wearing goblin masks. Rich Rider has the same background and upbringing as Peter Parker, but the threats he faces on a daily basis, particularly with his current status quo, are so out of Spidey's league that it sets him apart.
I've also heard Nova called a knockoff of a certain emerald ring slinger from the Distinguished Competition—again, bull. That guy's whole shtick is having "no fear," whereas Rich is a person who fully acknowledges his fears, but rather than tossing them aside, he uses them to fuel his resolve and make him stronger.
Just about every character in fiction is derivative of some other idea somewhere, but while Nova may borrow from here and there, the end result is a hero like none other. A true blue (blazes) good guy who came from an ordinary environment to become extraordinary. A Human Rocket whose ignition is caring about doing what's right and a burning desire to make a difference.
In short, Peter Parker has always been a bit too much of the bookworm bully-victim dude to me. He's ok for the right audience, but I know a big part of his appeal is supposed to be how much you can relate to him, and I've never really been able to. When I started reading him as a teenager, he was a 30-something married dude. When I revisited the classic Stan Lee/Steve Ditko/John Romita stuff, I found a lot to like about the stories and even about Spidey, but when it came to Peter Parker, I wasn't a science prodigy and I didn't get stuffed in lockers, so again, I couldn't relate.
(And that's not to say everybody who relates to/likes Spider-Man is some sort of bespectacled loser, I'm just sayin' he wasn't what I was looking for).
On the flipside of the spectrum, you've got Green Lantern, more specifically Hal Jordan. Again, big fan of GL and particularly of a lot of the work my good friend Geoff Johns has done with Hal and friends, but the character himself is way too much of an alpha male for a joe average like me to be able to put myself in his shoes. I mean, the guy was selected to be a super hero out of everybody on Earth because he's completely fearless, honest, etc. I'm scared of everything!
(My favorite Green Lantern has always been Kyle Rayner, mostly because he reminds me of Nova, something his creator, Ron Marz, once admitted was probably subconsciously in his head, but I digress...)
Current Nova writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning actually wrote an awesome passage in the recent Nova Annual #1 in which Rich Rider's predecessor as Nova, Rhoman Dey, explains to Rich why he was chosen to be the new Nova that, for me, encapsulated why I will always relate better to Rich than to Hal:
You are ordinary. You are also loyal, trustworthy and plainspoken. You re an average young man from an average life. The Corps always recruits individuals who best represent the typical qualities of their species. We find they make the very best Centurions. They bring no arrogance or pride with them, no self-importance or elitism. They understand the responsibility. They appreciate the trust. They embrace the duty.
Not a genius, not a fearless idol; just an average guy who does his best. That's Nova and that's somebody I can relate to (and look up to...even though he's fictional).
For Nova-rama part two, (hopefully) soon I will scan in and show off for the first time online in its entirety my semi-famous Nova sketchbook, which includes work from the likes of Jim Lee, Ethan Van Sciver, Darick Robertson, Mike Perkins and many more.
But in the mean time, go buy some Nova comics. One of these days, Marvel's gonna give me a commission.