Saturday, April 25, 2009

Ben's Top Ten Super Heroes of the 90's pt. 2

Picking up from where we left off...

5. The Flash (Wally West)
I actually was not that big a Flash fan in the 90's, or at least not what you'd call an active Flash fan, I guess. What I mean by that is that I was in between the phase where I was too young to really understand stuff like character and just loved the Flash because of his costume and powers and the phase where I totally fell in love with Wally West. The irony is that the stories that made Wally such a favorite of mine took place largely in the 90's during Mark Waid's run on his book, I just wasn't reading them at the time. I recall owning exactly one issues of The Flash as a kid: issue #105, which I picked up mostly for the Ron Lim art and in which Wally fought the Mirror Master. I believe I checked out the "Terminal Velocity" arc, but just via flipping through the store's copies, not actually buying. Most of my exposure to Wally was in Justice League International and later Justice League America, where he never got much spotlight (having his own book and all), but did enough to keep my Flash fandom alive. Honestly, he probably doesn't even belong this far up the list in regards to how I felt during the 90's, but my nostalgia for the idea of the Flash was strong enough back then I still probably would have listed him in my top five, so there you go.

4. Guy Gardner
I'm guessing this is the one most of my friends might be a bit surprised by, particularly having him this high, but while I don't really wear my Guy Gardner fandom on my sleeve anymore, I was a huge devotee back in the 90's. He definitely took the whole bad boy/prick thing I dug beyond the next level as a member of the Justice League, but that wasn't really why I liked him. Truthfully, I missed out on the initial Keith Giffen/J.M. DeMatteis JLI stuff, so I didn't get to see Guy's comic relief glory days; by the time I was reading Dan Jurgens' JLA, I thought he was just kind of annoying and obnoxious, and given my leanings as a fan, that was saying something. It wasn't until Beau Smith's run on his solo book, during which it became Guy Gardner: Warrior, that I really got hooked. I know Beau's work on Warrior is held in high regard by many of my peers, particularly TJ "Please Plug My Blog" Dietsch, and I can't disagree. Beau took Guy stone cold serious and focused a lot on him being a man who realizes how much potential he has squandered in his life and becomes bent on making up for it by proving everybody wrong about him. In many ways, it's the spiritual predecessor to Joe Kelly's Deadpool. The idea of a hero who wasn't all that heroic but wanted to do better was a unique one for me to encounter at the time, particularly in the squeaky clean DC Universe, so it captivated me. I also appreciated the unorthodox but really cool (in the right hands) design of the Warrior look and the fact that his day job was bar owner was so unique and cool. I still like Guy today and think he fits nicely into the Green Lantern mythos, but he was a killer solo act.

3. Cannonball
As with a lot of these top five entries, I've said in part why I like Sam Guthrie before, but it bears expansion. Cannonball was the complete opposite of just about every other one of my favorite characters back in the day, as he was a true blue hero, a total gentleman, and an incredible team player. I dug that he was all of those things despite being in a book like X-Force, which was entirely populated by loose (pardon) cannon characters who had long greasy hair and loved to stab/shoot things. That he commanded the respect of those guys was extremely rad to me. If I made a team out of all the dickhead characters from the 90's who I liked, I'd probably make Cannonball the leader, because he's the only one I could imagine taking their shit and still managing to earn their respect. If guys like Live Wire and Iceman were extensions of the wry, sarcastic parts of my personality, Cannonball was my inner chivalry, and another aspect of my heroic aspirations. Also, being the X-Men nut I was, I dug how accomplished Sam was in fictional terms; as was brought up during several issues, he had studied under Professor X, Magneto and Cable and taken the best they all had to offer in creating his own style. You always got the sense that someday Cannonball was going to be the best X-Man ever. Unfortunately, when he did get the call up to the main team following the Age of Apocalypse, he got played as an over-his-head rookie as opposed to the prodigy he should have been. This backslide in Cannonball's character arc probably helped ease me out of comics (and coincidentally, not long after I got back in, Chris Claremont wrote a great one-off issue of X-Treme X-Men building him back up).

2. Superboy
At age 11, I thought Superboy was the coolest dude ever. Every cliched "kids will dig it!" trick they pulled in creating the young version of Superman, I fell for it. The earring, the leather jacket, the John Lennon sunglasses, the ridiculous haircut, the costume with eight million belts (it had belts on the thighs!)--loved it all! "Death of Superman" was the first time I had ever gotten into Superman, and when this wiseass kid showed up as one of his four would-be replacements, I was completely captivated. I guess there was some deeper character stuff to Superboy (his lack of a childhood was right there when Karl Kesel created it and Geoff Johns would give him an astounding amount of depth a decade later), but I didn't care about any of that. Superboy was just fun! He flirted with every girl in sight! He had awesome powers that he made sure to constantly name (tactile telekinesis)! And when it seemed like he couldn't get any better, they moved him to friggin' Hawaii! Outstanding!! He was also one of the first heroes I encountered who did stuff like merchandize himself (I didn't know Booster Gold from Tracy Gold), which was a neat add-on. Obviously this list shows how big into wish fulfillment I was as a fan back in the day--i.e. projecting myself into the lives of my favorite characters--and there was no cooler wish fulfillment character than Superboy. He was a hero, everybody loved him (especially the ladies) and he never had to grow up. Looking back, I can recognize how shallow my reasons for liking Superboy were (I would obviously come to appreciate his layers much more as they added them much later), but hey, I was a teenager and I was having a good time--yay for comics!

1. Nova
You really need to ask?

So did I surprise anybody? And who were your favorites?


KP said...

Four out of five!!!!!

And I feel you on that Guy book. I started buying issues out of dollar bins around its end because I saw Mitch Byrd's art in a Starman annual and dug it (whatever happened to THAT guy?), but Beau's stories were a whole different kind of wacked out fun. I know a lot of people like to use the whole "Guy Garner was really a long lost alien" as a punchline, but with no more GL stuff allowed in the book Beau came up with something that just worked on its own terms. Those Zero Hour issues were INSANE.

Anonymous said...

I cannot thank you enough for "getting" what I was trying to put across with Guy and his supporting cast. This really means a lot to me. My aim from day one was to entertain and give Guy more notes to play than just one. My two year run on the book is still one of my own career highlights.

Thank you.

Your amigo,

Beau Smith
The Flying Fist Ranch

TJ said...

Dude! Guy Gardner out of nowhere! Love that book. I think I had Beau Smith sign my entire run between a couple of different shows in Columbus. Plus, Dan Davis, the inker, did a head-shot of Guy as Warrior in my first sketchbook and I own a Mitch Byrd cover. It seems like they're finally getting away from the "Guy's an ass" characterization in GL and GLC finally, but no one's done justice to Guy like Beau.

Also, I'm surprised Wally was at 5.

Ben Morse said...

It was a reading highlight for me (and lotsa other folks), so thank YOU, Beau!

TJ--Surprised he was so high or so low? I think I explained the latter pretty well.

TJ said...

I was too excited to read the whole thing before posting! I get it now.

Jesse T. said...

Awright Morse, time to get to work on your list of favorite 90s villains.
I've never read an issue of Warrior ... I'd always heard good things, but I'm inspired to pick some up now.