After over 1,000 ballots were cast, YOU the reader ranked your favorite comic book characters from 1-10. I assigned point totals to each ranking and then tabulated it all into a Top 50 list. We’re now revealing that list for the rest of November and into December. The countdown continues now…
I used to do sort of “biographies” for each of the characters on the list, but you know what, they’re on the Top 100 DC and Marvel characters list, so I think we should be working under the assumption that you all pretty much know the basic information about these characters. Instead, I’ll just write about whatever interests me about the character in question, including a notable comic book moment featuring the character.
45. Batgirl (Cassandra Cain) – 265 points (2 first place votes)
During the No Man’s Land storyline, Huntress took on a new identity as Batgirl for a little while (in a costume designed by Alex Maleev). When her identity was revealed, she gave it up and left the identity available. A young, mute and extremely skilled martial artist named Cassandra Cain was working as an assistant for Oracle (Cassandra was created by Kelley Puckett and Damion Scott). After she proved herself saving Commissioner Gordon, Batman and Oracle both agreed that Cassandra should be allowed to become the new Batgirl.
Cassandra was trained as a young girl to be an assassin by her jerk father, the assassin David Cain. When she was eight, she murdered someone – this more or less blew her mind and her history as a hero mostly served in her mind as her way to atone for that earlier murder.
She became one of Batman’s most effective allies, as she was nearly a superhuman in her skills as a martial artist. She might very well be the best martial artist in the DC Universe (deciding who is the best martial artist in the DC Universe is apparently one of the most important things, as it seems to come up CONSTANTLY). She eventually was revealed to be the daughter of Lady Shiva.
After Infinite Crisis, Batgirl appeared to become a super-villain for some time, becoming the new head of the League of Assassins. Luckily (and convolutedly), this turned out to be part of a plan involving her father and Deathstroke the Terminator drugging her and controlling her mind and turning her against her friends.
She was once again a trusted member of Batman’s allies (and Batman even said that he planned to adopt her) but then Bruce Wayne was seemingly killed. She gave up the Batgirl identity to her friend Stephanie Brown. Upon the return of Bruce Wayne, she became an agent of Batman Incorporated as Blackbat. After the New 52, Cass was out of commission until she was eventually introduced, now going by the name The Orphan. Eventually, Barbara Gordon made Cassandra Batgirl again, and Cass shares the Batgirl mantle with Stephanie Brown.
44. Firestorm – 271 points (4 first place votes)
Ronnie Raymond was created by Gerry Conway and Al Milgrom to basically be a Marvel hero for the DC Universe. He got caught in a nuclear explosion because he was trying to impress some folks, and he was saved by a scientist, Professor Martin Stein. This time, however, the two ended up merging to form Firestorm, who could control molecules. Ronnie controlled the body, but Stein was a disembodied voice who would give Ronnie advice. They were normal heroes for awhile, with Firestorm joining the Justice League during the same time.
However, John Ostrander took over the title and had Professor Stein decide that, since he was terminally ill, he would have the US and the USSR get rid of all their nuclear weapons. Both countries did not like this, and a Russian operative, Mikhail Arkadin, was sent to stop them. After a confrontation, they suddenly realized that they were all being betrayed by their countries, who were working together to nuke them!
After the nuclear explosion, the three men were now merged together to form a new Firestorm, but mostly it was Ronnie and Mikhail, controlled by Stein’s mind, who had amnesia, so it was liek Firestorm was a new child in the world, and Ronnie, Mikhail and the world had to deal with the strange new status quo. They would become sort of an ecological warrior, punishing corporations for pollution. Eventually, Martin Stein took over and evolved into a Fire Elemental, with Ronnie and Mikhail returning to their old lives as Stein left for outer space.
Later, Ronnie became Firestorm again, but by himself (often aided by the Atom to help replace the scientific know how that Martin Stein had supplied). Ronnie was killed in battle, and a new young man, Jason Rusch, took over as Firestorm. Martin Stein returned to Earth and merged with Rusch to form a more traditional Firestorm setup again. Eventually, Ronnie Raymond was resurrected and he and Jason shared the matrix for a time until the New 52 reboot, which changed their origins, but it remained Ronnie and Jason as Firestorm until eventually the “classic” setup of Ronnie and Stein returned.
43. Blue Beetle (Ted Kord) – 283 points (3 first place votes)
Blue Beetle was actually one of the more popular superheroes of the 1940s, but that was a whole other guy, Dan Garrett, and TWO COMPANIES removed from DC Comics. Blue Beetle was one of the first superheroes launched by Fox Features Syndicate, one of the earliest comic book companies that launched specifically in response to the success of National Comics’ Superman feature (other comic book companies had already been around before Superman, but then there was a boom of companies trying to get their own Superman). Blue Beetle was popular enough that he even had his own newspaper comic strip! Eventually, though, sales fell by the wayside and Fox went out of business, selling the character to Charlton Comics in the 1950s. Charlton did not have any real idea on what to do with the character, either. They did a series of sporadic relaunches of the character but none of them sold. Eventually, they decided to just use the well-known name and drop the other elements all together. After becoming a major success at Marvel Comics, Steve Ditko was sick of Marvel for various reasons, one of which was that he felt that he did not have enough creative control at Marvel, despite the fact that he plotted his titles all by himself. There was always something that he had to deal with the company changing, either when Stan Lee scripted the issue or else when Marvel owner Martin Goodman just wanted to go a different direction with the series.
Charlton gave Ditko the freedom to basically launch his own line of superheroes, only Ditko’s heroes were called “Action Heroes.” Ditko then introduced a new version of Blue Beetle as a science hero rather than a superhero, as Ted Kord, the new Beetle, was all about technology and athleticism…
Blue Beetle got his own comic book series, but sales did not do well for Ditko’s line of superheroes, and he soon made his way to DC Comics. Eventually, Charlton sold their superheroes to DC Comics, as well. The Editor-in-Chief of Charlton at the time Ditko launched these new heroes was Dick Giordano and Giordano was the head editor at DC years later when DC purchased the characters. It was almost as if they were buying them as present for Giordano. Len Wein and Paris Cullens launched a fairly faithful adaptation of the Ditko Blue Beetle.
The series did not sell that well, though. However, luckily for Beetle, a twist of fate would work in his advantage. DC was relaunching the Justice League, but new writers Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis were not allowed to use most of DC’s most prominent superheroes (like Superman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, etc.) and so instead they used other solo heroes who had their own titles, such as Blue Beetle.
Giffen and DeMatteis decided to turn Beetle into a sort of sitcom character, an everyman trapped in a world of absurd superhero shenanigans, much of which were perpetuated by Beetle and his new teammate, Booster Gold, who soon became Beetle’s best friend…
For a while there, this version of the Justice League was one of DC’s most popular titles and Blue Beetle and Booster Gold (or “Blue and Gold”) became cult icons. Eventually, though, Giffen and DeMatteis moved on and later writers couldn’t quite seem to capture the same voice for Blue and Gold and so they settled into comic book limbo. Beetle was brought out of limbo just to be the sacrificial lamb that launched Infinite Crisis, as he is murdered after discovering the OMAC Project ( something that Batman couldn’t even do).
A new Blue Beetle took over, returning the character to superpowered adventures, but after the New 52 occurred, Ted Kord was brought back to life and Blue and Gold played a prominent role in DC’s Heroes in Crisis. Ted Kord is now serving as a mentor figure for Jaime Reyes in the pages of Blue Beetle’s current series.
42. Deathstroke the Terminator – 284 points (4 first place votes)
Marv Wolfman and George Perez created Deathstroke the Terminator (Slade Wilson) as an interesting menace for the New Teen Titans to face. Deathstroke’s son, The Ravager, took a job to kill the Titans. However, he died before he could complete the task, forcing Deathstroke to be honor-bound to complete the task.
Deathstroke was experimented on in the army, and is now a peak human. He is smarter, faster, stronger, etc. than a normal human. He is very tough. However, his home life was a mess. His other son was kidnapped by one of Slade’s enemies and was held hostage with a knife to his throat. Slade was so confident in his abilities that he tried to kill the man before he could slice the child’s throat. Slade killed the man, but not before slicing open the boy’s throat enough that he became permanently mute. Slade’s wife than shot him in the eye in revenge for his cockiness getting their son injured. Again, he is so confident in his skills that he incorporated his injured eye into his costume, letting people know that he is missing an eye as he figures it doesn’t matter if they know that or not, he’ll still beat them with one eye or two.
Over the years, while Deathstroke has done plenty of evil things, he seemed to be working under a weird code of honor. Which showed after he worked with a traitor within the Titans, Terra, to capture them for HIVE. Changeling wants revenge, but finds that Slade is not the man he thought he was…
For a time, he was practically a superhero, even being personally recruited by Superman to lead the heroes of Earth against an alien invasion from Warworld.
Towards the end of the Post-Crisis DCU, he had become more and more of a traditional sadistic supervillain.
In the New 52, he was more of a mercenary. During DC Rebirth, he had his own ongoing series where he vacillated between villain and anti-hero. His home life was still a mess, of course, as his children were major parts of the series and their relationship with their dad was more than a bit complicated. Things got pretty bad towards the end, and I think he has been killed off and resurrected more times than you would think. He then became one of the major villains of the recent Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover event, where his general pain in his life was a driving force in his actions towards trying to destroy the Multiverse.
41. Superboy (Conner Kent) – 286 points (5 first place votes)
After the Death of Superman, four beings showed up that people confused for being the return of Superman. One of those beings turned out to be the CLONE of Superman, only taken out of his development before maturation finished, so the clone was still a teenager. Eventually going by the name Superboy (he was created by Karl Kesel and Tom Grummett), this clone was a brasher version of Superman, with powers that worked more based on telekinesis than actual Kryptonian powers (the clone was cloned from half Superman DNA and half human DNA).
After an impressive solo career on the island state of Hawaii (while also forming the original Young Justice with Robin and Impulse), this young hero (who had long been given the Kryptonian name of Kon-El by Superman) moved to Smallville and began living with Superman’s adopted parents, the Kents. Here he adapted Kon-El to Conner Kent, and began wearing a new costume (originally he wore a leather jacket – now it was a black T-shirt with a Red S on it and blue jeans). He became a member of a newly reformed Teen Titans and developed a relationship with Wonder Girl. However, he soon discovered that the human half of his DNA was from Lex Luthor!!!
Luthor then showed that he had put in some failsafes in Superboy’s DNA, and he was able to turn Superboy against his teammates. Superboy eventually fought this off. However, it was only in time to sacrifice himself to help save the world from an insane version of Superboy from another universe. Luckily, he was able to return to life in an adventure involving the Legion of Super-Heroes, and he returned to Smallville as a local hero (in the tradition of Superman as a teen hero named Superboy in Smallville).
Then the New 52 happened and Superboy went through so much nonsense that it basically took Brian Michael Bendis just deciding to ignore all of those other stories and concentrate on the classic version of Conner/Kon-El (and I guess let continuity work itself out later) to bring the character back to prominence again in Young Justice. Later Superman writers have now slowly but surely gotten Superboy back to a state where he can move forward again.