Adam Christopher’s superior superhero adventure Seven Wonders is published later this month (August 28th in the US, September 6th in the UK – the eBook is published worldwide on August 28th). We asked him to tell us about his favourite 4-colour heroes…
See, here’s the thing: I love superheroes. I love the cheese, I love the colours, I love the spandex. I also love the heroism, the optimism, and the ideals. Since the late 1930s, superhero comics have given us some of the most imaginative and wonderful stories in every genre that exists – and I should say that “superhero” to me is a story type, much like horror or steampunk, not a genre in itself, which allows any kind of story to be told within a specific framework – stories like Seven Wonders, my superhero novel.
So here are my five favourite superheroes from the world of comics – five fictional characters that I love possibly more than any other, whether it be in comics or novels or films or TV. People might know I’m a DC fan, and in compiling this top five, they’ve all ended up coming from that publisher – but if I had gone beyond five, then rest assured some Marvel heroes would have made it, including Iron Man and Daredevil. For the purposes of this list, I’m considering these DC characters in their pre-New 52 iterations, simply because they are the characters I fell in love with.
One of Steve Ditko’s creations, The Question first appeared in 1967 as part of the Charlton Comics roster, before DC acquired them in 1983. The Question is a detective, of sorts, complete with trench coat and hat, his face hidden behind a blank face mask. A loner and conspiracy theorist – and frequent the wild conspiracies he is investigating are actually true – The Question eventually evolved into something of a philosopher, before passing the mantle over to Gotham Police detective Renee Montoya in DC’s year-long 52 series. I first discovered The Question thanks to the Justice League/Justice League Unlimited animated TV series, and that’s what I would actually recommend as a starting point for the character, followed by the solo series by Dennis O’Neil which began in 1987.
And… cue the eye-rolling! But, seriously, there is a reason why she had that chest window in her costume, claiming that when she decided to become a hero (inspired by her alt-universe cousin Superman) she designed a costume but left the window in the chest as she wanted to come up with her own symbol. But she never did, and eventually the window became the symbol itself.
Look, it makes sense. Shut up.
Thing is, Power Girl is one of the most powerful superheroes in the DCU, not just in terms of strength and ability (being a Kryptonian refugee like Supergirl and Superman), but in terms of character, being assertive and headstrong and eventually becoming the chair of the Justice Society of America. Power Girl kicks ass like few others.
The definitive Power Girl can be found in her second solo series, which ran for 27 issues from 2009 to 2011, the best of which were drawn by the remarkable Amanda Conner. But I have to say, the painted cover to Justice Society of America #9 by Alex Ross stands as one of the most iconic pieces of comic art ever drawn. What I would do to have the original hanging on my wall!
The Helena Bertinelli version of Huntress is the daughter of a Mafia boss in Gotham City. As a child, she witnesses the mob-related murder of her parents, and swears vengeance. Sound familiar? But while there are superficial similarities between her origin and Batman’s, Huntress operates more as a vigilante, often breaking the moral code adhered to by the more traditional heroes. As a member of Birds of Prey, with Oracle and Black Canary, Helena’s character shone under the pen of Gail Simone, while Greg Rucka’s six-issue Batman/Huntress: Cry for Blood miniseries sets up her origin. And The Huntress/Question episode of the Justice League animated series, Double Date (also written by Gail Simone) is an excellent showcase for both characters.
The top two on my list pose a significant problem – of the two, Catwoman has (to my mind) a far stronger run of comic stories than the superhero in my number one spot, while my number one is a hero that, as a character, is far more interesting.
It’s a tough life, being a comic fan.
Catwoman is also one of those comic characters that needs no introduction, although contrary to public perception (although maybe that will change thanks to the film The Dark Knight Rises) she’s no longer a Batman villain, more an anti-hero who protects Gotham’s East End… not to mention being Batman’s on-again, off-again lover.
She’s also the star of what I think is the best comic series DC have ever produced – Catwoman, which ran for 82 issues from 2002 to 2008, first with the dream team of artist Darwyn Cooke and writer Ed Brubaker, then later with various artists and writer Will Pfeifer. Brubaker and Cooke redefined Catwoman, giving her a new costume and a new crime/police procedural take on her stories, and while the series evolved under Pfeifer into a more standard superhero comic, her character – witty, strong, intelligent, and deeply complex – was one of the most vividly portrayed in modern superhero comics.
I’d go so far as to say that Catwoman #17 is the single best superhero comic ever written and drawn, but it’s important that you read issues 1 through 16 to get the full impact. But I recommend it, heart and soul.
Hawkgirl is one the many creations of Golden Age comics legend, Gardner Fox, who brought her to life in 1940. Since then, Hawkgirl and her partner Hawkman have developed along a meandering and complex path, interspersed with the occasional reboot and retcon. But the central concept – that Hawkman and Hawkgirl were originally lovers in ancient Egyptian, murdered by and cursed to be forever reincarnated together for all eternity, with each time they discover their love for each other triggering untimely ends and so beginning the rebirth cycle again – is beautiful, sad, and a work of genius, and features heavily in the Green Lantern Blackest Night/Brightest Day arcs, where their eternal love is the essence of the power of the Star Sapphires.
The Geoff Johns/James Robinson Hawkman series from 2002 to 2006 obviously features Hawkgirl heavily (and in fact changes to Hawkgirl with issue 50), but I’d say the best starting place is again the Justice League animated series. Hawkgirl (although in this incarnation as winged cop from the planet Thanagar, just one of a couple of alternative versions from various comic reboots) was added to the core team to provide another female character, and ends up with a long and moving story arc charting her divided loyalties, betrayal and eventual redemption. Wielding her nth-metal mace and smacking bad guys in the face ith a bloodcurdling battle cry, this is my definitive Hawkgirl.