Thursday, November 13, 2008

Top 5 underrated superheroes (in no order)

I know, I know, another post about comics. Sorry if you aren't into them. "Regularly scheduled programming" will continue soon.

In both the Marvel and DC universes, there are hundreds, maybe thousands of superheroes and supervillans. So many, that a lot fall through the cracks. While all of the heroes that I am writing about today are mid to low-level in popularity, I assure you there are a lot more that are out there. Let's get on with it, shall we?
Warning: Some spoilers ahead

Shazam! (formerly Captain Marvel)Company: Fawcett Comics, now DC
Real name: Billy Batson
Year introduced: 1940
Biography: When grade-school aged boy Billy Batson utters the word "Shazam!" he is magically transformed into an adult superhero with a slew of abilities. Having super-strength, stamina, intelligence, speed, courage, and wisdom, he is almost identical to Superman. Which is why DC comics sued his original creators in the 40's and 50's, and now own the rights to him. Anyways, he is definitely one of the more powerful heroes in the DC universe, and held his own in a fight against Superman in '06.
In comics: Although he may not be the most popular hero on the market, DC has been trying to revive interest in him for some time now, most recently with his appearances in Alex Ross' Kingdom Come and Bone creator Jeff Smith's four-part miniseries Shazam! and the Monster Society of Evil (which I recommend you all read).
In media: There have been rumors of a big-screen adaptation for about a year now, with an unnamed actor playing Shazam! and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson playing his villain, Black Adam. He was on Justice League Unlimited once, fighting Superman. He also appears in the new video game "Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe" as a playable character.

Black PantherCompany: Marvel
Real name: T'Challa
Year introduced: 1966
Biography: Once prince and now king of the fictional, technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda, the Black Panther has one of the most interesting back stories of any superhero in existence. Having Wolverine-like senses of smell and hearing, a genius level of intelligence, as well as being a perfectly-tuned fighting and gymnastics machine, he is one of the more powerful members of the Avengers. Since 2006, he has been married to the X-Men member Storm, and both replaced Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Woman as members of the Fantastic Four for a short time.
In comics: While most people would view him as a way for Marvel to get black people into comics, I don't. He faces huge problems as a monarch and a superhero, often mistreating one job in favor of the other. He has had several different series named after him over the years, and was the first black superhero to do so. He was part of Marvel's Marvel Knights story arc in 2001.
He also played a huge part in Marvel Zombies, as Giant-Man's source of food, and possible saviour of the human race.
Lately, T'Challa has been chummy with the vampire hunter Blade and the impervious Luke Cage. His newest comic series is very, very good.
In media: Wesley Snipes has been attached to the movie version of the Black Panther since the early 90's, wanting to fill the role as well as direct. Isn't ruining one Marvel superhero enough, Blade?
He was also a playable character in Marvel: Ultimate Alliance.

Elongated ManCompany: DC
Real name: Ralph Dibny
Year introduced: 1960
Biography: Ah, Elongated Man. A super-stretchy man who was overshadowed by the likes of Marvel's Mr. Fantastic and DC's Plastic Man. Able to stretch his body to ridiculous lengths, change his shape, and withstand lots of firepower, he is a force to be reckoned with. Good-natured and intelligent, his attitude is a throwback to the Silver Age of comics, when everything was perfect and no superhero had any flaws.
In addition to his powers, he is also an accomplished detective. When he senses something isn't right in a case he is working on, his nose twitches, leading him to investigate further. The only hero in the DC universe with more solved cases than him is Batman.
In comics: Before Identity Crisis, Elongated Man had the world. A perfect home, perfect job, and a bright future. But the brutal murder of his wife, Sue, leaves him broken and brutal, as shown in DC's recent series 52. I won't go into the exact details of the situation, but the events of 52 leave his future unknown.
In media: He's been on the Justice League TV show a few times, being voiced by total badass Jeremy Piven.

Nightwing Company: DC
Real name: Dick Grayson
Year introduced: 1963
Biography: Nightwing is essentially Robin after he stopped being Robin. He doesn't have any superhuman abilities, but is skilled in gymnastics and other fighting techniques. He uses two blue batons to manipulate and fight villains, not unlike Daredevil. He also has an array of batarangs, and is a pessimistic, skilled detective, not unlike Batman.
In comics: He's had his own series for a while, and it isn't bad. Like I said above, he's essentially a Batman Jr. He talks, walks, and acts just like Bruce Wayne, minus the "rich playboy" bit. He plays a central role in The Dark Knight Strikes Again.
In media: He's been on nearly every show associated with Batman: Justice League Unlimited, The Batman, Teen Titans, Batman Beyond, and a few others. In the USA, there are a few rollercoasters named after him at Six Flags parks. He is also a playable character in the Lego Batman video game.

Iron Fist Company: Marvel
Real name: Danny Rand
Year introduced: 1974
Biography: Given mystical powers by a giant, molten heart that he punched, Danny Rand was transformed into the Iron Fist. While his back story is nothing special, Iron Fist himself is. He is a master of martial arts, able to heal others and himself, as well as be impervious to damage (at least, after he activates his powers). He has incredible strength, agility, and strength. But after deactivating his powers, he cannot function normally for a short time afterwards. Essentially, he gets worn out. During Civil War, he donned Daredevil's costume to "prove" to the public that Matt Murdock wasn't the superhero.
In comics: The Immortal Iron Fist, Marvel's ongoing series about the adventures of Danny Rand, is one of the best out there right now. I haven't personally read anything else he's been in, but this definitely sparked my interest.
In media: There is supposed to be an Iron Fist movie released pretty soon, with Ray Park (Darth Maul in Star Wars: Episode I, Toad in X-Men, Snake-Eyes in the upcoming G.I. Joe movie) as the hero. Rumors say that it will begin shooting in 2009.

Bonus hero!
Squirrel GirlCompany: Marvel
Real name: Doreen Green
Year introduced: 1991
Biography: She's a mutant whose power it is to talk to squirrels. Yep. Her two buddies are Monkey Joe and his successor, Tippy-Toe. I don't think much more needs to be said.
In comics: She infamously defeated Dr. Doom, and went on to defeat a (weakened) Deadpool. Just like that, she kicked the asses of two of my favorite comic book characters. So even if I don't like her for those two reasons, I now have to admit that she's underrated. The bitch.
In media: Nothing, besides a brief cameo on the shitty new Fantastic Four cartoon. Thank the lawd.

Expect a follow-up to this, with the top 5 underrated supervillans, pretty soon.

1 comment:

Ashley P. said...

Ty, I approve of this post. Shazam! was a badass guy who knew what was up without being such a recognizable borderline-tool like Superman. And T'challa has ALWAYS been underrated, ugh. C'mon, he's a prince for one thing, he's so goddamn keen and smart. And Elongated Man gets a bad rap because Plastic Man is more popular for being able to mold into any specific form and Elongated Man is pretty much like Mr.Fantastic. They've made an effort on bringing him back before, and it's always been such a failure. He used to be in Batman comics alot in the Golden Age, but eh...