Superheroes: My Top Three

In the comments on my post about the Captain Britain podcast, asked “why those 3?” — and I figured that question made for a good full-length post, rather than just a comment.

My top three favorite superheroes are Green Lantern, Doctor Strange, and Captain Britain. These are the top three that have percolated to the top, after decades of comic fandom. At times, they weren’t even in contention (for example, for a good part of the early-to-mid 80s, I was an X-Men fanatic), but they’re the ones that I’ve come back to, time and again.

Green Lantern: Pretty easy for me to suss this one out. When I was a kid, I didn’t read a lot of superhero comics. I was a sci-fi nut. Star Trek and Star Wars had gotten their hooks into me, and when I did read comics, it was the comic versions of those properties. Green Lantern is part of what made the leap to superhero comics possible — it was, essentially, Superheroes + Star Wars. He’s an interstellar cop — part of a near-knightly order whose power derives from their willpower, focused by the rings they wear. Earth just happens to be on his beat. I always preferred the stories that took place in space, with the myriad alien members of the Green Lantern Corps, than the standard superhero fare on Earth. It was SF. (This is the same thing that attracted me to the Legion of Superheroes — but I found it harder to identify with such a large cast of characters, some of whom were, bluntly, pretty fucking lame. Didn’t stop me from learning the Interlac alphabet in the early 80s, though.)

Doctor Strange: Another genre-crossover. I’ve always been into horror. I grew up watching old horror movies (especially during high school, courtesy of Crematia Mortem’s Creature Feature on KSHB), and reading everything from King to Lovecraft to Stoker. In the 70s, there was a mini-boom of horror-related comics, from anthology titles telling spooky stories, to bizarre horror-heroes like Demon, Son of Satan, and Ghost Rider. Doctor Strange was a sorcerer, who stood between our world and the forces of supernatural evil. I always preferred his “pure” genre stories, rather than his interactions with the rest of the Marvel Universe… and I’ve always lamented the fact that Marvel never got off the fucking ball, saw the success of Sandman, John Constantine: Hellblazer, et. al., and used Strange to launch their own version of DC’s Vertigo line. (In the infinitesimal chance that anyone with Marvel editorial connections is reading this: This is my dream comics-writing project. Oh, have I got ideas…. )

Captain Britain: I have been a lifelong Anglophile, and I discovered Captain Britain in the pages of How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way. I never got to read anything (beyond the occasional guest-spot) featuring him, until my local comics store started carrying UK comics as import items in the mid-80s. I devoured it, and anything which featured the character since. In a way, I guess he combines everything I like about the first two characters — he is, as Jamie Delano once wrote: “Clothed in science and dipped in magic.” A knightly character, revealed to be part of a multi-dimensional Corps, each defending the Britain of their particular realities. Instead of the space-opera SF of Green Lantern, we feel the influence of the very British SF of Doctor Who. Despite the SF trappings, his power derives from Merlin — attaching him to the magic of Arthurian legends, a subject to which (given my name) I’ve always been drawn.

I could go on. Each one could easily be the subject of a long essay — but really, I’ve gotten to the core. If you’d like to get all meme-y about it, go ahead and take this opportunity to post about your favorite three. I’d love to read them.

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