While writing yesterday’s article on the Justice League I kept thinking about my favourite superheroes, trying to make that hard decision of which one of the many super-humans, aliens, magicians and vigilantes I would call my absolute favourite. For any geek with a deep appreciation for comics, that is a massive decision and not an easy one.
But after thinking about it for long enough, I finally realised which one was at the top of the ladder. For this, of course, I limited my choices to mainstream DC and Marvel, without considering all those comic series that have come and gone, such as the original Wildstorm comics, Vertigo, or the first generation Spawn and Top Cow universes. I kept out Majestros and Spartan, Jackie Estacado and the Hellblazer, John Constantine. I also excluded other forms of superheroes, such as those seen only on TV and Film or on Anime and Manga—these last two would make the decision nigh impossible.
In doing so the choices were limited and easier, but then I had to think about what made each hero appealing.
I have two major choices for my favourite hero and one of them I think will be a bit controversial, so I’ll start with him: Scott Summers aka Cyclops.
Most people, when they think of Cyclops they remember the 90s animated series and the comics at the time, when the character was an insufferable windbag. I used to hate him too, trust me. But then, between the animated series X-Men Evolution, the Ultimate Universe of Marvel and then the changes in the mainstream Marvel continuity, I started to see another side of the character.
Cyclops started fighting against the destiny his mentor had put in front of him, he started questioning his place in things but when there was no other choice, he accepted the role they groomed him for, becoming sometimes a beloved leader and others a dictator, but always putting his people and the normal humans around him first. I saw the parallels with Magneto in him but he never crossed the lines the Master of Magnetism did.
When more of Xavier’s secrets and manipulations surfaced, he exiled the man who was his adoptive father for decades, but then allowing him back, giving him a second—or 25th—chance, but the trust between them was gone and it was something they never recovered from. Even when Professor X approached him and told him he was proud of the leader and man he’d become, there was a definite distance between them.
Cyclops is one of my favourite heroes because he grows, learns and changes. He makes mistake and becomes wiser because of them. He faces betrayal and confronts those who believe he’s the traitor—the Schism story arc deals a bit with this, with Wolverine taking people with him who don’t approve of Cyclops’ policies and ways to do things—but no matter what, he never loses his humanity.
Not unless it’s the Phoenix, in that case, all bets are off. But then again, that happens every time the Phoenix Force comes into play, no matter who else is involved.
On the DC side my choice is by far easier, and it’s not the Dark Knight, but Green Lantern, or more specifically the Green Lantern Corps.
Yes, maybe it’s cheating, but hear me out. The main reason I choose the Green Lanterns is how the power rings work: imagination. A Green Lantern, as long as he has a charge on his power ring only has his own mind—and that of the writer—as a limit to what they can do, what they can create as a construct. From a simple hand to grab things to a fully functional fighter jet, nothing is impossible for a Green Lantern—as long as they can focus of course.
And beyond the powers, Green Lanterns have had the most upheavals and changes to the status quo in the history of DC comics, at least in the last decade. Rosters change, some die, others turn evil or lose their strong willpower and instead become Lanterns for another emotion in the spectrum. Hal Jordan becomes Parallax, possessed by the primordial manifestation of Fear itself. He dies in a climactic battle, becomes the Spectre and somehow finds his way back to a world that isn’t ready to have him back.
In his absence, new heroes rise, and they’re from wildly different backgrounds and so their skills as Lanterns are vastly different, as are their personalities and growth. Kyle Rayner is by far my favourite Green Lantern, an artist with wild imagination and who’s sometimes even become Ion, the most powerful Lantern in the Corps.
John Stewart is the soldier, the no-nonsense guy yet he’s perhaps the most empathetic of them all. Then there’s Guy Gardner, all bravado and confidence, often considered subpar despite him putting perhaps the most effort and an absolute willingness to sacrifice everything.
And then, when you consider the Green Lantern Corps and the many heroes you meet through it, you can easily find your new favourite among the secondary cast. I adore Ganthet, the Guardian with a heart of gold, the only one of them to balance a clear head with a trusting heart.
This wealth of characters and storylines, human drama and constant change are the reasons the Green Lanterns, as a whole, are my favourite hero on the DC side. If you would have me pick one of them, I’ll go with Kyle Rayner then.
As for which one stands at the top? I think it’s fairly obvious, don’t you think? So no need for me to state it directly!