Comic Book Characters I WANT to Enjoy

By: Karl Stern (@dragonkingkarl, @wiwcool, karl@whenitwascool.com)

Having read comic books for over forty years I have developed a fondness for many characters both famous and obscure.  There have been many legendary comic book series and individual creator runs of those series but there are also several comic book characters that I have wanted to enjoy more than I actually have.  Or, perhaps, I caught a glimpse of greatness in some characters but they have often fell short of the mark overall.  Also, included at the bottom of this article is a free When It Was Cool Audio Podcast Special discussing this.  Feel free to download and enjoy and spread the word.

Ant-Man (Marvel Comics)

 Ant-Man circa 2015

Ant-Man circa 2015

I love the concept of a human shrinking down into a smaller world and going on an adventure.  DC Comics has The Atom and Marvel Comics has Ant-Man.  Ant-Man even got his own stand alone Marvel Cinematic Universe movie and a role in Captain America: Civil War.  However, for the life of me, I don't think I have ever read an Ant-Man storyline I enjoyed.  No matter Hank Pym, Scott Lang, or any of the other various Ant-Men over the years, I have honestly never been blown away by an Ant-Man story.

Darkhawk (Marvel Comics)

 Darkhawk circa 1991

Darkhawk circa 1991

Darkhawk was originally envisioned to be the Spider-Man of the 1990's, a break out superhero for that era.  His series, which debuted in 1991, showed promise early on but soon spiraled into a convoluted mess.  Originally, it had a teenage hero in a contemporary world, a mystery (what DID he look like under that helmet?), and a good first several issues.  But soon the series devolved into a mess, both art and story crashed and burned.  It's too bad, Darkhawk is a great character design and we need more original heroes and not a one-hundredth version of Spider-Man.  Darkhawk is still around but seldom used.

Deathlok (Marvel Comics)

 Deathlok circa 1989

Deathlok circa 1989

I think Deathlok is such a cool character design.  Debuting in the 1970's, he is essentially Frankenstein meets the bionic man.  When I was a young child in the 1970's, Deathlok first showed up and, while not a major character, I always thought he was really cool.  In the 1990's he got his own long running solo series and that is where things went wrong.  Like Darkhawk, the series started off with promise but quickly spiraled into an incomprehensible mess and, by late in the series, equally incomprehensible artwork.  The later issues of the series are basically unreadable.  Deathlok has been resurrected a few times, he even had a cameo on the Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. television show but I have yet to read a really great Deathlok story despite his amazing character design.  This character just begs to be associated with The Punisher or some other ultra-violent character and not bogged down in some alternate-futuristic timeline non-sense.

Dr. Fate (DC Comics)

 Dr. Fate circa 1985

Dr. Fate circa 1985

I like the magical characters.  I also like Dr. Fate as he has been depicted in the Justice League Unlimited and Young Justice cartoon series.  However, I have yet to read a solo series on Dr. Fate that I really loved.  Many people recommend the mid-1980's Immortal Dr. Fate and I suppose I need to re-read that series myself, but I seem to remember not liking the art.  In fact, that's been the case more often than not with Dr. Fate including the most recent DC Comics Dr. Fate series.  I actually really liked that series but the art work was cartoonish and abstract, a choice that almost every Dr. Fate solo comic book series has been saddled with.  I want a straight up drawn Dr. Fate comic!  The character design is fantastic and Dr. Fate dates back to the golden age of comics.  His Super Powers action figure from the 1980's was one of my favorite from that toy line.  Give me some Dr. Fate I can love!

Hawkman (DC Comics)

 Hawkman circa 1964

Hawkman circa 1964

What an amazing character design!  Hawkman just screams bad-ass! He's tough, carries a mace, has a wicked cool helmet, and giant wings.  He also has such a screwed up backstory that numerous writers have tried and failed fix.  He was recently killed off in the DC series Death of Hawkman.  Maybe it is time just to let poor Hawkman go but with his interesting design and Egyptian influenced backstory it just seems like this is a character that someone could do something really cool with.  He has had many solo series over the years, some doing better than others, but I have never read a "must read" Hawkman story that I thought defined the figure.  I believe Hawkman just needs that one great story to return to relevance but, sadly, it might be too little, too late for him.  

Hyperion (Marvel Comics)

 Hyperion circa 2016

Hyperion circa 2016

I am probably in the minority here but I believe Marvel Comics needs a Superman character.  I just love how DC has historically had this noble and mega-powerful superhero who can show up in the most extreme circumstances and save the day.  A hero that even the other heroes look up to.  Marvel has tried several times to have a Superman stand-in.  Sentry is a famous failed attempt but who wants a Superman that sits around and cries all the time?  Sentry met with a big backlash and was eventually killed off.  Yet, hanging around for a few decades in an alternate universe occasionally sticking his head into the 616 was a straight up Superman knock-off:  Hyperion.  Following Secret Wars, Hyperion and his gang were brought into the main Marvel Universe and they immediately had him murder Namor the Sub-Mariner, then for some inexplicable reason, become a truck driver.  Out of all the lame-brain, numskull ideas Marvel Comics had post-Secret Wars... well... this was one of them.

Iron Fist (Marvel Comics)

 iron fist circa 1975

iron fist circa 1975

Growing up in the 1970's, Kung-Fu mania was running wild.  Following Bruce Lee's death, Hong Kong churned out hundreds of low budget Kung-Fu movies that wound up on Saturday afternoon television.  McDojo's popped up all over the country with thousands of Sensei's and Master's claiming to have direct lineage to Bruce Lee and his training.  It's no wonder that comic books tried to cash in on the craze as well.  

Shang-Chi the Master of Kung Fu was one and another was Iron Fist.  Iron Fist was eventually paired up with Power Man (Luke Cage) and had a nice long running series- Power Man & Iron Fist which had some good stories, though I wouldn't say that series ever just rocked my world.  Over the last twenty-years, Power Man & Iron Fist or Heroes for Hire has been started and re-started, both characters have had numerous solo series, and have been on and off members of the Avengers.  We finally got, what I would describe as, a great Iron Fist series a few years ago in the Immortal Iron Fist.  They finally took the character in an interesting direction with lots of Kung Fu goodness, mythical tournaments, and introduced several outrageous characters.  Then, Iron Fist went back to being boring again.  He recently had a Netflix live-action series which, I have to be honest here, I couldn't get through the first two episodes.  Sorry, not my Iron Fist either.  I am really wishing for a cool Kung Fu kicking Iron Fist.  There is currently a new series out from Marvel comics and while it has some elements in it that I like, overall, again it seems to be a pretty dull Iron Fist solo series.

Silver Surfer (Marvel Comics)

 Silver Surfer circa 1968

Silver Surfer circa 1968

Ok, I have loved many Silver Surfer series including the last two, so it's not really fair to include him here so I'll keep it brief.  While the last two Silver Surfer solo series (say that fast three times) have been very good, it has also taken the Silver Surfer out of the main action for a few years.  He's been touring the universe with his girlfriend, Dawn Greenwood, which is fine, but it's high time the Silver Surfer returned to action.  I am hoping to see the Silver Surfer show back up at some point and interact with the Guardians of the Galaxy or Nova or (heaven help us please bring them back) the Fantastic Four.

These are just a few I talk about in this free When It Was Cool Podcast Special.  There are others.  Give it a listen and feel free to download this show and pass it around and let others know about When It Was Cool!

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