As a comic book reader and collector, there are a lot of characters that I love. Personally, I tend to go against the grain on a lot of things. This means if the whole world likes a favorite singer, I’m the guy that goes “they ok”. If every guy in the room thinks a particular girl is hot, I’m the guy that say, “she alright”. Yeah, I’m that guy.
The same goes for comic characters for me. Deadpool becomes a big hit that everyone loves to see in every book and I purposely won’t pick up a Deadpool book. Wolverine started showing up in everything at one point and the only book I read that he was in was his stint in the Avengers. I’m quite sure you see where I’m going with this.
Now in the age where superheroes are everywhere thanks to movies and television, there are some heroes that are getting attention that they normally don’t receive. For example, outside comic book nerds, no one ever heard of the Suicide Squad or it’s members until the movie. On that same note, half the population thought the Marvel Black Panther movie was about the Afro-American party movement of the late 60’s and early 70’s and not Marvel’s first Black superhero from the fictional land of Wakanda.
When Superman, Batman, Spiderman or Captain America came to your screens you knew exactly what you were getting. These are the popular guys. The ones that are always on the front of comics and the main guy in the movie that always comes out on top.
But this article is not about those guys. This article is about those other guys that are not as well known and you tend to overlook. Some of these guys have made their way to the movies or tv but I feel like they are still not getting their due. This article is about the heroes I thought should have played a bigger role in their universes. These are the characters that were just not utilized in the way they should have been.
Wonder Man – first app. The Avengers #9 (Oct 1964)
Simon Williams is that guy who is definitely underused and underrated. He’s just as strong as Hulk, Thor, and Sentry. He can fly. He is invulnerable. He is made of ionic energy. The added plus is he is immortal. He has his own book but it was short-lived. Seems like every time they try to spotlight him it always falls short. He has been very instrumental in many Avenger battles, but he never gets the spotlight as much as Vision, Thor, or Iron Man. He’s never been that guy they say, “oh great, Wonder Man is here the day is saved”. Marvel needs to do a serious pick me up on the character like they did Captain Marvel. Put Wonder Man in a movie and make him a leader in a comic book. Give him his due.
Hank Pym – first app. Tales to Astonish #27 (January 1962)
Ok, so we know Hank Pym is in the MCU but that’s not the Hank Pym we know from the comics. For one, the MCU Hank Pym is older and didn’t work directly with the Avengers. The comic version of Hank Pym is currently dead, but we also know that death doesn’t stick in comics. The Hank Pym in the MCU and in the comics is always in the shadow of other heroes when he should have been a much bigger presence. He created Ultron in the comics that could single-handedly defeat all the Avengers at once. But let’s look at a time when he was the most powerful in my opinion.
During his stint on West Coast Avengers, Hank Pym didn’t go by a superhero name and he didn’t have a flashy costume. He used his Pym Particles to not shrink or grow himself but on other objects. This is a guy who could carry a whole arsenal for an army in his jacket pocket and you would never know. You could be fighting him and he could shrink or grow anything around him including the stuff you are fighting with to his advantage. No one expected a power like that to be so useful and he would defeat people who thought this was a lame use of his power. Why they let this concept go and ended up eventually killing him I will never know. Let’s bring him back alive and use his power in this way again.
Zatanna – first app. Hawkman #4 (November 1964)
I used to think Zatana was whack. Does that term show my age? Anyway, she couldn’t really physically fight and when I first encountered her in the Justice League in the 70’s she was someone the other Leaguer’s had to protect during a fight. Back in those days if you covered her mouth or made it so she couldn’t be heard she was powerless. Her only power was mediocre spells at best said backwards. Over the years she has become more powerful and learned some fighting styles.
Her character has become bolder. During the Identity Crisis story, Zatanna mindwipes Dr Light and Batman and from that point has a history of doing so. Zatanna is like DC’s answer to Scarlet Witch whereas she is this least expecting hero with enormous power. She is the DC universe’s most powerful sorceress. Yeah, she’s had a few feature stories in Justice League, back up features in other books, her own brief series, some graphic novel, plus animated and live-action exposure but Zatanna is not that household name she needs to be. She needs to be brought to the forefront in the DC Universe as a major player.
Cassandra Cain – first app. Batman #567 (July 1999)
Two of the best fighters in the DC Universe are Batman and Lady Shiva: Cassandra Cain can take them both to a stand-still and has defeated them on occasion. That should well be enough to give her much more attention in the DC Universe. When she was Batgirl, she did have her own book and she is well featured in the Batman books, but this is a character that has so much potential.
Her mother is the leading assassin in the DC Universe that just about everyone, including heroes, walks into a hand to hand fight with knowing they are going to lose. This is the super-spy of the DC Universe. By the way, let’s toss out that depiction of her in Birds of Prey. For a good DC movie, writing that character as anything other than an assassin was a terrible mistake. Cassandra Cain needs a larger more active role as the number one hand to hand combatant in the DC Universe
Blue Beetle – first app Captain Atom #83 (November 1966) & Booster Gold – first app Booster Gold #1 (February 1986)
Separately, these two are average but together they are comic book gold (pun intended). These two characters are the Laurel and Hardy of superheroes. They are the Pryor and Wilder of the Justice League. These characters should have had their own book ages ago. Ted Kord is the second Blue Beetle who was a genius-level inventor who had all these cool gadgets to help him fight crime. He had his own book and was featured in the first gathering of the Justice League after the Crisis On Infinite Earths.
He was like a light-hearted Bruce Wayne/Batman. When Booster Gold first appeared, he was everywhere. He premiered in his own book then became a member of the Justice League. It was also discovered that he is the father of time-traveling hero Rip Hunter. Together they put the bwa hahaha into comics – literally. They put the bromance into comics and deserve to be at the forefront of the DC universe especially with their team-up appearance in Heroes in Crisis.
Elongated man – first app The Flash #112 (May 1960)
My biggest pet peeve with DC comics is how they killed off Ralph Dibney, The Elongated Man, and subsequently tried to replace him with Plastic Man among the heroes. As I wrote in a previous article, Ralph Dibney and his wife Sue were the perfect detective couple in comics period. They loved each other and backed each other’s play. Then they decided to give the most wholesome union in comics a dark history by making Sue a victim of rape, erasing memories of the incident, and then ultimately killing Sue accidentally because another hero wife didn’t feel loved. On top of that, Ralph goes crazy with trying to bring her back and dies himself in the process.
Then you make them both detective ghosts and you don’t use that at all. That right there is a book. That’s the Topper movies from the 40’s done superhero style. How did DC miss that window of opportunity? Elongated man was a detective mind on par with Batman himself. He had chemist knowledge. He had Mr. Fantastic stretch powers before Mr. Fantastic existed. He is a really funny character. Nothing against Plastic Man which appears to be the push, but I like Ralph way better. I know he’s on the CW but even there he doesn’t get to shine much. Either alive or dead as a ghost Ralph Dibney, The Elongated Man, and his wife Sue need their own book or head their own team.
Sunspot – first app. The New Mutants Graphic Novel (September 1985)
I remember picking up the first appearance of Roberto de Costa, Sunspot when he appeared alongside the other New Mutants in that first graphic novel. When the X-Men were feared lost and dead, Professor X created these new students to teach and train to use their powers however not making them X-Men. Sunspot had the character and powers that stuck out. Powered by the sun which turned him into a solar eclipse being with super strength. He was a rich kid that had the world at his feet until he and the world found out he was a mutant. Roberto turned that around and embraced his power and his wealth.
A super-powered rich corporate hero who went from being feared and hated to leading corporations and even his own Avengers team. He’s got fantastic powers in the superhero world and realistic powers in the regular world. If that’s not a character that should be a major player in the Marvel universe then I don’t know who should be. Yes, leave him as part of the X-Men universe within Marvel but expand him in his own book to touch on the other parts of the Marvel universe. Give him the Wolverine and Deadpool treatment. At one point they were pushing Gambit as the big next mutant hero, but I think that was wasted when you had Sunspot there all along.
Mister Miracle – first app. Mister Miracle #1 (April 1971)
So, I’m going to lead off with the fact that this Mister Miracle, Scott Free, is an immortal god. So, his dad, Highfather, is the ruler of the New Gods. That’s like Odin being ruler over Asgardians. So basically, this guy is like a Thor. Yep, totally underrated, and probably should have been at the top of this list. His backstory is kind of sick where he gets traded to the main bad guy, Darkseid, to establish peace between the warring factions. Yes, they trade son for son. So, while Darkseid’s son, Orion, lived a princely life and was treated extremely well, Darkseid threw Scott in the worst orphanage run by the evilest creature to torture him.
Until of course he learned how to escape. That’s his thing: he escapes. The mistake is that what everyone dumbs him down to the guy that escapes. Kind of like “oh, we got an ocean problem lets call Aquaman because we are stupid enough that a guy that can swim the depths of the ocean can only talk to fish”. I’m not going to mention all the other powers he has but just to reiterate that HE IS A FREAKIN’ IMMORTAL GOD. Let’s not even get into the fact that his suit enhances his already god-like powers. He also comes with a super-strong warrior wife, Big Barda, and a personal assistant, Oberon. As a one-time member of the Justice League with ties to not only New Genesis and to Earth, there is no reason not to make this character a major player in the DC universe.
Blue Marvel – first app. Adam: Legends of the Blue Marvel #1 (November 2008)
Here’s one of those stories that became an exceedingly popular concept in the late 90’s and early 2000’s: telling a retro story about character or history that was there all along but you never knew it. Marvel did it with the Sentry character and twice with the X-Men and DC even during Identity Crisis. The publisher says, “oh this happened years and years ago, but we are telling you about this event or character now like it was always cannon”. This is how Adam Bernard Brashear, The Blue Marvel, was introduced. Blue Marvel was a hero of the 50’s and 60’s who was asked to quit and fake his death because the public found out he was a Black man.
In those times America’s beloved hero could not be Black so once the secret was found out the President asked him to resign. Probably would have been more appropriate to make the president at the time Johnson but for some reason they choose Kennedy. Anyway, circumstances bring the hero back to the forefront and he is fighting crime again barely aged due to his powers without his mask this time. So much potential going to waste on this character. This guy is a virtual Superman just as powerful or even more powerful than Sentry, Thor, and Hulk and you waste him. His debut solo mini-series comes in 2008. Then you don’t see him again until the Age of Heroes #3 in 2010. Next time you see him is 2011 in Fear Itself storyline. Skip to 2013 where he shows up in the Infinity storyline and is declared a part of Luke Cage’s team of Mighty Avengers in which he plays a small part.
On to 2015, where he is in the Secret Wars storyline and gives the members of the Illuminati a verbal spanking because all of a sudden he is a respected older powerful hero. From there that same year he is an integral part of the Ultimates, but the book never really took off and he was never brought up to the level he should have been. Blue Marvel is a scientific genius with Superman powers plus some. He’s friends with a Watcher. He should be running things somewhere. Either a team of Avengers or a division of S.H.I.E.L.D. or something. When it hits the fan, this is who should be called. Marvel needs to give him the same treatment they did that upgraded Captain Marvel into what she is now.
Tigra – first app. The Claws of the Cat #1 (November 1972)
It’s characters like Tigra, Greer Grant Nelson, that I even decided to write this article. Here is a character that is totally underused and underrated. Putting aside that she has cat-like powers because most heroes have some kind of enhanced animal powers, her powers are mystical in origin. This is a part of the character that is not often explored. The focus with Tigra is her feline tendencies and the character has not truly been given a chance to mature past that.
If Marvel marketed this right, you have the makings of an enormously powerful go-to character. I would definitely upgrade her costume past a bikini though. Tigra has been that side character in almost every major Marvel team that has made impacts on every book she has been in. She has proven herself in major battles and has turned the tide and saved other heroes. However, for some reason, she is not pushed to the front of the line, and just when you think she will be, the character disappears again. Expand this character, Marvel, and give Tigra the recognition she deserves.
Yes, I could go on and on about a variety of characters that I could add to this list, but these are the first 10 that cross my mind. A lot of these characters are known but I feel they need that extra push to become household names.
Let us know which heroes you would add to this list.
Kenny Walker Jr