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Your Top DC Heroes part 54

Written by Chris Mitchell on Wednesday, January 27 2010 and posted in Features
Honestly, I am a little surprised at how well these three did. A pleasant surprise, but a surprise nonetheless. Oh, and from this point on every character has at least one first place vote.


30. Metamorpho (109 points -1 first place slot)

metamorpho.jpg"The Ben Grimm of the DCU."

"Who doesn't love him?"

"Rex Mason, the all-American, good-looking, street-smart but not so much on the book learning, ex-jock soldier of fortune, is one of my favorite archtypes in comics: the guy who gets constantly crapped on and turned into a freak, but finds a way to persevere through humor and just by doing what's right. Cool power set, unique look, great sense of humor, hot love interest with an overbearing dad who's constantly trying to keep them apart, Metamorpho is DC's answer to Ben Grimm (my favorite Marvel character) and therefore has to make my list."

Love this guy, great look and cool powers and funny to boot.

When billionaire Simon Stagg sent adventurer Rex Mason to Egypt to retrieve the Orb of Ra from a pyramid, he never expected him to return. Stagg's henchman, Java, cleaned Rex's clock. Left for dead, Rex fell into a hidden chamber and was exposed to a radioactive meteorite. The radiation changed Mason into a bizarre looking shape changing element man, Metamorpho. Manipulated by Stagg to do tasks for the corrupt billionaire, Metamorpho maintained his integrity and battled bizarre forces of evil. Many a battle was also fought between the 'Element Man' and Java for the affections of Sapphire Stagg with Rex always coming out ahead. Regardless of Rex's looks and self-conscious feelings, Stagg's daughter Sapphire would have no other man than Rex Mason, whom she eventually married.

Metamorpho later joined the first Outsiders group, where he really came into his own as a team player, and together they went on many adventures and to fight crime on Earth. Later however, he seemingly died on one of their missions. However, during the Invasion crossover, Rex was revived when the Dominion dropped the Gene-bomb on Earth. Suffering briefly from amnesia, Metamorpho joined Justice League Europe, and later learned that Sapphire had re-married after his supposed death. Luckily, a few years later, they were reunited, and had a son, Joey, who inherited mutagenic powers from Metamorpho, though he was later cured of these powers. He briefly had a crime fighting partner, Element Girl, but he would end their relationship, in part due to the fact that she had a strong attraction to him, and he was, of course, seeing Sapphire.

Metamorpho went on to join the American branch of the Justice League, the first time he had joined after declining a membership years before, and seemingly died once again when a group of White Martians attacked Earth, during which time he was trying to save the JLA by turning himself into a makeshift spacecraft in which to carry them, which was more than he could endure, and he ended up in a coma, as an inert mass for a time, but thanks to the efforts of S.T.A.R Labs, has once again been brought back to life. However, a bit of himself that S.T.A.R first found and researched grew into a de-facto duplicate of Rex, and took on a life of its own. It would've done Rex no good to have tried to re-merge the now independent life-form with himself, which is why he decided that, besides accepting this new duplicate's existence, he would also let him take over his own role as a crime fighter of the elemental kind on Earth as Shift. Rex would later agree to re-absorb Shift into himself because the duplicate could not handle his role in killing his former friend, Indigo.

Rex briefly retired from crime fighting, and spent much of his time with Sapphire and Joey. However, Metamorpho has recently returned to action as a member of the Outsiders once more.

29. Hawkgirl (114 points - 3 first place slots)

hawkgirl.jpgA new Hawkgirl was introduced as part of the 1999 revival of the JSA monthly title. The new Hawkgirl is Kendra Saunders, granddaughter of the Golden Age Hawkgirl's cousin, Speed Saunders. Hawkgirl would continue to appear regularly in the monthly JSA series and later in the Hawkman monthly. In 2006, the ongoing Hawkman monthly series was renamed Hawkgirl starting with issue 50 as part of the One Year Later jump forward, with Kendra replacing Hawkman as the lead character. The Hawkgirl comic book series was cancelled at issue 66. She was a member of the Justice League of America at its relaunch but has left the team due to injuries sustained in Final Crisis.

Kendra Saunders committed suicide but when Kendra's soul left her body, that of her grandfather's 1st cousin Shiera Hall, the Golden Age Hawkgirl, entered it, making Kendra a walk-in. Her grandfather, former OSS agent and globe-trotting adventurer Speed Saunders, recognized this, in part due to a change in eye color, and encouraged his granddaughter to embrace her destiny as the "new" Hawkgirl.

Kendra had a daughter named Mia, who is said to be deceased.

Still believing herself to be Kendra, she debuted as a hero using the original Hawkgirl's equipment and set out in search of a being called the Fate-Child (actually her own reincarnated son, Hector Hall). This led to a meeting with the Justice Society and Kendra's induction to that team.

She currently has all of Kendra's memories, but almost none of Shiera's save for fighting experiences. This creates tension with Hawkman since he remembers all of their past lives together and believes they are destined for each other. Kendra has been presented as a very troubled young woman, haunted by the murder of her parents by a corrupt cop and confused by her jumble of memories and feelings. She has operated as Hawkman's partner but only recently began to actually admit her attraction to him. The truth about Kendra's identity was eventually revealed to her by the angel Zauriel.

She is one of the heroes who fought in space during the Rann-Thanagar War. Following the events of Infinite Crisis, a Zeta Beam transporter malfunction injured many of the superheroes in space, including Hawkgirl, causing her to grow over twenty feet tall. Some time later, her proper stature restored, she is protecting St. Roch, Louisiana, in the absence of Hawkman. She was later abducted and put on trial for high treason against her people by a group of rogue Thanagarians. After being found guilty, one of the rogues tied her hands behind her back and covered her mouth with a piece of duct tape, and then attempted to lynch her. Kendra found that she could hover without her wings and was able to fake her death and escape by using this new power.

She is also a returning member of the new Justice League, having briefly served with the team when the original members were previously missing. A brewing relationship between Hawkgirl and Red Arrow become one of the major subplots in the series though it appears to have ended and Red Arrow has alluded to the possibility of Kendra and Hawkman renewing their relationship.

Hawkgirl is now 100% Kendra Saunders. Shiera Sanders' soul left Kendra's body and moved on to the afterlife. Shiera hopes her passing on will finally remove the curse of Hath-Set

28. Animal Man (127 points - 3 first place slots)

animalman.jpg"I could have written Animal Man, but he's one of the few characters I think about as a guy first and a super hero second. Reading Morrison's run was the thing that brought me back to comics in a big way- it opened up a different world from the crossover-heavy foil-embossed covered mainstream stuff I got sick of when I gave comics up. The main reason the run works is Buddy's journey- of his growing awareness (both the initial environmental one, and the later meta-fictional one) and how he decides to handle that. In terms of the everyman, he's a step above Peter Parker and that's why he's so high on my list."

"Buddy is simply a good guy with good powers."

"Since the Grant Morrison revamp and 52, this is one of the most powerful characters in DCU, why is he being poorly used?"

Animal Man debuted in Strange Adventures #180 in 1965, in a story written by Dave Wood and drawn by Carmine Infantino and George Roussos. Animal Man was given his costume and name in Strange Adventures #190. He continued as a semi-regular feature in the book, making occasional cover appearances, until the introduction of Deadman, who became the main feature with issue #205.

His subsequent appearances were sporadic and sparse. In 1980, Animal Man made a notable guest appearance in Wonder Woman #267-268.

His main appearances in the 1980s were as a member of the "Forgotten Heroes", a team of minor DC heroes. It was in that capacity that he appeared in the company-wide crossover event Crisis on Infinite Earths.

In the late 1980s, following the slate-cleaning Crisis on Infinite Earths event, DC began employing innovative writers, mostly young and mostly British, to revamp some of their old characters. In the period that saw Alan Moore reinvent Swamp Thing, and Neil Gaiman do the same with The Sandman, Animal Man was re-imagined by Scottish writer Grant Morrison. Morrison wrote the first 26 issues of the Animal Man comic book, published between 1988 and 1990, with art by Chas Truog and Doug Hazlewood; Brian Bolland provided the covers.

Although the series was initially conceived as a four-issue limited series, it was upgraded into an on-going series following strong sales. Consequently, Morrison developed several long-running plots, introducing mysteries, some of which were not explained until a year or two later. The title featured the protagonist both in and — increasingly — out of costume. Morrison made the title character an everyman figure living in a universe populated by superheroes, aliens, and fantastic technology. Buddy's wife Ellen, his son Cliff (9 years old at the beginning of the series), and his daughter Maxine (5 years old) featured prominently in most storylines, and his relationship with them, as husband, father, and provider, was an ongoing theme.

The series championed vegetarianism and animal rights, causes Morrison himself supported. In one issue, Buddy helps a band of self-confessed eco-terrorists save a pod of dolphins. Enraged at a fisherman's brutality, Buddy drops him into the ocean, intending for him to drown. Ironically, the man is saved by a dolphin.

Buddy fought several menaces, such as ancient, murderous spirit that was hunting him; brutal, murderous alien Thanagarian warriors; and even the easily-defeated red robots of an elderly villain who was tired of life. The series made deep, sometimes esoteric, reference to the entire DC canon, including B'wana Beast, Mirror Master, and Arkham Asylum.

Soon after the launch of his series, Animal Man briefly became a member of the Justice League Europe, appearing in several early issues of their series.

During his run on the title, Morrison consistently manipulated and deconstructed the fourth wall — the imaginary barrier separating the reader from the setting of the story which also extends to the characters and their creators. One visual expression of this theme was to present characters in a state of partial erasure — often juxtaposing the artist's pencil drafts with the finished art. Additionally, some characters become aware that they are being viewed by a vast audience, and are able to interact with the borders of the panels on the page. The series notably contained overt references to the various Earths of the pre-Crisis DC Multiverse.

Issue #5, "The Coyote Gospel," features Crafty, a thinly-disguised Wile E. Coyote (of the Road Runner cartoons). Weary of the endless cycle of violence which he and his cartoon compatriots are subject to, Crafty appeals to his cartoonist-creator. A bargain is struck: he can end the violence only by willingly being condemned to leave his cartoon world, entering Animal Man's "comic" world instead. The issue concludes with a series of "pull-back" shots beginning with a close-up of Crafty's bleeding body (and white blood), culminating with a panel depicting the cartoonist's immense hand, coloring Crafty's blood with red paint. The issue is partly a religious allegory and partly a juxtaposition of the various layers of reality: cartoon to comic book, comic book to real life. It was nominated for an Eisner Award for Best Single Issue of 1989.

The culmination of this self-referentiality is Animal Man's eventual discovery that all of the inhabitants of the DC universe are fictional characters. He even meets Grant Morrison, the callous "god" who controls his life.

Buddy suffers a tragedy when his wife and children are brutally murdered while he is away on a case. Buddy tracks down the killers to exact vengeance. His search leads him into a comic book Limbo, a plane of residence for characters who are not actively written about. Animal Man ultimately confronts his writer in issue #26, and his family is restored to life, as Morrison finds he cannot justify keeping them dead simply for the sake of "realism"

Grant Morrison also explains to Buddy that he writes him as a vegetarian only because he himself is a vegetarian too, and every trait Baker possesses could be changed at a whim. "They might do the obvious and go for shock by turning you into a meat-eater," Morrison says. In issue #27, the first of Peter Milligan's run, Buddy indeed bites into a horse.

Following Morrison's run, Peter Milligan wrote a 6-issue story featuring several surreal villains and heroes, exploring questions about identity and quantum physics and utilizing the textual cut-up technique popularized by William Burroughs. Tom Veitch and Steve Dillon then took over for 18 issues in which Buddy returns to his work as a movie stuntman and explores mystical totemic aspects of his powers. Jamie Delano wrote 29 issues with Steve Pugh as artist, giving the series a more horror-influenced feel with a "suggested for mature readers" label on the cover, beginning with issue #51.


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