Counting down the 30 Most Underrated Comic Book Characters Of All Time; those superheroes and supervillains who deserve a bigger share of the comic and movie spotlight.
Recently I saw the excellent Captain America: The Winter Soldier (click here for my review). I was happy to see the inclusion of the Falcon, an awesome Marvel character who remains underrated in the comic book medium.
That got me thinking about how many great unsung comic book characters could also benefit from a cinematic makeover.
The ripple effect would give them more acclaim in comic books as well.
So I’ve come up with a list of the 30 most underrated Marvel, DC, and indie comic superheroes and super villains.
My criteria for inclusion included any/all of the following:
- A character that has never maintained its own successful series for an extended period of time
- A character who is usually placed on a team with limited time to shine
- A character who derided as being goofy or ineffectual
- A character constantly referred to as a ‘second-tier’ character, who despite an ongoing series and a cult following just isn’t considered in the same league as Batman, Spider-Man, etc.
- A character who was skewered via a terrible comic book movie or TV show
Where available, I’ll have Amazon and Entertainment Earth links for collected editions and collectibles of characters under each entry.
So without further ado:
First Appearance: Marvel Comics X-men # 122 (1979)
This Marvel villain is a mercenary with a taste for the theatrical. He puts his prey in Murderworld, a booby-trapped amusement park. He’s very much like a Bond villain, and the concept of deadly traps masked as carnival rides is a clever touch.
29. Son Of Satan
First Appearance Marvel Comics Ghost Rider #1 (1973)
Daimon Hellstrom is literally the son of the devil (he pre-dates Hellboy). But he’s also an unlikely hero, a demonologist determined to stop his father.
With a pentagram carved into his chest, and demonic powers in his possession, he was controversial from his first appearance. He thus remains a uniquely dark and misunderstood presence in the Marvel universe.
28. Killer Croc
First Appearance DC Comics Batman #358 (April 1983)
Killer Croc is a Batman villain that deserves the big-screen treatment. He’s a human/reptile hybrid, with super strength, tracking capabilities and regenerative healing. He’s a brutal sociopath and a formidable foe too often relegated to second banana status.
27. Adam Strange
First Appearance DC Comics Showcase # 17, (November 1958)
Strange is an archaeologist who uncovers the Zeta-beam, which teleports him to planet Rann. He vows to defend Rann against alien threats. The problem is when Zeta beam’s effects wear off, Strange is sent back to Earth.
He can only return to Rann via infrequent Zeta blasts, which becomes torturous as he’s married to a Rann-ian named Alanna. His potential for sci-fi melodrama has never been fully realized.
Honorable underrated Sci-fi hero mentions: Captain Comet (DC) and Silver Surfer and Nova (both Marvel)
26. The Alien Legion
First appearance Alien Legion # 1 (1984)
This team of rag-tag space travelers were launched on Marvel’s Epic Comics imprint in the late 80’s. Just imagine a militarized Star Trek with more creatures than humans. Featuring characters like psychotic mercenary Jugger Grimrod, this series fizzled out too soon but could make an awesome sci-fi franchise.
First appearance; DC Comics Presents (1980)
Raven is the daughter of a inter-dimensional demon who possesses incredible power. She can absorb pain from others, although this is a strain on her being. She can also travel to other dimensions. She’s DC’s Spock, a character constantly trying to deny her emotions to keep her sanity. Her psychological complexity is ripe for further exploration.
24. The Huntress
First appearance Sensation Comics #68 (August 1947)
Helena Wayne is the daughter of Bruce Wayne and Catwoman on a parallel Earth. Possessing the athleticism and crime fighting capabilities of her parents, she becomes a vigilante when her mother is killed.
She’s since been reintroduced as a different character, with more tangential ties to Batman. Regardless, she’s cooler and broodier than Robin, and deserves more attention.
23. Red Tornado
First Appearance: DC Comics Justice League of America #64 (August 1968)
With Marvel’s superhero android the Vision getting the big-screen treatment in the upcoming Avengers: Age Of Ultron, how about DC giving their own awesome android hero a chance in the spotlight? And that would be Red Tornado.
Part of his underrated status is a cluttered back story. The simplified version is that he’s a a awesome looking robot that can create massive wind funnels. He turns against the evil scientist who designed him to attack the Justice League, later joining the team. He still struggles for identity, lamenting the lack of a human soul. An interesting element worth exploring further.
22. Jonah Hex
First Appearance DC Comics All Star Western #10 (1972)
Don’t let that shitty movie from a few years back fool you; the grotesquely scarred Jonah Hex is a badass bounty-hunting Western anti-hero. His lack of super powers and older time period have unfairly limited his impact.
21. Hawkman and Hawkgirl
First Appearance; DC Comics Flash Comics #1 (1940)
This superhero power couple has suffered from too many reinterpretations. Why not just stick with their incarnations as badass space-cops who fight for Earth and their home planet Thanagar while wearing cool giant wings? Works for me.
But this power couple have been killed/resurrected so often, it seems downright disrespectful. They deserve a bigger place in DC comics and a spotlight on the silver screen.
Click here to read who should play Hawkman, Hawkgirl and Red Tornado in my Justice League Dream Cast
First Appearance: Strange Adventures #205 (October 1967)
Deadman aka Boston Brand is a murdered circus performer who can inhabit any living being while trying to discover his murderer. After finding his killer, he continues on as an honorable apparition fighting supernatural crime. He’s such an offbeat character that he remains underexposed, but worthy of more possibilities.
19. Marshall Law
First Appearance; Epic Comics Marshall Law # 1 (1987)
Marshall Law is a character that parodies the grim and gritty deconstructionism of series like Watchmen, with a fascist government age assigned to hunt down rogue superheroes. Set in a post-apocalyptic U.S. with a bondage/military outfit akin to Judge Dredd or Mad Max, Law would prove influential on other similar series (Rising Stars, The Boys, etc.) but without getting the public kudos he deserved.
18. The Question
First Appearance; Charlston Comics Blue Beetle # 1 (1967)
Fans of Watchmen and Rorschach in particular, take note; that character was based on mysterious hero The Question. Journalist Vic Sage fights crime against street thugs and political hierarchy, concealing his identity with a blank facemask.
He’s paranoid and violent, making him a murkier hero than most, lost in his own dark thoughts and worldview.
First Appearance Marvel Comics Astonishing Tales #25 (1974)
Deathlok is a wounded soldier who is resurrected as a cyborg with advanced tracking and nanobot self-healing technology. Designed as a killing machine to aid the U.S. military, he revolts and attacks the institutions that mutilated his body.
If this sounds like Robocop, keep in mind he existed long before that film, and deserves to be held in the same regard. In recent years he’s been updated with the ability to hack any computer system, making him more timely and worthy of exploring than ever.
16. Human Target
First Appearance Action Comics #419 (December 1972)
Christopher Chance is a P.I. and bodyguard who disguises himself as his clients to protect while intercepting their enemies. But Chance’s assuming of multiple identities wrecks havoc with his psyche, causing him to lose control over his own persona. This makes him great at his job, but a personal wreck, always an exciting combo.
The character has been adapted for TV few years back for an abysmal FOX show which completely abandoned his origin, and an earlier 90’s show where he was butchered by Rick Springfield. Yeesh! Just stick the script and he could obtain more acclaim.
So that wraps up Part 1 of our list of Most Underrated Comic Characters. Click here to read Part 2