Comic books have always been part of a person’s childhood and have been universally beloved. Everyone who has read a comic, will obviously have comic book characters that they like or relate to.
Whether these stories are favourites, owing to the story itself, the characters, the story arcs, or because they see themselves in the stories, comics are loved by many. So, which are the top 10 greatest comic book characters of all-time.
In 1992 a group of Marvel’s top artists walked out and formed a rival company, Image Comics. Over there, creators had the freedom to retain the rights to any characters that they created. Among their numerous titles, Spawn was by far the most popular. Created by Todd MacFarlane, Spawn was a murdered CIA operative who makes a deal with the demon Malebolgia.
He returned to Earth as an immortal, Hellspawn. While he began as a traditional – if unorthodox – vigilante hero, Spawn grew increasingly dark over time, slipping further into an anti-hero role as the theology-heavy storylines became increasingly twisted. His popularity has since waned, but Spawn remains an iconic crusader, both for the characters in his stories and creator-owned comic books.
9. Captain Haddock
Tintin’s most enduring sidekick first debuted in The Crab with the Golden Claws. Since then, he has become more and more prominent, until he because a full-fledged companion of Tintin, the main character. The full-bearded British sea captain is a known alcoholic, rageaholic and commitment-phobic. He also possesses a wide rage or creative flowery language, like bashi-bazouks, troglodytes, prize purple jellyfish, Incan mummies. Pursuit of whisky is his defining motive and he cannot live without it. Spoiler Alert: He even got drunk on a trip to the Moon!
When he debuted in 1991, Deadpool was primarily a minor character, as the mutant version of Spider-Man. To be precise, a mutant rip-off of Spider-Man, right down to the red costume with coloured rings around the eyes, the extraordinary agility and a propensity for delivering one-liners in the middle of a fight. But the fourth-wall breaking mercenary quickly became a fan favourite and established a demented identity of his own.
The constant regeneration of his brain cells has turned the former Weapon X subject certifiably insane – so much so that he realises he’s in a comic book, and frequently refers to the fact. Although he began life as a villain, the Merc With A Mouth was given his own title in 1997 and is now officially a hero. Well, an anti-hero. And one of the most entertaining comic book characters.
One of the superheroes created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the mid-1960s, Daredevil was one of the first down-and-dirty superheroes. He chose to base himself in New York’s dark pocket, Hell’s Kitchen. A mess of contradictions – he’s a devout Catholic who dresses up as a devil, he’s a blind lawyer by day, while getting up to some pretty intense, and illegal, vigilantism by night.
Daredevil has never enjoyed the following of a Hulk or a Spidey, but he’s a compelling, layered and visually striking character who’s attracted some of the best talent in the business. It was on Daredevil that Frank Miller came to prominence, while the likes of Brian Michael Bendis, Jeph Loeb/Tim Sale and Kevin Smith have also taken a shot at the noble but tortured hero.
There are few characters more original or striking than Hellboy, the genius creation of Mike Mignola. He uses the character as the outlet for his obsession with pulp comics, Lovecraftian horror and ancient folklore and supernatural. Enhanced greatly by Mignola’s artwork, Hellboy is a lumbering but loveable giant of few words.
He interacts with talking corpses and giant tentacled horrors while trying to deny the destiny he was created for. For the movies, Guillermo del Toro gave Hellboy more inner turmoil and emotions, but the comics version is a blast as he investigates the paranormal in much the same way Gene Hunt investigates crime – fists first.
More fun than lead character Asterix, almost as cute as his pet Dogmatix, and the comic engine for the entire series, Obelix is arguably the best reason to love the French. The menhir-delivery man takes a childlike glee in thumping hordes of Romans and is blasé about the super-strength gained when he fell into a cauldron of magic potion when he was a baby.
His inability to look beyond the moment – he leaves such ponderings to Asterix or his smart, tree-obsessed dog Dogmatix – and tendency to fall in love with unattainable women like Panacea, make him one of the loveable characters on the list. Even if he could beat up your whole family without breaking a sweat. Honestly speaking, seeing Getafix the Druid, constantly foiling Obelix’s attempts to drink the magic potion is hilarious.
4. Wonder Woman
This feminist icon is the most important woman in comic book. On form, she’s almost as powerful as Superman, and is the primary role model for little girls. Over the years, Gloria Steinem has extolled her role as a strong female role model – she was the first cover girl on Ms. magazine.
Also, novelist Jodi Picoult recently essayed a critically acclaimed series of stories for her. Wonder Woman is primarily the level-headed hero of the Big Three. So, if Superman and Batman ever have an ego clash, she is there to keep them in line.
3. The Punisher
Frank Castle is a Marvel character who started off as a villain, mostly a Spider-Man villain. However, it wasn’t long before he earned his own title and anti-hero status. The Punisher is now one of the most iconic characters in the entire Marvel stable.
A ‘Nam vet driven by his family’s murder to punish all criminals by death, it’s perhaps not unsurprising that the dark, disillusioned ’70s was the decade that saw a brutal, uncompromising psychopath become a fan favourite.
Choosing just one of the Minutemen – the stars of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ classic comic, Watchmen – was tough. But from a purely iconic point of view, it had to be Rorschach. Rorschach can be easily dismissed as a fascist whose belief in moral absolutes drives him to take the law into his own hands.
But in the hands of Moore, Walter Kovacs is a taut, tortured, complex creation who, as well as being at the centre of some of Watchmen’s most memorable sequences (the prison riot, for one), ends up being perhaps the most pure out of the comic book characters, the only one who isn’t interested in compromising himself for the greater good.
The greatest comic book villain ever, and as versatile a character as his arch-nemesis, Batman. The Joker has been a merry prankster of crime and a gleefully sadistic villain. He has always done his best to get under the ultra-grim Batman’s skin by taunting him with sick jokes. There’s a sense that Joker is the only one of the rogues’ gallery Bruce Wayne really hates.
In fact, many comics revolve around Batman and the Joker as opposites or mirror images. The original look of the character was based on Conrad Veidt’s fixed grin in the silent picture The Man Who Laughs.