Whilst catching up with my good buddy Jesse, we covered whatever recent comics we’d read. For me, it was all about James Robinson’s Shade miniseries, which I’d purchased as a collection and heartily enjoyed. Jesse, knowing I liked Starman, was still surprised to learn just how much I enjoyed the book, and was even more surprised to learn that the Shade was #2 on my list of DC characters I’d like to be. I realize this could potentially be a top 5 list, but I figured that Timmy would reject such a navel-gazing post, and believe it or not, I do have a larger point that I’ll get to after the listing is complete. So, within the confines of the DCU, here’s who I would most like to be:
5. Buddy Baker
New 52 renaissance or not, I’ve always had a fondness for Animal Man. I suppose it comes with the territory of being a biologist. I also feel like, that as a person who knows an inordinate number of random facts about the animals that share our planet that I could really put his powers to use. Just see my posts of obscure animal heroes and villains for examples. I feel like finding the nearest bird for purposes of flight is a bit reductive. Since proximity is an issue, I always wondered why Buddy didn’t stack the deck in his favor. I know that an excess number of pouches is a 90’s trope, but if each pouch held an insect or other small animal that could be tapped when needed, then the potential powers at immediate disposal would be greatly increased. Perhaps there’s a column to be written about my ideal Animal Man utility belt, but suffice it to say that I think the acting/hero combination within the family man Buddy would be a good life for me.
4. Dick Grayson
He’d be higher on the list, if not for lacking in powers. If I get to take my pick from the entirety of the DCU, not having powers puts one at a serious disadvantage. At the same time, anyone who picks Batman is a mystery to me. Yes, both men witnessed horrible crimes leading to the deaths of their respective parents, but Bruce Wayne, as raised by Alfred Pennyworth, never seemed to be able to move past the trauma, whereas Dick Grayson, as raised by Bruce Wayne, did. It’s a nature vs. nurture cacophony I care not to explore in the moment, but by all accounts living life as a Grayson cum Wayne sounds pretty good. Money, abs, charm, and acrobatics are a potent combination, even when stacked against those with legit power sets.
3. The Flash
Any Flash will do, really. Given my druthers, I’d probably opt for Bart Allen, if only to get the photographic memory, but the life of a speedster seems pretty great. Lots of others like you to literally run around with, a power that, if taken to its logical conclusions, is nigh unstoppable, and a down-to-earth mentality often lacking in the scope of earth-shattering consequences make for my kind of hero. Plus, the people love him, which is all too rare in the page of superhero comics these days, but the kind of thing I would appreciate from the populace I was speeding around to serve.
2. The Shade
Hardly a shocker, eh? Richard Swift, at least as written by Mr. Robinson, is the kind of dude I can get behind. Immortal? Check. Powerful? Check. Clever? Check. I think it freaks people out a little bit when I get down to just how emphatically I would love to be immortal. It’s not some sort of power-grab, it’s more about just the accumulation of all that could be accomplished with an insanely long life. I’d like to learn a few other languages, read a few unread books, write a few as well, and it’d be very nice to know that I had the time to do so. But the real reason Shade is so high on the list is that he has all these things plus style, which very few in the world of comics possess. Its part confidence, part heritage, and part himself that gives him grace under pressure while rocking a top hat, sunglasses, and a cane; all black of course. I’m not, nor was I ever, a Goth, but if I could pull it off like that I might have considered it.
Who else could really be at #1? I considered going with Shazam just to mix things up, but I don’t like the idea of having to turn your powers on and off. I don’t care if he’s the Big Blue Boy Scout (I’m an Eagle Scout too, after all), and I don’t think he’s boring, especially not if I had the powers he does. I know I couldn’t be hero Clark is, it is fiction after all, but his suite of abilities trumps just about anyone else out there. Plus he has a fortress of solitude, robots, and his own private zoo. There’s a lot of extra benefits that come with an already impressive package.
So what’s the issue here? I came up with this list while putzing around the house doing other things. Didn’t look at a single comic. And while I’m happy with what I came up with I can’t help but notice it’s 100% white men, with the most recently created being Animal Man in 1965. I am a white man, but I don’t think it’s about that for me. I chose these characters because their stories and power sets are the ones I think I’d have the most fun with or get the most utility out of. I don’t have any deep insight as to what problem this may or may not speak to within the world of comics. I do wish that there were more female and minority characters I found as appealing as these five, and maybe it should be incumbent upon me to seek out those stories as hungrily as possible. Oddly, I’m not even reading the books featuring the characters above, except Animal Man which I only just picked back up. The other option is that maybe those stories aren’t quite there, and that there is a legitimate issues with the best stories being told using old white dudes.
Here’s what I’d like from the commenters, in addition to the usual free-for-all and who you’d put on your list, I’d like to hear about some stories showcasing characters that aren’t white men, and that maybe use characters created more recently. I’ll do my best to actually follow-up and see if I can’t shift this list to something more inclusive and broad, assuming the stories are up to the task. Expand my horizons, iFanbase!