After Infinity War left me so burned, I found myself turning to DC for some comfort. I’ve been a comic book fan for decades and I’m strangely 50/50 when it comes to the two main houses: Marvel and DC. When people ask me which one I prefer I often give them a pretty blanket answer:
Marvel for the heroes. DC for the villains.
This is a pretty diplomatic answer but anyone who really knows me that despite my numerous times playing Tony Stark, DC has held my heart for a much longer time than Marvel can claim.
So to rekindle the forge of my heart that has been pillaged after Infinity War, let’s go over at least 10 characters from DC that mean the world to me. Just like the last time with my Top 20 Animes, this is in no real order but you are welcome to read whatever you like into the order that will inevitably form from the chaos that will be this list.
I think I have to put up a spoiler warning for some reason. Just in case I say something that blows your minds.
- The Joker
- Now, it’s irresponsible to have any DC list without mentioning Mister J. He’s probably listening and would be very offended if I left him off this list. Now, I have a love-hate relationship with The Joker. As one of the most iconic villains ever, he’s sort of the Crown Prince of Edgelords and folks who think they’re very dark and deep and post his comments and quotes on forums and social media. My attachment to The Joker is a little more personal. I fell in love with The Clown Prince of Crime in Batman The Animated Series where Mark Hamill’s voice allowed him to be equal parts threatening and hilarious. The Joker has come a very long way as a character. He was at first a mostly cartoonish troll to and now he’s mostly a snarling Hot Topic model. But what makes The Joker so good ties perfectly into the version that is my personal favorite: The Killing Joke. This is The Joker at his best and with enough Kierkegaard to beat any philosophy minor into the ground. The Joker’s main mantra of “Everyone is just one bad day away…” is a powerful one and one I connect to. As someone who (like Batman and Jack Napier) has had a series of bad days, I absolutely deal with the demon of using pain and trauma as a rationalization towards the darkness inherent in all of us.
- Gone, gone, the form of man…God, are there more iconic lines? I love Etrigan the Demon. He’s an older than you think comic book character who was a demon in the time of King Arthur. He’s sworn to fight against Morrigan the Enchantress and oftentimes Klarion the Witchboy (one of my many sons) but he’s also just as likely to be enchanted by Morrigan and be used as a tool for destruction. Etrigan’s design and old-timey speech won me over easily and even though he’s not a well known DC character, I still love him and I have considered getting his little spell tattooed on my body somewhere.
- John Constantine
- Still no Batman. Sorry, we’ll get to Bruce but I have to talk about the Hellblazer himself. So John Constantine is a strange case. I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t know much about him before the wildly popular TV show and the mediocre Keanu Reeves movie that I don’t hate. His character is an interesting one. He’s one of the rare cases of a bisexual character but this was of course, back in the day when bisexual was just analogous for “whore” but Constantine was very proud and aware of his status as a tool. Constantine is a demon-hunter with literally every vice you can imagine and his design, brooding mood and his ability to play well with others made me cozy up to him very quickly.
- Jason Todd
- See? Getting closer to Batman. There will be Batman on this list. Just not right now. Jason Todd is a fascinating character study in a comic creator making a character that everyone hates and then immediately punishing the fanbase for hating them. Death in the Family broke me as a youth and his violent death a the hands of The Joker left a massive scar on the hearts of the fans, me and Bruce. And the timing of his death is so important it hurts just as much as a crowbar to the left cheek. Jason Todd dies just after The Killing Joke and Batman’s inability to kill The Joker was one of the biggest reasons The Joker escalated and took Jason Todd from Bruce. The Joker couldn’t break The Bat by taking out Barbara, so he went after his metaphorical son. Jason Todd died for our sins and came back as an even better version of Batman: The Red Hood. It’s all so metaphorical and meta and I love every part of Jason Todd’s journey from way too smart for his own good kid to a vigilante who is at times more effective at cleaning up the streets of Gotham than Batman is. Now, better is subjective. Depending on who is writing Jason, he’s almost like a proto-Damien Wayne (we’re getting to that little anger cinnamon roll). Jason’s often written as a stark opposite to the first Robin, Dick Grayson. While Dick was nice, talented and affable; Jason was snarky, moody and already had the jump on Bruce by their first meeting. We meet Jason Todd as he’s trying to lift the tires and rims off the Batmobile. Jason Todd is the anti-Dick Grayson and you love or hate him for it.
- Damien Wayne
- I’m really skirting around The Bat here, I know. We’re getting there, I promise. But first I wanted to talk about this little ball of anger, pragmatism and a little bit of Raas al Ghul magic. Damien is Bruce’s son by Talia al Ghul (even though this was stupidly ret-conned I will stay with this headcanon, fight me) and he is just as wonderful as you can imagine that combination of two angry people can be. Damien’s practical, blunt and emotionless but it all makes sense considering his background training under his grandfather. Damien’s past means that he is guarded and reserved and may be based on skill one of the best and most capable Robins that have ever served at Batman’s side. And with how reserved and confident he is, it’s wonderful to see him break down.I mean, come on, Damien was convinced his Father was too soft on crime so he sent the Court of Owls to kill his own dad! How intense is that?
- Booster Gold
- No context. Just love him. Don’t @ me.
- Just kidding. There was no way I was going to leave it at that. Booster Gold is hilarious. He’s a time traveler from another dimension where he’s super popular but now wants to be even more famous and does all he can to self-insert his way into the narrative of popular storylines. Because of his knack for wriggling his way into other people stories, he tends to do more harm than good. Hell, most of the bad things that have happened in DC lore he has somehow managed to be part of. Also, Booster Gold is one half of the greatest bro-mance ever with Ted Kord, the original Blue Beetle. What’s amazing is that Booster Gold has zero super powers, he’s just the right amount of narcissistic, talented and confident that he just skates into any situation and has the right tool for the job when he isn’t the one setting the fire to get credit for it in the news later that day.
- No context. Just love him. Don’t @ me.
- Hal Jordan
- I’m sure many of you are surprised. I’ve always said how much I prefer Kyle Rayner as a Lantern and Earth’s sworn protector and many of you know that Green isn’t even my color when it comes to the Emotional Spectrum: I’m a very proud Star Sapphire. But Hal’s just such a great character, especially since his post-Crisis and with some of his New 52 edge. The writers have leaned in a little to his naive, good boy attitude and as long as we ignore the movie that no one likes talking about, I think he has an interesting power set and the fun creative edge of the hero the U.S. often needed. Many folks give Jordan a hard time for choosing dumb constructs, but hey, he does his best. He takes a lot of the best parts from his predecessor, Alan Scott, and turns them into a genuine and authentic person who is just happy to be a real hero in more way than one.
- This magical minx was really never meant to be center stage. Her costume at first was revealing, her powers were mostly for show and she never really got to shine much outside of being the plucky assistant and occasional magical expert Batman needed. But she’s still one of the rare instances of a female character that does anything for me. I do think post New 52 she’s a little overpowered but that comic books and it’s fine. I’ve always admired how fun she was during her appearances on Batman the Animated and while her time in Justice League: Dark paints her with way more melodrama, I’m here for it.
- Another magical girl? Yep. She’s one of the few female comic book characters I can relate to. And no, not just because she’s a moody, edgy, all-black clad, super goth. I mean, sure, for lots of those reasons. But there’s plenty of other reasons there, too! She’s also very empathetic, but her empathy doesn’t mean that she’s always kind. I absolutely can relate to that. Her past is something she is actively trying to run from and hide, I can also super relate to that. And realistically, depending on who is writing her: she is absolutely on par with Superman just based on magic and ability alone. What’s not to like?
- So as an angsty person, I’m contractually obligated to put Batman on this list. I don’t have a choice. Superman is not boring but he’s also not super relatable to me. He’s very aspirational, as in, I wish I had even a fraction of Clark’s anything but Bruce, despite how unattainable he actually is; there is something intensely human and vulnerable about him. And it’s only in realizing that maybe he’s not a great person that makes Bruce Wayne so compelling. He’s insanely flawed. He has a secret plan to be able to not kill but emotionally and physically break all of his friends in the Justice League just in case any of them were to go rogue. He’s paranoid, driven and his absolutely subjective moral compass punishes relatively low-level offenders while ignoring larger threats because he enjoys the game too much. He pretends that he has some great code about not killing but he’s doing more harm than good keeping The Joker alive and even when The Joker has taken so much from Bruce Way, The Bat refuses to, just on some false moral high ground, to end the Clown. And while we can all look to Superman to have the right answer and do the right thing, depending on who is writing Batman, he may be the biggest villain in all of Gotham. It’s one of the reasons Batman: White Knight has been such an amazing read, if you frame it from anyone else’s point of view, The Gotham Bat is no hero. But many people can relate to Bruce Wayne. I know I could. I lost my parents, did my best to be better than my past and did all I could to make sure that the world was a better place than the one that ensured that I become an orphan by 20. Bruce operates similarly, he wants the world to be a better place while also struggling with the weight of the name he was born into and uses more than one mask to hide years of pain, trauma and feelings of inadequacy. He’s the most human character DC has ever created. We’ve all in some way felt like Bruce Wayne even if we aren’t all billionaire playboys with genius level intellect, a hidden basement space full of bats and paramilitary weapons and an ability to connect the dots that would make Sherlock Holmes even say that some of the connections was a bit of a stretch. Batman is complex and he perfectly reflects the concerns of the eras he’s in. He stands in for a type of justice that many find more satisfying than waiting for proper police procedure. Sure, if the cops get the criminal, there may be a mistrial. If Batman gets him, we’ll that crook will never crime again. But also consider when I was introduced to The Gotham Knight. It was during the amazing Batman the Animated Series run where he was the most balanced he could be. Bruce was vulnerable, suave, capable but still was just skirting around the confines of the law. The animated run did a perfect balance of handling Batman lore from his Silver Age appearances and continues to inform how actors and writers now handle The Gotham Bat.
This was a fun Top 10 and honestly, if given more time, I’d likely have a very different list that better reflects the years of lore I’ve allowed myself to fall into DC has been creating characters and weaving stories that have touched the lives of millions for decades now and these comic books will always have a special place in my heart. This list is personal, highly subjective and is in no way an accurate representation of even all the characters I like but simply don’t have time to go into further detail. Drop me a comment below if you’d like for me to do a similar treatment to any other property or query!