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Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Finding The Greatest Superhero Ever

Greatest Superhero Ever

Who is the 'Greatest Superhero Ever'?

I know we all have our choices, our favorites. Some would say Green Lantern or Batman or Ms. Marvel or even Squirrel Girl. Nate Grey was freaking awesome for me once, and Nova still holds a dear, overpowered place in my heart. But it's interesting to see how the term itself could become the very idea of the superhero 'standard' in the world of comic books.

The idea is that the Greatest Superhero Ever (or GSE) sets the tone of the narrative universe they live in. He or she becomes the living personification of what all their world's heroes aspire to be. It's the one question any hero asks themselves: "What would the Greatest Superhero Ever do?" And when the situation is at its darkest and most dire, the triumphant orchestra piece you hear is the sound of the Greatest Superhero Ever coming to save the day.

Let's take a look what makes or breaks the Greatest Superhero Ever. (For this blog post, I'll be focusing on the Big Two, since they both have, more or less, a clearly defined Greatest Superhero. Feel free to suggest other comic book companies and who you feel their Greatest Superhero is in the comments.)

DC had Superman as its Greatest Superhero Ever, and for good reason. He was the first of them all (for a time), he was certainly the most powerful, and his unwavering stand for truth and justice held him to a standard every other hero aspired to. Superman's status as GSE was made manifest in Mark Waid's Kingdom Come, where heroes devolved into grim n' gritty anti-heroes without the Man of Steel's example. In Grant Morrison's Final Crisis, it was Superman who saved the Multiverse, literally wishing a happy ending for all of us.

On Marvel's side, the GSE who comes to mind is Captain America. He's punched Hitler in the face, and has even stared down the mad Titan Thanos during the Infinity Gauntlet storyline. The moment he comes into a room, or arrives at a battle scene, he commands respect and admiration from his peers. When Cap shouts "Avengers Assemble!", you can be sure that each and every single hero within earshot will do exactly as he says, and it usually involves some epic superheroism.

But sometimes its not all about paragons of justice or war heroes. Sometimes you get something completely different, and the flavor of their universe changes with them. Take Marvel's Dark Reign, for instance. There, Norman Osborn set himself up as the Greatest Superhero when he became the Iron Patriot, even though we (the readers) know he's really a murderous scumbag. Because of it, there was a tonal shift in the universe and the heroes that occupied it.

The idea of a Greatest Superhero Ever makes me take a good look at DC and its upcoming reboot. There's little I can add to the tons of opinion pieces out there about the DCnU that hasn't been already said. But I AM interested to see who emerges as DC's GSE in the coming months. Superman has fallen to the wayside, with the last heroic thing he's known for is walking across the US in search of himself. This is DC's chance to really define the superhero standard to which its heroism is measured. With a supposedly clean and trimmed slate, the one hero who rises above all others will set the tone for the rest of the 52 (!) books coming out, and I'm both scared and excited to see what happens next.

What other qualities do you think a Greatest Superhero Ever should have? Which other comic book universes you know that has one? Let's talk about it in the comments, okay? Thanks for reading!

2 comments:

  1. I suppose the GSE of any universe needs to be the person who stays cool when all else hits the fan. The person even the other heroes look up to. And he needs to be a traditional hero. Anti Heroes are fine but I can't imagine a punisher type being the greatest hero of a 'verse.

    So Cool head, Brave, Good at being a hero, and he needs to have over come his own personal demons.

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  2. Welcome to the blog, The Ronin!

    I agree, a traditional hero is what a GSE should be. It all comes down to values. Sure, tastes and values change over time, but the desire to do good shouldn't. Thank you for your comment by the way :)

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