FAN NEWS

Ask...The Question: Who Are the Most Popular B-List Characters?

Alex Jaffe

Alex Jaffe

April 16, 2020

atq_green arrow_news_hero-c_v1_200416.jpg

Hello. I’m Alex Jaffe, better known in our Community as HubCityQuestion. My personal mission: to take on any question you have about the DC Universe -- no matter how granular, obscure, or strange -- and present you with an answer. As a faithful steward of the truth, I offer my time in this weekly column to address these inquiries. If you’d like to submit one of your own, you can stop by my office at any time in our lively Community to state your case, which I will address in turn to the best of my ability. The world may be in unrest, but I remain your vigilant detective through the comic book cosmos to discover the answers you crave. Let’s see what secrets and mysteries lie in wait for us today.

 

 

THE GRAVE AND THE BOLD

 

Gravedigger.jpg

Cliffmist.50879 asks:

 

“Was anything written about Gravedigger after 1985?”

 

Ulysses Hazard, alias Gravedigger, was one of DC’s first leading black heroes -- debuting shortly after Black Lightning in 1977’s Men of War #1. Recently, Gravedigger returned to prominence in a major role on Season 3 of the Black Lightning TV series.

 

That Gravedigger, Tyson Sykes, was first introduced as one of Checkmate’s “Rook” operatives in the Post-Infinite Crisis series, and gains telepathic abilities after injecting himself with Starro DNA. And while he never goes by “Gravedigger,” Ulysses’ grandson Perseus Hazard is a part of the special task force assigned to apprehend Superman in “Superman: New Krypton.”

 

Two seemingly different takes on Ulysses Hazard appear over the course of The New 52. First, in 2011’s Men of War, Hazard appears much as Gravedigger later would in Black Lightning: as a former WWII soldier turned immortal radical extremist warlord. Then, in 2014’s Star-Spangled War Stories, a totally different Ulysses Hazard appears as the government handler for G.I. Zombie.

 

Personally, my favorite post-script for the original Ulysses Hazard’s career comes in DC Universe: Legacies #4 -- where it was revealed that after the war, Hazard stayed on with the military and was eventually promoted to Colonel, given the long due credit he deserved.

 

 

CIVIL SERVANTS

 

Mayor Penguin.jpg

 

Wrightline1.42471 asks:

 

“Some of DC’s most important players have also held [US] office in the past [...] both Perry White and Oliver Queen have been Mayors of their respective cities. And Bruce Wayne served very briefly as a State Senator. Are there any others I’ve missed?”

 

Here’s a question I’ve already partially answered in my very first column, where I went over every character who’s ever been President of the United States in the DC Universe. But, like Perry, Bruce, and Oliver, some characters have held public office in other capacities. Here are a few who may have evaded our combined checklists:

 

Gotham City alone has seen quite a number of infamous public officials: in 1951’s Detective Comics #179, Bruce Wayne was elected mayor of Gotham City. Bruce also serves briefly as mayor in “Dizzoner the Penguin,” an episode of the ‘60s Batman TV series. In a number of “Elseworlds” stories, it’s Harvey Dent who holds Gotham’s mayoral office: including Batman: The Telltale Series, Dark Multiverse: The Grim Knight, and DC Comics Bombshells. Harvey’s twin sister, Jessica, is sworn in as the mayor in Batman: Earth One, Vol. 2. In the epilogue of Batman: Arkham Knight, James Gordon is elected the new mayor of Gotham. Similarly, Michael Akins, the GCPD commissioner during Gordon’s retirement in Gotham Central, becomes the mayor in James Tynion IV’s run on Detective Comics. Batwing: Futures End shows us a possible future where Luke Fox becomes Gotham’s mayor. The Penguin, too, has had a number of run-ins with the Gotham mayoral office, based on his thwarted campaigns in the ‘60s TV series and Batman Returns: including the Batman: The Animated Series tie-in comic The Batman Adventures, the TV series Gotham, and even mainstream continuity (by fiat) during Forever Evil: Arkham War. Rupert Thorne, one of Gotham’s most notorious unmasked crime bosses, once controlled the city from his seat on the city council. And finally, The Joker himself- as Jack Napier- joins Gotham’s city council in Batman: White Knight (coming soon to DC Universe)!

 

Wayne Eden, father of the Super Hero Nightshade, was a US senator. Likewise, Henry Knight, another heroine’s father- the Freedom Fighters’ Phantom Lady- is also a US senator. This trend continues with Anthony Monetti, another US senator, is also a Super Hero’s father -- Argent, of the ‘90s Teen Titans. Tex Thompson, a hero dating back to Action Comics #1, serves as a US Senator in JSA: The Golden Age. Before a Superman villain arose by the same name, a different lethal vigilante called “Eradicator,” Creed Philips, was a State Senator who contended with Barry Allen in The Flash #312-320. In The New 52, Lois’s father Sam Lane served for a time in the US Senate as well. Jonathan “Pa” Kent is elected as a state senator in Season 5 of Smallville, but suffers a heart attack shortly after. Ma Kent takes over his seat, and appoints Lois Lane her Chief of Staff. In Season 6, Martha moves from State Senate to US Senate.

 

In the WildStorm universe, Judge Fury is the mayor of Tranquility, a city of retired Super Heroes. Tommy Rogers, who fought crime as “Little Boy Blue” in the Golden Age, grows up to become the mayor of Radiance in The Flash. Lobo is seen as the mayor of Las Vegas in the apocalyptic future of Old Lady Harley. In the finale of Arrow, the long-suffering Quentin Lance becomes Star City’s new mayor. In the ongoing Batman Beyond series, Dick Grayson is serving as the mayor of his adopted home of Blüdhaven. And of course I’d be remiss not to mention Myra Fermin, former flame of The Question and mayor of Hub City.

 

In later issues of Superman Family, an alternate version of Supergirl becomes governor of Florida. Kara is also shown to eventually become president of the United Planets in Brian Michael Bendis’s Millennium. By the 30th century, Thaddeus Thawne, descendant of Reverse-Flash, becomes President of the one world “Earthgov.” Rafael Sandoval, who had a run as El Diablo between 1988 and 1991, was on the Dos Rios, Texas city council. Sebastian Blood, known better as Brother Blood, served as an alderman in Starling City during Season 2 of Arrow. And during Greg Rucka’s run on Wonder Woman, Steve Trevor was appointed the US Deputy Secretary of Defense.

 

And finally, a few US presidents I missed from my original breakdown: Libby Lawrence-Chambers, once the All-Star Squadron member Liberty Belle, and President of the United States on Earth-51 in Countdown to Final Crisis. Former Teen Titan Mal Duncan, in the dark future of “Titans Tomorrow.” And a grown-up Jimmy Olsen, in the animated movie adaptation of Superman: Red Son.

 

 

GOING SOLO

 

Shazam.jpg

 

LooseNate asks:

 

“Outside of the Justice League 7, which characters have been most popular, or at least which character has carried the most solo books? I guess what i’m trying to ask is who are the most popular B-List characters?”

 

This is a pretty loose question, LooseNate. It really depends how you define the “Justice League 7,” “popularity,” and “solo books.”

 

I imagine that you mean for the core seven members of the Justice League to be our exclusionary subjects: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Hal Jordan, Barry Allen, and Martian Manhunter. However, in the ‘90s and ‘00s, Wally West and Kyle Rayner stood in for Barry and Hal in that core line up, and constitute part of the “Justice League 7” for many fans. Likewise, in the New 52, Cyborg was subbed in for J’onn J’onnz in that core group, and has been a definitive part of the League for coming up on a decade now. So, for the sake of doubt, then, let’s call it a Justice League 10.

 

“Popularity” is also quite subjective, but something we’ve tackled in the past using a third-party poll service with a sample size of over 35,800 voters and counting. By that website’s count, the ten most popular characters outside of the JL10 would be:

 

#10: Supergirl

#9: Beast Boy

#8: Zatanna

#7: Doctor Fate

#6: “Robin” (all combined)

#5: Shazam!

#4: Starfire

#3: Raven

#2: Green Arrow

#1: Nightwing

 

However, it should be noted that this poll only accounts for HEROES. Villains and civilians are untallied.

 

Which brings us to your suggested criterion: which characters have had the most “solo books”? We can define “solo” easily enough: any book where a lead character doesn’t share the spotlight with an ensemble or co-star. But how should we count “books”? Both ongoing and limited series? Graphic novels and oneshots? Total single issues?! Perhaps not that last one just now, for the sake of my own sanity. Arbitrarily, without further instruction, I have chosen this metric: solo titles which include the lead character’s name and feature no co-headliners, be they ongoing, limited series, and graphic novels. (I will, however, be excluding event tie-ins, specials, one shots, and film adaptations. I will also not be counting collected editions, though that would be another way to determine popularity.)

 

Here are DC’s most frequent stars, beginning with those who have featured in 5 solo titles or more:

 

5 EACH: BLACK CANARY, PLASTIC MAN, TIM DRAKE

 

Black Canary starred in 4 volumes of her own series, and the recent graphic novel Black Canary: Ignite. Plastic Man had 5 volumes of his own. Tim Drake starred in the first two Robin limited series (and split the bill with Huntress on a third), the first Robin ongoing, Red Robin, and part of the 5th volume of Batman Beyond.

 

6 EACH: THE DEMON, HARLEY QUINN, JONAH HEX, SWAMP THING

 

The Demon Etrigan starred in 3 volumes of his own ongoing series, and three limited series: Blood of the Demon, Driven Out, and Hell is Earth. Harley Quinn’s been a major star for quite a few years, but most of her appearances have either been in one-off oneshots, bill-splitting co-features, or her long running ongoings. As-is, Harley Quinn stars in three volumes of her own series, the Old Lady Harley spinoff, Black Label’s Harleen, and the recent graphic novel Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass. (One could make an argument for Harley’s Little Black Book as a solo title, but that series is predicated on each issue featuring a guest star.) Though Jonah Hex frequently appeared in Western anthology titles, he did have three comics of his own: two Jonah Hex, and one future-set title simply named Hex. He’s also had three limited series -- Shadows West, Two-Gun Mojo, and Riders of the Worm and Such. Swamp Thing stars in 5 out of 6 of his own volumes (excluding one featuring his daughter), and the ongoing Swamp Thing Giant.

 

7 EACH: BATMAN BEYOND, CATWOMAN, CONSTANTINE, DICK GRAYSON, HAWKMAN

 

Terry McGinnis, the Batman of the not-too-distant future, has starred in six volumes of his own series, plus the digital Batman Beyond 2.0. Catwoman features in 5 of her own volumes, plus the limited series Catwoman: When in Rome, and the recent Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale. (I wanted to count Selina’s Big Score, a personal favorite, but alas, it’s technically a oneshot, not a graphic novel.) John Constantine’s bibliography, like Constantine himself, is a ruddy mess. He’s been the star of Hellblazer, The Hellblazer, Constantine, Constantine: The Hellblazer, and John Constantine: Hellblazer. Good luck getting those in order. He’s also got the limited series Bad Blood and City of Demons. Dick Grayson is a little more straightforward: 4 volumes of Nightwing, Grayson, the latter-day Elseworlds tale Nightwing: The New Order, and Robin: Year One. As for Hawkman, you’ve got 5 volumes of the same name, plus The Savage Hawkman, and Death of Hawkman. You could, arguably, count the two volumes of Hawkworld, but one could also say those books don’t solely feature Hawkman.

 

8: SUPERGIRL (KARA ZOR-EL)

 

There have been 7 volumes of Supergirl, and Kara has starred in 5 of them. (The other two were the Matrix Supergirl of the early-mid-nineties, and the Linda Danvers Supergirl of the late-mid-nineties.) She also starred in Supergirl: Being Super, and Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade.

 

9 EACH: BILLY BATSON, DEADMAN

 

An unlikely pair, to be sure, but each has seen quite a number of solo series. Billy starred in two volumes of Shazam!, Captain Marvel Adventures, Shazam! The New Beginning, Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam!, both a graphic novel and an ongoing series entitled The Power of Shazam!, The Trials of Shazam!, and Shazam!: The Monster Society of Evil. Deadman, meanwhile, has many titles to his name, but in a manner consistent with his eternally cycling nature, none have lasted very long. There’s 5 volumes of Deadman, Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love, Deadman: Dead Again, Deadman: Exorcism, and Deadman: Love After Death.

 

10: LOBO

 

The Main Man is also the second-most prolific solo book launcher in the DC Universe apart from the JL10. This is mainly due to the fact that for most of Lobo’s history, he’s had a predilection for publication in fits of starts and stops. There’s 3 eponymous volumes, and then such colorful titles as Lobo’s Back, Lobo Unbound, A Contract on Gawd, Death and Taxes, Highway to Hell, Infanticide, and Unamerican Gladiators.

 

Which brings us to our number one spot, the character with the most solo titles under these hyper-specific criteria:

 

11: GREEN ARROW

 

Let’s count ‘em off: SIX solo volumes, THREE origin stories- The Longbow Hunters, The Golden Year, Year One- and TWO tie-in digital titles to TV’s Arrow! But Ollie himself will tell you it’s not about how many shots you take, but how many make their mark.

 

 

KING OF THE JUNGLE

 

DC-Comics-Tarzan.jpg

 

Reaganfan78 asks:

 

“Has Tarzan ever appeared in DC comics before? [If so,] what comic was he in? Thank you.”

 

Tarzan is often mistakenly categorized with public domain characters like Sherlock Holmes, the Three Musketeers, or Robin Hood. The reason for this misconception is twofold: first, because the character has been around since 1912, a lot of the earliest Tarzan stories have fallen into the public domain, but this is not true of the character himself. Second, like many public domain characters, it’s easy to find Tarzan stories under any number of seemingly unrelated publishers and film studios. In truth, though, the Tarzan trademark is still controlled by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc, a holding company incorporated by the original author to maintain the rights to his original creations such as Tarzan and John Carter of Mars. Any time a publisher wants to do a Tarzan story and use that name, they have to go to Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. for the rights to do so, which has fostered some rather interesting history for the character across the entire comic book industry.

 

Tarzan’s history in comic books goes back to 1947, when the rights to publish his adventures were acquired by Western Publishing. Western Publishing put out Tarzan stories through their partner Dell Comics until 1962, when they transferred the Tarzan comics to the purview of their own in-house comic book publishing division, Gold Key Comics.

 

As the Tarzan comics increased in popularity, Burroughs Inc. transferred the publishing rights to DC in 1972, who offered more widespread distribution opportunities for the series than Gold Key, allowing them to push the series to international markets. Between 1972 and 1977, DC published issues #207-258 of the ongoing series, with art by the legendary Joe Kubert. Indeed, many Kubert aficionados consider this DC run on Tarzan to be some of his finest work. After DC’s partnership with Burroughs Inc. lapsed, that original Tarzan run finished out its twilight years at Marvel.

 

In the 1990s, the Tarzan comic rights were awarded to Dark Horse. And while other publishers have borrowed him for a title or two since that point, Dark Horse remains Tarzan’s primary comic publishers to this day. But friendly relations between Dark Horse and DC have allowed Tarzan to appear in a couple of crossover titles between the two publishers. Both of these are “Elseworlds” style stories which feature a team-up between Tarzan and one of the World’s Finest. First, in 1999’s Batman/Tarzan: Claws of the Cat-Woman, Tarzan joins forces with a Golden Age style Batman to help a cat-worshipping society in the jungles of Africa. Then, 2001’s Superman/Tarzan: Sons of the Jungle follows the tried and true Elseworlds premise of “What if Superman’s rocket landed somewhere else?” In this version of the story, Lord Greystoke- the man we know as Tarzan- was never stranded in the jungle, and baby Kal-El’s rocket crashes there instead. The two very different heroes then meet in adulthood, and ultimately switch places like Prince and Pauper. Seek them out if you get the chance!

 

As for me, I’ll be signing off until this week, exploring the mysteries of the DC Universe on and off the clock. Join me next week for another round of startling revelations. To get in on the action, all you gotta do is ASK… THE QUESTION.

 

 

NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of Alex Jaffe and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros.