Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Guest Post: The Ten Best Teen Superheroes

Note: Joe Sergi is the author of the YA novel Sky Girl and the Superheroic Legacy, published by iEnovel.com. Read my Rum Punch review of that book on Thinking The Lions by clicking here. I asked him to talk about something Best-Y and Superhero-Y, and this is what he gave me:

THE TEN BEST TEEN SUPERHEROES
By Joe Sergi.

Making this list ended up being more difficult than I thought. There have been some great teen superheroes over the years. Superboy (Clark Kent) was almost on the list, but he really just acted like Superman and not a teen. Supergirl almost made the cut (I. always buy Supergirl sketches from artists when I go to conventions and have quite a collection), But, I realized that the character as she originally appeared was derivative of her famous cousin and the current incarnation's characterization has been highly inconsistent (although Kara In-Zee from Superman TAS and JLU Unlimited is great). Robin (Tim Drake) and Batgirl, Cassandra Cain, who would have been on this list at one time, have taken to very dark places. Other characters like the members of Runaways, Young Justice and Young Avengers almost made the cut. Even so, two other characters made honorable mention because of a lack of space.

Honorable Mentions: Speedy and Stargirl.
When written well, these are two of the strongest characters in comics. Stargirl is Courtney Whitmore, a legacy hero in the Justice Society of America (now the JSA All Stars) and is the heart of both teams. She is based on and a tribute to Geoff Johns' sister, who died in the explosion of TWA Flight 800 in 1996. Her original adventures in Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. are recommended reading. Everyone loves her (a few too many people want to do it in the biblical sense for my tastes).Green Arrow's teen sidekick is Speedy, Mia Dearden. Like the previous Speedy (Roy Harper, who became a drug addict) Mia has had a rough life. She is a former prostitute and addict and, as a result, has become HIV positive. She does not let this stop her from being a great heroine. Her mere presence was enough to affect the resolution of the recent Fall of Green Arrow storyline. Unfortunately, this character has not yet had a chance to shine.

10. Terra
There were several characters named Terra. The first was a villain and a traitor to the Teen Titans. However, the most recent is the creation of Jimmy Palmiotti and a great heroine. I like her because she isn't bogged down by angst. Palmiotti's portrayal of her in her own series and later Power Girl shows as a beacon of hope.



9
. Zephyr Noble
If you haven't checked out Noble Causes by Jay Faerber, you really don't know what you are missing. The Noble's are kind of like their Universe's Fantastic Four except that they are hounded by the paparatzi. This became more complicated when Zephyr, the very promiscuous teenage daughter of the team became pregnant. Over the course of the series we see Zephyr grow as both a character and as a hero.


8. The New Mutants
I was tempted to put the original X-Men on this list, after all they were billed as "the world's teens." But, then I thought about it. By the time I read X-Men, the team had been replaced by the All New All Different X-Men, which was mostly team of adults (but see Kitty Pryde below). The New Mutants were a different story. I remember picking up that first Graphic Novel and reading about Sam (Cannonball), Bobby (Sunspot), Xian (Karma), Rahne (Wolvesbane) and Dani (Moonstone). Within a year they were joined by Amara (Magma) and Illyana (Magic). Like Kitty Pryde, the New Mutants were also the creation of Chris Claremont, a prolific comic creator that focuses on characters (and Bill Sienkiewicz’s art was amazing). Louise Simonson continued the great work Claremont started and her stories were also great.

7. Spider Girl
I know Spider-Man is already on this list and that Spider Girl may appear redundant, but I needed to save a spot for May Day Parker. Tom Defalco created that character as part of an alternate future where the daughter of Spider-Man has taken up the mantle of her father. There is a nice dynamic between the two, which, I imagine, is not unlike what would happen if the daughter of a police officer took up the badge.


6. Robin (Dick Grayson)
Let's face facts. Dick Grayson deserves to be on this list. Bob Kane created him and he is the original teen sidekick. He also gets props for being the first superhero to grow out of the teen sidekick role. Marv Wolfman and George Perez really did an excellent job with Dick in Teen Titans (even putting him in bed with a hot orange skinned alien) and the eventual adoption of the Nightwing identity. Current readers of the Batman books know that he has moved on to so much more at the hands of writer Grant Morrison.

5. Bucky
There used to be a rule at Marvel Comics that only Bucky and Uncle Ben had to stay dead. With the "Winter Soldier" story, followed by "The Death of Captain America" and the "Captain America: Reborn," Ed Brubaker has challenged that rule with incredible results. Like Robin, Bucky has moved on to bigger and better things. Like Robin, he has grown up (and is currently knocking boots with Black Widow, which is not too shabby).


4. Spider-Man
While Robin and Bucky were the original teen sidekicks. To my knowledge, Spider-Man was the first teen to be recognized in his own as a solo hero. Of course no one knew that he was a teenager (hence the whole "Man" in his name). But, in those early days, Peter Parker was a high school student. These early stories are still among Spidey's best. Brian Michael Bendis was able to recapture Stan Lee's initial magic and reinvent it with his Ultimate Spider-Man, which put Peter back in high school.


3. Invincible
Mark Grayson is the son of Omni-Man, the world's greatest hero. So, when Mark develops powers of his own, he follows in his father's footsteps as the costumed adventurer known as Invincible. But, when Invincible finds out Omni-Man's secret, he must truly become a hero. Robert Kirkman has done great work on this title. Like his other book, the Walking Dead, Kirkman makes you care about these characters.



2. Kitty Pryde


Kitty Pryde was my first exposure to the X-Men and to mainstream comics (I had only read Star Wars comic books). Chris Claremont had been writing the book for a couple of years when I jumped on. He really nailed the characters and I saw a lot of myself in Kitty. In fact, you might say that Kitty and I joined the X-Men and grew up together I was elated when her romance with Colossus blossomed (and sad when it failed). I was with her as she struggled through her parents divorce and with her ever changing identities.

1. Sky Girl

In Sky Girl and the Superheroic Legacy, DeDe Christopher is any ordinary teen with an extraordinary destiny. She discovers that she has the powers of a comic book character, SkyBoy. Luckily, she has the help of her best friend, Jason, who is a self-proclaimed comic geek, to help her adapt to her powers as she faces the all-too-real enemies and allies of SkyBoy. She must not only face aliens, apes and robots, but must also deal with a vindictive dance rival and an obsessive coach desperate to do anything to win. Despite this, DeDe still manages to overcome the odds and become a hero.




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