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Our heroes have always been comics 

The Flash

The Flash was always my favorite comic-book hero. The idea that you could avoid rush-hour traffic and make it to your favorite restaurant in a fraction of a second and maybe even alter the rotation of the earth with your speed was highly appealing to someone astounded that Olympians could run the 100 meters in 10 seconds. The Scarlet Speedster’s talents did raise troubling questions about whether he did EVERYTHING with lightning-fast urgency (pity his girlfriend), but these concerns were overwhelmed by the cosmic coolness of the concept: Two Flashes, operating on parallel worlds, and crossing over to help each other out. It was almost enough to make me wish that I, like the fleet-footed superhero, had inhaled heavy water-vapors in my school’s chemistry lab.

Gilbert Garcia


If you had asked me at 14, maybe I would have (like most comix-smitten adolescents of the time) swung to Wolverine. I mean, what was tougher than absorbing maximum, inhuman punishment and walking back into the fray for more? No one took or gave a beating like Wolverine. But aside from years spent trying to emulate that coif, à la Evil Elvis doll Glenn Danzig, the Canadian-born military experiment was as psychically approachable to a 130-pound weakling as Henry Rollins before his GQ makeover. I identified more with the nimble and philosophically tortured Nightcrawler. After a beating or two, one comes to appreciate the ability to vanish at just the right time with a Bamf! And the complexities of existence (teen angst, even) were better related through the blue demon’s narrative. Better still, on the body-image front, Kurt Wagner sported the wiry frame of a wharf rat — at least until the rise of the graphic novels and movie deals, when he had to be sexed up like rippling nerd/stud Tobey Maguire for Spidey’s film debut — and a vague resemblance to punk icon and Damned frontman Dave Vanian, jaundiced yellow eyes ’n’ all!

Greg Harman


Spider-Man is my favorite superhero for many reasons. He has the coolest-looking costume, which allows him to climb walls, shoot webbing out of his hands, and gives him superhuman strength. Likewise, the webbing he shoots is as thick as ropes, effectively holding his enemies till the authorities show up to arrest them. Peter Parker was originally a high-school nerd that no one paid attention to. His powers gave him the confidence he needed to get what he wanted: the respect of his peers and the attention of Mary Jane. He can’t fly like Superman, but the ability to swing around the city from building to building isn’t exactly a consolation prize. 

Jaime Monzon


The nigh-invincible superheroes who can only be done in through their Achilles Heel never held my attention for long — not that much at stake if you’re practically immortal is kind of how I figured it. Batman Begins-era Batman is my kind of crusader — a mere (if fabulously wealthy) mortal who uses his brains, resources, and sheer will (and technology!) to reclaim his city from criminals and corrupt politicians, espousing an appealing combination of noblesse oblige and community outreach while struggling to balance vigilantism and justice in his own soul. The Scarlet Pimpernel cover — playboy by chandelier-light, crusader by dark — is even more entertaining in a hero who’s interested in fair play for all, not only the aristocracy.

Elaine Wolff


Patron superhero of the underrepresented and mocker of all that is sacred in the superhero realm is Underdog. For as long as I can remember, I admired the idea he stood for (and also the character, of course). I didn’t care if he poked fun at Superman or was a tad clumsy — that appealed to me even more. Plus, Underdog speaks in rhymes — yeah, I don’t see Batman or Aquaman with those smooth skills.

Unfortunately, last year’s live-action version of Underdog may have left a horrible impression on newbie Underdog followers, to which I say, “I am a hero who never fails. I cannot be bothered with such details.”

Jennifer Herrera


I was going to pull some obscure character out of my ass for this, like Rainbow Raider (a Current No-Prize to anyone who emails in RR’s secret origin), but I realized I had to represent for another under-appreciated but much-loved character with similarly alliterative initials: Daredevil.

Crappy movie aside, DD has the best origin in the Marvel Universe. Blinded by fate and orphaned by crime, he uses his brains as a lawyer by day and his martial-arts skills and “radar sense” to kick the shit out of criminals at night. He’s a Catholic who dresses up like a devil, and a lawyer who takes the law into his own hands — a far cry from the bland, two-dimensional do-goodery of other costumed heroes. ’Nuff said.

Chuck Kerr

Jean Grey

Always fascinated by powers of the mind, I’ve a fondness for Jean Grey — one of Earth’s most powerful telepathic brains in Marvel Comics. In addition to her ability to communicate telepathically, read the thoughts of others, and influence and control their wills, Jean’s powers are amplified exponentially because she’s an Omega-level mutant, embodying the vastly powerful Phoenix Force. When bonded to the Phoenix, Jean’s unbridled power is staggering.

An amazing depiction of Jean’s power rocks the big screen in X-Men: The Last Stand, when her Dark Phoenix powers manifest as she uses her telekinesis to attack Professor Charles Xavier. Her eyes grow black, her dark-red hair becomes a fiery orange, and her skin darkens as she shatters Xavier, who was like a father and mentor to her, into a million pieces and joins Magneto’s Brotherhood.

Nicole Chavez

Hiro Nakamura

A nontraditional choice, sure, but if he’s good enough for a Dwight Schrute-talking-head shout-out, then Hiro is good enough for me, too.

We first met the stout, time-and-space-bending Japanese superhero and his sidekick, Ando, last year on Tim Kring’s Heroes: One minute he was just another boring office worker, the next he was warping time and transporting himself to New York, where he discovered he was the main character of the comic book 8th Wonders and dutifully used his skills for good by putting a stop to that super-hot super-baddie Sylar. Awesome.

Last fall his storyline lost some major steam, but still: time-traveling to the past where you try to help your hero achieve his or her full potential? Pauline Kael would have so much to thank me for. (A broad can dream, right?)

Ashley Lindstrom

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Speaking of Last Words

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October 6, 2021

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