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Friday Five: Marvel Characters With the Biggest Falls from Grace

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A traditional plot device in all forms of writing is the character who is at the heights of his/her profession/field/country/whatever, and then falls from grace through their own faults or hubris or through outside forces. Since Marvel Comics has been publishing tons of stuff since the early 1960s, they have a lot of storylines that follow this arc. Here are the five of these arcs that are the best-written and the biggest, in my opinion, of course…

5. Daredevil: At one point, Daredevil was the most pure Marvel character, never giving in to temptation or crossing over to the dark side. Then came Shadowland and all that changed. Daredevil became evil and eventually fell off the radar. If Shadowland weren’t such a mediocre story, this might rank higher.

4. Dr. Strange: Dr. Strange was the sorcerer supreme and one of the most powerful and important characters in Marvel comics. I haven’t read the story of his fall, but his fall was far and significant in terms of the stories that followed. .

3. Tony Stark: Secretary of Defense and head of SHIELD who fell far enough to become the county’s most wanted criminal and then decided to erase his own brain rather than let Norman Osborn get ahold of it. He’d be higher if it weren’t for the fact that later comics are redeeming him. .

2. Norman Osborn: His rise to the top of America’s defense forces was obviously a set-up that had him destined to fall, but that doesn’t change the fact that he went from the most important person in American government to America’s Most Wanted and a prisoner in a short period of time. .

1. Professor X: From the 1960s to the 1990s, Charles Xavier was Marvel Comics’ ultimate leader, teacher and humanitarian. Turns out the whole thing was a lie as Professor X was actually comics’ biggest manipulator and mind-f**ker, much worse than what we learned about in DC’s Crises, as Xavier committed his crimes against his friends, allies and the children he mentored. There’s no bigger sign of his fall from grace than the fact that during the X-men’s toughest times in recent years, Xavier has been nigh-invisible.

Friday Five: Favorite X-Men Characters

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Sorry I missed the Friday Five last week, I was out of town. This week I’m going to take a look at the characters I like the most from my favorite family of comics ever, the X-Men. The first comic I bought was an X-Men comic and I was hooked ever since, particularly because of the great stories in the 1980s of Chris Claremont and the art of Dave Cockrum and John Byrne. As the X-universe expanded, I continued to like a lot of the work that was added to the canon over the years and it has remained my favorite. Without further ado, here are the characters that made it my favorite.

Honorable Mentions: Magneto, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Storm, Angel, Beast, Rogue

5. Professor X: Early on, Professor X was my favorite (Heck my rap name is, to this day, Professor Rex. Yes, I said my rap name. I’m a rapper in my free time). I liked the fact that, despite the fact that he was in a wheelchair, he was the most powerful mutant on Earth. I liked that he was a teacher and a leader and often taught the X-Men by letting them alone and letting them succeed or fail on their own without really ever letting them be in much real danger (except in the early days with characters like Thunderbird and Jean Gray). I didn’t like the 1990s and 2000s turn where it was revealed that he had been manipulating his students’ minds all these year. It fit and I buy it in the context of the story, but I guess I felt the same betrayal the X-Men felt.

4. Emma Frost: One of the few female superhero characters whose ridiculously inappropriate sexualized costume actually fit with her personality, I love the growth in Emma’s character over the years, going from what seemed to be one of the baddest of the bad villains to one of the key good guys. And not in the flippant, seemingly patternless way that Magneto or Quicksilver flipped back and forth, Emma’s change was the growing of her character as a human being. Her personality is a great one and seems to be quite at odds with the rest of the X-Men, which makes for reading her stories much more interesting.

3. Kitty Pryde: With the last three characters, we have the three that I identified with the most. While I always looked up to Professor X the most, I always felt the most like Kitty, the awkward young person who was good with computers and not really good yet in social situations. The person who was frequently underestimated, but still managed to somehow saved the day more often than not. I also thought that her relationship with Colossus, another of my favorites, was always the best-written of the relationships in the X-universe and, really, in most of comics. It hasn’t lived up to that in recent years, but the way it was written by Claremont back in the day was, to me, perfect.

2. Wolverine: My father is Canadian, so Wolverine was the first thing that ever connected me to my Canadian heritage. I didn’t know much about Canada growing up (other than what I saw in the movie Strange Brew), but Wolverine was from there and he was a badass, so I figured it must be pretty badass to be part Canadian. Wolverine always had the power set I most wanted in the X-universe and, for a long time, he was my favorite. But his growth was somewhat stunted over the years and he became awfully over-exposed. There may not be a Marvel character that is involved in more great stories than Wolverine, but part of that is because there are so many of those stories. Last year’s Old Man Logan and a number of other stories show there’s still a lot of good stuff being written about Wolverine, but those seem to be simple explorations of the same territory, unlike…

1. Cyclops: There are few characters in the history of comics, particularly characters who have existed for a long time (Cyclops first appeared in the early 1960s) who have grown as much as Cyclops. And few of those growth stories over time, especially over decades, make sense and are realistic and ring true. Cyclops started out as “Slim” Summers an awkward teenager with a tragic power that prevents him from experiencing life as a normal teenager and promises to prevent him from ever being part of normal society. As he masters his powers and grows to become the leader of the X-Men, he fails as often as he succeeds, but he never, well almost never (see: the start of the Madelyne Pryor storyline) gives up and he’s not particularly good at being a leader and eventually cedes his leadership position to maybe the greatest African-American female comics character ever written, Storm (shows you how great the X-Men comics have been over the years that she just misses the top 5 character list). But he fails to be dissuaded and continues to learn and grow despite going through one of the most disturbing character histories of anyone in the entire Marvel universe. But along the way, he does learn. Go back and read the X-Men issues of the mid-1980s and compare the Wolverine of then to the Wolverine of now. Very little difference. Now compare the Cyclops of then, an awkward young man searching for his place in life and trying to deal with tragedies that few could survive, to the Cyclops of now, the badass leader of the X-Men, and all of mutantkind, who can handle any problem, can make decisions none of us could ever make and who will do anything he has to do to ensure the survival of his species. And he’s winning. And he’s dating Emma Frost. As much as I always felt like Kitty Pryde and thought it would be awesome to be Wolverine, I really always aspired to be Scott Summers and be the person who could save everyone, the person who would make the hard decisions that affect the fate of an entire race, an entire planet. Cyclops is to Marvel what Jack is to Lost. These are the characters that I look up to an would most want to be — flawed leaders who learn from their mistakes and don’t always do the right thing or accept their positions of leadership with ease or calm, but do them anyway because they know no one else will do what needs to be done.

Man, that’s good writing. The fact that I can draw all of that information about Cyclops off the top of my head without having to look up a single detail shows you why he’s my favorite X-Men character and my second-favorite comic book character of all time. Behind…well, that’s a different post altogether.

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