Comic characters and their pop culture counterparts
Not long ago, a lot fewer people knew who Tony Stark was or could name Thor’s brother.
Blockbuster movies have changed that, and even more obscure comic characters are likely to become household names with “Guardians of the Galaxy” this year and “Ant-Man” in 2015.
But there are other characters whose names ring a bell with the general populace – just not for the right reasons. Here are a few names that mean very different things to comic book fans and, er, normal people.
Who you think of: Jon Stewart, longtime “Daily Show” host.
Who I think of: The third Green Lantern from Earth. John Stewart debuted in “Green Lantern” #87 as a replacement for the injured Guy Gardner. His training as both an architect and a Marine Corps sniper influenced the constructs he made with his power ring. He’s perhaps best known in mainstream pop culture as the Green Lantern from the “Justice League” cartoons, which boosted his popularity in the comics as well.
Who you think of: The organization formed to protect black people from abuse in California in the 1960s that grew into a controversial cultural force.
Who I think of: T’Challa, king of the technologically advanced African nation Wakanda. The royal mantle of the Black Panther comes with a heart-shaped herb that grants the king enhanced strength, agility and senses. T’Challa would go on to become a member of the Avengers and star in one of my all-time favorite comics, his self-titled Marvel Knights series by Christopher Priest. It’s a brilliant mix of “Batman” and “Pulp Fiction” with drama, gravitas, political intrigue and gritty humor.
Who you think of: Daniel-san, or maybe Hillary Swank or Jaden Smith.
Who I think of: Val Armorr, member of the Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st century and master of every form of martial arts. DC Comics granted permission for his codename to be used as the title of the movie series originally starring Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita. But where those movies were down-to-earth, the original Karate Kid traveled the stars with a host of other young heroes defending DC’s future.
Who you think of: The titular, anthropomorphic hero of the video game series that started with one of the signature games for the Super Nintendo system.
Who I think of: A little-known (and even less respected) member of the Avengers, whose given name is Eros and who has the ability to stimulate the pleasure centers in people’s brains. The old Marvel Super Heroes role-playing game called this power “psionic tickle” – weird name for a power, but a great name for a band. As a member of a race called the Eternals, Starfox is also super-strong and nigh-immortal. His more famous brother Thanos is being built up as the big bad for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Who you think of: Tom Cruise’s character from “Top Gun;” maybe the James Garner Western TV series.
Who I think of: A Marvel character from the ’90s, when even mutants had to have guns and armor. That may have been compensation for uncertainty over what his mutant powers actually were. I first saw him on an X-Men trading card which said he could see into possible immediate futures to choose the best outcome. By the time he got his own short-lived series, he absorbed and redirected kinetic energy – again, like a lot of mutants in the ’90s. He also sort of appeared in the “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” movie as Agent Zero, with none of his various spiffy comic book powers.
Evan Bevins is the writer of the webcomic Support Group, which can be viewed at www.supportgroupcomic.com