We're looking back at the long and weird history of superhero comics by picking our favorite heroes from each decade in our latest fantasy draft. Each team must include one character who debuted before 1950, one character that debuted in each decade from the '50s to the '90s, and one character that debuted in 2000 or beyond, plus two wildcard picks from before and after 1980, for a total team of nine characters.

In the first two roundsTara Marie picked Superman and Batwoman; Tom Speelman picked Red Tornado/Ma Hunkel and Spider-Man/Miles Morales; Elle Collins picked Midnighter and Supergirl; Andrew Wheeler picked Storm and Spider-Man/Peter Parker; Emma Lawson picked Barbara Gordon and Wonder Woman; and Kieran Shiach picked Batman and Captain America.

Today our writers pick a Doom Patroller, a dog, an extreme teen, a latter-day Stan Lee creation, and some of the most popular heroes of the 21st century.

Tara Marie: I'm a little surprised how mainstream we’re all going. Pretty much every character thus far has had a movie or TV show made about them. My next one is, unfortunately, different.

DC Comics

The 1960s are really when, to me, comics as we know them now began. It's when the JLA first appeared, it's when the Fantastic Four were born. It's also home of a bunch of trippy characters Grant Morrison would revamp years later like The Doom Patrol and, one of the best DC characters, my next pick, Animal Man (1965, Dave Wood and Carmine Infantino). As I mentioned, I'm trying to make my perfect Justice League, and it wouldn't be whole without Buddy Baker.

Andrew: I’m sure the choices will get more esoteric the further we go! The mainstream choices are also the ones most likely to be fought over.

Tom: Because I haven’t read the Grant Morrison era, whenever I think of Animal Man, my mind always leaps to the theme song from the really funny shorts Cartoon Network used to air. However, in the spirit of ‘60s characters revamped in the 1980s, I’m going with Cliff Steele himself, Robotman (1963, Arnold Drake, Bob Haney and Bruno Premiani). The only lifer on the team who’s showed up in every incarnation from the original World’s Strangest Heroes to the recent Young Animal version, Cliff is a bruiser capable of shapeshifting, flight and all sorts of stuff. Best of all, he can self-repair so destruction in battle ain’t too much of an issue.

Elle: These are fascinating choices. I love seeing who everyone’s pulling from each decade, and the balance between the heroes who were always legends, and the heroes who were pretty obscure until Grant Morrison got his hands on them.

But for my third pick, I’m jumping forwards to the post-2000 era and choosing Ms. America Chavez (2011, Joe Casey and Nick Dragotta, revised by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie). She’s definitely one of the most exciting new Marvel characters of the past decade, even though she’s not getting her own series until next year. She’s lowkey the most direct Marvel version of Wonder Woman, but this version is a gay Latina who kicks down the walls between dimensions.

Marvel Comics

Andrew: I think there’s a clear “big three” at the forefront of Marvel’s selective pursuit of diversity over the past five years, with Miles and America taking two of those spots, so let’s make it a hattrick with Ms Marvel, aka Kamala Khan (2013, Sana Amanat, G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona). I’m not alone in observing that this peppy Muslim-American hero is a 21st century update on Spider-Man, balancing the everyday troubles of teenage life with the dangers and exhilaration of being a superhero. She’s a fantastic modern spin on the Marvel archetype.

Emma: Damn you all for choosing the best post-2000 characters. I'm going to choose the last remaining decent character from the 1950s and break my all-female team by choosing Krypto (1955, Otto Binder and Kurt Swan), the superdog. He’s a handsome white dog from Krypton who rocks a red cape when he’s in superhero mode. He’s such a good dog. The best dog.

Kieran: Okay, so I didn’t get Superman, but that’s okay because one of my other favorite characters is up for grabs now that I’m into the ‘50s and that’s The Flash, Wally West (1959, John Broome and Carmine Infantino). Wally debuted as Kid Flash, but he came into his own after the death of Barry Allen when he took on the mantle of the Scarlet Speedster for himself. He’s one of the nicest, most outright fun superheroes in the DC Universe and one of the most grounded too, and if I’m going for a team of icons, I can’t say no to a Flash.

Tom: We can all agree that Wally West is the best Flash, yes?

Emma: Agreed, but I don’t really care about any of the Flashes.

Tom: Somehow, this is Greg Berlanti’s fault.

DC Comics

Tara Marie: All right, I’m going to pick a character made famous by one of my least favorite comic writers, Alan Moore. (What. Fight me.) Comic books started out with a healthy amount of horror that was swept away, long ago, and has never quite come back to its full strength. One of the best examples of horror in the DC Universe, is the adventures of Swamp Thing (1971, Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson). Whether it’s in the acclaimed Saga of the Swamp Thing, or Scott Snyder and Charles Soule’s New 52 series, or the underappreciated Justice League Dark, you can always count on Swamp Thing to be a dark, interesting addition to the DC Universe. He can travel through the universe, he once beat up God, and one time he almost destroyed Gotham. How is he not amazing?

Tom: I’m gonna jump to the decade of my birth and choose Kon-El, Superboy (1993, Karl Kesel and Tom Grummett). The ‘80s and ‘90s in Superman comics --- aka the “Triangle Title” era which saw every Superman title be one overarching story (with numbered triangles on the covers denoting the chapter the issue was) --- were a gold mine of great-to-bananas ideas, but definitely higher-up on the list was the decision to recast Superboy as a clone of Project Cadmus head Paul Westfield (later revealed to actually be a clone of Superman and Lex Luthor) who was also an #extreme #teen (the leather jacket! The haircut! The ‘tude!).

A mouthy goofball with his heart in the right place, Kon-El was made much more sober in the 2000s. But I’m specifically going with the ‘90s version that partied in Hawaii and palled around with Young Justice because he’s just more fun to be around.

Tara Marie: My favorite thing about Superboy is the fact that Geoff Johns wrote in as a reader suggesting he be a clone of Superman and Lex Luthor, only to eventually get the gig and make that true via retcon. Okay, that and his dope jacket.

Marvel Comics

Elle: I’m heading to the 1970s before I miss out on one of the superheroes most strongly associated with that decade: Luke Cage (1972, Archie Goodwin, John Romita, and George Tuska). I’ve been trying to pick heroes who couldn’t have existed in any earlier decade, and Cage is a perfect example of that. On the one hand, he was part of a growing push to represent black lives in comics, but on the other hand he was a blatant attempt to cash in on films like Shaft. His connections to ‘70s culture, slang, and clothing made him something of joke after that decade was over, but thankfully in recent years he’s largely shed those associations and risen to become one of Marvel’s most important superheroes.

Tom: He’s also in what might be, by default, Marvel’s healthiest marriage? Maybe?

Tara Marie: And the best MCU production!

Andrew: Here’s a funny thing; we’ve picked from every decade so far except the 1980s. Is that because there’s a wealth of great characters there to choose from, or is everyone slightly afraid of the 20th century’s cheesiest decade?

I’m going to go ahead and break the seal here, and pick the very last character that Stan Lee created at Marvel! (Um… until he came back with Ravage 2099 in the 90s. Hey, does anyone want to pick Ravage?) I am referring, of course, to She-Hulk (1980, Stan Lee and John Buscema), the jade giantess who stands as one of Marvel’s most compelling (and often one of its funniest) heroes. She’s full of contradictions, a super-strong brute force character with the brains of a brilliant lawyer, and that too-rare female hero who absolutely revels in her strength and her unusual appearance. She’s versatile, she’s compelling, she’s magnificent; she’s my favorite Hulk.

Emma: She (is the best) Hulk! Okay, that’s a really bad joke.

I need a bruiser on my team, so I'm going to go with Big Barda (1971, Jack Kirby). She's the biggest, strongest New God from Apokolips. She's super aggressive and absolutely smashing at smashing, but she's also a dedicated friend and lover. I feel like once she's on board with the team she'll fight till the end and crush everyone who opposes her. One of my favorite Kirby creations!

Elle: I was struggling really hard with my 1970s pick and, then I thought, “Well, I can always pick Barda as a wild card.” You’ve thwarted me again, Emma!

Emma: Great minds, Elle! I might do another 70s character as a wild card too. There are lots of fun characters from that decade.

Tara Marie: *scratches Barda off my back-up list*

Marvel Comics

Kieran: Barda was going to be my pick next round! This changes things. Okay, we’re onto the '60s now, and there’s a lot of characters to choose from, especially when it comes to my theme of icons, but I also need to fix a major discrepancy; all my team so far are white males. That kinda makes sense considering I’m moving chronologically through from the '30s, but I can do better, which is why I’m picking a founding Avenger and a Lee/Kirby original, it’s Janet Van Dyne, The Wasp (1963, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby)!

Andrew: And that brings us to the halfway mark picks!

Tara Marie: One of my favorite shows is Teen Titans, and the very best character on the show was Raven (1980, Marv Wolfman and George Perez). Now, I am primarily choosing her for her cartoon adaptation because I haven’t gotten around to reading the original series (shame, shame) but Raven is just such an interesting, deep, weird character with powers that not a lot of others in the DC have. Also, I want to dress just like her.

Tom: Raven was legit the best part of that show. Well, since Andrew broke the neon seal, I’mma go with who’s perhaps the best embodiment of the ‘80s in comics: Kitty Pryde (1980, Chris Claremont and John Byrne). She’s evolved from the kid of the X-Men to probably the most competent out of all of them. A skilled leader in the field, her powers of intangibility are also super stealth-y and can disrupt electricity. In case my team winds up fighting Doombots. But then, isn’t that a given for any team sooner or later?

Marvel Comics

Elle: I have some ideas about the ‘80s, but I’m not quite ready to make that pick yet. Instead I’m going back to the ‘60s, to recruit one of the greatest superheroes of all time, the Thing (Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, 1961). Ben Grimm is one of the warmest and most human characters in comics, despite being a gruff-demeanored orange rock monster. He also originated the idea of superhero teams having a monstrous member, something that’s become pretty standard in the decades since. Even though the Fantastic Four are currently defunct, the Thing is a team player, which is how he ended up a Guardian of the Galaxy, and also why he’ll be a great addition my imaginary team.

Andrew: All right, I've put off my top Golden Age pick for three reasons. First, there's no shortage of options from that period. Second, no-one else is very likely to pick my guy. Third, almost everyone else already picked their pre-'50s hero. But there are still wildcard options out there, so I'm going to grab him now just in case.

He's one of my all-time favorites; he's one of Marvel's very first superheroes; he's the very first flying superhero; and he's got a bad attitude and tiny trunks. Yes, he's Namor the Sub-Mariner (1939, Bill Everett). It's sort of crazy that Marvel first dipped its toe into the superhero genre with a nearly-naked eco-terrorist who pretty much hates America (and a robot on fire, of course), but that's the sort of crazy I like.

Emma: For my ‘90s pick I’m choosing Squirrel Girl (1992, Will Murray and Steve Ditko). She’s such a delightful weirdo, specifically created to star in lighthearted stories as an antidote to the grim doom and gloom we often get in superhero comics. She didn’t get her own series until The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, in which she gets even cooler and cuter, managing her college studies while kicking all kinds of butts. She’ll be the team member who will try to solve problems with words first and keep everyone else from getting too serious.

Kieran: I’m going for iconography, I’m going for star power, and most importantly I’m putting together a team, and I’ll tell you something for free; Wolverine aka Logan, (1974. Roy Thomas, Len Wein, John Romita) never met a team he didn’t join. While I’ll agree that Laura Kinney is the superior Wolverine, I enjoy the challenge of forcing myself to potentially lose out on characters by going through chronologically, and I’m putting together an A-List team, I can’t go wrong with Lucky Jim.

 

In day three: Another member of the Batfamily, a romance heroine, a handful of X-women, and one of the Green Lanterns. But which one? Come back tomorrow for the next round!