The Decade-By-Decade Superteam Fantasy Draft: Day Four
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 final day of our fantasy draft, our writers pick a spy, a magician, a feminist icon, and another Green Lantern, and they move away from Marvel and DC to pick some great heroes from beyond the Big Two to round out their teams.
Tara Marie: I’m going to go with a wild card pick. If you haven’t noticed I’ve been trying to grab a lot of the different elements. I’ve got Animal Man and Swamp Thing for the Red and the Green, Raven for magic, Harper for tech, and I was thinking that one of the only things I was missing was water. It took me awhile to think of an aqua user I wanted to grab, but finally I landed on someone I know best for her incredibly underused appearance in Young Justice, Aquagirl, AKA Tula (1967, Bob Haney and Nick Cardy). She’s a great, cool character who needs to be in more stuff, so why not my team?
Tom: Gonna branch out on these last two picks outside the Big Two, so I'm going with The Spirit (1940, Will Eisner). Danny Colt is a brawler and a detective, so he knows how to hunt down bad guys. Plus, with his buddy Commissioner Dolan in charge of the Central City police force, he can house the team without fuss in his sweet cemetery HQ and they'll have police backup if they need it.
Elle: It’s wildcard time, and I’m going pretty wild with my post-1980 pick. If I’m putting together a team that represents the history of comics, I really want to have at least one creator-owned, indie-published hero. Also, currently my team only has one monster on it, and that’s not enough for my aesthetic.
So I’m adding Shadoweyes (2010, Sophie Campbell). Scout Montana was a teenage girl in the post-apocalyptic city of Dranac, who wanted nothing more than to fight crime. When a mysterious incident led to her mutation into a frightening (but vaguely adorable) creature, she took the opportunity to become Dranac’s own superhero. While her perspective is very different, she’s actually the fourth teenage girl on my team, so she’ll be able to make some friends, and I love the idea of Ben Grimm becoming her mentor.
Tom: I've not read Shadoweyes yet, but she sounds terrific! Plus I'm in favor of anything that gives ol’ Ben a reason to be a gruff, well-meaning mentor.
Andrew: I need to cross the ‘50s off my list, and that’s a tough decade if I’m sticking with my Marvel theme, because Marvel superheroes were fairly dormant back before DC injected new life into the genre late in the decade. In fact, Marvel wasn’t even Marvel in the ‘50s; it was Atlas.
That gives you a clue where I’m going. I’m picking Jimmy Woo (1956, Al Feldstein and Joe Maneely), Agent of Atlas, who fought Asian stereotypes both in the sense of his yellow peril nemesis and in being a too-rare Asian hero in ‘50s American comics. With his high-tech spy gadgets and his history on the Godzilla task force, I think he’s ready for anything, including another Marvel Comics comeback.
Emma: Elle reminded me that there’s more to superhero comics than just Marvel and DC, so for my next pick I’m going with Faith Herbert aka Zephyr (1992, Jim Shooter and David Lapham). Folks are probably most familiar with her from the bestselling 2016 Faith miniseries, popular enough that it led to an ongoing series. She’s a giant nerd, a superhero fan who became a superhero herself, and she’s just so full of love and energy. She’s also one of the very few fat characters in comics who isn’t the butt of fat jokes --- well, not anymore (bless you, Jody Houser).
Andrew: Near as I can tell, Emma, your last two picks, Zephyr and Squirrel Girl, debuted within weeks of each other! Which makes it all the more remarkable that they’re both getting major revivals at the same time!.
Emma: Maybe the '90s weren’t so bad after all!
Kieran: So, I didn’t get Superman, and I’m still a bit frosty about that, but now that I’m in the 2000s I can choose the best Marvel analogue to Superman. He debuted in a miniseries that supposed he’d been around in the Marvel Universe all along but people had forgotten about him, and made his grand return fighting alongside The Avengers.
That’s right, my pick is the Blue Marvel (2008, Kevin Grevioux and Mat Broome). Wait, you thought I was talking about The Sentry? Ha, heck no! Dr. Adam Brashear has become a favorite of mine over the past couple of years, and now I’ve also got a power couple on my team to boot, which I’m pretty happy about.
Tara Marie: Wow, great choice. He’s in my favorite Marvel team (and maybe favorite Marvel book?) so I’m kinda really jealous.
Tom: Literally the only cool thing ever done with the Sentry that I can think of is when the Void possessed Dr. Strange during World War Hulk. So Kieran, you made the right choice.
Andrew: Final pick! Three of us are picking characters from 1980 or later, and three are picking characters from before 1980. Let’s make ‘em gnarly, dudes!
Tara Marie: All right. All right. I’ve been trying to figure out someone else to get, and I really want my team to have someone who is --- at best --- morally grey. So I’m going with someone who is inarguably a “hero” despite the fact that, no he totally isn’t. I’m grabbing the Sting-looking, cigarette smoking, unadaptable, magic con artist, John Constantine (1984, Alan Moore, Stephen R. Bissette, John Totleben). I was trying super hard to keep my team pure and nice and, well, what fun is that? Adding Constantine ensures my team will be ready for anything, except perhaps to work together.
Tom: Curses! Well, you want gnarly? I'll give you gnarly with my final pick of Glory (1993, Rob Liefeld). Every team needs an outsider and, while Superboy seems to steal that spot by virtue of being a #teen #clone, he's basically your everyday radical ‘90s kid.
Glory, on the other hand, is a bit more complex. A half-Amazonian, half-demon warrior who's also an albino alien, if you go by the 2011 Joe Keatinge/Sophie Campbell version (which I am). Glory is a child of two worlds who goes to Earth because she doesn't fit in anywhere else. She's also a fierce brawler who can more than hold her own, and I can see her picking up lessons in humanity from both Ma Hunkel and Kitty. Plus my ‘shipper’s heart wants scenes of her and Danny being hotheaded and flirty with each other. Every team needs a romance, right?
Elle: Looking at my team as I consider my final pick, I can’t help but notice that my heroes are all some mix of sci-fi and street level vigilantes, so I really want to bring in a magical character. And it so happens that there’s one classic DC hero who nobody’s picked yet, and she fits perfectly. So I’m rounding out my team with Zatanna (1964, Gardner Fox and Murphy Anderson). She’s a sorceress, a stage magician, and a legacy hero. She can do just about anything with her magic, and she does it by talking backwards, which is a fun gimmick.
Andrew: I'm stuck in the '90s for my final pick, and if I were being smart and tactical, I'd go for Deadpool, one of the most popular characters around, and a definitively '90s Marvel character.
But I'm choosing heart over brain and picking a different creation from the exact same creative team, nay, the exact same book, debuting just one issue later than Deadpool. It's my boy, Shatterstar (1991, Fabian Nicieza and Rob Liefeld). This isn't even the first time I've picked him in one of these fantasy drafts, but look; ever since Peter David and David Yardin threw away the head croissant and reconceived the character as a dapper queer swashbuckler, he's been my favorite. Even if no-one else wants him, he'll always have a place on my team.
Emma: I don’t think my team is particularly well rounded, but I’m fine with that. For my final pick I’m going with someone who I’m absolutely surprised has lasted this long considering she’s an amazing team player and leader: Carol Danvers (1968, Roy Thomas and Gene Colan). She’s known best as Ms. Marvel and Captain Marvel, but she also went by Binary and Warbird. Even without a superhero alias, she was a butt-kicking Air Force officer fighting for equal pay for women in the ‘70s. I’m just going to pretend that Civil War II didn’t happen.
Elle: Oh good pick. For some reason I was thinking she was already claimed. And don’t worry, I pretend every day that Civil War II didn’t happen.
Tom: Civil what now?
Kieran: The last pick of the draft, I’m up to the 2010s and I’ve gotta make it count. I thought Silk might just make it this far, but unfortunately she got picked up. I had my eye on a few other characters to, but ultimately I’ve settled on Green Lantern, Jessica Cruz (2014, Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis).
I’ve really been enjoying the current Green Lanterns title from DC Rebirth and I love the idea that just because you have the ability to overcome great fear, it doesn’t mean you always will. Jessica and Simon Baz are both interesting looks into how fear and overcoming it affects us in the 21st century, but ultimately I went for Jessica to balance out the gender ratio a bit --- and she doesn’t carry a gun. I like Simon, but that gun’s a deal breaker for me.
Tom: I love Jessica! Her struggles with anxiety hit super close to home so I'm glad someone picked her.
Elle: This has probably been my favorite fantasy draft that we’ve done. The field was so open, but the restrictions were clear, and I think we’ve ended up with a bunch of really cool teams. Of course, I like mine the best.
Tara Marie: Same, same. I’m still kinda surprised how mainstream we all went though. I was sticking to DC, but I really wanted to grab Marvel’s Angela, and some of the Sailor Scouts, and a couple of others. I’m honestly surprised no one like Spawn, Savage Dragon, or the kid from Invincible ended up on here. Though we did grab Zephyr and the Spirit, so that’s good!
Elle: That’s one of the reasons I decided to add Shadoweyes late in the game. I mean, she’s great and fits into my team, but I definitely was thinking about pulling someone less mainstream.
Andrew: The Big Two are pretty hard to beat when it comes to superheroes --- and hey, some of these heroes weren’t Marvel or DC until they became Marvel and DC!
Even though I decided to go pure Marvel, I’m pleased with the story that my team tells about the history of the superhero, and I managed to use my wildcards to make sure I had picks for literally every decade from the 30s to the 10s.
Emma: This was definitely my favorite fantasy draft too, and it’s hard not to go mainstream when you have the chance to pick characters like Superman and Wonder Woman. I’m glad I managed to sneak in one non-Big Two character, but I wish I had more women of color and queer ladies on my team. Some decades made that pretty hard.
I like that we all took fairly different approaches to building our teams and still all ended up with awesome teams. There are just so many fun superheroes out there to choose from!
Kieran: I think this exercise shows there’s no excuse for a team of six men and a girl, all of whom are cis, straight and white, and there never really was one. I don’t know how conscious everyone else was, but after I made my second or third pick, I started thinking that I wanted to balance out the blonde-haired, blue-eyed, straight white man of comics’ golden age as much as I could, as early as I could, and it seems like everyone else did too.
Elle: This is both the most and the least I’ve ever considered diversity in doing one of these drafts. I’ll admit there have been times in previous drafts when I’ve thought, “Oh, next round I’d better pick someone who’s not straight and white, for balance,” but this time around it was about representing the evolution of superhero comics, so it was an integral part of that for the heroes to get more diverse as we get closer to the present.
The straight white characters on my team are only the ones from the ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s, as it turns out. And both of my post-2000 picks are queer women of color, because that’s where comics are now, whether all of comics is comfortable with that yet or not.
Andrew: I know that whenever we’ve done this before, a lot of my favorite female heroes got snapped up in the first two rounds and I’ve ended up with fewer women on my team than I wanted, so I was a little more aggressive about putting women on my team this time around.
I did think about putting one more queer character on my team in addition to Storm and Shatterstar; Rawhide Kid. But I didn’t want to endorse the horrible comic that established Rawhide Kid as gay --- Marvel still needs to do penance for that one. And anyway, for '50s heroes I like Jimmy Woo better.
Tom: Overall, I'm pretty happy with my team, and I think I went pretty eclectic. Like Kieran noted, it's hard to escape that basically every Golden Age hero was a blond, white, cis dude except, like, Red Tornado and The Green Turtle.
But overall, I think something I hit on without meaning to is how the concept of the superhero has spread throughout the decades to include everyone. I also noticed how the concept is pretty malleable --- from comedy to straight-forward do-gooders to metaphors for the outsider experience. It's a lot more than dudes punching murder clowns, when you get right down to it.
As for everybody else, dang, y'all are good at this! Several times, I wouldn't realize I'd missed a chance to pick someone like Silk or Zatanna until you guys did it! So kudos to y'all for your excellent drafting skills.
Vote for your favorite Decade-By-Decade Fantasy Superteam below!