After so many decades, so many stories and so many universes, it’s understandable that a few great characters get lost in the shuffle. We must give these underrated DC Characters their time in the spotlight. And that is what we’re going to do.
As one of the largest comic book companies in the industry, DC Comics has a wealth of characters to play with. Some of them have accomplished a lot throughout their runs and have great potential, but they are sometimes cast aside or given minor roles. So, we’ve found the top 10 most underrated DC characters that you need to check out.
Arnus – Icon
DC’s Milestone imprint, led by the late and great Dwayne McDuffie, had a lot of exciting characters. One of the best examples is Arnus, better known as Icon.
The McDuffie creation, Icon is an alien that landed in the United States during the era of slavery. His life-pod makes him adopt a similar look to the black woman that found him. He assumes the identity of Augustus Freeman IV, a successful lawyer. Circumstances eventually lead him to use his power to fight crime in Dakota City.
Icon has gone on to become a fan-favorite with DC fans. He is one of the most integral parts of the Milestone universe. His calm demeanor and intelligence are often just as important as his superpowers. His own series was one of the most exceptional runs in the industry and one of McDuffie’s many achievements.
Milestone certainly deserves a comeback, and if it ever happens, Icon is a must in that regard.
Nathaniel Christopher – Captain Atom
Captain Atom was initially created by Charlton Comics and none other than legendary artist Steve Ditko in 1960. DC purchased Captain Atom, along with the rest of the company’s characters, when it went under in 1986. For this list, we are focusing on the DC iteration of the character, Nathaniel Christopher.
Nathaniel Christopher is an Air Force pilot that submitted himself to a government experiment. It resulted in him being disintegrated and coming back as a super-powerful being known as Captain Atom. Captain Atom is also the inspiration for Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen (especially his origin story in the Charlton Comics version).
He is one of the most powerful beings in DC Comics, even surpassing the likes of Superman. Captain Atom’s powers include matter manipulation, super strength, and he can control his own body to appear and disappear with ease. With all this, it’s criminal how underused and underrated he is.
DC tried a couple of times to reinvent the character, yet none have managed to stick. It’s a shame considering the character’s role as a government figure. That position could be used for exciting concepts, and with his power levels, DC could pit him against powerful entities.
The late 50s were not the easiest time for comic books. In an effort to try something new, DC decided to add science fiction layers to their stories. That’s how Adam Strange, created by legendary DC editor Julius Schwartz, came to be.
Adam Strange is an architect that gets teleported to the planet Rann by a Zeta-Beam. He is randomly selected to become the protector of Rann and must face the things that threaten it. Adam falls in love with a woman named Alanna, and they have a family. He goes back and forth between the two planets because the Zeta-Beams only allow him to stay on Rann for a certain amount of time (although this has been altered throughout the years).
Adam is one of DC’s most interesting cosmic characters. There’s an excellent mixture of superhero exploits, sci-fi, romance, and also an epic feeling to the story. As the only protector of a whole planet, he has to triumph. Despite having a few miniseries and a lot of appearances in major characters’ titles, Adam hardly ever gets the credit and spotlight he deserves.
Vic Sage – The Question
There are few characters in the history of comics who can claim to have defined a style and a look. But that is Charles Victor Szasz, known as Vic Sage, achieved by becoming the Question.
Much like Captain Atom, he was a Ditko and Charlton Comics creation. He showed up for the first time in 1967, and he later on became a DC character when the company disappeared. He is the inspiration for Alan Moore’s character in Watchmen, Rorschach.
Even though Vic’s protégé, Renee Montoya, took the mantle of the Question for a couple of years, it’s his time in the role that puts him in this list. During Ditko’s run in Charlton, the Question was a reflection of his views on objectivist vision. The Question is the ultimate example of the legend’s philosophy on superheroes. Because of this, he’s a more brutal character than most in the industry during the 60s.
In 1987, after DC’s purchase of the character, the Questions got its own title with legendary writer Dennis O’Neill at the helm. With DC he adopted a Zen-like approach to his crime-fighting ways. The run lasted almost forty issues, and it’s one of DC’s best works during that decade. It’s important to remember such a fascinating and insightful character that had a more ideological and philosophical approach than most in the industry.
Ronnie Raymond/Martin Stein – Firestorm
Firestorm, especially the original Ronnie Raymond/Martin Stein iteration of the character, is often overlooked among DC characters, despite showing up in both comics and shows and having an excellent run in the 80s with his creator, Gerry Conway, at the helm.
The teenage jock Ronnie Raymond and scientist Martin Stein find themselves victims of a nuclear accident. They develop the ability to unite to become a unique individual that can control matter. He is essentially a walking nuclear weapon. They aptly name themselves Firestorm, the Nuclear Man.
One of the things that makes Firestorm so interesting is the combination of personalities. Ronnie controls the body when they unite, and Stein provides the intelligence and knowledge of nuclear matters to seize all the possibilities their powers offer.
Despite having difficulties carrying a title these days, Firestorm is definitely one of DC’s best characters. His 80s comics deserve a good read if you want some classic superhero stories to enjoy.
Virgil Hawkins – Static
If you’re from my generation, then this one is going to bring a smile to your face.
Static is, without a shadow of a doubt, the biggest success story in the Milestone imprint and Dwayne McDuffie’s crowning achievement. This is due to the success of the comics and the animated series from the early 2000s (in which McDuffie had a lot of input).
Virgil is a teenager that gets doused with chemicals during a gang war in Dakota City. This grants him electromagnetic powers, and he takes the identity of Static to fight crime. McDuffie took inspiration from Spider-Man to create Virgil. He is a contemporary African-American teenager, often dealing with issues involving friends, love, gangs, drugs, and many other things. This relatability made Static one of the most fascinating comic books in DC’s history.
The character is a fan favorite. Yet, despite the odd appearance here and there, Static has lacked the spotlight that he enjoyed in the 90s. With the end of his comic or in the early 2000s with the animated series, he’s faded into the shadows — which is perhaps one of DC’s biggest mistakes in recent times.
Tim Drake – Robin/Red Robin
Tim Drake is often forgotten when talking about the best sidekicks in comics history, mostly because he has proven to be too good at it. He might not be the most interesting character to take up the Robin mantle, but you can’t deny that he is the best at the job.
Tim Drake showed up in 1989 and became the third Robin after Jason Todd’s famous death at the hands of the Joker in A Death in the Family. He became a very popular character in the 90s and was the first Robin to have his own solo title — and a key member of Geoff Johns’ rejuvenation of the Teen Titans.
Tim is also the most reliable Robin — and, one could argue, the most reliable hero in all of Gotham. His intellect and detective skills rival those of Bruce Wayne. He takes a logical approach to things and has an efficiency that won him the respect of some of DC’s most prominent antagonists — even Ra’s Al Ghul.
Donna Troy – Wonder Girl/Darkstar
Imagine being around for more than five decades, leading one of DC’s flagship teams, and being one of the most powerful female characters out there, but still not getting much (if any) spotlight throughout the years. Well, that is the story of former Wonder Girl and Darkstar, Donna Troy.
Donna’s origin story has been altered and retconned several times. Sometimes she’s born on Paradise Island and others she is rescued by Wonder Woman and taken there. But the one constant is her relationship with Diana and how she became a founding member of the Teen Titans as Wonder Girl.
She is a capable leader, a loyal friend, a fierce fighter, and a loving mother. Donna is someone who endures loss and tragedy — yet, she overcomes. She is an essential part of the Titans along with Dick Grayson and Wally West, and she’s often the glue that holds the team together.
Floyd Lawton – Deadshot
Deadshot has been around for a very long time, and he has a few great miniseries and a phenomenal role in those memorable Suicide Squad runs of the 80s. Yet, he is mostly forgotten in the grand scheme of the DC universe, which is definitely a waste.
One of the aspects that make Deadshot so fascinating is his complicated moral spectrum. This sometimes places him as a villain (most of the time against Batman) and other times as an antihero, making him a very flexible character. He has also proven to be the best shooter in the DC universe. He hardly misses a shot and has some very decent leadership qualities after his stint with the Suicide Squad.
Kyle Rayner – Green Lantern/Ion/White Lantern
Kyle Rayner is one of DC’s greatest creations since the 1990s. Yet, he has been forgotten in recent times. He’s become second fiddle to the likes of Hal Jordan and John Stewart in the Green Lantern franchise.
Kyle was created by writer Ron Marz and artist Darryl Banks in 1994 to replace Hal Jordan after he became Parallax. He becomes the main (and for a long time, the only) Green Lantern in the DC universe. Kyle grows into the role by learning from other heroes and becomes a member of the Justice League. He even becomes the most powerful Green Lantern ever through the power of Ion.
Kyle proved to be one of the most multi-dimensional characters in DC’s roster, with a clear sense of heroism and wanting to do the right thing. He has a very human origin story, too. After he lost his girlfriend, Alex, because of his exploits, he has to overcome his own self-doubt to become a better superhero.
Despite not having any major adaptation or role in any big event, Kyle Rayner is a fan favorite and definitely DC’s most underrated character throughout the years.
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