Marvel and DC characters have shaped, formed, and practically dictated the comic book landscape for over 80 years. They have introduced the world to a plethora of well-thought-out characters and some that simply make you want to roll your eyes. Through their existence, they have made it practically impossible for small companies to rise up and create characters that are more than a flash in the pan. But as Audrey Hepburn famously said, “Nothing is impossible. The word itself says, ‘I’m possible!’”
Yes, some companies have found a way to etch their own characters into the pop culture kingdom and have done it extremely well. With that, I give you the 10 best characters that are neither Marvel nor DC.
Todd McFarlane will go down as one of the most influential Spider-Man artists in history. What he did for the wall-crawler might very well parallel what Captain Highliner did for fish sticks. Not only did he dramatically change how Spider-Man looks, but he also changed the fashion in which his webs came out.
And then he left…Spawn is the work of a man driven to show that he could successfully escape the chains that were placed on him by Marvel. He’s everything that the industry was craving at the time. He’s violent, brutal, hellbent on revenge, and worth every moment that you can give him.
2. Rick Grimes
Before the Walking Dead television show on AMC, there was (and still is) a Walking Dead book. While the series has introduced the world to many great characters, Glenn, Carl, Maggie, Michonne, and The Governor, for example, it is Rick Grimes and the human element that he brings that ties the book together.
Like so many others in the series, Rick has suffered an unimaginable amount. He has lost his wife, unborn daughter, his trust in mankind, and hand…yes, his hand. Through it all, he still keeps moving. Through it all, he still keeps leading. And through it all, he remains steadfast in his mission to keep those closest to him safe.
Created by the powerhouse team of Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting, Velvet is a spy who spends her new existence proving her innocence. And what was her old existence? A highly trained, take no prisoners, super spy that puts Black Widow to shame. She is proficient in unarmed combat, and her preference is to end encounters as quickly as she can. More than that, she possesses extensive knowledge of the use of drugs and what they can do to a person.
She wears a suit (not the tuxedo kind) that is composed of synthetic microfibers. I know that this may not seem all that great, but know this…the suit is practically resistant to impacts of any kind. Now, I’m not saying that the impact itself is something that goes unnoticed. What I am saying is that it makes her as close to bulletproof as possible. Oh, and did I mention that the suit has a flap between each arm that allows her to fly?
4. The Maxx
Only in my dreams could I imagine becoming a true-life hero responsible for protecting a “Jungle Queen”. Here’s the lowdown…
The main character, The Maxx, has a social worker friend named Julie. Unfortunately, in her past, Julie had been raped, beaten, and left to die while trying to be a Good Samaritan and help a homeless man. To cope with the trauma that she had gone through, Julie created a dream-like realm called “The Outback.”
One night while she was on her way to work, Julie inadvertently hit a man with her car. Suffering emotionally and mentally from the last time she tried to help someone, Julie decides to cover up the man with some nearby trash. Unbeknownst to her, while doing this, she accidentally opened the portal up to “The Outback,” and the man ended up merging with her.
The Maxx himself is equipped to be stronger and faster than normal humans. He also possesses claws that allow him to cut through practically anything. And on top of that, he can heal himself from just about any injury. That is, he can heal while in Maxx form. If this all sounds familiar, you’re right. A certain Canadian Marvel character can do similar things… Nonetheless, The Maxx looks cool, has amazing abilities, and comes alive in a dream world.
Growing up, I always believed Raphael to lead this quartet of turtles. I despised everything that Leonardo stood for. He was a do-gooder who personified everything it was to obey authority, be an upstanding contributor to society, and could do no wrong. Raphael, well Raphael was the opposite…and I soaked it in like the UV Rays in a tanning bed.
Like most, my adolescent years were spent opposing the confines that were set out for me. I grumbled, groaned, and complained each time that I was told I couldn’t do something or was scolded for already doing it.
Raphael, more than any of the other turtles, was/is relatable. It is for these reasons and more that he is not one of the greatest Marvel or DC characters but instead a great independent character.
Oh, Saga, where do I begin? To only pick one character is doing the series a giant disservice. But alas, I must choose one, and I choose Hazel. Obviously, she doesn’t belong in the realm of Marvel and DC characters, and that’s fine by me.
Hazel is the glue that holds Saga together. Aside from occasionally narrating the story (which, by the way, is brilliant), Hazel is the cause and effect of most things that happen to her parents, Alana and Marko. She is the offspring of Alana of Landfall and Marko of its moon, Wreath. In the realm of Saga, these two homelands are rivals who want nothing more than to destroy one another. And that’s what makes Hazel’s interaction with it so amazing.
Imagine being a baby thrown in the middle of two war-torn factions for a second. Then imagine that your existence will prevent the two sides from ever getting along. Then imagine that you are the most hated and hunted being on the planet. That’s what Hazel has to deal with.
And she does it with such class, intrigue, and humor. She is why I tune in each time an issue comes out. Being a father and watching my son grow up, I often wonder exactly what he is thinking. When I read the things that Hazel says, I can’t help but think, “Yep, that’s exactly what he is thinking.”
7. Tony Chu
I’ll be honest with you. I just found and read Chew recently. Forgive me for not paying attention to it earlier. You’ll be happy to know that I was hooked as soon as I read the first issue.
I can’t say I appreciate Tony Chu’s powers because being a Cibopath is not on my Top 10 List of things I want to become. However, it is his willingness to move forward and not let anything stop him from giving the world justice that I admire about him. I suppose it also doesn’t hurt that some of the worst things that could happen to a man happen to Tony, who takes them all in stride.
I can’t help but wonder how different the world would be if each of us looked at it like Tony Chu did. If someone else possessed the morals and virtues of Captain America (minus the eating dead things part), Tony Chu would be it.
8. Judge Dredd
“I am the law.” I’ll be upfront with you. I don’t know if it is the character I like or what the character carries and is capable of doing that I like.
Joseph Dredd is a Street Judge in the far-to-the-future place, Mega-City One. The street judges each possess the power to convict, sentence, and execute those who break the law on-site. Hence, “I am the law.” This particular judge is impressive because he carries a “Lawgiver” pistol programmed to recognize only his handprint. More than that, the “Lawgiver” handles six different types of ammunition, a boot knife, a daystick, and various types of grenades.
It gets better…He also rides around on a motorcycle known as a “Lawmaster.” The “Lawmaster” is equipped with machine guns, artificial intelligence that responds to only him, and a laser cannon. What makes him so unique is that for every year of our lives, he, too, ages a year. This is contrary to most comic book characters and adds an element of humanity to the Judge.
Some would call Judge Dredd a vigilante…I call him a hero.
9. Snake Eyes
Who would have ever thought that a toy released only to save a company would go on to become one of the most popular and awesome characters of the last 30 years? Yes, that’s right. Just in case you didn’t know, Snake Eyes was one of the original figures in the first G.I. Joe series, but to save Hasbro money, he was assembled and left unpainted.
What makes Snake Eyes so unique as compared to the rest of the Joe’s, is that his history has remained “classified.” He is a true man of mystery, and through all of his depictions, his true name, birthplace, and service number have remained a secret.
Snake Eyes is an expert in small arms and holds a Black Belt in 12 different fighting styles. Unlike almost every other hero within the ranks of the G.I. Joe’s, Snake Eyes is extremely proficient in bladed weaponry. His uniform is not a traditional army uniform, but rather he dresses in all-black attire.
In a world where we all try to be alike, I applaud him for sticking out. For this reason and more, Snake Eyes must be on this list of heroes who aren’t Marvel or DC characters.
If we were to poll a group of 100 people and ask them to name a Transformer, two names would repeatedly come up. Optimus Prime and Bumblebee.
The latter belongs on this list of heroes who aren’t Marvel or DC characters. From his inception in the 1980s to his place in the Michael Bay, over the top, same storylines rehashed movies, Bumblebee has found a place in the hearts of nearly everyone on the planet. What makes Bumblebee so special in the Transformers lore is that he, more than most Transformers, possesses an indelible amount of courage, bravery, and personal sacrifice. In fact, due to these traits, he lost his ability to speak in one of his many battles.
He is one of the smallest of the Autobots, but that doesn’t deter him from jumping into battle to protect those around him. Bumblebee deserves to be on this list because, unlike many other “heroes,” he isn’t afraid or put off that he is smaller, less experienced, or the youngest. These traits allow him to be one of the most relatable and believable characters in comics.