By Terry Fleming • August 29, 2021
With movies like Suicide Squad, Birds of Prey, The Suicide Squad (different from the first), and the upcoming Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Morbius, and Eternals, some critics are saying we're scraping the bottom of the comic book barrel in terms of what characters are being showcased. And indeed, Shang-Chi was never an A-list character for Marvel. Making his debut in Marvel comics' Special Marvel Edition #15 in 1973, many comic book experts believe he was an answer to the popularity of Bruce Lee. And while he's appeared in many different titles throughout the years, he was never a big hit in and of himself.
But I don't consider that a bad thing. After all, Black Panther didn't start out as a top-tier character, and the Black Panther movie was a gigantic success. Personally, as a lifetime comic book fan, I love the more obscure and bizarre comic book characters. And it's in that spirit that I present the following—ten titles that in some way feature the arcane, ambiguous, and/or asinine from the world of comics:
Who's Who Omnibus Vol. 1
For the DC universe, it doesn't get more comprehensive than this! More than 1,300 pages of DC comic book history. Ever want to find out the origin of Mist Master? Duo Damsel? Dr. Polaris? It's all here! An absolute MUST for anyone who considers themselves a scholar of comics!
The Marvel Encyclopedia & DC Comics Encyclopedia
These titles covering the Marvel and DC comic book universes respectively are not as definitive as Who's Who, but still gives you a solid understanding of the major players (and more than a few of the minor ones).
Shang-Chi by Gene Luen Yang Vol. 1: Brothers and Sisters
Want to see a modern interpretation of the Shang-Chi character? Look no further than this title. An "epic tale of family, betrayal and justice."
Marvel's Myths and Legends
With the release of Eternals right around the corner, what better time to acquaint yourself with the gods and goddesses of the Marvel canon?
Exploring Gotham City
This title is included for its unique take on the world of Batman. Explore the mean streets of Gotham City and discover all of the gritty landmarks that make this urban hellscape a character all its own.
Metal Men: Elements of Change
I loved the Metal Men as a kid. What other group of superheroes could lay claim to having been built in a lab by a madman? Follow the new adventures of Gold, Platinum, Iron, Lead, Tin and Mercury as they fight bad guys, bend into interesting shapes, try to keep Doc Magnus from going bonkers and attempt to find their humanity.
The League of Regrettable Superheroes & The Legion of Regrettable Supervillains
Doesn't get weirder than this. Learn about Doctor Hormone, Bozo the Iron Man, The Horrible Hand, and MUCH MORE in these shameful compendiums of super dufuses!
Basically, a mindless swamp monster who sort of creeps around. Sometimes, it scares children, and it fought the Hulk once and was torn to shreds (only to reform). In other words, relentless fun!
These next two characters are only runners-up because, well, while they started out as obscure they're both now rather mainstream. Still, let's pay homage to their odd roots:
Standing in stark contrast to Man-Thing, here's a swamp monster who is anything but mindless. These titles are part of the classic run of Swamp Thing by Alan Moore. After Watchmen, this is considered by many to be Moore's greatest comic book achievement.
Earth's Sorcerer Supreme! Read all about the mystical side of Marvel with the good doctor's exploits, and then watch the movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the magic man himself.