7 Comic Characters Who Outlasted the Trends That Made Them


Fascism: It's what's for dinner.

Who he is:

Guy Gardner was a throwaway Green Lantern character who woke up one day with a macho new personality that parodied Reaganism. DC's writers had artist Howard Chaykin design a fascist version of the Green Lantern uniform, complete with crew cut and jack boots.

Chaykin was apparently the go-to guy for that sort of thing.

What spawned him:

Political caricature.

He (Gardner, not Chaykin) invaded Russia, nearly starting a nuclear war. He tried to beat the homeless problem by beating the homeless. He believed women should be seen but not heard unless they were faking an orgasm. He literally tugged on Superman's cape. There was no problem so dangerous that Gardner wouldn't headbutt it to teach it his name.

How he survived:

Writer Keith Giffen stuck Gardner in a sitcom version of the Justice League and dialed his nuclear brinkmanship down to insufferable hilarity. Like the worst reality TV stars, he was a fascinating creep that kept the group lively.

The Justice League stayed silly till a Democrat was president. By that time comics had become a 15-year-old girl who falls in love with any jerk in a leather jacket: two qualifications Gardner already met.

And shoulder pads. But again, it was the '90s

Still Gardner stuck around, punching anyone who tried to drag him off-page. Those of you who saw the film Green Lantern know there are thousands of Lanterns, and those of you who didn't see Green Lantern know it's because they left out the only one that's entertaining. Comic nerds love to argue which Lantern is the best, which is ridiculous; it's a matter of personal taste, and it's Guy Gardner.


That villain is about three seconds away from defeating himself.

Who he is:

A security guard who time-traveled back to 1986 because that's when shallow pricks looking to get rich and famous hit their stride. He's sold out more often than Super Bowl tickets, and if he saves your life, he may drop you back into trouble so the press can film it again from his good side.

What spawned him:

If you've ever seen a John Cusack movie, you know the entire world consisted of two camps in the '80s: jocks and nerds -- often literal camps competing for a trophy and a fair young maiden's heart. Superhero comics are where readers fantasize about being strong like a jock but kind like a nerd, which is why Booster Gold upset the apple cart as a cash-obsessed cheater. He was originally a quarterback (check) covering up his daddy issues with jerk behavior (check check), until he got caught throwing the big game (checkery check check!).

How he survived:

By going full metal Breakfast Club. He befriends Blue Beetle, a fat inventor turned superhero. When detention ends, both end up more likable, and we all learned something about not judging others by the labels slapped on us by a crusty Martian principal. Booster eventually becomes Earth's greatest hero under various anonymous and time-travelly methods. He realizes that fame is so '80s, but situational irony is big with today's kids and yesterday's Shakespeare (who was also Booster in one of his disguises).

No one would claim credit for this
Of all thou wrought in hard-spun tragedies; Thy hairline was the dourest one of these.


King Features Syndicate
GILF. The sooner we all admit it the easier this will be.

Who she is:Blondie is a really, really old comic. Like, older than every Constitutional Amendment since women got the right to vote. The flapper named Blondie Boopadoop was a lead character in a time when feminism was not arresting women for showing bare shoulders.

What spawned her:

The comedic notion that a sweet girl could ever marry bourgeois capitalist pig Dagwood Bumstead. The gags derived from Mother Bumstead's nouveau riche outrage that poor people exist no matter how many wars we grind them in. And by "we," I mean Connecticut natives. Anyway, the punchlines played Blondie's earnest charm off Mother's Real Housewives of Prohibition schtick.

How she survived:

Nothing ever leaves the comic page. Your newspaper's probably still re-running Peanuts even though those have all been collected and they're stopping new talent from making a name. The jitterbug faded from the airwaves, but true love and jerk bosses are forever, so the Bumsteads moved to the 'burbs, cranked out a couple of kids, and that poor mailman has been getting clobbered ever since. The current strip focuses on Dagwood and his hilarious attempts to call forth the Elder Gods. Also, giant sandwiches.

But WHY is Dagwood the subject of this strip? I don't come here for dot-eyed slackers, I want to enjoy an irrepressible blonde in a world that hates and fears her, which I can't find since Veronica Mars disappeared from TV. Poor Blondie has been stuck in a strip named after her for 81 years, but only starred in it for two and a half of those. She didn't survive the trend that spawned her; she's shambling around it undead, at least till Dagwood traps her in a sandwich.

Brendan survived in comics long enough to write a prose book instead.

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Brendan McGinley

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