Who’s The NOBLEST Superhero?

This is Scipio territory. Be warned.

The noblest DC character is The Huntress.

The noblest Marvel character is The Hulk.


More substantial post coming soon.


48 responses to “Who’s The NOBLEST Superhero?

  1. Hulk? Why? Any rational analysis would show he must have “smashed” (ie murdered) thousands of innocents over the years. Not noble. Not close to it.

  2. Plok’s viewing the Hulk in his more classic Wein/Trimpe form, I think. In which case, you could make the argument. Though he is hounded by everyone, the Hulk fights monsters and does the right thing (aside from massive property damage caused by hissy fits) time and again.

    I suspect he’s picked the Huntress for a similar reason — she was the daughter of a Mafia kingpin who lost her entire family to yet more crime. That’s the origin of crimelords, not heroes. Yet out of it, she became a superhero.

    Those two are examples of characters rising above expectations to become heroic. One would expect the Hulk and the Huntress, both hot-tempered characters with ugly pasts and uncertain presents, to be villains; yet they are the reverse. Frank Miller made the same argument about Daredevil in his “Man Without Fear” miniseries.

    However, one could make the counter-argument that nobility should be measured not by how much one exceeds expectations, but by how far one goes in one’s nobility. For example, one would expect that Captain America would be a noble guy; he had a lot of things go his way, and he is widely respected. Yet he goes beyond even that, and is almost excruciatingly noble. The problem is, his sort of nobility is hard to relate to, since it’s that of the Very Good Man doing the most rightest thing even when it’s difficult. We have an easier time understanding and appreciating the Not So Good Man doing the right thing at all.

    One could also argue that Superman is hugely noble for what he doesn’t do: conquer the world. He could, and he knows it, but he instead chooses to help, because of his nobility.


  3. But how can you be noble and have massive hissy fits at the same time? Wordnet defines nobility as “the quality of elevation of mind and exaltation of character or ideals or conduct” Maybe Hulk manages more than you might expect, but we’re not expecting much.

    Annoying flirtations with Gambit, I’d be tempted to nominate Rogue as Marvel’s most noble, though I’ll have to think further on the matter.

  4. Hey, I have massive hissy-fits all the time, and yet I’m noble…

    Cap had it easy: he swallowed the potion/accepted the injection, and instead of dying he became a great physical specimen. He could have died; instead, he didn’t. Hey: terrific news.

    For Bruce Banner, the equation was a little bit tougher, though. Hey, did you save the kid? Congratulations, that was the right thing to do! And now here’s your reward, sucker. Ha ha ha. And you’ll do good, almost by accident, but people will hate you for it. Oh, and you’ll be pardoned one time; but you’ll fuck it up. You’ll hide and run. But someone’s always going to punch you in the face, or toss you in a pit. And sooner or later you’ll meet that fucker Thor, and get banged around.

    It’s a hard-knock life.

  5. The argument against the Hulk is that a lot of his trouble is of his own making, and that lashing out in violence, out of proportion to an offense, is the exact reverse of nobility. Hulk has his noble moments, but he’s often too self-involved to merit the title.

  6. Typo. That should have read “Annoying flirtations with Gambit aside”. Rogue’s choice in men is both shite and predictable. But she has to use self-control every time she’s near anyone. She can’t touch any other person, ever, and she’s just a kid, really. Nobility is self-restraint.

    She’s been known to have the occasional hissy-fit, mind.

  7. Check out Kalinara’s blog, Pretty,Fizzy Paradise, for a recent entry taking the exact opposite take on the Hulk.

    I don’t think the Hulk’s that noble either. Captain America’s a good choice, though. It’s not his fault his life isn’t as tough as the Hulk’s is.

  8. It’s hard for me to argue the case for anyone except poor Petey Parker. His personal life and super-hero career are both defined by his continued attempts to always do the right thing, even if it means fighting super-villains with an ulcer in a rain-soaked costume and not-enough-web-cartridges while Aunt May is in the hospital dying from her terminal-condition-of-the-week. Granted he has a personal life (even if it is in shambles most of the time) while ol’ Greenskin is constantly on the run looking for new stretchy pants… but still.

    As for Brand Ecch characters… I think they’re all pretty noble to continue fighting for the losing team, our Distinguished Competition!


  9. Huntress is noble, but she sometimes gets rash and vindictive–Wonder Woman doesn’t know how to be anything *but* noble.

    As for Marvel–hmm they’re all kind of dysfunctional, huh?

  10. I have to second Smiling Stan on Peter Parker. But if he weren’t around, how about Luke Cage? Unjustly imprisoned and abused, he had better grounds for revenge than the Wrecker, the Sandman, etc. He could have been a formidable villain. But instead he always looked for the right thing to do, and he’d treat a one-dollar contract as a matter of integrity.

    On the DC side, my vote goes to the Swamp Thing. As I was saying a few threads back, it was pure hopeless love that brought him back to purpose, and he’s never compromised that. He very rarely let self-pity cloud his vision, so he was open to the Long Green View when it came calling. And think how much the humour in his dealings with John Constantine was in the contrast between Alec’s stolid live-and-let-live, and our sharp lad’s weaseliness.

  11. Oh: never mind, you guys. I know who it is.

    The noblest character, DC or Marvel, is Sir Justin, the Shining Knight. And I don’t think it’s close.

  12. I’d almost say Howard the Duck. He always starts out with every intention of just concentrating on his own survival and well-being and letting the hairless apes stew in their own mess, and then in spite of himself he consistently fails to do so (see: Howard’s stint as a debt collector for a rent-to-own electronics store).

    And of course an honorable mention for Unca Benjy, who I can’t believe no one has brought up yet.

    Um, what’s a “DC?”

  13. I don’t think HULK can qualify, for WHATEVER reasons you may wish to offer.

    SURE, he saved Rick Jones.
    SURE, he serves to fight the other monsters to protect the “puny humans” that pester and beleaguer him.
    SURE, he serves as a hero (anti-, reluctant or otherwise).

    But you know what?
    Doesn’t mean squat.

    Because WHY is he the HULK?
    Building a GAMMA-BOMB for the Army.

    A bomb.
    Not JUST a bomb, but a better, more destructive & radiation-filled kind of bomb.

    ANYTHING he did after that falls not under the heading of nobility, but of REDEMPTION.

    As for his hissy-fits, and destructive behaviour, isn’t that still the child-within (and the whole split personality, abused as a child) dealie that Peter David (or was it Byrne) whipped up?
    So, even his behaviour is more driven by the judgements of whatever persona of which he’s under sway.

    Green angry/childlike Hulk = little boy Bruce
    Grey / sly / cruel = aspect of his father in his mental picture
    “Professor” = Smart Banner finally having some control, but either being a dick or trying too hard for the approval of those who have hunted, hated and feared him for so long.

    Nothing in there is noble.

    Just my take on it, so I could be wrong.


    As for other suggestions…

    Superman isn’t really noble either.
    He was raised by a loving, god-fearing, simple couple who ingrained within him all the proper, ethical lessons that everyone should strive to live by.

    The fact that he has the power to “kick the planet out of orbit”, doesn’t factor into it.
    If anything, he knows that since everyone should use their “god-given gifts” for the betterment of mankind, he has more to give.

    No nobility there either.
    Just a guy living by the golden rule.

    His parents are so pleased (but couldn’t he call more often?).


    I don’t know too much about some of the DC roster, but isn’t MR MIRACLE some sort of NOBLE character?

    He escaped from the dungeons of Apokolypse, and COULD stay free, away from the horrors of Darkseid’s rule.
    However, instead, he gives up his own freedom and safety to go BACK into it all and try to free everyone else.

    Self sacrifice? Check.
    Going into the mouth of hell when it would be easier to run? Check.
    Sounds pretty noble to me.


    Howard the Duck?

    Well… he ends up doing what’s RIGHT.
    That’s for sure, but more out of righteous indignation than nobility.
    He’ll save the little guy from being steped on by the big bad, but not because he wants to save the poor shmoe (hell, Howard probably hates the innocent for bending over and TAKING it for so long. Hell (again), the poor loser might even DESERVE to be kicked)…
    Nope. He’ll go right in the face of the baddie for the simple reason that the evil guys have no right to do so.
    And dammit, it’s not going to do down on his watch.


    Shining Knight?
    The DC throwback to the “knights of old” type of story from the 40’s?
    Yeah. That’s pretty much his whole BAG, isn’t it?
    Most noble of knights?
    Can’t argue with that one.

    I’veonly read a few stories with him though.
    He seemes a bit “boring” though.
    (Sweet Frazetta art notwithstanding)



    Even Peter Parker isn’t all that noble.
    First chance he had at control over his life and destiny and he became a dick. Right out of the gate.
    Sure, he was probably happy to finally be free of the feeling of being a bullied-nerd-loser, but still, his “I’m looking out for # 1” attitude after the bite was all DICK.

    Everything after that, is redemption and guilt.
    Peter is still one of my all-time favorite characters, and “someone” to sort of emulate as a “role-model”.
    Do what’s right, no matter what the cost.

    But that came to him after the fact of his dickery costing his uncle his life.


    DOOM has nobility.
    In SPADES.

    But, ONLY up to the point that he was willing to do ANYTHING to save his mother’s soul from hell.

    A good percentage of his entire story-line was based in that one singular goal.

    But the Machiavellian manner in which he pursued that goal tossed all nobility out the window.

    He was doing all nature of bad stuff to position himself (in power, tech, knowledge and “favors”) to be able to win her freedom.

    Even when he finally DID SO, he “sold out” Doctor Strange to Mephisto in the process*.

    *OK. He really DIDN’T, but he gave that impression (lying to the devil. nice touch).
    If Strange didn’t notice the little tech-item in his hand when he woke up in Mephisto’s prison, he might have BEEN trapped.

    So, DOOM = Noble, but not the kind you can count on.

    Doom lives by his own rules and can not be judged by our standards.


    Captain America IS Noble.
    (Loathe as I am to say so, since I really hate the character)

    A scrawny 4F kid, who sees the injustices and horrors of war and want to do ANYTHING he can to help fight against it?

    Signs up for an experimental drug that could just as easily kill him?

    Hides his serum-bequeathed superiority behind the bumbling outer appearance of an inept soldier, instead of putting himself in the face of all his superior officers for the sake of the mission?

    Sure, he gets played as an unchanging, out of touch “old man” now and again, but the core of the character is one of simple nobility and self sacrifice.
    He will fight and die for your freedom.

    Pompous windbag?
    Maybe so (under some writers).

    Ridiculously “unbeatable”?
    Oh, yeah. Absolutely.

    But Noble?
    Yes. Yes he is.


    Are there any characters who went to do the right thing BEFORE they got their powers, only to have it blow up in their face (even better if that was literally what occurred) and they were now disfigured, or maimed or damaged by it, and then STILL went ahead and acted the hero?

    Kind of like the TOXIC AVENGER but not so violent.

    That would get my vote.

    OK. I’m done – for now.


  14. Ha! Sometimes drinking and blogging do mix, I think — these are great answers. And, although I think I may have lied about it getting into Scipio territory, it has gotten into a territory I rather like, so…

    Matthew hits on it: in fact I did read Kalinara’s post about the Hulk, and how (if I may sum up) she’s got no sympathy for the Hulk. I refrained from commenting (though I kind of wanted to) because it seemed to me I’d only come off as a little dickish — because the Hulk she and her commenters describe is in my old-guy opinion not really the Hulk at all. So rather than be the crotchety guy in the corner, I put up this post. And why? Because I was thinking of something while reading that post, which is: gee, but Marvel’s sliding timescale is really starting to cause problems, now. Inevitably, I guess: what was once fifteen years compressed into about ten is now close to fifty compressed into about fifteen, which as I think I’ve rattled on about at some length on this blog is a thing that makes the consultation with Marvel “history” start to look damn silly…if Ben Grimm became the Thing fifteen years ago, and if all the stories count, then he’s been cured about twice a year every year since that time, and it seems a lot like Peter Parker was all busted up about Gwen Stacy for about a day and a half that one time, maybe as much as a week. And it’s only going to get worse.

    But — you’ve heard all that before. So what’s my beef today? Only because reading that post and its comments made me realize that condensing fifty years into fifteen is having some really weird consequences that I never anticipated. Like: it starts to squish up, right? When I spent the year 1975 reading the Hulk, it was worth about seven months of Marvel time…or would’ve been, if the rule of the sliding scale had been applied then as rigourously as it is now, which it wasn’t. Of course the sliding scale of today now says 1975 was worth about half what it would “actually” have been worth then.


    And, just parenthetically: bah.

    So, fifty goes into fifteen, but the size of the more distant past is always shrinking at a greater rate than the recent past is. Just because there’s more of it, if that makes any sense. And, I hadn’t thought of this, but after reading that Hulk post I’ve realized it means that more recent authors of Marvel comics are writing bigger and bigger chunks of Marvel “history” in proportion to what their predecessors got to write…as the sliding timescale continues to slide, that is. So the Hulk that Kalinara is talking about, the new Hulk that’s about twenty years old, whose history over the last ten years has been strongly rewritten to conform to the implications of that twenty-year history, is rapidly colonizing the old Hulk of my youth, that once stretched over ten years of Marvel Time, but now stretches only over maybe seven or eight.

    If you see what I mean.

    And if you do, you’d be forgiven for thinking “so what?” Because I agree, of course: I’ve got a box full of Hulk comics behind me that still take just as long to read as they ever did, so who cares about the sliding timescale? Well, not me: but I do care, somehow, that this seems to be having the unintended effect of changing what the Hulk’s basic character is. I mean, basic character: character design, is what I’m talking about. Harvey’s quite right that I’m talking about the Wein/Trimpe incarnation of the Hulk as “noble”…and he and others are right to say that it’s not too good an argument from an in-story perspective. Fake Stan nominates Peter Parker (well, of course he would!), Matthew points out that it’s not Captain America’s fault if his life doesn’t suck as much as Bruce Banner’s, Harvey says Cap goes beyond expectations, P-Tor devastatingly takes down the “Bruce Banner = Noble” connection by pointing out he went into the munitions trade just as much as Tony Stark ever did…

    And Sean insists on DOOM!.

    Okay, maybe we’ll have just a little Scipio, though it’ll be only road company Scipio at best: when we’re talking about ethics, we’ve got a couple different “good” actions that a person can perform. One is the erogatory act, the act of duty. A guy in my building says he knows people in his business who say things like “you can trust me, I’m an honest man”, to which he always (mentally) replies “what, you want a Brownie badge for it or something? You’re supposed to be an honest man, jackass — the whole deal starts with honesty, that’s the baseline!” He’s got a point, don’t you think? Which is why I’m not so sure Superman’s all that noble for not taking over the world: it’s just as noble not to steal an old lady’s handbag, or embezzle from your company, or cheat on your spouse, or blame others for your own troubles. Not taking over the world is a terrific example of an erogatory act, but it’s still just a terrific example of an erogatory act.

    Then there’s the supererogatory act, where you don’t have to do it, and no one would blame you if you didn’t, but you do it anyway. Is this not a better way to distinguish “nobility”? I think it is: but it’s a bit of a swampy ground too, because we’re into the realm of definitions, here — if you could’ve not done it, without incurring blame, only then is it supererogatory, but where and how do you draw that line? Of such stuff are little four-colour morality plays made, I think — when Bruce Banner personally runs out to save Rick Jones, from a certain perspective that’s a supererogatory act, because many people would not have done it…but from my perspective it’s a purely erogatory one. But then again, maybe I read too many comics as a kid! Why Bruce runs out there himself is probably something best not looked at too closely — why does he do it? Why doesn’t he just halt the countdown and send out a couple of soldiers to toss Rick in the clink? Story reasons, friend: Bruce Banner is impelled by the same instant urge that leads people to drag other people out of flaming cars, even though in the context of what’s going on around him it doesn’t make any realistic sense. From a literary standpoint it does, though: the cold-blooded builder of satanic mass-murder devices becomes an actual human being at that moment. And the nature of the act is designed to provoke, somewhat: if you haul a person from a burning car, was that a supererogatory act? Maybe yes; but maybe no, too. Certainly you’ve got every reason not to do it. If a cop or a fireman was around, they’d probably restrain you physically from doing it. But if you did it, would it count? Would it count, if it were simply an instant impulsion? People who find themselves doing such things always say, after the fact, that they didn’t do anything special — they didn’t have any time to think about it, they just did it. Is this noble? Certainly I’m not gonna argue that it isn’t…but on the other hand…

    Let’s look at Peter Parker: when he chooses not to stop the burglar, he fails to perform an erogatory act…and then spends the rest of his life performing supererogatory acts. But why? To make up for the required action that he selfishly blew off? Now, we often speak this way, in terms of a heroic act being selfless as the opposite of selfish…but what Peter learns is that great power carries great responsibility with it, so his later acts as Spider-Man are not actually supererogatory, though they would be if we did them, because Peter’s held to a higher standard than we are. For us as for Pete, telling the truth is an erogatory act; for Pete unlike us, so is stopping the Green Goblin from taking over the city. But then there’s the matter of concealing the secret identity, and that is supererogatory…or is it? As soon as Gwen Stacy gets thrown off the bridge, it stops being one, if it ever was…more power just means more responsibility, after all.

    And here’s Captain America: puny Steve Rogers, 4F, volunteers for a dangerous treatment, in the hopes he’ll be able to run off to war and risk his life if he survives it. Supererogatory, you betcha. But then after he’s Cap, is it still a supererogatory act? In the Seventies, Steve Rogers quits his masked identity, only to find (as he always finds) that he deforms the world just by being in it, and no one can be Captain America but him. He learns the same lesson Peter Parker did. Now, how they do these heroic things that become their duty, how they carry out their responsibilities…yes, that’s supererogatory, I guess. I mean, they don’t have to be nice about it…

    I’m tempted to run down through Luke Cage, Sir Justin, and DOOM! here, too (not to mention Huntress!), but let me get back quickly to the Hulk, or I’ll be here all day.

    Is Banner noble, for running out to save Rick Jones, and being saddled with a curse because of it? Well, I’m not sure I would’ve done it…and P-Tor correctly points out that everything he does after building great big mass-murder machines is just Redemption anyway, and I think I agree…but, so would anything he’d ever done in his life been about Redemption, after that. The point’s good; but look how hard Banner has to work, just pursuing that Redemption! That will, of course, never come. Well, I still don’t know if that counts as “noble”…but at least it’s a sacrifice, all right, and he doesn’t have to do it…

    Or, at least he didn’t

    But now he can’t, even if he wanted to.

    Back in the Hulk comics I remember, Banner suffered because he had agency, and the Hulk was poignantly childlike, just looking to belong/be left alone. That the Hulk ever did any good at all because he meant to was a minor miracle — Banner’s childlike id, unrestrained by intelligence, had far less impulsion to consider his actions in light of his responsibilities even than we all had as children, because he was without a superego figure, and impossible to discipline into the bargain. Consequences fell on his head out of a clear blue sky, but he was mostly unable to decode their significance. And so nothing he did was required of him! It was all supererogatory! Gee, this is like playing “Apples To Apples”…

    But that was then, you see. Now Banner has no agency, the Hulk is smart enough to know better, and the amount of destruction he causes has been ramped way up. Ross is starting to look like the hero of the piece, pretty much. And to the folks on Pretty, Fizzy Paradise, it’s always been this way. Banner’s never had any agency, the Hulk’s rage has always had the side-effect of killing puppies, and every year he keeps being written like that, the size of the archive that says he was ever any different gets smaller and further away. Now that’s a curse: when your original character dynamism is changed out of all recognition, but nobody sees the difference. And after all, what are they supposed to do? Just buy Hulk Essentials, I guess. But then why should they?

    Whoops, sun’s in my eyes now. More later.

  15. Oh, FUCK YEAH!

    Jonathan Burns found THE Marvel guy!


    EVERYTHING about ROM was Noble.
    Even when he was “stealing” Brandy Clark, the girlfriend of his only male Earth-friend (Steve Jackson),… he felt damn guilty about it, and TRIED to push her back to him.

    He really did.

    But, then Steve got his brains all sucked out by the Wraiths, and what’s a guy who has had ZERO nookie in over 200 years to do?


    No, but seriously…



  16. Ha!

    No, I think ROM’s a great character too — man! When they started making that comic I hated it just on principle, like Micronauts! But in later years I saw that even at seventeen (or whatever it was) I had become a stodgy old reactionary. Because what did it matter where ROM came from? Mantlo took a few issues to find his feet, but honestly I can’t think of a better scripter for a toy-related product than Mantlo, because he was always at his best when he was carving a bit of new territory in the old science-fictional style. And he made ROM an important part of the Marvel Universe — I mean forget Captain America, everything ROM does is supererogatory. Without question, he’s the noblest Marvel superhero…

    And, he’s in permanent legal limbo.

    A damn shame.

    To think, a toy-based character…and yet I miss the guy. So much that I wrote a fan-fic continuity fix for the Fortress Keeper, wherein the Watcher summons ROM from the depths of corporate no-fly space when the Marvel Zombies invade the Marvel Universe, and he sends ’em all back to hell, and then beats up the Sentry! And fixes everything.

    Yes, ROM.

    And how about this, for the DC side? If exceeding expectations counts for anything…

    Then it’s Robin, the Boy Wonder. You can have Dick Grayson or Tim Drake, they both count. As Robin. Surely the very most “exceedy” of all characters, and central to the DC mythos. Tragedy? It’s right there. Overcoming it? I defy any of you to find a character who’s overcome so much as either of these two Robins.

    Well? Am I wrong?

  17. I suppose, in a sense, Rom/Micronauts:Marvel::Atari Force:DC.

    Anybody like Plastic Man as a noble character? I think it works.

    Robin’s noble enough, but I don’t know that I’d call him significantly more noble than any other superhero.

    I’m surprised nobody had any more to say about ‘mazing Man. I would, but I never actually read the comic.

    And let’s not forget about Superman. And Wonder Woman too, while we’re at it. They’re not noble for not taking over the world; they’re noble because of the way that they act and the responsibilities they accept. And, come on: they don’t have to do any of that stuff. If they stopped, who could say anything about it?

  18. So Plok, Spider-Man loses nobility points because we know that he does these things as a sort of atonement for not acting that one time, or because he has super-powers, and so he ought to be doing hero stuff, thus no big deal when he stops the Rhino from stomping through downtown? Being Spider-Man seems to cause Peter a considerable amount of grief, enough that he routinely gives up the job. Yet he always winds up going back to it when people need him, even though he knows it’ll cost him. I know he feels like he has to, and the writers have conditioned us to think that, but it still seems noble to me, to keep going out there and risking his neck for all those jerkwad Marvelite New Yorkers.

    I’ve got one to consider, related to the Hulk: Professor Hulk. The one Peter David gave us around issue #375, that was always green, but had Banner’s intellect? He joined the Pantheon, and in one case, used his powers to help depose a government he found unjust. Since we seem to be going with the idea that we don’t congratulate Superman for NOT taking over the world, does that Hulk lose points for actively interfering in other countries’ politics? (I can’t recall whether their assistance was requested by say, a guerrilla fighter organization, or if they just decided to do it on their own).

    Dang, I was just about to bring up Plastic Man, but Matthew E got there first. Or what about the Martian Manhunter (I’m thinking Silver Age primarily)? He was brought here against his will and stranded (at least initially). He consequently doesn’t have much connection to us, and if anything, could probably resent humans for stranding him here on our crazy world that’s full of dangerous fire. Still, he routinely saves people, even though it would be far easier for him to just disguise himself as one of us and leave us to our various mishaps.

  19. Matthew,

    I truly don’t think I can agree with much, if any, of your post.
    I’m not saying you’re wrong, but I just can’t see any of it that way.

    First off, Plastic Man?
    How is Plas a noble hero?
    Wasn’t he a CROOK?
    Certainly, he was an orphan who took to crime to survive, but I don’t quite know how to factor that.
    Really, it throws many a hypothetical monkey-wrench into his growth.

    But, he gets his powers by being doused in a weird chemical after a crime gone awry and is found, wounded and nurtured by a monk, who senses great goodness within him…

    That’s almost the same type of origin as Doctor Strange, really (guy grows more selfish and by NOT helping them, probably hurt many people, is involved in an accident, and wanders (physically, mentally and morally) until he’s trained by a “monk” who senses great goodness within).

    As much as I love Doctor Strange, I would never be able to state that he was “noble” in much of anything.

    Certainly, Plastic Man IS a different character (and most definitely may have story background that I do not know of), but I just don’t see the morality.

    If he wasn’t shown a better way of living and helping by the MONKS, then… maybe.
    But, since he had to fall to the depths before he looked UP, removes the nobility.

    His is a story much like the Grinch.
    The Grinch (at least in the movie’s expanded origin) shows that he was a good kid who was pushed out of society’s influence and did what he had to to survive (and exact a small amount of payback).

    But it wasn’t until, in the act of depravity, he is shown a better way, by one who is of noble spirit herself (Cindy Lou Who – as well as the rest of Who-ville) that he learns the lesson and GROWS as a spirit and as a “person” enough to do heroic things.

    Plastic Man, and Strange, fall into the GRINCH story dynamic:

    -Started out good (Plas was just a kid, cast out into the world. Strange MUST have wanted to HELP people to become a Doctor. It wasn’t about the greed – yet).

    -Grew into a selfish, harsh lifestyle (Plas went to Crime, Strange went to caring only for the wallets of his patients).

    -Traumatic incident that brought them to the lowest point of their being (Strange = Car Accident/Loss of Nerve function… Plas = Shot and doused with chemical and left by his gang to be nabbed by police).

    -Wandered into a haven with a kind, guiding spirit who showed a better path. (Ancient One – Monk)

    – Realize the error of their ways and seeks to redeem themselves and live up to their proper potential.

    No nobility there, really.
    Theirs are lives of ENLIGHTENMENT.
    They perform heroically because they KNOW that they SHOULD.

    An, innocent, little kid does something good and selfless, and it IS a noble act.

    A person who has a dark past to look back on as a contrasting “example”, and has learned to think beyond themselves is no longer acting out of noble standards, but out of redemption and growth of spirit.


    Wonder Woman is also not a “noble” character.
    Well, she IS, but not in her super-hero deeds.
    Her nobility is from having “nobility” ingrained into her by growing up as a Princess and having rules and values taught to her.

    Same as I mentioned in my earlier post about Superman.
    Taught the golden rule and lives his life in accordance.

    WW is on a MISSION (is that still her M.O.?).
    To help teach “man’s world” the ways of Peace

    Anyway, it isn’t the fact that SUPES or WW DO the things that they do (because, they were both RAISED that way).
    And if they were to STOP doing it, no one could say anything.
    Well, no. They couldn’t.

    But, let’s put it in more… average terms.

    You hold the door open for old ladies.
    You don’t HAVE TO. It’s a nice thing to do.
    To make it more “heroic”, the door is HUGE and HEAVY and the old lady gets around with a walker.

    You open the door for her.
    Certainly, not noble. Just a nice thing to do that takes you out of your way.
    A good deed.

    You COULD stop doing so.
    No one said that you had to do it.
    CERTAINLY, she COULD do it herself.
    No doubt. It wouldn’t be EASY. And it might take her a few tries and a great deal of effort. But the old woman CAN get past the door on her own.

    But… to see an old woman making her way to a door, if you were able to watch her trying to open that huge, ungainly door, with one hand while still trying to keep herself from falling by holding onto her walker with the other hand… and you didn’t step in to help.
    Then you are a cad.

    Superman and WonderWoman do the superhuman equivalent of helping the weaker beings with oppressors (be they giant doors or mind-controlling, one-eyed starfish from space).

    To do any less, (outside of RETIRING completely) would place them in the realm of super-dickery.

    To even have them THINK of not helping, would eradicate any “nobility” of their actions.

    Not helping out because they CAN’T (for whatever reason) or that they are otherwise engaged in another act, or even need a day to rest is excusable.
    Only FLASH (and maybe Superman) can move quickly enough to handle multiple threats like that.

    Anyway, those are just my takes on those characters.
    I could be Waaaay off.


    * Peace thru face-kicks. Love it.
    It reminds me of a story that my parents tell me of when I was 3 or 4.

    Growing up in a VERY religious household, I somehow got into my head that I was going to be a missionary.
    (WHAT 4 year old thinks such a thing?)
    Anyway, according to the story, I told them that I’d travel to far away lands to teach the natives about God and if they didn’t listen/follow then I’d shoot them.


    I KNOW!!!

    But, I was a little kid and MUST have put the various images – of a wandering missionary who carries two huge shotguns – together from SOMEWHERE.
    Thankfully, I have NO recollection of that, and outside of this instance, have never repeated the story to anyone.
    But the whole “Bring Peace to man’s world by any means necessary” brought it all back.

  20. SHit.
    I screwed up my bold tags.


    If you feel like it, please fix that.
    It screwed up much of my emphasis.

    Again. All apologies.


  21. Oh man.

    I had no idea that Plastic Man had a PRE-Crisis & POST-Crisis set of origins.

    Hell… his POST Crisis origin makes him even WORSE.

    A criminal, shot and doused by the chemical, but now there is NO MONK to teach him.

    After freaking out the locals with his ozzing form, he tried to KILL himself.
    Only to meet up with “Clarence-like” Woozy Winks, who he befriends and they decide to use Plas’ abilities to get rich.

    But, which way to go?
    Good guy “hero for hire” or life of crime?

    They decide by a COIN FLIP.

    THAT, my friends, has NO trace of nobility in it whatsoever.


  22. Calvin: what Spider-Man does seems noble to me, too…but the fact is that he doesn’t do it out of the goodness of his heart, he only does it because he feels like he has to do it. But then this is the conversation, isn’t it?

    Is that noble behaviour, or not?

    Professor Hulk, though, can go to hell. Even Betty didn’t like that guy. And you know her: she’ll put up with anything.

    P-Tor: I’ll fix it a bit later!

  23. I think it’s noble. Because the only reason he feels like he has to do it is because of the goodness of his heart.

    I also don’t think much of P-Tor’s notion that good deeds don’t count if you were raised that way. It doesn’t matter how one comes by one’s goodness, just as long as one does.

  24. Matthew,

    I think you misunderstand me.

    GOOD DEEDS count no matter how you are raised.
    In fact, I feel that I was raised to be very charitable and helpful and self-sacrificing and I do try to live that way.

    However, I don’t feel that when I do so that I am being NOBLE.

    I know that I am doing these good things because it is now my NATURE to do so.

    Noble gestures, I think, have to be separate from “good deeds”.
    Above and beyond and where true COST is involved.
    I’m not sure WHAT quantifies a noble act, now that I really think about it, but I think it has to be doing something that exacts some manner of price from the do-er.
    Or at least carries the potential for true personal cost.

    If I was to give one of my kidneys to a stranger, I don’t know if that would be a noble sacrifice or if it is merely a manifestation of how I am wired.

    Of course, the doubt only comes into it if I donate and go under the knife while I’m still ALIVE.
    I think THAT would qualify as noble because it goes well above and beyond what I could be expected to perform in the way of a “good deed”.
    And it CERTAINLY carries a risk factor for me.

    I am an organ donor, and I don’t really see my giving up, upon my death, of any of the parts that I’m not using as being overly noble or generous.
    I just see it as being able to do a few last “good deeds”, because, heck… I won’t be needing the parts, and if I can do something to help someone else, then I’m happy.

    I frequently give blood and platelets (apheresis).
    Giving blood is a 5 minute, painless process.
    Pheresis is about an hour of sitting with needles in both arms as the blood gets sucked out of one arm, sent thru a machine to separate the white and red blood cells, and the red cells are then sent back into my other arm.

    Is my donating considered to be noble?
    I don’t think so.

    Only that I had to do so.
    It’s just how I am.

    I don’t look for thanks, and only here, on a fairly anonymous message board, with my silly screen name, will I even shed light on my positive acts.
    A good deed is best done in secret with no chance of being “rewarded” for it *.

    If it is in my power to help someone, and it is in my nature to do so, am I still NOBLE or is it just the nature of my being nurtured that way?

    It might go deeper than that.
    I know that if I am unable to help someone, and I feel that I really COULD do so, but I fail to, for whatever reason, that it hurts a little.
    I feel actual pangs from the regret.
    Maybe that’s just what anyone SHOULD (and does) feel when faced with those circumstances.
    I don’t know.

    I had a friend, whose unborn child was diagnosed with a serious defect and needed transfusions.
    I matched the blood type and at my friend’s request, I donated directly to the newborn.
    (My friend knows how I live and that my blood would be clean from any harmful particles that might otherwise be found in the normal blood supply.)
    She saw it as a huge deal.
    I told her that it wasn’t anything major and that I’d do the same for anyone picked at random on the street.

    So, is nobility something that can only be perceived BY the receiver of the gesture and projected upon the do-er?
    I certainly don’t think that anything I’ve done is especially noble.

    I’ve jumped on some “grenades” for people in the past.
    Some of the effects I am STILL living with today. But I don’t see them as noble.
    One of those “grenades” I took because, like Peter Parker, I felt that I had betrayed my moral core for an instant and had to atone for it.

    So that later good deed was a redemptive act.
    It was a HUGE one, probably greater than the supposed transgression, but to me it was one for one.

    No one knew of the transgression, and honestly, the offended party might not even know (or even have cared) of my original “crime” against them, but I knew. And I knew that it needed do be paid for.

    So, that’s why I don’t classify Peter Parker as overly Noble.
    He is forever trying to make it right in his head and heart the one instance where he failed to live by the morals that he was raised to follow.

    He DOES come so close to being a noble hero, because EVERYTHING that he does exacts some price from him.
    He is a tragic hero.
    However, in his HEAD, he is merely doing so because he MUST.

    WE see him as noble, HE does not.

    Superman is so powerful and invulnerable that there really isn’t much in the way of PRICE that he must pay for his good acts.
    Sure, he might have to face a little Kryptonite, or a foe that CAN hurt or kill him, but the number of those threats is minimum (much to the character’s dilemma).

    Wonder Woman is probably even more so.
    Isn’t she immortal?
    And, again… she’s on a mission.
    It’s her duty to do what she does.

    Which brings us to another point:
    Are soldiers and policemen NOBLE?

    I guess it depends on the reasons that they signed up and do what they do.

    Some just get off on carrying a firearm.
    Others like power and enjoy using it over others.
    But then there are some. Those precious few, who do so because it is what they see as the RIGHT thing to do, and a way for them to affect positive change.
    THOSE few are the noble ones.
    But even then… only because they live in a state of “constant” danger.

    Firemen, of all the “services” are a noble breed.
    THAT is a selfless calling, that undoubtedly leads them directly into the gaping maw of possible death.
    And yet, they run headlong into it.

    Still, THEY might see it as “the job”.
    WE see them as noble heroes.

    So, again, can a noble act/gesture/nature only be ASSIGNED to someone FROM another?

    I really don’t know.


    * Oddly enough, the “Secret Identity” angle always worked best for me when I could see it as someone wanting to do good deeds in secret, with a low chance for reward, and not to “protect” their loved ones or their personal life.

    That’s probably just me though.

  25. I’m not sure WHAT quantifies a noble act, now that I really think about it, but I think it has to be doing something that exacts some manner of price from the do-er.
    Or at least carries the potential for true personal cost.

    I think that’s closer. I’d put it like this: we’re looking for the characters who will most reliably do the right thing, and do so without ever taking such prices or personal costs into account. I think Superman and Wonder Woman and Spider-Man (and others, like the new Blue Beetle, for instance) have all established that they are incorruptibly reliable this way. True, there are seldom such prices convincingly demanded of Superman or Wonder Woman, but can you doubt that they’d be paid?

    As for Spider-Man and (original) Plastic Man. To say that these guys aren’t noble because they weren’t always noble… that is, I believe, an unreasonable criterion. Whatever the impetus was for them to develop their nobility, monks or Uncle Ben or whatever, the fact is that they did develop it. Sure, Peter Parker has to make up for the past, but that’s what the past is for. Plastic Man must be the most exceptional guy in the world: the comic books are full of ordinary presumably-decent citizens who stumble upon power and become villains; here we have a presumably-unscrupulous criminal who stumbles upon power and becomes a hero. What must he have had in him to make that transition?

  26. It’s an interesting point, isn’t it? Following along with you guys here, it does seem as though the “opportunity cost” of the supererogatory act by itself isn’t enough to secure “nobility” — P-Tor’s blood donation to his friend’s child really costs him very little (although, that said: you set a good example, P-Tor), and it does seem as though it would be a better world all around if this sort of thing was erogatory. Actually, you know, it just may be at that: after all, doesn’t every adult have a duty to every child?

    But perhaps in the end it isn’t really about duty. Maybe it’s more like “acting counter to interest” — although that does seem like a rather clinical way to put it.

    Hmm, I don’t know. Does Peter Parker ever do a thing that isn’t strongly counter to his own interest?

    The idea that Eel finds power and turns to the good interests me quite a bit, also…

  27. More that aren’t DOOM. Barry Allen. Beta Ray Bill. Sinestro. Libra (the Marvel one). Jimmy Olsen. GW Bridge. Falcon. Seven Soldiers Frankenstein. Balder the Brave.


  28. OK.

    I’m willing to concede Peter Parker as having a truly noble spirit, who, once, had a major slip-up and fell from that path.
    The fact that he is constantly pursuing to redeem that one act is more than anyone else might even think of doing, so… fine. While HE doesn’t perceive himself as Noble, we, and those who “know” who he is and what he does, DO.

    However, the is nothing that can make me think of Plastic Man (in either of his origins) as being noble.

    The monk sensed goodness in him, and because of that, hid him from the authorities when they were looking for this dangerous, wounded criminal.

    Eel, seeing that someone did such a selfless, good deed for HIM, a hardened thug, and seeing as how his gang members just left him to either die or be nabbed, saw the error of his ways and was able to then tap into that inherent “goodness” that was probably there since he was a kid.

    He learned a lesson.
    He was “instantly” rehabilitated.
    So, now, possessing powers, he seeks to do the right thing.

    Not noble.

    As criminals go to prison to be rehabilitated, they are hopefully released to “pay back” the community for their past crimes, by living good, honest, and productive lives.

    That’s all Eel O’Brian has done.
    Without the fuss of going to prison for 10-20 years (and the butt-raping cellmate).


    The 2nd origin with the coin-flip is even worse (“hero-for-HIRE” or “criminal”). Bah!


  29. Yeah, how about Barry Allen?

    Guy sacrifices himself to save the universe, okay: this is the sort of selflessness you can only find in a superhero comic, am I right? I mean, if any sacrifice counts as “noble”, then that oughtta be it! The whole universe, for Pete’s sake!

    Of course…if he doesn’t do it, he dies anyway, along with everybody else. And surely if there’s any such thing as a morally simple choice, this ought to be it — you and everyone else dies, or you just die yourself and everyone else lives. I mean it doesn’t even count as suicide. And yet, just as surely, this act has to count for something, doesn’t it?

    So maybe when I look at the words “erogatory” and “supererogatory”, I’m looking in the wrong place. Ya think?

    Okay, gotta run. More at some point or other.

  30. I think if you factor in Morrison’s “God of the modern world” idea for Barry Allen coming back just adds to it. He’s died once saving this universe, and after seeing a danger so great he goes back to impossible circumstances to save them again. And he does it by OUTRUNNING DEATH ITSELF.

    Beta Ray Bill? Removing yourself from the civilization you would do anything for in order to save it, up to and including your physical and mental disfigurement. The transition from essentially an olympic athlete to supersoldier guinea pig to champion/savior of a people, each of these stages resulting from self sacrifice.

    The point I’m making by suggesting Doom and Sinestro is generally why I consider them great villains. The nobility, the dedication to what they think is right leads to well, megalomania, genocide and dictatorships. Villains are always more interesting, anyhow.

  31. SURFER’s a tough situation.

    He’s been “tweaked” a few times, so it screwed up his motivation.

    FIRST, he offered to serve as Galctus’ herald in order to stave off the Big Purple Beach Bum from eating Zen-La.

    Sacrificing himself to save his world?

    However, he would have to lead Galan to OTHER WORLDS THAT HAD LIFE in order to appease his hunger.

    Directing the “ala carte” menu to other “buffet tables”…?
    Not so noble.


    THEN, I think it was John Byrne who tossed into the mix that Surfer was MINDWIPED by Galactus.
    So, Norrin Radd INTENDED to try and steer Galactus to worlds full of ENERGY but with NO LIFE, but once Galactus chromed him up, he adjusted Norrin’s thoughts patterns and erased his memory of Zenn-La, and any other individual thoughts (or “plans”) of looking for anything but worlds chock-full-o-life.

    So, for untold years (according to this story, Hundred years or so), Surfer served to find life-filled worlds for the “G-man”.

    This effectively, removed any FAULT from Surfer, re-instated a complete sense of innocence and nobility, in what would otherwise be a sticky-moral-wicket (duh. Obviously Norrin would HAVE to let Galactus feed on living beings, SOME times, right?).

    But, according to the BYRNE tale, it wasn’t until they came to Earth, and Surfer met up with Alisha Masters, that his memories of Zen-La came back to him, along with his original intentions, and the horrors that he was forced to perpetrate under the yoke of Galactus’ mind-controlled service.

    So… ORIGINALLY, he had NOBLE intentions, but what he was willing to do to save HIS world (effectively doom others), is as ignoble as it comes.

    Byrne returned the original nobility and took all blame from Surfer, leaving a pristine “savior” figure.

    There HAVE been other stories over the years that toyed with this whole concept, and frankly during those times, the character got muddied.

    Every new writer tried to “fix” him, and just kept screwing it up more.

    Which is why you hardly see Surfer much anymore.
    Marvel is just giving his some appearances here and there to keep him in the loop, but nothing too big, until he’s fixed (or the screw-ups are forgotten).


  32. How about the golden age Captain Marvel … or for that matter Billy Batson?

    Note – I said GOLDEN AGE. None of this Trials of Shazam and Countdown #$$%%^, which broke the mainstream versions of the Marvel family – maybe irrevocably.

  33. I know next to nothing about Capt. Marvel, except he’s a kid who’s granted the power of “gods”.

    Kids kinda screw up the “noble” chart levels, man.
    Kids (depending on their age) usually come in two types:

    – good natured.
    – not so good natured.

    Sure, there’s some cross-over between and betwixt the two (thus creating some grey-ish areas), but down at the crux of it, they’re either angels or little devils.

    MOST kids, when they’re young enough, (and barring bad rearing) will do the right thing, pretty much all the time.
    It might take a little coaxing, but, when they are made to understand the depths of the situation, will come thru like pros.

    Sure, sure, temper tantrums, rebellion, downright nasty behaviour are present, but those can usually be found to originate from some factor that is being applied (hunger, fatigue, the “I want what he’s got” factor).
    If it’s a real problem, of right and wrong, and they UNDERSTAND what’s going on… my money is on them doing what’s right.

    So, Billy Batson would skew towards doing the right thing, if he had a chance.

    But is that NOBLE?
    I dunno.
    I’m not sure if kids have the emotional and mental depth (usually) to understand noble actions.
    TO them, it’s either right or wrong.
    They want or are willing to do something, or they’re not.

    How old IS Batson?

    I guess, by then he’ll have SOME understanding of the implications and possible ramifications of a (as plok uses the term) supererogatory act.

    Is he OLDER?
    Is he a teen?

    Obviously, the older he is, the more likely that his actions WOULD be seen as noble, but it would help if he has some experience with the “down-side” of these things.

    If he watched someone doing the right thing, only to get hurt, or killed (or worse).
    If he could gauge the cause and effect of it all… then, obviously, a more mature decision would be made, and thusly nobility could be factored.

    Well… this isn’t my blog, and I feel bad chiming in all the damn time.
    (Sorry plok)

    But, I get the feeling that he encourages the free-flowing exchange of ideas MORE than the “control” of his comments section.

    Anyway, you might need a child psychologist to properly answer this Billy Batson query.


  34. D’oH!

    I completely forgot.
    I CAME here to suggest someone as noble:

    (And this will prove to Matthew that I do not believe that previously doing wrong excludes someone from developing a sense of nobility)…


    Sure, he was a “bad-guy” for a few days in the beginning, but only because his mentor guided him down that path.
    He started out as a good natured and intentioned guy, but was led astray.

    BUT, then, he has had the most steadfast climb of noble acts (he gave up Avengers membership – something that he was so proud of and meant the world to him) to give the same chance that HE had of rehabilitation and becoming a hero to many “former villains” and “young guns”.

    He led the Thunderbolts and put himself in the line of fire from the “establishment” (Avengers).
    He’s since stood up for the YOUNG AVENGERS and has taken up their banner and stands ready to defend and mentor them.

    And, for a guy with ZERO powers, he puts his butt out there on the level of Captain America, and knows that to even come CLOSE to being as good as Cap, he has to give even MORE than Cap, if he can at all do so.

    But, it isn’t the one-ups-manship or approval of his hero/mentor that drives him (at least, not to the exclusion of all else).
    He jumps into the fire because he CAN and he knows that he can make a difference.

    He’s lost every love he’s had (or was after) in this game.
    He’s lost his original mentor to the “dark side” and death.
    He’s more than proven that he can be more than what he was.
    And he does it time and again without fail.

    If a situation calls for him to go against everything and everyone else to do what he thinks is right, I believe he’d toss it all behind him and jump into the fire.

    Sadly, some writers play up the “angry, hotheaded leader” bit.
    And yes, he is. He’s also the guy out to prove something.

    But if that were all of it, he’d be someone that no one would want to team up with or know.
    A showboater with a chip on his shoulder and an axe to grind is not someone with whom long-standing relations (and “trusted to watch your back” battle-teams) are forged.

    Is he the “MOST NOBLE”?
    Probably not.
    I can’t argue that point well enough.

    But, deep down, who in comic-fan-nerddom would doubt that, when “asked”, the other heroes of the M.U. would state that second from Captain America, the guy that puts his butt on the line more than anyone (with the possible exception of Spider-Man, but that’s only because, as company mascot, he got Marvel Team-Up to hobnob with everyone)… would be Clint Barton?

    And I don’t even consider myself much of a HAWKEYE fan.

    I gotta get back to work.


  35. Doom is motivated by jealousy and revenge, and cannot accept his own failings. He employs brute force and trickery to furrther his own power. I can’t see him as “noble.”

    Don’t discount Professor Hulk, pillock; he strove to do the right thing for his people (the Pantheon was more than just super-people, remember) while trying not to succumb to his inner demons AND dealing with the love of his life being physically repulsed by him. He screwed up a few times, sure, but one can’t say he wasn’t a hero.

  36. You know, Beta Ray Bill even beats ROM. I mean, they both give up their humanity in painful surgery to save their peoples, and both are heroes, but ROM tends to be a little quick to give up his duty to restore his humanity. Bill wouldn’t even mention how bad his lot was, just to be fair to Thor. He gave up his humanity to save his people, risking his life is doing so, then is hated by all. He gets a weapon which might be the salvation of his people, but it isn’t his, so he saves his enemy, and gives up his prize. Bill puts what’s right above everything. I’d give him spot numero uno.

    Doom’s just whiny.

    And Supes at DC gets some credit for saving Jimmy Olsen. You do that,day in day out, you’re either noble or crazy.

  37. All this is beside the point anyway because we know that the noblemost character in fiction is the Avatar from the Ultima games.

  38. silver surfer is probably the most noble in marvel, hes even considerred so by marvel

    and the most noble from dc, its probably super man, i really cant say i like the charecter, actually i hate it, but the way dc has made him, he has becaume super duper noble. shit in the cross over he was even deemed worthy to wield the hammer of thor.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s