10 To Watch in 2012: Comic Book Characters

<i>By <a href=mailto:chris@chrisarrant.com>Chris Arrant, Newsarama Contributor</a></i> <p>Great comics can only be made when the right creators meet up with the right characters to tell the right story. After Monday's spotlight on <a href=http://www.newsarama.com/comics/10-to-watch-in-2012-creators-111226.html>10 Creators To Watch in 2012</a>, now we turn to the building blocks of comics: the characters. <p>Where would comics be without the likes of Superman, Charlie Brown and the irrepressible Pogo the Clown? Nowhere, fast. No matter how well a story is told, it can only reach its heights with the right characters to bring it together. Characters have become one of the key unifying components in comics, ranging back to the early years with many continuing to live and breathe today. When you look at the most memorable characters, they only reach that by having strong moments that resonate with readers and we've picked out the 10 characters who look to be having some of their key formative moments in the year ahead. <p>If what we've been told by publishers, creators and history is true, these 10 figures will the face of comics in 2012. Let's get to know them. <p><i>Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's <a href=http://www.facebook.com/Newsarama><b>FACEBOOK</b></a> and <a href=http://twitter.com/newsarama><b>TWITTER</b></a>!</i> <p>

DC's MYSTERY WOMAN

Though we don't even know her name, DC's Mystery Woman sure has us wrapped around her finger. Since her first appearance in the finale of 2011 summer event <I>Flashpoint</I>, she's been a hot topic for discussion that only grew as she popped up in the background of all 52 first issues of DC's newly relaunched titles. <p>Speculation has run rampant on just who she might be, ranging from Element Girl to a female Time Trapper, Wildstorm's Void, or even DC President Diane Nelson. Only time will tell us the true story of this shadowy figure, but that time could as soon as 2012.

SCARLET WITCH

Although she's been off the radar of comics for much of the past few years, Wanda Maximoff sure is the talk of the town. After being the catalyst behind <I>House of M</I> and depowering the majority of the mutant race in the aftermath, the Scarlet Witch has lived a peaceful life as an amnesiac villager in the hillsides of Latveria until the recent events of <I>Avengers: The Children's Crusade</I>. But now as that series near its conclusion, Scarlet Witch has risen as a key component of the Marvel Universe going forward with both Marvel heroes and mutants like. With the mutant Hope, she shares the distinction of being at the center of Marvel's 2012 event series, <I>Avengers vs. X-Men</I>. <p>Although originally introduced as a villain at the side of her father Magneto, Scarlet Witch came into her own when she joined the Avengers. She went on to be a mainstay member of the team, and arguably the group's most recognizable female member. Although the events of <I>House of M</I> put her in a more villainous light, the current <I>Avengers: Children's Crusade</I> show that her actions were at attempt to find her children. <p>Although she's already officially returned, 2012 will show the wide-ranging implications of that as it ripples through the entire Marvel U. And who knows she might pop up in this summer's <I>Avengers</I> movie.

JUDGE DREDD

Judge Dredd has had a movie before (co-starring Rob Schneider, even), but 2012 reboot film <B>Dredd</B>, starring Karl Urban, could change the way the world at large sees the pistol-toting totalitarian. Directed by Pete Travis (<I>Vantage Point</I>) and produced by Danny Boyle, this film is promised to be darker than its predecessor, in what cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle describes as a cross between "<I>Blade Runner</I> and <I>Clockwork Orange</I>." If the movie proves successful, it could mean big things for Mega City One, both in movies and comics. <p>Outside of the UK, Judge Dredd comics have been hard to come by until recently. Diamond has recently worked out a deal with Dredd's publisher Rebellion to ship flagship title <I>2000 AD</i> more efficiently for retailers to stock on their shelves, and Rebellion was one of the first publishers to offer an extensive lineup of titles digitally. When the first movie came out in the 1990s, 2000 AD and DC Comics formed a unique pact where DC published reprints as well as its own <I>Judge Dredd</I> title, drawn by future superstar Michael Avon Oeming. It'd be interesting to see what 2000 AD might do with other publishers to have its comics in as many places as possible when the movie arrives in theaters. Perhaps a licensing deal with IDW or BOOM! or imagine Mega City One setting up shop in Image Comics. <p>2012 is a big year for both Judge Dredd and 2000 AD, it's just a matter of how they capitalize on it.

QUENTIN QUIRE

Someone's got to be the wildcard in the X-Men. And with Logan taking over Professor X's old role as headmaster for the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning, there's a Wolverine-shaped hole waiting to be filled. And it looks like Kid Omega (aka Quentin Quire) will do just that. Originally created by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely for their run on <I>New X-Men</I> in the early part of last decade, Quire has sat unused until he was recently revived as the catalyst for 2011's <I>X-Men: Schism</I> series. After the finale of that, the Xavier's school dropout was forcefully enrolled in Wolverine's new school for mutants, instantly enshrining him as the resident bad boy and in many ways taking Logan's old place as the loose cannon of the team. <p>In 2012 Marvel plans to make him a central figure in Jason Aaron's run on <I>Wolverine & The X-Men</I>, and also the antagonist in the Brian Wood-written miniseries <I>Wolverine & The X-Men: Alpha & Omega</I>. After gathering dust on the shelf for a few years, Quire's new prominence could be the start of something big for the character; but to do that, he'll have to do what been hardest for him to do in comics: grow up.

CYBORG

Speaking of growing up, DC's Cyborg has been doing a lot of that lately. After seeing him shine in the 2011 event series <I>Flashpoint</I> and then inducted into the Justice League in DC's New 52 era, this former Teen Titan has seen a major upgrade in profile. But with all the advancements in the past 12 months, there looks to be more in store for Victor Stone. Although he's currently the only <I>Justice League</I> member without a book of his own, it looks like Geoff Johns, Jim Lee and company are going with a slow burn that, in Cyborg's case, could ignite in 2012. <p>"[Cyborg] represents all of us in a lot of ways," said DC's chief creative officer (and writer of <I>Justice League</I>) Geoff Johns. "If we have a cellphone and we're texting on it, we are a cyborg that's what a cyborg is, using technology as an extension of ourselves." <p>Although not a founding member of the Teen Titans, Cyborg quickly became one of its most recognizable faces thanks to the stories of Marv Wolfman and George Perez in the '80s. Over the years he's been through a lot of changes (anyone remember Cyberion?), but emerged the other side of it as a key figure in DCU continuity. As one of the most prominent African-American characters in the DCU, his induction into the Justice League this year has highlighted DC's measures to create a more dynamic lineup of characters. <p>With Cyborg's origin being revised and retold in the pages of <I>Justice League</I>'s first arc, we have to wait until the conclusion of that for Cyborg to fully emerge and be integrated into The New 52-era of the DC... but he's got a bright future ahead of him.

THE AVENGERS

The Avengers have been riding high in the past few years in comics, and that mighty wave looks to be rolling on in 2012 both in comics and on the big screen. The franchise is currently riding high with four ongoing series, and 2012 is set to see them induct a fifth with the launch of <I>Avengers Assemble</I>, from the <i>Ultimate Spider-Man</i> team of Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley. 2012 will be a year of big Avengers events as well, with <I>X-Sanction</I> rolling on and <I>Avengers vs. X-Men</I> debuting in April. On the movie front, this summer's Joss Whedon-led <I>Avengers</I> film is poised to be the blockbuster of the year and the culmination of four years of Marvel Studios projects. <p>All in all, it's not a bad time to be an Avenger.

HOPE

Marvel sure does love its redheads. From Jean Grey to Matt Murdock and Mary Jane Watson, Marvel has a special place for red-haired characters, and they've continued that tradition with the X-man Hope. Dubbed the "mutant messiah," she's the off-stage MacGuffin for the current <I>Avengers: X-Sanction</I> series and the catalyst for Marvel's 2012 event series <I>Avengers vs. X-Men</I>. Not bad for a character who's only been in comics for four years. <p>Originally introduced as a baby in the <I>X-Men: Messiah Complex</I> crossover storyline in 2007, Hope was spirited away by Cable to protect her against anti-mutant terrorists. On the trail of Cable and the kid was fellow X-Man Bishop, who recognizes Hope as the instigator for the mutant apocalypse in his home future. Growing up over the course of the 25-ssue <I>Cable</I> series as they constantly jump through time, Hope grew to see Cable as a father figure, going so far as to adopt his last name, Summers, as her own. Cable and Hope returned to the present day in 2010's "Second Coming," with Cable sacrificing his life in the finale to protect Hope. After that, Hope slowly integrated herself into the modern Marvel Universe and recognized her ability to ignite mutant powers, as seen in the series <I>Generation Hope</I>. But her role in the bigger picture of the Marvel U took form in the recently released first issue of <I>X-Sanction</I> where a revived Cable comes back in time to single-handedly take on the Avengers after finding a future where they cause Hope's death. <p>With the events already set in motion, Hope is destined to be a key player in Marvel's 2012 plans. But as anyone who's read her in <I>Generation Hope</I> can tell you, she's not the kind to follow someone else's plans and might do something that could surprise us all.

JACK KIRBY

Jack Kirby will go down in the record books as one of, if not the, key figures in comic books. And that legacy will live on in the comics of 2012 as well as the upcoming <I>Avengers</I> film. But that's not why he's listed here today: Jack Kirby is poised to be a character in Ben Affleck's new film, <I>Argo</I>. The movie is based on the unlikely-but-true story about how a fake sci-fi movie was staged to help attain the release of U.S. hostages during the 1979 Iran Hostage Crisis, Kirby's involvement in the storyboarding and planning of the film became a lesser-known comics legend. After the full story came to light in a 2010 <I>Wired</I> article, Hollywood swarmed around the story to put it up on the big screen. <p>Actor Michael Parks (<I>Kill Bill</I>, <I>Red State</I>) is set to play the King of Comics in <I>Argo</I>, but there's no word yet as to how big the role will be. It'll be interesting to see Kirby's role in geopolitics explained on a big stage, and I can't be the only one hoping that this could lead to more live-action depiction of comic creators. <I>Kavalier & Clay</I>, anyone?

SUPERMAN

In 2011 we saw Superman brought back to square one in comics, but 2012 looks to be the year Superman picks up steam. With the arcs in his current series coming to a conclusion in the coming months, 2012 will be all about building on that foundation. <p>There's still a lot of unanswered questions swirling around the Man of Steel in The New 52's continuity, and many of those could be answered in the new year. And although the <I>Man of Steel</I> movie isn't set to debut until the summer of 2013, the impending hype machine behind that will begin rolling out in the coming year, adding additional fire to DC's flagship hero. Add to that the second volume of J. Michael Straczynski's <I>Superman: Earth One</I>, and 2012 could prove interesting for comics' most popular super-hero.

WATCHMEN

After years of speculation, consternation and rumors, 2012 could be the year DC finally attempts to revisit <I>Watchmen</I> by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. Although Moore and Gibbons talked at length about possible sequels during the release of the original <I>Watchmen</I> series, that was stymied over a rights dispute between Moore and DC. Long story short, DC owns the rights to the characters as long as they keep the title in print, and thanks to the unparalleled success of the book it has been steadily reprinted each year, becoming one of comics' biggest sellers. After years of rumors for a new title without the original creators, the cease-and-desist letter DC sent rumor site <a href=http://www.bleedingcool.com/2011/12/26/dc-entertainment-demands-removal-of-watchmen-2-artwork-bleeding-cool-complies/>BleedingCool.com</a> over some images of the characters by J.G. Jones, Andy Kubert and Joe Kubert led some to believe that DC would only take action to remove these images if in fact they were legitimately part of something. <p>DC has yet to make an official announcement regarding the book, but that could be a matter of days. <p><B>OUT OF THE CORNER OF OUR EYE</B>: <P>Although only 10 characters/teams could make our final cut-off, there are many that come close and are worth mentioning. <p><b>Aquaman</b>: 2011 might be remembered as the year Aquaman became cool. After some lackluster years where he became the object of ridicule in some sectors, writer Geoff Johns invested in rebuilding the character from the ground up with the new <I>Aquaman</I> series. As that series, and the larger New 52 universe, continues to unfold, it'll be interesting to see where the tide takes Arthur Curry. <p><b>Cable</b>: Taking on the Avengers single-handedly might seem like a fool's errand, but for a time-traveling, gun-toting cyborg like Cable, it's just another in a long line of adventures. Previously assumed dead after the events of <I>X-Men: Second Coming</I>, Nathan Summers has come back kicking in the recently launched <I>Avengers: X-Sanction</I> miniseries be Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness. Although he considers his one-man-war against Earth's Mightiest Heroes a suicide mission, don't be surprised if Cable finds a way to stay amongst the living. <p><b>Spider-Man</b>: Who's got two webshooters and a movie coming out? Spider-Man, that's who. Although the Andrew Garfield-led flick is still almost a year away, Dan Slott has already been kicking it into high gear as the one-man braintrust of <I>Amazing Spider-Man</I>. We'll be watching what happens next to Peter Parker in 2012. <p><b>Marvelman</b>: In 2009, Marvel announced that it has purchased the rights to the fabled UK superhero Marvelman but since then, not much has come of it. Although official representatives say that new developments of Marvelman will come in due time, as we near the three year anniversary of their original announcement there's no timetable to if, or when it would happen. We might see something in 2012, but that's pure speculation.

10 To Watch in 2012: Comic Book Characters

Date: 28 December 2011 Time: 08:28 PM ET