A WHO's WHO OF THE NEW YEAR

Comics are an ever-changing place, but one thing remains constant: characters. With the serialized nature of superhero storytelling and the permanence of print publications lasting decades – even centuries – past their debut, comics wouldn’t be where they were without the bedrock that is popular characters. <p>And so for today’s <B>10 To Watch In 2014</B>, Newsarama looks to the ten men, women and groups who are primed to make a big impact in the new year. Some are heroes, some are civilians, some are entire races kept down too long; whichever category they fall in, these characters will be newsmakers in their appearances in comics, film and beyond in 2014. <p>One footnote: The uncertainly surrounding <b>Nightwing</b>'s ultimate fate in the new year kept him off this list, and we <a href=http://www.newsarama.com/19877-would-dc-kill-nightwing-examining-his-forever-evil-outcome.html>covered him pretty extensively</a> last week anyway. <p>More <b>10 to Watch in 2014</b> countdowns: <p><a href=http://www.newsarama.com/19898-10-to-watch-in-2014-comic-book-creators.html><li><b>Comic Book Creators</b></a> <p><a href=http://www.newsarama.com/19906-10-to-watch-for-2014-comic-book-series-ogns.html><li><b>Comic Book Series & OGNs</b></a>

GOLD KEY HEROES

<i>Okay, we're going to cheat, we had edited the list down to 11 then got stumped. Sue us...</i> <p>Up until the 1970s, Marvel and DC were far from the only games in town as far as superhero comics were concerned. But in wave of bankruptcies, mergers and buy-outs in the case of DC and Charlton Comics, they were the last two thriving lines of superhero comics standing. But there was a third: Gold Key. And now those heroes – Magnus: Robot Fighter, Solar: Man of the Atom, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, and others – are returning in a new line of superhero comics launching at Dynamite in 2014. <p>The Gold Key heroes were the stalwarts of Gold Key publishing up until its dissolution in 1984, and served as the basis for Valiant Comics’ launch in 1992. Although when Valiant returned in 2012 they did so without the expensive licenses of the Gold Key heroes, Dark Horse attempted to revive the Gold Key heroes just three years ago with marginal success. How will Dynamite go right when Dark Horse went so wrong? That’s yet to be seen, but given the expensive licenses for the characters – now owned by DreamWorks – and the A-list writers like Mark Waid and Greg Pak, Nick Barrucci must have a plan. <p>Dynamite has announced its stuttering out the launching of four series – <I>Solar: Man of the Atom</I>, <I>Turok: Dinosaur Hunter</I>, <I>Magnus: Robot Fighter</I> and <I>The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor</I> -- over the course of early 2014, and these four heroes and the various worlds and timelines they inhabit have the elements to create a compelling and more science-fiction approach to comic book heroes than any other publisher on a large scale working today.

MOON KNIGHT

There’s a new phase – and a new day – coming for Marvel’s Moon Knight. The persistent and pasty hero has had six ongoing series come and go since his creation in 1975 by Doug Moench and Don Perlin, but in March 2014 Marvel is giving Marc Spector one more chance – with a dose of weirdness – with a new <I>Moon Knight</I> series by Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey. <p>Moon Knight, whom some typecast as derivative of Batman, is being pushed by Ellis to accentuate their differences. In an interview with the <I>Los Angeles Times</I>’ Hero Complex blog, Ellis cites the albino Avenger as “demented in more interesting ways than I think Batman ever was.” <p>Ellis has been called Marvel’s resident tinkerer in terms of rehabilitating characters stuck in the doldrums. Ellis has done it for the publisher on several occasions, from Iron Man in 2005 to Thunderbolts in 2007 and giving the wandering Secret Avengers team a concise and compelling mission statement in 2011. Ellis even evolved the former Green Goblin Norman Osborn from a tired Spider-Man villain to a compelling threat for the Marvel U at large in <I>Thunderbolts</I>, in essence prepping the character for his then-future role as Marvel’s top bad guy from <I>Secret Invasion</I> to “Dark Reign” and culminating in <I>Siege</I>. <p>Now what does this mean for Moon Knight? Big things, perhaps. Ellis is quoted as planning to use the character as a “cipher” to tell weird crime stories set in the Marvel Universe, and that seems like an ideal high concept to hang the crescent hero on.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

Last here these cosmic Avengers went from being a footnote in Marvel longboxes to being one of the company’s top prospects in both comics and film, so how can they get any bigger? Well, there’s a movie coming out. <p>In 2014, Marvel is hoping there years of planning to revitalize the Guardians of the Galaxy will come to fruition. Between the ongoing comic series by Brian Michael Bendis featuring the team and a host of guest stars like the X-Men, Venom and the newly acquired Angela, as well as the <I>Guardians of the Galaxy</I> movie coming out on August 1, Marvel is looking to redefine just who these space heroes are. <p>And if that wasn’t enough, in a recent letters column for the comic series, Marvel Senior Editor Stephen Wacker publicly stated that there was internal talk of a standalone <I>Guardians of the Galaxy</I> animated series in the works. Although the editor wrote it in a half-joking manner, the fertile bed of characters and concepts floating out in Marvel’s outer space would make for an irresistible show.

THE WINTER SOLDIER

For nearly 40 years James “Bucky” Barnes was best known as the dead teenage sidekick of Captain America in World War II. But after being revived in 2005, the former teen hero was revived with a new lease on life and a compelling backstory for his time away from prying eyes. And now after a year missing in action in Marvel Comics he’s coming in from the cold for a new miniseries titles <I>Winter Soldier: The Bitter March</I> and also playing a role in the upcoming <I>All-New Invaders</I> series. And if that weren’t enough, he’s the key antagonist and shares the title with his one-time partner Steve Rogers for the impending summer blockbuster movie <I>Captain America: The Winter Soldier</I>. <p>This hero, who essentially waited out the colorful era of Stan Lee of Marvel, returned to comics and quickly stood out compared to other heroes, even Captain America. Although Marvel’s shown some trouble keeping the Winter Soldier in the spotlight with Captain America back from the dead, the 2014 movie looks to be nudging the comics division to figure out that problem and carve out a new role for the former Kid Commando. <p>Could there be plans for the Winter Soldier after the end of <I>Winter Soldier: The Bitter March</I> and <I>Captain America: The Winter Soldier</I>? It’s a no brainer, but Newsarama will be on the frontlines reporting that action as it happens.

THE INHUMANS

They were Jack Kirby and Stan Lee’s most fertile creations during their run on <I>Fantastic Four</I> in the 1960s, but also one of the most vexing. But after years of being praised for their potential but only actualizing it on one or two standout situations, Marvel’s original rogue race is coming for their birthright with <I>Inhuman</I>. Despite the shaky ground left by departing writer Matt Fraction, incoming writer Charles Soule reinvigorates the forthcoming <I>Inhuman</I> series and makes the possibilities of what he, Joe Madureira and Marvel have planned exhilarating. <p>Mixing the intrigue of secret societies, conspiracies and the allure of “the other,” the Inhumans are both a royal family and an entire race of persecuted superhuman living in the Marvel Universe. With the downfall of their capital Attilan in the recently concluded Infinity and the seeding of new Inhumans being born in the Marvel, we are on the precipice for what could be a literal coming of age story for an entire species in superhero comics. <p>And also, Black Bolt has the coolest real name ever: Blackagar Boltagon.

HOURMAN

Hourman, your time is now. After years of being typecast as your grandfather’s idea of a superhero, DC and parent company Warner Bros. are looking to capitalize on the concept of the time-based superpowers with a new live action drama for the hero to act as a sister show for the hit series Arrow. <p>Rex Tyler is an intriguing character, essentially taking the idea of a drug-powered superhero such as Captain America and putting it in one-hour periods of use. It’ll be interesting to see how DC, WB and the CW choose to elaborate on the basis for Hourman’s powers, as they’ve already established in <I>Arrow</I> a drug called “Mirakuru” created by Japan in the 1940s with similar powers. <p>And with this potential new show on the horizon, don’t be surprised if DC Entertainment’s comics line rushes to incorporate the time-powered titan in their own storylines, even potentially a series of his own. Could he be a recruit into one of the Justice League teams, or possibly somewhere else as a guest star?

NOVA

Proudly proclaimed by Marvel as their “newest, least experienced hero” among their host of characters, the space-faring hero known as Nova has experienced a resurgence and a new life since the return of the name in 2011. With a new person under the helmet with a younger outlook on life, the all-new Nova has become Marvel’s next great teen hero, following in the footsteps of Spider-Man and the original Nova, Richard Rider. And now as incoming series writer Gerry Duggan has joined the <I>Nova</I> comic series and we’re being teased by a cameo from Nova in one shape or form in the <I>Guardians of the Galaxy</I> movie, it looks like the kid rocket is destined for a level up in 2014. <p>Newsarama has been told that Marvel has “big things” promised for young Sam Alexander in 2014, and we’re beginning to see the signs of that in comics as the young hero is tracking down his fallen Nova brethren and beginning to tug at the mystery of why he’s the last Nova. Marvel Editor-In-Chief has recently spoke about Nova being part of a major event in 2014 as well, which could mean something gin the <I>Nova</I> series itself or in the scope of a crossover event.

LEX LUTHOR

Years before it was cool for comic creators to shave their head, Lex Luthor owned the cue ball look. And insiders at DC, along with some off-hand mentions of Lex in interviews, leads us to believe that Superman’s greatest foe is going to be big business for comics in 2014. <p>Now you say, “Newsarama, Luthor is already in a prominent role in <I>Forever Evil</I>? Isn’t that big?” That’s a good point, fictional person I just created! From what we surmise, the plans for Luthor stretch beyond the conclusion of <I>Forever Evil</I> and well into 2014 and beyond. Although there’s been a trend of villains going all-mercurial across the way at Marvel with Loki, Lex is at his best when he’s at his most opportunistic – and that is evil through and through. This new rise may entail Luthor being a major part of an event subsequent to <I>Forever Evil</I>, or perhaps even getting his own series; he could do the latter without necessarily turning to the light side, as evidenced by Paul Cornell and Pete Woods’ excellent <I>Action Comics</I> run from a few years back. <p>And as far as other media goes, various people involved with the 2015 sequel to <I>Man of Steel</I> have hinted rather blatantly that Luthor would play a sizeable role in that film. Would it be great for people to have some modern Luthor comics to buy when that movie comes out on July 17th, 2015?

LOIS LANE

Call me biased, but I think Lois Lane is the best journalist working in comics. In any other story she’d be a leading lady, but in the shadow of the world’s most popular superhero, Superman, she oftentimes is relegated to second-tier status or solely as a romantic interest. Over the years we’ve seen moments of greatness for the character, but in recent months we’ve seen a string of uplifting signs that point to brighter times ahead for The Daily Planet’s lead reporter. <p>In February DC is releasing a special one-shot <I>Superman: Lois Lane</I> showing her in a leading role, and the various Superman titles have also begun to show her carving out a role for herself outside that of Superman. And it’s all cemented by the excellent portrayal of Lane by Amy Adams in the <I>Man of Steel </I>movie. Adams-as-Lane was one of the bright moments of the dark film, invigorating the character both for her on-screen work as well as the actress’ opinions of the character as stated in interviews. <p>When DC began building up the idea of a Superman/Wonder Woman romance some wondered if that left Lois Lane out in the cold, but from my perspective it’s an opportunity for the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter to stop being Clark Kent’s gal pal and start being her own woman.

PETER PARKER, SPIDER-MAN

Spider-Man is arguably Marvel’s flagship character (although they probably would like it to be someone whose media rights they own).But for the past twelve months, Peter Parker has been dead. The concept of life and death are fairly fluid things in the superhero genre, but absence truly does make the heart grow fonder and comics fans seem chomping at the bit to see Aunt May’s baby nephew return to the land of living. And it’s not a matter of “if” but “when,” and 2014 looks to be the ideal time – with the upcoming <I>Amazing Spider-Man 2</I> – movie to bring Peter back to comics. <p>That’s not to get wrong how great Doctor Octopus as Spider-Man has been in Dan Slott’s masterful <I>Superior Spider-Man</I> run, subverting what it means to be Spider-Man while also evolving the moral character of Otto Octavius. But I could see a world where Peter Parker’s Spider-Man and some variation of SpideyOck could co-exist in the Marvel Universe, and the comics’ world would be better for it. <p>When? 2014. How? Let’s leave it to Dan Slott and Marvel to fill in those blanks.

STEPHANIE BROWN

DC’s Stephanie Brown is in many ways, the ultimate underdog – especially in the eyes of comics fans at how she’s been positioned by DC’s editorial. But it looks as if DC is playing into the grassroots popularity of the character and positioning her as a major character in the forthcoming weekly series <I>Batman: Eternal</I>. <p>The daughter of a minor-league villain named Cluemaster, Brown shucked her family legacy to become a vilifying type of hero – first as Spoiler, then as Robin and later becoming Batgirl. But DC’s Dan DiDio has on repeated occasions minimized Brown’s role, first in 2007 stating she was “never really a Robin” and having her completely wiped from continuity with 2011’s “New 52” reboot. She’s had planned appearances nixed on several occasions in DC’s comics, but Scott Snyder has personally championed her as a character he had a major role for in 2014 with <I>Batman: Eternal</I>. <p>But will it be the role her fans want of her? Can anything match up to fans’ imagination for a character after the long drought the character has had? That remains to be seen. But it’ll be exciting to read the comics and the online chatter as it unfolds.

10 To Watch For 2014: COMIC BOOK CHARACTERS

Date: 30 December 2013 Time: 07:34 PM ET