So, Tony Stark is to be replaced as Iron Man by Riri Williams, a 15 year old African-American student who also happens to be a girl. Apart from the obvious misnomer, this could be either a really inspired move or a cynical shock value based cash grab with allusions to appeasing people who are demanding more heroes of ethnic minorities, and lets be honest, it's probably a bit of both. This also means that within the last 6 years, Marvel have replaced all 6 of their big 6 heroes (Spider-Man, Hulk, Wolverine, Captain America, Thor and now Iron Man) with new characters. So what better time to look at some of the heroes that took up the mantel of an already established hero and actually succeeded. As a rule I am going to be excluding characters created during DC's Silver Age revival of the superhero genre (e.g. Barry Allen replacing Jay Garrick or Hal Jordan replacing Alan Scott), as, whilst these characters are probably the definitive versions of of that superhero lineage, these neither character existed in the same universe at the time and as such were not aware of the lineage they were taking on (unless you count Barry Allen reading Flash comics and thinking Jay Garrick was a fictional character).
Warning: Opinions below. You have been warned.
10. Dick Grayson (Replacing Bruce Wayne as Batman)
Ok, so this one ranks low on the list because DC have never really given the first boy wonder a proper shot at being Batman. However, everyone has to admit that when he has stepped up to the plate (once after the Knightfall storyline and then between Final Crisis and Brightest Day) Dick Grayson has proven that he is more than capable of being as good of a Batman as Bruce Wayne. He has faced down classic villains like The Joker, Two-Face and Killer Croc, as well as standing alongside the Justice League like his mentor. He's also one of only 3 sidekicks from the big 2 to get to take over from their mentor (we aren't counting Speedy- Green Arrow, because he never took up the Green Arrow mantel, he was either Red Arrow or just Arrow). But still, DC never got behind Dick as the Dark Knight, which is both unfair and justified, seen as they'd lose out on having Nightwing if they let him be Batman for too long.
9. Carol Danvers (Replacing Mar-Vell as Captian Marvel)
It's actually surprising how long it took Marvel in getting round to doing this. Considering they killed off their original Captain Marvel in the 80's and Carol Danvers has been heavily connected to the character and the Marvel name since her introduction in the 70's. However, it speaks volumes about the character and how well she had been built up before taking on the role that she is not only the first Marvel superheroine to get her own film, but the first Captain Marvel to get their own film (over the original Marvel comics version and his immediate successors and even over the original, DC owned version, who is getting a film under a different title).
8. Johnny Storm (Replacing Jim Hammond as The Human Torch)
This one is an interesting case because, much like with many of DC's Silver Age reimagining's of their Golden Age heroes, Johnny Storm never seemed to be aware of his predecessor before taking the name The Human Torch. However, unlike the DC heroes, both Johnny Storm and Jim Hammond existed in the same universe, their future interactions and their relationships with Namor prove that. Of course, Johnny Storm is the most recognisable of the two (and probably the most recognisable member of the Fantastic Four behind The Thing), having been a mainstay in the comics for over 50 years. Which has got to count for something. The only thing that lands him so low on this list is the fact that, despite being Marvel's first superhero, the original Human Torch isn't that well known now, much less recognisable than some of the other characters replaced by those further down on the list. Plus the original "Human" Torch wasn't actually human....
7. Scott Lang (Replacing Hank Pym as Ant-Man)
Much like Carol Danvers, you can tell Scott Lang did something right when Marvel made the Ant-Man film about him rather than Hank Pym. Scott Lang might be the second Ant-Man, but he outstrips Hank Pym in the role for two reasons. One, Hank Pym is a colossal a-hole, and two, Scott carried on the role. It didn't take Hank Pym long to make the leap up to being Giant-Man, Goliath or Yellowjacket (guy has had too many names) because Marvel could never make him as Ant-Man interesting. Scott Lang never really had that problem. Sure, the powers aren't exactly brilliant and the whole idea behind it is a bit stupid, but Scott Lang was a character that made the stupid idea work. He was a funny character, whereas Hank Pym was a straight scientist with emotional problems. When you have a character premise as ridiculous as Ant-Man, funny is much better.
6. Miles Morales (Replacing Peter Parker as Spider-Man (Ultimates Universe))
Ok, contentious one, but as it was put when I did an article on The Superior Spider-Man storyline; "who would you rather have as Spider-Man, Doc Ock or Miles Morales?" And considering that he wasn't replacing the main 616 continuity Peter Parker, it made it easier for the character to find his feet. Sure, he isn't as fun as Peter, but Miles actually works as Spider-Man. Being the first of the big 3 most famous superheroes (Superman, Batman, Spider-Man) to be of a race other than Caucasian, the character received a fair amount of negative backlash and scrutiny, but the stories made the character work. They don't focus on his race, just on making him an interesting character, someone who you want to read about. And that's a better way to replace the best superhero of all time than a bungled mindswap storyline.
5. Ted Kord (Replacing Dan Garrett as Blue Beetle)
I'd be willing to bet that there are a lot of people who didn't even know that there was a Blue Beetle before Ted Kord. Dan Garrett lasted from 1939 to 1950 before his original publisher, Fox Comics, sold the character to Charlton Comics, who introduced Ted Kord. After that, the Ted Kord incarnation of the character lasted until 2006, becoming a DC superhero and a member of the Justice League in the process, as well as being the inspiration for Nite Owl in The Watchmen. Not only is he the most recognisable Blue Beetle, but it would probably be fair to say that Ted Kord is possibly one of the top 5 best non-powered Superheroes. Would anyone disagree with that?
4. James Rhodes (Replacing Tony Stark as Iron Man)
So, the precedent for taking an already established superhero and making them someone of an ethnic minority. Let's be honest, it's hard not to like Rhodey. And like Dick Greyson, he is the right pick to take up the mantel of this particular superhero. Not only did this come during one of the most acclaimed storylines in comics history (The Demon In A Bottle story), but Rhodey also took part in Marvels first major crossover event, Secret Wars, meaning that it was him, rather than Tony Stark who had the first crossover. He fought a who's-who of Iron Man villains during his time, The Mandarin, Radioactive Man, The Zodiac, he was a member of two Avengers teams, and he got a really good run at developing not only himself as a character, but Tony Stark as well. And then, after giving up being Iron Man, he became War Machine, who is still a widely recognised hero to this day, which is how you do a short term replacement hero right.
3. Kamala Khan (Replacing Carol Danvers as Ms. Marvel)
So, we've already had Carol Danvers on the list, so why not her replacement. Along with James Rhodes, Kamala Khan is a shining example of how to do a minority race legacy hero right. She's only been around for 2 years now, but boy has she made an impact. And I mean, what's not to love. She's a super-fan who becomes a superhero, with the endorsement of her idol, she's funny (good enough to hang with Spider-Man and that's something), she's smart, she's adorable and, most importantly, she's both believable and relatable as a character. Like Miles Morales, she appeals to everyone, not just people of her ethnicity, but her race does play a part in her stories, specifically her home life, and not only is it handled well, it improves the character immensely. When your first volume wins a Hugo Award for best graphic story, you know you've done something right.
2. John Stewart and Kyle Rayner (Replacing Hal Jordan as Green Lantern)
This one is a tough one. Who was the better replacement for Hal Jordan as Green Lantern. On one hand you've got the guy who is almost as recognised in the role as his predecessor, who for years was the standard bearer for black superheroes and the most high profile character of any ethnicity in DC publications. Whereas on the other hand, you have the guy who reinvigorated the series once it had become bloated and stale, the guy who was the first to put their own unique spin on the character without ending up being a complete douche. Either way both were excellent characters to follow the greatest Lantern and it's testament to their staying power that both are still relevant today, even after DC have screwed up their own continuity so much it may as well be a ball of string. Oh, and the less said about Guy Gardner the better.
And Number 1...
Wally West (Replacing Barry Allen as The Flash)
Could it really be anyone else?
So, it is your job to follow the guy who restarted the superhero genre, who has just died in the biggest and greatest comic book crossover event of all time, in what is still considered the best comic book death of all time in terms of impact. What happens next? Well, if you're talking about Wally West, you become even more popular than your predecessor, being equally recognised, if not more, in the role. You then spend the next 2 decades being one of the leading lights for DC, being a highlight of the Justice League whether on the page or on the screen. You can tell a character has done his job when the publisher try to write them out of their comics and then they have to have a massive crossover to bring them back after they realise (and are told, a lot) that they've made a big mistake. Out of all the sidekicks that got to graduate to being proper superheroes, Wally West is the only one to have any longevity in the mantel of the hero who mentored them, lasting 23 years, and being second only to Nightwing in terms of longevity for a sidekick turned superhero outright. Really, no other legacy hero comes even close.
So, that's my list. Do you agree or disagree. Who is your favourite legacy hero and why is it Wally West? Answers below.
And with that.