It’s Thanksgiving time! To celebrate a holiday where we give thanks, I’d like to give thanks for the following Big Two characters. These are characters who have given us great moments this year, in comics and in comic-related media. This is a subjective list, as these are characters that personally resonated with me and I’m thankful for them.

1. BLACK PANTHER

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Black Panther. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

King T’Challa of Wakanda had the biggest Marvel debut movie with BLACK PANTHER: the movie grossed 1.3 billion dollars worldwide and outperformed INFINITY WAR domestically. While Thanos made a huge impact in his movie, the cultural impact of BLACK PANTHER is much greater. The first major black superhero to get their own movie, and to be an immense success, is a cultural landmark. Art and entertainment can send powerful messages, especially to children, and BLACK PANTHER very much did that this year.

That’s not even mentioning the comics. BLACK PANTHER the comic book has been helmed by one of the best writers on the black experience, Ta-Nehesi Coates. Coates has been exploring the politics of Wakanda, T’Challa’s relationship with his people, and much of Wakanda’s lore in the series. In the most recent volume, Coates has sent T’Challa off into space to find his people who have journeyed to the stars. Coates has written some of the best Black Panther stories in the character’s history.

For me, Black Panther’s triumphs this year are a positive step and a hope that we can see more characters that speak to different people out there. I’ve long been a Black Panther fan, and I’m thankful to see the character get exposure and see such success.

2. CASSANDRA CAIN

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Cassandra Cain (AKA Orphan). Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Cassandra has always been a personal favorite of mine. The one-time Batgirl became a member of Batman Inc. She was the representative in Hong Kong, the Black Bat. In the New 52, she became an afterthought. She had a villainous turn and then disappeared from any major stories until BATMAN & ROBIN ETERNAL, where she was reintroduced with a new origin. Post-Rebirth, Cassandra became part of Batman’s team in DETECTIVE COMICS, with the codename Orphan. She’s been a vital member and even got close to fellow member Clayface before his tragic end.

Cassandra is arguably one of the best martial artists in the DC Universe, second only to her mother. Her training allows her to read her opponent’s movements. She’s also half-Asian and, as a fellow Asian-American, she was one of my few representations in comics as I was growing up (Connor Hawke was another; I’d be hard pressed to name any more from the late ’90s). I’m thankful for and enjoyed her earlier adventures, and am mostly happy with her current incarnation (she seems to have regressed a bit, due to her retconned origin). So I look forward to her exploits in BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS!

3. AMADEUS CHO

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Amadeus Cho aka The Totally Awesome Hulk aka Brawn. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

Amadeus Cho, aka Brawn, is a member of the young hero team known as the CHAMPIONS. Amadeus is one of the resident tech experts (along with Ironheart) and fills a support role with his brains. Thanks to his recent gamma irradiation in TOTALLY AWESOME HULK, Cho was a Hulk for a while, but now goes by the codename Brawn.

Since his inception, Amadeus has been involved in some of the greatest moments in Hulk and Hercules lore. As one of the smartest Marvel characters, as well as being a teenage hero, Amadeus offers a unique, diverse voice amongst the Marvel Universe. It’s also nice to have a prominent Asian character be a part of a major character’s legacy, like the Hulk. Amadeus has more than proven himself and has become one of the best young heroes Marvel has to offer.

Like Cassandra Cain, Amadeus is one of my few representatives in comics, and the all Asian-American team that Amadeus had in TOTALLY AWESOME HULK #15 was the highlight of my year in 2017. Seeing Jake Oh, Shang-Chi, Silk, Amadeus, Ms. Marvel, and Jimmy Woo together made me very, very happy and thankful for their team-up.

4. AQUAMAN

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Aquaman. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

For years, Aquaman has been one of the most overlooked heroes in the DCU, and the butt of many, many jokes. With the New 52, writer Geoff Johns tried to raise the character’s profile both in his own series and in JUSTICE LEAGUE. Rebirth continued that trend; this year, writer Dan Abnett hit Aquaman hard with his CROWN OF ATLANTIS mega-arc, introducing a new version of Dolphin, a major villain in Corum Rath, and replacing Arthur on the throne.

Arthur Curry’s troubles don’t end there, though. In JUSTICE LEAGUE, Arthur is dealing with the Legion of Doom, questioning his own role in the world, AND coping with the emotional fallout of the events in CROWN OF ATLANTIS! The poor would-be king has had a harrowing year, and Arthur’s story has been captivating throughout.

I’ve been an Aquaman fan since Peter David was writing him in the ’90s, and sometimes the character is overlooked. It’s nice to see a character with such a long history get some recognition.

Of course, it’s not all bad news for the sea king. Jason Momoa will be reprising the role of Arthur in this year’s sole DC cinematic offering, AQUAMAN, in a few short weeks!

5. DOMINO

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Domino. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

Gail Simone is well known for her definitive runs on characters like WONDER WOMAN and SECRET SIX, but some of Gail’s earliest success was actually at Marvel. Gail worked in the DEADPOOL portion of the Marvel U, first on the Merc with a Mouth himself, and then on a spin-off book, AGENT X. In each series, Gail cultivated a great supporting cast with characters like Outlaw, Irene Mayweather, and Domino. Gail came back to that cast of characters this year with the new DOMINO series, and it’s been a very welcome return.

DOMINO has been following the adventures of our favorite luck-altering lady merc, and her friends Diamondback and Outlaw. It’s clear how much Simone loves these characters and the fun that she has writing them. That fun comes through on the pages and infects you. DOMINO is one of the year’s under-the-radar hits and is one of Marvel’s better offerings.

AGENT X was my first exposure to the works of Gail Simone. I’ve always had a soft spot for that entire cast of characters. I’m thankful to see them come back in this book, and it’s nice to say Gail working on them.

And of course, the amazing Zazie Beetz brought life to Domino in this year’s hilarious yet heartfelt DEADPOOL 2.

6. JESSICA CRUZ

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Jessica Cruz, Green Lantern. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Jessica Cruz is the latest Green Lantern of Earth and was the co-star of GREEN LANTERNS until recently. Cruz started off in JUSTICE LEAGUE as the reluctant bearer of the Power Ring, the green ring that feeds off its users fear. Jessica suffers from agoraphobia and anxiety, and her personal struggles are amplified by her conflict with the ring. Her bravery and will to overcome that ring leads her to earn a ring from her own universe, and membership in the Green Lantern Corps.

In GREEN LANTERNS, Jessica teams up with fellow Lantern Simon Baz to defend the Earth. Each character has their own cultural and personal issues. Jessica works on her anxiety and trying to deal with not only the world but the universe as a whole. Simon, for his part, has to deal with being a Muslim in American and trying to find his place in both the world and the Corps. Their adventures not only explored the greater universe but their own inner conflicts. It can be easy to scoff at the sheer volume of human Lanterns, but writers have done a great job of giving each Lantern a specific, distinct personality.

As someone who’s dealt with anxiety, who struggles to get out of bed and face the world, Jessica is an inspiration. Her and Simon’s stories about being minorities in America, even if not exactly like mine, remind me of my own story and add to my enjoyment of and thankfulness for GREEN LANTERNS a little more.

What I’m Really Thankful For: Variety and Representation

If this list is an indicator of anything, it’s my gratitude for characters of diverse origins that represent the different people around us. America is supposed to be this land of freedom and liberty. I know my own immigrant family is thankful for that. Most of these characters are minorities. They represent the different people who come together in America to form a nation. There’s nothing greater about our country than that.

Who are you thankful for? Comment with characters you’re thankful for this year!

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