Many times in this board, I see people ask about “obscure” DC characters. But I’ve never quite been sure how to define the term. Is it a character “most people” haven’t heard of? Because that would be anyone but Batman, Robin, Superman, Lex Luthor, Wonder Woman, or Batman’s classic rogues gallery when you really dial in. Is it someone who hasn’t made a lot of appearances? Because Hush has made very few appearances, for instance, and he’s hard to call obscure if you’re a Batman fan. When it comes to DC characters, how do you define obscurity?
Very good questions. Maybe we need an “obscurity” tier list, just like A-List for Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman - so you have your Z-Listers like Scorn #11 from Wrath’s first appearence or something.
I think of people like Black Condor and Amazing Man. I can just bring them up and everyone wonders if I am just making them up at the top of my head.
Almost everything is relative, and that definitely applies here. It depends on the audience. For the general public, most of who do not read comics, I would say Hush is an obscure character. For the folks here on DCU, he’s not. For the comics crowd, I would call a character obscure if they haven’t been around in a long while, and have only had a few inconsequential appearances in comics. Tim Fox was obscure to me before the latest developments; now he most definitely isn’t.
I knew Black Condor because I read the Freedom Fighters back in the ‘70s, but I had no idea who Amazing Man was. I missed whole decades when I wasn’t reading so I sure I missed a lot of characters. Obscure is in the eye of the beholder.
Three obscure comics from my childhood. After they were cancelled I don’t know if they ever appeared again.
Never heard of this, but it looks cool. Like, if DC were to make this today, I would check it out .
It only made it seven issues, but it was written by David Michelinie and had pencils by Don Newton, Mike Nasser, and Rich Buckler with inks by Bob Layton. Some of my favorite creators and it was a fun series. I was into some of the odd comics back in the day.
If the character has never appeared in a live-action movie (specifically a major motion picture released in theaters), or if they’ve never been featured in a live-action television series in which they are the title character, then I consider them to be obscure. As an example, before I became a comic reader, I had never heard of Nightwing. Nightwing was obscure to me. The Arkham Knight video game was actually the first place that I encountered him and I had no idea who he was. Wanting to find out more is what led me to comics.
(Going by my standards, the upcoming Suicide Squad and Black Adam movies are about to bring a whole bunch of characters out of obscurity.)
Obscure characters can have some great creators working on them.
Hercules Unbound had pencils by José Luis Garcia-Lopez and Walt Simonson with inks by Wally Wood. Does anyone know him? Probably not, but it was a fun run.
I remember asking you about a character I hardly known, since he probably only made one appearance. You said the writers made up these character to help make the story work better.
My favorite characters of trio that anybody hardly known are Mastermind, Professor and Mr. Nice. They made only 4 appearance, 3 in The Batman Adventures and 1 in Batman: Gotham Adventures. I think they were such a great characters, wish they would come back.
I’ve wondered a lot about this kind of thing too. If you’re just basing things off the general public or pop culture consciousness, a character like Groot or Rocket Racoon would be much much less obscure than characters like Hal Jordan, Brainiac, or Doomsday. I LOVE the Guardians of the Galaxy and read the comics long before the movies came out, and was surprised they were making movies off such “obscure” characters, but they’re not at all obscure now.
And if you just want to go by name recognition, I have a feeling more people would know who Courtney Whitmore is than Hal Jordan, just based on her having a TV show.
Plenty of people I know call Hal “White Green Lantern” or “The White Green Lantern” so you are probably right.
The way I see it. Two things. 1. The character doesn’t make many modern appearances. 2. People aren’t begging for the character to make a comeback.
By that definition The Wonder Twins are obscure.
I feel like if you really, really wanted to get scientific about it, you could come up with a definition, maybe based on number of appearances, or time between different appearances, or appearances in different media, or appearances/usages by different writers. Like, there are some characters who are created by a certain writer and used in say, ten issues in a two year span over their run and then never touched again. Whereas you could have another villain character who is used very sparingly (say, only five appearances), but those are much more memorable and cover a time period of decades, and they would be less obscure, probably.
One of them can be defeated by a sponge. Not an evil sponge or a sentient sponge, just a sponge.
Hey, Nostalgia Critic just mentioned them a few seconds ago.
I don’t think you define obscurity without context. Obscurity to a comics fan is very different than obscurity to a “layperson” and even then, within the subgroup of fans there’s all manner of different groups that you might have deep familiarity with but someone else considers obscure. There’s probably some sort of reasonable set of rules you could come up with for number of appearances, time since last appearance, what sort of title they appeared in (banner titles like the big three, well known but smaller run titles, or lower run title, miniseries, etc), and whether they’ve been adapted to other media, but even then there’s going to be outliers. (e.g. Amon Tomaz has appeared in almost 70 books between 2006 and … this February, has arguably been adapted to screen twice (Smallville and Legends of Tomorrow), and appears in fairly big name titles (Teen Titans, 52, Blackest Night), yet is probably not known to a fair percentage of people who would consider themselves “in the know”…)
Bottom line, I consider a character “obscure” only if the person I’m talking to has no idea who they are. (Inversely, I assume any character I don’t know to be well known to others and just unknown to me until I learn otherwise…)
Obscure = Appeared in less than 50 issues
After that they can be referred to as lesser known, rarely used, etc.