TOUGH AS NAILS: 13 Unstoppable Superhero Vigilantes

The baddest of the bad — who mean to do good…

13th Dimension readers are familiar with Alex Segura. The crime novelist and co-president of Archie Comics is a columnist here with THE SPIDER’S WEB, a weekly exploration of Spider-Man’s history.

But Alex also writes comics — and he’s got a new one debuting Wednesday: The Black Ghost, co-written by Monica Gallagher with art by George Kambadais and co., from ComiXology Originals.

Dig the official description:

“Burnt out cops reporter Lara Dominguez finds herself on the defensive, battling back thugs attacking one of her GED-prep students after class. There’s a new player on the Creighton crime scene, she’s told. Lara moved to Creighton to escape her past in Miami, and found a new obsession — the city’s debonair vigilante, the Black Ghost. Unable to focus on anything else — and goaded on by her cyber-connection, LONE — Lara faces a crossroads: continue on a mad crusade to unmask the Ghost in search of a scoop, or find herself in the line of fire?”

By all means, you should click here to check it out — but before you do, you should take a gander at the list of 13 UNSTOPPABLE SUPERHERO VIGILANTES Segura and Gallagher have put together.

As past is prologue, so does comics history inform modern creativity.

— Dan


When we put our heads together with George to create The Black Ghost — our new superhero/noir series — we knew we had a long, storied history of activists and anti-heroes to pull from. The vigilante concept is not a new one to comics, but it is one that has seen many unique and compelling variations.

The Black Ghost — as readers will discover at the end of #1 — is not what you’d expect, but it is also very much steeped in the traditions and tropes of the genre. We just added our own unique and memorable twists to make sure we flipped the script enough to keep people on their toes.

But no creative work is birthed in a vacuum — so when Dan offered us space to list the 13 vigilantes that serve as ingredients in the creation of our own gritty, street-level hero, we couldn’t resist.

So, here they are — 13 UNSTOPPABLE SUPERHERO VIGILANTES that inspired our own, The Black Ghost:

Daredevil. Matt Murdock’s life has never been simple — whether he’s falling in love with a ninja assassin or being blinded by radioactive gunk. Unlike many on this list, Daredevil does have powers — though they often take a backseat to the realistic, grounded issues he deals with as protector of Hell’s Kitchen. Daredevil’s stories have always been as much about Matt Murdock’s struggles as DD’s, and that’s what makes him a compelling and unforgettable, flawed hero.

Cover by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson

Jessica Jones. When we first meet Jessica Jones, in Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos’s Alias #1, she’s in the dumps and struggling to hold on — drinking too much, hooking up with the wrong people, and scarred by her past. Her journey out of that abyss is what makes her not only a strong hero, but a believable person. A tough balance to strike, and one that Bendis and Gaydos pull off masterfully.

Cover by David Mack

Batwoman. Like Jessica Jones and Matt Murdock, Kate Kane — as chronicled in Greg Rucka and JH Williams III’s fantastic run on the character — is complex, conflicted, and all-too-human. The idea of someone living in the shadow of the biggest vigilante of all — the Batman — and also trying to navigate her own choices and personal challenges makes for some intense and honest storytelling, which is always the best kind. A modern classic.

The Question (I and II). While the Vic Sage version of the character — particularly the stories told by Denny O’Neil and Denys Cowan — will always hold a place in our hearts, we don’t want to ignore the second person to wear the hat and face-covering mask, Renee Montoya! Both characters are loaded with pathos and Randian methods, and both make for really intense, driven and torn heroes, with the latter also mostly written by the man himself, Greg Rucka.

Cully Hamner

Silk Spectre II. Laurie Juspeczyk — the second woman to wear the costume of the Silk Spectre in Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ classic series Watchmen — is not only a kickass heroine, but is also able to carry the weight of her identity’s legacy with a fierce, fearless demeanor that served as a big influence on our own Black Ghost saga.

Dave Gibbons

Street Angel. Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca’s teen heroine is an indie dream that evokes the best of classic street-smart vigilantes with a post-punk twist. A smart, sharp satire that also works as a love letter to superhero comics, Rugg’s scratchy, dynamic art blends with his bonkers narrative to create something unique and unforgettable.

Sandman. Matt Wagner, Steve Seagle and Guy Davis’ noir historical fiction gave Golden Age superheroics a dark, Vertigo twist in Sandman Mystery Theatre — and the end result was a magnificent, thoughtful, and intensely gruesome take on the vigilante concept. It also turned upside down the notion of the damsel in distress and the romantic dynamic between male hero and girlfriend. A high water mark for modern takes on the mystery man concept.

Cover by Gavin Wilson

Vigilante. Sometimes written off as a Punisher duplicate, Vigilante was much more — and his emotional arc, from bloodthirsty, gun-toting renegade to driven antihero with a strong supporting cast — is a testament to his creator, Marv Wolfman, who was working on the series at what some would argue was one of his most creatively fruitful periods, around the same time as his New Teen Titans run with George Perez. Vigilante shows the downside of choosing vengeance over justice, and how a man can change his path to do better.

Cover by Keith Pollard

Hawkeye (Kate Bishop). Bishop’s solo series, written by the incomparable Kelly Thompson with gorgeous art by Leonardo Romero, mixes the dangers and drama of superheroics with a savvy, sharp sense of humor that doesn’t lose any of the gravitas. Bishop’s Hawkeye tackles some of the genre tropes — legacy, building a supporting cast, battling rogues — cannily and with a knowing wink. A book that ended far too soon.

Giallo-inspired cover by Julian Totino Tedesco

The Black Beetle. Francesco Francavilla’s Black Beetle blends the historical, pulp vibe of Hellboy with iconic heroes like the Spirit, resulting in something unique and memorable — and deserving of praise and recognition as one of the best new comic book vigilantes in recent memory. Francavilla’s timeless art and knack for camera angles and noirish stylings only add to the book’s cinematic feel.

Green Arrow (Oliver Queen). Few masked men fit the definition of “troubled hero” better than Oliver Queen, who despite his riches has spent his career fighting for the little guy — and facing unspeakable setbacks and tragedies in the process. Whether we’re talking about the ‘70s-era hard-traveling hero or Brad Meltzer’s more modern, progressive take on Ollie — or even The CW’s more Batman-esque TV version — one thing has always remained constant: Green Arrow is a hero, and willing to do whatever it takes to help those lost in the shuffle.

Mike Grell

Ms. Tree. Tough as nails, defiant and totally ahead of her time, Max Allan Collins and Terry Beatty’s indie creation was a precursor to heroes like Jessica Jones — a female PI forced into the role of hero after the sudden death of her husband.

Dakota North. A little under the radar, but definitely a fan-favorite, Dakota North — like Ms. Tree and Jessica Jones — is as noir as they come, and often pops up in Marvel’s edgier books, like Daredevil and Luke Cage. No-nonsense, world-weary, and hard to fool, North is always a treat to see — and very deserving of her own title.

Cover by Tony Salmons

The Black Ghost, by Alex Segura, Monica Gallagher and George Kambadais, is out Sept. 18 from ComiXology Originals. Click here to download.


— How Len Wein’s SPIDER-MAN Stacked Up Against Gerry Conway’s Run, by ALEX SEGURA. Click here.

— PEAK SPIDER-MAN: The Enduring Power of the CONWAY-ANDRU Team, by ALEX SEGURA. Click here.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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  1. Will Eisner’s The Spirit belongs at the top of this list! He. Kicks. Ass!!!

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  2. I kinda liked the Adrian Chase Vigilante…

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  3. Did Dakota North write.the book herself?

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