14 Characters to Watch in 2014

Fri, January 3rd, 2014 at 5:58am PST | Updated: January 3rd, 2014 at 9:12am

Comic Books
Marc Buxton, Contributing Writer

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2014 should be a huge year for comic fans.

Between Marvel Comics firing on all cylinders, DC Comics and Vertigo continuing to experiment with new directions for classic characters, Image Comics continuing its renaissance and superbly diversified output from Dark Horse Comics, Valiant Entertainment, BOOM! Studios, IDW Publishing and the rest of the industry, Wednesdays never rocked this hard. When you add in tons of TV, movies and animated projects, every fan should have something lighting a fire under his or her geek butt all year. And with so many exciting directions for thousands of characters across multiple multimedia platforms, Comic Book Resources distills things down to 14 characters that should have a massive year in front of them.

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14. Morpheus
Only one issue of Vertigo's "The Sandman: Overture" came out in 2013, but that single installment held ample evidence that Neil Gaiman's writing is as good as ever. Fans may have to wait a while for each issue, but if the first is any indication, each page, heck, each panel illustrated by J.H. Williams III, will be worth the wait. Morpheus' story is far from over, and as we get closer to whatever Warner Bros. and Joseph Gordon-Levitt has in store for the Lord of Dreams cinematically, things should get plenty exciting around the Dreaming. Vertigo is the house that Morpheus and Gaiman built, and as the film takes form and new details start to emerge, there should be a renewed interest in all things Sandman.

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13. Electro
Electro is one of those villains who never had deep motivations; he just was a bad guy who existed primarily to make life rough for Peter Parker. All that could change after "Amazing Spider-Man 2" hits theaters. Jamie Foxx's performance should be strong enough to spark (pun intended!) a renewed interest in one of Spidey's oldest foes. Marvel could opt to flesh out the classic Marvel Universe Electro, or go the Ultimate route and have Max Dillon make life miserable for Miles Morales (provide the Ultimate Universe still exists after Galactus gets done with it). The existence of a film featuring the bad guy could put Electro in the rarefied air of Green Goblin and Dr. Octopus, and no doubt Dan Slott or Brian Michael Bendis will take advantage of the film's momentum. Kinda miss the pointy lightning mask, though.

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12. Flash
With all due respect to John Wesley Shipp, television is finally going to get the Flash fans deserve. After a fandom-rocking debut on "Arrow," everything is coming up Barry Allen in 2014. One of the more controversial moves DC made with The New 52 was to replace Wally West with his predecessor despite Wally's popularity. This may prove to have been the right move, as Barry is set to take DC TV to the next level, introducing the world to his allies and Rogues, and who knows -- maybe Wally won't be far behind. As for the comics, thanks to Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul, "The Flash" has been one of DC's most steadily enjoyable books since it debuted in 2011. The title will see some creator shifts in the new year, which should shine a bright spotlight on the book even as the hero is poised to become a television staple.

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11. Star-Lord
"Guardians of the Galaxy" is ready to go supernova. With momentum promised by the movie and the saga Marvel, Brian Michael Bendis and a murderers row of artists including Kevin Maguire and Sara Pichelli is producing every month, the Guardians will be everywhere this year. Leading the Guardians galactic charge is Peter Quill aka, Star-Lord, and Chris Pratt's performance as Quill promises to up the Q factor of the once fringe character. As fans clamor for more things Quill, Bendis and company promise to deliver. Look no further than "Guardians of the Galaxy" #0 to see just how deeply Bendis understands the Guardians' stalwart leader as he expands on the origin (originally written by Steve Englehart) to create an iconic tale similar in emotional scope to Peter Parker's. As the Guardians propel into the cultural consciousness of the world, their most visible member, their leader, Star-Lord will be front and center.

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10. Captain Marvel
Thanks to the writing acumen of Kelly Sue DeConnick, Carol Danvers has shot into the upper-tier of Marvel's heroic pantheon. She is one of the core Avengers, fighting the good fight in multiple Avengers books, her solo book is getting ready to be relaunched with a renewed vigor by Marvel as part of their All New Now campaign and she is a newly-minted legacy hero, ready to take the role of inspiration and mentor to the new Ms. Marvel. All this adds up to one hell of a year coming up for Carol Danvers. Marvel is determined to keep Carol in front of eager fans and with good reason -- between her military background, her ties to the cosmic side of the MU and her standing as an Avenger, she is one of the greatest story engines Marvel currently has. Oh yeah, and Carol will soon be joining the Guardians of the Galaxy. Marvel Studios should be announcing their film slate for 2016 and beyond this year, and the rumor mill has been running hot with hopes of Carol paying a vital role in Marvel's future cinematic plans. One mention of Carol and, oh, let's say Katee Sackoff in the same press release, and things could get interesting.

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9. Stephanie Brown
Since the launch of the New 52, no major comic book convention has been complete without a fan asking, nay, demanding the return of Stephanie Brown. Now, the beloved former Robin/former Batgirl's presence is imminent according to Scott Snyder, in the new weekly series "Batman: Eternal." Stephanie has a rich history, filled with controversy and fans that refuse to let her die. Fan fury led to her resurrection when she was seemingly murdered when she wore the mantle of Robin. Fan demand forced DC to allow Stephanie to become Batgirl, and fan demand has apparently led DC to include her, finally, in the New 52. Will fans embrace Stephanie's new direction or will fans have something else to riot about come con season? We'll find out as 2014 and her new adventures unfold.

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8. Loki
"Thor: The Dark World" made one thing clear, besides the fact that Marvel Studios knows how to make landfills full of money: People love Loki. There was more fan clamor concerning Loki post-"Dark World" than there was about the titular Thunder God. In the past few years, writer Kieron Gillen has guided Loki, reincarnated as a young boy, first in the pages of "Journey Into Mystery," and more recently, in "Young Avengers." Gillen basically owned the character, making Kid Loki one of the most beloved and discussed characters in the Marvel Universe. Now that "Young Avengers" has wrapped -- for now -- Loki is grown up again and is free to cause chaos anywhere and everywhere. Writer Al Ewing and artist Lee Garbett will soon launch "Loki, Agent of Asgard" to connect the growing cult of Loki with the zeitgeist of "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." Things are looking good for the God of Lies as Marvel begins to expand the role a villain who has suddenly become one of their most beloved antiheroes.

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7. Moon Knight
Where Warren Ellis goes, success follows. When Ellis took over "Iron Man" in 2005, little did anyone know that the writer would be setting the tonal standard for Robert Downey Jr. and the entire Iron Man franchise -- in fact, who knew there would be an Iron Man franchise? Now, Ellis is set to do the same thing for Moon Knight in 2014. Along with artists Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire, the writer is set to breathe new life into Moon Knight, a character who often attracts A-list talent, but not necessarily sales. At worst, this new take on Moon Knight will be a cult hit of the new year. At best, Ellis and company will plant seeds Marvel can sow in future comics, film or on television. Come to think of it, wouldn't an Ellis-fueled Moon Knight just fit in perfectly with Marvel's new street-level Netflix plans?

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6. Negan
In light of recent events on AMC's "The Walking Dead," it seems (relative) peace can finally be had for Rick Grimes' band of survivors. Well, not with the potential of Negan on the horizon. Speculation has been strong that Negan will eventually make his way to the TV show, and fans of Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard's comic know just how deadly and brutal the character can be. Seriously, Negan makes The Governor look like Gargamel, and if the villain brings his brutality to the world of AMC's hit series, fans will take notice. Kirkman and Adlard are sickening comic fans every month as Negan expands his power base, and soon TV fans will know the horror evoked by the man and his barbed wire bat. And even if AMC doesn't pull the trigger on introducing Negan in 2014, the comic is currently so fueled by Negan's special brand of evil, it's impossible to see how his legend won't continue to grow in the new year.

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5. Wonder Woman
Between Brian Azzarello's portrayal of Wonder Woman in her solo book, and Charles Soule's vision of Diana in "Superman/Wonder Woman," DC fans were certainly treated to some great Wonder Woman stories in 2013. Azzarello's long form story combining ancient myth with a modern horror slant has given Wonder Woman's adventures a Vertigo-like edge, while Soule has presented a Diana with a bit more traditional flair, yet both interpretations fit seamlessly into each other and the overall tapestry of the DCU. As Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman film debut inches ever closer, DC will most likely continue to ramp up Diana's presence in the DCU, hopefully bringing a new golden dawn to a character who for too long has been an afterthought. With talents like Azzarello and Soule involved in the lead up to Diana's film debut, Wonder Woman should shine brighter than ever before in 2014.

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4. Magneto
Many characters on this list will make an impact in Hollywood in 2014, but only one will do it twice. Magneto has the distinction to have two of the finest actors in Hollywood portraying him, which means great things on the horizon for the Master of Magnetism. Both Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender have brought Magneto to life in the past, but this year, they will both have a shot at it again, this time in the same move. Magneto has stolen the show in all the X films he has appeared in, no matter which actor played him, so two Magnetos should provide double the excitement over the X-Men's greatest foe, and Marvel is ready to pounce on this momentous occasion by premiering a new "Magneto" series written by Cullen Bunn with art by Gabriel Hernandez Walta. Magneto is currently a member in good standing with Cyclops' Uncanny X-Men, but how long can that little harmonious catastrophe last? Rest assured, Magneto has a plan up his sleeve, and when he reveals it, the fallout could well be the biggest X-related moment of the year.

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3. Harley Quinn
DC ended 2013 with a major hit on their hands with "Harley Quinn" #0 netting massive sales, and the excitement surrounding DC's answer to Deadpool should continue into 2014. A Bugs Bunny-like wildcard that revels in mayhem, fans have responded to the New 52 take on Paul Dini and Bruce Timm's beloved creation. Starring in one of the hottest comics debuts of 2013, imagine how far Harley's twisted star could rise after she gets a full year under her garter belt. Harley has broken away from the restrictive confines of the Suicide Squad, and with a new look, a new audience and a new purpose, Harley has become one of the brightest stars of DC's New 52.

RELATED: "Harley Quinn" #1: Introducing DC's Answer to Deadpool?

2. Rocket Raccoon
As mentioned earlier, the Guardians of the Galaxy will be everywhere in 2014. Longtime fans may soon exist in a surreal reality where grade schoolers are running around with Rocket Raccoon back packs and lunch boxes, because with the Disney marketing machine, things could get crazy. We're talking Pikachu crazy. We're talking a Raccoon with a ray gun becoming the next SpongeBob level of crazy. All this mainstream exposure should raise Rocket's comic book profile as well, so look for him to inch towards the same level of exposure and popularity as some of Marvel's icons. Truly, this is a Golden Age, ready to explode as soon as that first "Guardians" trailer debuts, as which point the world will be conquered by the deadliest cute-and-fuzzy critter in the galaxy.

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1. Peter Parker
2013 was a major year for Spider-Man. Both "Superior Spider-Man" and "Ultimate Comics Spider-Man" are firing on all creative cylinders, and whether fans loved the books or hate them, they were certainly talking about them. The Spider-verse spawned critically acclaimed titles like "Superior Foes of Spider-Man," "Superior Spider-Man Team-Up" and a well-received "Superior Carnage" mini, success which arrived, surprisingly enough, without the presence of Peter Parker.

The world of Spider-Man is so well-realized, Peter's foes and supporting cast can carry multiple narratives for months on end, even while May Parker's nephew is nowhere to be found. 2014 will see a new Spider-Man film and the third season of Disney XD's animated "Ultimate Spider-Man," so the question has yo be asked: Does Marvel dare to go another year -- a movie year -- without Peter in the comics?

We're guessing no, and Peter's return will shake the foundations of fandom, as writer Dan Slott no doubt has a doozy of a return planned. And Peter may be alone as Miles Morales will need a place to land if the Ultimate Universe ends (and things are getting very Galactusy in that corner of reality). Could there be two Spider-Men in the classic universe? And what would this mean for Doc Ock? Whatever the answer, Peter's return, combined with Marc Webb's "Amazing Spider-Man 2," could result in the biggest year for Peter yet.

TAGS:  peter parker, electro, rocket raccoon, wonder woman, captain marvel, sandman, morpheus, harley quinn, the flash, star lord, guardians of the galaxy, stephanie brown, loki, moon knight, negan magneto

 
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