Movies & TV / Columns

Comics 411: Our Favorite Comic Book Families

November 25, 2020 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Batman Family

Welcome back! I’m Steve Gustafson and if you enjoy discussing anything comic book related, you’ve come to the right place. Each week we cover something in the industry and I always enjoy your input in the comment section below.

Previously on…

A couple of weeks ago we discussed Comic Book Intercompany Crossovers. Here’s what some of you had to say:

RAWmachine: “For me, it was Xmen and Teen Titans.
The idea of Dark Phoenix and Darkseid, thats the end of it all.”

TheMainEvent: “As a kid I really loved the Batman/Predator crossovers and remember buying all these Predator and Batman action figures after reading it to make them fight like in the comic. Being a 90s kid I was all about the Marvel/DC crossover and any Image/Marvel crossover like the two Spawn/Batman crossovers, Wildcats/X-Men, and X-Force/Youngblood. In more recent times the Batman/Ninja Turtle crossovers stand out as having been done really well.
While not comics I do have two distinct crossovers that I love to death though. The first being the Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue tv special with tons of 80s & 90s cartoon characters appearing to help stop drugs and the other being the Muppet Family Christmas movie where Muppets, Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock are all stuck in Fozzy’s farmhouse for Christmas. Both were just big parts of my childhood and thought it was really cool to see all these characters interacting together.”

Dorath: “Batman/Captain America. “I may be a criminal lunatic, but I’m an American criminal lunatic!””

Benjamin Kellog: “I’m super thrilled that “DC vs. Marvel/Marvel vs. DC” was mentioned, as that is indeed my favorite intercompany or just plain crossover of all time, in addition to being the first I ever knew about, and a formative point in my emerging fandom. I saw an ad for it in some random comic my family picked up around ’96 or so and for a few years after wondered what the heck it was. My thoughts at the time: “Holy cow, Superman, Spider-Man, the X-Men, and all these other guys in one comic?! Also, wait, they’ve been in two different universes all this time?! But what about that Superman vs. Spider-Man crossover from the late ’70s I like, ‘The Heroes and the Holocaust?’ What’s that, Mom? I shouldn’t be reading that last word out loud? Why not?” (It’d take a few more years before I could fully comprehend WWII. Seriously, what were they thinking when they titled it that way?) A couple years later, I finally spotted a TPB for the event in a local comic shop and begged my mom to buy it on impulse. We did, and it was awesome.
Not knowing much about how those universes were composed at the time, I was definitely confused by some of the heroes’ appearances. Why was Superman wearing a mullet? Who was that leather jacket-wearing Superboy, and what do you mean he wasn’t the young Clark Kent from the ’60s cartoons I sometimes saw on Cartoon Network? Wait, Peter Parker’s been replaced by a clone of himself named Ben Reilly?! Cool costume, but his fight with Kon-El because they were apparently both clones felt a little lame to me precisely because they weren’t the “real things.”
I did enjoy some of the high points (Wonder Woman as Thor! Tim Drake and Jubilee’s adorable relationship! Jameson at the Daily Planet! Freaking Amalgam! AMALGAM, PEOPLE!!!), and the meta-narrative of both universes being separated brothers rediscovering each other and making up at the end was kinda neat to me at the time. (Now if Starlin had written it, maybe it could’ve been even neater?) Plenty of it has aged horribly and the only part I might consider revisiting is absolutely the Amalgam concept and characters. Still, though, it was a blast learning more about the original universes through their interactions with each other, and it was my first major exposure to the, as Dr. Seuss might say, “much of a muchness” that was the best and worst of ’90s comics.”

Keith: “Batman/Captain America Elseworlds tale set during WW2. Can’t be topped!”

Ken Wood: “I was a big fan of Valiant Comics and Image comics and actually enjoyed Deathmate quite a bit. Two great companies and a really fun cross over event.
Spawn and Batman was another really fun one. Two of my all time favorite comic characters in the same book. Hell yeah.
I also thought Spawn Cerebus was a really fun read.
While looking up other crossovers to refresh my memory, I discovered there was a Wildcats Spawn crossover and a Gen 13 crossover I’d never heard of before. Now I must find them.
And a Gen 13 Gen X!”
So many great comments! Big thanks to everyone who shared their thoughts!

This week we discuss…

Our Favorite Comic Book Families

Happy (early) Thanksgiving! The holiday season is one that conjures up thoughts of family and friends. For some that’s a good thing while others cringe at the thought of traveling  (PRE-covid) to be surrounded by those you’re grateful to only see once or twice a year. You can imagine how comic book families could be around this time of the year and I thought it would be fun to celebrate our Favorite Comic Book Families this week.

As you’ll see, I use the term family pretty loosely.

Did you know that DC put out a Batman Family series which ran from 1975 to 1978? They also put out a Superman Family (1974–82), Super-Team Family (1975-1978) and Tarzan Family (1975–76). But I want to talk about Batman’s “family” first, perhaps the largest one that will be on here. This “Family” operates more like a tight knit network under the guidance of Batman. He’s pretty hands on and like any family, sometimes that can be a little overwhelming. But each one knows where they stand and support one another. Yes, they’ll speak out if someone steps out of line or they don’t agree with a decision. What stands out most is how Batman/Bruce Wayne relies on this surrogate family, keeping him from being fully swallowed by his vigilante quest. With Batman as the head, you can count (and I know I’ll miss someone) Alfred Pennyworth, James Gordon, Robin, Oracle, Batgirl, Flamebird, Blackbat, Batwoman, Nightwing, Red Hood, Catwoman, Dr. Leslie Thompkins, Red Robin, Azrael, Huntress, Harvey Bullock…and the list goes on. It’s quite a group to rely on.

Can you imagine spending the holidays with the Magneto and the fam? Not only do you have the Master of Magnetism, you have Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, and Polaris. Maybe Quicksilver’s ex, Crystal, can stop by. Or you can have fun explaining how the Vision was married to Scarlet Witch and they had two kids but in reality they were manifestations brought to like from shards of Mephisto’s soul. OK, I never kept up but did Speed and Wiccan turn out to be legit Tommy and Billy? I find conflicting stories on the subject. Regardless, we’ll keep it there. If we start adding in the alternate reality/extended family, we’d be here all day.

Opening up another can of worms, The Summers Family may be the most convoluted one on the list. Looking at him, you wouldn’t think Cyclops from the X-Men would be that complex. But add in the backstory of his dad, Christopher Summer or Corsair to his friends, along with Alex, Gabriel, Nathan, Nate, Rachel, Hope…this family could have its own column. I’m not even getting into Nathan/Cable, Nate Grey, Stryfe, or the “other” Rachel. For someone who used to be the boring X-Man back in the day, Scott has a lot of issues. Some of which we’re seeing in the new X-Men series. 

I’d imagine Odin, Thor, and Loki sitting around a table could be awkward with all the issues there.

Speaking of issues, no family has the father/son dynamic like the Grayson Family from Invincible. Invincible (Mark Grayson) is the teenaged son of Omni-Man (Nolan Grayson), an extraterrestrial superhero of the Viltrumite race. Invincible inherited his father’s superhuman strength and ability to fly and he has sworn to protect the Earth. But wait! The Viltrumites are actually a warrior race who conquer planets for their Empire, killing anyone who refuses to join. Invincible’s dad was sent to Earth as an advance agent and Mark, refusing his father’s offer to join the Viltrumites, tries to fight him. Bad idea. He’s almost killed by his dad. There’s way more twists and turns but that right there would make any dinner conversation over a Thanksgiving turkey kind of awkward. Of course we can’t forget about Mark’s half-brother from another planet.

To lighten things up a bit, let’s talk about The Marvel Family. Although I prefer to call them the Shazam Family. The Marvel Family was established in 1942, starting with the original Captain Marvel, Billy Batson. We quickly met Mary (Mary Marvel), Freddy (Captain Marvel Jr.), Eugene, Pedro, and Darla. Seems like one big happy family, right? Not so fast. Every family has a black sheep and this family has their Black Adam. An older Egyptian renegade protégé of the wizard Shazam, who gave Batson his powers, and who was the first to be granted superpowers by the wizard. Adam eventually grew to abuse his power, and became a tyrant. He’s played both sides of the fight over the years and brings his own family along for the ride.

Another family that is pretty clean cut is the Superman Family. Like Batman, Superman sits at the head of a large group of both family and those he considers family. You have his cousin, Supergirl and Superboy, depending on continuity. Ma and Pa Kent are his heart and compass on Earth. Although they were killed, his real parents, Jor-El and Lara Lor-Van, play a huge part in his life. The icing on the top is Lois Lane. the love of his life. Truly a super family.

The Inhuman Royal Family are the ruling class of the Inhumans. They’ve been in the spotlight a little more recently and definitely belong here. The head of the family is Black Bolt, King of the Inhumans and husband to Medusa, the mother of Ahura and older sister of Crystal. Crystal is the ex-wife of Quicksilver and mother of Luna. Then you have Gorgon, cousin of Medusa and Black Bolt. Karnak is cousin to Black Bolt and brother to Triton. Let’s close the family tree with Maximus Boltagon, aka Maximus the Mad, who is the brother of Black Bolt.

Let’s bring it full circle and end with the Fantastic Four. They are Marvel’s “first family” and have a long, rich history of showing the strength of the family bond in a crazy universe populated by the likes of Doctor Doom, the Mole Man and more. Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic and his wife, Sue Storm-Richards/Invisible Woman, her brother Johnny Storm/Human Torch and their friend, Ben Grimm, Reed and Sue’s kids, Franklin and Valeria. While the Fantastic Four movie looks to be in trouble and the comic is going away, make no mistake, this family always finds a way to come out together.

OK, who’s your favorite comic book family and why? Who did I miss?

That’s all the time I have. See you next week!