Last night, Paul and I reached the conclusion of our countdown of the Top 100 Characters in Modern Pop Culture. Here are choice excerpts from our top 10’s, but be sure to listen to the whole show to hear everything we said:
PAUL: Calvin & Hobbes (Calvin & Hobbes)
The series was not only the funniest comic strip of all time (and on this point I will brook no dispute), but it was almost the most philosophical, satirical, and thought-provoking.
AJ: Death (The Sandman)
With the usual concepts and presentations of Death’s visage from Western culture so ingrained in my mind, just the idea that Death didn’t have to be gloomy or terrifying, and instead could be a radiant beacon of hope, felt stunningly fresh and bold to me.
PAUL: The Man with No Name (The Dollars Trilogy)
He stands tall, physically and metaphorically. His soft-spoken demeanor and steely gaze unease those that try to stare him down. He always seems in control no matter how preposterous the odds.
AJ: Spider-Man (Marvel Comics)
While Batman seeks revenge for his parents’ murders night after night, Spider-Man is perpetually seeking atonement for his own sin. He’s a much less tortured character, though, at least on the surface; he cracks jokes, he talks back, he bounces around, he acts like the kid he is.
PAUL: John Locke (Lost)
I choose to remember his hope, his wonder at the second chance, the rebirth, the island granted him.
AJ: Detective Victor “Vic” Mackey (The Shield)
He digs himself deeper and deeper into a hole there’s no returning from, simple lies snowballing into complex schemes designed to prevent him being found guilty of or responsible for anything.
PAUL: Illyria (Angel)
With such a short time to act in the narrative of the series, it’s absolutely amazing the impact the character had and continues to have.
AJ: Detective Holland “Dutch” Wagenbach (The Shield)
I’ve placed Dutch one spot above Vic on my list because, though I cannot argue that Vic Mackey is the show’s most iconic and stunning character, I’d be lying if I said that Dutch wasn’t my favorite.
PAUL: Captain Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds (Firefly/Serenity)
Mal’s politics could, if I looked too closely and thought too deeply on ’em, be problematic. But in terms of his emotional philosophy, this character was made for me. He is extremely uncomfortable with authority, stating his belief that governments are for “getting in a man’s way.” And he clearly has no place in his life for any kind of religion, at least none that’s spoken aloud.
AJ: Vincent Vega (Pulp Fiction)
Pulp Fiction is filled with the vulgar and the profound, with Vincent’s discussion of the Royale with Cheese perfectly illuminating both those qualities. Here he’s talking about eating a McDonald’s hamburger in Amsterdam, and yet he’s able to bring color and vitality to it, creating one of the most memorable conversations in movie history.
PAUL: Dr. Gaius Baltar (Battlestar Galactica)
In as much as Battlestar Galactica was about coming to terms with the dual and completely flawed nature of humanity, Gaius Baltar was the very embodiment of that human nature.
AJ: Willow Rosenberg (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
For the longest time, Willow was the one character that, were someone else to hurt her and make her cry, the audience would cry too. It didn’t hurt that Alyson Hannigan played such hurt beautifully. Willow, unfortunately, had a lot of hurt to go through.
PAUL: Morpheus, or Dream of the Endless (The Sandman)
He was humorless, stubborn, insensitive, self-obsessed, and single-minded. But as with all the best stories, his was at least in part a story of change, of becoming a better person.
AJ: Captain Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds (Firefly/Serenity)
He hates that he ever believed in anything like a God, he hates that he ever thought he could win the war against the Alliance, and most of all, he hates that he ever had faith in anything.
PAUL: Faith LeHane (Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel)
With Angel as her “sponsor,” Faith began the long and torturous road to redemption. The character’s greatest strength was that once she set out on this path, she committed herself to paying penance, no matter the cost.
AJ: Hoban “Wash” Washburne (Firefly/Serenity)
Mal’s all moody and broken, Jayne’s a jerk, River’s messed-up, Simon’s pompous–Wash is just happy to be alive. He cracks jokes. He wears loud Hawaiian shirts.
PAUL: Spike (Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel)
Long before the writers made it explicit, I had a sense that Spike was not your average vampire.
AJ: Alexander “Xander” Harris (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
The thing that truly defines Xander is the thing he isn’t: Special. At least not in the supernatural terms of the Buffyverse.
PAUL: Wesley Wyndam-Pryce (Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel)
Wesley is, to my mind, the quintessential hopeless romantic geek that transforms into a dark, brooding, and ultimately tragic figure.
AJ: Spike (Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel)
Spike brings up a lot of interesting questions about the nature of souls in the Buffyverse: How much of our souls are simply our human–or inhuman–nature? Can you quantify a soul as specific physical piece of ourselves, or is it something more than that? Is a soul something you can take away?