The league of Superfriends
Superheroes all know each other; they often fight, and occasionally hang out thats just the way it is in comics. But genuine, believable friendships between two super-types are a rather rare thing. Were not interested in groups of buddies here so no Mutant Turtles or Warriors Three or anything where the relationship is primarily romantic (so bye-bye Daredevil and the Black Widow and Apollo and Midnighter, come to that). Theres nothing getting in the way of pure, platonic, one-on-one friendship here which is why Batman and Superman dont appear. Theres simply too much edge involved.
Also disallowed, by the way: characters who originated in other mediums (so no Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser); those where theres more of a mentor/protege thing going on (bye-bye Batman and Robin, so long Wolverine and Kitty Pryde); and friendships between heroes and non-powered characters (so dont expect to come across names like Foggy Nelson). Naturally, in the following list we break all of our rules
10.) Nick Fury and Dum Dum Dugan
Many friendships do well to survive a year; Nick Fury and Dum Dum Dugan have been hanging out together since World War II, first as key members of a behind-enemy-lines military unit in Sgt Fury And His Howling Commandos, then as the head of superspy agency SHIELD and his trusted deputy.
Be it Nazis or HYDRA, the distinctive pair Fury with his eye patch, hulking ex-circus strongman Dum Dum with his moustache and bowler hat have been kicking ass side-by-side ever since, occasionally apart (Dum Dums adventures trying to contain Godzilla in the late 70s were largely Fury-free) but mostly with this gruff, blue-collar human brick-wall one step behind the proactive Fury, Patrick Harper to Nicks Richard Sharpe. Occasional stories have seen the pair at odds with other SHIELD big wigs Tony Stark, Maria Hill but the biggest question over their service is just how theyve remained so relatively young and sprightly all these years since WW2. Okay, so Fury has his ageing-arresting Infinity Formula drug cheat solution, but Dum Dum has often been depicted as drug-free, and just dying his hair. (Hes perhaps the best advert for Hair Club For Men ever seen.)
9.) The Thing and the Human Torch
The Fantastic Four was always a family, with Ben Grimm the honorary uncle but he had another role too, as one half of a duelling sibling relationship between him and the Human Torch. Ben was always described as family head Reed Richards best friend, and the bond between the two was clear to see, but his niggling relationship with Johnny Storm was far more dynamic buildings would be wrecked and doors slammed, sure, but the love there was clear. Ben would even take it on his stoney chin when Johnny married the love of Bens life, Alicia Masters, acting as best man at their wedding. (Needless to say, it didnt go well.)
8.) Captain America and the Falcon
Captain America has had entertaining relationships with numerous other heroes Hawkeye in the Avengers springs to mind but edgy, streetwise the Falcon, mainstream US comics first black American superhero and Caps partner from 1969 for the best part of a decade, seems more important somehow. Caps an old-fashioned hero, and his modern day adventures work best when emphasising his man-out-of-time qualities; Falcon was from Harlem, and just the guy to show his partner the real America.
Though from a good family, social worker Sam Wilson had been driven to rage when his mother was shot dead in a mugging; his background flirts with supervillains, militancy and gangs, and his life since Cap has seen him involved with numerous event storylines and teams. But its for the 70s that we love him best when, under writer Steve Englehart, he was key to such major storylines as Secret Empire, wherein Cap discovers the rot at the heart of the United States.
7.) Green Arrow and Green Lantern
Most buddies enjoy each others company, but in the classic road-movie buddy book that was the Green Lantern-Green Arrow of the early 70s Dennis ONeil and Neal Adamss attempt to outdo Marvel in terms of gritty, relevant realism within a superhero book rather less fun was had. Here was lusty, big-mouthed, goatee-sporting counter-culture radical Oliver Queen (whod been himself so white-bread in all earlier depictions) lecturing a hand-wringing establishment-figure Hal Jordan on the inequalities of America drugs use, racism, corruption, all that as the pair bounded from one dragged-from-the-headlines scenario to another. It didnt sell particularly well the title was cancelled in 1972but critical reaction was euphoric, and the shadow it cast was immense.
An important book, then, but the friendship it told of was a strange one: the knowing, socially aware, self-righteous Arrow bashing his guilty space cop pal over the head for issue after issue. It was totally unfair why should GL, whose beat was the stars, keeping Earth safe, be held responsible for relatively small-beer (on a cosmic scale) social injustice? but it was a book that revolved around the relationship of two guys nonetheless; forget the weird mix of reality and superhero fantasy, it was the characters that mattered.
6.) Superman and Jimmy Olsen
But Jimmy Olsen is a sidekick, you say! Well, sort of, wed answer but hes also a very special case. Did Bucky or Robin have their own title, as Jimmy did for 20 years, from 1954 to 1974? Did other sidekicks gain their own superpowers constantly a wolfman, a human porcupine and the notorious giant turtle-boy being three of the more memorable instances or briefly marry Supergirl? Or first introduce a menace as diabolical as the mighty Darkseid of Apokolips, as Jimmy did in Supermans Pal, Jimmy Olsen #134? Indeed not!
Olsen perky, red-haired, bow-tie sporting cub-reporter pal of Clark Kent on The Daily Planet was first introduced into the Superman mythos in Action Comics #6 (November 1938), but gained a personality on the radio show two years later, and really became a staple of the comics in the early 50s, following actor Jack Larsons bubbly performance on the smash-hit TV show The Adventures of Superman, opposite star George Reeves. Though initially useful mainly as someone for Superman to talk to (as Robin had been for Batman, of course), Jimmy soon developed a life of his own. An ingenious, trouble-prone, highly dedicated undercover reporter (dressing as a woman was one surprisingly effective tactic he employed more than once), Jimmys knack for getting into trouble encouraged Superman to give him a signal watch, so he could call for help whenever needed. Naturally, he needed it plenty.
5.) Tommy Monagham and Natt 'The Hatt' Walls
In Hitman, smirking ex-Marine Tommy Monaghan is a minor Gotham City contract killer with low-level superpowers chiefly X-ray vision and mild telepathy who specialises in tackling demons and superhumans; most of the time, however, he hangs out with his cheery loser mates in a grotty pub. His best pal is Natt, a slightly rotund ex-Detroit gangbanger. From such unpromising beginnings grew one of DCs most lovable comics of the past 20 years, and at the heart of it was teasing, bullshitting male friendship; when the pair share one last beer at Noonans Bar before being cut down in a hail of bullets, its the comic mediums answer to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and just as heartbreaking.
4.) Wolverine and Nightcrawler
Chris Claremont always seemed to care about his girl characters more than the boys in his classic, extended X-Men run, but theres was room for bromance too most notably with drinking buddies Logan and fuzzy elf Kurt Wagner, who were forever going out for suds and chilling together, two cocky, high-achieving monsters with hearts of gold. In Uncanny X-Men #95 they first team-up to punch out Ape-Man of the Ani-Men in unison, but before long Logans persuading Kurt to stop hiding his (semi-demonic) face from the general public, and theyre holidaying in Canada together. Theres a degree of opposites attract going on here the misfit Nightcrawler is the gentler soul on the surface and their deep philosophical discussions over mountains of beer cans were usually the highlights of any issue they appeared in.
3.) Asterix and Obelisk
For those of us who came to comics through English translations of the great Franco-Belgian comics strips principally, Tintin and Asterix theres no greater buddy duo than the tiny, indomitable Gaul and his huge, dopey pal Obelix, scourge of pirates, Roman legionaries and bullies of every stripe across occupied France, Europe and beyond. Asterix is cunning and relatively sensible, Obelix kind-hearted, clumsy and eternally hungry though quick to anger at any suggestion that he might, just possibly, be fat. Both fall for women continually, but its a childish sort of puppy love, and never gets in the way of the bond between our heroes though they fall out often, they make up just as swiftly, the politics of the playground given over-sized four-colour life.
2.) Power Man and Iron Fist
It shouldnt have worked to shore up the failing Luke Cage title, originally called Hero For Hire and later Power Man, it was combined with the already-closed Iron Fist from #50 onwards, the book now becoming Power Man And Iron Fist, and lasting another 75 issues in this form, until an across-Marvel cull wiped it out in the 80s. Cage was a gruff black ex-con, with steel-hard skin and super-strength; Iron Fist was Danny Rand, a nice white kid brought up in a hidden city with super-kung fu skills. That they had little in common was part of the series charm, but soon the fact that these guys were pals became the core point of the strip one uptight and controlled, the other loud and crude, a street-level superhero Odd Couple whose relationship became more functional, nuanced and intriguing as the book went on.
Power Man And Iron Fist was never about the action sequences, but remains extremely fondly remembered for other qualities: chiefly, the warmth and interaction between the two mismatched leads. Despite both characters (but Power Man particularly) having extensive careers since then, the calls for them to return as a regular pairing rarely die down.
1.) Booster Gold and Blue Beetle
Like many of the top pairings in this list, Booster Gold and Blue Beetle were never designed to be team-mates, or even friends, but got there anyway to the point where its now hard to imagine the one without the other. Booster Gold was the first major new character incorporated into the DC Universe post the line-wide reboot that was Crisis On Infinite Earths. A big-headed glory-hound from the future, he comes to the past our era with no superpowers, but a ton of high-tech equipment (wrist-blasters, a super-strength power suit, a Legion of Super-Heroes flight ring) and knowledge of historicevents. His story was that of a showboating idiot who gradually becomes a true hero almost despite himself.
Blue Beetle, meanwhile, was an old Charlton Comics hero created by Steve Ditko in 1966 he was the chief model for Nite Owl in Watchmenwith some Spider-Man similarities: chiefly a bug-theme, acrobatic powers and a smart-arse personality, though a notable lack of angst. Acquired by DC in the 80s and incorporated into its universe post-Crisis, he had his own strip for a couple of years but gained more recognition as a member of Justice League International, the light-hearted, Batman-led incarnation of the team that flourished under writers Keith Giffen and JM DeMatteis in the late 80s. Booster Gold was also a member, and its there that the Blue and Gold team began.
If ever two heroes were built for buddy comedy it was these guys: put upon, suffering constant money worries and both deeply flawed Beetle overweight for a while, Booster always a bit of a dick but highly endearing as a team. Briefly quite a big player in the New 52, Booster has since (largely) disappeared but all signs point to his story not being over quite yet, and that the feckless, avaricious Booster Gold is more important than anyones yet aware. Its possible his real moment of glory is yet to come then, but for most comic readers its already happened: the JLI years, where Booster was his most greedy, useless and full of himself, Beetle at his most hapless and wisecracking, and friendship shone from every panel.