OK, so I'm gonna start listing all the Best & the Worst character in comics in a few days (I've got some more builds to post in the meantime- mainly Marvel villains stuff), but I need some help getting the criteria down to a science. If you can think of any type of category I've left out, then let me know. Or if you think something shouldn't count, etc. I kinda need an extra category for "Best Characters".
THE WORST COMIC BOOK CHARACTERS EVER:
Characters will be judged on the following criteria, as many examples of how to suck I can think of, each on a scale of 1 (could be argued they don't count, but they kinda do) to 3 (no question- horrible example of this). There are eleven Traits of Suck in total, four of which are weighted by a factor of two instead of one. Added up, they will be divided from a total of 45, giving us the Suck Ratio of any given character:
Over-Pushed: Cannot stress this one enough. Characters are supposed to be pushed by the creative team- it's part of their job. But this category is for when those characters the writers love go WAY too far, and they end up cramming them down our throats- people who are pushed far beyond their capability as characters. I doubt as many people would have minded Magog on the JSA except for the fact that the writers WOULD. NOT. STOP. SHOVING THE CHARACTER AT US, putting him on every cover, and giving him his own SERIES, while he was barely a popular character on his own team. Chris Claremont characters tend to get this treatment a lot (it's virtually his most famous trait as a writer these days, sadly). This is weighted by a full 2 points, because after all, nearly any degree of Character Suck can be lessened by that character merely being a one-shot or a mostly-unused character. Star Trek: The Next Generation fans can tell you just how much is sucks when that annoying character (Wesley Crusher, the ship-saving smart wunderkind based off of Gene Roddenberry as a boy) doesn't just save the ship once, but saves it a million times, making no mistakes and proving himself against all other characters.
Angsty: Comics got really bad for this in the 1980s and 1990s. Pathos has always been an important part of comics (Marvel beat the living sh*t out of DC in the 1960s because of this trope, actually), but when characters over-do it with the sad pasts, Rape as Backstory, etc., you get to learn to hate them.
Boring: Some characters are just DULL. There's nothing interesting about them, nothing that sets them apart. Lots of gangs of villains in the '90s have this, lacking true personality. Most one-shot villains (or even recurring D-Leaguers) also suffer from this, having nothing to offer. This is probably the most common case of Character Suck, especially for super-heroes. A great deal of DC's major characters used to suffer from this in the 1960s, and some of them never grew out of it, having failed series after failed series because nobody cared.
Over-Powered: Weighted by two, because I hate Power Geekery in all it's forms. Some heroes can be powerful and get away with it, but SUCKY characters who are too strong? It's linked to Over-Pushing, and also ruins many potential stories, as the characters can do TOO much, and as a result, nothing threatens them and you get a boring plot. Villains who are too powerful often need silly circumstances to defeat them. Fine in moderation, but if over-done, it's absolutely brutal. This category can fill up with either Sheer Power (they fly in to kick everyone's asses), Excessive Powers (ie. too many ass-pulled abilities), or Excessive Skills (like a new character coming in who's a TOTALLY WAY BETTER FIGHTER THAN BATMAN YOU GUYS!!)
Xeroxed: Weighted by two, as it's the most insidious, LAZY form of Character Suck out there. Everything under the sun has been taken from SOMEWHERE- this is true (Star Wars is based off of The Hero's Journey merged with some Japanese movies, and everything else under the sun). But GOOD writers can gather DIFFERENT things together to make an interesting story or, in this case, an interesting CHARACTER. Xeroxing cool characters not only makes for sucky characters, but also devalues the ORIGINATOR. Just look at poor Venom or Wolverine- angry vigilantes with the exact same power-set popped up all over comics in the 1990s, and it nearly ruined both of them (and DID so in Eddie Brock's case). Some Rip-Offs try something original, and often surpass the original (Superman was a partial rip-off of "Gladator", Captain Marvel was a HUGE rip-off of Superman that nonetheless tried several new things with the concept, etc.). Others are huge examples of this, being a mere cookie-cutter copy, meant to duplicate someone else's success without any of the hard work.
Mysterious/Confusing: Not that common, but still pretty lame. Characters often have empty backstories simply because the writers never bothered to add in any. Others are just meant to copy Wolverine's "What are my origins?" schtick whole-hog. Other characters are Mysterious simply because they're way too confusing, with either a half-assed explanation of powers, a poorly-told origin, or too many writers taking a stab at their origins or character, leaving them a big jumbled mess of "What IS this person about?". Characters mashed-up by the Crisis on Infinite Earths suffer from that last one a LOT.
Fanservice: Hot characters are fine, but don't over-do it. Wonder Woman's costume is a LITTLE silly-looking, but still manages to cover most of her ass (if Mike Deodato isn't drawing it). Vampirella, Power Girl and others? That's just embarassing. There are hundreds of pages out there debating this, with apologists defending sexy costumes on women as part of the medium, but I find it a little humiliating to be a fan of a medium that pushes women out like they're whores to be ogled. Sexiness is great, and to be admired. But turning comics into Skinemax or Playboy is something else. I actually consider Penthouse Comix and others to be BETTER about this, because they're at least honest-to-God pornography, and don't actively try to court female readers like Marvel and DC do.
Dated: Some characters reflect their era just a little TOO much. Somebody with a disco theme sticks way too much to the 1970s. Certain characters are clearly Golden Agers, and others reflect 1960s Costume Design without adding ANY modern trappings to it. Guys with claws look like they're from the '90s, as do people with glowing eyes or way-too-big capes. Not just costumes- the Angry Black Man of the 1970s, the Hippie Liberal of the 1960s-70s, and the Punker Street Rat of the 1990s all belong here, regardless of how they look. This is among the easiest tropes to AVOID, by things like Character Development or just a good re-design of the costume. Luke Cage broke out of this trope by wearing simple street clothes instead of his embarassing tiara and yellow shirt. This is often linked to the next trope:
Goofy: Weighted by two- the character is stupid. They either LOOK dumb or they ACT dumb. Characters like this are embarassing to read about, are famously silly, have dumb concepts, etc. They can be quoted as a character who makes comics looks bad. "You read comics? You say they're an adult medium with many great stories? Well what about this super-villain whose powers come from cocaine? Or the guy in the tiara?" Anyone too goofy to get by gets high points here. People with "Lad" or "Lass" in their name, a stupid-looking outfit, a ridiculous personality or concept, etc.
EXTREEEEEEME!: The 1980s and 1990s brought about a new era of Grim 'n' Grittiness to comics, producing great stuff like Frank Miller's Daredevil, Watchmen, and more. But bad writers Xeroxed it, and made some stupid ideas, with constantly gritty characters going way overboard. Guys who gunned down their villains by the dozen, or characters with Blood, Death, Murder, Kill, Axe, and more in their name- Image was BAD for this, and nearly ruined all of comics with it.Similarly, characters who are overly-trendy with "cool" ways go here. The Simpsons exemplified this trope with their "Poochie" character, a trend-hopping "original hound dog from HELL" (Cerberus?) who "gets biz-ZAY".
Stereotypical: Weighted by two, and probably the worst and most unforgiveable thing on here. Thankfully, it's one of the more rare Suckiness Tropes out there in comics, mostly getting stamped out. Plus, comics doesn't have too many foreigners in it at all. Note that it's not just racial stereotyping- nearly every woman Stan Lee wrote in the 1960s was at LEAST a "1" in being a Stereotypical Hysterical Weepy Woman. Some characters are stereotypically Conservative bullheaded ass-tards (a certain Avatar of War), and others are terrible examples of Liberals.
Some have a bit of cross-over (Dated & Goofy go hand-in-hand sometimes... Goofy can go with a lot of things), but that's life.
THE GREATEST COMIC BOOK CHARACTERS EVER:
1) Characters will be judged on the following criteria, as many examples of how to be awesome that I can think of, each on a scale of 1 (could be argued they don't count, but they kinda do) to 3 (no question- great example of this). There are eleven Signifiers of Awesome in total, four of which are weighted by a factor of two instead of one. Many of these Signifiers are blocked by certain Elements of Suck, but others stand apart.
Important (blocked by Over-Pushed): They character is an important part of their world- this Signifier represents the "Footprint" they left on their Comic Book Universe. He's a core member of a super-team, or she's the highest aspect of another type. Being the first of something, the best of something, or having lots and lots of people close to them. It all makes them important. It separates a character with four books and a horde of a cast around them from a character who exists only in their own Limited Series, and doesn't cross-over into the rest of the world. Top-level JLA members, X-Men and solo heroes belong here, whereas short-lived characters and concepts don't. Moon Knight never ventures far outside his own world, and no matter how awesome The Hellions were, they never got farther than their own book. Over-doing it (likely by over-pushing a NEW character as something huge) results in Over-Pushed, and tends to be reversed quickly, or just plain fails because only one writer does it (like with Sage).
Pathos (blocked by Angst): While some characters go too far, it is important to note that an element of pathos is integral to the telling of a dramatic story. Characters with a tragic backstory get epic points here, as well as characters to whom tragedy has made a regular visit. Exceptions include characters that are nothing BUT tragedy and pathos, who often score lower in this, and higher in the Suck Factor of "Angst". Other characters (such as Spider-Man) equal out in both categories, thus getting no points in return.
Multi-Faceted (blocked by Boring): The character needs more than a paragraph to describe their personality and ways, and is often a study in contrasts. Even with generic powers (though interesting & unique ones is a big help), the hero stands out from the crowd, and doesn't have a simple set of generic traits. They could be a peace-loving man nonetheless devoted to fighting evil, and forced to go against himself. A megalomaniacal super-villain who still Thinks He Is Right, and fights for a good cause, no matter the methods. Basically, a fascinating Character Study. They can have multiple stories told about them, carry an issue just by talking, debate others skillfully, and are just plain interesting to look in to. Marvel's wild and whacky 1960s characters, with their flaws, mean streaks and crazy, stand out in sharp contrast to DC's cookie-cutter Big Strong Hero types for this very reason.
Epic (blocked by Over-Powered): In general, the character does awesome things, and has cool feats to his name. Over-doing the power levels of people is a horrible aspect of modern comic-book story-telling, as it invalidates the threats against the characters, and requires being topped and then topped AGAIN over time. By contrast, everyone likes a winner. Spider-Man isn't very powerful, yet has the epic feat of saving Aunt May's life by lifting a crap-ton of wreckage off of his back. Captain America & Daredevil are humans, and have lost to many metahuman opponents, but can kick tons of ninja ass, and have also BEATEN some metahuman opponents. Like Pathos & Angst, they can counter-act each other completely, or one can go over the other. Superman has some of the best feats in all of comics, but is famously powerful, so he evens out mostly likely. The New Mutants were interesting because they were so weak, but that loses them points heavily here. It's honestly just cool to see good characters do awesome things sometimes, and it shouldn't all be pooh-poohed as "Power Geeking", however-much I like that term.
Original (blocked by Xeroxed): Originality is a truly rare trait in all the media, so this stands out as a very big win for a character. It rewards characters who have totally original powers, a unique look, or other things that set them apart. Even things that steal from multiple sources (like Batman, or the Star Wars franchise) earn points here, if they hide their sources well enough.
Influential/Iconic: Related to Originality, but not entirely- not every Original character is Iconic, nor is every Iconic character an Original. See, Wolverine was a take on Timber Wolf, and Batman took various concepts from The Shadow, Zorro and more. But you can not deny either's place on the scale of Trope Codifiers- the character has TONS of copy-cats either way. Direct rip-offs help out a lot, as do a lot of similarly-themed characters. You know how many characters in comics have acute scent, razor-sharp claws (always stated exactly as such), and healing powers? Sure, characters often exhibited such traits BEFORE Wolverine came out, but you know damn well that every single one of these guys since 1978 has been a direct rip-off of ol' Logan. Not just looks or powers, either- Marvel's 1960s period started a boom of people copying the Fantastic Four's "argumentative family" aspect, as well as Peter Parker's "Everyman Teen Hero" concept.
Relatable: More important in heroes than villains. It's a boon if the audience can see themselves in the characters, particularly in that they have foibles, flaws and an uncertain nature about them. This can falter a bit if the writers make the character suck too hard, or whine too much, as a result of thinking that "Everyman" means "Loser", but is generally a big plus in a character's win column. Batman is more relatable than Superman because he's human and more prone to frailty and personality flaws, but Spider-Man is more relatable than either by far. Teenage characters or deliberate attempts at "Parkerization" (like Kyle Rayner) often score highly here, though a lot of fans dislike them (Mileage tends to vary heavily on this trope). More common to Marvel characters than DC ones, to an absolutely DRASTIC degree.
Relevance (blocked by Dated: Instead of appearing to define their era, this character can fit into any timeline, either by changing to fit, or by leaving them alone. Bob Kane said that the success of Batman was that various writers could play with the idea (making him darker, more serious, goofier, more or less competent, etc.) to fit whatever kind of story needed to be told. Did the characters still work in the Grim 'n' Gritty '90s? Did their stance as moral characters run opposed to darker eras? Would they fit into a future storyline, or be able to be made interesting in the Parallel Universes of "Exiles"? Characters of high-standing and morals (Superman & Captain America) SEEMED to suffer in darker times, but were actually quite effective as opposing forces, and so are surprisingly effective regardless of the time period.
Good Design (blocked by Goofy & Dated): Comics is a visual medium, and so you can not overstate this. Looking like an idiot has cost more than one comic book character their spot in history (if Orion looked awesome, we'd probably STILL be reading New Gods comics), and so awesome, stand-out costumes mean the world. ICONIC is the name of the game here, people. Superman is the codifier for heroics, so he gains top points, as well as anyone showing general good design theory. A lot of the '90s was spent trying to capture this, and they often over-did it (resulting in Goofy & Dated stuff), but characters like Venom, The Punisher and Ghost Rider stand out as looking REALLY cool. Awesome-looking Team Strong Guy types also succeed, as do the more iconic designs of yesteryear that managed to last for a long period of time.
Conflicts & Relationships: The character has other characters dependent upon them, and reflects well against their own cast. Basically, if the character has an AWESOME Rogues Gallery, they belong here. Or just an awesome supporting cast. Or they're a team-player character who has great relationships with the rest of his team (like a Buddy-Buddy relationship, a Love Interest thing, a Rivalry, etc.). Since conflict is the source of drama, it's integral for characters to have a great set-up like this. It was a HUGE failing of guys like Luke Cage & Moon Knight that they had boring Rogues Galleries of terrible villains, and it sank both characters. By contrast, Batman has the most famous villains in all of comics, and Spider-Man has an AMAZING array of recognizable baddies to choose from. Superman loses out as well, having Lex Luthor and then a bunch of nothin'- Toyman, Metallo, Doomsday & Parasite are OKAY, but any one of them would be a third-tier Spidey villain.