I Love These Guys!
Ok, straight up … how is this guy a C-lister? How is he not a pretty serious bad ass? He can harness the darkness from the Darkforce Dimension. Not power from it, but the actual darkness! He can manipulate it into forms only limited by his imagination. Hell he’s even able to manipulate it to the point that he can fly. Personally he’s already obtained a pretty decent level of bad assery as he’s gone through extensive training under the Cult of Kali. The culminating event was a mystic ceremony in which he was blinded in both eyes (hot iron btw) and received a mystic sight/extrasensory perception. He’s got Daredevil like ability to ‘feel’ things through solid objects and along with the mystic sense can distinguish components of things like computer hardware.
The dude has balls too. The first time we ever see the guy he’s freaking infiltrating Latveria to go kill DR DOOM! He easily takes care of the Human Torch in that effort btw. He’s featured in just the 3rd comic he appears in (where he dishes his backstory to Namor) and stops DR DOOM from the ancient practice of Latverian Law of the dictator being able to have his way with any woman he wants and then bests him one on one. Yup.
Oh, there’s also the fact that he was PC, etc well before it was a mainstream issue. The dude is an orphan, chosen follower of Hindu, and blind. I mean there are literally TONS of reasons sitting there for anyone to latch onto in order to like this guy. Yet, he resides on the C-list (possibly lower to most) for absolutely no reason. It’s a travesty. I love this guy. He’s a creation of the great Herb Trimpe for crying out loud!
How can you not love a guy that was created, for the sole purpose, of being an antagonist for Spidey’s secondary book (Spectacular) and to be a thorn in/bane of a secondary character’s existence (Robbie Robertson)? The Spider-verse is one of the most fleshed out, deep, and involved in all of comic-dom and Tombstone is a key cog in this effort. So much so that Gerry Conway created him as a way to re-create a bad ass, street level gangster like Hammerhead was when he was introduced. Parker is always kept grounded by the reality and ‘every day’ that exists in the Spider-verse and Tombstone is an every day reminder of that reality. Eventually he gets augmented by some experimental gas and develops the literal tombstone facade along with superhuman ability sets (physical abilities). He was already a pretty tough dude though. Growing up as an African-American Albino only invited issues. He turned that on its head though and by virtue of being a physically gifted person (he was taller and stronger than his peer group) he started beating people up early. Hell, he even filed his teeth and nails down to complete the look.
While I’ve got a soft spot for the ‘street level’ realm of comic books, Tombstone is actually a pretty perfect Spider-verse character. He goes way back (like car seats back) with the Spidey gang as he knew and went to school with ‘ol Robbie Robertson back in the day (and had his initial run in with him in HS). He’s got his own set of issues and has genuine care for someone (his daughter who’s the new Beetle) that is always a potential danger to him. Tombstone is ruthless and every bit the mafia/gangster the Harlem streets breed. He provides perfect depth and a lethal threat that help round out the full scope of Spidey’s world.
Yes yes … a Superman analogue. How original. Though, to me he kind of is. At least in the way that I feel this is more of what Superman should have been. First and foremost he’s a man and not some fantastical alien. Sure he’s from the far flung future (35th Century) and harnesses power from the Empyrean Fire itself (that which makes up time itself and originate from the ultimate Divine dwelling place of God and celestial beings). But again, he’s a man. He was sent back to stop a single act that ultimately made the dominoes fall that led to the ruin of the future. This is a huge event for me because I watched (as a young kid) the January 28th, 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster happen on tv. This was the event he was sent back to stop, and stop it he did. Personal note aside he’s introduced to us in a very human manner. He struggles to figure out what’s going on and what he can now do. Yes he’s omni-powerful and in reality is everything that Supes is, but more because he’s human. The human element is what makes Samaritan more than just an analogue of the prototype ultra-hero. He’s an analogue for everyone. His persona, Asa Martin holds down a job at Astro City’s premier news magazine (thanks to the tool he’s got from the future, his zyxometer) while he concurrently performs heroic acts as Samaritan. This makes him seem self-absorbed and stand-offish. Simple relationships are harder than literal world saving tasks. This is a very common thread among people.
His humanity really shines through though in his almost depression. He’s tired and longs for just a little piece of time to himself. The tug of responsibility and duty he feels thanks to his powers helps create a cycle of wanting to protect and save, but feeling the anguish of not being able to do enough or save everyone. Stress mounts and things that should be a reprieve from the cycle (like awards and appreciation banquets in his honor) become more obligation than anything else. Even the simple joy of seeing the Earth from up high while flying is something he can’t afford. To top it off? He’s stuck, so to speak, in the timeline now because of his success. He saved the Space Shuttle Challanger so the future that transpired in which he was born not longer exists … meaning he’s never born there. He can’t go back to the future to live in his time. He’s every bit the superMAN but hasn’t been stripped of his humanity.