My Trinity: The Three Comic Characters Most Important to Me

We have an interesting relationship with the fictional characters we love, don’t we?  I can divide my life into eras with them.  He-Man and She-Ra.  The Ghostbusters.  The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer.  Duncan MacLeod, the Highlander.  Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, and Chewbacca.  Neo, Trinity, and Morpheus.  The Gilmore girls.  Sydney Bristow and all her aliases.  The Doctor.  Fleabag.  The list goes on but they are the most important :).  Loving comic books since I was three-years-old, there are obviously many superheroes who land on that list.  Recently, my mind wandered to the superheroes most important to me.  Three came clearly and quickly to mind and, as I thought about each, deep feelings of love and gratitude for all they’ve given me began to fill my heart.  So with those feelings still moving within me, I figured it would be fun to examine why those characters are so important to me.

Since three characters came to mind, framing this piece as “My Trinity” made sense.  But then I thought, “Hey, wait a minute.  I’m a theology guy, aren’t I?  I teach religious studies!  Maybe I can be more intentional with how I’m using the idea of a trinity.”  I thought of my undergrad years and attending mass with the Sisters of Saint Benedict for the first time.  The mass we went to for class used gender-inclusive language and I loved it!  Instead of saying, “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” they used the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Sanctifier, language  I’ve often used in my own prayers ever since.  This gender-inclusive version ended up being a perfect way to frame these three characters and all they mean to me!  It’s nice when life works out like that.

So, without further ado, here is my trinity, the three comic book characters most important to me.

Peter Parker, the Amazing Spider-Man – the Creator

My Trinity 2a (2)

Mark Bagley has always been my favorite Spider-Man artist, as a kid and even now. / Photo Credit – Marvel Comics

For me, everything started with Spider-Man.  I was three-years-old with I found Web of Spider-Man #12 on the wire spinny rack at the grocery store and Mom bought it for me.  A lifelong love affair was born!  Without question, Spider-Man is the fictional character – in any medium, not just comics – I’ve loved the longest and the most consistently.  From comics to cartoons to movies, from t-shirts to lounge pants to framed art on my walls, Spidey’s been around me in one way, shape, or form (and most often several forms at once!) since I first met him.  I was reading his comic books before I could read and I still have that copy of Web of Spider-Man #12, now with loose pages and a curled binding from many, many reads.  For nearly forty years, Peter Parker has been there for me through everything and I love him very much.

The thing is, his life is a mess because he can hardly ever find any sort of balance.  He jokes his way through it (in the coolest costume of all time), laughing through all the uncertainty, but he is a fucked up, broken guy with a waaay overactive helper part.  He can’t accept that bad things happen so he takes responsibility for everything which is why his life is always a much bigger mess than…well, any other superhero.  I too have a waaay overdeveloped helper part (I’ve learned to distinguish between the Caretaker, the balanced helper, and the Fixer, the one who frantically takes one everything for everyone to the eternal exhaustion of my system) and it was already established enough when I was three-years-old to latch onto Spider-Man!  This blows my mind!  In Peter Parker, it found justification for how it wanted to act.  Yes we can help everyone, yes we have to help everyone, even if it means the rest of our life is always a mess and we never care for our own needs because that’s what heroes do.  If it was good enough for Spidey, it was good enough for me, right?  This is a big part of why I’ve always stayed so connected with Spider-Man when my relationship with other characters I’ve loved faded or waxed and waned.  Peter Parker has formed me in so many ways, hence the “creator.”  It’s hard to imagine the shape of my life without Spider-Man.

Thankfully, after nearly four years in therapy I’m getting better :).  I’m healthier.  I’ve learned to set better boundaries, practice self-care, and surround myself with healthier and mutually symbiotic relationships.  While I sometimes wish Peter would get himself a good therapist, too (he should follow Cindy Moon/Silk’s lead!) because I love him and would like to see him happier, I can’t imagine he ever will.  Because I think we need him like this.  I think this is one part of his massive appeal.  When we’re fucked up and broken and our lives are absolute messes, we find solidarity with Spidey – at least I have and I do.  And when we heal and become healthier, he’s a measure of how we’ve grown – and I love him all the more for that.

Doreen Green, the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl – the Redeemer

My Trinity 9 (2)

Best. Comic. EVER. / Photo Credit – Marvel Comics

If you told me when I returned to reading superhero comics in the fall of 2015 that I would begin reading a title called The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, I’d’ve thought you were nuts.  I didn’t even know she existed!  In fact, I first learned about Squirrel Girl from Theresa.  We were talking at work one day and she told me her son had a Marvel Encyclopedia and it featured the Great Lakes Avengers who had a member called Squirrel Girl.  I was sure she was messing with me.  She had to be, right?  Much to my surprise she wasn’t, and I found myself checking out her solo title that fall (as it was written by Ryan North and I loved his Dinosaur Comics).  Had you told me when I first picked up an issue of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl that it would become the single greatest comic book I’d ever read or that I would come to see it as the most important superhero comic ever written, I’d’ve thought you were nuts (ha! oh my gosh, I didn’t catch that pun above!) or messing with me or on some sort of hallucinogenic drug or some combination of the above.  Lo and behold…

I don’t think – in the entire history of superhero comics – there has ever been a character more subversive or more courageous than Doreen Green, the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.  She’s the only superhero comic I’ve ever read which routinely shows its readers how to really save the world.  I love her so much and she means so much to me.  I literally wrote an entire chapter about her in my own book!  (It’s called The Heart of the Superhero: Considering the Prophetic Dimension of Modern Superhero Comics and it’ll be published soon as part of Claremont Press’ Religion and Comics Series (when it’s available for purchase this line will be a link).)  I will never be able to adequately express the gratitude and admiration I have for everyone involved with The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 1 #1 – Vol. 2 #50.  But I place the run beside Doctor Who as one of the most important pieces of art I’ve ever experience and, for me, there is no higher compliment.

So why is Squirrel Girl “the Redeemer”?  Doreen makes people better.  She makes everyone better for her example, her presence, and her heart.  When I read her comics she shows me what’s possible and how to be the best version of myself.  Plus, her kindness, empathy, open heart, and joy routinely turn literal enemies into friends!

Harley Quinn – the Sanctifier

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Harley with the support group she started for victim’s of the Joker War. / Photo Credit – DC Comics

For me, Harley Quinn is hope personified.  Without going into detail, as they are not my stories to share, I have watched several people I love very much struggle in abusive relationships.  It is a…special sort of pain to see someone you love as the victim of abuse.  That was the sort of relationship Dr. Harleen Quinzel, the Joker’s therapist at Arkham Asylum, found when she fell for the Joker and became his lover.  But she got out.  She got out.  Not everyone does.  My heart fills in a special way with Harley Quinn.  Being with her character brings deep feelings of relief.  She represents potential.  She represents hope.

“Sanctification” means to make something holy.  What is holiness if not relief, potential, and hope – along with courage, compassion, clarity, and love of self and others – being born amidst such trauma and pain?  What’s holiness if not healing?  What’s holiness if not finding the beauty among our brokenness?

What’s funny is when I first encountered Harley Quinn on Batman: The Animated Series when I was a kid, I didn’t much care for her.  For years I couldn’t understand the hype.  Then watching Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn made me want to read her origin story novel, Harley Quinn: Mad Love, by  Pat Cadigan and Paul Dini.  Then watching DC Universe’s Harley Quinn made me NEED to read ALL her comics.  Now that I’ve met Harley, everything about her character rings in my heart and soul.  She is chaos incarnate, living free of all the bullshit systems we surround ourselves with that at best don’t work and are actively harmful and unjust at worst.  She lets her heart lead her in all things, for better or worse.  Harley is so open, accepting, and loving.  As a landlord in Coney Island, she opens her building to all the outcasts (a literal freak show is one of her tenants).  She adopts (well, steals-with-intent-to-raise) hundreds of pets when she realizes they’ll be put down.  She and Poison Ivy love each other openly, beautifully, and without possession (they are my favorite couple in comics, maybe in all of fiction).  She even joins the Bat Family in her efforts to atone for all she did when she was with the Joker and returns to Gotham, even though most naturally fear and reject her there, in her quest for redemption as opposed to staying in Coney Island where everyone loves her and sees her as their hero.  No matter how messy and complicated things get, Harley sees it through and stays true to herself.  And she’s a literal therapist superhero!  Ahhhh!  That’s the best thing ever!

My Trinity 12 (2)

With the featured image Spider-Man has two pictures in this piece so I wanted to make it fair for everyone else. Harley Quinn prepares to defend Gotham as she works to redeem herself and atone for all she did there (despite having been a hero in NYC and L.A. for years). / Photo Credit – DC Comics

There you have it, dear reader, the three comic characters closest to my heart.  My Trinity of those superheroes most important to me.  Do you have characters who touch you in a similar way?  Who fill your heart and move your soul?  You needn’t share them if you’d rather not (though you’re certainly welcome to below) but I’d suggest you take a few moments to call them to mind.  Let them move through your heart and mind.  Let yourself feel all they mean to you.  Then offer a bit of that grateful energy moving inside you up to the world, to the universe, to the divine reality woven through all things.

I love you, dear reader, and I’m thankful for you, too.  I hope you have a magnificent day!

My Trinity 8 (2)

Squirrel Girl and her Amazing Friends! / Photo Credit – Marvel Comics

22 thoughts on “My Trinity: The Three Comic Characters Most Important to Me

  1. Those are great and I can see why these characters mean so much to you. My trinity of comic book characters would probably be Batman, Spider-Man and the Hulk. Those were the three that have been with me for as long as I can remember, especially the Hulk, although that was probably because of the brilliant TV show as well. Comics and comic shops were hard to find back then here in UK back then, I used to get mine off a newsstand stall in the railway station as a kid. Comics fired my imagination and love of sci-fi, adventure ect, and they still do. 🙂

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    1. YES. Ahhh, that’s so cool! Do you still get a little tinge of excitement or warm nostalgic feels when you think of that newsstand stall in the railway station? I know I do when I think of the spinning rack at Loblaws. The grocery store hasn’t been there for 20+ years but I can still see the little comic rack as clearly as if I were looking at it now and it always makes me feel warm and fuzzy when I think of it :).

      And thank you so much. You’ve excellent choices, too! For whatever reason, I’ve had the Hulk on my mind a lot lately. I’ve been feeling that pull to reread the Hulk comics I loved when I was a kid. And the show! I was just having a conversation yesterday about where it’s streaming and/or what the series would cost on DVD. I still feel it’s a gold standard for live-action Hulk stories.

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      1. Yes I do! I’m very old school when it comes to comics really, I love all the older stuff, and often think back to those days of buying comics on the railway station. I guess it’s nostalgia really, but I think I enjoyed comics a lot more then, and many of those classic stories endure to this day with their influences ect. The Incredible Hulk TV show is another favourite of mine, again loved watching that as a kid. I was lucky and got the complete box set – tin for Christmas a could have years back and watched them all during lockdown. Highly recommend it and don’t think the DVD sets are too expensive. Not sure if its streaming, but noticed the pilot episode / TV movie was on Netflix atm. 🙂

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      2. Thank you for the head’s up! I’ll look into it. One of my favorite things about the growth of streaming services is how the price of many DVD boxsets have dropped. I got the whole series of ‘Xena Warrior Princess’ for about $45! Now I’ll keep my eyes peeled for ‘The Incredible Hulk.’

        That makes sense about the new vs. old, too. I get that. I adore so much of modern comics and some of my favorite stories I’ve ever read have come out in the last fifteen years…but there’s still something about those Silver and Bronze Age stories I fell in love with that nothing compares too. I fell in love with the characters and comics as a medium through those stories! And their vibe is so unique. I’m sure each era has its own feel and I’m sure we all love those comics we first fell in love with. But yeah, I get what you’re saying.

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    1. I love your choices :). And I am 100% now imagining a story for young children (and also me because it sounds amazing) where Bamse and Squirrel Girl team-up! I would be so excited to read that. Obviously, comics are near and dear to my heart and I love them very much, but there is something special about books. In fact, I’ve read novels about all the characters I chose here, too. The very first Harley Quinn story I read was a novel!

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      1. That would be an amazing team-up, Bamse don’t really do team-ups but if they did it would be the obvious choice, although perhaps a bit complicated by the lack of humans in Bamse’s world.

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      2. Hmm, yes okay it would be a bit complicated then. But I know Squirrel Girl has travelled to other planets and dimensions before and she’s always excited to make new friends. So I’ll imagine it happening that way :).

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  2. My childhood was partly defined by reading the iconic Bendis/Bagley run of Ultimate Spider-Man. So much delightful angst, so much amazing art, so much drama. I love it to this day.

    So USM Spider-Man, and then probably DC Rebirth Green Arrow too, because I love his ability to self-criticize. Some of the dialogue in those books is incredible.

    Then let’s also put the Batgirl revamp in there, with the new Burnside outfit (which they should never have stopped!), and the art by Babs Tarr. Those comics caught my intrigue, and effectively got me into buying comics consistently, which I do pretty much to this day.

    Spider-Man, Green Arrow, and Batgirl. There’s an unexpected combo for you, haha!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s why I love thinking about this kinda thing so much! Because it’s unexpected but it’s such a brilliant reflection of your life. And I love your choices, too.

      I never read any of DC’s New 52 when it was happening (though I’ve read lots of it now) but Rebirth was an entryway of sorts for me in reading DC. I sampled as many of those titles as I could and I really enjoyed them all. Green Arrow was fantastic!

      I love Batgirl’s Burnside costume, too. And OH MY GOSH Mark Bagley’s Spider-Man!!! When I was a kid reading Spider-Man in the ’90s he was always my favorite Spider-Man artist. He’s still my favorite Spider-Man artist now! His Ultimate run is legendary (and I love, love, love how Bendis writes Spidey, too – I also enjoyed how he had Spider-Man on the street-level New Avengers team) and I’m enjoying his work with Dan Slott on the new ‘Spider-Man’ title now.

      Aren’t the titles that get us into buying comics something special? I just…there’s nothing quite like them. They open the door to a whole new world and it’s the best :). Spider-Man, Green Arrow, and Batgirl certainly make for a legendary beginning, too!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you! Frankly, I could talk about comic book characters all day, haha.

        I’m similar! DC Rebirth was my big jumping-on point, and it coincided with me getting a job in London. Comics and some expendable income is a dangerous combination, haha! I had to make myself slow down when the pandemic hit.

        There are so many moments in that Ultimate Spider-Man run that I love, and I still go back now and then to re-read it. Those comics really depict the trials and pain Peter suffers because he cares so deeply for the ones he loves, yet he always keeps fighting. To me, USM is the version of the character I envisage first (though Maguire is not far behind!). If there’s any new Bendis Spider-Man stuff I’ll definitely have to chase it up!

        Another thing I love about Rebirth Green Arrow is how he is a different offering from the main Justice League. There’s a brilliant Volume of Rebirth where he teams up with each member of the Justice League in consecutive comics, and at the end of it, he’s offered a place on the League – which he refuses, because he knows it isn’t right for him (the exasperation from The Flash when he refuses is hilarious, too).

        Yes, Spidey, GA, and Batgirl would be an awesome street-level crime-fighting team! Ranged and close-combat, they’ve got you covered. 🙂

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      2. I just saw my local comic shop was hiring and I told myself it was a bad idea XD. I can imagine working at one would be a guaranteed way to not bring home a paycheck! I also imagine it would be the best job ever, too. Congrats on living my dream!

        I love what you said about Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man being your definitive Spider-Man. That’s one of my favorite things about such long running characters. Yes, it’s all Spidey and it’s all good and it all connects…but those unique stamps certain writers or artists or actors or directors bring to the character which help hook you and really form them for you are so special. For me, I think it was David Michelinie’s run on ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ that really cemented *who* Peter Parker/Spider-Man was for me.

        I may need to check that Rebirth Green Arrow volume out, too! It sounds like a really fun plotline but I also like the idea that, as a character, he’s saying he just isn’t cut out for the team life like that. It’s a really self-aware move on his part and it invites the reader to consider how the team life may not be the right fit for every character all the time.

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      3. I work for Titan Books, which means a lot of licensed projects such as Marvel, and it’s really rewarding to make something creative – especially for properties I love like Doctor Who!

        Thank you – this is also why I’m so happy to see James Gunn pinpointing specific comics as his source material for the DCU. It shows a clear direction he is taking, and also shows that these stories have come from a solid foundation.

        I’ve heard so many people talk about how great Amazing Spider-Man is! I’m definitely open to enjoying other versions of Spider-Man, but I can’t help but have those Ultimate Spider-Man versions of the characters as my gold standard. The important thing is not to criticise other versions for attempting something different, of course, because that’s when issues arise with not giving new renditions a fair shot.

        I’d highly recommend that Green Arrow run for sure! It was one of my highlights of Rebirth and is one I go back to whenever I’m organising my shelves or comics and having a flick through my favs. 🙂

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      4. You work for Titan Books?!? How fun! Oh my goodness, that would have to be so exciting!

        Not criticizing other versions for trying something new is so important and it’s something I feel the performative pressure of social media has helped to erode. It’s like we’ve been conditioned to argue and rant and demonize right alongside enshrining and endlessly praising for the sake of online interactions. I love, love, love new versions! I’ll never like everything about every version of a character or story but that’s what makes it fun. I don’t want the movies to be just like the comics or every comic to feel like each other. Where’s the fun in that??

        Superheroes give us decades of content from dozens of creators across so many different mediums and I want to see it all. Hahaha, give me all the versions! All the takes! That’s a big part of the appeal and the fun for me.

        Thank you for the ‘Green Arrow’ rec, too :D.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Yeah for someone like me who loves these properties, being a designer and a small cog in the wheel is very satisfying!

        I think new versions are important – though an interesting debate would be the battle of freshness vs mischaracterisation. I think they’re different things, as you can reboot a character without sacrificing the core of why we love them.

        And no problem, glad I could point you to a comic I love!

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  3. These are some nice choices and glad that Spidey is on the list since he also means a lot to me, and to many others. I’m not sure who else I would put on the list, probably Captain America or Superman, but there are so many to choose from. Anyway, great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! It was fun to write and one of those pieces that just flowed as I thought about it. Spider-Man really is the best :). The fact that he resonates for so many people really speaks to the brilliance of the character. And I love Captain America and Superman! Excellent choices, all.

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  4. Super post. I really understand how much your trinity means to you. I was especially interested in your thoughts about the Caretaker vs the Fixer. I really do find the “parts” idea in psychology extremely helpful. It makes so many complicated internal situations understandable.

    For me my Trinity would be Obi-Wan Kenobi (especially Matthew Stover’s interpretation in his novelisation of Revenge of the Sith which is still one of my favourite books of all time), Granny Weatherwax (from Terry Pratchett’s Witch series of novels) and Mr Spock (from Star Trek Discovery and Strange New Worlds).

    I think I love Obi-Wan because he has this way of being in the moment, even when things are incredibly difficult for him personally and giving himself to the Force. I guess he represents faith to me, faith in the way of the force and he gives himself over to it completely.

    I love Granny Weatherwax because she does what is right, no matter what is happening or how she is feeling. She holds to goodness fiercely for everybody all the time. She doesn’t act as if she is good, she just does good with no fancy trimmings on the side.

    Spock I have loved since childhood. Being autistic I often felt like I too was half Vulcan – slightly at odds with the world and confused by irrational decisions. I loved the original version of spock and then really enjoyed Zackery Quinto’s version in the newer Star Trek films. But then seeing Ethan Peck’s rendering of this iconic character in Discovery and Strange New Worlds really drew me in fully. I love his clarity and the cool calm of his logic but most of all for me Spock is about truth.

    Thanks for a great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What a beautiful reflection Jo! Thank you so much for sharing this! I love your choices and I can see why they resonate so much. Your speaking about Obi-Wan as a vision of faith is particularly relevant right now as I’m in the very early stages of planning a new class around Star Wars and I think that would be the perfect way to approach his character. So thank you for sharing and thank you for the inspiration! Spock and Granny Weatherwax fill our your Trinity perfectly. I love how you voiced your connection to each of these characters. It’s so beautiful. I love this about fiction – how we can find so much and so much of ourselves in the characters we love :). It’s such a gift!

      I love that you love “parts” work, too. It took me a little while to get the hang of it (I started doing it with my therapist about three years ago) but now that I have a handle on it I can’t imagine not using it. It makes so much sense to me and it really helps me understand my internal landscape. Like you said, it makes very complicated internal situations so understandable.


      1. I’m glad you liked it. It was inspired entirely by your super post! Your Star Wars class sounds completely awesome. I don’t know if you’ve read it but I can’t recommend Stover’s “Revenge of the Sith” novelisation highly enough. It gives such insight to the inner worlds of the Jedi and the Sith.
        Thanks again for a great post!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You’re welcome :). And thank you for the recommendation! In a wild coincidence, I just got a copy of that novel not too long ago! I’d read the novelizations of ‘The Phantom Menace’ and ‘Attack of the Clones’ but for some reason I never read ‘Revenge of the Sith.’ I still haven’t read it yet BUT now it’s on my shelf waiting to be read! With your recommendation I’ll move it up the ol’ to-be-read list.


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