It was on the cover of Detective Comics #38 that Robin, the Boy Wonder was declared in his debut appearance to be “The Sensational Character Find of 1940!” While we may not have the same pluck and gusto as editor Whitney Ellsworth, that’s a title which we at DC.com take seriously, and commit to discovering every year.
2022 has been a banner year for character debuts, and after careful consideration we’ve narrowed it down to ten personal favorites. Every one of them is a winner in our eyes, but we’ve ranked them here with the same level of care and self-assuredness which allowed DC in 1940 to call the year for Dick Grayson rather than, say, Doctor Fate, the Flash or Green Lantern, who also happened to debut that year. If you have a different order in mind, or a shoutout that didn’t make our cut, then please sound off in the DC Community. Here, we’d like to celebrate the character debuts which particularly caught our attention this year.
Dynamic Debut: Batwheels, “Secret Origin of the Batwheels”
2022 is a year that proved that the DC Universe has so many storytelling possibilities, even Batman’s car can get its own show. In Batwheels, Bam is the first in a fleet of self-aware vehicles in the Dark Knight’s garage, ready to become a hero in his own right alongside Batgirl Cassandra Cain and Robin Duke Thomas. “Bam” certainly isn’t the hero anyone expected, but nobody’s better suited to patrol Gotham’s streets than a hero with four-wheel drive.
Dynamic Debut: The Flash #787
“IT’S TIIIIIIMME! TIME TO — SHINE!”
Jeremy Adams’ The Flash was one of my picks last year for the highlights of 2021. One year later, I’m happy to say that it’s only been picking up speed. And there’s no stronger indicator than the debut of Omega-Bam-Man, the greatest heavyweight wrestling champion in the entire multiverse. He’s an entity with all the power and charisma of the Attitude Era condensed into one package, and our very own Flash may be the only being capable of keeping up with the scale of his bombasity. After just one tag team match with the Scarlet Speedster, it’s safe to say we’re marks for life.
Dynamic Debut: The Sandman, “Chapter 8: Playing House”
Maybe the greatest miracle of 2022 for a DC fan was the first season of Netflix’s adaptation of The Sandman, long considered “the unadaptable comic.” In visuals, in tone, in content and in scope, there were many pitfalls that any attempt to do Neil Gaiman’s source material justice would have to avoid in order to get it right. One of them, right in the second narrative arc which would form the back half of the season, was the way that the original material integrated the Jack Kirby incarnation of Sandman from the 1970s and his dream sidekicks Brute and Glob. In an adaptation which aimed to allow the series to stand on its own, this element would have to be changed dramatically. The show lost Brute and Glob, but replaced them with something beautiful: the performance of Ann Ogbomo as Gault, a nightmare with dreams of her own. This nuanced character formed a closer and more sympathetic connection to Jed Walker, the boy she abandoned her duty to attend to in dreams. Gault lends a new richness to a classic that proves even the greatest stories can surprise you in their evolution.
Dynamic Debut: DC League of Super-Pets
In an animated film packed with comedy stars taking the absurdities of the DC Universe to task, it’s Lex Luthor’s test guinea pig Lulu, voiced by the scene-stealing Kate McKinnon, who takes the orange Kryptonite cake. Who else would have the utter temerity to tell Wonder Woman while bound within her Lasso of Truth that “the boots are a bit much”? But even as she makes fools of heroes old and new alike, it’s her tragic drive to win the love of a super-villain who will only see her as a tool which makes her such a memorable original character—and that sometimes Mercy comes from unexpected places.
Dynamic Debut: Black Adam #1
There is no redemption for Black Adam. That’s the premise of Priest’s twelve-issue limited series dedicated to the former champion of Shazam. But the same may not be true of New York medical student Malik White, Adam’s modern-day descendant and reluctant inheritor of his legacy. More interested in medicine than superheroics, Malik’s greatest concern is saving the lives in front of him rather than fighting whoever the newest super-villain on the block might be. Just don’t call him “White Adam.”
Dynamic Debut: Peacemaker, “A Whole New Whirled”
As tempted as we were to put Peacemaker’s faithful sidekick Eagly on this list, or the DC.com favorite Clemson Murn, there’s no denial that Leota Adebayo is the heart of The Suicide Squad’s TV spinoff. Danielle Brooks plays Leota as the newest agent to join Peacemaker’s operative team, providing the audience with a grounded view of this frenetic corner of the DC Universe. With a rich inner life of her own, including a new wife and some adorable puppies, Adebayo feels like a real person placed next to the larger-than-life comic book figure of Peacemaker. Writer and director James Gunn has always insisted that Peacemaker was an ensemble show, and it’s Adebayo who keeps that group together.
The Devil Nezha
Dynamic Debut: Detective Comics #1050
2022 was the year that comic book legend Mark Waid returned to DC in a big way, and he did it by bringing a new planetary threat with him: the monstrous 3800-year-old Chinese warlord known as the Devil Nezha. In the first arc of Waid and artist Dan Mora’s World’s Finest, it takes the combined effort of Batman, Robin, Superman, Supergirl and the Doom Patrol to defeat this powerful magical adversary, capable of nearly anything. Now, Nezha is the driving force behind both the ongoing Batman vs. Robin and the 2023 event which will set the terms for the future status quo of the DC Universe, Lazarus Planet. A villain with this kind of impact is one we’re sure we’ll continue to see for a while to come.
Dynamic Debut: Action Comics #1043
Olgrun is a name you probably haven’t heard if you haven’t been following the last few issues of Philip Kennedy Johnson’s Action Comics, but something tells us it’s about to get very important. According to intergalactic legend, Olgrun was the first and most powerful of the Old Gods, whose essence was divided into seven pieces after he went mad with power. One of those fragments became the core of the planet we know as Warworld. The other six are out there somewhere, offering either a great boon or horrible damnation to any who would dare to reunite them. This seems like going to be a pretty big deal for both Superman specifically and the mythology of the DC Universe as a whole, so watch the continuing adventures of Superman for further developments.
Dynamic Debut: Galaxy: The Prettiest Star
Jadzia Axelrod and Jess Taylor’s Galaxy: The Prettiest Star is a book that doesn’t look or feel quite like anything else DC’s ever had to offer. And the book’s hero, Taylor Barzelay, is entirely unique in the DC Universe as well. A princess in exile of an alien world taken hostage by an unstoppable enemy, Taelyr Ilextrix-spiir Biarxiiai was forced into hiding on the planet Earth in the guise of a teenage boy. But as Taylor grows into the knowledge of her true self and the scope of her powers, she discovers that the most heroic thing you can do is simply to live as your authentic self. As Galaxy, Taylor is the first trans superhero to headline her own DC comic, and we can’t wait to see where she goes next.
Dynamic Debut: Nightwing #97
And our #1 pick for the Sensational Character Find of 2022 is…Dick Grayson, again? This could only be the work of extraplanar interference. A late entry into this year’s list is the 5th dimensional imp Dyxl, introduced by Tom Taylor and Daniele Di Nicuolo this year as Nite-Mite. Like Bat-Mite before him, Dyxl is the multiverse’s biggest fan of his own hero, our own Dick Grayson. And considering the hot streak Nightwing’s run has been on lately, we can’t say we blame him for his fandom. Nite-Mite is here in Blüdhaven to help out the original Boy Wonder in any way his near-omnipotent powers allow, even if he can be a little misguided about it. (Hastily organized wedding to Barbara Gordon aside, for instance.) Most importantly, Nite-Mite’s well-meaning bedevilment of Nightwing means that he has more grounds than ever on which to relate to his trusty sidekick, Batman.
Those are our most promising rookies, but we haven’t finished handing out accolades yet. Which DC characters have had their biggest years yet in 2022? Check back next week for our roundup of the greatest superhero glow-ups of the year.
Alex Jaffe is the author of our monthly “Ask…the Question” column and writes about TV, movies, comics and superhero history for DC.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AlexJaffe and find him in the DC Community as HubCityQuestion.
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of Alex Jaffe and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros.