by Allan Lazar, Dan Karlan, & Jeremy Salter
The only misconception from the title is that all the fictional characters are people. In fact, there are 10 animals, three monsters, and two inanimate objects on the list. I was pretty impressed with myself that I had heard of nearly everyone (there were only seven that were complete strangers to me), until I read all of the biographies and discovered that although the names were familiar, I had no clue about why I had even heard of them.
Rather than just go through the list from last to first, the authors chose to divide their subjects into groups: Greek & Roman myths, Folktales, Literature, Adventure, Movies, Television, etc. The technique works very well to prevent the reader from just looking at his or her favorites, plus it gives the writers an opportunity to visit each different medium and make their case as to why that particular venue matters as an influence in the first place.
Although they take great care to be objective, there are some clear undertones here. For example, the authors applaud all the personages that promoted women’s rights and denounced those that advanced smoking; both viewpoints are easy to agree with. However, they also clearly saluted two characters whose prime influence has been to loosen the moral fabric of American society and “[bring] sexuality into the public domain.” Personally, even though I agreed with the fact that these individuals were influential, I’m not sure it was laudable.
Overall, this was just plain a lot of fun to read. Many of my personal favorites made the cut: James Kirk and James Bond came in at numbers 50 & 51, Batman made number 60, Buck (The Call of the Wild) registered number 94, and Sherlock Holmes cracked the top ten at number 8. I learned a lot about names that were familiar to me (and now I know why) and picked up some fascinating tidbits about many that I thought I knew pretty well. You can see the list and preview some of the essays at their website.