The age old questions of comic fans: Batman or Superman? Spider-Man or Wolverine? The debates about the best heroes are endless. We tried to make a top 10 list, but that was just too hard. So we tried a top 25, but that quickly became a top 50… you get the idea. So we were able to ‘narrow’ it down to an even 100. Odds are you will vehemently disagree with who did or did not make the list, or just the order that we placed them. But, hey, it’s our list.
(Honorable mentions to Beta Ray Bill, USAgent, Martian Manhunter, Kid Flash, Hercules, The Frenchman and the Female (the Boys), Abe Sapien, Spider-Man 2099, Static Shock, Nite Owl, Guy Gardner, Booster Gold, Spawn, Atom Eve, Mary Marvel, and a hell of a lot more. So many more we could- and may- do another whole 100 list!)
We will release these in installments of 10 so that you don’t have the longest list ever to read through. Agree with the placement or who made the list? Disagree with the burning power of a thousand suns? Let us know! Enjoy!
Real Name: Scott Lang
First Appearance: Avengers #181 (1979)
Enemies: Yellowjacket, Black Ant
“…Yeah, well I beat up Doctor Doom once!”
He’s of course the most famous Ant-Man by a significantly wide margin thanks to the MCU films, but does it mean he’s the best Ant-Man?
Why, yes. Yes, it does. Well, maybe it’s the chicken and the egg, but whether you dig the guy because of the performances of Paul Rudd and his near supernatural level of charm or you have been a fan since way back when he became the first replacement Ant-Man in the comics, the how and why are almost moot. At the end of the day Scott Lang is the best Ant-Man.
He might not have the genius of Hank Pym or the Avengers pedigree that Pym has, but he has two things going for him that Pym doesn’t: he didn’t create freaking Ultron and he doesn’t have the specter of a terrible storyline forever holding him down for spousal abuse (god, that story is crap).
Scott’s got a great relationship with the Avengers and the FF (and has been a member of both on multiple occasions), an awesome relationship with his daughter Cassie (aka Stature, aka Stinger), and has just enough of the every-man in him to make him relatable.
Real Name: Namor McKenzie
First Appearance: Motion Picture Funnies Weekly (1939)
Enemies: Attuma, Tiger Shark, Nitro, Red Skull
“…Perhaps I am not the Namor you knew. Perhaps I am the menace now, the threat to all you hold dear. But if so, I do not care. And I will tell you this: Get out of my way — or I’ll leave you broken and bleeding in my wake.”
Don’t confuse him with Aquaman! Sure, they both live under water but also on land, and sure, they are both rulers of Atlantis, and sure, they’ve both had somewhat similar family tragedies (even somewhat similar origins) and both often find themselves switching between being part of their publisher’s biggest teams (Avengers and JLA, respectively), but there’s one key difference: Namor doesn’t have a beard.
Also, he appeared over a decade prior!
Namor is actually the very first Marvel comics character. He wasn’t in regular publication from his first appearance way back in 1939 (!), but made a come back in the 60’s under Smilin’ Stan Lee and Jumpin’ Jack Kirby’s Fantastic Four and hasn’t looked back since.
Namor works great as a hero (anti-hero, I guess; he’s usually an ass), teaming up with everyone from the FF to the Avengers to the X-Men to Iron Fist and Misty Knight, he gets around and does a lot of good. But, he also works really well as a villain, often teaming up with classy fellows like Dr. Doom and Magneto (before he was in the X-Men half the time).
Regardless, whether he is punching Nazis with Captain America and Bucky in World War 2, throwing the Fantastic Four around because he’s cranky, joining the X-Men, nearly obliterating Wakanda, joining the fight against Thanos for the Infinity Gauntlet, being a host for the Phoenix force, or threatening the United States (usually) or the ‘surface world’ with monstrous tidal waves and long-forgotten deep sea monsters, one thing is for certain: this dude would eat Aquaman (yes, even the Aqua-brah version from the films) for lunch.
Real Name: Mark Grayson
First Appearance: Invincible #1 (2003)
Enemies: Thragg, Angstrom Levy, Conquest, Anissa, Dinosaurus, Octoboss, the Mauler Twins, The Flaxans, Doc Seismic, Gridlock, etc
“This is being a Super-Hero? I’m just stopping crap from happening at any given moment. I’m not doing anything really worthwhile… …and when I fail… my God, I fail big. We have the power to change the world, Eve… …but instead things just keep getting worse.”
Robert Kirkman’s other masterpiece, “Invincible” isn’t just one of our favorite Image comics, we’d argue that it’s one of the best superhero comic runs in the last 20 years! It’s basically an entire comics universe (with consistent consequences, character growth, and “real” stakes) all compacted into one 144 issue series, it’s an epic saga from beginning to end. (And soon to be an animated series?)
There is so much to cover here about Invincible himself, so we’ll try and keep it simple… and (relatively) spoiler free.
Mark Grayson was just an average American teenager, going to high school, working a part time job, and doing chores… well, except his dad is the world’s most famous superhero, Omni-Man! His father reveals that he is an alien who immigrated to Earth from the planet Viltrum. At 17, Mark’s powers finally manifest and he soon gets a tailored suit, and joins forces with other super-powered teenagers: Robot, Dupli-Kate, Rex-splode, and Atom Eve! His powers are invulnerability, super strength, speed, flight, decelerated aging, and an enhanced healing factor.
Meanwhile, Omni-Man’s superhero team, the Guardians of the Globe: The Immortal, Dark Wing, War Woman, Red Rush, Aquarus, Martian Man, and the Green Ghost are all brutally murdered by a mysterious assassin. This ultimately leads Invincible to a dark revelation that will change the course of his life… and the fate of the universe!
The series follows Mark’s life as he grows up, makes friends and enemies, falls in love, gets married, has a kid, and even loses people close to him. Throughout all of it, we see Mark struggle with his responsibilities as both a hero and a father, face down existential dread, and overcome incredible adversity to ultimately do the right thing.
No matter what though, no matter how hopeless it seems, Invincible keeps on fighting against a legion of intergalactic enemies in some of the most bloody, badass, and brutal fights in the history of superhero comics! ‘Nuff said.
So yeah, go read Invincible!
Real Name: Katherine “Kitty” Pryde
First Appearance: Uncanny X-Men #129 (1980)
Enemies: Magneto, Emma Frost, Mystique, Blob, Pyro, Avalanche, Calisto, Gatecrasher
“I just have *bad* luck with Peters.”
Kitty’s come a long way from the little teen girl that joined the X-Men right after the Dark Phoenix saga. Over the years she proved herself time and time again as an X-Man of the highest caliber. When she was injured during the events of the Mutant Massacre she semi-retired, and after the events of the Fall of the Mutants, when the X-Men were believed dead, she helped form the British team Excalibur, where she further developed her skills and leadership abilities. Eventually she rejoined the X-Men, became a teacher at the Xavier Institute, sacrificed herself to save the entire planet, returned to Earth before ditching it to join (and briefly lead) the Guardians of the Galaxy, then returning again to be the Headmistress of the Xavier Institute. Then she became a pirate.
Along the way she was trained as a ninja and her best friend is a dragon, too, so that’s cool.
Starting off as a new generation’s ‘pov’ character for an introduction to the world of the X-Men, she has since become the template for how to do it right (they did the same thing with Jubilee and Pixie, to name a couple, to varying degrees of success). She began as a nearly helpless kid with no idea how to control her powers to one of the most capable, dangerous opponents around.
Real Name: Anung in Rama
First Appearance: San Diego Comic Con Comics #2 (1993)
Enemies: Grigori Rasputin, the Ogdru Hem, Herman von Klempt, Baba Yaga, Ilsa Haupstein, Hecate
“Didn’t I kill you already?”
A demon baby brought to Earth by the Nazis and a Russian wizard/necromancer, Hellboy was adopted by Professor Broome and raised to help people and save the world from all kinds of craziness. Seriously, big red gets up to all kinds of shenanigans (not to mention what the good folks in Hellboy’s sister book, B.P.R.D., get up to). He gets drunk with skeletons, fights luchador vampires, elder gods, witches, frog monsters, ghosts, demons, ancient beasts, mythical creatures, and all kinds of crap.
His giant stone hand is actually used for a hell of a lot more (no pun intended) than smashing idiots and monsters in the face, but he prefers to use it for just that purpose, assuming he can’t shoot or drink his way out of the problem.
If you like Mike Mignola (who doesn’t?), creepy folklore (who doesn’t?), dark elder gods (‘the many angled ones’), monsters, tragedy, insane (quite literally) drinking stories, comedy, tragedy, ghosts, forgotten history, nazis, tragedy, hell, ass kicking, and tragedy, check out Hellboy!
Real Name: Sam Wilson
First Appearance: Captain America #117 (1969)
Enemies: Red Skull, Baron Zemo, Arnim Zola, Serpent Society
“These people — Hydra — executed our friends. They murdered an entire city. They’ve locked up millions, are chasing after millions more. Innocents. Who wants to speak for those people? Who’s going to be their justice? Who wants to be their Avengers?!”
For a very long time it was easy to look at Falcon as the Robin to Captain America’s Batman. He was like an adult Bucky in some ways, but with an entirely different world view. It took a long time for people to stop looking at Falcon as a sidekick and realize that he was a total badass super hero in his own right, and truly was Captain America’s partner, if not equal.
When we first meet Sam he is under the influence of that eternal d-bag the Red Skull, who had gotten his hands on a cosmic cube. After trying to kill Cap, he eventually broke free of the Skull’s influence and turned on him. Shortly after he and Cap became partners, and co-starred in Cap’s book for quite a long time.
Falcon eventually joined the Avengers, re-partnered with Cap, helped him track down and help Bucky when it was revealed he was the Winter Solider, partnered with Bucky when he replaced Steve Rogers as Captain America, and even became Captain America, himself for a while (and a very capable one, too)!
From a croney to an Avengers team leader and one of the all-time greats. Not too shabby for a guy that ‘talks’ to birds.
Real Name: Jean Grey
First Appearance: Uncanny X-Men #1 (1963) – as Phoenix: Uncanny X-Men #101 (1976), as Dark Phoenix: Uncanny X-Men #134 (1980)
Enemies: Magneto, Apocalypse, Mr. Sinister, Goblin Queen, Mastermind, Hellfire Club, Cassandra Nova
“I am fire and life incarnate! Now and forever — I am Phoenix!”
Holy convoluted histories, Batman!
Jeannie has been through the ringer and then back, and then through the continuity ringer and back again a few times. She ‘died’ and was reborn as the Phoenix, who then killed herself, but turned out she was actually a genetic copy created by the Phoenix force, so the real deal came back like nothing with the Phoenix ever happened, started X-Factor, found out her boyfriend married her clone and had a kid, and then she was forced to absorb the memories of both her clone and the phoenix stand-in, then married Cyclops (that’s ballsy, marrying into the Summers dynasty of crazy), became Phoenix again, died again, came back again…
Geez. Even for someone who religiously follows the X-Men, it’s a bit much.
Regardless of what weird status she has been in, Jean has always been one of the most dependable, and most powerful, mutants on the block. She’s capable of molecular telekinesis, meaning she can manipulate matter at the molecular level (!!), and she is also a world-class telepath, second only on Earth to Professor X himself. She’s led multiple X-Men teams and is just as dependable as Cyclops when it comes to doing whatever it takes to make sure the team makes it home alive. When Wolverine had his adamantium yoinked out of his skin by Magneto, she telekinetically held the X-Men’s ship together as it broke apart in orbit re-entry (they fought on Magneto’s asteroid base- I love comics) while also keeping Wolverine alive and holding his body together as his healing factor worked. She (as Phoenix) has held Cyclops’ eye blasts back like they were a flashlight, has single handed-ly beaten omega level threats, and has had at the same time some of the best costumes in X history (the old school- and current- look with the green costume and yellow headpiece, and of course the Phoenix outfit) and the worst (90’s Jim lee design was bad, guys), and for years had the worst codename: Jean Grey.
Thankfully Jean is back in the land of the living these days, and is living it up on Krakoa with the rest of the mutant community. She is often featured in the Cyclops-centric, Jonathan Hickman scripted ‘X-Men’, and is also a key member of the mutant CIA-style team of X-Force (by Benjamin Percy). She is a member of the Quiet Council and lives with the Summers family and Logan on the blue area of the moon, thanks to the teleportation gate generated Krakoa flowers (Hickman is a mad genius, I tell you).
Real Name: Barbara Gordon
First Appearance: Detective Comics #359 (1967)
Enemies: Joker, Calculator, James Gordon Jr, Mirror, Firefly
“I’m not Barbara Gordon. I have to keep remembering that. Tonight, I’m not Barbara. Tonight, I’m not the Police Commissioner’s daughter. Tonight, I’m the one who pored over the details of the confidential police and reports when her dad wasn’t looking. I’m the one who recognized the vintage costumes you wear. Tonight?
Tonight, I’m Batgirl.”
The first of many women to break up the Bat-boys’ club, Barbara is also the most well-known and probably best. She wasn’t shaped by tragedy (at least at first), she was just fascinated with the Batman- this man/creature/myth that her father was so tied up in- and started going out as Batgirl.
At first she wasn’t met with the warmest welcome by the dynamic duo, but Batman and Robin both quickly learned- as did the GCPD and the rest of Gotham- that Batgirl was for real. She developed a relationship of sorts with Robin (Dick Grayson) and was eventually welcomed into the fold.
Rather than her origin being shaped by tragedy, her retirement was. Ambushed by the Joker (who didn’t know she was Batgirl, just Barbara Gordon, daughter of the policy commissioner) in her civilian identity, she was paralyzed from the waist down. Rather than letting this beat her, she became Oracle, and set up a network of informers, information gatherers, information and access, and quickly became Batman’s- and at times, the Justice League’s- greatest secret weapon. Despite her inability to physically be part of the action, she was still saving lives every day, and never let the Joker win.
When DC rebooted their line with the new 52, Barbara was walking around again and back to being Batgirl. While Oracle will be missed, and having a character with a disability being such a prominent figure will be missed by those that can identify with her, or came to her in the Oracle role, it was nice to see the original Batgirl back again. There have been others in between her stints in the cowl, such as Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown, but you’ll get little argument here that Barbara is the greatest, and one of the best characters not just in Gotham city, but in all of DC Comics.
32. Silver Surfer
Real Name: Norrin Radd
First Appearance: Fantastic Four #48 (1966)
Enemies: Thanos, Mephisto, Morg, Terrax, Annihilus, Ravenous, Knull
“They long for peace, yet gird for war! They search for love, yet harbor hate! If man is sane… then the universe is steeped in madness!”
One of Jack “King” Kirby’s more inspired creations, in theory the Silver Surfer shouldn’t work. He sounds ridiculous. But the way he was presented by Kirby in the all-time classic Fantastic Four story “The Coming of Galactus”, and later by such industry all-timers as Moebius, John Buscema, George Perez, Ron Lim, and many others, made readers across the world fall in love with the harbinger of death and despair.
Norrin Radd was a somewhat normal guy on the planet Zenn-La. He had a father, a job, and a woman he loved: Shalla Bal. Everything was pretty much the alien equivalent of peaches and cream until Galactus, in a move of intergalactic cock-blocking, showed up to eat the planet.
Norrin was able to communicate with Galactus and offered to help him find other planets he could feed on in exchange for his planet’s life. Not wanting to spend so much time shopping for food, the big G agreed, and gave a piece of the Power Cosmic to Norrin, turning him into the awe-inspiring, crazy powerful herald of Galactus: the Silver Surfer! For years he did as he was commanded, until he encountered the Fantastic Four and Alicia Masters on Earth, and turned on his master to save this new planet of weirdos of fire and stretching.
He’s been through a lot since: he spent time banished on Earth, regained access to the stars, fought Thanos both with and without the Infinity Gauntlet, squared off against Mephisto, other Heralds, Galactus himself, Thanos again, the Magus, the Goddess, Thanos again, Knull, and countless others.
To check in with ol’ Norrin these days check out the excellent Thanos Wins by Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw, volumes 1 and 2 of Guardians of the Galaxy by the same guys, and Silver Surfer: Black by Cates and Tradd Moore.
31. Rick Grimes
Real Name: Rick Grimes
First Appearance: The Walking Dead #1 (2003)
Enemies: The Governor, Negan, Alpha, the Hunters, the undead
“The second we put a bullet in the head of one of these undead monsters–the moment one of us drove a hammer into one of their faces–or cut of a head. We became what we are! And that’s just it. That’s what this comes down to. You people don’t know what we are. We’re surrounded by the dead. We’re among them–and when we finally give up we become them! We’re living on borrowed time here. Every minute of our life is a minute we steal from them! You see them out there. You know that when we die–we become them. You think we hide behind walls to protect us from the walking dead! Don’t you get it! WE ARE THE WALKING DEAD! … We are the walking dead.”
Oh, man, do I love me some Rick Grimes. The lead protagonist of one of the all-time great horror comics, Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead, Rick is one of the best characters in any comic, period.
A small town cop who ’28 Days Laters’ into the zombie apocalypse (he is in a coma when everything goes down), he is all too quickly shoved face first into a world that is cold, cruel, harsh and unforgiving, but mostly empty. That is except for the dead, of course.
After reuniting with his wife and son, Rick adopts the group of survivors they were banded with as his own and becomes their de facto leader. He sacrifices everything for his people: his happiness, his sanity (quite literally), SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS his freaking hand, his wife and daughter, and eventually, even his life.
At the end of the day you can argue the Walking Dead is a story of survival, or a study of society or the lack thereof, but at the end of the day it’s Rick’s story. The triumphs, the happiness, the sadness (of which there is much), the sheer terror (of which there is even more), and the tragedies (too many to count) are all really Rick’s. It’s the story of how one man, faced with the end of the world and impossible odds, taught more and more people to fight, to survive, and to thrive until, through sheer force of will, he literally changed the world.
All of that flower shit aside, Rick is also one stone-cold, bad mo fo who will kill the living bejeezus out of anyone he feels is a threat or in the way of what needs to be done. Unless you’re Negan, in which he will just break your spirit until you can’t wait to get on his good graces again.
Like I said, bad mo fo.
That’s it for this installment! Be sure to get caught up on the previous entries here, here, here, here, here, and here .
Be sure to join us for the next installment, where we will get up to entry 21 and will cover the likes of Green Arrow, Supergirl, and the Wally West Flash!
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