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: Matthew Murdock
First Appearance: Daredevil #1 (1964)
Enemies: The Kingpin, Bullseye, the Hand, the Owl, Mr. Fear, Gladiator, Ikari, Typhoid Mary, Echo
“So you know. So that’s why. I never would have connected it to you. Nothing about it said gangster–until this. It was a nice piece of work, Kingpin. You shouldn’t have signed it.”
Daredevil, the blind lawyer from Hell’s Kitchen, is one of Marvel’s most enduring, popular characters, and yet is still somehow underrated. His portrayal in media outside of the books has been… spotty. Thankfully Charlie Cox and the Netflix series are around or ‘spotty’ could easily be changed to ‘hysterically bad’. So to many people, he’s just kind of a guy they’ve heard of, but to those of us who have been reading his exploits for years, we know the truth: Matt Murdock is one of the very best characters Marvel has, even though he’s basically just a blind ninja with enhanced senses and a tricked out billy club.
Other than perhaps Wolverine and Peter Parker, there aren’t many heroes who have suffered more than DD for doing the hero thing. He’s had everything stripped from him more than once- including both his sanity and his literal freedom- multiple friends/family members/lovers murdered, and just generally had a shit time of things for a very, very long time. But he never stops, and no matter how bad, how utterly hopeless things look, he never shows any fear.
One of the most interesting things about Murdock is that he is full of contradictions. He practices law by day, but by night breaks it constantly. He’s a devout Catholic, but is one of the most violent, prone to rages heroes on the street, etc. These make for some very interesting stories, and thankfully he’s got one of the best supporting casts and rogue’s galleries out there.
His supporting cast often evolves, but the mainstays have traditionally been Foggy Nelson, his best friend and law partner, Ben Urich, reporter for the Daily Bugle, Karen Page (deceased), Stick and the Chaste, Elektra, and at times Spider-Man, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and Jessica Jones have been known to hang around and help out.
It’s a good thing Matt has friends, because he certainly has enemies to spare. Everyone is familiar with Wilson Fisk, aka the Kingpin of crime, and his long running vendetta against Daredevil. However, he’s followed very close behind in the arch-nemesis department by one of the biggest a-holes that ever walked the earth: Bullseye, the sadistic assassin that never misses! Add Typhoid Mary, the Gladiator, the Owl, Mr. Fear, the Hand, Lady Bullseye, the Purple Man, Ikari, and the Jester and that’s a hell of a group to have always wanting your head on a stick.
Too bad for them the man without fear just doesn’t seem to be capable of dying.
Real Name: Bruce Banner
First Appearance: Incredible Hulk #1 (1962)
Enemies: The Leader, The Abomination, the Red King, the Red Hulk, Tyrannus, the Maestro, the U-Foes, Absorbing Man
Mixing the best of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, 50’s atomic monster movies, and smashing action figures together, it’s the Incredible Hulk: the strongest one there is! The madder he gets, the stronger he gets, and he’s usually ‘just stepped on a LEGO at 3:30am on the way to the bathroom’ mad.
Dr. Bruce Banner was working on a gamma bomb for the US Military when an idiot teenager (Rick Jones, everyone!) drove out onto the test site, not thinking anything about it (dumbass). Bruce runs out and shoves the teen into a ravine just as the gamma bomb detonates, saving the boy, but is himself caught in the horrible blast.
He should have died. He might have died.
But the night belongs to Him. Banner found himself transforming into a huge, gray mass of muscle and anger when night fell, and quickly became the target of the military, specifically General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross, who also happens to be the father of Betty Ross, the woman Bruce loves! Spending the next few decades on the run, Bruce’s transformations changed; he started turning green instead of gray, and the low level intellect he retained retreated further and further as his strength grew greater and greater. Eventually we started seeing multiple transformations, color changes, and mood swings… at the end of the day the green rage monster usually sporting tattered purple pants is the image most retain.
The Hulk has had some of the best runs in the history of Marvel, which means that while there are stories of a big brute just breaking stuff, more often than not the Incredible Hulk is one of the smarter, better written books on the stands. Hulk has also had much more ‘mainstream’ success than many super heroes, thanks in large part to the 1978 TV show starring Lou Ferrigno, and not so much the Ang Lee film that we all agreed didn’t happen.
8. The Flash (Barry Allen)
Real Name: Barry Allen
First Appearance: Showcase #4 (1956)
Enemies: Reverse Flash, Captain Cold, Heat Wave, Mirror Master, Weather Wizard, The Thinker, Boomerang, Gorilla Grodd, and a lot, lot more…
“Yeah, I’m starting to hate gorillas.”
About 11-12 years ago Wally West’s Flash likely would have held the same spot, but since Barry returned from his ‘death’ in Crisis on Infinite Earths (how the hell has it already been over 10 years!?!) DC has gone out of their way to push Barry Allen and hope we would just forget ol’ Wally. But, the thing is, it worked.
Barry Allen is the Flash. He makes big mistakes (ahem- FLASHPOINT- hem) but also makes a lot of really big saves. He’s the fastest man alive but he’s always late. He’s one of the smartest guys in the room but is usually goofing around with his friends. He’s got an insanely cool power, the ‘Speed Force’ connection is awesome and allows for all kinds of crazy sci-fi stories like time travel, his costume is one of the all-time greats (doesn’t need a thing changed on it!), and he’s got an awesome ‘family’ of super heroes much like Batman, and also like Batman has one of the five best rogue’s galleries in comics!
Flash is like Daredevil at Marvel in some ways; he attracts a lot of terrific creative teams, and they often stay for quite a while (Gardner Fox, John Broome, Cary Bates, Mark Waid, Geoff Johns, and Joshua Williamson, to name a few, all had very lengthy stays with the scarlet speedster). It’s not hard to see why: you can tell nearly any kind of story using the Flash and the cast of his book. You can write about giant sharks with legs, telepathic evil gorillas, Captain Cold and the rogues, physics, time travel, super hero stuff, alternate realities, family drama, police drama… you get the point.
Thanks to the CW’s “The Flash” a whole new generation of fans have come to appreciate that Barry Allen’s Flash has been one of DC’s greatest, most important characters ever since his appearance marked the beginning of the Silver Age of comics.
7. Wonder Woman
Real Name: Diana of Themyscira AKA Diana Prince
First Appearance: All-Star Comics #8 (1941)
Enemies: Cheetah, Ares, Giganta, Dr. Poison, Maxwell Lord, Circe, Medusa
“…So Long As There Is Hope, There Can Be Victory!”
Diana Prince – Princess of Themyscira, Amazon warrior, Demi-Goddess, champion of truth, founding member of the Justice League, and a global feminist icon. Created by renowned psychologist (and inventor of the polygraph), William Moulton Marston, Wonder Woman isn’t just one of DC’s ‘Trinity’ (alongside Batman and Superman), she’s also one of the original female superheroes from the Golden Age of comics! The daughter of Hippolyta, and Zeus (yes, the Olympian God of Greek Mythology), Princess Diana is a fierce warrior and diplomat, driven by her compassion for the world, armed with her lasso of truth, indestructible gauntlets, and a magical sword forged by Hephaestus! (She also sometimes has an invisible jet, because reasons)
In the comics, Wonder Woman has had a number of drastically different incarnations over the years including but not limited to: the Justice Society’s secretary (the 40’s), a groovy fashion model / part-time spy (the 70’s), and even the God of War (New 52 continuity). From George Perez to Brian Azzarello to Gail Simone, there have been a number of amazing writers (and artists) who have taken the mythos in a number of directions. She’s typically in a relationship with US Air Force pilot, Steve Trevor, but in some versions is actually with Superman instead. Although she hails from Themyscira – the Amazonian ‘Paradise Island’, she usually calls London her home (when she’s not stateside in Washington DC). She has faced a number of enemies from across the Greek pantheon of gods and monsters, but perhaps her deadliest enemy is her former friend, Barbara Minerva aka The Cheetah!
Wonder Woman isn’t just a badass superhero, she’s an important figure in pop culture history, often representing the fight for women’s equality and more recently LGBTQ rights. As iconic as Linda Carter’s Diana Prince was, Gal Gadot really brought the character to life on the big screen in the DCEU, thanks to director Patty Jenkins’s 2017 blockbuster hit.
Real Name: James Howlett AKA Logan
First Appearance: Incredible Hulk #181 (1974)
Enemies: Sabretooth, Omega Red, Lady Deathstrike, Romulus, Cyber, Magneto
“I’m the best there is at what I do, and what I do ain’t very nice.”
Easily one of the most popular characters Marvel has ever had, for the last 20 plus years he has also been one of the biggest movie stars in the world! A far cry from the days of the Australian Logan in the (otherwise awesome) animated Pryde of the X-Men, or even when he was growling and spouting lines like “You egg suckin’ piece of gutter trash!” on the excellent X-Men animated series from the early 90’s. For decades now Wolverine has been on all of the merchandise, and is a very big reason the X-Men franchise was so dominant in the comics industry in the 80’s and 90’s. When you look into the history of the old Cannuckle head, it’s easy to see why.
He’s got- well he had- one of the most mysterious pasts of any character in comics. Any little piece of his past that he was able to dig up was a BIG DEAL. At least that is until they decided to tell practically every minute of his childhood and past up to his first appearance in the Incredible Hulk.
He’s got an awesome costume. Doesn’t matter if if’s the classic yellow and blue, the always a favorite brown suit, or the criminally underrated black/grey X-Force uniform, he looks cool. Sure, in real life there’s a good chance he’s look incredibly silly, but I sure as hell wouldn’t want to have to be the one to tell him that.
The immediacy (and awesomeness) of his powers is a huge appeal. His senses are always heightened, his healing factor- which allows him to take insane (seriously, INSANE) levels of punishment- is always active, his skeleton is always coated in unbreakable adamantium, and his greatest weapons, his adamantium claws, are always a muscle twitch from shooting out of his skin and through who or whatever needs killing. He doesn’t have to rely on any kind of power source, he doesn’t really have any kind of kryptonite (sure, carbonadium, but that’s a whole other column), and you’re just as unlikely to kill him while he’s asleep as you are when he’s barreling at you at fully speed, covered in your lackey’s blood, screaming incoherently about hockey, or Tim Horton’s, or whatever else Canadians would scream about while deep in a bloodlust fueled rage.
He’s not just a rage monster killing machine, though. He’s also Canadian!
I mean, he’s also short!
No, I mean, he’s got a lot of depth to his character. He’s got a nobility, almost samurai-like honor, about him, and is actually fiercely loyal to his friends. He’s even known to take some of the younger X-students under his wing, particularly Kitty Pryde and Jubilee, and make them the Robins to his Batman. He’s also got, as a side effect of being put in nearly every single comic Marvel has ever published at some point or another, interesting relationships and dynamics with nearly every major player in the entire Marvel Universe (Earth-based, at least).
Wolverine has had some ups and downs in his publishing history, as do all long-term characters at some point or another, but has been able to remain one of Marvel’s most enduring, compelling and flat-out popular characters for nearly 50 years!