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!
5. Iron Man
Real Name: Tony Stark
First Appearance: Tales of Suspense #39 (1963)
Enemies: Mandarin, Madame Masque, Dr. Doom, Zeke Stane, Whiplash, Crimson Dynamo
“There’s only two things I ever managed to believe in. Firstly, myself. And even then only about 50% of the time. Secondly, the future. That there would be one and we’d make it.”
What a difference a decade or so can make! Pre-MCU Iron Man would have been ranked pretty high on this list, but probably somewhere in the 20’s, and that would have simply been because of his long tenure in the Marvel Universe and his ties to the Avengers. However, post-MCU Iron Man has become one of the most popular super heroes in the whole world. Almost any country you can think of, a large percentage of the populace knows who Iron Man is.
Stark’s journey from ego-centric billionaire developing weapons for the military to ego-centric billionaire developing weapons for himself (ahem) is a long one. He has made enemies in every corner of the globe, which is ironic considering he’s saved every single person on it at least once, whether as his actions as Iron Man, or due to his creating (well, co-creating) and funding the Avengers.
Because of his role in the Avengers Iron Man has always been a big player in Marvel comics, if not always the most popular. He’s been front and center for pretty much every major Marvel event since his introduction in the early 60’s!
He has come a long way since then, debuting with a big, gray metal hulk of a suit as the Iron Man. After more than a few alterations and modifications of the suit, some drastic re-imaginings and some more cosmetic tweaks, he ended up mostly settling on the design that has, for the most part, remained his look ever since (obviously with cosmetic changes and upgrades, but for the most part variations of this):
As mentioned, Tony has plenty of enemies, and while he might not have as great of a rogues’ gallery as some of the other entries on this list, he’s got enemies in pretty much every camp. He’s not even really friends with some of his allies! But besides his archenemy the Mandarin, or Obadiah or Ezekiel Stane and maybe the Crimson Dynamo, his most famous enemies are the archenemies of other heroes, like Dr. Doom! While ol’ scarface might hate Reed Richards and the FF the most, he always reserves a good bit of hatred for our boy, Tony, as well. He’s also not on the best of terms with the likes of Ultron, Kang, the Sinister Six, and Norman Osborn, aka the Green Goblin!
Thankfully for Tony, he’s got all kinds of allies. Not counting his ever-present AI companions that help run his Iron Man suits, he’s got his on again, off again love interest Pepper Potts, his best pal and sometimes Iron Man James Rhodes, aka War Machine, Bethany Cabe, and oh yeah, the freaking Avengers! He’s not always on the best of terms with them (shocker), but in a pinch he can always count on the likes of Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, etc, etc, etc. Which is good, really, because if there’s one thing Tony is really good at, besides developing technology, seducing women, making more money than should be humanly possible, and kicking ass, is finding himself in reeeeaaaaally crappy situations (often of his own making).
It will be interesting to see how his popularity holds up in the coming years with Robert Downey Jr no longer reprising the role in the MCU, but you can count on one thing: regardless of popularity, as long as there is a Marvel universe Tony Stark will be a cornerstone of it.
4. Captain America
Real Name: Steve Rogers
First Appearance: Captain America Comics #1 (1941)
Enemies: Red Skull, Baron Zemo, Crossbones, Sin, Faustus, Arnim Zola, Baron Blood
“I’ve always believed that all you need is one man to make a difference. To stand up when others are told to sit down. To speak loudly for those who have no voice. And to fight the good fight.”
Deemed physically unfit for service, young Steve Rogers was enrolled in Operation: Rebirth due to his repeated attempts to enlist and serve his country in World War 2. Operation: Rebirth was a top secret project aiming to create America’s first super soldiers to counter the mysterious and terrifying super soldier rumors swirled out of Germany about: Der Rote Schadel, the Red Skull!
Steve received the famed super soldier serum and was bathed in Vita rays, transforming from a skinny weakling into the incredible, amazing, unstoppable sentinel of liberty, Captain America! Unfortunately, a German spy killed the mastermind behind the experiment, Dr. Emil Erskine, so Steve would remain the only super soldier instead of the intended army, but turns out we didn’t really need anyone else! Captain America and his partner, James “Bucky” Barnes, would cut through the Axis powers like a buzzsaw through melted butter, teaming up with the likes of Nick Fury and his Howling Commandos, Namor the Sub-Mariner, the (original) Human Torch and Toro, the Blazing Skull, Spitfire, Union Jack, and many more as they battled Nazis, Hydra, the Red Skull, Baron Zemo, and hordes of freaks and maniacs Hitler and the Skull threw at them.
Near the end of the war Cap and Bucky were caught in an explosion in an attempt to capture Baron Zemo. The explosion seemingly killed Bucky (he wishes) and threw Steve into the icy Arctic waters below, where he would sink and freeze. The serum kept him alive in a state of suspended animation as he spent decades frozen in ice under the sea. He was later (accidentally) unearthed by Namor, and eventually discovered and thawed out by the Avengers, who were quite surprised to find him not only alive, but quite capable of giving all of them a run for their money! Quickly realizing he had slept through the end of the war he was made for and almost everyone he ever knew is now dead, he threw himself headfirst into his new role: field leader of the Avengers!
Cap’s return to life, so to speak, was the biggest news in the world, and the news quickly spread to a few of his rivals that sadly made it when his allies didn’t: Zemo and the Red Skull! Zemo subsequently was killed in a battle with the Avengers, but in true a-hole villain fashion, his son was more than ready and able to step into the role as the new Zemo, and the rivalry was renewed all over again.
In the years since he was thawed Cap has become as much of a symbol for freedom, individual choice (but more importantly, individual responsibility), justice, and all of that good stuff. Other than a brief period during the superhuman Civil War when the public was decidedly NOT on his side, he has, for the most part, remained the most popular and trusted hero not only among other heroes, but among the public of the Marvel Universe.
His villains have only gathered in strength, as the Red Skull seems unable to ever truly be dead and gone, and has cursed us all with his daughter, Cynthia Schimdt, aka Sin, who is just as hateful, vile, and psychotic as her father, as well as expanding his follower ranks to include the likes of AIM, Hydra, Crossbones, Faust, the Serpent Society, and many more, while Zemo has assembled teams like the Masters of Evil and the Thunderbolts (not counting his very high ranking in Hydra) to try to destroy the things Captain America stands for and cherishes.
Fortunately for Cap, like Iron Man, he has a ton of allies! Besides pretty much anyone that’s ever been an Avengers being willing to do anything for the guy, he has a close circle of allies that include the likes of Sam Wilson aka the Falcon aka Captain America, Sharon Carter aka Agent 13 of SHIELD, Nick Fury, Rick Jones, and many more!
When Cap was revived, the loss of his partner (and best friend/brother) Bucky shook him very hard, and he never really got over it. Turns out he didn’t really have to, because unfortunately for Bucky the explosion over Zemo’s island didn’t kill him, but blew his arm off and threw him into the ocean, where he was gathered up by Russians. They saved his life, outfitted him with an awesome cybernetic arm, and wiped his memories, leaving him with only his skills and abilities and creating the most feared assassin in the world: The Winter Soldier! Years later he and Cap would cross paths, and thanks to Steve using a cosmic cube to restore Bucky’s memories, the two buddies were finally reunited! Well, sort of. Bucky kept his distance out of shame at his time as the Winter Solider, and suddenly the Civil War happened and Steve was believed dead. In honor of his friend, Bucky took up the mantle of Captain America himself until Steve returned.
Regardless of who carries the shield (Steve is the best, but there have been others: John Walker, Bucky, and Sam Wilson being a few), Captain America stands for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all, but will beat the everloving bejeezus out of you with his unbreakable shield and insane speed, strength, agility and fighting skills should the need arise!
Real Name: Peter Parker
First Appearance: Amazing Fantasy #15 (1962)
Enemies: Dr. Octopus, Green Goblin, Venom, Electro, Sandman, Vulture, Mysterio, Kraven the Hunter, Mr. Negative, Carnage, Tombstone, and dozens more
“Is ‘May the Fish be with you’ a good pun? I can’t tell. I’m going to use it anyway.”
Marvel’s most popular hero (and my personal favorite!- CZ), Peter Benjamin Parker, aka the Amazing, Spectacular, Sensational, Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man has been Marvel’s cash cow for 60 years now!
Bitten by a radioactive spider, shy, bullied bookworm high school sophomore Peter Parker died of cancer.
Oh, wait, no! Oh, shit, it gave him spider powers! That’s good.
Using his brilliant, science and engineering obsessed mind, he designed his own web shooters and set out to… make money by pro wrestling? Huh. One night a man steals from the promoter, and as he runs past Spider-Man our hero elects to… do nothing and let the guy go.
…geez. This guy’s supposed to be the hero? What would his parents thi- what? They abandoned him as a child with his aunt and uncle for their work with SHIELD and were killed? Wow. OK, that sucks. But at least his Aunt May and Uncle Ben are cool.
So anyway, the guy who robbed the promoter that Spider-Man let go ends up trying to break into the Parker home that night and shoots and kills Uncle Ben.
JESUS WEPT. What the hell, man?
It is here that Spider-Man learns a valuable lesson, one that will haunt and drive him for the rest of his life: don’t try to be a pro-wrester. I mean, with great power must come great responsibility.
He dedicated himself to helping others, and the kind of dickish wannabe celebrity was suddenly saving people right and left and going up against some of the scariest villains in all of comics (keep in mind, for much of this he was 15 and 16 years old!), such as the maniacal Doctor Octopus, the villainous Vulture, the shocking Electro, the horrifying Lizard, the terrifying Sandman, the monstrous Green Goblin, the rampaging Rhino, the sadistic Scorpion, the menace of Mysterio, the crafty Chameleon, and the Russian Kraven the Hunter!
Often sacrificing his social life and family life to help others no matter the cost, it’s a miracle his friends have stood by him, but they usually do. There’s Captain George Stacy of the NYPD who- huh? What’s that? He was crushed by rocks because of Dr. Octopus? Geez. Well, there’s his love Gwen Stacy, who he is about to reveal his identi- what? The Green Goblin did WHAT?!?! Oh, man, this guy’s life sucks ass.
Well, there’s still Spidey’s true love, Mary Jane Watson, who for quite a while was Mary Jane Watson Parker, but then the devil wanted their marriage to save Aunt May’s life (I shit you not), so now they were never married, despite the four feet tall stack of comics I have where they definitely are. There are also his allies in the Daily Bugle, like Ben Urich, Robbie Robertson, and depending on the day of the week, J. Jonah Jameson, his school friends Harry Osborn (dead) and Flash Thompson (dead… sort of). Man, I’m depressed now.
Over the years things have always seemed to suck for our boy Pete, like when his college professor cloned him and became the super villain known as the Jackal, or when he got a super sweet black costume that turned out to be a sentient alien being and bonded with someone that hated Spidey to create Venom, who became Spidey’s scariest villain yet and himself spawned Carnage, who’s even scarier, and the two have racked up a body count that’s got to be in four digits at this point. So, Spidey, who is the type to feel guilty about NOT feeling guilty about something, gets to carry that around with him, too. Sweet.
There was the time Kraven the Hunter poisoned Spidey and buried him alive right after he got back from his honeymoon, too, which I’m sure didn’t create more emotional scars than finding a sex tape of your parents.
Then there was the time Norman Osborn, thought dead, somehow orchestrated the nonsense clone saga, which pushed Peter’s sanity past the breaking point, along with his readers. But it gave us two cool members of the huge (and insanely cool) cast of characters in Spidey’s world: Ben Reilly, the clone of Spider-Man that survived their confrontation and went on to live a life of his own, only to return years later as the Scarlet Spider, and when they thought Ben was the real deal and Peter the clone, he became Spider-Man for a time (and is currently doing it again!), and Kaine Parker, another clone of Peter that is a bit bigger, a bit stronger, a bit faster, and a lot meaner than Peter.
In more recent years Peter has become an Avenger, been the CEO of his own company, been killed, had Doc Ock swap bodies with him and then die in Doc Ock’s body, and, as usual, been dragged through more emotional and physical torment than should be possible for one person to take.
But that’s why we love Spider-Man. His look is great, his powers are cool, the webs are awesome, his supporting cast is great, his villains are the best, and the fact that he has real, relatable problems (rent overdue, falling behind in school, relationship problems, etc) is key, but more than anything it’s the fact that no matter how bad it gets, no matter how hopeless, there is one guy that won’t give, won’t falter, won’t ever stop, and that’s Peter Parker, the Amazing, Spectacular, Web of (wait) Spider-Man!!
Real Name: Bruce Wayne
First Appearance: Detective Comics #27 (1939)
Enemies: Joker, Ra’s Al Ghul, Two-Face, Bane, Riddler, Scarecrow, Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy, Killer Croc, the Mad Hatter, KGBeast, Talia Al Ghul, Harley Quinn, and many others
“Yes, father. I shall become a bat.”
Is there a more universally loved superhero than Batman? Well, I would say there is just one, but we will get to him in a moment. The dark knight, the world’s greatest detective, the caped crusader himself, Batman is as enduring an American creation as there is and will outlive all of us by quite a long time.
Is there anyone alive that doesn’t know his origin? Billionaire Thomas Wayne and his wife Martha are gunned down in front of their young son, Bruce, and instead of just going crazy and numbing himself with drugs and women, like most young billionaires would do, Bruce essentially ignored his fortune and dedicated himself to the most miserable existence possible (dude probably hasn’t had a carb in decades), training himself to be the world’s greatest detective, the world’s greatest escape artist, one of the world’s greatest fighters, and just an all-around pain in in the ass for anyone that isn’t also operating out of the Batcave (which is a lot more people these days than I think there ever should be, but they’re all cool, so oh, well).
Speaking of allies, ol’ Bats has a heck of a lot of them, especially for someone that is as anti-social as he is. He’s got his trusty butler/medic/father figure Alfred Pennyworth, Wayne Enterprises’ Lucius Fox, Nightwing aka Dick Grayson aka the first Robin, the Red Hood aka Jason Todd aka the second Robin, Robin (Tim Drake), Robin (Damien Wayne, his biological son), Batgirl (Barbara Gordon), Orphan, Signal, Bluebird, Azrael, Spoiler, Batwoman, Batwing… the list goes on. That’s not even counting the likes of Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Cyborg, Martian Manhunter, Zatanna, Black Lightning, etc etc. More recently, he has entered into one of the most complicated relationships of all time with Selina Kyle aka Catwoman, as she has mostly reformed from being a rogue, herself!
But, despite all of those people, the most important partner Batman has had in his ongoing war against crime in Gotham City (aka the worst place in the world) is Commissioner James Gordon. His first partner and best, Jim is the only one of Batman’s allies that can do what he can’t: operate openly, in the daylight, inside the confines of the law. Gordon saw the impossible tasks in front of him: stop the super villains, stop the mob, clean up the dirtiest police force this side of Florida, don’t get killed- and said holy shit I’m in over my head. He recognized Batman for what he could be: the greatest asset ever. So, he commits political suicide and has a signal for a wanted vigilante installed on THE ROOF OF POLICE HEADQUARTERS and calls Batman with it, as well as signaling to the scumbags in Gotham (roughly 99.3234% of the population) that their time is up. MAN, that’s ballsy. Gordon rules.
Like the other heroes on today’s list, it’s a damn good thing Bats has a veritable army backing him up, because there are times he really, really needs it.
He’s got the second nastiest rogues’ gallery in comics, after all!
Think of some of the absolute freaks this dude has to deal with: Mr. Zsasz, the Ventriloquist, Kite Man, Firefly, the Calendar Man, Maxie Zeus, and the Mad Hatter might look lame, and maybe they can be, but they can also be straight up terrifying!! Well, not Kite Man.
On top of those maniacs he has the heavy hitters; the likes of Mr. Freeze, Killer Croc, Hugo Strange, the KGBeast, Deathstroke, Lady Shiva, Bane, Ra’s Al Ghul, the Riddler, the Scarecrow, the Penguin, Two-Face and one of the worst/greatest villains in all of fiction: the Joker! (There are a LOT more, too, but just look at that list!)
These freaks, plus the freak that is Bruce himself, combined with his colorful allies, the increasingly complicated relationship with the GCPD, and the constant influx of new gangs trying to take up turf thinking ‘sure, those 900 other gangs all got their collective asses utterly handed to them by a clown, a scarred up district attorney, a psychiatrist who dresses to frighten crows away, and/or a short, rotund mobster with an umbrella fetish, or even worse they were targeted by the Bat himself, but hey, we got this!’ makes Gotham City a constant, never-ending hellhole. It looks nice during the day, but at night it’s a reaaaaaal shithole. Last place on Earth you would want to visit.
But one man looked at this impossible task- saving Gotham- and said ‘fuck it. I’ll dress up like a bat. Couldn’t hurt.’
No, he said ‘not on my watch’ and dedicated everything he has, everything he will ever have, and everything he is to stopping the unstoppable, to fixing the unfixable, and to beating the absolute piss out of pretty much anyone and everyone he comes across. He made himself into an unbreakable symbol to some, an absolute devil to others, and an urban legend to others still, and in the process made himself into arguably the coolest, most popular superhero there has ever been.
Real Name: Clark Kent/ Kal-El
First Appearance: Action Comics #1 (1938)
Enemies: Lex Luthor, Darkseid, Doomsday, Parasite, Metallo, General Zod, Brainiac, Toyman, Kryptonite Man, Mongul
“It’s never as bad as it seems. You’re stronger than you think you are. Trust me.”
The first, strongest, and greatest of them all, is it any wonder the top spot would go to the best of all of them? Kal El, a baby from Krypton… you know what? You all already know it. I’ll just refer you to the opening of the great ‘All-Star Superman’:
After spending his formative years in Smallville, Kansas, Clark moved to the big city of Metropolis and started working for the Daily Planet where he met Perry White, Jimmy Olsen, and Lois Lane and change his life forever. Superman quickly became the biggest thing since sliced bread, and was beloved by everyone. Well, everyone but ol’ butthurt Lex Luthor. Lex, being richer than God and having the ego and superiority complex to match, fancied himself one day having all of Metropolis worshipping at his feet the way they sort of do for Superman, so a rivalry began, and has escalated ever since. If the greatest super villain of all-time isn’t the Joker, Magneto or Dr. Doom, it’s GOT to be Lex Luthor!
Not to be outdone by a lowly human, there are plenty of alien and otherdimensional beings that have decided life would sure be a lot sweeter if the ol’ blue boyscout were dealt with. Unfortunately for the likes of Silver Banshee, Mr. Mxyzptlk, Mongul and his Warworld, the Kryptonian criminal Zod and his underlings, the monstrous Brainiac, the pitiful Bizarro, the unstoppable monster Doomsday, and the most evil of all, the terrifying Darkseid and his planet of assholes Apokolips, killing our boy Supes is a hell of a lot easier said than done. Even the freaking Anti-Monitor couldn’t do it, and he was wiping out universes right and left!
Between his time in Metropolis and around the world and across the universe in his solo adventures and alongside the Justice League or across time with his buddies in the Legion of Superheroes, there are precious few places Superman hasn’t been, saved, and ingratiated himself to the people of. If there is a place that doesn’t love Superman odds are it’s because they’re a bunch of dicks. Or they are Frank Miller’s Batman.
Superman has had plenty of allies like the Legion or the League, such as Mon-El aka Valor, his cousin Kara Zor-El aka Supergirl, Conner Kent aka Superboy, Steel, Clarks’ son Jon Kent (who is currently protecting Metropolis as Superman, himself!), and of course, Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane! Also his alien dog Krypto, who is an absolutely ridiculous concept that for some reason I love completely. Krypto rules.
Superman has been across multi-media for nearly 80 years now, debuting a radio show, an incredible animated serial, numerous live action TV shows, a more modern animated series, multiple animated movies and live action movies, and one decent video game and five or six dumpster fires for games (WHY CAN’T WE GET A GOOD SUPERMAN GAME?!?!). His merchandise is everywhere and has been for decades; I defy you to find ANYONE that doesn’t know what the “S” shield stands for. EVERYONE knows who Superman is, and what he stands for.
He’s the first and the best, the one that, above all others, inspires us to be better than we thought we could be, to look out for one another, to give of ourselves, and to just be kind to one another. Incredibly powerful yet gentle, a giant of a man without a speck of ego, Superman truly is the best of us, and the best of all of the superheroes.
Now, if only we could get him a playable video game and a non-divisive movie…
That’s our list! Thank you SO MUCH for your patience as we worked through all 100, and hopefully you enjoyed it! Be sure to let us know your thoughts! Also, if you missed any of the previous installments, be sure to check them out below!
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10
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