Jun 9, 2014

The Superhero Hall of Fame, Part 2: The All-Star Tier

The Superhero Hall of Fame, Part 2: The All-Star Tier (Continued)
Back Issue Ben
Ben Smith

For all of you late-comers, I made the insane decision to create a superhero hall of fame, much like you would find in major professional sports. I also unwisely am attempting to rank the characters that will fill these fictional halls of justice, using categories of my own creation.

Those criteria for selection are detailed in the first part, so I’m not going to take the time to re-type it all here. You have access to the internet. The characters are ranked, the tiers are set, the beer is cold, let us continue this unexpectedly time-consuming venture.


24. Supergirl

Stats: powers, popularity, Crisis on Infinite Earths #7, cartoons, movie, supporting cast, costume

While Supergirl may borrow a lot from her more famous cousin, especially in name recognition alone, that shouldn’t discount the famous logo, the costume, and the powers that she shares with him. I don’t think you should ever underestimate the impact a powerful female character can have on female readers, especially young ones. She’s headlined her own comic series on multiple occasions, even though her only memorable story was probably her “death” during Crisis on Infinite Earths. While her supporting cast in her own right is limited, she has a long and enjoyable history as a member of the Legion of Superheroes. She got her own movie during the ‘80s, which was not the best. She had a major supporting role on the Superman Animated Series, as well as Justice League Unlimited. Her return to the DC comic universe in the Superman/Batman series by Jeph Loeb, received its own animated movie adaptation. Supergirl is also one of the most frequently cosplayed female characters, which should count for something.

(Cranky Editor: How can you forget Helen Slater? That movie was awesome. And one thing I always found kinda sad—Supergirl was killed off because a lack of quality stories up to that point kinda made her expendable, but her death ended up being a quality story.)

23. Batgirl

Stats: supporting cast, powers, The Killing Joke, Oracle, cartoons, movie, costume, television

Barbara Gordon enjoys many of the same superficial advantages from Batman, in terms of costume, name recognition, and supporting cast. Her back-up features in the pages of Detective Comics and Batman Family are underrated gems. As is unfortunately the case with a lot of female comic characters, her most significant moment was a negative one, when the Joker crippled her during the prestige one-shot The Killing Joke. Writers were able to turn that negative into a positive by having her become Oracle, where she served as the technical expert of the DC universe, providing invaluable support to the bat-books. Her role as a member of the Birds of Prey series by Gail Simone is probably the highlight of her comics career, though she has recently been restored to full mobility as Batgirl in the New 52. Batgirl’s appearances on the Batman television show of the ‘60s, jump-started many young boys into puberty. Unfortunately she made her big screen debut in one of the worst superhero movies of all time, Batman and Robin, portrayed by Alicia Silverstone, who was miscast. Batgirl has also appeared in almost every version of a Batman cartoon, most notably in the highly regarded ‘90s animated series.

Cranky editor: she had a darker blue before Batman did, which makes her a little bit cooler.

22. Ant-Man

Stats: origin, founding Avenger, The Wasp, Ultron, costume, cartoons, movie, secret identity

My wife would kill me if she ever saw me rank her beloved Hank Pym this low. Fortunately, she never reads Back Issue Ben, so my safety should be assured. Hank Pym has a dynamite origin, great costume, one of the founding Avengers, and is on the shortlist of smartest characters in the Marvel universe. He’s enjoyed a resurgence of sorts in the comics since his role as one of the characters replaced by a Skrull during the Secret Invasion crossover event, which continued on through a leadership stint in Mighty Avengers, a central role in the Avengers Academy series, and most recently the short-lived Avengers A.I. book. His multiple hero identities as Giant Man, Yellowjacket, Goliath, and Ant-Man have all been appropriated by several other characters. His long-term romantic relationships with The Wasp and Tigra are as dysfunctional as they are often entertaining. Pym is infamous for the creation of one of the greatest Avenger villains, Ultron, who will soon be featured in the second big screen Avengers adventure. Hank Pym himself will make his movie debut in the upcoming Ant-Man film (though he’s been relegated to old man status with the casting of Michael Douglas). Hank Pym played a major role as team leader of the ‘90s Avengers cartoon, as well as a member of the core team during the Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes animated series.

21. Black Panther

Stats: costume, consistency, King of Wakanda, cartoons

Black Panther was never a particular favorite of mine until the Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes cartoon, where they did an excellent job of showcasing what makes him cool. One of the earliest minority superhero characters, his impact in that respect cannot be overlooked. Has had a fairly consistent run as a lead comic book character, from the early Jack Kirby stories to the Christopher Priest run, and on. Hasn’t had the breakthrough evergreen story as of yet. His solo movie is in constant development. Part of the Ultimate Avengers and Next Avengers animated movies.

Cranky Editor: Black Panther could take Batman in a fight. Prep time, no prep time, nothing. Black Panther could and would take Batman in a fight.

20. Dr. Strange

Stats: costume, sorcerer supreme, consistency, cartoons, Ditko

A consistent comic book lead character throughout his history, with his original Steve Ditko stories possibly qualifying for evergreen status. Probably the most frequent guest-star in any Marvel animated series other than Daredevil and the Punisher. Received his own animated movie, with mixed results. Heavily rumored to soon get his own live-action movie as part of the next wave of Marvel films.

19. Silver Surfer

Stats: powers, origin, consistency, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, cartoons, popularity

Silver Surfer is one of those characters that is arguably more popular outside of comics than he is in the comics world. Along with Dr Strange and Adam Warlock, a part of ‘60s and ‘70s college culture that helped establish Marvel comics and the characters as cool. Has had a fairly consistent run as a comics character, with his first appearance a definite classic, The Galactus Saga in Fantastic Four. Headlined his own cartoon and is frequently included in most other Marvel animated series. He was the title character of the second big screen Fantastic Four movie, where unfortunately he was the only decent part of it.

Cranky Editor: Ooh, an opportunity for a shameless plug!

18. Professor X

Stats: X-Men, Magneto, powers, movies, cartoons, Lilandra

A part of countless evergreen stories as part of the X-Men, but nothing significant as a solo character (unless you want to count the Shadow King). One of the best arch-nemesis in all of comics with Magneto. An indispensable part of any animated series or major motion picture. A star turn as the lead character in X-Men: First Class, as played by James McAvoy.   

Cranky Editor: I hate Professor X, so so much.

17. The Punisher

Stats: origin, costume, consistency, popularity, movies, cartoons

Another character that’s cooler to like as a casual fan, without having to read his comics (low blow, I may not like them, but many people do). Extremely popular outside of comics due to the insanely cool logo and costume, and because he’s a violent character. Punisher has a simple to understand origin, that explains everything you need to know about the character. Has had a consistent run as a solo character, except for a period of over-exposure in the ‘90s (who didn’t), and that time where he was an angel, but for the most part the comics stick to the basics. (My favorites being the original Grant/Zeck mini-series, and the Rucka series.) Garth Ennis had a very well received run as a write of the book, especially when it was moved to the Marvel Max line. One of the more frequent guest-stars in any Marvel animated series. The Punisher has headlined three live-action motion pictures, but all of them have been terrible.

That’s it for this tier of the superhero hall of fame. The Punisher is the line of demarcation between the All-Star tier, and the next tier. What could it be? Come back next week and find out.

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