A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Friday, May 27, 2005

Top 20 Super Heroes of All Time

Not a lot of comments lately, so either I'm getting boring or you guys are getting lazy. Either way, I figure nothing stirs up discussion like a "best of" list. And I happened to watch Bravo's Ultimate Super Heroes of All Time last night. So, we'll start there. Bear in mind, this list goes along with their Ultimate Villain and Ultimate Super Vixen lists to be aired later, which partially, though not entirely, explains the near total absence of women from the list:

20) Men In Black
19) Blade
18) Conan
17) Austin Powers
16) The Tick
15) Daredevil
14) The Mask
13) Flash Gordon
12) Hellboy
11) Spawn
10) The Hulk
9) The Fantastic Four
8) The Incredibles
7) X-Men
6) Luke Skywalker
5) Indiana Jones
4) James Bond
3) Batman
2) Superman
1) Spiderman

My initial reactions: Austin Powers? He's a parody, how does he make the list? Why are there so many obscure comic book heroes on the list? Where the hell are Wonder Woman and Batgirl? Spiderman as #1? Are you kidding me-- it has to be either Batman or Superman, those two are like the Beatles and the Stones in rock and roll. Putting Spidey ahead of either of them is like saying Led Zeppelin is the best rock band ever-- there are some odd docks out there that will make the case, but 90% of all rock n rollers older than 20 will put those two first and second. I'll grant you the two spidey movies have been better than most super hero movies, but you have to look at more than that. Superman started the whole superhero thing, and Batman was the first superhero with a darker side, plus he's still the hero with the coolest gadgets. They have to be 1-2, though I think a case can be made either way for which one is #1. I'll happily put Peter Parker at #3, but not above Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent.

Some other thoughts. No cowboys? The folks at Bravo never heard of Davy Crockett, Roy Rogers or the Lone Ranger? I mean if it was the ultimate super heroes in the sense that the hero had to be super, i.e., have special powers, okay, leave the cowboys out, but if you're throwing in James Bond and Indiana Jones, how do you leave out the Lone Ranger? For that matter, how do leave out Robin Hood and Tarzan? Two of the models on which many of the heroes that did make the list are based? The amazing thing is that during the Bravo piece they talk about how Lucas modeled Luke Skywalker after people like Robin Hood and King Arthur-- then they include neither of those heroes but put Luke all the way up at 6. Maybe they got a free tour of Industrial Light and Magic or something.

No Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? They STARTED the whole obscure comic book to big screen phenomenon that made films about Blade, Hellboy, Spawn, Men in Black, Daredevil and the Mask possible. To my mind this list is ridiculously overloaded with obscure comics, but if you're going to load up on that genre, how do you leave out the one comic that started the whole revolution? And the Heroes on the Halfshell are still as cool as, or cooler than, any of those other guys. Omitting them is just silly.

Luke Skywalker at SIX? Huh? I'm not sure I'd put him in the top 20, but I sure as heck wouldn't put him at 6. First, there were only three movies with that character in it (though there have been a number of subsequent Star Wars books featuring Luke and the gang), second, he's really only one part of an ensemble cast-- he does not carry the movies, and he's arguably not even the biggest hero in the cast. I also wouldn't put Indy as high as 5, probably more like 15, but at least he DID carry the movies, and he was definitely more of the prototypical hero/adventurer type than Luke.

How do the Incredibles rate higher than the Fantastic 4? The Incredibles was a great movie, and payed homage to all of the comic heroes that came before them, but it was ONE movie, folks. One. No comic books, no TV show, no novels. One movie. The Fantastic Four, whom much of the Incredibles' theme of a family of supers fighting together is based upon, has a long and storied history. They're right up there with the X-Men (who, in my opinion, should be #4). So, how do you put the Incredibles ahead of the Fantastic 4?

Okay, enough carping. Here's my top 20 without looking around on the Web to make sure I didn't miss anyone:

20) King Arthur
19) The Tick
18) Buck Rogers
17) Indiana Jones
16) Harry Potter
15) Sinbad
14) Conan
13) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
12) Robin Hood
11) Wonder Woman
10) Flash Gordon
9) The Lone Ranger
8) The Hulk
7) Tarzan
6) Fantastic Four
5) James Bond
4) X-Men
3) Spiderman
2) Superman
1) Batman

So, what do you guys think? No, in the grand scheme of things, none of this matters a whit. But it's Friday, and discussions about what's the best anything are always interesting and fun. Did I miss anybody significant? Does someone want to make the case that Spidey does deserve the #1 spot? Should there be other women heroes on the list?


Nick, this was an excellent rant for a Friday. May I recommend something like this every Friday.
I will comment that you rant about Austin Powers being a mock character, but the put the Tick in your list. (However, I agree that the Tick should be on the list. As Rod would say, "He Rocks.")
I agree with your Incredibles assessment and even like your top 5 a lot. I also really like the inclusion of King Arthur. But Harry Potter? Are you serious?
I'd take Frodo over him in a second. Heck, I would take any Lord of the Rings character over Harry Potter.
Plus, I notice that your list is pretty racist. Where is Shaft? (At least Bravo included Blade.) By the way, I am kidding about the racist comment.
You can make a case for Spiderman being the number one hero of all time. Spidey was the first superhero to be a normal guy, with normal problems. Clark Kent didn't have any real problems, neither did Bruce Wayne.

Sampson should be included on this list for being the first superhero (as far as I know) ever. He killed 1,000 philistines with the jawbone of an axe.

The Incredibles? Too recent, too much of a Fantastic Four rip-off.

1. Spiderman (tie)
First "street cred" superhero.

1. Superman (tie)
Started it all, most resonant superhero in our culture. Main worry was keeping his secret identity a secret. Nowadays Lois Lane has morphed into a "Victoria's Secret" style babe, and she hangs out in Clark's pad, waiting for his return. I hope she's read Larry Niven's Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex.


3. Batman
Started dark, went silly, came back to ridiculously dark. I don't know, if I were rich I'd maybe hire some mercenaries to do the crime-fighting thing and relax and enjoy life a little. He uses gadgets and he's really well trained, but seriously, in the real world almost any other hero with real powers would kick his ass.

4. The Hulk
Horrors of science made manifest. First truly tormented anti hero. But he could always become Bruce Banner and fade into any crowd. I think Superman could kick his ass, but no one ever really made it clear one way or the other.

5. The Fantastic Four
Longevity, Thing first hero who is permanently marred by his powers. Sue Storm has been tarted up for the movie, but since its Jessica Alba, I don't complain.

6. X-Men
Longevity, anti-prejudice message that didn't beat us over the head. Cool future-hopping stories, cool inter-personal character driven stories. My mutant power is flaking crud from between my toes onto the bed sheets. Can I apply?

7. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Non Marvel and Non DC comics can be cool. Morphed into Kiddie stuff, but still fun to watch.

8. Wonder Woman
Gotta be a chick in here somewhere. She's still cool to this day.

9. Thor
Like Hercules, Mythology can conjure up a few superheroes for modern times. The Thor of comics shows us that the gods do give a rip about our happiness.

10. Flash
Flash was created decades ago. Since then there's been dozens of imitators.

11. Green Lantern
He's part of an intergalactic organization. He's really powerful.

12. Conan
Sword slinging dudes with attitude can get multiple scantily clad babes and whoop up on monsters way way way out of their weight class. By Crom, he's also the archetype for dozens if not hundreds of fantasy novels since the pulp era.

13. Wolverine
Coolest superhero of modern times. Deserves his own mention. Carries the Xmen movies. Can smoke a cigar and never come down with cander.

14. Daredevil
Not so sure here. Could be replaced with lots of other superheroes. He's blind and he's fearless, which more than courage could be stupidity.

15. Sampson
See above.

16. Hercules
More fictional, and more amazing than Sampson, may be the first superhero of all time.

17. Robin Hood
Set the stage for all the public minded superheroes to follow. That "steal from the rich to give to the poor" thing inspires democrats to this day.

18. Teen Titans
Been around for decades. (I'd like to be a teen superhero for thirty years!) They have their own high rise HQ, with cable and internet access, and no supervising adults. Ok, is it just me, or does that sound great!

19. Justice League of America
With Superman, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman they were way too powerful, so stories were ridiculous. But they and the Avengers have earned a place in the comic lexicon of fame.

20. Avengers
Sort of a Superhero union, you got a cushy mansion crib and a fat weekly paycheck to be an Avenger. And since every superhero chick was heroically endowed and dressed in tight stuff, this was a great gig!
OK now this is a good use of my time here at work:
first off... this is clearly not a list of just superheroes.. but rather ..fictional hero-like characters.... fine by me... some comments on the listed heroes so far....

I agree there should be room for female heroes on the list..but Wonder Woman.. always thought she was a lame attempt at equality.. no too forced and despite the effort not sexy enough.. I have lumped my Heroines into one entry..It's my list I’ll do it my way!!!

Hulk... never really liked the hulk... boring show..bad movie... too Green

Robin Hood... despite Carl Elwes' fine rendition he is just too .... gay for the list..now if he was stealing Lupins that would put him on the list...

John.... X-men and Wolverine??? I call shenanigans. get a broom!!! so in principal I will exclude all X-men

I agree the Tick Rocks.. but my limited exposure drops him to the honorable mentions for me...

I am also partial to the Movies..as you will see.. It's my list!!!!

Harry Potter..WTF?? what's a Jaw bone of an Axe, the Mask was too brief and not a hero..

Luke was not even the best hero in Star Wars, in fact he has to go behind Han, Chewy, R2D2 Obewon and Yoda.. 'cmon..Yoda would kick Lukes butt and he is 2 feet tall, green, walks with a cane and can't speak!!!!

Sinbad... he is a comedian

Tarzan.. Not enough loin cloth

The Teen Age MNT were advertised as amphibians for their first movie... reptile ignorance is an automatic disqualification

You wanted Cowboys and left off Clint???? for the Lone Ranger????? no wonder you like Robin Hood...

OK here’s the list..this list Rocks.... whoever can remember #5 wins a beer next time I am in town

20) Thelma/Agent 99/Chris Parker/Power Puff Girls: Thelma is the glue and the intellect that drives the Mystery Wagon/Agent 99 the most underappreciated secret agent in history/Don’t F*#K with the Babysitter.. and that outfit in the opening..HOT/how can you not love the Powder Puff Girls??
19) King Arthur: (Graham Chapman version..1,2,5..three sir..3!!!)
18) Flash Gordon: Makes list on strength of longevity and song by Queen.
17) Rocky and Bullwinkle: How can you leave moose and squirrel of the list??? Whatsamatter U????
16) The Punisher: Now he is a flawed superhero.. with a DARK side and revenge on his mind.. gotta love that.
15) Aquaman: Wore Orange BEFORE the Incredibles.. clearly ahead of his time
14) Thor: appearances in LDTOTS and at the Metrodome solidify his spot on the list
13) Underdog: Shoe Shine Boy kicks arse
12) Space Ghost: Who else can cross genre’s like Space Ghost??
11) Jacques Clouseau: "Ah, the old closet ploy. There is nothing I enjoy more than a good closet ploy"
10) Josey Whales/Dirty Harry: Diein’ aint much of a living boy
9) Indiana Jones: recovered the Holy Grail AND The Lost Arch
8) James Bond: Is it Gin or Vodka?.. I’d like to think Gin.. shaken
7) John McClain: Yippee kye A Mother *#&*@#.
6) Jack Bauer: Bad ass of all bad asses
5) Naked Man: Clearly the greatest fighter of Nazi cable execs the world has ever known…just stay away from the Tunisian goat wool.
4) The Dread Pirate Roberts/The Man in Black/Wesley: He bested Indigo Montoya with steel, He defeated the Giant and outwitted a Sicilian when death was on the line! Best character in best movie not made by Monty Python
3) Superman: never was a big fan but influence on the genre, timeless historical impact, and rollercoaster greatness too much to ignore
2) Spiderman: Great Superhero, Great movie, Great theme song
1) Batman: Greatest of all time.. hands down.. anyone prepared enough to have Bat shark repellent in his belt (and accurately labeled) is unbeatable

the next five:
Austin powers
Aqua Teen Hunger Force
The Tick
Zaphod Beeblebrox/Dirk Gently/Ford Prefect/Arthur Dent: Got to have a shout out to the hitchhikers of the universe (clearly would be in my list but just not heroic enough to qualify)
i have several observations

1) i agree..... rod rocks...john mcclain AND the punisher would be on my list

2) i cant believe nobody mentioned steve austin ($6 million was ALOT of money in the 70's)

3) and of course hong kong phooey ..how can you not like a cartoon janitor who changes in a file cabinet

4) superman rules ..hes easily number one
Rod does rock!!!
Great list!
I like John McClain, but I am pleased that he is lower than Jack Bauer!
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