I am list crazy these days. Time to tackle my favorite superheroes ever. This is Gabbing GEEK after all.
I am going to warn you. My list is DC heavy! Only 4 of my 20 are Marvel characters… and though I like non-mainstream superhero stories, no other company scored a character in the top 20.
I ranked my characters based on their appearance in all mediums: comics, movies, cartoons, and toys. There are some characters where I liked their film versions, but disliked their comic version so much (Wolverine comes to mind) that they didn’t make the cut!
Here we go!
Secret Origin : Clint Barton, a circus carny, becomes the deadliest archer in the world and joins the Avengers; leading their West Coast branch.
First Appearance : Tales of Suspense #57 (Sept. 1964)
Favorite Version: I loved the West Coast Avengers era Clint Barton.
Why I loved them : Before he was dull in the MCU films, he was a bit of a scoundrel and a counter-balance to Captain America’s boyscout goodness in the comics. He was perfect for the La-La Land Avengers comic.
19. Elongated Man
Secret Origin : Ralph Dibney, a jokey would be private eye, drinks a secret tonic from the far east and gains the power to stretch his body; allowing him to join the ranks of the Justice League of America.
First Appearance : The Flash vol. 1, #112 (May 12, 1960)
Favorite Version: Ralph was Ralph…no matter the era.
Why I loved them : Elongated Man was often the comic relief in a serious era of comics. I have a soft spot for the Satelitte era Justice League and Ralph was a key member, so a lot goes into the plus column. Later, he played a great role as a supporting character in the James Robinson Starman series.
Secret Origin : Though the character started as Batman’s daughter, a more modern version was retconned into the daughter of a slain mob boss who decides to repay her family’s debt to the world by becoming an avenging superhero.
First Appearance : DC Super Stars #17 (November/December 1977) was the original version that was Batman’s daughter, but The Huntress (vol. 1) #1 (April 1989) was the first appearance of the Helena Bertinelli version of the character; which is who I like.
Favorite Version: I really liked the Justice League Unlimited cartoon version.
Why I loved them : I love how Huntress is this violent vigilante who tries not to kill people because she wants to be friends with Batman and part of the Justice League. It makes for a funny dynamic. Her weird romance with the Question in JLU was also a great running gag.
Secret Origin : Wade Wilson, a former special forces operative, gains amazing healing factor in a nefarious experiment, and becomes the Merc With the Mouth.
First Appearance : The New Mutants #98 (February 1991)
Favorite Version: OH….easy….the Ryan Reynolds movie version is the reason I love the character!
Why I loved them : Because Ryan Reynolds’ film version is that good. The comic version is fine, but despite reading his first appearance as a kid in the 90s, I missed the comic version that breaks the 4th wall and knows he is fictional. The movie version nails that and skewers superhero films, so that is enough for me.
16. Power Girl
Secret Origin : At some point, she was from Krypton, but when DC tried to make Superman the only Kryptonian survivor, Kara Thrace became the last survivor of pre-catastrophe Atlantis.
First Appearance : All Star Comics #58 (February 1976)
Favorite Version: She was amazing in the Giffen era Justice League as one of the only serious heroes on the team!
Why I loved them : I loved her anger and frustration with the idiots around her in the Giffen era. Reminds me of Jenny in the Gabbing Geek bullpen. She was grumpy and powerful; often so annoyed by the lack of professionalism in the late 80s JL. Sadly, male comic artists have accentuated her chest size over the years, so I feel the need to say that is NOT why I like her. In fact, it took me a while to find a photo that didn’t focus solely on her boobs and the below is the best I can come up with. There is a lot of creepiness in Google Images when you search for this character…
Secret Origin : The daughter of a spiritualist and an evil, other dimensional demon , Raven is a dark sorceress who joins the Teen Titans.
First Appearance : DC Comics Presents #26 (October 1980)
Favorite Version: I really liked the version in Teen Titans Go to the Movies.
Why I loved them : I always liked the goth version in the comics, but the goth version meets wry sense of humored know it all in BOTH cartoon series is leagues ahead. She is pretty much a superhero version of the MTV cartoon character, Daria. Azarath… Metrion… ZINTHOS!
14. Black Canary
Secret Origin : The daughter of a super hero of the same name (that’s how DC explains the fact that a character of the same hero name AND secret identity has been around since the 40s), Laurel Lance is a martial arts expert who gains a sonic screech in a medical experiment and joined the Justice League of America.
First Appearance : Flash Comics #86 (August 1947)
Favorite Version: I loved her in the Giffen era Justice League as the de facto leader of the team.
Why I loved them : Canary has been great in many eras of the League ‘s comics and in the Justice League Unlimited series. Canary has been in the JLA since the beginning and continues to adapt to each new era. In the Giffen League, you could see her frustration that her beloved League had come to… this.
13. Star Man
Secret Origin : The latest in a line of heroes with the same name, Jack Knight puts his own take on the “family business” when his heroic brother David is murdered; leaving Jack to unexpectedly take up his father’s legacy.
First Appearance : Zero Hour #1 (September 1994)
Favorite Version: Obviously in his James Robinson penned, solo series.
Why I loved them : Jack led one of the smartest arcs in superhero comic history. His series was both a mainstream part of the DC Universe (Jack was a member of the newly-reformed Justice Society) but also a Vertigo-lite exploration of superheroes in general; and the DC Universe specifically. It lasted 81 issues by design, allowing Robinson to tell his story with a beginning, middle, and end.
Secret Origin : Despite being a princess of an aggressive warlike alien planet, Koriand’r gives up her birthright to join the Teen Titans.
First Appearance : DC Comics Presents #26 (October 1980)
Favorite Version: The Cartoon Network era animated version is amazing!
Why I loved them : In the comics she was passionate and powerful. In the cartoon, she was naive and fun loving. The two takes were quite different, but both were effective. She is a character who loves her friends unconditionally and wants nothing more than to protect the people of her adopted Earth.
11. Wonder Girl (Donna Troy)
Secret Origin : Geez. This origin is convoluted. Let’s just stick with her being the Teen Titan version of Wonder Woman’s sidekick.
First Appearance : The Brave and the Bold #60 (June/July 1965)
Favorite Version: I loved her in the late 80s era Teen Titans comics.
Why I loved them : Before Gal Gadot gave Wonder Woman something of a personality, Donna Troy was there to fill the void. She was a powerful leader of the Teen Titans, but had a sharp wit and wasn’t the 2D character that Wonder Woman tended to be in the comics. Donna Troy was one of the better fleshed out female character in comics and part of the reason the 80s New Teen Titans was so special.
10 & 9 (tied). Booster Gold & Blue Beetle
Secret Origin : Blue Beetle is an Iron Man/ Batman type billionaire creator who becomes a superhero. Booster Gold is actually from the future, coming back in time with high tech and investment knowledge to become a corporate shill/hero.
First Appearance : Blue Beetle (Ted Cord)- Captain Atom #83 (November 1966); Booster Gold- Booster Gold #1 (February 1986)
Favorite Version: The Giffen Justice League, obviously. They exemplify the era.
Why I loved them : The were pretty much the heart and soul of the Giffen era Justice League. It is weird for comic characters to have chemistry, but these two did. If the DCEU takes off, we definitely need the long rumored Blue and Gold film. Bwahahahahahha!
Secret Origin : When attorney Jennifer Walters is shot by a mob boss, her cousin Bruce Banner (aka- the Hulk) gives her a much needed, but Gamma infused, blood transfusion.
First Appearance : Savage She-Hulk #1 (Feb. 1980)
Favorite Version: The John Byrne series in the early 90s
Why I loved them : The Byrne series should be used as a treatment for a Disney+ streaming comedy series. She-Hulk was more a sophisticated,working woman that… occasionally fought villains with the Avengers or Fantastic Four. It was kind of the super powered Ally McBeal; Jennifer Walters was a successful lawyer who just happened to be 7′ and green. And it was hilarious!
7. Green Lantern (Hal Jordan)
Secret Origin : When an alien space cop dies, Hal Jordan is selected as the most worthy replacement who will inherit a magic ring that enables him to conjure up anything he can imagine.
First Appearance : Showcase #22 (October 1959)
Favorite Version: The Emerald Dawn Hal, just learning his powers and being kind of a dick. Honorable mention is when he went crazy and tried to destroy the universe. Ok… Maybe not…
Why I loved them : A space cop who can make a green version of anything he wants with a magic ring? That is childhood make believe at its finest! Hal Jordan is pretty much a stand-in for the whole Green Lantern Corp on this list. They are all impressive! John Stewart, Guy Gardner, Mogo, Tomar-Re, Ch’P, Salaak, Arisia, Katma Tui, and of course, G’Nort.
Secret Origin : When he witnesses a common thief murder his parents, young Bruce Wayne uses his sizable fortune to become the perfect human weapon of vengeance.
First Appearance : Detective Comics #27 (cover date May 1939 /release date March 1939)
Favorite Version: This one is tough. So many eras of great Batman stories! Let’s go with the DC Animated version; in his solo series and in the Justice League cartoons he was both grim and personable.
Why I loved them : It’s Batman! Adam West. Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer,
George Clooney, Kevin Conroy, Christian Bale, Ben Affleck. So many great takes on the character. And that’s not even talking about his decades long run in comics.
5. Captain Marvel
Secret Origin : When young Billy Batson meets an ancient Wizard named Shazam (the damn wizard’s name is Shazam!), he gains the ability to transform into a powerful, adult superhero be saying the wizard’s name.
First Appearance : Fawcett Comics (1939–1953); DC Comics (1972–present)
Favorite Version: I really liked him the Legends era stories where they tried to give him a bit more texture as a character. It is hard to leave out the amazing Kingdom Come version, but he was more of a foil there, and I like my Cap a pure hero.
Why I loved them : This childhood wish fulfillment became so powerful that DC sued Fawcett into discontinuing the run. Later they would regret that, because DC bought the character and by then Marvel comics owned the TM on the name Captain Marvel. That’s why, when the first full length feature film is released in April, it will be called Shazam!. Some other poseur will use the name Captain Marvel in a derivative film a month before. But make no mistake, this is Captain Marvel! The powers. The transformation. The cool costume. This movie should be fun.
Secret Origin : When Matt Murdock, the son of a Hell’s Kitchen boxer, is blinded by a toxic spill, he gains special senses that allow him to become a ninja like protector of the worst neighborhood in New York; which is NOW a wonderful place to have brunch. Either he was successful, or gentrification is more powerful than any superhero!
First Appearance : Daredevil #1 (April 1964)
Favorite Version: Though I love the Bendis/Maleev era stories, you obviously have to go with the Born Again Frank Miller run.
Why I loved them : A blind lawyer superhero. What’s not to like? Daredevil is a character that can really work the streets in a way that Batman never could. To me, Daredevil is the character that best embodies Marvel’s realistic character culture. He had real problems; especially when Frank Miller got ahold of him.
Secret Origin : When his circus trapeze parents are murdered right in front of him, Dick Grayson becomes Robin, the sidekick of Batman; later changing his name to Nightwing to create his own identity.
First Appearance : As Robin- Detective Comics #38 (April 1940); As Nightwing- Tales of the Teen Titans #44 (July 1984)
Favorite Version: Definitely the late 80s/early 90s era New Teen Titans comics; especially when he was a bit of a supporting character teaching Tim Drake, a new Robin, how to deal with their shared mentor.
Why I loved them : I love the Robin character (Tim Drake is another favorite but suffers from being a later take on Grayson’s legacy). I love the Teen Titans. Nightwing embodies both. You actually understand Batman a little better if you read Nightwing’s stories. He is a little more interesting because he is clearly scarred by being raised by a lunatic and uses the Titans as a surrogate family to heal.
Secret Origin : The son of a lighthouse keeper and the an Atlantean princess, Arthur Curry has responsibility to care for both the land and the sea.
First Appearance : More Fun Comics #73 (November 1941)
Favorite Version: I liked the Detroit era Justice League of America Aquaman, where he and Martian Manhunter served as leaders of a very raw team.
Why I loved them : Larry is my favorite Stooge. Ringo is my favorite Beatle. Andrew Ridgley is my favorite member of Wham! I like the underdog. I have always thought the King of the Seven Seas was a force to reckon with and never just a guy who talks to fish. I love that Jason Mamoa is making him out to be a global badass; even if the film IS pretty much the Fish and the Furious.
1. Flash (Wally West)
Secret Origin : When young Wally West falls victim to the same lab accident as his mentor Barry Allen (clean up your lab, Berry!), he gains super speed powers that eventually allow him to inherit his mentor’s heroic legacy when Barry dies to save reality.
First Appearance : As Kid Flash- The Flash #110 (December 1959); As Flash- Crisis on Infinite Earths #12 (March 1986)
Favorite Version: Since he is my favorite character, I demand two entries: The early Baron/Guice issues as they kicked off Wally’s 1987 solo series and the one from the DC Animated series.
Why I loved them : Wally West is far better than Barry Allen. He has an actual personality and amazing sense of humor. In the era where DC was trying to be more grounded (like Marvel has always tried to be) with Man of Steel and Batman: Year One, Wally West nailed his part of that movement. This was a mainstream superhero comic that actually had real character development over the years. He went from a spoiled brat to a hero worthy of the mantle he inherited, all without losing that Watson-esque sense of humor. Screw Barry Allen! This is the Flash!
A few honorable mentions: Superman, Wonder Woman, Captain America, Spider-Man, Question, Wonder Man (West Coast Avengers), Moon Knight (West Coast Avengers), Martian Manhunter, Tim Drake Robin, Guy Gardner, Rohrshach, G’Nort, Beast Boy, Cyborg, Savage Dragon, Hawkwoman (DCAU), Hawkman (Hawkworld), Wolverine (films only), Iron Man (films only), Invincible, Jack Hakwsmoor.