While comic books are known for many things, at the heart of each is a simple premise. Good vs Evil. It doesn’t matter if we look at westerns, sci-fi, horror, or superhero books, good vs evil can always be found. And within all of those lie two character types, heroes and villains. Over the many decades of comic book production, there have been more heroes than I care to count. Some have stood the test of time while others have faded off into the sunset like a cowboy after saving a town. It’s those who have remained ingrained in popular culture that I’m interested in.
If we sit back to think about the most popular superheroes ever created, who do you think would make the list? Superman? Batman? Cyclops? Bucky Barnes? Let me answer it for you and let’s take a look at our list of the most popular comic book characters.
From the fingers of a Canadian, Wolverine is everything that we are known for. Quick-tempered. Gifted fighter. Beer drinker. And act first before asking questions. Well, everything but the beer may be an exaggeration. But that’s not the point. Wolverine is the most well-known Canadian hero to have ever been created. He outperforms Vindicator, Sasquatch, and every other member of Alpha Flight tenfold. And for good reason.
Aside from Charles Xavier, he is the face of the X-Men and single-handedly carried a floundering Fox franchise for the better part of 17 years. His popularity is rivaled by very few. As such, he is an obvious lock as one of this most popular comic superheroes list.
It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Superman. Superman is, arguably the most influential superhero ever created. He is the epitome of everything that is good in the world and reminds us that evil can be defeated. His qualities are second to none. He stands up for what is right and does not waiver in his conviction. Most importantly, he is the voice for the voiceless. There are very few places in the world that do not know who Superman is.
His red and blue costume is more than a skintight combination of wholesome goodness. The costume signifies that as long as he wears it, the world is a better place.
Even after multiple decades of subpar writing and questionable decisions, Batman’s spot on this popular comic superheroes list is undeniable. From the bowels of a Gotham City back lane spawned the most respected and loved anti-hero ever created. Batman is to “any means necessary” as Superman is to “by the book”.
What makes Batman such an interesting and well-liked character is everything that makes him who he is. He, like Superman, pursues justice. He, unlike Superman, is unafraid to push the boundaries to find it. And push them he does. Don’t let that influence your opinion of him, however. He does have a moral compass and will not kill to prove his point. At least most of the time he won’t.
The creation of Steve Ditko and Stan Lee, Spider-Man is Marvel’s most important hero…period.
Spider-Man has endured over the years because of a very simple formula. Create a superhero who faces the same everyday problems that their reader faces. This means that Spider-Man has endured because he is relatable to those who read him.
If this seems revolutionary, it isn’t. What it is, is intelligent. And why? The people who were reading his books were facing a similar set of problems as he was. Due to this simple fact, Spider-Man could be literally anyone.
5. Wonder Woman
The third of DC’s “big three”, Wonder Woman gave hope all over the world that girls are heroes too. From her early inception to the present day, Wonder Woman has molded herself into not only one of the most popular heroes ever but one of the most respected as well. She has fought alongside some of DC’s best in Batman, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, The Flash, and Superman, and proven that she is more valuable than any of them.
In a world where male superheroes have dominated the comic book landscape, Wonder Woman has carved out a path that lands her as one of, if not the most popular comic superhero of all time.
6. Captain America
If Superman is DC’s do-no-wrong hero, Captain America is Marvel’s.
Steve Rogers is a national symbol of hope, freedom, and justice. He has led Marvel’s mightiest team for the majority of his existence and has done so with ease. The mere presence of Captain America commands the attention of all around him. There is a reason that when he “died” the world took notice.
His death caused a media stir not heard of since DC’s publicity stunt of the same nature with Superman. Captain America is as beloved as any Marvel hero and this has translated extremely well to the big screen. If for no other reason than he is a beacon of hope when hope doesn’t exist, Captain America is one of the most popular comic superheroes ever created.
Partly due to his appearances in the MCU, Thor has become one of the most recognizable and popular heroes in comic books. Don’t get me wrong, Chris Hemsworth is a fine actor but how many people knew of him before his muscles made women all over the world faint? Thor has long been a favorite of mine. He’s an Asgardian God who possesses immeasurable strength, can fly, and call upon lightning.
If Captain America’s presence commands respect, Thor’s changes the outcome of the battle to whatever side he is on. There’s a reason he was noticeably absent from both the comic book and MCU versions of Civil War. With Chris Hemsworth saying that he wants to remain in the MCU, Thor’s popularity will surely continue to climb.
In my mind the only hero outside of Marvel and DC deserving to be here is Spawn. Spawn has been a mainstay in Image Comics for over 25 years. Spawn, like Batman has a history of doing whatever it takes to find justice. He is brutal, and violent, does not care about the harm he causes, and is relentless when dealing with whatever form of evil he comes across.
Todd McFarlane did an outstanding job of creating a memorable character when he created Spawn. Sweet backstory – check. Awesome costume – check. Morally ambiguous – check. Relatable reasoning – check. Spawn is the product of a man annoyed and angry at an entire industry. Because of it, the world is better off.
The Incredible Hulk has a history as long as any Marvel hero on this list. He is a simple man, who, due to unforeseen circumstances, gets caught in an explosion that changes his life.
What separates the Hulk from every other superhero on this list is that he isn’t always in control. Understand that the Hulk and Bruce Banner only want to do what’s right. Unfortunately, due to two things, this doesn’t always happen. First, the madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets. Second, the madder and stronger Hulk gets, the more he loses control.
Hulk is one of the most popular heroes because of his unpredictability. He is one of those heroes that you want on your team but your team is never sure if it’ll work out in your favor.
The only “sidekick” on this list, Robin is one of the most popular heroes ever created. But it wasn’t his time as Robin that solidified his spot. Robin’s popularity grew with his transformation into the symbol of sex, Nightwing. If you don’t believe me, pick up a Nightwing comic and see for yourself. His costume is black, and skin-tight, and hugs Dick Grayson in a way that makes the speedo he wore as Robin look tame.
As a man trained by the world’s greatest detective and one of its premiere fighters in Batman, Dick Grayson can hold his own and track down his opponents with the best of them. What makes this feat so impressive is exactly what makes Batman so impressive. He’s a human. A simple human. As a sidekick Robin was great. As a hero on his own, he takes his popularity to a whole new level.