O Say Can You See: The Greatest Patriotic Super Heroes of All-Time
The countdown concludes!
2. Superman (All Star Superman – 100 points (1 first place vote)) – 1326 points (49 first place votes)
Created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Superman was born on the planet Krypton, which was about to explode. Scientist Jor-El, knowing he and his wife would not make it, decided to save their son, Kal-El, so they shot him off in a rocket to find a new life. Once on Earth, baby Kal-El gained superpowers that he would not have had on Krypton, and soon became one of the most powerful people on Earth.
Adopted by farmers Jonathan and Martha Kent, Kal-El was given the Earth name of Clark Kent, and he grew up in the small town of, well, Smallville. There he became friends with Lana Lang and Pete Ross.
When Clark grew older, he moved to Metropolis, and began working as a reporter for the Daily Planet, under editor Perry White. There, Clark met reporter Lois Lane, who would later go on to become his wife.
Clark also met Jimmy Olsen, cub reporter who would become Superman’s best pal.
One person who was certainly NOT pals with Superman was Lex Luthor, who really hated Superman, and became Superman’s greatest enemy.
Superman was a founding member of the Justice League of America, where he is still a member.
Here is why my pal, Dan Larkin, had Superman #1…
Superman gets used as a symbol for what’s right or wrong with America or with the comics industry, or whatnot so often that it’s easy to overlook how cool of a character he is. And if your only exposure to the character is Superman Returns’ deadbeat dad, or the indecisive weeper of the Didio era, it’s really easy to overlook his awesomeness.
Why is Superman the greatest? He’s the best friend you could ask for. He has entire rooms in the Fortress of Solitude devoted to his pals. He searches the universe for exotic personal gifts for their birthdays. He’s got a playful sense of humor. He’s not above playing practical jokes on Lois and Lana, or teaming up with Batman to play a prank on the Olsen/Robin team. There’s no moral ambiguity in Superman’s world. There’s no question of whether or not Superman is doing the right thing. Is Superman doing it? If the answer is “yes”, then it’s the right thing to do. From wife beaters to mob bosses to alien invaders, he understands that there aren’t that many problems that dangling a bad guy off a building can’t solve. Who wouldn’t want to hang out with this guy?
Here is why Ryan Kirk, who recently did a Top 50 Cartoonists list over at Comic Book Resources (click here for the list) had Superman tops…
I love Superman.
Why? Oh where to start. He’s a moral ideal to me. Superman knows right and wrong and does the right thing no matter how hard that may be. I love the idea that had baby Kal-El landed somewhere other than in Smallville and been raised by people other than Jonathan and Martha Kent, he wouldn’t be the Superman we know. Superman is many things to many different people, but to me, he is predominately Clark Kent. A good, old fashioned farm boy who does the right thing. Always.
A lot of people have the criticism that Superman is boring. I can understand that complaint. He’s all powerful (except for that pesky kryptonite). In terms of morality there’s very little gray area with him. And every Mr Mxyzptlk story ends the same way.
That’s why I voted for him #1. Despite all those things, I love a Superman story.
I love absolutely everything about Superman and his universe. I love Lois Lane. I love Jimmy Olsen. I love Perry White, the Daily Planet, Ma and Pa Kent, Lex Luthor, Lana Lang, Pete Ross, Krypto and the Super Pets, Krypton, the Bottled City of Kandor, Lori Lemaris, Mr. Mxyzptlk (to the point that I don’t even need to look up how to spell his name), Braniac, Bizarro, the Fortress of Solitude, Supergirl, Superboy and the Legion of Super Heroes.
But more importantly I love all the variations of Superman. I love Golden Age Superman. I love Silver Age Superman. I love Pre-Crisis and Post-Crisis Superman and all the little changes each variation has. I love Superman Elseworlds. I love the Fleischer Superman cartoons and the Kirk Alyn movie serials. I love The Adventures of Superman starring George Reeves. I love the Christopher Reeve Superman films (even the bad ones) and Superman Returns. I love Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and Smallville. I love Bruce Timm’s Superman: The Animated Series and Justice League.
I barely think of Superman as a comic book character. I think of him as one of the greatest characters created in the last 100 years. A modern mythology. I love that you can go up to 100 people on the streets, ask them about Superman, and not only will all 100 most likely know Superman, but they’ll all know the mythology slightly different. Ask them to recite the story of Superman, the origin, the concept. Some will tell you Pa died early in Clark’s life, other’s that he’s still living. Some will mention how young Clark knew young Lex Luthor. How old was he when he landed? Does Lois know the secret? All these pieces of the mythology that people have picked up, a little from here and little from there. I love that everyone knows his story differently. I love that they’re all “right”.
Here is Ron Lang’s reasoning for having Superman at the top…
To me Superman is the ultimate example of the inherent good in mankind. He is the kind of person most people would love to be. He is the embodiment of love, tolerance and understanding. He’s made mistakes, but at the end of the day all he is is someone trying to do the right thing no matter what. Whenever anyone asks who I look up to or who my hero is I always answer Superman. Sometimes people laugh and sometimes people think I am joking around, but if everyone was a little more like Superman the world would be a much happier place. He never judges anyone and always treats everyone else as an equal. If I could be more like anyone it would be him.
And that is why Superman is my favorite. He is and always will be the greatest example of a true hero.
Here is why Daniel Hughes had Superman #1…
Like many heroes, Superman is a great role model with impressive powers and ideals; but what sets Superman apart for me is that his adventures are a gateway into the fantastic. One week, Superman is blasted into a bright future cast with shadows; the next week he’s saving a microscopic city; the next week he’s punching a giant gorilla. When done right, Superman is the ultimate extreme adventurer; the “Crocodile Hunter” of time and space. The only others who can really pull it off on a similar level are teams (such as the Fantastic Four), but Supes does it as one man braving the inconceivable.
And here is why TJ Shoun picked Superman as his favorite…
I could write a long spiel about how Superman is the original and greatest superhero. I could tell you that his creation by Siegel and Shuster in 1938 was the Big Bang of superhero comics and that without him, the comics landscape would look completely different than it does today, if it even still existed at all. I could write about the marketability of the character, or the cultural recognition the “S” symbol receives worldwide. But all that’s boring.
The DC Universe is a very mythological and powerful place, populated by gods and goddesses. Colors here are primary and contrasts tend to be sharp. It’s telling then, that Superman remains the one all the other heroes look to for guidance and inspiration. Batman may be the one to strike fear in everyone’s heart, but Superman provides the moral leadership even Gods sometimes need.
He’s thoroughly American – being the consummate immigrant, coming from an entirely different planet, yet raised in the heartland. Gifted with amazing powers, Kal-El could’ve done anything he wanted, fulfilling only his own desire, yet instead he chose to protect, lead, and inspire because he wants to belong — to be one of us.
That’s pretty cool.
And honestly, how can you not like Superman’s power-set? Super-strength, flight, invulnerability, super-speed, super-hearing, super-breath, and all the different vision powers… all that makes my inner fanboy giddy. He’s also got a great costume – simple, distinct, recognizable, appealing, and powerful.
And hey, ultimately it might just be the little boy in me who thrills to the male power fantasy of a quite, mild-mannered Clark Kent transforming himself into a literal Superman. But I think it goes deeper than that. Superman speaks to everyone, and shows us what’s possible and what we’re capable of. And that’s important to both gods and men.
Thanks to Dan, Ryan, Ron, Daniel and TJ!!
1. Batman (Bruce Wayne) – 2527 points (118 first place votes)
Created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger, Bruce Wayne is a rich man, but he is a rich man who has led a tragic life. When he was only a boy, Bruce saw his parents murdered in front of him. Bruce dedicated his life then to fighting crime, ultimately becoming the vigilante, Batman, after traveling the world becoming an expert in most fields of study.
His mind and his body at basically peak human condition, Batman waged a one-man war on crime in Gotham City, although eventually, he gained partners, from within the department, like Police Commissioner James Gordon, to partners, like Dick Grayson (first Robin, then Nightwing) and Tim Drake (the current Robin), to other superheroes (Batman was a founding member of the Justice League of America, where he is still a member).
Batman is needed, because Gotham has a LOT of villains, and notable ones, too!
From the Joker to the Riddler to the Penguin to Poison Ivy to Ra’s Al Ghul to Killer Croc to Catwoman (sometimes) to the Ventriloquist to Mr. Zsasz…Batman has his work cut out for him!
Here’s my ol’ Great Curve pal, Tom Bondurant, who blogs over at Blog@Newsarama, and who did a Top 52 DC Characters poll last year (click here to see who came in the Top 52 there!), with why he had Batman #1 on his list….
Batman was #1 on my list because he’s a tremendously versatile character. To me, first and foremost, he’s a showman. It’s always been there, from “criminals are a superstitious, cowardly lot” through Dick Sprang and Neal Adams and Marshall Rogers right up to Grant Morrison, Paul Dini, and the Goddamn Batman. The Bat-schtick is rooted both in scaring crooks out of their socks, and being good enough to take out the ones who aren’t scared. It’s a tremendous piece of theater, mixing in sociological and even marketing elements. Batman is part of a pulpish tradition encompassing everyone from the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Shadow to the Punisher, Rorschach, and Supreme Power’s Nighthawk, but none of them quite have the panache of the Darknight Detective.
Because his crusade is driven by tragedy, though, that’s where things start to get interesting. On some level Bruce must enjoy being Batman. Otherwise, the character would have descended into some broody emo purgatory long ago. That kernel of happiness — a flower peeking out of the My Parents Are Dead blacktop — makes Batman fun to watch.
That brings us back to the versatility. Batman’s smooth as Bond, scary as Dracula, and methodical as Holmes. He’s Richard Branson with Bruce Lee’s skills and George Clooney’s looks. He’s a single dad who’s tried to give each kid the childhood he never had. He beat up Superman and took out a Green Lantern with one punch. Oh, and he always has a plan.
Now, you might think that makes him a boring Mr. Perfect, but it’s still a lot to juggle. As I’ve said before, fans want Batman to make sense, because he’s built on being believable. Nevertheless, he is all of those things, wrapped up in a gray-and-black package that somehow does make it all work.
That’s why he’s my favorite DC character — his one-man show is a tour de force.
Here is my buddy, Slam Bradley, on why he had Batman #1…
For me, it all begins with Batman.
Some time circa 1970-71, Little Slam comes across a show that has action, colorful heroes and villains, great music and is both funny and adventurous. He is hooked on reruns of the Batman television show and cannot miss an episode.
Some time circa 1974-75, Little Slam is pouring over the Sears (or maybe Montgomery Ward) catalog and comes across the Mego Batman, Robin, Batmobile, etc. His birthday and Christmas presents are set for the next couple of years.
Some time in the fall of 1975, Little Slam heads out from where his mom is working on a Saturday and runs to the local grocery store with a dollar in his hand. There he discovers a spinner rack full of comics. And he buys three books. An issue of Detective, an issue of Justice League of America and an issue of World’s Finest. Batman is featured prominently on the cover of each of them.
So, really it all starts with Batman. That pile of comic book boxes. Batman’s fault. The two six-foot bookcases of trade paperbacks.
The two shelves full of Doc Savage, Avenger and Shadow paperbacks.
Batman is the quintessential chameleon of a hero. He fits in to any era.
Pulp era…great…he can carry a gun and fight Oriental heroes.
Super-villain era…great…he can vie with the Dick Tracy type villains.
Comics code comes in…no problem…he’ll fight aliens.
Grim and gritty…he works perfectly.
It all begins with Batman. Even if I haven’t read anything with him in it in a while…he’ll still be Number One.
In a world of gods, one man stands above them all.
The deepest. The darkest. The smartest. The toughest. The most iconic. The most recognized. The most feared. The most loved. Can anyone really argue that this is not Batman?
Batman has to be #1, for starters, because of the mark he’s left on the world. Everyone, comics reader or comics hater, knows who the Batman is…why he does what he does…his partner’s name…his butler’s name…where he operates from…Batman is as much a part of popular culture as sitcoms or taxes. He’s existed in so many forms, yet his core always remains the same.
But popularity alone does not a great character make. He’s the ultimate hero. Name me one other character who you know will always win. (Okay, Wolverine, but he has a healing factor, so that doesn’t count.) That is truly why I’ve selected Batman. When he appears on the page, or on the screen, I feel safe. And I know that he will always save the day. For all the demons, all the pain, all the loss…he’s just a good man. His power is his mind, his body and his spirit. He has no super strength, no x-ray vision, he can’t shrink down to the size of an atom. He just won’t give up. That, to me, is the ultimate definition of a hero. No matter what life throws at you, you don’t break. You keep you chin up and keep your wits about you. Like Bruce.
I’ve been limiting us to the world of superheroics. What about the world of characters? Let’s face it, you put any comic book character next to, say, Holden Caulfield or Hester Prynne, they’re not going to hold up by comparison as rich and worthy of intellectual and cultural praise. Except Batman (and Peter Parker, but that’s a different thread). He’s just as deep, just as flawed, just as surprising….and just as sympathetic. We all want Batman to win because we hate the bastard that shot his parents. Bruce Wayne is not only a great hero, he’s one of our greatest fictional characters.
There’s a dark place in all our hearts. And in that place, lurks the Batman.
Here is why Kevin Mahoney put Batman at the top of his list…
Batman, is the perfect school boy fantasy. With enough training and dedication you could be Batman. You get to play with fun gadgets and on top of that drive a cool car. He has a powerful origin that could resonate with anyone. He has a great supporting cast, including the best rogues gallery. He is a leader among the most powerful beings in the universe.
He’s also had some of the best story tellers on his title. Jim Aparo, Denny O’Neil, Neil Adams, Steve Englehart, Marshall Rogers, Alan Grant, Norm Breyfogle, Chuck Dixon etc.
These are all reasons Batman in my favorite character. Simply put, Batman is the ultimate tough guy.
Thanks to Tom, Slam, Brett and Kevin!
Thanks for reading, folks!
Hope you had fun following the countdown!
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