The List: Top 10 DC Superheroes

So, in our last poll we asked the question: "who is DC's greatest superhero" and I made some predictions as to what the line up would be. Unfortunately Aquaman let me down, getting bumped into 11th place and thus ruining my clean sweep, but that's ok, it saves you all from the numerous sea based puns I had planned for his entry. Also, I'm going to put the surprisingly large gap in voter participation between this and the Marvel version (over 100 votes less for DC than Marvel) down to the predictability of the result, but we still have a list, so let's get to it.

Hon Mentions: Aquaman (Arthur Curry), The Flash (Wally West), Rorschach (Walter Joseph Kovacs)

10. Cyborg (Victor Stone)

So, our dark horse entry that knocked Aquaman out of the top 10 by a single vote, what do we say about Victor Stone. Well, he's the youngest character on our list, only debuting in 1980 as part of the second (and most iconic) version of the Teen Titans, he was a kid whose father used him in numerous (probably unethical) experiments to enhance his intelligence, which, as you can imagine, leads to a lot of resentment and teenage rebellion. When Victor is then severly injured during an experiment into inter-dimenisional access, his father uses a prototype cybernetic prosthesis to keep his son alive, leading to Victor becoming the superhero known as Cyborg. Whilst, of course, Cyborg is best known for being a member of the Teen Titans for much of his lifespan, he has more recently migrated to being a member of the Justice League, firstly as a founding member after the New 52 reboot (which decimated the Titans) and now as a former member of the Titans who graduated to Leaguer status. He's also been in the Justice League film as what can generously be described as Ray Fisher in some CGI because Warner Bros. didn't learn from Green Lantern that full CGI costumes never look good.

9. Martian Manhunter (J'Onn J'Onzz)

When you are described by the company that created you as "the heart and soul" of their most famous super team, you know you're a pretty beloved character, and, in fairness, there haven't been many line-ups of the world's finest that hasn't included the green martian. Originally included in the league as a substitute Superman (because DC had a phobia of having their most famous superheroes be in teams back in the Golden Age), J'Onn quickly grew to being much more than his replacement status would suggest. Like Superman, he is a refugee on Earth, the last of a dead world, but the tragedy being that J'Onn was brought to Earth by accident and could not return, having to watch from a distance, whilst Superman had no memory of his home planet.

8. Green Arrow (Oliver Queen)

DC may have some of the greatest and most well respected heroes in all of comics, but there are always two that get the most derission and jokes hurled their way. You of course have Aquaman (who didn't quite make this list) and then you have the number 8 on this list, Green Arrow. Starting out as essentially Batman with a Robin Hood fetish, Green Arrow was, like Martian Manhunter before him, DC's replacement superhero in the Justice League, this time replacing Batman. However, Green Arrow had a sudden renaissance as the 60's gave way to the 70's, becoming much less of a Batman clone and much more of a socially conciouss hero, a thread which would carry on to his joint title with Green Lantern during the 70's, which would focus on America's social problems whilst contrasting Lanterns' conservative "establishment cog" against Arrows' rebellious counterculture outlook. It would also be remiss of me not to mention the Arrow tv series, which brought Green Arrow to the mainstream for the first time as anything but a punchline, which probably has helped his ranking somewhat.

7. Captain Marvel/ Shazam (Billy Batson)

Ho boy, where to start with this one. Billy Batson aka. Captain Marvel aka. Shazam has had the most convoluted history of anybody on this list, possibly of any character still in print today. And I'm not talking about on the page (I'm sure Superman or Batman or Spider-Man could probably beat him there), but behind the scenes. Captain Marvel wasn't an original DC creation, he was created by Fawcett comics as their main superhero, their answer to Superman. Problem is, DC didn't much like anyone having a superhero being an answer to Superman, so they sued. After a lawsuit that lasted 12 years, Fawcett shut down their superheroes division and sold the rights to Charlton Comics. DC only licensed the rights to use the character in 1972 (before outright purchasing the character in 1994), by which time Marvel had been publishing their own (trademarked) Captain Marvel for 5 years, so DC owned the character but not the name and Marvel own the name but not the character, hence why he's now called Shazam. As for why he's on this list. Well, he's been around since the 40's, is kinda recognisable, been in a few superteams and recently had a movie.

6. Nightwing/ Robin (Dick Greyson)

So, the OG Robin. Introduced to make Batman more relatable (because, as we all know, a billionaire dressing up as a Bat to go out at night and beat up a clown is just the most perfectly normal thing to do, so why not throw in a child wearing green underwear and pixie boots), by association he became one of the most recognisable names in superheroics, with it being Batman AND Robin. People don't just remember Batman, they remember the sidekick as well. Of course, the close relationship between Bruce and Dick did lead to some rather distasteful accussations during the witch-hunt period of the 1950's, which also led to the introducion of some other classic characters, such as Batwoman and Batgirl, but it was when Robin struck out on his own that the character really came into his own. He formed the Teen Titans with Kid Flash, Aqualad and Wonder Girl, then they broke up and he reformed it with an even more iconic line-up that would go on to become very much beloved (coming 4th in our last list on the Greatest Superteams). It was during this time that Dick gave up the Robin name and became Nightwing, becoming the first sidekick to step out of his mentors shadow and become a fully fledged hero in his own right (beating Kid Flash by 3 years and Aqualad by..... well, you know).

5. Green Lantern (Hal Jordan)

So, you all know who the top 5 are, it's just who's where and why. So let's kick off with the human nightlight shall we. The first Green Lantern of the lineage of intergalactic cops (thought not the first Green Lantern DC published), Hal Jordan was the second of DC's classic Golden Age hero reboots, where they took a name of a previous superhero and the powers, but threw out everything else. And wouldn't you know, it worked. Apart from that time in the 90's where he tried to kill everything. And that time he was Ryan Reynolds. Oh and people's milage may vary on the War of Light and everything that has happened since. But other than that, the Hal Jordan Green Lantern help usher in the cosmic side of DC, without which we wouldn't have Sinestro (obviously), the New Gods (probably) or even Crisis On Infinite Earths (debatably). I mean, before the corps were a thing, the only DC alien was Superman and he looked like your average American (if they dressed like Superman that is, and Clark Kent was probably thinner). Green Lantern gave DC a chance to go cosmic and that was a chance they took.

4. Wonder Woman (Diana Prince)

Right, so this is the one placement I'm actually surprised about. It's very interesting to see the DC trinity not occupying the top 3 spots and, if you'd have pushed me to guess which character wouldn't make the top 3 I'd have said Superman (because the stereotype is that everyone thinks he's boring), but no, it's the Amazing Amazon. And I'm not actually sure why. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely adore our number 3 entrant, but Wonder Woman is so much more culturaly foundational, not just to comics, but to how society perseves comics. No other female hero is on her level, none. Not Jean Grey, not Invisible Woman, not She-Hulk, not Super-Girl, nor Bat-Girl or Big Barda. She's one of only 3 superheroes to have kept their titles throughout the Golden Age of Comics into the Silver Age, having been in publication since her first appearance without ever having her main series be cancelled. Captain America can't even claim that, nor can Captain Marvel/ Shazam. Sure she's had her ups and downs (like that time DC decided to ride the 60's second wave of feminism by paradoxically depowering their most famous female icon, genius), but which long running character hasn't? Oh and I promised myself I would include this fact because it is the one fact that everyone should know about Wonder Woman; being that she was created by a polygamist who as well as creating the first and most iconic female superhero and being a vocal femist and lover of bondage (explains the rope) also invented the polygraph. Just thought you should know that.

3. The Flash (Barry Allen)

And now we come to the owner of the greatest live action superhero TV show ever made. Now, he might not be as foundational to the comics industry as Superman, Batman or Wonder Woman, but it is safe to say that comics would not be what they are today without this character. When DC publisher Julius Schwartz saw an opportunity to revive the somewhat dead superhero genre, he gave Robert Kanigher and Carmine Infantino the go ahead to create a new updated Flash, a new take on a superhero that they had stopped publishing almost a decade prior. With Kanighers exciting stories combining with Infantino's eye catching visuals, the new Flash was an instant hit, leading to the relaunch of Green Lantern and the birth of the Silver Age of comics that gave us not only a huge pantheon of legendary DC characters, but also almost all of Marvel's classic characters as well. If Flash had flopped back in 1956, it is likely that this would never had happened. Oh and Flash also gave us the DC multiverse and the DC reboot cycle, so there is that. Like I said, every hero has their low points. But then again, his death in Crisis On Infinite Earth's is still one of the greatest moments in comic book history, so you know, shame they ruined it in Infinite Crisis. Anyway, Flash is great, moving on.

2. Superman (Clark Kent/ Kal-El)

You see, the thing is about DC is, they're just so central to everything that has ever happened in the superhero genre. Launch the Golden Age of Comics, check. Launch the Silver Age of Comics, check. First female hero, check. First superhero... well, there's some debate about that, but what we can say for certain is that Superman's popularity cemented a place for superheroes in the medium that persists to this day. He has been in publication , whether monthly, bi-monthly or weekly for 80+ years, the longest running syndicated publication of any kind in media history. He is a global icon, not just of fiction, but of culture, on the level of other multimedia legends as Micky Mouse, or sporting heros like Muhammed Ali. He is in that rarefied air of being an instantly recognisable symbol globaly. His character is timeless and ageless, he works on so many levels, he exemplifies the American ideal, despite not being American. He can be an allegory for the shifting social climate of the world, exploring themes of empowoerment vs. powerlessness, assimilation and societal justice. He can be all things to all men, fighting minor personal calamities to major world ending catastrophies. He is a god amongst men who would have nothing more than to be a normal man, but as he can't he can only use his amazing powers for the benefit of mankind. But even all that power and history cannot see him prevail, against possibly his greatest adversary, greater than Brainiac, greater than Lex Luthor, greater even than Darkseid...

1. Batman (Bruce Wayne)

Batman turned 80 recently. He, like Superman and Wonder Woman, has been in publication without cancellation or hiatus for that entire time. So that does go a tiny bit of the way as to explaining why he wins this poll. But not far enough. Batman is barely a superhero, infact there isn't actually anything super about him, except his wealth. He's just a smart guy with a lot of money and a weird obssession with punching clowns dressed as a flying mammal. So why is this octegenarian billionaire with no superpowers number 1 over gods, demi-gods, aliens and those with powers so great they should be able to beat Batman in a single blow. Well, I asked this question a long time ago, back in 2013. Now we got a fair few answers but all had a common thread. It's because Batman doesn't have powers that he is not just the greatest DC hero, but possible the greatest of all. He can be amongst all of these massively overpowered characters without any powers of his own and still hold his own, therefore justifying his place amongst them. He is the closest any of us will get to being a comic book hero, because these fantastical powers don't exist in real life even Batman's inordinate wealth looks attainable by comparison. Anyone could be Batman. And that's even before we get to the "world" he lives in. Other than his friends and colleagues in the Justice League, he knows very few people you wouldn't see in everyday life. There are hardly any members of the Bat Family with powers and, whilst there are characters like Clayface, Poison Ivy and Killer Croc in his rogues gallery, most of the villains he fights are exceptionally realistic for comic book characters. Batman grounds the fantastical world of comics, whilst also being fantastical in himself. He is wish fulfilment grounded in reality in a way that Superman never could be. And besides that, he's had the best movies, he's had the best cartoons, he has the best merch and he just looks the coolest. You may like other heroes more, but let's be honest, he's Batman. You knew he was going to win this poll, you knew why he was going to win this poll, just like you know that next week Joker's going to win the greatest DC villains poll and if we did a poll of the greatest superhero in general, Batman would win that poll as well. He's Batman, he always wins. I guess that's his superpower.

Anyway, that's the list. Yeah, it was pretty predictable, as I predicted, but there were a few surprises. Let us know how predictable Batman winning was in the comments below and I'll see you next week for our follow up poll regarding DC's greatest villains (and yes, Joker is going to win it).

JR19759

About JR19759

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2 Responses to The List: Top 10 DC Superheroes

  1. I Called It.

  2. Avatar The Atomic Punk

    Poor Arthur, edged out by the kid. Green Lantern has always been my favorite DC hero. I realized why after I watched a documentary on comic books. GL’s costume was a stark contrast to the red, blue, and gold of most other heroes. The green and black really pop and do read “cosmic”.

    I am also surprised that The Flash took Wonder Woman’s spot. The Arrowverse has a lot to do with Flash’s popularity. Yes, one of the best treatments of the superhero genre on television.

    Always be yourself. Unless you can be Batman. Always be Batman.