Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Seven Most-Famous Super-Heroes?

QUICK! Before looking any farther, answer this question:

Who do YOU think are the seven most well known Super Heroes?

Let's all assume Superman, Batman, and Spiderman are in the top three....but who fills out the the remaining fantastic four? The answer may surprise you.

Recently I have been thinking about the term "The Magnificent Seven," especially as it pertains to comic book characters. We DC fans basically use it to describe the founding members of the Justice League: in alphabetical order these seven heroes came together and formed that illustrious group: Aquaman, Batman, the Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, Superman, and Wonder Woman. Ever since, these characters have resided in a special place in the hearts of DC fans.

However....having said that, there is still quite a lot of argument discussions about whether these characters deserve to be called "The Magnificent Seven." I mean, do you out there even know who The Martian Manhunter is? If you're reading this, then, well, probably, but the point is valid. If the JLA is The Magnificent Seven and if Batman is Steve McQueen, who is Charles Bronson? ;-)

DC fans refer to you-know-who as The Big Three. Everyone agrees who they are, no question. The discussions are always about who deserves to fill out the rest of the A List, or, as some would have it, who stands ready to serve on The B List.

Of course, "Super Heroes" are not just DC characters. You're not alone if you think of Iron Man before you think of Aquaman. (You're breaking my heart, but you're not alone.) Marvel has more than matched DC with their stable of characters becoming nationally (world?) famous. Or they've certainly tried, anyway, especially recently. As a rabid Aquaman fan, I am of course going to try to convince you that he belongs on The B List. On the other hand, I'm crazy but I'm not ignorant. I know that Hollywood "stars" like Thor (movie) and Green Arrow (Smallville) have more "pop culture" cred than Aquaman currently does.

Or do they? I decided to take a very unscientific poll. I decided to ask my co-workers and my Facebook friends to name the first five super heroes they could and then I would tally up the results.

I asked a mix of men and women, of various ages between 18 and 45ish (I didn't ask!). I ended up with 50 total participants.

And since the majority of non-comics people don't know the difference between DC and Marvel, I usually got a happy mix of "super-heroes." I got Spiderman and Superman, Captain America and Batman,  Underdog and James Bond. Oh, there definitely were "DC People" and "Marvel People," whether they knew it or not. And there were Hollywood people, naming only those characters who have made it to the big screen ("Catwoman"?!). 

I asked for "the first five super-heroes who came to mind" and therefore gave the first mentioned 5 points, the second 4 points, and so on down the line. Several of my friends made comments such as "Aquaman, because of you" or "I was going to say Aquaman but only because of you, so I didn't." Both were okay. I totally anticipated that the Aquaman votes would be skewered high.

So now, without further ado, here are the top ten heroes and their points:   
Superman          170
Batman             158
Spiderman           82
Wonder Woman 57
Aquaman            54
Green Lantern    47
Iron Man             17
Robin                  17
The Flash            16
Captain America 15

This, to me, means that heroes that have been around for forever have a deeper, nay, stronger pop culture "footprint" than some of the more recent additions. Basically, everyone I asked has seen or knows of The Super Friends, haha! To compare, the X-Men, who were all the rage in the last ten years, got only 6 points total, and that's when I add Cyclops, Wolverine, and Storm to their mix. Likewise, the Fantastic Four (who probably also suffered from "group" identity, got 7 points but only when joined with The Human Torch (3 and 4, respectively). So although Captain America has been around as long as Aquaman and Wonder Woman in the comics, his movie/TV/cartoon presence has been markedly lower than theirs.  

To round out the rest of the list of charactes who got more than one mention:
Underdog       10
Green Arrow    9
Silver Surfer     7
Wonder Twins 6
Hulk                4
Thor                4

This last part of the poll really confused me, as I anticipated that Thor and Hulk would have more of a precence. One voter actually asked, "Is the Hulk a hero?" Perhaps non-comic people didn't think of the recent Thor movie as being about a super-hero as being about a mythological character? If that is the case then maybe next years The Avengers will help raise his profile.  On the other hand, Iron Man and Captain America both had movies in the last two years and yet they couldn't get past Green Lantern? (Even though thier movies were much better than his was, haha!)  And I guess there's a reason Underdog is in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade; I didn't realize so many people loved him! He's the highest ranking character who isn't actually a COMIC-BOOK super-hero, having made his debut on TV before getting a comic-book.

For the completists out there, here are the remaining characters who got mentioned in the voting:
5 Points (first choice):
James Bond, Luke Cage
4 Points (second choice):
Optimus Prime, Kick Ass, Human Torch, Mighty Isis
3 Points (third choice):
Power Girl, Wolverine, Catwoman, Mighty Mouse, Fantastic Four, The Tick, Dazzler, Plastic Man
2 Points (fourth choice):
Teen-Age Mutant Ninja Turtles, Ant-Man, Captain Marvel/Shazam, Dr. Strange, Ultraman, Hawkman
1 Point (fifth choice):
X-Men, Cyclops, Storm, Mr. Incredible, Wonder Dog, Firestorm

So where does that leave Aquaman? I could subtract 10% of his total and he would still be in fifth place. Even if I cut him off half the lists he appeared on he would still only drop to sixth place! So...does that mean I hang out with people who know enough about comics to know who Aquaman is? Maybe. However, if we look at the actual votes, only four people chose him as their first choice. The majority (yes, the majority) picked him as their number four or five. So I think he's like a favorite character- actor...a Paul Rudd if you will...who you enjoy when you see him but you don't necessarily go to see HIM. 

That's my theory and I'm sticking to it. :-) (And I can say this because I like both Aquaman AND Mr. Rudd. So no negative comments about this, please!)

I did get some odd responses. Obviously the Wonder Twins touched a chord in many people's hearts. I had no idea! One guy swears James Bond is a super-hero. (If Batman is, then Bond is, too, he reasoned.) Another told me that he wasn't going to pick Batman or Iron Man because if having money makes you a super-hero, then Bill Gates should be much more interesting than he is. Someone chose Wonder Dog and I wondered if she meant Underdog, but since there IS a Wonder Dog....she voted for him! One woman chose The Mighty Isis, which made me think of Joanna Cameron for the first time in a loooong time. :-)  Best answer was from my friend John, who listed out four super-fictional characters and then picked his late father as his number five.

did Terry Huddleston *know* something when he drew this?!

Thanks to all participants and to you for reading. If you disagree or have an opinion, please feel free to share it with us.

This is the second article in a series I am going to call "The Magnificent Seven." I am going to look at "My Seven Favorite (topic)" and write about them, hopefully on a semi-regular basis.  I hope you enjoy it...and if you have a suggestion for me to write about, please let me know! :-)

1 comment:

  1. This article is excellent. I've always thought that would be an interesting subject for someone to do a piece on. I'm surprised, though, that Captain America didn't rank a little higher but only for the fact that his movie was so recent. But it was nice to see Robin made the list :) Mighty excellent that JL out-polled those bandwagon X-Men!