Shouldn’t Superman be number one here? After all, he’s the original, and the most powerful…
Ask me in a few months, after Grant Morrison takes over, and I may put the world’s first superhero higher on the list, but for now the Kryptonian doesn’t quite break the top 5. Why not? Because he’s so powerful that he’s hard to make interesting. Think about it, in the past two decades, other than a few scattered runs (Mark Waid, Geoff Johns, and Morrison’s All-Star Superman), who has been able to make Superman a captivating character? Even his movies have been generally bad. In fact, often the best part of Superman comics is the supporting cast…Or the villains. He’s got some really cool villains. And yet the movies only ever use General Zod and Luthor. Shame on them for contributing to the lazy use of this character.
That said, there’s a reason that Superman captures the imagination of every boy under the age of 10 who comes in contact with him. He’s pure optimism, pure hope, and nothing can hurt him. He is the epitome of idealism.
- Action Comics #1 (reprinted everywhere)
- Any of the reprints of the old Siegel and Schuster issues. You probably don’t want to read a bunch of them, but check out a few issues–they’re still pretty cool.
- Man of Steel
- Superman: Birthright
- Superman: Braniac
- All-Star Superman
5. JANET VAN DYNE (THE WASP).
Why is Jan farther up the list than Wonder Woman, and the only chick in the top 5? Because Wonder Woman was, in oh so many ways, a token female. Janet Van Dyne was a complete person. She was the first woman to lead a major super-team, but she retained her womanly interest in fashion: Her costume changes almost issue to issue, and she designed new costumes for several Avengers–most notably, Wonder Man. Whose costume kinda sucks. But that’s beside the point.
Also, she had the very cool ability not only to shrink and grow wings, but to zap people. Who wouldn’t want to be able to do all that?
The fact is that in a medium that to this day disproportionately favors males and shies away from realistic, strong female characters, Janet is an anomaly. And the first of her kind, truly.
Suggested reading, starting with her wedding and including her death and the fresh, Ultimates take on the character:
- Avengers #60 (reprinted in B&W in Essential Avengers Vol. 3)
- Avengers #215-230 (some of the best written Wasp stuff, including Hank Pym’s betrayal of the team, but it hasn’t been reprinted)
- Secret Invasion
- The Ultimates Vol. 1 by Mark Millar and Brian Hitch.