Superman, Wonder Woman, The Incredible Hulk... Who’s your favourite superhero?
- Credit: MATTHEW USHER
Comic shop staff cast their votes. Have they got it right? Who has missed out?
The Flash, Captain Marvel, Green Arrow, Silver Surfer… we've long been snowed under by superheroes (which probably shows how much humans yearn for someone who can sort out life's ills).
Batman made his bow back in 1939, and Marvel Comics arrived on the scene, too (albeit with a different name). Good enough reason to ask some comic-book experts for their top superheroes. And I give my layman's view.
Who would make your top five? Email and let me know: firstname.lastname@example.org
First up, Dean Whittaker and Nigel Haynes from Abstract Sprocket comic shop in St Benedicts Street, Norwich.
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1. Superman: The original and best. The source from which all other superheroes stem. A hero that even other heroes aspire to be like and a role model for humanity.
2. Batman: The dark to Superman's light. Complex, tortured but also a hero that surrounds himself with family and is much more easy to relate to than the godlike Superman.
3. Miles Morales: Spider-Man: A Spider-Man for a new generation - capturing the youth and problems of the original Spider-Man while also managing to star in his own Oscar-winning animated movie!
4. Wonder Woman: The first major female superhero and still a benchmark that all others are measured by. Much like Superman she embodies the very ideals of being a superhero as she strives to spread a message of peace, love and tolerance in our world.
5. John Constantine, Hellblazer: Not considered a superhero by many (but) we are sure this British magician has cemented his place amongst them, with spots on teams such as Justice League Dark and also his own long-running Vertigo series.
The choices of Martin "Biff" Averre, from ACE Comics in Culver Street East, Colchester.
1. Daredevil (Marvel Comics): This was the comic that so entranced me as a 15-year-old that I have loved comics ever since. A blind man using his other senses to fight crime and being able to "see" in a way beyond sighted people.
2. Superman (DC Comics): He symbolises the true essence of integrity, morality, justice. He is my go-to character when faced with moral dilemmas: "What would Superman do in this situation?" He would always do the right thing, no matter the personal cost.
Despite being an alien from another planet (Krypton) he represents also the American Dream.
3. Silver Surfer (Marvel Comics): He was the herald of Galactus "The World Eater".
He had to find the worlds for Galactus to consume, but, when he found the planet Earth, he faced off against the Fantastic Four, who managed to find his compassion (humanity), turned him against his master and helped save Earth. Galactus banished him by confining him to Earth.
His search for compassion as an alien on our planet after this event opened my young eyes to a lot of the frailties of human nature.
4. The Incredible Hulk (Marvel Comics): The skinny, ignored, but brilliant scientist, Bruce Banner, was accidentally caught in a gamma bomb explosion and became the green (originally gray) behemoth that was hunted across America.
As he struggled in his simplistic but incredibly strong alter ego to find a place of peace and a place in society, I sympathised as a teenager struggling to cope with the move to adulthood.
5. Black Panther (Marvel Comics): After his first appearance in Fantastic Four #52 back in 1966 this regal, scientifically-brilliant and physically-strong African leader was always portrayed as an equal if not better person than all the other white heroes.
Stan Lee led the way for portraying people of any colour as equals and wove exciting and original tales, and helped solidify my non-racist attitude.
And here are my choices.
1. Batman: A toss-up between the caped crusader and Spider-Man, but Gotham's protector wins on points.
Like most superheroes, Batman's look and personality has morphed over time: from dark comic-book beginnings to the playful and colour-overdosed TV series of the 1960s (which is where I came in, complete with Batman toy car and speedboat) to the dark-again and reflective films.
The relationships (with son-like Robin, butler-cum-friend Alfred and a string of fleshed-out foes) give substance to the stories of a "weird avenger of the dark".
I like the fact that, after early days that were a bit violent, Bruce Wayne's alter-ego never took a life if he could help it, and eschewed guns and major force.
Batman for president.
2. Spider-Man: When you're a gauche youth who at the beach gets sand kicked in his face by cool testosterone-fuelled dudes, geeky Peter Parker is your fictional pal. (So friends tell me.) For those of us hoping that karma actually exists and that ne'er-do-wells are eventually brought to justice, Spidey is a symbol of hope.
And I've met his Aunt May! Or, rather, actress Rosemary Harris, who appeared in three Spider-Man films. Her father was commanding officer of the RAF airfield at Stradishall, near Bury St Edmunds, and she boarded at All Hallows School in Ditchingham, near Bungay (where she was homesick).
Later, Rosemary lived with her grandmother at the old priory at St Olaves.
3. Wonder Woman: There's a university thesis to be written about whether or not WW is truly presented as a feminist icon, bearing in mind she's given a low-cut top and high-rise shorts, and the number of times she's trussed up by her enemies. (Actually, bet more than one academic has written it.) But she is.
From the early 1940s she's been a symbol of an assertive, confident and capable woman. WW talked about the importance of female solidarity. That will have sown seeds in the minds of girls and boys alike.
4. Green Lantern: Not every superhero climbs to the top rung. Ever a sucker for the slight underdog, may I present Green Lantern.
From the start, in the 1940s, he never enjoyed Superman-level glamour. Alan (that was his name - and no offence meant to Alans everywhere) found what seemed to be a railway lantern after an accident involving a train. A piece of it bestowed superhuman powers, though those powers couldn't cope with anything made of… wood.
A later tweaking of GL, with a new backstory, gave him a ring (that couldn't cope with anything… yellow). But GL battled on. And he had just the best mission statement: "In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight. Let those who worship evil's might, beware my power - Green Lantern's light!"
5. Harley Quinn: Supervillain turned hero. Ish.
A friend insists this choice is down to a 50-plus male in a second midlife crisis (I think he means me) noticing actress Margot Robbie's film portrayal of a character with a penchant for tight shorts, fishnet stockings and acrobatic flips. As if.
Harley is simply more unhinged than Villanelle from Killing Eve - her story darker than an East Anglian country lane on a moonless night.
Consider: A psychiatrist (her) is turned bad by the evil Joker and they begin a dysfunctional relationship that's often truly appalling. But then, as a member of the hand-picked Suicide Squad, she gains some measure of redemption by coming out of incarceration to help save the world. (Still twisted at heart, though.)
Effective characters are more than just good deeds and quirky costumes. Here, there's depth to explore - the addictive nature of abusive relationships, for instance.
Score them on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis and the winner of this ever-so-unscientific piece of whimsy - The Best Superhero of All Time, Ever - is… oh lordy, a tie between Superman and birthday boy Batman, with Wonder Woman a commendable (and definitely non-token) third.
(Geek note: Shades here of the 2016 film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which featured all three.)
They'll either have to share the trophy or fight it out in the skies of Metropolis…
Are we en pointe?
Games and entertainment media company IGN did something similar. Here's its top five:
5 Wonder Woman
So, yes, we are of similar mind. High-fives all round.
A Superman quotation to print out and stick on the fridge:
"There is a superhero in all of us; we just need the courage to put on the cape."