Okay, I couldn’t resist: here’s the Great Curve’s list of the *52* (woo!) Best DC Characters, as voted on by 89 commentators. There are only seven women, but six are in the top 20. Two characters are African-American and three others have Egyptian backgrounds (sort of). Gardner Fox had a hand in creating eight, as compared to Carmine Infantino and Bob Kane’s seven apiece, Bill Finger’s six, John Broome’s five, and Jerry Siegel’s four. Marv Wolfman, George Pérez, and Joe Shuster were each present at the creation of three, which doesn’t take into account Wolfman and Pérez’s renovations to a few others. By my count, thirty-nine have been adapted for film and/or television.
Let’s have a hand for Mr. Kevin Melrose, who helped immeasurably by putting up most of the pictures you’re about to enjoy.
And finally, thanks to all of you who voted. It was fun putting everything together!
Here we go:
52. DEATHSTROKE THE TERMINATOR, Slade Wilson
Created by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez (The New Teen Titans vol. 1 #2, December 1980)
Because neither “Deathstroke” nor “Terminator” likely made it past Cartoon Network’s executives (not to mention Arnold Schwarzenegger), this mercenary is known to millions of viewers simply as “Slade.” He blamed the Teen Titans for the death of his son, and agreed to hunt them down for free. Lately, his abilities seem to vary with the situation: you might hear “Deathstroke took out the Justice League?” questioned with much the same fervor as “That old Green Arrow took out Deathstroke?”
51. CYBORG, Victor Stone
Created by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez (DC Comics Presents #26, October 1980)
The new Teen Titans were often derided as DC’s answer to the X-Men, but Vic Stone was more like DC’s answer to the Thing. (Hey — Stone … rocky Thing skin … oh, you scamps!) Actually, the Thing had it easier, since he turned back to human every now and then. Often the voice of Everyman on a team filled with career crimefighters and otherworldy figures, Vic was the book’s most fully realized character, never stereotyped or given to wallow in self-pity, and ultimately at peace with himself.
50. DOCTOR FATE, Kent Nelson
Created by Gardner Fox and Howard Sherman (More Fun Comics #55, May 1940)
Some people might complain that Fate is a poor substitute for the psychotropic mysticism of Doctor Strange, but I tend to see it as Fate keeping the frills to a minimum. Who needs an alliterative paragraph when you’re the hatrack for an omnipotent being?
49. MISTER TERRIFIC, Michael Holt
Created by John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake (The Spectre vol. 3 # 54, June 1997)
The newest character on this list is a very close second (at least) to Batman as DC’s Smartest Guy In The Room. (Checkmate #2 places him second to Batman in another area … but I’ve said too much.) Like the original Mr. Terrific, he’s good at everything, which must be why he can get away with that costume.
48. THE PHANTOM STRANGER
Created by John Broome and Carmine Infantino (The Phantom Stranger #1, August-September 1952)
Early in his existence, and periodically thereafter, creators tried to give the Stranger a rogues’ gallery and/or supporting cast, and tie him to DC’s larger cosmology. Let’s face it, though: he is the company’s Mr. Roarke. He appears mysteriously, warns the regular super-types that something wicked this way comes, and then for the most part lets them handle it. The flip side of that is, like Mr. Roarke, he only gets personally involved if it’s really serious.
47. ANIMAL MAN, Bernhard “Buddy” Baker
Created by Dave Wood and Carmine Infantino (Strange Adventures #180, September 1965)
Buddy is a likeable family man with the power to mimic the natural abilities of any animal or bird near him. Grant Morrison sent him on a strange exploration of the not-quite-dead DC Multiverse, the relationship between creator and character, and the nature of fiction itself. Afterwards, Morrison apologized in person, and later rewarded Buddy with a key role in a JLA arc.
46. THE GREEN LANTERN, Alan Scott
Created by Bill Finger and Martin Nodell (All-American Comics #16, July 1940)
With no direct connection to the Green Lantern Corps, the original GL was somewhat overshadowed by them. After he destroyed Imperial Japan in an All-Star Squadron nightmare sequence, he got a little more respect.
45. BLACK ADAM, Teth-Adam/Theo Adam
Created by Otto Binder and C.C. Beck (The Marvel Family #1, December 1945)
The Marvel Family’s General Zod presently rules Kahndaq (a Middle Eastern country that I don’t think is supposed to be an analogue for anything), and has copped a Namoresque don’t-talk-back-to-the-king attitude. None of this explains why he has pointed ears.
44. THE SANDMAN, Dream of the Endless
Created by Neil Gaiman and Sam Kieth (The Sandman vol. 2 #1, January 1989)
Moody, bitter, and omnipotent, Dream was a versatile combination of superbeing, deity, and sometimes just Rod Serling. The book he headlined defined literate fantasy comics for a decade, if not a generation. If Vertigo has a Mount Rushmore, Dream is its Lincoln.
43. THE ATOM, Ray Palmer
Created by Gardner Fox and Gil Kane (Showcase #34, September-October 1961)
When I find myself in a darkened theater, bored by a dull movie, often I will imagine its stars in a more exciting role. During the 1998 Godzilla remake, I recast Matthew Broderick as Ray Palmer, who naturally would have defeated the big iguana by shrinking into his inner ear and upsetting his equilibrium. That’s how the Atom rolls -– he may have a goofy power, but he’s more than smart enough to use it effectively.
Created by Alvin Schwartz (Action Comics #254, July 1959)
Bizarro’s not a villain, just an imperfect duplicate. As such, one could make the case that he represents the careless, capricious misuse of vast power. More likely, though, is that he’s just a fun in-house Superman parody. As a general rule, if Bizarro doesn’t make you laugh, his handlers aren’t doing a good job.
41. ADAM STRANGE
Created by Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky (Showcase #17, November-December 1958)
The Earthman plucked off his home planet and plunged into intergalactic adventures is a staple of pulp and space opera, but Adam Strange gave it a Silver Age sheen. The elements of his costume pretty much sum up the tone of the stories: a jetpack, a zap-gun, and a cowl with a big white fin. Translation: there will be flying, there will be shooting, and it will all look like Tomorrowland.
40. JONAH HEX
Created by John Albano and Tony DeZuniga (All-Star Western #10, February-March 1971)
This surly, disfigured gunfighter is DC’s most famous Western hero and the star of a remarkably unsentimental series. It was retooled in the mid-‘80s by having Jonah launched into a post-apocalyptic future, but that didn’t take. In fact, by then the story of Jonah’s 1904 death had already been told, complete with his stuffed corpse being passed around like a garden gnome.
39. THE ELONGATED MAN, Randolph William “Ralph” Dibny
Created by John Broome and Carmine Infantino (The Flash #112, May 1960)
Like the Atom, the Elongated Man combines a goofy power -– stretchability gained from a rare soft drink — with being Real Smart. That sounds like Mr. Fantastic, and Ralph’s devoted wife likewise helped him solve crimes, but the similarities stop there. Although the Dibnys’ adventures were more sitcommy than not, Ralph did get to save the universe on occasion, most notably as the last Justice Leaguer standing against the Lord of Time.
38. JOHN CONSTANTINE
Created by Alan Moore, Stephen Bissette, and John Totleben (Saga Of The Swamp Thing #37, June 1985)
Constantine was modeled on Sting, and although he appeared after the Police had broken up, I like to think of him as the slightly wild-eyed, spiky-haired frontman of the “Synchronicity” tour. Constantine tended to be more sedate than that, of course. Still, picture Sting chain-smoking his way through a Denis Leary impression while fighting demons. Does that sound like Keanu Reeves? No it does not.
37. SWAMP THING, Alec Holland
Created by Len Wein and Berni Wrightson (Swamp Thing #1, October-November 1972)
The George Washington on Vertigo’s Rushmore. Wein and Wrightson had introduced a similar swamp-creature in 1971′s House of Secrets #92, but this new one was the product of a lab explosion, a fertile swamp, and an unfortunate scientist. Although he was popular enough throughout the 1970s, his reinvention at the hands of Alan Moore ushered in a seductively radical way of looking at characters and stories. Through it all, Moore showed Swamp Thing growing into an expanding awareness of himself, not quite human anymore but still relatable.
36. HAWKMAN, Carter Hall/Katar Hol
Created by Gardner Fox and Dennis Neville (Flash Comics #1, 1940)
Like Adam Strange, Hawkman is something of a pulpish throwback, specifically to the Hawkmen of Flash Gordon. The Golden Age and Silver Age characters differed only in background, and after all the continuity headaches of the 1990s, DC’s solution essentially says it’s all the same guy. Hawkman is also famously conservative, which makes sense — a bare-chested, muscular bird-man, his mace ready to administer beatings, doesn’t sound very warm and huggy.
35. BOOSTER GOLD, Michael Jon Carter
Created by Dan Jurgens (Booster Gold #1, February 1986)
Booster’s setup is steeped in cynicism: a time-traveler steals future tech to get rich off the rubes from centuries earlier. 52‘s descriptive dialogue — “He’s from the future! How cool is that?” — conveys just the right mix of pathetic charm. His own series lasted only two years, but his greatest success was with his partner-in-buffoonery, Blue Beetle. Since Beetle’s brutal murder, Booster has become the face of a certain kind of shattered innocence, despite his more mercenary roots.
34. THE SPECTRE, Jim Corrigan
Created by Jerry Siegel and Bernard Baily (More Fun Comics #52, February 1940)
The Spectre was the personification of God’s wrath, bonded to a murdered policeman. Naturally he debuted in More Fun Comics. In hindsight, it’s a wonder more fire-and-brimstone preachers didn’t hand out copies of his adventures — the creative punishments of the infamous 1970s run would have made the Crypt-Keeper cringe. Kingdom Come turned him into the Ghost of Christmas Future, but the effects of his Infinite Crisis retooling have yet to be seen.
33. GREEN LANTERN/WARRIOR, Guy Gardner
Created by John Broome and Gil Kane (Green Lantern vol. 2 #59, March 1968)
It took long enough for Guy to become a first-team Green Lantern, so he was understandably eager to work out his frustrations. (Mostly this involved hard-wiring his ring into his id.) While he was entertaining enough as a boor, his writers have always been careful to add some nuance.
32. JAMES W. GORDON
Created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger (Detective Comics #27, May 1939)
More than the Lestrade to Batman’s Holmes, or a mere public servant flipping on the Bat-Signal, Jim Gordon is integral to the Batman mythology. Straddling the line between upholding the law and condoning vigilantism also elevates him above a mere cheerleader for the folks in the masks. A few years ago it looked like he had retired for good, but returning him to his old role has helped restore the Bat-books’ equilibrium.
31. MISTER MIRACLE, Scott Free
Created by Jack Kirby (Mister Miracle vol. 1 #1, March-April 1971)
Kirby famously based his super-escape artist on colleague (and former escape artist) Jim Steranko. Capable, confident Scott is tremendously endearing, and has proven popular apart from the rest of the New Gods. Small wonder — who doesn’t want the ability to thwart any trap?
30. ALFRED PENNYWORTH
Created by Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson (Batman #16, April-May 1943)
The first appearance of Alfred cast him as a fat English bumbler who Bruce and Dick were eager to deport. Naturally, before the end of the story he’d become a valued part of the team, and today everyone loves him because he gets to talk back to Batman. In the otherwise sunny mid-‘60s, fears about gay subtext had Alfred killed and revived as the villainous, inhuman Outsider, but being included in the “Batman” TV show got the comics’ version his old job back.
29. THE FLASH, Jason Peter “Jay” Garrick
Created by Gardner Fox and Harry Lampert (Flash Comics #1, January 1940)
Sure, Jay Garrick is one of DC’s elder statesmen, but the lab accident which gave him super-speed was caused by his own clumsiness during a late-night smoke break. Once he recovered, he used his speed for football (“This’ll make it sixty-five to thirty!”) and to play tennis with himself (not a euphemism). Do as he says, kids, not as he did.
28. IMPULSE/KID FLASH, Bartholomew “Bart” Allen
Created by Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo (The Flash vol. 2 #91, June 1994)
Speaking of poor speedster examples…. Early in his own title, Waid and artist Humberto Ramos portrayed him and mentor Max Mercury as a sort of Calvin and Hobbes of super-speed. The wackiness continued when Impulse joined the Young Justice team. Unfortunately, Bart has gotten more serious in Geoff Johns’ Teen Titans.
27. POWER GIRL, Kara Zor-L/Karen Starr
Created by Gerry Conway and Wally Wood (All-Star Comics #58, January-February 1976)
I keep trying to think of a clever way to describe Power Girl (apart from the obvious), but I keep coming back to a couple of traits: she has most of Superman’s powers, and she is not afraid of hurting you.
26. THE QUESTION, Vic Sage/Victor Szazs
Created by Steve Ditko (Blue Beetle #1, June 1967)
The first of two Ditko creations is also the first of two Charlton acquisitions. From Ditko through Denny O’Neil and into the conspiracy-theorist of “Justice League Unlimited,” the character has maintained strong philosophical underpinnings. Although more sedate than his cousin Rorschach, the Question is still creepy, because he’s smarter than you are and probably knows all your secrets.
25. THE FLASH, Bartholomew Henry “Barry” Allen
Created by Gardner Fox, Bob Kanigher, and Carmine Infantino (Showcase #4, October 1956)
The second Flash is, arguably, second only to Superman in terms of importance to DC’s superhero comics. Barry Allen helped make the superhero big again, and set the example for countless character reinventions to come. Moreover, through Barry, DC expanded its cosmology into a multiverse of infinite worlds. Otherwise, he was just a terribly nice, unassuming guy who engendered a lot of goodwill among many readers.
24. PLASTIC MAN, Patrick “Eel” O’Brian
Created by Jack Cole (Police Comics #1, August 1941)
The Elongated Man was more dignified — which says volumes — but Ralph couldn’t mold his body into millions of red-and-yellow-striped shapes. DC keeps trying to shoehorn Plas into its mainstream, and it never seems to take. The most successful integration might have been through Grant Morrison’s JLA, which usually had a few other oddities competing with Plas on every page. As shown in his recent Kyle Baker series, Plas works best under his own rules.
Created by Jack Kirby (Jimmy Olsen #134, November 1970)
The truly scary core of Darkseid can be seen in his perpetual quest for the Anti-Life Equation. He doesn’t just want to rule all of creation, he wants creation to forget that there was any other alternative.
22. BLUE BEETLE, Edward “Ted” Kord
Created by Steve Ditko (Captain Atom #83, November 1966)
I blame Dan Jurgens for Blue Beetle’s decline. When Jurgens took over Justice League America, he gave Blue Beetle a Nite-Owl-like paunch. Since then, writers have felt free to insert a little pathos into Ted’s otherwise jolly schtick. Yes, Jurgens also upgraded the Bug, but it was obviously a cry for help.
21. TWO-FACE, Harvey Kent/Harvey Dent
Created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane (Detective Comics #66, August 1942)
The villain who keeps himself company, Two-Face’s appeal is (fittingly) twofold: his deceptively-simple high concept, and the pathos springing from his former friendship with Batman. Still, it’s harder than it looks to do a good Two-Face story.
20. ZATANNA, Zatanna Zatara
Created by Gardner Fox and Murphy Anderson (Hawkman vol. 1 #4, October-November 1964)
Zatanna really had a high-profile couple of years, thanks to Identity Crisis and her Seven Soldiers miniseries, so that probably accounts for her good showing here. Oh, and the fishnets.
19. ROBIN, Timothy “Tim” Drake
Created by Marv Wolfman, George Pérez, and Neal Adams (Batman #436, August 1989)
At first glance, Tim is the ultimate Mary Sue. Having deduced Batman and Nightwing’s secret identities (by watching the news, no less), he saves their lives, helps restore Batman’s sanity, and is rewarded with his own Neal-Adams-designed costume. Nevertheless, he hasn’t let it go to his head, and for most of his career has brought a more down-to-earth perspective to the fantastic world of teenage superheroics.
18. SPACE CABBY
Created by Otto Binder and Howard Sherman (Mystery In Space #21, August-September 1954)
Space Cabby is an increasingly rare species in the DC environment — a concept which was silly at its creation, remains silly today, and has resisted revision. Even a James Robinson Starman issue treated him reverently. And why not? He drives a taxi! In space! Come on!
17. AQUAMAN, Arthur Curry/Orin
Created by Paul Norris and Mort Weisinger (More Fun Comics #73, November 1941)
The grittifying of Aquaman began in the ’70s with the death of Arthur Jr. In the ’80s he had marital problems and dissolved the Justice League. In the ’90s he lost a hand. Now he’s MIA in his own series. You’d think at some point DC would stop overcompensating for “Super Friends.”
16. CATWOMAN, Selina Kyle
Created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger (Batman #1, Spring 1940)
In an afterword to one edition of Batman: Year One, David Mazzucchelli said that Catwoman “represents a maturity the boys aren’t ready for.” When she was just a Batman villain, that was certainly true — not just in a sexual way, but also by putting shades of gray into Batman’s crusade. If only the other would switch sides, one thought, we’d both be happy! Thus, there was always the possibility that Catwoman would follow the good path. Since, on occasion, she did, it justified her own series, where she didn’t have to be as good as Batman. Today’s Catwoman is her own person, perhaps still more mature than her former foe.
15. BLACK CANARY, Dinah Drake Lance/Dinah Laurel Lance
Created by Bob Kanigher and Carmine Infantino (Flash Comics #86, August 1947)
She started as a noirish Veronica Lake lookalike who eventually married her detective colleague. The current Black Canary is a second-generation version created to explain why the original wasn’t as old as she should have been. Both have tended to become associated with others (the JSA, JLA, Birds of Prey, Green Arrow), but in the long run it’s been a sign of versatility, not dependence.
14. GREEN LANTERN/PARALLAX/THE SPECTRE, Harold Martin “Hal” Jordan
Created by John Broome and Gil Kane (Showcase #22, October 1959)
Most people take their image of Hal Jordan from his test-pilot background, but I think it’s fascinating that Gil Kane apparently based his look on the young Paul Newman. That kind of flinty, cocksure swagger can be strangely endearing, even as it tends to seem frozen in time. It’s perhaps appropriate, then, that Hal got such a rude awakening in the 1970s, after the passing of the Jet Age into which he was born; and that once again he’s struggling to find his proper place in the world.
13. STARMAN, Jack Knight
Created by James Robinson and Tony Harris (Zero Hour: Crisis In Time! #1, September 1994)
Jack Knight represents another kind of fannish wish-fulfillment: the older fan who wants to be a superhero on his own terms. Jack’s somewhere between the hero-worship of Tim Drake and the what-now? naivete of Kyle Rayner on the continuum of commitment. He’s got bills to pay and a shop to run, and also some issues with his dad. Jack had a more clear-eyed perspective on the sweep of DC history, but occasionally some open-mouthed wonder snuck in as well. It’s a shame the TV adaptation never took off.
12. MANHUNTER FROM MARS/MARTIAN MANHUNTER, J’Onn J’Onzz/John Jones
Created by Joseph Samachson and Joe Certa (Detective Comics #225, November 1955)
Fans raged against Tim Burton’s plans to portray Superman as a tormented outsider, but it might actually have worked for J’Onn. Trapped on Earth in the UFO-paranoid 1950s, the shape-changing superhero disguised himself as a police detective, but was just a lit match away from his true form. After having lived through such a period, who would begrudge him an Oreo habit?
11. LOIS LANE
Created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster (Action Comics #1, June 1938)
She was an unattainable fantasy woman at first, and then a nosy busybody made to look foolish in front of the readers. Eventually she became Superman’s girlfriend, and now she’s his partner. Many of the changes to Superman’s mythology twenty years ago have been reversed, but the notion that Clark was free to date other people also freed Lois from being one corner of the eternal triangle. Additionally, it let Lois fall in love with Clark in a much deeper and more profound way than her comparatively superficial attraction to his alter ego. The challenge for writers now is to make each of them worthy of the other.
10. GREEN ARROW, Oliver Jonas “Ollie” Queen
Created by Mort Weisinger and Bill Papp (More Fun Comics #73, November 1941)
Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Strand a man on a desert island where he can teach himself archery, and he’ll fight crime for a lifetime. He’s supposed to be DC’s most prominent liberal, and can often back up a lot of his bluster, but sometimes the bluster just takes over. He is certainly not the touchy-feely girly-man the right loves to parody, is actually a bit of a chauvinist, and was clueless enough to not notice his teenage ward slipping into drug addiction. Still, he wouldn’t stay dead; and if he washed up on the “Lost” island, he’d be running both camps by now.
9. CAPTAIN MARVEL, Billy Batson
Created by C.C. Beck and Bill Parker (Whiz Comics #2, February 1940)
While Superman satisfies the frustrations of adults whose potential goes unrecognized, Captain Marvel addresses a kid’s more primal desire to enjoy the privileges of adulthood. He’s the hero who can never really grow up, because who wants to see an adult Billy Batson change into an adult Captain Marvel? (For that, Alan Moore retooled Marvelman.)
8. KID FLASH/THE FLASH, Wallace Rudolph “Wally” West
Created by John Broome and Carmine Infantino (The Flash #110, December 1959-January 1960)
On the other hand, Wally represents the kid hero who not only grew up, he found himself having to succeed his idol. In just a couple of years he went from waffling about his superhero career to trying desperately to live up to his uncle’s example. As Barry laid the ground work for his generation’s reinventions, so Wally has been a great example of how to pass the torch. Here’s hoping he doesn’t stay retired for long.
7. BATGIRL/ORACLE, Barbara Gordon
Created by Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino (Detective Comics #359, January 1967)
At some point during his tenure as Batman writer, Gerry Conway took to calling her “the” Batgirl, as in “the” Batman, and really, it never sounded right. Sure, Barbara deserved to be taken seriously, but she wasn’t enough of a creature of the night to warrant a “the.” As the anonymous Oracle, however, Babs can wrap herself in a more appropriate air of mystery.
6. WONDER WOMAN, Diana Prince/Diana of Themyscira
Created by William Moulton Marston (All-Star Comics #8, December 1941-January 1942)
DC must feel a lot of pressure to be careful with the superhero genre’s most famous female character. Even so, in the past twenty years it’s taken some chances with her that it might not have with Superman or Batman. Overall she’s become the most radical of the Big Three, and the most fascinating to watch develop.
5. LEX LUTHOR
Created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster (Action Comics #23, May 1940)
At his core, Luthor is the anti-Batman, using his keen intellect and vast resources to their fullest, hoping to prove that one man at his best can triumph over impossible odds. He resents Superman not having had to work for his power like he did. Furthermore, Luthor is the cynic inside anyone who wonders what they would do with Superman’s power, and can’t believe that anyone so powerful could be so good. Luthor knows the combination is impossible, because otherwise, the world would worship his genius as much as it idolizes Superman.
4. ROBIN/NIGHTWING, Richard John “Dick” Grayson
Created by Bob Kane, Bill Finger, and Jerry Robinson (Detective Comics #38, April 1940)
Comics’ first sidekick was also the first to graduate from being a protege. Even before that, though, Dick was living proof of Bruce Wayne’s surprisingly good parenting skills. If Luthor is the anti-Batman, Dick is the happy one: all of the skills, and better-adjusted.
3. THE JOKER
Created by Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson (Batman #1, Spring 1940)
Conventional wisdom says Batman dealt with his pain through order and structure, but the Joker went with chaos. His scary unpredictability doesn’t come from a twisted altruism, though. He just figures that if the world was allowed to do what it did to him, he can do the same (or worse!) to you — and too bad if you don’t get the joke.
2. SUPERMAN, Kal-L/Kal-El/Clark Kent
Created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster (Action Comics #1, June 1938)
“You’ll believe a man can fly,” they said, and rightly so. Superman is about the almost Quixotic belief that the world can be changed through even one person’s example — which, in the face of apathy and cynicism, is probably on par with three-steps-and-jump! flying. It’s easy to dismiss Superman as Quixote, out of touch and upstaged by more believable superheroes. The never-ending battle sometimes looks like the impossible dream, as well. Therein lies the thrill of realizing what’s in the sky is not a bird, not a plane: it’s him, unstoppable, invincible, out there for you. Does this make Superman Jesus, or even God? No. He’s not the avatar of a movement, just a guy doing the best he can with the gifts he was given. He’s the power lurking behind all our metaphorical glasses. Believe.
1. THE BATMAN, Bruce Wayne
Created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger (Detective Comics #27, May 1939)
There is a tremendous theatricality to Batman’s method which almost suggests showmanship, if not a perverse glee in striking terror among the superstitious and cowardly. If his dirty little secret is that he does, in fact, revel in his work, it must surely be linked to guilt over such pleasure springing from his parents’ deaths. You’d think that kind of internal conflict would be enough, but it only begins to plumb his psychological depths. Here’s a guy who used personal tragedy to squeeze every drop of potential out of his body and mind, dresses as a wayward creature of the night, and still manages to fool polite society into thinking he’s one of them. By making Bruce Wayne a crafty-eyed recluse, Tim Burton took the easy way out. It would be just as simple to dismiss these contradictions as poor character construction — but fans want Batman to make sense, because he’s predicated on believability. So Batman can be a philanthropist, a detective, a scientist, a father, an avenger, and a hairy-chested love god, probably all in the same story. He’s DC’s best character both for the multitudes he contains, and the style with which he pulls it off.
Here’s the list again, with the number of first-place votes in parentheses:
52. Deathstroke the Terminator, Slade Wilson
51. Cyborg, Victor Stone
50. Doctor Fate, Kent Nelson
49. Mister Terrific, Michael Holt
48. The Phantom Stranger
47. Animal Man, Buddy Baker (1)
46. The Green Lantern, Alan Scott
45. Black Adam, Teth-Adam
44. The Sandman, Dream/Morpheus/Oneiros/etc.
43. The Atom, Ray Palmer
41. Adam Strange
40. Jonah Hex (1)
39. The Elongated Man, Ralph Dibny
38. John Constantine (1)
37. Swamp Thing, Alec Holland (1)
36. Hawkman, Carter Hall/Katar Hol
35. Booster Gold, Michael Jon Carter
34. The Spectre, Jim Corrigan
33. Green Lantern/Warrior, Guy Gardner (1)
32. James W. Gordon
31. Mister Miracle, Scott Free
30. Alfred Pennyworth
29. The Flash, Jay Garrick
28. Impulse/Kid Flash, Bart Allen (1)
27. Power Girl, Kara Zor-L/Karen Starr (1)
26. The Question, Vic Sage/Victor Szazs
25. The Flash, Barry Allen (3)
24. Plastic Man, “Eel” O’Brian
22. Blue Beetle, Ted Kord (1)
21. Two-Face, Harvey Dent
20. Zatanna, Zatanna Zatara
19. Robin, Tim Drake
18. Space Cabby (1)
17. Aquaman, Arthur Curry/Orin (1)
16. Catwoman, Selina Kyle (2)
15. Black Canary, Dinah Drake Lance/Dinah Laurel Lance
14. Green Lantern/Parallax/The Spectre, Hal Jordan
13. Starman, Jack Knight (2)
12. Martian Manhunter, J’onn J’onzz (2)
11. Lois Lane (1)
10. Green Arrow, Ollie Queen (1)
9. Captain Marvel, Billy Batson (3)
8. Kid Flash/The Flash, Wally West (4)
7. Batgirl/Oracle, Barbara Gordon
6. Wonder Woman, Diana Prince/Diana of Themyscira
5. Lex Luthor
4. Robin/Nightwing, Richard John “Dick” Grayson (4)
3. The Joker (1)
2. Superman, Kal-L/Kal-El/Clark Kent (15)
1. Batman, Bruce Wayne (27)