Batman

Batman (Photo by Serge Kutuzov on Unsplash)

DC Comics is an American comic book publisher owned by Warner Brothers. They are one of the most prominent American comic book companies and were first established in 1937. The DC Universe is currently in the planning stages for a wide release of films with James Gunn and Peter Safran at the helm as Co-CEOs of the project with Warner Brothers. Their goal is to create a catalog of films to rival or surpass the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe at Disney. That begs the question, who are the best DC Comics Superheroes and are they ready for mainstream cinematic success?

According to a recent study, when it comes to superhero lore, it certainly seems like it’s good to be bad at the box office. But whatever happened to good, old fashioned truth and justice? Surprisingly, a new study conducted at Ohio State University finds that, while movies that center around anti-heroes and villains seem to thrive in Hollywood, at the end of the day, people still want their heroes to know right from wrong.

Speaking of heroes, Batman is a DC favorite. There is some debate around who played the best Batman our of the many films that have been created. Research shows that while Ben Affleck might be done with superhero movies, at least he’ll be fondly remembered. According to a recent poll, nearly one in three Americans still think he’s the best on-screen Batman. The survey shows he even surpassed Michael Keaton’s favoritism as the Dark Knight.

According to another recent study, your favorite superheroes may put their lives on the line to rid the world of evil, but they might not be the great role models for young children that they’re often made out to be. A new study finds that when it comes to superhero movies, it turns out our revered purveyors of good actually tend to engage in more violent acts than their villainous rivals.

Despite debate, DC is a beloved comic franchise that has fans eagerly waiting for more. All the characters on our top five best DC Superheroes list are instantly recognizable, and in fact many casual fans could potentially name them all in a single breath. Let us know who your favorites are in the comments below!

DC comic books
DC comic books (Photo by Dev on Unsplash)

The List: Best DC Superheroes, According to Comic Fans

1. Batman

Bruce Wayne as Batman is arguably the most recognizable superhero of all time. With major portrayals by no fewer than 13 actors, every generation of Americans has their ‘own’ Batman.  “Batman aka Bruce Wayne is a fictional superhero appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics. The character was created by artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger, and first appeared in “Detective Comics #27”. In film, he has been portrayed by Lewis Wilson, Robert Lowery, Adam West, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Christian Bale and Ben Affleck. He has been voiced by a variety of voice actors, including Olan Soule, Kevin Conroy, Rino Romano, Diedrich Bader, and Jason O’Mara,” says The Top Tens.

Cover of Batman: Year One on Amazon
Cover of “Batman: Year One”

Batman’s status as the greatest of all time is hotly debated. “Even though there will forever be an ongoing debate about who is the better superhero out of Batman and Superman, the movie decided to answer this question for us by seeing Bruce Wayne come up trumps. However, there are many who believe that Batman’s strength, mixed with his tenacity and understanding of the villains he faces puts him above all others in terms of resilience,” adds Beat Boredom.

Perhaps Batman’s greatest appeal is that he is an ordinary person who has honed himself into something greater. “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,” says Hero Machine.

2. Superman

Kal-El of Krypton is the comic book embodiment of heroism known better as Superman. “Making the short list is the iconic superhero who protects peace, justice and the American way of life. The co-creation of an American writer and Canadian artist, Superman did not appear in comic form until 1938’s “Action Comics #1”. The surviving son of Krypton, this alien became mankind’s greatest protector due to the superpowers imbued to him by earth’s yellow Sun. Equally famous is his alter ego Clark Kent, the mild mannered reporter for Daily Planet,” says Watch Mojo.

"All-Star Superman" (2005)
“All-Star Superman” (2005)

First published in 1938, “Superman is the first DC superhero; in fact, he’s the first superhero ever. Action Comics #1 started a revolution, creating an entirely new character. Superman took inspiration from the myths of old and science fiction, molding them together. He quickly became the most popular hero, and it is arguable that he still is; the big yellow and red S is recognized the world over. Simply put, there are no superheroes without Superman. DC never becomes a powerhouse and jump-starts superhero comics by starting the Silver Age. Without that, there is no Marvel Universe, as Lee and Kirby have nothing to pattern their stories after. Superman’s existence is the whole reason every superhero exists,” writes CBR.

Perhaps Superman’s enduring appeal is that the audience can aspire to his iconic traits of Truth, Justice, and the American way. “The Son of Krypton is one of the most famous characters that’s become synonymous with the word ‘superhero’ in general. Clark Kent’s story as Superman is a timeless one of how good humanity can collectively be. It’s also a celebration of embracing people of all walks of life, as despite being a Kryptonian, Superman represents the purest form of what it means to be human as a true ‘Man of Tomorrow.’ He’s the embodiment of what people should strive to be, while still being a compelling character that suffers and triumphs through his trials and flaws. Superman also completes a great friendship and dynamic with Batman in the comics, which is often the central focus in titles such as World’s Finest and events like Kingdom Come,” says Screen Rant.

3. Wonder Woman

Rounding out the so-called “Big Three” of the DC universe is Princess Diana of Themyscira also known as Wonder Woman. “A literal goddess. A feminist icon, to the extent that when her solo movie came out in 2017, people debated whether it somehow ‘failed’ because she couldn’t represent every feminist viewpoint on Earth. (She obviously can’t, but that’s kind of the point.) Created in 1941 as a unique combination of utopian hero and fetish character, her long career covers everything from Greek mythology to political allegory to conventional superhero team adventures. She’s also canonically queer—something it took DC Comics several decades to admit out loud,” says Daily Dot.

"Wonder Woman Agent of Peace 1: Global Guardian"
“Wonder Woman Agent of Peace 1: Global Guardian”

Wonder Woman has a rich publication history that began during World War 2 and continues today. “Among the very first female superheroes, Wonder Woman has been a DC icon ever since her 1940 debut. She was created by the same psychologist who invented the polygraph test, which explains the magical ‘Lasso of Truth’ she wields alongside her unbreakable gauntlets and her Amazonian strength. Wonder Woman has been a founding member of the Justice League in just about every incarnation of the DCU. She’s as strong as Superman and as fierce as Batman. She’s been a feminist icon for decades, long before she starred in one of the most successful superhero movies of all time. Everyone, regardless of gender or background, can admire Wonder Woman’s strength and compassion for humanity,” points out IGN.

Wonder Woman is an important character that gave representation to women and underrepresented communities in a time when these were not even thought of as a relevant consideration. “Wonder Woman is one of the most recognizable female heroes of all time, having been created by William Moulton Marston in 1941. The Amazon princess is a symbol of strength, justice, and feminism, and her impact on popular culture cannot be overstated. Wonder Woman has appeared in numerous comics, movies, TV shows, and other media, and her influence can be seen in the representation of female characters in comics and other media,” writes Freshers Live.

4. The Flash

Unlike the other characters on this list, many characters have held the title of The Flash in comic book continuity. The first of the many versions of this character is described as follows, “The Flash is a fictional superhero appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics. His first appearance was in October 1956 and was created by Robert Kanigher. His main ability is super speed through the Speed Force and can run at speeds exceeding light,” says The Top Tens.

The Flash: Fastest Man Alive cover on Amazon
“The Flash: 80 Years of the Fastest Man Alive”

However, one version of The Flash has surpassed all others to be considered the most iconic version of the character. “His name is Barry Allen, and he is the fastest man alive. Although he wasn’t the first DC character to go by the moniker The Flash (that would be Jay Garrick), Barry Allen is by far the most iconic incarnation of the scarlet speedster. He debuted in 1956 and was a founder member of the Justice League. He was involved in numerous massive storylines, including Crisis On Infinite Earths and Flashpoint. John Wesley Shipp played Barry Allen in CBS’ 1990 TV series The Flash. Grant Gustin then played Barry Allen in The CW’s 2014 TV series, also called The Flash, with Shipp in the cast as his dad. And in Batman V Superman and Justice League, Ezra Miller was established as the DCEU’s version of Barry Allen. Gustin’s series is still going (with the current season moving away, finally, from the ‘speedster villain’ formula) and Miller is getting a solo movie soon (although it’s yet to nail down a director). Barry Allen works well as a character for numerous reasons. His day job as a forensic scientist means he’s always close to the action, and his super-speedy skillset creates all manner of storytelling possibilities (including time travel and alternate dimensions). Geoff Johns’ 2009 run in the comics also set some vital new groundwork, establishing a tragic backstory involving Barry’s mother,” explains Den of Geek.

Barry Allen as The Flash is a pivotal character in the on-going narrative of the DC universe. “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,” adds Hero Machine.

5. Nightwing/Robin

Dick Grayson is The Batman’s original Robin who later became his own hero called Nightwing. In the comics, characters seemingly don’t age, seldom change, and can even come back to life. So it is quite rare to come across a character like Nightwing. “It might not be a widely-known fact but Nightwing is actually the graduated version of Batman’s old sidekick, Robin. The other interesting thing about him is that none of his powers are superhuman, just very well practiced: he is an extraordinary acrobat, martial artist and master of stealth, to name a few of his many talents,” says Beat Boredom.

Cover of Nightwing Leaping Into The light on Amazon
“Nightwing: Leaping Into The Light”

As seen in both current comic book publications as well as numerous television programs Dick Grayson is a leading hero. “Nightwing is basically DC’s main character, taking his place at the top of the pecking order. Dick Grayson is a very important character to DC and comic history. He’s the first kid sidekick, and every sidekick after him owes him a debt of gratitude. He founded the Teen Titans, easily the most important teen superhero team, with New Teen Titans the only book to rival Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men in the 80s. For over eighty years, Dick Grayson has grabbed readers as Robin, Nightwing, and Batman. He’s a character with a massive legacy, as every Robin that came after him has been in his shadow even beyond his place as the first sidekick. He’s also the first sidekick to take on his own independent identity,” mentions CBR.

In fact, returning to the narrative status quo via story reset is so common in comic books that Nightwing stands alone as a unique and evolving character. “Dick Grayson began his life as the original Robin, a young orphan who grew up in a family of circus acrobats. As the quintessential sidekick, his early years were characterized by the Boy Wonder moniker and ‘Holy smokes!’ one-liners in the 1960s Batman show. Then, his role went in a decidedly unexpected direction. After the influential Crisis on Infinite Earths storyline of the mid-1980s, Dick Grayson struck out alone as the superhero Nightwing, a charming vigilante who evolved into a senior member of the Bat-family. And, let’s be real, he became a sex symbol for many DC fans. Dick also replaced Bruce Wayne as Batman for a while, but for the most part, he’s now known as Nightwing,” raves Daily Dot.

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About Alan Corona

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