Top 8 superheroes - Clash of the titans

by Jackie Burrell

Contra Costa Times (MCT)

4 August 2008


The cineplex has been filled with superheroes all summer - and last week’s Comic-Con convention fairly brimmed with Caped Crusader wannabes. But how do Hancock and other newfangled heroes compare with the heroes of yesteryear? And what makes a superhero truly super? So, we asked readers to weigh in on the greatest superheroes of all time.

For the last week we’ve reveled in your descriptions of derring-do, awesome superpowers and really great gadgets. We discovered unusual titans - Captain Canuck, anyone? - and waxed nostalgic over Mighty Mouse and Super Chicken. And now we’ve winnowed down the list to the top eight:

From DC Comics’ 1939 Caped Crusader to his current incarnation in “The Dark Knight,” billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne is one dark vigilante. Despite his cool car and remarkable willingness to leap off tall buildings tethered only by a slim cable, Batman possesses no superhuman abilities. That’s what makes readers love him. “Batman can only glide, with the help of his cape,” says Cynthia Wang, a reader from Hercules, Calif. “He can’t blast away mountains just by looking at them and he certainly bleeds when cut. Despite it all, he has achieved superhero status. As Bruce Wayne by day and Batman by night, he serves to be an inspiration for all humans.”

The hero of countless cartoons and his very own 2005 movie, mild-mannered Shoeshine Boy was a lovable, animated dog by day. But when villains appeared, the pup with a penchant for rhymes transformed into Underdog. It was his “sheer awesomeness,” Rachelle Goldenberg says. “You have to admit, ya loved the dog.”

DC Comics and television hero Diana Prince hails from the Amazons of Greek mythology. She could fly, fight off foes and her near-telepathic senses were legendary, but it was those bullet-repelling bracelets that seized readers’ imaginations. Wonder Woman was the best, “Bebemiqui” said in an online posting, “because she got to wear such fun clothing!”

This DC Comics superhero, movie star and small-screen legend (“Smallville” of course) hails from the planet Krypton, but it was his Midwestern upbringing that shaped his character. Now, mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent turns into Superman, the Man of Steel, whenever humanity is threatened. “Hands down the greatest superhero, ever,” says reader Rochelle Nelson. “He exhibited an undying loyalty and devotion to protecting Earth and all those who lived on this planet.”

A demon brought to Earth by Nazis and raised by the U.S. government, Hellboy fights the forces of darkness in graphic novels and onscreen, most recently in this summer’s “Hellboy II: The Golden Army.” But he’s a fan favorite, despite - or perhaps because of - his frightening visage, awesome powers and ties to the occult. “He may seem dark, and evil looking at first,” says David Castro, a 14-year-old fan from Martinez, Calif., “but he is really like most of us at heart. He has pet cats, and likes to eat pizza.” Plus, says David, “He has regenerative powers, overwhelming strength and he fights everything from Nazis to demons. Hellboy is on the top of the food chain when it comes to superheroes.”

A hellish bounty hunter created by Mephistopheles to retrieve damned souls on the American frontier, Ghost Rider went AWOL instead. Fast-forward a few centuries and a new Marvel comics line, and Ghost Rider Johnny Blaze is a motorcycle stunt rider who once more retrieves evil souls, but also protects the innocent. “Ghost Rider is the coolest super hero because he goes around and saves people even though he is from Hell,” says Kaden Baker, age 14. “I sometimes wish that I could ride a flaming chopper and save all humanity from certain death.”

The daughter of a Kenyan tribal princess and an African-American photographer, this member of the mutant X-Men can control the weather, conjure hurricanes and subdue foes. In addition to graphic novels, television episodes and video games, Storm appeared in the three “X-Men” films. It’s her strength and independence that appeals most to reader Barbara Miles. “She is an elemental controller who is one of the few African-American heroes,” she says, “let alone she is a woman.”

In order to save his home planet from destruction, this extraterrestrial astronomer pledged to find sacrificial planets for the powerful cosmic being Galactus to consume. Instead, the Silver Surfer saved Earth with the Fantastic Four. Now the silvery superhero and his light-speed surfboard are exiled here. “He transcends time and space,” writes “John Mc.” “He lives off and controls the Power Cosmic. His power derives from the very fabric of the universe. He has empathy and sympathy. He can survive in a super nova as well as travel through a black hole. His skin is impenetrable as well as his soul. His life is based on a higher ideal. He is more than immortal. ‘Nuff said!”

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