National Superhero Day lands on 28th April. Superheroes are loved by many. Comic books have an extensive and elaborate history where there are literally thousands of superheroes to choose from. The superhero genre has long been popular and of course in the last decade has really taken off, with a lot of films being some of the most profitable in the industry. Now, to celebrate this super day and in light of the further recent increase in superhero films and shows, from WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier to Thunder Force and the upcoming Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, I’ve listed my top 10 favourite superheroes. The majority of these are based on the films they are in but will also talk about their comic book and other versions if necessary.
It was a tough decision to whittle it down from a much longer shortlist so some that missed out on a spot include Black Panther, Professor X, Captain Marvel, Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, Hancock (great Will Smith film), Kick-Ass, and Catwoman (no, NOT Halle Berry’s dreadful version).
A superhero that balances the struggles of being a normal human and being descended from underwater royalty, Aquaman has a lot on his plate. His powers of underwater adaptability are impressive and his ability to communicate with all aquatic life is cool but its the power he has when he’s in possession of the Trident of Poseidon, one of DC’s most powerful weapons, that makes him a formidable superhero.
9) Wonder Woman
Practically perfect in every way, Wonder Woman’s strengths and abilities make her a fearsome opponent against many, including those with superpowers beyond ones she has. In hand-to-hand combat and a weapons-based battle, she is pretty much unbeatable. Her use of the Lasso of Truth as both a truth extractor and a weapon, as well as her indestructible bracelets, are not to be underestimated.
Although Halle Berry’s portrayal of Storm in the X Men films is much to be desired (especially in the first one with one of the worst lines in a film ever – “Do you know what happens to a toad when it’s struck by lightning? The same thing that happens to everything else…”), her comic book counterpart is a far more powerful mutant than the films creators allowed her to be on screen. With the abilities to control and manipulate any type of weather, temperature, atmospheric pressure and lightning, her powers are practically limitless and potentially almost world-destructive. In the films she showcases glimpses of what she is capable of, but her offensive skills are put to much greater use in the comics and the classic animated TV show: as Wolverine and Storm both say in X-Men: The Last Stand, “the best defence is a good offence”.
7) The Incredibles
A slight cheat since they are 5 superheroes but The Incredibles are a team that work well with their individual powers against any foe. Mr Incredible’s superhuman strength is nothing unique in itself but in the films, it appears he could easily out-hulk The Hulk and all other super-strong heroes. Elastigirl’s elasticity is extremely diverse and adaptable, from stretching for what seems like forever to inflating to a parachute or speedboat. Dash, again, is not much different to say, The Flash, but his speed is no doubt extremely useful, while Violet’s invisibility may not seem as beneficial but her force fields have the potential to be that and more if she trained harder. And well, Jack-Jack’s multitude of powers could be the filling to the holes in the rest of the team when up against different opponents.
6) Jean Grey/The Phoenix
Jean Grey’s powers have unlimited and untapped potential. Telepathy and telekinesis together are a strong and useful combination. But as the unpredictable, ancient cosmic entity “The Phoenix Force”, she is considered by many to be the most powerful and deadliest mutant of all. Although X-Men: The Last Stand was not well-received by critics and fans, I quite liked how Jean Grey’s transformation into The Phoenix was done. Unfortunately, while many anticipated a better retelling with Dark Phoenix, the vast majority were rightfully left even more disappointed, since it was practically the same story with different actors. The Phoenix Force’s even more enhanced telekinesis and telepathic control, as well as the abilities to manipulate atomic structures, absorb energy and life force from others, carry out acts of cosmic level destruction, and resurrect herself (to name just a few), mean her talents may even surpass that of The Scarlet Witch’s. There are many heated debates about who would win in a one-on-one fight between the two and the arguments often lead to an extremely close call, though it must be noted Jean and The Phoenix are not the same entity or person in the comics.
A classic superhero with all the basic superhero abilities, such as superhuman strength, speed and senses, expert hand-to-hand combat skills, flight, accelerated healing, and the lesser-used abilities (that are never or rarely portrayed on screen), which include the fantasy superhero ability of x-ray vision and superhuman breath – Superman is a standard choice for a lot of people. He’s one of very few superheroes to have a weakness (to Kryptonite) and yet still remains one of the hardest to best.
Spider-Man is catching up with Superman in terms of the number of times his character has been reincarnated and rebooted for films, with three different live-action Hollywood versions across seven standalone films plus appearances in three MCU films in the last twenty years alone, as well as the critically-acclaimed Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse from 2018. Spider-Man is a geeky, cheeky, down-to-earth, cool but not-cool-in-school guy who was once an average teenage boy, which is probably why he is so well-liked by and relatable to younger comic book and superhero fans. His array of web shooting abilities allow for death and gravity-defying stunts that make the powers of most other superheroes look boring and tame in comparison.
As the God of Thunder (or Asgardian in the Marvel universe), Thor is one few superheroes who is basically immortal, which makes him stand out from the rest already with just that. His weapon, Mjolnir (Thor’s hammer), is possibly the best weapon of any superhero, simply because only he (and an extremely small number of others) can yield and wield it. Via the hammer, Thor’s abilities increase dramatically, for it can absorb energy and life forces, and cause major destruction with blasts and gravitational forces, as well as lightning, among other things. As the only one worthy enough to truly use it and being the God that he is, Thor is one to worship and not mess with it.
2) Captain America
This is Steve Rogers as Captain America taking second place, but after watching The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, The Falcon’s incarnation as Captain America should get a special mention. Sam Wilson embodies and respects the same ideals Steve had in the role, while also making history when he took it on. Rogers was not just a super soldier with great superhuman abilities, he was a good man: moral, gentlemanly, good-natured, optimistic, and diplomatic. His iconic shield is testament to his legacy as well as a brilliant defensive and offensive weapon, thanks to the vibranium material it is made out of (in the MCU, at least).
1) Wanda/(The) Scarlet Witch
Wanda Maximoff takes the crown as the reigning superhero in my list. As a character she is multi-dimensional. With ties to evildoing (Black Magic) and other villains (Ultron), to stories which told of the deeds she committed for the bad side (whether unintentionally or reluctantly or not), being experimented on when younger which enhanced her magical powers and affected her mentally, and being part of the Avengers fighting against the bad guys, she is both a complicated and conflicted individual; a former super villain turned superhero with sometimes antihero qualities. As the Scarlet Witch (often thought of as a mutant in line with the X-Men, her powers are practically limitless. In her younger years, in early publications and the first MCU films, her powers of telekinesis, mind control, energy blasts, and “hexing” were damaging in themselves. But as she matured and learnt, these powers grew stronger and she showcased them more often – who else was that close to besting Thanos in Infinity War and Endgame without anyone else’s help? Of course, comic book fans knew she was capable of even more destructive power – “Chaos Magic” – and in WandaVision we saw that come to life. She is able to warp reality, create massive energy and force fields, and control the minds of hundreds of people instantaneously. Witchcraft and magical abilities of course basically make one unbeatable and allow them to possess every imaginable power possible, making Wanda/Scarlet Witch ultimately the best (as fan theories suggest, Wanda could beat Jean Grey but The Scarlet Witch may find herself out of her depth against The Phoenix Force).
So, that’s it, my top 10 favourite superheroes! You may wonder why, despite me being an advocate for diversity and Asian representation, Shang-Chi or other Asian and East Asian superheroes didn’t make the cut. Firstly, I chose superheroes with at least some superhuman abilities. Shang-Chi is a master martial artist and a master of chi (not the same thing, by the way) and if I’m honest, not a superhero I have studied and researched enough to know much about and have an affinity with. Whether the film will give him more abilities and make him a character I like – and not just because of his ethnicity – is something we’ll all have to wait and see. Secondly, because of the limited number of Asian superheroes, especially those who had more publications and publicity and failed to be turned into big TV or film productions, I was – like many – not introduced to them until later years, and like with Shang-Chi I have not been able to grow to like them as superheroes.
As I’ve said before, there are of course other East Asian and Asian superheroes with true superhuman powers. Here are a few that are Chinese, for starters: Aero (aerokinetic powers), Collective Man (five brothers with different abilities who are able to merge into a single being), Wong (from Doctor Strange, possessing magical powers – in my top 20 but didn’t make the top 10 due to being more a sidekick), and Jubilee (X-Men – has the power to generate pyrotechnic energy plasmoids from her hands, among other abilities). From DC Comics there is Atom (size-shifting abilities – portrayed by actor Zheng Kai in 2017’s Justice League but had his scenes sadly cut), The Great Ten (various powers), and Grace Choi (superhuman strength). The Green Turtle (no superhuman abilities or special powers) was published by Rural Home Publications in the 1940s and is known as the first Asian American superhero, but unsurprisingly faced problems being marketed as an overtly Chinese superhero or character.
Who are your favourite superheroes? And what are your thoughts on my top 10? Let me know in the comments below!