Predictability in the Marvel Kingdom of Comics

In a recent survey of 1400 respondents, the pollsters at Comic Book Resources reported that the the votes for the Top 3 Marvel comic book characters of all time are … #1 – Spider-man (of course, any doubts really?) … and then it all goes to hell. Who’s #2? – Captain America. Really? (OK, we suppose if you look across the entire spectrum the Super Soldier’s comic career, the Cap has some legs; not many characters in the House of Ideas can boast about 70 years of longevity). … And then – the big “whaaa?!” moment: #3 is … wait for it … Thor. Yes, the Norse God of Thunder. The handsome Aryan diety-dude with the long hair and big hammer and feathers on his helmet. Not that we don’t think Thor has some merit if compared to, say, The Purple Man or Dazzler (sorry Dazzler, it’s not fair to be grouped with Purple Man but you are kind of useless; pretty but useless). But, c’mon.

Top 3 Vote GettersUnfortunately, there is a predictability factor that makes these types of polls irrelevant. Take us back two years and we will lay odds that Thor doesn’t even crack the Top 10. Why? Because Thor owns a very small slice of the Marvel Story and his own backstory resonates more with the DC Universe than it does with the mere mortal riddled costumed heroes and villians of the Marvel Universe. Thor’s an odd character to begin with. Spidey’s abilities are unusual and he may take on some weird baddies, but outside of the webslinger role, he’s a regular guy with regular problems. We can all relate to a degree to his personal joys and foibles. His allies and enemies are mostly from our realm. Most of the best Marvel heroes are like Spider-man … humans. Humans with special abilities but human enough.

Thor? He comes from a place most people don’t even read about in literature. It’s one thing to link into Greek or Roman mythology but who knows anything about Asgard and Odin except old Sven Skarsgard and he’s not really the best guy to ask since he piddles his adult incontinence products (read: big diapers) and yells indiscriminately at squirrels and birds during his mid-day outdoor time.

Thor by Simonson
Don't ask.

So why Thor now? Because of a movie. Because people live in the moment and cultish fans tend to skew rational analysis. That explains why a movie like Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace started with around 8.0 IMDB rating before finally settling into the mid 6’s. So, because Thor gets a movie (we suppose he was next on the list since most of the big ones have been done – but where’s the love for Moon Knight or Dr. Strange, by the way? Just kidding – “Hellstorm: Son of Satan” should be next. Just kidding about that too. Silver Sable and Spiderwoman teaming up would be the cat’s meow (especially if it included the Black Cat) [where were we? …] is a moderate success at the theater, it’s on people’s minds and it doesn’t take much imagination to get to … “Yeah, Thor. I would say Thor. ‘Cuz Thor is so … awesome. And I like Nordic-looking men with big muscles that talk funny. Did I mention the muscles?” One could argue, and we will, that the same phenomenon is what put Captain America at number two. Although, there is no question the Big Red White and Blue deserves to much higher than Thor.

Captain America in the 1940's
Captain America is over 70 years old!

Having said that – what the hell is “Top 3” anyway? Depends on how you define it, but for us, “top” mean the characters that would leave the biggest holes in the Marvel Universe if they ceased to exist.

So, what’s our top 3? Like we said, Spider-man is #1. You don’t even need to like him, but he’s untouchable. He’s just simply the essence of Marvel Comics and is an icon of what made comic characters become so accessible during the Silver Age. Moving on to #2 … X-Men (that’s not cheating; the X-Men are a team first and individual characters after). Their absence would destroy a very large chunk of the Marvel Story. Yes, there are many of them but that’s the point. Collectively, the theme of human mutants is singular and very deeply entangled into what Marvel wants to tell us.

Wolverine X-MenAnd lastly, #3 … Wolverine. Now bear with us. The reason Wolverine above other pillars of the Universe is because he has never lost momentum since being introduced in the late 1970’s. The Hulk has seen his ups and downs and it’s hard to get past “Hulk Smash” no matter how many story forms he comes in; Iron Man just never climbed up to the top (although he had great potential really, so we’re not quite sure what happened); other X-Men haven’t had as much success, and teams like the Fantastic Four and Avengers have had big dry spells. But Wolverine appeals. He slides very easily into other heroes stories and does so with amazing frequency. He has a complicated past which creates a wealth of opportunities to write a bunch of sideline stories. Wolverine will never be close to #1 but he deserves his position.

Marvel Comics DaredevilIf we were voting from our own bias, however, Daredevil would be right up there. Daredevil is like a gritty, more adult version of Spiderman. His backstory is relevant, especially with Frank Miller’s tinkering, and the cast of cohorts and villains is rich and diverse. The Man Without Fear is a troubled man and his drama creates interest outside the costume. Thor? Again, not so accessible. So while Daredevil won’t take the third spot, he’s still ahead of The Hulk, Iron Man, and Captain America in our books.

And there you go.

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