Over the past decades, superheroes have become a stable in our society's mythology. Transcendent beings that fight for justice and protect the weak is a concept that has existed since the very beginning of time, with those wearing capes and utility belts having coined a special kind of identity for themselves.
Comic books have brought these characters to life to not only expand our imaginations, but to satiate our appetites for a compelling hero's tale. At this point, there are hundreds of established superheroes out there, but what makes one better than the other? They all tend to vary from their superpowers, personality, backstory, and overall looks, but what criteria would one have to reach to be the best?
Luckily, this list has been compiled to figure out just that. There are levels to this superhero lifestyle, and it's time to weed out the ones that haven't yet paid their dues.
50 Booster Gold
Our first entry on this list tends to make a flashy appearance. This tech genius uses his advanced weaponry to travel through time to take down the forces of evil. Considered a bit of a douchebag at times, other heroes find it difficult to take him seriously, however he's proven himself to be quite capable in times of peril.
49 The Human Torch
Johnny Storm is part of the fantastical superhero team The Fantastic Four and adopted his powers in the same cosmic radiation incident as the rest of his partners. His particular power allows his body to become engulfed in flames along with the ability to project fire and flight. He's the youngest member of the team and his naivety and attraction to the spotlight often makes him fairly unlikable.
Flight is often associated with superheroes, but Carter Hall has made it his identity. Hawkman fights his crime from the skies while sporting a flight harness and a mace. Hall started out as an archaeologist before becoming a reincarnation of the ancient Egyptian Prince Khufu. Hawkman has often been associated with the Justice Society and Justice League.
47 The Falcon
After being saved from Red Skull's captivity by Captain America, Sam Wilson would swear his loyalty as the superhero's lifelong ally. Due to the villain's experimentation, Wilson adopted the ability to speak with birds and later outfitted himself with a flight harness to fight crime from the skies. He was also briefly an Avenger, but quickly left the team after realizing himself to be a “token.”
46 The Atom
Big things often come in small packages with this super genius. Adopting the title from the Golden Age character Al Pratt, Ivy Professor Ray Palmer assumed the role after building a suit that allowed him to shrink to subatomic levels. The Atom suit would allow Palmer to keep his regular mass while in his shrunken form.
Possessing the gift of an iron fist allowed Ted Grant to suit up and take on crime as the vigilante Wildcat. Grant was once a world class champion boxer, but due to the shady underbelly of the sport, he found himself framed for his mentor's murder. He took on the role of vigilante to not only clean the streets but to clear his name. He's been a key member in the Justice Society and has trained many of the key members in hand to hand combat.
44 Black Canary
You'll most likely hear this heroine coming before you feel the heel of her boot. Black Canary is one of the most skilled fighters in the DC Universe and has also inherited the “Canary Cry” ability. This is a high-pitched sonic scream that pierces the eardrums of her victims. She is often seen working alongside the Green Arrow and has been romantically involved with him.
Sometimes anti-heroes make the best superheroes. Selina Kyle has often teetered on both ends of nice and bad kitty, however she has commonly been there to get Batman out of a bind and despite her attitude, she sincerely cares about the well-being of her city. Catwoman is a natural gymnast and has mastered the art of stealth and acrobatics.
As intelligent as he is strong, Hank McCoy has made himself a signature member of the mutant team the X-Men. Hank's mutation has always put him above his peers in terms of physicality, however, after drinking a serum in order to eliminate this trait, it only allowed the mutation to mature as seen with his blue fur. Along with beast-like strength, Hank has adopted animal-like instincts and aggression.
41 Invisible Woman
Now you see her, now you don't. Susan Storm is sister to Johnny Storm, and was also involved in the incident that imbued her brother with superpowers. Her circumstance allowed her the power of invisibility and the projection of force fields. She is often underestimated as a scientific genius, although her experience on the battlefield has boasted her for being quite the tactician.
40 The Thing
Every superhero team needs a muscle. Benjamin Grimm may have suffered the worst mutation due to the cosmic radiation he was exposed to. Along with being granted outstanding strength and resiliency, Grimm has been transformed into a giant rock creature. This has often allowed outsiders to judge him as a cold emotionless individual, but contrarily, he may be the most sympathetic of The Fantastic Four.
39 Black Widow
As lethal as she is beautiful, Natasha Romanova is an extremely talented S.H.I.E.L.D. agent that has managed to tango with some of the most powerful superheroes and villains. Romanova was part of a sleeper agent project and posed as a ballerina for a cover. She is highly skilled in various forms of martial arts as well as advanced weaponry.
38 Iron Fist
After defeating the mystical dragon Shou-Lao the Undying, Daniel Rand was imbued with the powers of the Iron Fist. This not only enhanced his physical prowess, but allowed him to focus his chi into his fists. Realizing the Iron Fist lineage to be his birthright, Rand takes to cleaning up the inner city of New York to avenge his father's murder.
This skilled archer is considered the Marvel Universe's “most skilled marksman,” and for good reason. To cope with the death of his parents, Clint Barton took up the skill of archery as a circus attraction. He finds the Avengers through his infatuation with Black Widow and later aids the superhero group as a skilled crime fighter.
There comes a time when all sidekicks must come into their own. This was at least the case for Dick Grayson, the once trusted Robin. After he and Batman fall out due to a disagreement on how to handle the crime in Gotham, Grayson coins a new persona and takes to the streets himself. Nightwing still regularly collaborates with Batman, but the two now recognize each other as separate entities.
The identity of the bat isn't only exclusive to men. Batman eventually lifts his rule to no females being allowed in the Batcave, after witnessing Commissioner Gordon's daughter Barbara in combat. She was extremely skilled as a vigilante, and proved she's just a capable an asset as intel support when she became a paraplegic.
Not every city is worth saving, but that doesn't stop this mysterious vigilante from doing his duty. In a world where masked vigilantism died, Walter Kovacs takes to the street in nothing but a trenchcoat and an ink-blotted mask. Rorschach stringently believes in good and evil with no gray areas, making his method of crime-fighting a bit punishing and efficient.
Being one of the founding members of the mutant superhero group X-Men has allowed Scott Summers to more than often take the lead. His power to emit optic beams from his eyes may leave him a bit limited, yet his natural born leadership skills and tactical prowess have made him an extremely valuable asset.
Biophysicist Hank Pym invented the technology to shrink people and objects down to the size of an insect. The same technology would soon be used to bring himself to giant size, making him one of the more versatile superheroes on this list. Pym is also known for being one of the founding members of the Avengers.
There's a lot to live up to when you're the genetic clone of Superman and Lex Luthor. Couple that with being a teenager and Connor Kent has it pretty hard. He often tries to hide this insecurity by projecting an air of arrogance about him, however it is evident that he has a long way to go before he becomes anything like his former. He currently serves as an integral part of the Young Justice group.
Much like Superman, Kara Zor-El originated on Krypton, but was sent down to Earth in order to protect her younger cousin. She demonstrates all the same powers and vulnerabilities as Superman, but has inherited an uncontrollable temper that is rarely displayed. She has since become a part of the Justice League and aids Superman whenever she can.
29 Luke Cage
After being framed and arrested for a crime he didn't commit, Luke Cage becomes a subject for a cell regeneration experiment that imbues him with super strength and dexterity. Using his newfound power, Cage breaks out of prison and sets out to find the man that put him in that hellhole. He starts his career as a “hero for hire,” and aids in cleaning up the mean streets of Hell's Kitchen.
Once CIA agent Al Simmons is betrayed and killed by his trusted partner, he finds himself in the presence of the demon Malebolgia, whom he strikes a deal with. In exchange for his soul, the evil being would grant him the ability to return to the world of the living, but Al is tricked and returns as a disfigured creature with demonic powers. In revenge, Spawn challenges the evil forces from Hell and prevents them from wreaking havoc on Earth.
Good luck predicting the weather with this one out and about. Storm is debatably one of the most powerful mutants in the world, as she possesses the power to alter the weather in a variety of ways. Her range includes causing grave natural disasters such as tornadoes and blizzards, to providing rain to an area suffering from drought.
26 Moon Knight
After being granted mystical powers from the Egyptian moon god Khonshu, Marc Spector's natural fighting abilities became synonymous with the phases of the moon. Being already skilled in hand to hand combat as well as various weaponry makes Moon Knight an ideal vigilante, yet his psychological instabilities make it difficult for him to trust others.
25 The Spectre
This hero performs as a cosmic entity that bonds itself to a suitable host. The Spectre's one mission is to serve its relentless vengeance to all forces he deems pure evil. He's notorious for his brutal punishments as his victims usually suffer deaths that match the severity of their crime - or worse. He's most notably been seen to be paired with detective Jim Morrigan, but he's also lived inside various other superheroes.
24 Silver Surfer
Acting as a herald for the intergalactic god Galactus has granted Norrin Radd some of his cosmic powers. The young astronomer from the planet Zenn-La gained the ability to surf the cosmos with a surfboard as well as an impervious metallic body. Upon discovering Earth, the Silver Surfer finds his humanity with the inhabitants and opts to protect it from Galactus' clutches.
23 Captain Marvel
Once this former Air Force pilot's genes become bonded with the Kree alien Mar-Vell, she is soon imbued with its powers. This included flight, super strength, and the ability to project energy blasts from her hands. She has since become a symbol of justice for both Earth and the intergalactic world.
22 Martian Manhunter
Rest assured that this alien comes in peace. After his whole race is eradicated in a holocaust, J'onn finds a home with the inhabitants of Earth. His various martian abilities made him a perfect candidate for the Justice League, in which he has successfully become one of its leading members. He has taken the identity of a police officer for a cover.
21 Doctor Strange
After losing the use of his hands due to a car accident, this cocky neurosurgeon turned to the forces of magic to help save his career. His resilience in mastering the arts soon find him being expertly trained and deemed worthy to don the role of Sorcerer Supreme. His powers would soon transcend time and space, making him one of the most powerful magic users in the Marvel Universe.
20 Green Arrow
Politician and social activist Oliver Queen takes the role of his city's protector when injustice runs rampant. Armed with a bow and his various tech, Green Arrow serves as one of the Justice League's most versatile members. He also leads a team of his own comprised of various vigilantes that go by the name of Team Arrow.
Upon uttering the wizard's name, Billy Batson is transformed into the herculean force of nature formally known as Captain Marvel. After 1953, the superhero was referred to as Shazam due to copyright issues, however the character's identity and likelihood has still remained. Donning a white and gold cape, Shazam is gifted with the power of flight, superhuman strength and speed.
18 Professor X
This powerful mutant is most notable for founding the School for Gifted Youngsters, a secret institution where mutants rejected from society can hone their skills and find solace in a safe haven. He also coined the superhero group the X-Men, and has successfully accomplished enlisting some of the most capable talent the world has ever seen. He himself is a highly advanced telepath, making his skills key in his conquest.
The rightful heir to Atlantis not only commands the seven seas, but possesses incredible powers on both land and sea. He not only has the skill to communicate with the many lifeforms in the ocean, but has acquired superhuman strength from his water adapted physiology. He's also a founding member of the Justice League.
This Hell's Kitchen citizen has turned his greatest weakness into his greatest strength by becoming the world's first blind vigilante. After being blinded by a toxic waste spill, Matt Murdock's vision was taken from him in return for superbly enhanced perception in his other senses. Apart from being trained in the martial arts and various weaponry, Daredevil's acute hearing and sense of awareness now makes him one of the most formidable combatants in the Marvel Universe.
There have been many established Asgardian gods in the Marvel Universe, yet none are as worthy as this blonde superhero. Armed with his enchanted hammer Mjolnir, Thor commands the power of thunder as well as other various weather anomalies. He takes the alias of Donald Blake to hide his true identity among the mortal world and is a founding member of the Avengers.
This primal mutant is among the most well known in his X-Men series. Along with being granted animal-like senses, Logan can summon adamantium claws from his knuckles, and is gifted with an accelerated healing factor that prevents him from aging and becoming permanently injured. With this being the case, Wolverine has exhibited unreal pain tolerance as well as resilience.
13 The Hulk
You may want to avoid getting this one angry. Upon being pushed to his limits, brilliant physicist Bruce Banner transforms into a great green barrage of anger and muscle. His sense of rationale and reasoning is then traded for inhumane strength and invulnerability, which only seems to increase with his rage. He is commonly used as a wild card for the Avengers due to his instability.
Most like their superheroes with a bit of personality; this one might possess a bit too much. Commonly known as the “merc with a mouth,” Wade Wilson is a super soldier that just doesn't know when to shut it. He's immature, wise-cracking, and is never serious, which only adds to his likability. Due to a secret governmental experiment, he is also imbued with a special healing factor that prevents him from dying, so there's also that.
When you've lived in the shadows of Batman for long enough, some of the best superhero tendencies are bound to rub off. While there have been many young vigilantes that have taken on the name, the most notable in this case would have to be Tim Drake, as he co-founded the Young Justice group as well as the Teen Titans after it was disbanded. Tim is also the Robin that took on the Dark Knight's persona the most with his focus on detection skills as well as gadgetry.
10 Green Lantern
In the same fashion as Robin, the Green Lantern title has been passed down for many generations. What each hero has in common is the ring that chose them and deemed them worthy. The Green Lantern summons their power through their own willpower, giving them nearly no limitations to what they can produce. They've also all been signature members of the Justice League.
9 Mr. Fantastic
This superhero's reach in the Marvel Universe stretches much longer than any of his limbs can. Quite often considered to possess the greatest mind in all of the galaxy, it's safe to say that Mr. Reed Richards keeps himself busy. He's also the leader of the Fantastic Four, as well as the researcher responsible for the cosmic radiation accident that imbued them all with otherworldly powers.
8 The Flash
Among the long lineage of speedsters, Barry Allen remains the most definitive and recognizable of them all. After an accident that involved chemicals and a lightning bolt, the police scientist was then granted super speed and cognitive ability. This power soon allows the superhero to travel back in time, as well as between different multiverses. He's also a founding member of the Justice League.
7 Black Panther
The rightful heir to the nation of Wakanda took to his superhero persona after the death of his father. T'Challa is not only considered one of the most skilled member of the Avengers, but the most affluent, as the country of Wakanda houses vibranium, the most valuable substance in the Marvel Universe. This also gains him access to the nation's advanced weaponry and armed forces.
6 Captain America
Not all have the luxury of being born heroes, as some are conceived in a lab. Steve Rogers hasn't always been the virile muscular Captain you see before you, as he started off a frail young U.S. recruit in World War II. Only after undergoing the secret super soldier experiment did Steve don the shield and star-spangled suit. He has since become the leader of the Avengers and protector of justice.
5 Wonder Woman
This Justice League founder has not only managed to become one of the world's most recognizable superheroes, but a symbol for empowered females all over the world. Diana originates from the Amazonian world of Themyscira and is heralded as one of their most prized warriors. She is gifted with a wide array of abilities and weaponry including a sword, lasso of truth, and magical bracelets.
4 Iron Man
This tech billionaire has based his whole superhero career through his genius intellect and insurmountable bank account. The Iron Man suit has arrived in a variety of models over the years, however the signature weapon augments and arc reactor remain in every iteration. Tony Stark acts as the brain that powers the Avengers and provides the group with their most useful gadgets and weapons.
What would a superhero list be without everyone's favorite neighborhood spider? Peter Parker will always be one of the public's most beloved heroes due to his relatability and his underdog story. The bullied high school kid gets bit by a radioactive spider and uses his newfound power to protect his city of Manhattan. It's a classic tale that fans will always be able to get behind.
This iconic figure may be solely responsible for making superheroes what they are meant to be today: a symbol of justice. There may be nothing that this hero can't do, which is what makes the character who he is. Clark Kent has come from another planet to walk among us in secret and protect the world from its various intergalactic threats. He can do no wrong and is the literal representation of hope.
The only thing the world loves more than a perfect hero is one that is tragically imperfect. Bruce Wayne faces any threat no matter how big or small with no super powers or lethal weaponry. He is a tactical genius and has been molded by the corruption of his own city he's sworn to protect. Batman is in itself a criminal's worst nightmare, as he employs fear as his most useful weapon. The world may have never encountered such a multi-faceted hero.