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Thursday, January 1, 2015

MY TOP 30 GREATEST SUPER HEROES OF ALL TIME


MY TOP 30 GREATEST 
SUPER HEROES OF ALL TIME


By
John "THE MEGO STRETCH HULK" Cimino 

No matter how you spell it, a "Super Hero," "Super-Hero," "Superhero" or "Supa Dupa" (as I like to call them) is a male or female hero character that can do extraordinary things. They have incredible talents, skills, instincts, and supernatural phenomena or superhuman powers that they use to protect the public from the forces of evil. And they do so without reaping any benefits, rewards or personal gain - they do it simply because it's the right thing to do.

While terms such as masked vigilantes, costumed crime-fighters, capes, etc. are sometimes referred to these characters, the general population universally recognizes them as super heroes. And while they mostly originate from comic books, they can come from all forms of fiction and fantasy, including novels, pulps, cartoons, movies and mythology. By most definitions, these characters don't need a costume or superhuman powers to be deemed worthy of the title (at least to me). They just need a unique look and the inner will to go above and beyond the limits of their fellow man in hopes to defend the weak, protect the innocent and inspire the young.

While the word "super hero" dates back to 1917, it was the 1903 play The Scarlet Pimpernel and its spin-offs that popularized the idea of a masked avenger that fought crime and corruption. Shortly afterward, masked and costumed pulp-fiction characters such as Zorro (1919) and comic-strip heroes such as the Phantom (1936) began appearing (although they didn't possess any superhuman powers). There were non-costumed characters as well that had some forms of super-strength or powers such as Nyctalope (1909), Patoruzú (1928), Popeye the Sailor (1929), and Hugo Danner (1930). But both tracks came together in super-powered, costumed heroes such as Ōgon Bat (1930) and eventually the greatest example of all; Superman (1938), who changed the game forever and defined the word "super hero" into what we recognize today. 

Ever since the Man of Steel hit the scene, more and more super heroes emerged cast in his image (as well as his attitude and stature). While these new characters may have had different approaches and reasons to fight off the bad guys, they all shared the common principle in doing what is right and protecting those in need because they had the ability to do so. These "super" characters inspired children more than any of the others before simply because they had more flash and balls (NUFF SAID)!

My first experience with super heroes wasn't from comic books, it was from two cartoons; The Super Friends (1973-1986) and Spider-man (1967). I would become so enchanted by them that I would run home from elementary school every day just to catch a glimpse of them on the tube. Eventually comic books and other cartoons and TV shows got into the mix and expanded my awareness of these great characters -- I've been an addict ever since. To this day, I've been fortunate enough to build a life around super heroes by starting my own comic and collectible business known as Saturday Morning Collectibles (as well as putting on seminars on the subject of collecting super hero stuff), and writing for TwoMorrows Publishing. So yeah, all that useless information my mother told me to forget about wasn't so useless after all.

So, if I'm such an obsessive fanboy on these characters, who are the super heroes that have inspired me and captured my imagination the most? Well, because this is my blog (about super heroes) and I love to constantly talk and write (about super heroes), I might as well tell you who are my favorite (yup, you guessed it) super heroes. And because I got so much love in my heart for these imaginary characters (I like to call them friends), I couldn't come up with just my typical top 5, 10, 15, 20 or even 25 list. This time I'm going all out and listing a "Supa Dupa" top 30 list!! If that's not enough, I'll also write a little bit about why they meant so much to me. Who knows, maybe you'll agree, maybe you won't, maybe you'll even be shocked at some of the characters listed, but either way it'll be fun. Alright readers, here are the greatest super heroes ever to influence the ol' Mego Stretch Hulk himself into what he is today -- for better or worse... 
 


30.) WOLVERINE


SNIKT!! Created by Roy Thomas, Len Wein, Johnny Romita and Herb Trimpe; Wolverine is a mutant who possesses animal-keen senses, enhanced physical capabilities, and a healing factor that allows him to recover from virtually any wound, disease, or toxin at an accelerated rate. It also slows down his aging process and enabled him to survive having the near-indestructible metal adamantium bonded to his skeleton. Wolverine is a no-nonsense, tough, anti-authoritative hero with a willingness to use deadly force to get the job done. He is an absolutely ferocious opponent who will sometimes lapse into a "Berserker Rage" while in combat. He is highly intelligent, fluent in various languages and an expert in multiple types of weapons, vehicles, computer systems, explosives, and assassination techniques. Due to his extensive training as a soldier, CIA operative, samurai, and spy he is almost unmatched in hand-to-hand combat, having mastered virtually every fighting style on Earth. He is also well versed in pressure points and the art of espionage. Basically Logan is a complete killer. I must admit that he has become extremely over-hyped and overexposed throughout the years that at times his toughness and powers have gotten out of control. Yup, Wolverine is the poster boy for what popularity can do to a character, especially if they get popular enough to become a company icon. I'm not as much of a fan of the character today as I was back in the 70's because ever since the mid 80's he has been progressively written to be more and more powerful. I think this is a shame because he was so much cooler as a fearless, tough street-level hero (who got his ass-kicked, but never backed down) and not the Super-Heavyweight among the likes of Superman, Thor and the Hulk (who kicks the crap out of everyone) that he has become today. Honestly, I think it's ridiculous. I continually to have a love/hate relationship with this character and the main reason he comes in at number 30.

 
29.) BABY PLAS


Baby Plas??? Yup. Baby Plas. This little guy is the first of many strange entries when deciding my favorite super heroes ever. And the only reason why he is ranked as low as 29 is because it's kinda questionable if the little bastard can even be considered as a super hero at all. But yes, it's true; Baby Plas is and will always be an absolute favorite of mine and without a doubt the best of the Plastic family. Come to think of it, I'm not even that big of a fan of his dadda Plastic Man so it fascinates me why I love his "bouncin' baby boy" so much. Debuting in The Plastic Man Comedy/Adventure Show cartoon that ran from 1979 to 1981; the show features many adventures in different segments: Plastic Man, Baby Plas, Plastic Family, Mighty Man and Yukk, Fangface and Fangpuss, and Rickety Rocket. The show was later repackaged in 1984 and renamed The Plastic Man Comedy Show and featured a live-action "Plastic Man" segment. Baby Plas were solo adventures about Plastic Man and Penny's baby son (voiced by Clare Peck) and the daily hijinks the little shit would get into. Many would consider Baby Plas as a "throw away" character to be stuck in 80's toon trash (maybe alongside the likes of Scrappy Doo and Gary Coleman), but the little turd fought against the naysayers and reappeared in the Batman: Brave and the Bold episode Long Arm of the Law in 2009. Who says this little baby booboo doesn't have some staying power? He's stayed in my heart ever since the beginning... so here's to you little guy... gooogoo... gaaagaaa... 


28.) RORSCHACH


Rorschach from The Watchmen is an intense character created by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons based on a hybrid combination of the Steve Ditko characters; the Question and Mr. A. (but with a more psychotic edge). Rorschach is extremely right-winged, and morally uncompromising, a viewpoint that has alienated him from the rest of society. He presents his views on right and wrong as starkly black and white with no room for compromise and he has little tolerance for anyone who doesn't do the same. Despite his mental instability, he is extremely intelligent and is described as being tactically brilliant. Not many comic characters have ever been written this deep and complex so Rorschach can be pretty hard to ignore. And if you mix him in with a story as great as The Watchmen, then that impression can be unforgettable.


 27.) METEOR MAN


Birdman and the Galaxy Trio debuted on Saturday mornings in the fall of 1967 and ran until 1969. It consisted of two segments of Birdman with The Galaxy Trio segment sandwiched in-between them. While Birdman was the star of the cartoon and was a great character in his own right, it was the super team of the Galaxy Trio that made the biggest impression on me as a kid. It was about the adventures of three extraterrestrial super heroes, Vapor Man, Meteor Man, and Gravity Girl, who basically patrolled space in their cruiser Condor One while maintaining order and fighting evildoers in the name of the Galactic Patrol law enforcement agency. While all three of the characters looked cool as hell (designed by Alex Toth), it was Meteor Man (voiced by Ted Cassidy) that was without a doubt my favorite of the team. He was a native of the planet Meteorus and had the ability to increase or decrease the size of any part of his body as well as gain superhuman strength in any limb that he chooses to enlarge. He basically kicked major ass and looked really good doing it.


26.) CAPTAIN MARVEL JR.


As a member of the Marvel Family, Captain Marvel Jr. was Freddy Freeman, a crippled newsboy saved by Captain Marvel from the villainous Captain Nazi. While the wizard Shazam couldn't help Freeman's broken body it was Captain Marvel himself, who bestowed some of his power into Freddy. Now by saying the name "Captain Marvel," Freddy is transformed into the teenaged Captain Marvel Jr. with immeasurable power. But unlike Captain Marvel and Mary Marvel, Junior remained a teenager in his transformed state and is credited as being the very first legit teen super hero that wasn't considered a sidekick. Yup. He came years before Superboy appeared on the scene and was the character that made teen heroes stand on their own and be cool. So cool, in fact, that Elvis Presley was such a big fan of Captain Marvel Jr. that he styled his trademark haircut, stage outfits, white scarfs (Freddy Freeman always wore a long white scarf) and his world famous TCB logo (with a Marvel-esque lightning bolt insignia) after him. I guess it doesn't get any cooler than that? Elvis' childhood collection of Captain Marvel Jr. comic books still sits in the attic at Graceland, with a copy of Captain Marvel Jr. #51 (1947) placed on the desk in the recreation of his childhood room.


 25.) THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER


Ranking in at number 25 is the enigmatic Unknown Soldier. He is a special case in this ranking because I never read any of his comics and I don't know much about him other than the fact he was a master of disguise U.S. intelligence agent in WWII. But the moment I saw him when I was a young kid rummaging through my older brothers comics, I became absolutely intrigued by him (especially from the cover of issue #236). He exemplified what a mysterious cool character was supposed to look like and pulled it off so much better than Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow from G.I. Joe or Rorschach from The Watchmen (who ranked in at number 28 on this list). And he did it without any flash whatsoever, just the basic torn army fatigues and a bandaged up face (I love how they would dangle from his head). Even to this day, every time I see the character (especially going through the back issue bins) there is something about him that always draws me in and has made him one of my all time favorites. 


24.) GLOOP & GLEEP


The Herculoids cartoon premiered in 1967 (a 2nd series came in 1981 under the Space Stars adventure show) and was basically about the family of Zandor, Tara, and their son Dorno with their creature companions known as the Herculoids living on the planet Amzot (or Quasar depending on which cartoon series you're watching). Essentially every episode was about some type of villainous outer space characters coming to their planet and then getting their asses kicked by the Herculoids and made to leave. To be honest, I'm not sure every visitor was a bad guy, but they got their asses kicked nonetheless and booted from the planet just the same. It was brilliant! As great as that concept was, my interest always centered on the fantastical Herculoid creatures; Zok (giant flying Dino-dragon), Igoo (giant rock gorilla), Tundro (giant 10 legged rhino) and my favorites Gloop (the big one) and Gleep (the small one). These two cute protoplasmic creatures were awesome! They were able to absorb and deflect energy blasts and stretch into just about anything they wanted. But the absolute best part was their voices (done by Don Messick) and the main reason they are ranked on this list. Every time they stretched, they seemed to say something to the extent of "Gagagagagagagagagagaga" and for some reason Zandor and the bunch knew what the hell they were saying. Come to think of it, they understood what all the Herculoids said. Like I said before... brilliant.


23.) CAPTAIN CAVEMAN


Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels (1977) centers around the mystery-solving adventures of the Teen Angels; Brenda, Dee Dee, Taffy and their friend Captain Caveman (or Cavey for short), a prehistoric caveman whom the girls discovered and thawed from a block of ice (that origin is pure poetry to me). The concept and general plot for the cartoon was a mixture of Charlie's Angels, Scooby-Doo Where Are You, and Josie and the Pussycats. Sure, this cartoon was great, but it was the personality and antics of Captain Caveman that I loved the most and make him come in at number 23 on this list. He was a wild character that had superhuman strength, a variety of useful objects hidden inside his fur, and a club that allowed him to fly and pop out different tools he used to fight crime with. He had a trademark battle cry of "Captain CAAAAAVEMAAAAAAANNNN!" when he jumped into action that is quite legendary among cartoon catch phrases. He spoke in stereotypical "caveman-talk," replacing subject pronouns with their object equivalents and dropping articles such as "the" (for example, "Me know where bad guys are hiding."), and often mumbled the nonsensical phrase "Unga Bunga." Cavey also had a bad habit of occasionally eating large non-food objects in one gulp (i.e. bicycles, TV sets, safes, table lamps, etc.), and the Teen Angels occasionally had to stop him from eating potential clues that would help them solve the mystery. It was incredible!


22.) THUNDARR THE BARBARIAN


Without a doubt one of the greatest cartoons ever produced was Thundarr the Barbarian (1980). It was directly inspired by the likes of Kamandi the Last Boy on Earth, Tarzan, Star Wars, Flash Gordon and Frank Frezetta paintings. It was designed by legendary creators Alex Toth and Jack Kirby and is considered one of the first Saturday morning cartoons to be geared towards adults (the reason why it got cancelled in 1981 was due to its violence). The world is set in a future (3994 AD) post-apocalyptic wasteland divided into kingdoms or territories -- the majority of which are ruled by wizards. All this was caused by the passage of a runaway planet between the Earth and the Moon in 1994, which caused radical changes in the Earth's climate, geography and tidal effects. However, 2,000 years later, the Earth was reborn into a world of "savagery, super-science, and sorcery." Thundarr (voiced by Robert Ridgely), was a rugged barbarian warrior who was strongly akin to the characters, Thor (from Marvel Comics) and Conan the Barbarian in which made him an instant favorite of mine. In the cartoon, Thundarr and his companions, Princess Ariel and Ookla the Mok traveled the world on horseback, battling evil wizards who combine magical spells with technologies from the pre-catastrophe world. Thundarr's weapon, the Sunsword (which only he can use properly), projects a blade-like beam of energy when activated and can cut through almost anything. 


21.) MARGWAT THE MORIGUNAMACHAMAIN


Margwat the Morigunamachamain or simply "The Morigu" is in my opinion, one of the greatest fantasy super hero characters ever written. And the story of the Morigu could have been the greatest fantasy epic of all time - if it was finished. That's right folks, this fantasy epic was suppose to be 4 novels long, but the writer Mark C. Perry only wrote 2 of them (Morigu: The Desecration in 1986 and Morigu: The Dead in 1990) and sadly never finished the rest. To make matters worse, Mark passed away in 2013 so fans are left with only a glimpse of the greatness of what this legend could've been. Regardless, the star character is the barbaric elf known as Margwat, the last and most powerful Morigunamachamian of the Shee who was a magic-fueled, angst-ridden, rage-filled, magnificently-tragic hero that had the fate of the world on his shoulders. One of the most memorable moments of the series was when the Morigu rode alone onto the battlefield and faced the endless evil undead army and shouted "Give me Arianwood and I will let the rest of you live." Of course they didn't heed to his threat and Margwat ended up attacking them by himself as his allies stood back and watched in awe and disbelief as he smashed through the undead ranks before they joined him. Honestly, when I was a kid reading this for the first time, it was one of the most intense and exciting pieces of fiction I've ever read. Do yourself a favor, go read these books!


20.) NAMOR, THE SUB-MARINER 


The Marvel Comics King of the Seven Seas is the regal Sub-Mariner, who is an impetuous and arrogant fellow. He is the original "hotheaded" personality in the Marvel cast of characters from the 1930's. He is so regal, majestic, arrogant and brash, that he is very tough to get along with. While most of his peers think of him as a pompous ass, many would never say anything to his face because they know quite well that he is capable of kicking the crap outta just about any opponent on the planet (a statement he makes clear to anyone and everyone in his presence). He is also very temperamental and impulsive and has very little tolerance for weakness or disrespect. Despite these qualities, Namor is also very noble, proud, honorable, intuitive, dedicated and loyal which make him a great asset on the battlefield. I've always loved how he was such a mixed bag of extreme emotions that you never knew what he was going to do in any given situation. This is what made him so interesting to me. I should also point out that Namor is quite the ladies man who has had Sue Richards, Lady Dorma, Emma Frost and Marrina as just a few of his conquests under the bed sheets. Plus, he had no qualms about bragging about who he bedded, whether it be in a fistfight to save the planet or to other women he is about to serenade (talk about being a true alpha-male). How can you not love this guy? IMPERIOUS REX!!


19.) SPACE GHOST


In the wake of The Batman 1966 live-action series starring Adam West and Burt Ward, super heroes made a huge impact on American pop culture. Entire new worlds and characters were created by Hanna-Barbera Productions and packaged to kids in the form of Saturday morning cartoons. In the Fall of 1966 they released their first and greatest super hero character named Space Ghost, who premiered in the cartoon Space Ghost that ran until 1968 (he would make his comic book debut in 1967). Another series eventually aired in 1981 under the Space Stars adventure show and then the character hosted the humor-filled cartoon talk show Space Ghost Coast to Coast which aired in 1994 on the Cartoon Network. Space Ghost (voiced by Gary Owens) traveled around space in his Phantom Cruiser with his teen sidekicks Jan, Ace and Blip the Space Monkey and fought off his enemies Zorak, Moltar, Spider Woman, Metallus, Brak, and Creature King among others who continually threatened the galaxy. I was always a fan of Space Ghost's overall look (designed by Alex Toth) and the technology of his costume and power bands that made him incredibly formidable and cool as hell.


18.) LOCKJAW

One of my favorite Stan Lee and Jack Kirby creations is the enormous teleporting companion of the Inhumans, the lovable Lockjaw. Known for his curious nature and gargantuan appetite, this dog is one of my favorite super heroes ever and could well be the greatest dog character this side of Snoopy from Peanuts and Bandit from Jonny Quest. Yup, I love Lockjaw and wish I could cuddle up with him all day. He has the ability to teleport himself and a group great distances, a sense of smell that is so acute that he can sniff out just about anything (mostly to get to where the food is at), and his jaw is so strong that he is able to chew up steel girders for a quick snack... RUFFF!!

 
17.) HYPERION

While Hyperion is an unapologetic "Superman/Captain Marvel" hybrid copycat, he does have a nice reputation as being one of the most powerful super heroes in the Marvel Universe. Actually, there are a bunch of notable versions of him flying around to date since his first appearance in 1969... sheesh. Originally created by Roy Thomas and John Buscema, who basically just squished the Big Red S and the Big Red Cheese together visually, made him a ginger/redhead, gave him similar physical attributes and powers and the result is the superhero known as Hyperion. But the reason why Hyperion worked so much better than other Superman clones was because he was never intended on being a serious character, he was suppose to be an obvious carbon copy of Superman and Captain Marvel. I was always a big fan of his look, Superman-like powers, attitude and nickname (the Sun God). Hey, even the biggest "copycat" can be pretty cool if you're taking ideas from the best of the best.


16.) DARKWOLF


The mysterious Darkwolf from Ralph Bakshi and Frank Frazetta's animated film Fire and Ice (1983) has a burning hatred for the evil Queen Juliana and her son the megalomaniacal, Nekron. As Neckron magically sends forth waves of glaciers, forcing humanity to retreat south towards the equator, Darkwolf knows it's up to him to stop them or it could mean the end of the world. Possessing extraordinary strength and endurance, Darkwolf is the perfect warrior. He is trained in the arts of war, highly proficient with his axe and in hand-to-hand combat. He is able to enter a "Berseker Rage" that can overcome even the most powerful of magical control. Darkwolf is also well-versed in the arts of survival, including tracking and hunting making it possible for him to live in the harshest of conditions. He is an intimidating presence to all, enough so that even mad-starving-wolves cower in his presence. Those who have seen the animated film will understand that Darkwolf deserves his place among the greatest badasses ever (if you doubt me, go see it). And although he left an undeniably impression on me when I first saw this film, I just couldn't rank him higher than 16 on this list due to his limited overall appearances... I wanted more!


15.) SUPERMAN


While Superman is one of the most popular and powerful super heroes ever created, he is without any doubt the most important. Being the archetype super hero character model for all the others, his relevance and entire comic mythos are without equal. Still, after all that acclaim, the Last Son of Krypton isn't able to rank higher than 15 on my list. While I do have fawn memories with this hero during my childhood (what boy didn't), he just didn't capture my imagination as much as he did with the rest of the world. Don't get me wrong, I love Superman and he commands the utmost respect among all super heroes. His attitude, empathy, self-sacrifice and positive outlook on life is inspirational to all. But it was his lack of interesting adversaries that diluted him to me overall (Lex Luther, Brainiac, the Prankster, the Toyman and the like were always lackluster villains in my eyes). And I always thought his comic adventures were a continual bore that lacked the action of the Marvel Comics I adored. It was mostly Christopher Reeves' portrayal of him in the Superman movies (which was the best casting for a super hero ever -- move over Bill Bixby and Robert Downey Jr.) that inspired me the most. But despite my hang ups with the character, Superman should be ranked somewhere on everyone's greatest super heroes list.

 

14.) "FILMATION" AQUAMAN


Why Aquaman, you say? Read the title again, it says "Filmation" Aquaman! As in the cartoon series that ran in 1967 and 1968 opposite of Superman in the Superman/Aquaman Action Hour. This was the Aquaman I saw in reruns as a child after I watched The Super Friends. He had a booming voice (done by Marvin Miller), he was majestic, powerful, and proud and he threw those awesome balls of water at his foes. I absolutely loved it! When I watched The Super Friends cartoon, I couldn't understand why he was such a dork and lacked the power and majesty he had in his solo cartoon?? As I grew older and got more educated, I realized that The Super Friends was a cartoon that was made more viewer friendly due to family censorship during the 70's. Filmation never had that type of censorship during the 60's so their heroes kicked ass (that's why the 60's toons ruled brother). Honestly, this character never fully recovered in my eyes even when I read his adventures in the comic books years later. It's for those reasons that "Filmation" Aquaman comes in at number 14 and doesn't rank into my top 10. And although the DC Comics King of the Seven Seas is getting much more respect today from the mass media, he still doesn't compare to the awesomeness of his Aquaman cartoon that I still watch today with regularity.


13.) GLADIATOR


Is Gladiator, the Praetor of the Shi'ar Imperial Guard another knock off of Superman? You betcha! Nobody can deny that. But what Superman lacked for impetuousness and sheer arrogance, Gladiator had them in spades. He was basically an alien-looking Superman with a giant mohawk and a "holier than thou" attitude. But that confidence he had so much of was also imperative to his super powers. Yup. The more confidence Gladiator had, the more powerful he was. At his best he was strong enough to move whole planets out of orbit, shoot heat beams from his eyes, exhale great gusts of wind, fly at speeds faster than light and take the impact of a nuclear blast without breaking a sweat (basically do what Superman does). But once he doubted himself "poof" he could get knocked out by a gnat. Well, maybe not a gnat but you get the picture. His trick was that his powers were partially psionic in nature; his opponents would see the things he did and unsuspectingly cower to them, which would in turn give him more confidence and empower him further. But on those rare occasions when his ruse was up, he could be in for a long night. Gladiator was such an interesting dichotomy between being all powerful one minute and then all weak the next if he didn't believe in himself. I thought it was such a great concept for a character. And while he will always remain one of the many copycats of the Man of Steel in design, it's his complexity that made him more impressive than the original in my eyes.


12.) DIAPER MAN


The cartoon originally appeared as a segment in The Mighty Mouse Playhouse cartoon that ran during the 1966-67 season, which was renamed Mighty Mouse and the Mighty Heroes in recognition of the new segment. Some weeks during the network run, two complete Mighty Heroes segments would open and close the show with a classic Mighty Mouse cartoon in-between. In other weeks, one Mighty Heroes episode would be split in two to open and close the show, with two Mighty Mouse cartoons broadcast in-between. The magnificent team of Diaper Man, Strong Man, Tornado Man, Rope Man, and Cuckoo Man aptly called the Mighty Heroes are a bunch of clumsy accident-prone bunglers who often find themselves in silly situations. A typical occurrence has them hopelessly tangled together offering each other apologies, often while falling en masse into an even worse situation. In combat, they are even worse, continually getting into each others way until they are all captured by the villain. However, having escaped the villain's death trap in the cliffhanger, the team always manages to regroup and fight with proper coordination to win the day. Diaper Man was far and away my absolute favorite of the bunch. He is a redheaded, diapered, yet fully articulate baby as well as the leader/brains of the group, who sounds a lot like Popeye the Sailor (voiced by Herschel Bernardi). He uses his blankie as a cape and his main weapon is his bubba bottle, which by holding on to the rubber nipple, he can swing (or shoot like a slingshot) around forcefully. The bottle can also shoot high pressure streams of baby formula. In emergencies, Diaper Man (and often Strong Man) will drink some formula from the bottle when extra superhuman strength is needed. 


11.) ORION QUEST/GRANDIZER


UFO Robot Grendizer (UFOロボ·グレンダイザー UFO Robo Gurendaizā, sometimes romanticized as UFO Robo Grendizer) is a Mecha (or Super) Robot TV anime/cartoon and manga created by Go Nagai and was broadcasted on Japanese TV in 1975. The robot's first appearances in the United States under the name "Grandizer" was as part of the Shogun Warriors line of toys imported in the late 1970's by Mattel and the Force Five cartoon series that broadcasted in 1979 and ran until 1989. This series showcased American adaptations of all the original aired Japanese Mecha Robot cartoons on a different day of the week (Grandizer aired on Thursdays). This is what brought me to love this character as I would run home from school every Thursday to catch a glimpse of the adventures of  the Grandizer and its pilot Orion Quest (real name: Duke Fleed and under the alias Johnny Bryant). Orion flew the Grandizer robot and Spazer Space Saucer (which carried the Grandizer) against the evil Vega forces that were out to destroy him. The best part of Grandizer was not only did the robot and Spazer look so incredibly cool, but Orion himself had so much flash and balls when he piloted them that it totally captivated me. He was the only hero I knew that was so egocentric that he had a name for every single move he made. If you were a fan of the show you'll relate to his screams of "Grandizer Goooo! Screw Pressure Punch! Double Sickle! Space Thunder!" It just went on and on. And let's not forget when he went from the console of the Spazer into the Grandizer robot's head to do some hand-to-hand beat downs, he had to take an extra twist and turn just to add a "little extra mustard" on the anticipation before he kicked some ass! Who says super heroes don't play to the audience? Orion always did and we kids loved him for it.


10.) THE THING


What made the Thing unique was the fact that he was the first super hero who didn't look like a super hero, he looked like a monster. And this didn't sit well with him. He often dwelled on his monstrous appearance, usually trying to make jokes about it to keep his spirits high. Although Ben considered himself deformed, his transformation gave him incredible strength and durability, making him the physical powerhouse of the Fantastic Four and the original "tough-guy" of the Marvel Universe. But these powers did nothing for his self-esteem (despite being loved and respected by most heroes of the world) as he would often wear a trench coat and hat to cover himself up to avoid scaring anyone or people gawking at his appearance. Although Thing has a gruff disposition, he has a heart of gold. He is widely considered one of the most reliable and dependable characters on Earth that other heroes always seem to call on for backup. He is known as an extraordinary aircraft pilot and a great team player, who'll always manage to crack a joke no matter how helpless a situation becomes. Not to mention, he has continually shown to be one of the absolute toughest heroes on the planet. There are not many characters defined more by their sheer determination and willpower than Benjamin J. Grimm! No matter the odds, the stakes or the opposition, the Thing will be showing up and giving it his all. That's the true essence of this character. It didn't matter if Ben won or lost, it was about him showing up and fighting with everything he had until someone dropped. And let's be honest, Bashful Benjy loved a good punch-up more than most. He wasn't beyond starting an "epic" slugfest to get his blood flowing. His ability to brawl it out with the best the Marvel Universe had to offer is legendary.


9.) BATMAN


Batman falls along the same lines as his buddy Superman does (who ranks in at number 15 on this list), but the Dark Knight Detective manages to crack into my top 10. While Batman is also one of the most popular and imitated super hero characters ever created (hey, he was a copy of the pulp character the Shadow), he was always much cooler than Superman was in my eyes. With his overall look, skills, mind, willpower, obsessive attitude and endless array of gadgets, Batman is easily the standard of what a cool character is suppose to be. Besides having one of the best rogues gallery in all of comics, I could list countless Batman stories, cartoons, toys and the like that captured my imagination and influenced me as a child (as they did to every kid in the world on some level), but it was the Cape Crusader that appeared in Frank Miller's 1986 mini-series The Dark Knight Returns that put him ahead of many other super heroes on this list. Not to mention when this incarnation of Batman was featured in the Batman: The Animated Series episode Legends of the Dark Knight that aired in 1998 and was voiced by Michael Ironside that totally blew my mind. For me, that was easily one of the best animated Batman features I've ever seen and continue to admire even today. And I must point out that that episode did a much better job of portraying Frank Miller's Batman on the screen than the two-part direct-to-video The Dark Knight Returns DVD that came out in 2012 and 2013 voiced by Peter Weller (ugh!) ever did.


8.) THOR 


Thor is the Asgardian God of Thunder, the Prince of Asgard and an unparalleled warrior who wields the mighty, mystic Mjolnir war-hammer which makes him easily one of the most powerful super heroes in the Marvel Universe (or any comic universe for that matter). This magical weapon grants Thor with such a vast array of powers that he has been worshiped by humans on Earth as their savior for thousands of years. He is also considered the final line of defense on the Avengers (or the "cavalry"), any villain who wants to hurt his teammates or the innocent must contend with his enormous physical strength and righteous wrath. But what makes Thor so special is not just the fact that he possesses untold levels of power that could shatter whole planets at will, but that he is a truly worthy possessor of that power. He is a proud, noble spirit that will protect those who are in need no matter what the cost. He is a majestic and all-powerful figure that truly understands how precious and fragile life is. While he is the champion and protector of Asgard, Thor also considers himself as the champion and protector of Earth as well. It's this understanding that earns him such great admiration by the population of Earth, his heroic peers and with me.

 
7.) THE PUNISHER


While it is a bit of a stretch to call Frank Castle aka the Punisher a "super hero" when it comes to his methods of madness against evil, he does protect the innocent in his own unique way. He is judge, jury and executioner. It's that simple and that absolute. If you're guilty -- you're dead. Period. The Punisher is that certain type of cool character that became much more prevalent during the Bronze Age of Comics (starting in the early 1970's). He was one of the few characters that took comic adventures from a more innocent time into a dark and grittier new realm of reality. As a tireless and relentless "vigilante", Mr. Castle was an instant fan-favorite to the masses as well as to me when he first appeared in the pages of The Amazing Spider-man #129 (1974). Even his skull symbol puts fear into the criminal underworld much like the bat symbol of Batman. But while Batman uses his costume, skills and gadgets to make the criminals tremble with fear, the Punisher does it with a bunch of bullets - straight into their foreheads. Yup. That's a big difference in their extremes and why I love the Punisher so much more than the Caped Crusader (who I ranked at number 9). And while there's always punishment ready to be handed out to the guilty, it's the Punisher, who will deliver it without any mercy. Amen.


6.) ROGER T. "RACE" BANNON


When the adventure series Jonny Quest premiered in 1964 and changed the cartoon game forever, it introduced me to one of the most badass characters of all time -- Roger T. "Race" Bannon. Besides having one of the best names ever, "Race" had an awesome unique look (modeled after actor Jeff Chandler and voiced by Mike Road) with trademark white hair and red shirt. He was an ex-secret agent who served as the personal bodyguard to Dr. Benton Quest, one of the most intelligent and well-respected scientists in the world. He also helped out in tutoring Dr. Quest's two sons, Jonny and Hadji, training them in shooting, driving and martial arts. He's a former employee of the Intelligence One agency, well-versed in covert actions, intelligence gathering, security systems, electronics and espionage. On top of that, he's an expert pilot capable of flying jets, driving hovercrafts, riding wild alpacas... you name it. Plus, he's a master of all firearms including pistols, rifles, slingshots, blowguns, bazookas and machine guns, and unlike a lot of wussy cartoons out there these days he doesn't have any compunctions about getting his hands dirty and blasting a quarter-sized hole in anything that he deems a threat to the Quest family (as he did on a few occasions on the show). He is also an expert in all forms of hand-to-hand combat and martial arts... simply put, this guy is the preeminent "alpha-male" cartoon character. And while it was a tough choice for me to rank him above the Punisher (who came in at number 7 on this list), "Race" got the edge because as cool as Frank Castle is, Roger T. "Race" Bannon is just way cooler.


5.) HE-MAN


Where Thundarr the Barbarian was one of the greatest fantasy/science based cartoons ever, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983-1985) was the greatest! And I could make the argument that it's the greatest cartoon ever. Between the shows beautiful art, majestic music and captivating stories it would be hard to dispute that. Plus the star character He-Man was so much more than Thundarr (who ranked in at number 22 on this list) ever was. The show takes place on Eternia, a planet of magic, myth and fantasy. He-man's alter-ego, Prince Adam is the young son of Eternia's rulers, King Randor and Queen Marlena. Whenever Prince Adam uses the magical Sword of Power and holds it aloft and proclaims "By the Power of Grayskull! I HAVE THE POWER!" he is endowed with fabulous secret powers and transformed into He-Man, the most powerful man in the universe! A being with such great physical strength that he can rival feats done by Superman. But what made He-man so great in my eyes was that even with all his immeasurable power, he was nonviolent and resorted to combat as a last resort, often preferring to outsmart his adversaries. He was kind, compassionate, wise, and intuitive and believed in the sanctity of life. With his allies, Battle Cat (who undergoes a similar transformation from being Adam's cowardly pet tiger Cringer), the Sorceress, Teela, Man-At-Arms and Orko, He-Man defends Eternia from the evil forces of Skeletor, the Lord of Destruction. Skeletor's main goal is to conquer the mysterious fortress of Castle Grayskull, from which He-Man draws his powers.


4.) CAPTAIN AMERICA


I have always loved the Star Spangled Avenger right from the get go. His visual appeal is second to none. But when I learned about his morals and approach towards life -- I wanted to be him! To me, Steven Rogers, aka Captain America was about this disabled kid who bought into the patriotism of his country. He read the propaganda and he bought into it all the way. So much that he agreed to be a guinea pig for the Super-Soldier program that would allow him to "serve" his country. Now becoming the ultimate human fighting machine revealed to him the many lies within the propaganda. But that didn't stop Steve from loving his country and trying to live up to the values of what got him there, even if his own country didn't stand behind them. He wanted to represent his country with dignity. And I think that is what Captain America is all about. It's about pride in your own country and being the best you can be. If your country doesn't agree, maybe YOU can be the start of something to transform it into that better place. So it's universal in scope and the essence of the character. He is so inspiring to all the heroes that fight by his side and follow his lead, that he could well be considered the most dangerous super hero in the Marvel Universe. Simply put, Captain America is considered the "super hero" when it comes to other super heroes. I hold the Sentinel of Liberty in such high regard that I can only think of 3 other characters that have influenced me more.


3.) SPIDER-MAN


Nothing screams "super hero" to me more than the Amazing Spider-man! His cartoon from 1967 opened a whole new world to me when I was a child and I have been enthralled with the character ever since (I cannot listen to jazz music, even to this day without thinking of Spidey swinging from rooftop to rooftop from that cartoon). Something about his look, attitude, aura, pizzazz and powers just mesh together so perfectly that it's no surprise to me that he is one of the most popular and beloved super heroes ever created. I also believe that he has the greatest costume ever designed (thank you Steve Ditko). The fact that you cannot see any part of his features gives kids the sense that it could be them underneath the suit no matter what nationality they are. Spidey's outlook and personality are also inspiring to young readers because the super hero life has never been easy for him. Peter Parker would be much better if he stopped being a hero. Being Spider-man has made his life hell and he sees no reward for it (he is even considered a criminal in some circles), but he keeps doing it because it's the right thing to do. Spider-man is a symbol for overcoming adversity, not giving up, and doing the right thing even when it hurts you. Yup, he's a real deal blue collared supa dupa! I also believe without any doubt that his comics (Amazing Fantasy #15, The Amazing Spider-man #1-202 and The Amazing Spider-man annuals #1-5) is the greatest run of fictional adventure stories in the history of the medium. Period. And how cool is a character that comes with his very own sound effect... Thwipp!!


2.) CAPTAIN MARVEL


Where Superman is widely considered the greatest super hero ever created, I believe Captain Marvel captures that iconic standard much more so than the Man of Steel ever did. Sure, the Big Red Cheese is comparable to Superman in powers, physical attributes and design (although his look is based on actor Fred MacMurray), he became so much more than just another Superman-clone. What makes Captain Marvel so much better is the fact that he captures the ultimate childhood wish fulfillment on a level no other character can match. When 12 year old Billy Batson speaks the magic word "SHAZAM!" he is transformed into an immeasurably powerful magical adult super hero known as Captain Marvel who is empowered by the gods Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury. What comic reader couldn't relate to that fantasy? Donning a flashy costume second only to Spider-man and sporting the greatest super hero cape ever (read my article on it here: "The Top 10 Greatest Superhero Capes of All Time" to see why), Captain Marvel looks cooler than Superman ever could. And although DC Comics always make him take a backseat to Superman when it comes to the spotlight, know that in the 1940's (when comics were selling greater than they ever did as a whole in the history of the medium) Captain Marvel had the numbering #1 selling comic book! Yup. He was that popular and that beloved that both DC icons Superman and Batman had taken a backseat to him. I was always a fan of the classic Marvel Family adventures during those Fawcett Comic days. Captain Marvel Jr. (who ranks in at number 26 on this list) and Mary Marvel are magnificent characters that make an amazing team with Captain Marvel because they genuinely cared for each other. The Marvel's represent a more innocent time in comic history where the good guys always did the right thing and never faltered from their moral code. Many readers of today would call them "corny" or "boring" but to me, there are no better super heroes than that. Captain Marvel is so incredibly influential to me that only 1 other character has made a bigger impression in my life...


1.) THE HULK


While I was already familiar and loving super heroes because of the Super Friends and Spider-man cartoons as a child, nothing, but nothing could prepare me for the impact that The Incredible Hulk would make on my life. My first exposure to the Green Goliath was when my mother made me go to bed early because she thought I would get nightmares if I saw the live-action made-for-TV-movie; The Incredible Hulk starring Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno back in 1977 (it was the first "pilot" episode). I peeked in, secretly watched the whole thing and then became a Hulk-addict before I went to sleep. It was that simple. Not Captain Marvel, not Spider-man, not Captain America, not anything impacted me the way the Hulk did. It was a mind-altering experience for my impressionable 4 year old brain. Then The Incredible Hulk live-action series began rolling in 1978 that kept me glued to the tube every Friday night until its end in 1982. If that wasn't enough, during that time the Hulk became a national phenomenon and Hulk-merchandise was everywhere you looked. This lead me to want to get the greatest toy ever in 1979; The Mego Elastic Hulk (read about that debacle here: "In Search of the Holy Grail of Hulk"). And as the fates would have it, the first comic book I was ever given was The Incredible Hulk #247 (1980) on my 7th birthday. There was no turning back now. I constantly ran around my neighborhood with no shirt, bare feet and ripped up Toughskin jeans. All I wanted in life was the Hulk and that's the way it was going to stay.

To this very day I still cannot get the Hulk out of my head and he's basically the reason why I continue to love super heroes. I sometimes try to understand why I'm so captivated by this character. Was it his brutish good looks? His green skin? The dichotomy with his tragic alter-ego Bruce Banner? The fact that he was a feared outcast always hunted and hounded by the Army? What could it be?

Maybe it's because of his strength. There's something mighty appealing about a character that is simply the strongest one there is (as he always says). The madder the Hulk gets, the stronger the Hulk gets -- with no limits. And what most people seem to forget is that his invulnerability, endurance and healing also increase as well. So there is essentially no opponent, he cannot eventually overcome provided he has the motivation. As world renowned comic historian Peter Sanderson stated "The Hulk is the standard of physical strength for the greatest comic characters." and that's sweet poetry to my ears.  

Maybe it's because the Hulk is without a doubt the Super-Heavyweight Champion of the comic book slugfest. Nobody has had more classic or legendary awe-inspiring, city-leveling brawls than the Hulk did in the history of comics. His fights are the standard plain and simple and we can thank artist Jack Kirby for that. He was always considered the measuring stick when it came to the Marvel Universe hierarchy of power and is Marvel's very first and ultimate team-buster character.

Maybe it's because of his attitude and rage. Although the Hulk is good at his core and wants to do the right thing, he is so temperamental and savage that he will fight just about anyone and everyone - good or bad (especially if they think they are stronger than him). It never made a difference. I guess with his "warm" personality it might be hard to call the Hulk a pure "super hero" per say, he's more of a "force of nature" because nothing can truly stop or even kill him. While the Avengers, S.H.I.E.L.D. and the U.S. military know he's a continual wildcard, he is still a tremendous force for mankind. As long as he's basically kept-in-check and pointed in the right direction, the world is safe from evil threats and his rampages (which is good for everybody). Because let's be honest, the Hulk was never really a team player and his little "Hulk smash" outbursts can level continents. So let's thank the Avengers for their service because the Hulk has to be considered the most unpredictable character in the Marvel Universe. The mere fact that he keeps everybody on their toes makes him so appealing to me. 

Maybe it's because he's such an iconic character that will stand side-by-side with the likes of Superman, Batman, Spider-man and Wonder Woman forever. Maybe it's because he was so much more exciting than other super heroes. Maybe it's because he represents my childhood and ability to dream. Maybe it's because of all these things. Either way, the Hulk has punched my psyche so hard that his impression is never going away. So here's to the big green guy, the Hulk; My Greatest Super Hero of All Time!
 

Within each of us, ofttimes, there dwells a mighty raging fury. 


Agree? Disagree? Let me know your greatest super heroes! 


Check out other Hero Envy "Top" Lists:


Top 50 Greatest Marvel Slugfests of All Time (1961-1999)
Top 10 Most Evil Villains in Comics

Top 10 Superhero Capes of All Time

Top 5 Weirdest, Wackiest, Worst and Downright Despicable Cartoons Ever Made
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2013/08/the-top-5-weirdest-wackiest-and.html

My Top 20 Greatest Hulk Stories Ever
http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2016/12/my-top-20-greatest-hulk-stories-ever_3.html

Top 10 Most Badass Heroes Ever
 http://hero-envy.blogspot.com/2014/06/the-top-10-most-badass-heroes-ever.html



   John "The Mego Stretch Hulk" Cimino
John Cimino is a Silver and Bronze Age comic, cartoon and memorabilia expert that runs a business called "Saturday Morning Collectibles." He buys, sells, appraises and gives seminars on everything pop culture, so if you got something special, let him know about it. He contributes articles to ALTER EGO, BACK ISSUE and THE JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR from TwoMorrows Publishing and has appeared on the AMC reality show Comic Book Men. He also represents some of comicdoms biggest stars and brings them to a Comic Con near you. John still thinks he's really Captain Marvel, people just don't have the heart to tell him he's just an obsessed fanboy that loves to play superheroes with his daughter Bryn. Contact him at johnstretch@live.com or follow on twitter at @Elastic_Hulk and have some fun.