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mygif

Neat. Sounds like quite useful list definitions.

Now we just need to define to which list the characters you left out belong to.

I’ll start and suggest Batman for the hero A-list :)

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mygif

Good list, but I would probably disagree in one of the examples…

The Thing had a pretty good run as the headliner in Marvel Team-Up which lasted like 100 issues, the general public have heard of him, and he always revert back to his “original” state (Got rocky? He got better. Died? Came back immediately Depowered? Got them back soon enough). Sure, he can’t hold an ongoing series by himself now, but I think this is more an exception to the rule.

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Will "scifantasy" Frank said on February 11th, 2011 at 5:28 pm

Matt: I think that the Fantastic Four, as a set, may qualify as A-list; any individual One, though, no. (Maybe the Human Torch for cool factor, but even then, doubt it.)

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mygif

I think you’re a bit overly generous with the A list. There’s a whole strata of heroes who almost always appear in multiple books as well as action figures, merchandise and appearing in movies and TV shows that should not be lumped in with the ones who are holding down a single book.

Spider-Man > Nova
Batman > The Flash
Superman > Invincible

So my A-list would be fairly small. Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Spiderman, Wolverine, the Punisher, the X Men (collectively).

Wonder Woman would sneak on by being in the Justice League to give her multiple books.

Deadpool is the newest addition.

At their peak Spawn or Witchblade would qualify, not sure now.

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mygif

I was actually going to ask about Deadpool, because I think he raises two interesting issues. First, how do you account for list-mobility, and what it takes to rise or fall in status– in the days of 90’s X-hegemony, heroes like Iron Man fell into the B-list, but are now indisputably A-listers. On the other hand, Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel were once indisputable heavy hitters who have declined in relevance.

The other question is about “push” heroes. It seems like Marvel (and DC to a lesser extent) has adopted a plan based less on building long-term brands than on capitalizing on short term spikes of interest to give us 6 Deadpool series, or a bunch of attention to Blade. Or loads of minis and oneshots, so that even if the character can’t carry a real ongoing, they seem to show up everywhere.

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mygif

Opps I missed a few – Thor, Iron Man and the Fantastic Four should all be A list at this time (by my narrower criteria).

And yeah, characters can rise and fall. In the 90s there were times you could make a case for Youngblood and Wildcats on the A list. Now you could kill all of them off panel and no one would care.

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mygif

As far as the examples given are concerned, the most interesting case would seem to be Green Lantern’s. (For one thing, if “Green Lantern” is A-list, what’s Guy Gardner doing on the B-list?)

Personally, I’d argue that at least until very recently, GL has been more properly a B-list hero than an A-lister. Prior to the success of The Big Bang Theory, GL was not — I’d argue — well known outside of comics culture; the power ring itself was pretty much the only aspect of GL’s story that had percolated up beyond fandom.

Moreover, an argument for GL as an A-lister begs the question of which Lantern one is talking about. Hal Jordan may be the best-known Lantern overall, but John Stewart drew (and draws) a sizeable following, not least because he’s the GL we saw in most of Bruce Timm’s animated DCU series. Guy Gardner is few folks’ favorite Lantern, but his tenure in the suit can’t be ignored, nor can Kyle Rayner’s. Individually, none of these ring-wearers is an A-lister (to date); Jordan comes close, but without the boost from his successors, even he isn’t quite at true A-list popularity.

That may change depending on how the upcoming live-action movie fares financially. But despite being a GL fan from way back, I don’t think he’s on the A-list in a commercial sense quite yet.

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mygif

@John C. Bunnell: I did actually consider an “A-plus list” for heroes that are iconic in the public eye and can sustain mass media success as well as comics success, but I decided not to because it’d be about six characters long (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, Hulk, Wolverine). Assume that all these lists apply to the culture of comics fandom, not the far larger world of pop culture in general.

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mygif

I decided not to because it’d be about six characters long (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, Hulk, Wolverine).

Wonder Woman hasn’t been A+ list since Crisis on Infinite Earths. Or if she is A+ list, you really ought to consider Aquaman and Robin as A+ list as well. (Both of them have the name recognition of the other A+ listers, even if Robin is a sidekick and Aquaman is a joke.)

Iron Man is close to A+ list these days as well: a couple more successful movies would move him permanently up to that level. A Punisher movie that didn’t suck might make him A+ list as well.

Well, for your definition of A+ list. Mine is some thing like near constant multimedia appearance involving multiple continuities, which limits it to Superman/Batman/Spiderman, the X-men as a collective and the Justice League as a collective (with the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, and Hulk just missing A+ level: they all have 2-3 multimedia continuities, when A+ level is really more live 5 or more multimedia continuities.)

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mygif

I’d put Kraven at C-List at best. He was dead for a pretty long time, and nobody really expected him to come back. What’s more, the only thing anybody really remembers him for is the story he died in.

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mygif

If you’re talking iconic in the public eye “A-plus list” heroes, then I’d think there’s a lot more than six now. Iron Man would have to be in there now, Prof X is about to be in his 5th film, Catwoman and I’d even consider the Punisher who has had 3 films and multiple comics at numerous times.

As for the Thing, I remember in the 70’s and 80’s, Marvels top three merchandising giants (at least here in the UK) were Spider-Man, Hulk and, believe it or not, the Thing. Thing underwear, Thing t-shirts, Thing colouring books, even his own comic, called Big Ben. Defo A list.

I’m confused though over your A list heroes and A list villains – your heroes seem grouped by popularity, your villains by motivation. Doctor Octopus and the Joker would seem to fit your B list description, but they are A list villains, no doubt, certainly more so than Thanos or Darkseid?

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mygif

What, no D-Lists/Z-Lists? No acknowledgment for the characters who were disposable right from the get-go?

Well, isn’t that typical.

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mygif
Allegretto said on February 11th, 2011 at 8:33 pm

Putting Green Lantern on the same “A-List” as Superman is giving Geoff Johns the win.

Seriously though, I highly doubt any Green Lantern could be in the same level of recognition as Superman. The character doesn’t have nearly enough strength on its. And its not even a single character. Not to mention how from a mythological and cultural standpoint it is far less powerful.
The simple idea of “Superman” has more gravitas than the “Space Cop” one.
I think that’s what gives the edge to the “A+ List characters” you mentioned. Regardless of her status in mainstream comics today, “Wonder Woman” is not only a staple of pop culture, but also a powerful idea on its own, namely, a powerful woman. “Batman” may sound silly out of cultural context, but again, behind him is the powerful idea of retaliation against human injustice, chaos versus order, through sacrifice. That’s what makes him powerful. The Hulk also embodies a powerful basic concept everyone can get behind (anger versus hate), as does Spidey (responsibility and fortitude) and the X-Men (abuse and isolation). That’s what makes them iconic, not however popular they may be at any given time. Enough movies and celebrities will make friggin’ Hank Pym a star for a few years, maybe even a full decade, but he won’t stick around.

Right now, cultural recognition, outside of the comic sphere, is mostly on: Green Lantern, Captain America, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Hulk, Spider-Man, The X-Men, Wolverine and Iron Man. With special mention for Aquaman, Deadpool and Thor.
Once the fads go away, the ones that will stick around aren’t the niche, topical or vicarious ones (like the space cop, or the rich playboy with a cool armor or the wacky and friendly psychopath), but the ones that actually mean something for the culture.
*Those* are the A+ Heroes.

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mygif

Honestly, I’ve got to disagree with the C list definition. I don’t think C lister are the ‘disposable’ types, necessarily- that’s D listers. IMO, C Listers are the ones that have a certain level of popularity, enough that they will generally be ‘around’, if not actively appearing in any books (or if they are, filling out group shots). They usually won’t be killed off for absolutely no reason, because they aren’t total filler.

I mean, look at some of your examples. Speedball/Penance was a major character in Civil War, was in Thunderbolts, and moved over to Avengers Initiative. Clearly, Marvel wanted to keep him around. War Machine, well, should be in B list, most likely, but even without it, he’s a pretty standard filler guy. Weather Wizard might not be much on his own, but he is one of the core Rogues- and I can’t see them killing him off in the same way they’d kill off say, Murmur or Doubledown or whoever.

As such, I think The Lists really needs to be expanded to have four tiers, with a distinction between ‘filler’ characters (C List) and ‘disposable’ characters (D List).

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mygif

I have to agree with Abyss that not having a D list seems like an oversight. I don’t think you could expand beyond 4 tiers; I doubt anyone is going to argue about how we need “E listers.” But there is a distinction to be made between a C and a D tier.

For example, let’s look at Nova in the past. He was a C list hero. But the Nova Corps? They were D listers. “Our” Nova was important enough not to get killed casually, but other Nova Corp members were only there to be jobbed out to villains, or otherwise beaten/killed to up the drama. Even though they were not regular civilians, and supposedly had all of the power Nova did. You could argue that the only distinction between a C lister and a D lister is that the C lister is getting story focus, but that’s still an important distinction for a character that’s regularly getting story focus.

Obviously Nova has moved up from a C lister, but I think that’s the best example I can give for how a C list character and a D list character would differ, without risking slighting someone’s favorite character.

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mygif

I would say if you are a household name, you get a minimum of b-list status. People know who Aquaman is but he doesn’t sell comics.

I think the “A+” status would be not just recognition but having the average person actually know many of the details of the character. For example, everyone knows that Superman is Clark Kent, was born on Krypton, works for the Daily Planet and is in love with Lois Lane. People know who the Flash is but that’s it, there’s not public knowledge of his mythology.

And you absolutely can go up and down in status, unless you’re really solidly A+. I don’t think Wonder Woman is there anymore.

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mygif

I was going to make a funny argument about Bill the Lobster, but realized it was Friday night and I didn’t care.

Which is probably a sign that my days of comics obsession are over.

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mygif

All of these assertions of ‘A+’ status of certain heroes as “permanent fixtures” ignores when those heroes were on the verge of cancellation for one reason or another–Batman was literally saved by Dark Knight Returns. Superman grew a mullet in the 90s because nobody cared about him. Captain America and the Fantastic Four needed Heroes Reborn to try and save them.

The simple truth is that there is no true permanence to heroism, and even many of the ancient epics we revere now were reclaimed in more recent (relatively speaking) times as lessons to far later readers after languishing in obscurity.

So, judging these examples entirely from current popularity is entirely valid. The Big Two choose who they want to be famous at a given time, and if they can find an angle, maybe they can even sell it.

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mygif

I think Weather Wizard rates higher than C-list, at least based on the description you give of that category. He doesn’t really fit it.

Agreed with others that a D-list is probably called for; there are some pretty big lamers out there who are waaaaay below the C-list guys you mention and shouldn’t be lumped in with them.

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Mr. Immortal said on February 12th, 2011 at 3:26 am

Whatever, me and Razorback and Captain Ultra are gonna have so much fun on the D-List.

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Allegretto said on February 12th, 2011 at 7:23 am

I don’t think however much a title sells or doesn’t sell can be considered a valid parameter. Enough hype and exposure will get you to sell whatever. Right now popular characters are so because they are everywhere; in movies, in comics, in tv shows, in video games… but that only makes them popular (or unpopular) at any given time. Popularity is fleeting. There are many heroes, super or otherwise, that we are sure will never come down from a certain status quo or a perception of such. Superman may not be selling well at any given time, but he won’t be forgotten or left to die. And we know it won’t be so, we even expect it. Like the whole deal with Wonder Woman’s new costume. We all know that, down the line, the original costume or a variant thereof will come back, regardless of what DC editorial may want to believe. Its just a matter of when. If the Superman or Batman titles were ever canceled, we would most certainly expect them to come back in the short run and they would. If the Green Lantern or Flash title were canceled due to low sales or less popularity, on the other hand, that certainty is not there anymore. We can expect Spidey to bounce back from cancellation however many times its necessary, but Iron Fist will only get so many shots at the big time.

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mygif

Iron Man, Green Lantern, Punisher et al are in no way A+ heroes. They’ve had a couple of movies each, true, but they don’t have the decades of mass media pop culture saturation that a Superman or a Batman has. Superman has had four live-action TV series, a host of animated shows, a radio program that ran for decades, six or seven movies, a Broadway play (that didn’t crash and burn on its way out of previews…) He has reached a level of pop-culture immortality that Iron Man might not reach for decades, if he ever does. He has contributed words to the English language. :)

Even Wonder Woman, while her popularity has diminished, is still easily recognizable to the everyday “person on the street”, and she’s getting her own TV show again. Captain America, with his forgettable 90s movie and “one of the crowd” upcoming movie doesn’t get that kind of respect.

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mygif

You think Captain America isn’t recognizable? Cap is actually a tough call, because he is iconic but not a pop culture presence. Thor is another tough call, since he has a whole pre-superhero career as a Norse god.

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mygif

Has Thor ever had a pop culture thing that would identify him as a comics character and not a generic mythological figure to the wider public, outside of his coming movie?

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mygif

This is great! Turn it into a TV Tropes Wiki entry!

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mygif

I would argue that the Rogues (with the possible exception of Captain Cold) are C-listers, but when taken collectively (as they usually are nowadays) they are definitely B-list.

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mygif

Technically, I believe Wonder Woman is only greenlighted for a pilot so far; based on the descriptions I’ve read, I’d give it at best an even chance of going to series.

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mygif

Evan: “Has Thor ever had a pop culture thing that would identify him as a comics character and not a generic mythological figure to the wider public, outside of his coming movie?”

I’d argue he has–well, had–a presence because of ADVENTURES IN BABYSITTING. That’s faded since, though.

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mygif

I tend to think that A-List = characters the general public/popular culture knows about, i.e. Superman, B-List = characters every comics fan knows about, i.e. Green Lantern, C-list = characters that are a bit more obscure but have strong fanbases, i.e. Blue Beetle, and D-List = characters that most people don’t know about unless they really get into the obscure stuff, i.e. the Atomic Knights. I used all DC examples because I know those best. But this list definitely works.

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mygif

Odd that no one has mentioned The Avengers as a group. I think A-List in original definition above.

But if there is an A+ list, there are only two entries: Superman and Batman. Spider-Man is close but no cigarrillo. Ask the average woman in the street who Uncle Ben is and the reply will be, “He makes rice.” But she may know who Jimmy Olsen is or Commissioner Gordon.

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MadHierophant said on February 13th, 2011 at 10:59 am

“Ask the average woman in the street who Uncle Ben is and the reply will be, ‘He makes rice.’ But she may know who Jimmy Olsen is or Commissioner Gordon.”

I’d ask them who Ben Parker was before “Uncle Ben”, because that just sounds like it would engender exactly the response you described. It also has a slightly better chance of getting a correct answer, though not much.

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Eric S. Smith said on February 13th, 2011 at 1:01 pm

“Ben Parker?” I think that’d have even less recognition, really. The line that’s repeated at the top of the Sunday newspaper strips calls him “gentle Uncle Ben,” after all.

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mygif

Uncle Ben probably has similar name recognition to Thomas and Martha Wayne. That’s not really an argument for or against Spiderman being A+ list.

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mygif

I think the fact he has a broadway musical/actor deathtrap shows Spidey belongs on the A+ list. Granted said musical/thespian killing machine looks to be an absolute turd, but does Superman have his very own Broadway musical? And no, Godspell doesn’t count.

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Mary Warner said on February 13th, 2011 at 5:16 pm

Superman does have a Broadway musical. It was done back in the ’60s or ’70s.

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mygif

Evan: “Has Thor ever had a pop culture thing that would identify him as a comics character and not a generic mythological figure to the wider public, outside of his coming movie?”

He was in one of the Hulk TV movies in the ’80s. : )

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thor_%28Marvel_Comics%29_in_other_media

How about appearances in videogames? I’m sure Blackheart is way more known due to his appearances in the Marvel vs. Capcom games.

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mygif

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It's_a_Bird…It’s_a_Plane…It’s_Superman

Read it and weep. Then buy the soundtrack… and REALLY weep.

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mygif

I think you should remove the “lofty goals” portion from A-list villains. It removes a fair number of otherwise iconic villains, some of whom are so popular that they can even maintain their own series. Joker and Venom are the two that instantly come to mind, possibly Juggernaut and Mr. Freeze nearer the bottom of the tier. You can still be a classic villain without obscene levels of power or equally lofty goals, provided they match up well with the heroes they go up against.

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American Hawkman said on February 15th, 2011 at 5:42 pm

For the record? I think War Machine’s clawed his way into the B-list, thanks to the movie, and his three title string. Part of that’s the fact that he’s indispensible to Iron Man’s supporting cast now.

I’d also add Robin to the hypothetical A+ list… everyone knows who he is.

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mygif

I don’t think it is necessary to add an A+ level, the three tiers seem to work fine as far as comic book characters go.

Venom as A list? I don’t think so. Once he may have been, but the nineties are long, long gone now and with there being more than one Venom he is not that important any more. Sure, he wound up as a blip on the A list during Spider Man 3 but since then he has fallen back to the Bs.

As for War Machine, I think the guy goes up and down the list on a regular basis, depending on whether or not writers have something for him to do. These days I would say he is definitely B list.

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mygif

There is actually a fair amount of “list mobility”, which sometimes made it difficult to pick examples; Deadpool, for example, has clearly moved from a B-lister to an A-lister over the years, while Punisher went from A to B and arguably back to A again. :)

I do find it curious that people have been citing the Joker as a villain without lofty goals, given that I actually put it right in the description: “sheer, unmitigated chaos”. The Joker’s goal is to wreak havoc and show the guardians of law and order as weak, impotent, and ignorant of the true meaning of life (which, to the Joker, is that there is no meaning at all.) And arguably, he succeeds at that. Sure, he gets caught every once in a while, but does anyone ever really feel like the Joker experiences punishment in a sense that is meaningful to him? He got kneecapped by Gordon and thought it was funny. You cannot defeat him, only contain him.

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mygif

I really don’t get the purpose of putting two lists in the same post when the first list is based on popularity, and the second list has absolutely nothing to do with popularity, instead being based on two conflicting measures. Where do Galactus and The Beyonder fit on the list? “Eat” and “be more human” aren’t lofty goals, but each villain is powerful beyond imagining. Fred Hembeck is an A-list villain, but if he used his powers for good he’d be on whatever list comes last alphabetically.

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mygif

Waaaait, is this some kind of trick to get us to think Rex is NOT an A lister and therefore unworthy of a movie and merchandise? 😐

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mygif

The thing is, I think the Joker works best when the pursuit of chaos is merely a subtext. Like in the Laughing Fish, where the only person who talks about Joker spreading chaos is Batman himself (just like him to explain the joke). Joker himself is simply sad at not being allowed to have his fish sandwiches. He even gets an incredibly creepy soliloquy about it (which is the only bad part of the animated adaptation, cutting Joker mourning his stillborn fast food empire). Similarly, Five Way Revenge is a pretty standard “villain kills minions for betrayal” story, which is only raised up by the Joker’s sense of style. No need for any weighty philosophical objectives when there are exploding cigars to dispense and sharks to feed. Or “Mask of the Phantasm”, where he’s merely another name on the Phantam’s hitlist, but still able to steal the scenes he’s in.

And even when there is overt insanity to spread, I find the Joker is best when he’s working at a personal level. James and Barbara Gordon in “The Killing Joke” (and elsewhere), Harvey Dent in “The Dark Knight”, or maybe even Tim Drake in “Slay Ride”, which is interesting because Tim is able to turn the joke back on the Joker. Of course, Batman is a common target, too, but there are so many of those it’s hard to pick out the best examples (I liked “Return of the Joker” and “Arkham Asylum” myself”). Anyway, attacks on individual souls are so much more interesting than a more lofty assault on the public at large (like, say, “Last Laugh”, or the whole boat subplot of “The Dark Knight”).

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mygif

I’d add in D-List (was kind of a sleeper when they came out, appeared as a one-off in one of the cartoons, was on a team one time, gets a page in the Ultimate Guides and not much else). Examples would be every non-Cable-and-Deadpool Liefeld character, three-quarters of Who’s Who, and all of Nobody’s Favorites.
What about characters like Sentry or Red Hulk or Superboy Prime, where they clearly have lofty goals and high power levels and appear (or used to appear) monthly, but actual fans of them are few and far between?

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