Jerry Seinfeld once said, “But when men are growing up and are reading about Batman, Spider-Man, Superman, these aren’t fantasies. These are options.” This was definitely true of me. One of my earliest favorite TV shows was Batman (1966). I have a picture of myself at four or five years old proudly wearing a Spider-Man mask. And my grandmother had hundreds of books at her farm, but I usually only read one: a paperback containing reprints of several Batman comic book stories.
Choosing my three favorite superheroes out of all the great ones out there just might be a job for Superman, but watch me try. Up, up, and away!
Growing up, I knew of The Flash, I enjoyed the 1990 TV series starring John Wesley Shipp, and I owned a handful of Flash comic books, but he was never one of my favorite superheroes. About ten years ago, that changed. Barry Allen has a single superpower — he’s really fast — but over the years, his writers have been enormously creative with the possible applications of that power. He can run up buildings or on water. He can vibrate so quickly the molecules of his body move faster than those that make up bricks and concrete, allowing him to walk through walls. And just like the starship Enterprise, he’s so fast he can travel backward and forward in time. The ultimate irony is Barry Allen is so scatterbrained, even his super-speed can’t prevent him from always being late. Brilliant!
It doesn’t hurt that The Flash has a rogues’ gallery second only to Batman’s, one loaded with colorful, fun villains like Captain Cold, Mirror Master, and the Trickster. And sometime in the 1990s, a mystical element was added to the Flash mythos: the Speed Force.
I didn’t own my first Flash t-shirt until I was 35 or 36, so I’m as late to the party as Barry Allen is to everything. But arrived, I have — The Flash is my number one superhero.
When The Flash became my favorite superhero, he dethroned Batman, but I still have a deep love for the Caped Crusader. As a little boy, I wanted to be Batman. My local comic book store sold the novelization of the 1989 Batman movie about two weeks before the film arrived in theaters, and I read that sucker faster than any novel I’ve read before or since.
I don’t need to justify Batman’s inclusion in this list. If he’s not the most popular superhero in the world, he’s in the top three. For me, his appeal comes down to his intelligence and his preparedness. Batman isn’t the strongest superhero, but he’s definitely one of the smartest, and he is constantly prepared for anything. There’s always something in his utility belt to help him out of a jam — or even better, he can always come up with a plan to outwit or outsmart his adversaries.
So many of his stories rank among the classics of sequential art: The Dark Knight Returns, Year One, The Killing Joke, The Long Halloween, Hush. Television has given us Batman: The Animated Series and film has given us Christopher Nolan’s three Batman films. We can’t get enough Batman. To the Batcave!
The Great and Powerful Turtle
George R. R. Martin is best known for A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones, but I know him best as the editor of the shared-world anthology book series Wild Cards. In Wild Cards, an alien virus was released on Earth in the 1930s. Those whom the virus left physically deformed are called Jokers. But some of the virus’s victims drew an Ace and received super powers.
Lots of great writers have contributed to Wild Cards throughout the years, and the series contains some great characters, but my favorite of them is one created by Martin himself. Thomas Tudbury is a gentle, quiet, comic book-loving man who is also the world’s most powerful telekinetic. However, he’s so timid and so scared, his powers become nearly useless unless he feels completely secure. He makes a “shell” out of an old VW beetle and flies around New York City inside it, fighting crime. When asked who he is, Tom turns on the shell’s external speakers and says, “I am the Turtle.” Then, thinking better, he cranks the speakers to maximum and declares, “I AM THE GREAT AND POWERFUL TURTLE!”
Though it has been many years since I’ve kept up-to-date with the Wild Cards series, I’ve never forgotten The Great and Powerful Turtle. He is such a cleverly designed and fun character. Don’t kill him off, George!
Observant readers will note I didn’t include any Marvel Comics heroes in this list. I have nothing but love for Marvel’s heroes, especially the X-Men. I’ve just always loved the DC heroes a bit more. Put me in Team Justice League.
So those are my three favorite superheroes. Who are yours? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter.