Top 5 Most Popular Characters Ever Written
Ever since Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created X-Men in 1963, they’ve been one of the jewels of Marvel’s crown. The series success has been grounded in its enduring metaphorical exploration of the civil rights movement and otherness while exploring the high school and coming-of-age stories. The series has often worked best when pivoting on the different approaches to mutant kind’s survival as embodied by Professor X’s pursuit of peaceful coexistence against Magneto’s militant segregationist. Writer Chris Claremont, along with artist John Byrne, really laid down the definitive blueprint for the series during his tremendous run in the 80s which gave us all-time classic Marvel story lines like Days Of Future Past and the Dark Phoenix saga. Other classics runs enjoyed some of the most iconic work the Image 8 did at the big publishers, like Jim Lee’s work with Claremont and Rob Liefeld’s creation of Deadpool in New Mutants and the development of the X-Force team as led by Cable. Grant Morrison’s All New X-Men is also required reading for any superhero fan. The series is home to some of Marvel’s most beloved characters like Wolverine, Kitty Pryde and Gambit, and it’s strong sales helped keep Marvel afloat during the financial turbulence the company went through in the 90s.
Part of the reason Spider-Man has been such a popular phenomenon has to be attributed to the fact he was one of the first young people in a universe full of adult superheroes to be the focus of his own book. Stan Lee and Steve Ditko created a series that reflected the reading age of its fanbase and mirrored people’s own struggles with first loves, going through high school and, yes, taking on great responsibility. Amazing Spider-Man #121 might be one of the most iconic issues in existence, telling the story of Peter Parker’s inability to save the life of Gwen Stacy from the Green Goblin, raising the bar for dramatic heft in a mainstream comic. The brilliance of Stan Lee’s initial conceit and Ditko’s iconic suit has to be admired because for a comic so popular Spider-Man really hasn’t had nearly as many great creative runs in its history compared to less well-known properties like Daredevil. Tom DeFalco had a very solid run on the character in the 80s under Jim Shooter’s editorial leadership, but the character fell victim to some rather leftfield editorial directions typified but the notorious Clone Saga of the 90s. Dan Slott’s current run on the comic, following his genius Superior Spider-Man arc, might be as good as the title’s ever been, however.
3. One Piece
Eiichiro Oda’s pirate manga has gone on to world domination since it’s appearance in Weekly Shonen Jump in 1997. Since then the series has gone on to spawn video games, a long running anime and all kinds of attendant merchandising, making it the best selling manga in history.
The caped crusader has dominated across various media forms, with some of the most consistently acclaimed superhero films (discounting the Joel Schumacher era), one of the finest television series of all time (Batman: TAS) all whilst being one of the most influential titles in western comics. Created by writer Bob Kane and artist Bill Finger in 1939, the world’s greatest detective endured as a dark if the slightly campy character, building up one of the greatest rogues galleries in comic history. It was Frank Miller’s seminal The Dark Knight Returns story line in the late 80s that gave us the Batman we have today, taking the character further into the shadows in a gritty tale pitting Bruce Wayne against the chaos threatening to drown Gotham. Along with Alan Moore’s Watchmen around the same time, TDKR is credited with bringing mature storytelling into mainstream comics, changing the medium forever. Alan Moore himself would help further things in this direction with his own Killing Joke transforming Batman’s greatest foe, the Joker, from gibbering clown to the cunning, bloody minded nemesis we have today. Of late, Scott Snyder’s run has been one of the character’s best, bringing out the gothic noir and forensic intrigue that had previously fallen by the wayside.
Perhaps the most iconic and prototypical of all superhero’s, Krypton’s favourite son has endured as the best selling superhero comic of all time, laying the archetype for all costumed avengers that followed him and establishing the primacy of superhero stories in the graphic storytelling format. Devised as something of a Jewish messiah by creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in 1933, Superman has always looked for the best in his adopted species, foiling the cynical machinations of villains like Lex Luthor and Brainiac to protect his adopted homeland. Though sometimes seen as too clean cut for fans of darker superhero stories, be sure to check out Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s thoroughly stunning All-Star Superman miniseries.