Updated on December 10, 2021
While we’re in the middle of a major superhero boom, it’s still debatable just what superheroes past the most popular ones are recognizable to the general public. Sure, everyone breathing knows who Superman is, but how many people would recognize, say, Storm or the Flash?
Below, I take a guess at the superheroes most recognized by the public, as well as the most popular.
The most familiar superheroes
The most familiar superheroes to the general public, in my opinion, are:
- Wonder Woman
- The Hulk
- The X-Men (or at least Wolverine; maybe Storm?)
- Whatever characters appeared in prominent movies/TV shows; among others:
- The Avengers (the movies)
- Supergirl (the CW show)
- The Flash (the CW show, “Super Friends,” the various DCAU series; never mind he’s likely to still be confused by some with Flash Gordon)
- Aquaman (“Super Friends”)
Yes, I count Robin up in the top five, as for decades, he’s been seen as a “matching set” with Batman (as “the Dynamic Duo”). He’s likely still seen that way by many (particularly older generations), versus the more independent versions shown in modern media (Teen Titans, etc.). And yes, I’m referring to the Dick Grayson version—the general public wouldn’t recognize Tim Drake, Jason Todd, or Damian Wayne.
While the X-men are popular, I still feel the Hulk’s more familiar overall. The Jolly Green Giant’s cousin has been around longer, had a higher profile longer (the X-Men didn’t really take off with the general public until the 1990s and 2000s), and lots of Baby Boomers/Generation Xers enjoyed the 1970s TV show. I suspect a lot of older people would recognize a picture of the Hulk (without prompting) before any of the mutants.
The most popular Avengers?
A decade ago, I wouldn’t have imagined the Avengers would be one of the most prominent superhero teams among anyone other than comic book fans. But now, they’re a multi-billion-dollar film franchise, with Iron Man, Captain America, and others now household names.
But which of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes are the most popular among the public? Statista made this infographic surveying the popularity of the heroes, based on who appears in “Avengers: Infinity War.”
You will find more infographics at Statista
Unsurprisingly, Spider-Man’s the top of the list, as he’s Marvel’s most popular hero period, plus the face of the company. The Hulk coming in at #2 is also probably not surprising.
The only woman listed above is Black Widow, oddly with the generic “woman” logo one finds on restroom signs, versus any associated items she’d have (something spy-related, or a pistol?).
Most popular superhero movies
The top 10 highest-grossing superhero movies in North America (adjusted for inflation/2019 dollars) as of this writing are:
- The Avengers ($694.2 million)
- Black Panther ($688.7 million)
- The Dark Knight ($672.8 million)
- Avengers: Infinity War ($654.0 million)
- Spider-Man ($627.4 million)
- Batman ($568.5 million)
- Spider-Man 2 ($543.2 million)
- Superman ($518.1 million)
- Avengers: Age of Ultron ($483.3 million)
- Spider-Man 3 ($441.7 million)
Basically, the most popular superheroes (as far as movies are concerned) are the Avengers, Black Panther, Batman, Spider-Man, and Superman. Yes, T’Challa’s debut movie is now the highest-grossing solo superhero film of all time, eclipsing the Dark Knight himself.
Meanwhile, the highest-ranking solo woman superhero is Wonder Woman, with $416.4 million.
Who are your favorite superheroes?
“Thor vs. Superman (49/365)” by JD Hancock is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Flickr / cropped from original)