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Who Are "The Big Three" of Superheroes?

The Big Three at the Big Two.

 Are these really the Big Three at DC? They sure LOOK iconic, don't they?

For as long as I can remember, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman have been construed as the “Big Three” at DC. They’re the most famous, the most iconic, the most popular… and basically the superlatives of whatever else you can name for superheroes. However, this past Saturday, while I was walking through Studio City’s most excellent comics store, Comic Smash, I saw something that jolted my perspective a little. There were a lot of Green Lantern comics, toys, statuettes, figurines and other assorted collectibles. In fact, GL was represented far more extensively than any of the super folk in DC’s Big Three.

Times always change, as they say. I don’t presume Superman and Batman will ever lose their positions as the top two for superheroes, in general (although the precise number one spot waxes and wanes between them every couple years).  Wonder Woman, however… well… while she’s certainly got the name recognition over GL (at least at the moment), but I think she’s only included in the Big Three out of tradition at this point. Think about it. Which character has a top selling book, month in, month out? Which character has a spin-off title starring an entire family of supporting characters? Which character’s mythos has been the basis for a company-wide crossover that’s gone on for almost a year? Which character a movie that’s actually going into production?

You couldn't imagine the Avengers without these three guys, could you?

You might have to reassess a scheme you’ve understood for years, but I think it’s pretty clear that Green Lantern is the one who should be in the Big Three, not Wonder Woman. I don’t think WW’s really ever caught on with comics audiences over the years, anyway.  I believe that has a lot to do with Dr. William Moulton Marston’s bizarre psycho-sexual political agenda for her creation. It’s something the character’s never been quite able to shake off… but that’s a rant for another time.

The funny thing is… I think that Marvel’s Big Three is going through a similar shift. While the Avengers has a Big Three for its line-ups that includes Captain America, Thor and Iron Man, I’ve always conceived of the Big Three for Marvel as a whole to be comprised of Spider-Man, Wolverine and the Hulk. Now, you won’t see those three in a TRINITY-style book, or arranged in however many iconic poses, but they’re the characters everybody’s heard of. They’re the ones who’ve had numerous movies, cartoons, TV shows, theme park rides, and so on.  

One thing I can’t help noticing, however, is that I do believe Iron Man’s actually usurping the Hulk’s position. He’s the character who’s actually in the zeitgeist, right now - - the one kids want toys of, that the general public is actually interested in seeing.  I can’t help smirking over the irony of Iron Man’s current mega-popularity.  I remember a time not too long ago when the character’s whole storyline was a bit of quagmire and it felt like his book was being kept around just for the sake of tradition. Times change, like I said.

Anyway, this is, obviously, just my assessment. Think of this article as like a giant gumball machine and toss your two cents into it. Are my takes on Marvel and DC’s big three’s spot-on, or way off the mark?

-- Tom Pinchuk is the writer of UNIMAGINABLE for Arcana Comics and HYBRID BASTARDS! for Archaia. Pre-order the HYBRID BASTARDS! hardcover now on Amazon.com.

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Edited by jstarzyk

Currently for Marvel, I say Iron Man, Spider-Man, and Wolverine. 

Posted by kennybaese

I do think that Lantern is waaay bigger right now than Wonder Woman is. Really, I neve really understood her inclusion in the Big Three. I understand, and she used to be bigger. And you really can't have the JLA without those three, but I've seen like two Wonder Woman trades on bookstore shelves pretty much ever while there are tons of Batman and Superman and, now, Green Lantern books.  Maybe I'm just too young to really appreciate Wonder Woman. I like that character, but only really in team books. I find her a bit... boring by herself.

Edited by johnny_spam

I am always skeptical about how people will call Green Lantern the next big hero, there is a difference between being popular at the moment and popular five years from now. Look at Teen Titans when Johns was on the book it was popular and a movie was in development he left then the franchise fell to the wasteside. Flash became less popular as soon as Johns left with more fans complaining about the book and JSA another book people liked when Johns was on the title is not everyone's favorite anymore.  
 
It tells me fans like Johns more than the characters he is writing I think it's funny when people say that they didn't like Green Lantern before Johns then started to like it when his run started up to me that says they may not be paying as much attention to the character as much as the hype.  
 
As for the trinity I always took that name as the most iconic and archetypal not necessarily the most popular at the moment.  It seems that Batman is the longest consistently popular character Superman is the most known Wonder Woman people are familiar with but do not have a good idea of her because of constant reboots of her since the sixties I think if DC allowed some stuff to stick with her she would be more popular.

Posted by sora_thekey

I think the reason the Green Lantern and, as you say, Iron Man are overstepping other characters is because of their movies....
 
Without looking at movies, merchandise and popularity... Looking solely on story and comic books, The big three is still Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman... because although right now GL is on high popularity... It's because of Blackest Night and the big event that focused on him directly. World War Hulks is going on right now, but that doesn't make Hulk stand in the spotlight it's just another story focusing on him. When Blackest Night and Brightest Day is over, how do you know that the next even won't make Martian Manhunter "overstep" WW in the big three?
 
Same goes for Marvel, Iron Man is barely getting his popularity because of the movies, Spider-Man, Hulk and Wolverine are popular, because of their movies... Without looking on the movies and only comics, you will see that Captain America, Thor and Iron Man are Marvel's big three... Even if they don't appear on every team of the Marvel U....
I mean using that reasoning, then I would say the Spider-Man, Wolverine and Deadpool are the Big Three ... I mean c'mon they are everywhere!

Moderator
Posted by The_MVPs
Moderator
Edited by DarkSyde79

Concerning DC's "Big Three", while Green Lantern is currently more popular than Wonder Woman, the fact that the quintessential GL (Hal Jordan) has repeatedly been represented/replaced by others human GLs in popular culture is what separates him from the other members of DC's B3. Kyle Rayner in Superman TAC, John Stewart in the Justice League series & Static Shock, Guy Gardner in Batman BATB, and even Alan Scott in Smallville confuses the general public who're not really familiar with the GL as a intergalactic police force and the character's/comic's history. The same can be said for The Flash and to a lesser degree Robin. When it comes to the B3, we KNOW Superman is Clark Kent, Batman is Bruce Wayne and Wonder Woman is Diana Prince.


I'm not even gonna get into Marvel's B3 but it's clear that Spider-Man is the flagship character but the fact that in the canon he is thought of as an outcast and is nowhere near as powerful as other members throws off the concept of their even being B3 in Marvel and why Captain America (Superman/American Hero archetype), Thor (Wonder Woman/Supernatrual archetype) and Iron Man (Batman/Industrialist archetype) are considered Marvel's B3. 

Posted by Bruce Vain

Yea but the thing with Green Lantern is there isn't just one Green Lantern. There's 5  different Earth Green Lanterns sooo you can't really have a GL in there. Where there's always been one Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman..   Now as having GL  being a major player , yes of course same goes for Flash.  But I don't consider them as the Trinity.
 
And as far the Marvel part goes- Spider-Man, Wolverine , & Hulk are the top three as in being the gen-x outcasts. But as far as the old school big boys Cap, Shellhead & Thor goes. They'll always be the main three regardless of how much times have changed. They're the bigger powerhouses in the Marvel Universe.
Edited by Captain13

I think the Big Three are the characters the companies market most extensively because of name recognition. If the Thor and Captain America movies are good, then Marvel's Big Three could be Cap/Iron Man/Thor.
 -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I always thought that the Big three of both companies (story-wise, at least) were comprised of the most respected (not most popular) genetic hero (Supes/Cap), the most respected tech hero (Bats/Iron Man), and the most respected magic hero (WW/Thor).
 
If DC changed their trinity to Supes/Bats/GL, it wouldn't fit the Genetic/Tech/Magic mold. 
I think that its more likely that they would just expand the Big 3 into the Big 5 (Supes/Bats/WW/GL/Flash)
 Same with Marvel: (Cap/Iron Man/Thor/ Spidey/Wolverine).
 
If they are adhering to Genetic/Tech/Magic mold, then Marvel ALMOST has a Black trinity (Blue Marvel/ Black Panther/ Doctor Voodoo).
Too bad they haven't teamed up yet. 

Posted by ArachKnight

Tom I Disagree with your Marvel Big Three -  
 
If you are judging the Big three on Marketing and number of Images you will find of the Charecter at the store. I would say the big Marvel Three are Spider-man, Iron Man/Wolverine, and Dead Pool.  Spider-man is probably number one - I think because of movies wolverine and Iron Man are Probably Tied for second place. Dead Pool has his picture eveywhere - I think I can find more images and items relating to Deadpool in the Comic Book Store than I can Find Images and Items Relating to Jesus in Italy
 
Posted by speedlgt

I am gonna have to say that GL is HOT right now hes not new hes a classic hero and top DC character and he always has been. Now his stories are become the back drop of the company but never fear that for a moment he will have "wolverine" like reign to the top dethroning superman and batman. Even wonderwoman is a hard sale for GL to over take. if you look at the history ww is an icon to a level GL just is not at least not now. in time he could be and if this current trend continues of WW have very little and GL gaining more of the center stage of the DC media machine than yes GL maybe the 3rd man on the trinity. 
 
I think over all GL has a alot against him to reach that level of ICON. 1st there are too many GLs so many that we call them by 1st name not there superhero name of GREEN LANTERN. theres alan kyle john and guy and OH YEAH thats a problem theres only one superman one batman one spiderman one wolverine and one WW. There is not a hole police force of em. 
 
2nd Hal jordan is not the original hes an update to alan scott and that too hurts him it tarnishes his claim to the classics of comicdom for alan scott is the 1st. 
 
in marvel IMO the trinity is all about teams Xmen Avengers and FF thats marvels true trinity. 
in terms of cash cows i agree thats its Wolverine SPiderman and Ironman. hulk use to be there but hes all but an after thought now. but really what you could you ever do with Hulk anyway? HULK SMASH can only go so far.......and yeah thats all he ever says. 
 
thor and cap are icons of the avengers but one thing that everyone should always remember is how important captain america is. when they killed him the whole nation went nuts! it was on every tv station and it was a huge deal. Not since the death of superman did a comic hero take that kinda toll on the media. 

Posted by The_Martian

I would agree with DC's Trinity being Superman, Batman, and Green Lantern. I'm also pretty much in agreement with Marvel's. The only one I'm not sure of is if its Hulk or Wolverine being pushed out of the trinity. Generally when I see Marvel shirts the trinity on it is Spider-Man, Hulk, and Iron Man.

Posted by The Jeff

Spider-Man is definitely Marvel's #1 hero. Nothing even comes close to the sheer amount of Spidey merchandise. Plus everyone knows who Spider-Man is. Be it from the movies, comics,toons or just the plain pop culture references, Spider-Man reigns in the Marvel Kingdom.

Posted by nick_clark

DC: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman.

Posted by IronSpidy-Rooney

One of the things I liked about final crisis was that it didn't focus on all of or at least one of the DC big three. 
Infinite crisis was about Super-man Bat-man and Wonder Woman getting back together after DC current events 
Superman saves the day in final crisis by building the miracle  machine  
And although they all play a role in blackest night all the important things are done by The Lantern Corps and the Flash 

Posted by SirSparkington

Green who?

Posted by lastdrag0n89

The trinity Is always going to be Superman, Batman, Wonder woman for DC; Captain America, Thor, Iron man for Marvel. Doesn't matter what the general public thinks or "the most popular characters." Not everyone reads comics and are only going off movies and cartoons. For us die hard fans we all know who the respective trinities are.

Posted by The_Martian
@lastdrag0n89:  Shouldn't it be the public decide who the Big Three are? Why would they want to focus on three characters that aren't liked as much as three other characters?
Posted by mdb47

Marvel's big three would most certainly have to be 
 
Captain America, Spider-Man, Hulk
 
They were the three most recognizable entities prior to the onset of the superhero movie wave. Their sales are high and all have the classic Marvel appeal. Wolverine is too recent and doesn't represent the classic days of Marvel to be part of the big 3 for me.

Posted by Caligula

the Wonder Woman, character is boring always has been always will be, hell Catwoman is more recognizable as an iconic female than Diana. 
I say give Diana the boot, and let Hal shine for a while, the trinity comics would have been more entertaining with Hal.
Posted by CrimsonComedian

They just look over-weight to me. But hey, I'm not a big DC fan.

Posted by IrishX

I don't know about this whole Wonder Woman thing. When I was a kid to me the big 3 in DC were Batman, Superman, and The Flash. As for Marvel I think that Spider-Man, Wolverine, and Captain America are the big 3. Cap is relevant to all the different generations imo.
Edited by elevatorparty
@walkingcarpet: i like your theory of the archetypes but I think that it could be put another way. Batman is the hero with no powers, the detective, the tech expert, the strategist. The best of normal men. and of course, the scary one. Superman is the archetype of the person born with powers, the leader, the patriot, the symbol. I would put Green Lantern in as the archetypical character of the normal man who GAINS super powers. He comes from a whole other place to Bats and supes and that creates conflict which is really what the big three strive on.  
 
I also think it would make a cool story to have Bats, Supes and GL go behine Wonderwoman's back. To try to push her out of the picture as if to say - look we dont need you any more. And then have wonderwoman actually work for her position at the big three rather than just get it because she is a kick ass woman.  
 
but i think the best point made against GL is that noone really knows who he is. I got into comics from cartoons and I never got his backstory till i read it up on the web ... but then again, i dont know any wonder woman story and i dont see myself ever looking her up
Posted by Archetype

Speaking of Iron Man toys...you know they have Iron Man toys that are an Iron Man figure bundled with a red and gold vehicle,motorcycle, car, etc ?
 
why does Iron  Man need a vehicle? seriously?!

Edited by Jordanstine

"I should be in DC's Big 3..." "No I should!" "What about me?" "I should be in it too!"

"Hey don't forget about us!"
Problem with Green Lantern being in the "Big 3" is that there's like 7 gazillion of them. 
 
Hal Jordan maybe, but the younger generation nowadays who don't read the books, believe it or not, actually know John Stewart as the Green Lantern more because of the recent cartoon series.  So Green Lantern as a whole is just... I don't know.  
 
I'll side with Wonder Woman (maybe even Aquaman back in the early 80's day).
Edited by oNBAo OG Mike Hancho
@ArachKnight said:
"Tom I Disagree with your Marvel Big Three -   If you are judging the Big three on Marketing and number of Images you will find of the Charecter at the store. I would say the big Marvel Three are Spider-man, Iron Man/Wolverine, and Dead Pool.  Spider-man is probably number one - I think because of movies wolverine and Iron Man are Probably Tied for second place. Dead Pool has his picture eveywhere - I think I can find more images and items relating to Deadpool in the Comic Book Store than I can Find Images and Items Relating to Jesus in Italy  "

@mdb47 said:

"Wolverine is too recent and doesn't represent the classic days of Marvel to be part of the big 3... "


u both have the best points in my opinion
Edited by Jordanstine

Marvel's all-time classic, most well-known, BIG 3 have always been:  
 
Spidey: "Yo Superman, did you know that according to CNN, I was actually #1 most popular even more popular than both you and Batman from the start to mid-late of this 2000 decade!" Prime: "Um... I'm not Superman, besides I read on that same report that you later dropped 2nd to Batman after 2008." Spidey: "Well, whoever you are, I'm still more popular than you."
- Spider-man 
- Captain America 
- Hulk 
 
It was just recently around this decade that Wolverine and Iron Man have gotten their share of popularity due to films and shows. 
Posted by Violet-Eyed Dragon

For starters, id say marvel doesn't really have like a big three.  i mean, its got the big two who are far more popular than any others--Spiderman and Wolverine.  Id say for non comic book fans, if there had to be a big three it would be Spiderman, Wolverine, and Iron Man.  However, in comics Deadpool is a bit more popular.  Once the Deadpool movie comes out I would not be surprised if the big three for all Marvel fans alike (whether for the movies or the comics) would be Spiderman, Wolverine, and Deadpool.  



 
Posted by Sexy Merc

DC: Superman, Batman, WonderWoman 
Marvel: Spider-Man, Hulk, Wolverine or Captain America

Posted by archangel0127

Dispite how big that picture of deadpool is I think that there are different marvel big 3's for each team or group 
 
LIke the whole of marvel is like Hulk, Wolverine & spidey.. 
but for the avengers its Iron, Cap,nd Thor 
And the newer era avengers Iv got to say a tink is more Wolv, Spidey, nd either Clint or Cage
Posted by Moomin123


DC's big three are definately Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. However, I think Hal Jordan is gaining a little more popularity nowadays. He's definately DC's number 4. 
As for Marvel, I think Iron Man, Capt. America and Spider-Man are the top 3. Although Thor's my favourite, he's not as popular. However, the Avengers definately wouldn't work without the God of Thunder.

 


 

I AM YOUR MESSIAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


 

Posted by reaper2923

If that's the new Cap then Marvel has let me down again.

Posted by wordchallenge

The Big Three of DC will never change. They're too iconic. Popularity may shift and wane, but the Big Three will always be the Big Three. They're the royalty of the DCU. Right now Batman is on top in terms of popularity among the three, but Superman and Wonder Woman always have their dedicated followings too. 
 
As for GL.. I credit his rise in popularity to Geoff Johns. He's also taken up Barry Allen as a character he champions. If it were up to Johns, those two would be included in a Big Five.

Posted by No_name_here

See, I think Wonder Woman's only considered a major character out of tradition. Yeah, first major superheroine, but I can't recall anytime her title's actually been a big seller, nor when a spin-off has actually made a dent. Batman's got four titles, plus all those books about his sidekicks. Same as Superman. GL's has a spin-off book. When has more than one WW been running? When have her sidekicks ever had their boks?

Posted by aztek_the_lost

I don't think Green Lantern would work as well because when you say Green Lantern everyone thinks of a different Lantern, I personally think of John Stewart just because of the JLU cartoon but then there's your Rayner's, Jordan's, Gardner's and what-have-you, it's not just the one character that is popular it is the entire Corps

Moderator
Posted by AirDave817

I always thought Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman were always the big three at DC because they had at one time the longest consecutive run of issues. They were also the three characters that survived the comic book implosion of the '50's as well as Wertham's McCarthy-esque Red Scare. Of course it may have been that shaky house of cards that is sales figures. 
 
Marvel? Not sure who their big three is. back in the day I would have argued Captain America, The Hulk/Iron Man (a tie) and Spider-Man. based on media presence - comics, cartoons, television series, action figures...that kinda thing. I haven't really been following Marvel for years...so, right now, I'd say Spider-Man, Wolverine and maybe Iron Man. They definitely seem to have raised the bar on all of their characters, teams and properties... 
 
     

Posted by warlock360

DC Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman def for DC
 
Marvel Captain America, Spider Man, Ironman / wolverine or deadpool
 
All in all   
 
Superman, Captain America, Batman / Spiderman

Posted by Gylan Thomas

The big three are more about who's a house hold name. 
Does your mom or grand dad know who Green Lantern or even Flash are?
Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman will always be DC's big three.
 
Marvel?  
Untill recently Spider-man and the HULK were had recognition beyond any other Marvel here in merry ole England. Certainly Captain America on the home turf. I'd say Ironman and the X's have been gettin' more recognition these days.

Posted by Gylan Thomas
@Caligula: 
 
It's really the writers and not the characters that make things boring.
Put a good enough creative team on any character and you'll get good stories and a good character.
You should read Greg Rucka's Woner Woman run.
Posted by warlock360
@Gylan Thomas: agreed
Posted by Gylan Thomas

There seems to be a lot of love for Deadpool these day.
Nothin' against him myself but I just don't think he had that much stayin' power. He'll always have his loyal fans but I sorta feel the passion for him that we see now is gonna fizzle out. Remember how wild we used to be for Punisher? And how he fell from grace with the fanboys?
Any one point me in the direction of any truly classic Deadpool stories?
I loved the Joe Kelly/ Ed McGuinnes run but even that didn't impact the character or any thing. 
Deadpool's great when he's done right and a lot of fun to read but he's definately gettin' over exposed now and it's gonna be the death of him.

Posted by Gylan Thomas

I'm curious about the Superman as a patriot thing.
As a non American fan I don't see it. He's not obvious like Cap' with the shield and costume.
I've always though given the power set he should be more international. He'd certainly be more interesting that way. 

Posted by Yung ANcient One

i always felt that the big 3 in DC was Supes Bats and GL... but that they would put WW because she was a female. 
 
On Marvel: i always thought it was SPidey, Logan, and Hulk...  right now i think its SPidey, Logan, and Ironman but DP is gunning for 3rd.
 
and i always thought "MARVELS BIG THREE"(Cap,Thor, Iron Man)... was actually The Avengers Big Three not marvels but oks

Posted by DEADPOOL
@Captain13 said:
" I think the Big Three are the characters the companies market most extensively because of name recognition. If the Thor and Captain America movies are good, then Marvel's Big Three could be Cap/Iron Man/Thor.  -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------I always thought that the Big three of both companies (story-wise, at least) were comprised of the most respected (not most popular) genetic hero (Supes/Cap), the most respected tech hero (Bats/Iron Man), and the most respected magic hero (WW/Thor).  If DC changed their trinity to Supes/Bats/GL, it wouldn't fit the Genetic/Tech/Magic mold.  I think that its more likely that they would just expand the Big 3 into the Big 5 (Supes/Bats/WW/GL/Flash)  Same with Marvel: (Cap/Iron Man/Thor/ Spidey/Wolverine).  If they are adhering to Genetic/Tech/Magic mold, then Marvel ALMOST has a Black trinity (Blue Marvel/ Black Panther/ Doctor Voodoo). Too bad they haven't teamed up yet.  "
I gotta agree with this whole post.
Posted by lastdrag0n89
@Nobody:  I see your Point. I just always see them as the big three because they are the most Iconic of the bunch
Posted by Bats

Superman-Spiderman-Batman (of all time of course)
Posted by TheMess1428

In my very own fan fiction universe: JG Comics, the Big Three are Green Lantern (a future version), Batman (a future version), and Zero (a punisher-type character). There is a Superwoman and Wonder Woman but they're not as important in that universe.

Posted by speedlgt

Wolverine is at a DEAD lock with spiderman for TOP cash cow and #1 hero/poster boy of all marvel comics.  Ironmans stock is huge right now in think in the next 5-10 years ironman will be looked at as we look at wolverine in the 90s Marvel really has put themselves in a spot where for the future generations Wolverine spiderman and ironman will all be super main stream heros and global icons.

 

Hulk was great in the 70s but hes such a stupid character there is NOTHING to do with him Hulk smash!!! ok that was fun now what?

Cap is a national ICON to marvel fans Cap is special but to the media machine hes not like wolverine nor spiderman

I can believe someone posted a pic of deadpool in here?

 

really deadpool? is a straight C-LEVEL....... B MINUS level at best hes no icon hes nothing more than cult classic hes boba fett NOT darth vader!!!

Edited by CylonDorado

 

I love WW, they just never do anything with her. Her animated movie was awesome, but they used up her only good villain. I don't really give a crap about whose in the "big three". Green Lantern is cool, and he is pretty much bigger then Superman and Wonder Woman right now. I don't see what is to be gained from being part of a "big three", besides them being seen together a lot, which makes sense because they're not in space as much as Green Lantern.  
 
I hope Wonder Woman has a good movie like Iron Man eventually, and has a popularity shift like he did.

Posted by Jake Fury

Obviously the Big 3 for DC are Supes, WW and Batman. But after these 3 does the bulk of mainstream America recognize anyone? In Marvel I'm pretty sure anyone off the street can recognize Spidey,Cap,Hulk or Wolverine.

Posted by PowerHerc

DC 
 
 1.  Superman 
 2.  Batman 
 3.  Wonder Woman 
 
 
Marvel 
 
 1.  Spider-Man 
 2.  Hulk 
 3.  Captain America 
 
 
Combined 
 
1.  Superman 
 2. Batman 
 3.  Spider-Man  
 
This takes into account how well known and recognizable these characters are to the general public of any age, gender or race. 
Wolverine and Iron Man are big now and may even get bigger, but they still aren't as well known or gecognizable to the general public as 
these others are.  These six are true icons known and recognized by nearly everybody with the three from the the combined list being 
arguablely the three best known fictional characters in the world.   
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