Thank you for checking out this list. I worked very hard on it for over seven days and I honestly spent way too much time everyday working on it. I made this list because I wanted to find the greatest heroes of all time. In other-words I wanted something better than an opinion or a popularity contest. I think it is fair to say that the vast majority of comic readers either only read recent comic books or are reading a very small portion of older books. This does not make them bad fans, after all it is hard to find a whole run of books for a decent price and it is difficult to even find some of the best books.
The sad part is heroes that were huge for decades become unknowns because the company that produced them went out of business. Not only that but fads change for example war comics and westerns were huge a few decades ago but are all but non existent now. Take a look at a character like Blackhawk. He was huge for decades but you rarely see him anymore. He had films and theme songs and all sort of things. He was one of the biggest comic heroes there ever were but most readers today never even heard of him. Check out his page on the vine. Ice has a better page and she never had one self titled issue ever.
So, while I was conceptualizing this list I had to find a way to objectively rank the charters who are the greatest in comics. The best way I came up with is to count their self titled issues. A self titled issue is a comic the uses the name and only the name of the main character to sell the book. Quite often new heroes will have a book that trying to make the character more appealing like Superman in Action, Spectacular Spider-man, Incredible Hulk, Sensational Comics, and Tales of Suspense. Eventually, the hero becomes well enough known that they get their own book. Sometimes, this takes too long but only the biggest and best get a self titled series for an extended period of time.
Not only is it true that only the greatest heroes given their own self titled book for an extended period but they also almost always only print one self titled book at a time. The other books are made with adjectives to differentiate the many titles. I didn't want this to turn into a who has the most appearances list. It is more about sustainability and marketability over a period of time. I will grant you that it is not flawless for example Hulk and Spider-man are lower than they should be but, they still made the list because they are two of the greatest heroes of all times.
I see so many reviews and post that will list a legendary hero arbitrarily as a B-List hero. One of the most famous of these is Booster Gold. So much so that he B-List status has actually become part of his character and yet he has had 74 issues in his two self titled books. There is not that many characters that can support their book that long and Booster is still going strong. Comics are made to make money and Booster would not have the runs he has had without fan support.
This list sets out to prove something. Most comic readers think that they know a lot about comics without knowing the past. Most readers start reading at a certain time and don't really bother or don't have the chance to look at older comics. The point is they don't understand the popularity of characters like Dick Tracy, Green Hornet or even the Blue Beetle. For example most people don't even know who the first Blue Beetle was or that his first comic came out within a few months of heroes like Superman and Batman. Had Blue Beetle been in DC Comics he would be one of the staples of the franchise. There are numerous characters like the Spirit, Flash Gordon, Blackhawk and the Phantom that have movies and shows and comic series that have lasted decades but most fans miss the flavor of what comics are and dismiss them as B-List heroes. I invite you to look back and see the greatest comic characters of all times.
Any good list requires guideline to follow. Here they are.
- All the characters can not be too cartooney. There are a few characters however that bordered on the too cartooney rule and I added them. They are the Riverdale characters, Joe Palooka, and Scooby Doo. These characters for reasons explained below are the exception. To be completely fair. I added an extra entry for each one of these exceptions so you can make up your mind if they belong or not and still have a top 100 list.
- Only self titled books are counted. This means that it has to have the character's name and only the character's name in order for it to count. For example Superman, Clark Kent and Superman: Clark Kent would all count. Things that would not count would be Superman in Action, The Adventures of Clark Kent, Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen or Lois and Clark. After all this is a list of characters with self titles books and that is what a self titled book is.
- Team issues are not in this list. I am looking for individuals.
- I am looking at who the star is for each book. Take Green Lantern for example. There have been several Green Lantern books, but several different characters were the star from Alan Scott to Kyle Rayner. I am going to count the hero who is the star and not count them as all the same for one Green Lantern tally.
- When tallying the number of issues in a series I have added the annuals and specials in. This is the case as long as they qualify for the self titled criteria. So a book that has 37 issues 3 Annuals and 5 specials would say that it has 45 issues for the series instead of listing every annual and special separately.
- Whenever possible I chose the page of the hero instead of the character's real name. For example I chose the Azrael page instead of the Jean Paul Valley page. I explained what one I was talking about in the description.
- I will not count reprints of the series. Sometimes comics and even whole runs of comics have been reprinted I am only counting the first run.
- I will not have any non English comics. The reason for this is only a lack of information. I have not found a reliable source that lists all the comics from a particular country. Comicvine is great but still incomplete. I can also only read English, and a little Spanish and German. So if anyone has a reliable and complete source they can refer me to I will look closer into it.
- Lastly, I will update this list from time to time but considering all the work I will not do it every week just because one new issue came out. If I missed someone or made a glaring mistake let me know.
- Keep in mind that this list changes from year to year, month to month and week to week. When ever a current self titled issue comes out the numbers change. If I fall behind on a issue let me know and I will change it.
I hope you enjoy the work I put into this list and recommend it to others. Thank you.