Are there tiers of superheroes? It’s a pretty common theory, and it’s hard to dispute. People regularly refer to the big names as A-listers, while Guardians of the Galaxy was constantly referred to as a bunch of C- or D-listers when describing how risky the project was (which is partly what inspired me to examine this more closely).
Where you tend to get the real discussion, though, is when you try and categorize the non-obvious ones. No one will argue that Batman is a big name, or that Star Lord isn’t. But what about characters like Iron Man and Thor, pre-movies? Is there a way to be a little more hard-and-fast with the rankings?
Well, I decided to try it either way. What follows is my attempt to define a superhero notoriety. I’ll start by looking at it from circa-2000, to make it interesting. The recent boom in comic book movies has made the landscape very different, but once I have my framework laid out, it becomes very easy to re-apply it 2014.
My rankings are very heavily based on presence in media. That may seem a little weird on the surface, to be basing how famous a comic book character is without any reference to the comics themselves. But it makes a lot of sense if you think about it; comics, while popular, are hardly a good way to get a sense of how much a character permeates the public consciousness, given how little of the public consciousness in turn comes from comics.