It’s the stereotypical comic book geek question—“Who would win in a fight?” Considering the comic book industry’s history of bowing to the demands of their fans, the answer to that question really comes down to which superhero is more popular. If you want to know who’d be left standing after an all-out superhero brawl, then the question you really need to be asking is “Who is the most popular superhero in the world?”
After a series of rigorous trials and arcane experiments—i.e. seeing which ones got the most results on Google—I’ve compiled the following list of superheroes most likely to win a grudge match. Also included are the superheroes’ highest ratings by the top critics on Rotten Tomatoes and their highest grosses on an opening weekend.
5. The Incredible Hulk
This misunderstood monster made a triumphant return to the box office with 2008’s The Incredible Hulk. Considering the horror that was the Hulk’s previous movie, it’s surprising that Marvel managed to sign an actor of Edward Norton’s caliber for this latest one.
The Incredible Hulk on Rotten Tomatoes: 58%
The Incredible Hulk opening weekend: $55,414,050
The first superhero’s latest theatrical adventure may not have been the success that it could’ve been, but that didn’t keep the last son of Krypton off the list. Superman is easily one of the most iconic (if not the most iconic) superheroes to grace the pages of a funnybook.
Superman II on Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Superman Returns opening weekend: $52,535,096
3. Iron Man
The fact that Tony Stark is even on this list is remarkable—the other five have appeared numerous times in both the box office and on television. Iron Man, by contrast, never had his own television series and only has the one movie under his belt.
Iron Man on Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Iron Man opening Weekend: $102,118,668
Peter Parker has problems, but that hasn’t kept him from becoming a giant in the comic book industry. In fact, it’s pretty much the reason he’s up there. I also suspect that part of his popularity is due to having some of comicdom’s most fascinating villains, but I digress.
Spider-Man 2 on Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Spider-Man 3 opening weekend: $151,116,516
From the 60s TV series to this year’s Dark Knight, Batman has been through the ringer when it comes to moving pictures. Tim Burton’s movies succeeded in bringing the grim and gritty Batman to film while Joel Schumacher nearly killed the franchise by infusing it with the campiness of the dynamic duo’s original television adventures. Director Christopher Nolan’s success with Batman Begins was only compounded by this year’s Dark Knight which, sadly, was marred by the passing of Heath Ledger after what was probably his greatest performance on film. Despite that tragedy (or, perhaps, because of it), Dark Knight now holds the record for the highest grossing opening weekend ever. All that tells us that Batman is the world’s most popular superhero.
Besides, everyone knows Batman can kick anyone’s ass.
Dark Knight on Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Dark Knight opening weekend: $158,411,483