Even though Captain America like many Golden Age heroes faded after the war he became an inspiration for a new generation with his 1960's revival in Avengers #4. Now the Captain as a man out of his own time serves as a constant mirror by which our own time period is judged against those of "the greatest generation."
5. Captain Marvel: The original Captain Marvel epitomizes every young boy's fantasy, "to be big". Simply by saying a magic word, "Shazam", young Billy Batson is able to make all of his troubles dissapear at the speed of lightning as he becomes Captain Marvel. Who armed with a mixture of abilities from different pantheons (Solomon Hercules Atlas Zeus Achilles Mercury) becomes the World's Mightiest Mortal. Unlike Dick Grayson (see Robin at #8)Billy wasn't a young hero who was permitted to work with the adult hero he was the hero who had several sidekicks of his own (Captain Marvel Jr. at #32 , Mary Marvel , the Lieutenant Marvels, Uncle Marvel and even a talking Tiger). Captain Marvels appeal to youth was so great that at his height he had the top selling comic book in America. Captain Marvel's greatest weakness seems to be to lawyers. First he lost a battle to Superman than he lost his name to Marvel comics.
4. Wonder Woman: Part of the "holy trinity" of DC comics.
3. Spider-Man: The proportional strength of a spider and still can't get a job. What Stan Lee and Steve Ditko brought to comics in 1962 was the opposite of just about everything we had previously seen in comics. He wasn't a millionaire philanthropist, a successful business man, or respected reporter, scientist or test pilot. Peter Parker was a teenager with real problems like how to make the rent.Yet despite the issues in his own life Spider-Man always remembered "that with great power comes great responsibility."
2. Batman: How does one react to the loss of their parents? In fiction we are given a few examples. In 1912 Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote that fine breeding and good genetics could overcome any adverse situation when he created Tarzan. In 1954 William Golding wrote about a group of British school boys degenerating into savagery without parental guidance. In 1939 Bob Kane gave us something in-between. Bruce Wayne's parents were killed by Joe Chill in what would become known as Crime Alley. Suddenly orphaned young Bruce Wayne dedicated his life to battling criminals. Driven by rage and revenge Batman became a Dark-Knight fighting a never ending battle crime. Unlike Superman, Batman is completely human. Where Superman presents a spiritual ideal for man (insert Jesus Christ metaphors here) Batman represents what man can become in reality if he is driven.
1. Superman: The first and in my opinion the best. All super-heroes stem from either the "tree" of Batman or Superman and without Superman there would be no Batman. For those who don't like Superman because they can't relate to him than they are missing the point. Superman is a concept that is meant to inspire. He is not supposed to be "one of us." He is a strange visitor from another planet that is supposed to give us hope that one day we too can be "supermen". Superman doesn't actually fight for "Truth, Justice and the American Way" he fights for the "American Ideal." He represents everything that we should aspire to be as people and as a nation. That's why whenever someone tries to make Superman "relevant" it never rings true. Sure everyone has felt like an awkward teenager at some point or even been filled with an almost uncontrollable rage and desire for revenge (that's why those characters are easier to write and are easier to digest as they appeal to our emotions) but Superman shows us who we can be as people if we apply ourselves. We just have to be open to the message.