50. Krypto: So why can't a dog be on this list? Krypto is the best ally Superman could have. Not only does Krypto have all of the same powers as Superman but he would do anything to help the man of steel. He is after all loyal as a dog. For anyone who doesn't think that the dog of steel would be tough in a fight imagine being attacked by your neighbor's beagle and then imagine that dog had teeth that could pierce Superman's skin.
49. Black Widow: Natasha Romanova started off as a K.G.B. Soviet spy. She then defected to the U.S. She's been an Avenger, a Champion and an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. As both a villain and a hero she has been able to hold her own with some of Earth's Mightiest Heroes.
48. Hourman (Rex Tyler): Next to Iron Man, Rex Tyler is probably the super hero with the most realistic possibility of becoming a reality. We've already seen what certain drugs can do for baseball statistics so why couldn't someone invent a drug that would grant someone super strength for a period of time? Rex even became addicted to Miraclo for awhile. That seems pretty real to me.
47. She-Hulk: Although the She-Hulk started out as an obvious attempt to secure a copyright to make sure no one else created a female Hulk Bruce Banner's cousin, Jennifer Walters, came into her own as a member of the Avengers and then later as a member of the Fantastic Four.
46. Martian Manhunter: J'onn J'onzz made his first appearance in Detective Comics #227 (Nov. 1955) which pre-dated Barry Allen's first appearance in Showcase #4 (Oct. 1956) by a year which makes the Martian Manhunter the first silver-aged hero(Captain Comet first appeared in 1951 but made his last appearance in 1954 without inspiring a resurgence of the superhero genre). More than just a pea-colored Superman, in addition to Superman's powers J'onn is a telepath; has telekinesis; can turn invisible; he can make himself intangible and is a shape changer. In an all out throw-down with the man of steel the smart money would be on the Martian Manhunter.
45. The Rocketeer: There is so little original Rocketeer material by Dave Stevens and yet he inspired a Disney Movie, a video game, and a complete renaissance of pin-up queen Bettie Page. Almost 30 years after the initial appearance of the Rocketeer and 3 years after the death of Dave Stevens a new anthology series is being published which is as much a tribute to Dave Stevens as it is a comic book about the Rocketeer.
44. Hawkeye: Clint Barton made his debut as a bad guy as he was duped into attacking Iron Man by the then KGB agent the Black Widow (above at #49). Hawkeye was offered an opportunity to redeem himself when he was asked to join the Avengers by Captain America in Avengers vol.1 #16. Since then Hawkeye has been a perennial member of the Avengers. Hawkeye comes after only Captain America, Iron Man and Thor as an icon of the Avengers.
43. Beast: As one of the original mutants that began the X-men Hank McCoy was already blessed/cursed with great strength, agility and huge hands and feet. Later Hank's mind mucked up his life further by creating a formula that further mutated him into a furry blue creature that resembled his super hero moniker. Hank McCoy made the best of his situation and reinvented his personality into the fun-loving Beast. Although he's been with the X-men far longer it was as an Avenger that the Beast truly shined.
42. Green Lantern (Guy Gardner): When Abin Sur crash landed on the planet Earth he instructed his ring to find a worthy replacement for him as Green Lantern of sector 2814. The ring found two suitable candidates. Hal Jordan was closer and thus became the Green Lantern of Earth. Nothing more than proximity separated Guy Gardner from possessing the most powerful weapon in the universe; being a member of the GL Corps and a founding member of the Justice League of America (John Stewart was too young at the time to be considered). It made Guy understandably a little bitter (years in a coma and possible brain damage didn't help). He received a ring years later during the Crisis on Infinite Earths when the Guardians of the Universe were looking for a more "take charge" Green Lantern.
For a considerable amount of time Guy was a thorn in not only Hal Jordan's side but the entire hero community (Batman famously knocked Guy out with one punch) but as he's become more secure in his status as a Green Lantern he has mellowed somewhat.
41. Mon-El: No one would have blamed Mon-El if after a 1,000 years in the Phantom Zone with the worst criminals from Krypton he had gone a little mental but not only did the Daxamite remain sane he went on to become an important member of the Legion of Super-Heroes. Possessing all of Superman's powers without his weakness to Kryptonite (and thanks to Brainiac-5 he is not susceptible to lead poisoning) Mon-El is practically invincible.
40. Powerman: I have an aversion to Black stereotypes but "Sweet Christmas" when they are done well they're done well. I can't not love Luke Cage. He's 300 lbs of Shaft with steel hard skin. He was the first Black Superhero with his own title and the series lasted for over a hundred issues. Luke Cage is the man.
39. The Vision: For years the Vision was literally the "face" of the Avenges as it was his head that appeared in the upper-left hand corner of Avengers books in the 1970's. Ironically, even though Henry Pym created one of the Avengers' greatest villains (Ultron) it was that same villain who created the Vision. The Red Tornado appeared in the Justice League two months before the Vision made his first appearance in Avengers #57 (Oct. 1968). Yet the Red Tornado never developed the depth of character that the Vision exhibited. I'm not talking just about the Vision's marriage to the Scarlet Witch. Overall the Vision always seemed to be, for lack of a better term, more "human" than the Red Tornado.
38. Powergirl: Although I could have put Powergirl on this list for her costume that would have been too easy and too predictable. The Kara Zor-L of Earth-2 was what Supergirl of Earth-1 could have been if she had ever shown any fire prior to her death. Powergirl didn't grow up on Argo City admiring Superman from a far. She escaped Krypton in a much slower ship built by her father, Superman's Uncle Zor-L. By the time that she arrived on Earth the Superman of Earth-2 was already in semi-retirement and would forever be hailed as that world's greatest hero. Maybe it was a little bitterness in the fact that she would always be following in her cousin's footsteps when she just as easily could have been a contemporary or a precursor if situations had been changed but Powergirl never accepted the role of Superman's little cousin. That's why she chose the adjective "Power" instead of "Super" and that's why there is...uhm..nothing where there should be a S-shield. Powergirl didn't take a backseat to Superman or the rest of the JSA and you had to respect that. She was such a good character that even after Crisis on Infinite Earths, when there was no logical reason for her survival, DC kept her around despite ever more convoluted explanations for her existence.
37. Green Lantern (John Stewart): John has been in the comic book continuity since the early seventies and unlike Guy Gardner (above) John actually had several stints as the replacement Green Lantern of Earth.
However, it wasn't until the Justice League cartoon that this character was given an opportunity to shine. As a result of the cartoon the architect (boring) was given a military background too. As a result of the cartoon it was fair to say that up until the Green Lantern movie more non-comic people had heard of John Stewart than Hal Jordan and thought of the Green Lantern as a Black guy and not a White guy. This added gravitas to the character filtered its way back to the comic book John Stewart and he is a much better character for it.
36. Batgirl/Oracle (Barbara Gordon): Barbara Gordon really came into her own after she was paralyzed by the Joker. As the information wizard behind the superhuman community she was even a member of the Justice League. This was a feat that most likely she would never have achieved as Batgirl. Every now and again Barbara would even kick a little butt from her wheelchair.
35. Storm: She is one of the most powerful members of the X-men. She is also one of the more honorable and yet she also has a toughness of spirit. Storm is the most significant female African-American character ever.
34. Doll Man: Created by Will Eisner Doll Man was a precursor to the silver-age Atom (ray Palmer) and Ant-Man. Darell Dane was able to reduce his height to six inches while retaining his full size strength. Doll Man also was the recipient of some of the best Golden Age art as Reed Crandall often drew his adventures.
33. Kid-Flash/Flash (Wally West): The Patron saint of super hero sidekicks. After Barry Allen died in Crisis on Infinite Earths Wally West in honor of his uncle/mentor graduated from Kid Flash to the Flash. Although that meant giving up one of the best superhero costumes ever Wally fulfilled his role as successor to Barry. In some respects he arguably surpassed his predecessor as Wally discovered and mastered the "Speed Force" enabling him to travel faster than Barry and accomplish other speed related feats unknown to Barry. Wally West was a member of the Justice League for decades and treated like an equal amongst the heroes who had known him since he was a child. His adventures as the Flash were published for two decades with the return of Barry Allen Wally West's future is unclear but for a generation of comic book readers Wally West is the fastest man alive.
32. Captain Marvel Jr.: Captain Marvel Jr.was so cool that Elvis modeled his hair after him. Captain Marvel Jr. was unique in that he wasn't simply a sidekick to Captain Marvel. From the start he was a spin-off character who had his own adventures. Even the art style on the Captain Marvel Jr. comic book was distinctively different from the cartoony art work associated with Captain Marvel.
Not only did Captain Marvel Jr. inspire Elvis but later the idea of physically handicapped person being transformed via a bolt of lightning into a God was adopted by Marvel's Thor.
31. Human Torch (Johnny Storm): One can question why Reed Richards took the teenage brother of his girlfriend into outer space (one could also question why he took his girlfriend) but he did and the Human Torch was born. Johnny Storm was a revamped approach to one of Timely/Marvel's big three golden-age heroes. Unlike Captain America and Namor, however, Johnny Storm wasn't the same character from the 1940's. This Human Torch was not an android he was a flesh and blood teenager with all of the personality traits that would come with a teenage boy who suddenly found himself with superpowers and one-fourth of a super-team.
30. Aquaman: Poor Aquaman. I feel sorry for Aquaman and not because he's the punchline for any comedians joke about superheroes. No, I feel sorry for Aquaman because every time a writer wants to make him interesting something horrible happens to him. He has been dethroned and separated from his wife Mera more times than I can count. His son was killed by his arch-enemy, Black Manta. His hand was eaten by Piranha. He's even been killed resurrected and then killed again but in true comic book fashion he got better. Through it all Aquaman has persevered.
29. Black Panther: The first Black Superhero. Black Panther is the ruler of Wakanda. Wakanda is a country whose scientific accomplishments surpass the rest of the world while still steeped in its ancient traditions. The Panther encompasses both those dichotomies. He possesses the physicality of Captain America and can utilize weaponry on a par with Iron Man.
28. Hawkman (Carter Hall): As a Thanagarian possessed of advanced scientific equipment and weaponry Kater Hol never made much sense as Hawkman. There was never a believable reason why this alien would use an ancient Earth weapon like a mace as his primary tool. However, as the reincarnation of an Egyptian Pharaoh who was murdered along with his wife, not only does it ring true that Carter Hall would choose ancient weapons but he would have anger management issues. Additionally, like Ghost Rider and the Shinning Knight in the hands of the right artist Hawkman and Hawkwoman always look good.
27. The Tick: "Spoooooon!" A parody of superheroes but a very entertaining parody of superheroes. Other parodies had been attempted before but they eventually fell flat. The Tick wasn't a one trick pony and his comic and subsequent cartoon series created a world of absurdity that had a life of its own that wasn't dependant upon making fun of Marvel or DC comics.
26. Huntress (Helena Wayne): Back when there was an Earth-2 there was Helena Wayne who was the daughter of the golden-aged Batman and Catwoman. Helena exhibited all of the abilities that we would expect from having been trained from birth by Batman and Catwoman to one day take over the family business. After Crisis on Infinite Earths this version of the character was removed from continuity and replaced by Helena Bertinelli who had a similar costume and appearance but a completely different back story. Unfortunately, without that back story of being Batman's daughter the current Huntress has always just seemed to be an angry woman in a Huntress costume.