We are living in the age of superheroes. Caped crusaders have smashed the confines of their comic-book cages and now dominate almost every corner of global pop culture. But who among them truly rules?
To create this ranking of the 50 Most Powerful Superheroes, we devised a 100-point system that rated each character in nine categories: Cultural Impact, Bankability, Design, Modern Relevance, Mythology, Nemeses, Originality, Personality, and Powers. We gave each category a maximum score of 10 points, with one exception: Cultural Impact.
The power of a superhero is defined most by this quality, so we measured it on a 20-point scale to weigh the final list in favor of characters who have the deepest cultural footprints.
We then assembled a team of EW’s hardcore superhero experts and had them individually score 155 characters in each category. Those composite category scores were then added together to create an overall power total for each character. This determined our final 50 and each character’s position on the list.
The result, we believe, is the most precise and comprehensive superhero ranking ever created. Check out the full top 10 list here, but to see the complete rundown, pick up EW’s special double-issue on Friday.
Now, let’s begin with our choice for No. 1…
Wham! Crack! KA-RASH! Those are the sounds of a red boot kicking through a glass ceiling.
Before Leia, before Rey, before Katniss, Michonne, Ripley, Buffy, or Furiosa, there was Wonder Woman. Diana Prince. The Amazon princess of Themyscira. In the history of heroes, she ascends to the top as the singular icon for half the population— and more if you count all the boys who aren’t afraid to admire her unparalleled hardcore ferocity.
On her 75th anniversary, it’s time she finally gets her due. As a feminist icon, she represents something that’s bigger than Spider-Man or Batman. She’s an inspiration for every little girl who would like to imagine herself saving the world.
Wonder Woman isn’t the only female hero, but she stands apart. She began as a true original, rather than a variation on a previously existing character, and she blazed a trail as one of the first grown-up females in comics without a “girl” attached to her name. But she’s more than just a symbol who resonates deeply across generations; in terms of comics mythology, she’s an enduring powerhouse.
Matched against the boys, she’s an equal to Superman, usually battling the Man of Steel to a draw. When sheer might isn’t enough, she’s every bit the tactician as Batman, calculating her opponents’ weaknesses and utilizing the element of surprise. There’s hardly a DC hero she hasn’t bested. And if she could cross over into the Marvel Universe? Spidey… nice kid, but easily stepped on. Black Panther might earn her respect enough to open some trade between her island and Wakanda. Iron Man? Pfft, she’d crumple that tin can. Thor? He’d join the pantheon of gods whose asses she has kicked.
The power of a punch is one thing. The power of truth can be devastating in a much different way, and her golden lasso compels obedience and honesty from anyone it ensnares. She has no use for a firearm — and neither do her enemies. Her bracelets can deflect gunfire like she’s swatting a fly.
When creator William Moulton Marston first brainstormed the idea for a new kind of hero with his wife Elizabeth, they tried to devise someone who would be a contrast to the brute force dominating comicdom. That yearning for originality tapped into the type of heroism we often overlook.
Wonder Woman’s debut in 1941, shortly before America’s entry into World War II, made her as inspirational as Rosie the Riveter to the women left behind to run the homefront. Her star-spangled outfit, worn in tribute to her adopted homeland, even pays homage to the American immigrant experience: She’s the outsider who honors our nation’s ideals while adding her own and becoming indispensable.
Even after seven and a half decades, she is still making history. Recently, Greg Rucka, the Wonder Woman writer for DC’s new Rebirth series, said that because she comes from an island of only women, Wonder Woman is probably bisexual.
Whether it is in the early dynamic drawings by original artist H.G. Peter, the sunny fearlessness of Lynda Carter on the 1970s TV series, or the teeth-gritting independence of Gal Gadot in the new films, Wonder Woman’s power can’t be denied. It leaps off the page, radiates off the screen, and shines a desperately needed beam of light and hope into an often dark reality.
We welcome you to share your thoughts about our choices as well as your own rankings. Tweet us @EW using the hashtag #SuperheroPowerList (or head here to tell us your favorites via burst.com/ewsuperheroes). To read more about EW’s list of the 50 Most Powerful Superheroes, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly on stands Friday, or buy it here now – and subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.