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The Most Powerful Superheroes (and Villains)

When I was a kid, I loved Superman. I used to dress up and “fly” around the house, pretending to beat up bad guys and save the terrorized victims. And I loved the cheesy Superman movies starring Christopher Reeve. My favorite was Superman II, the one where General Zod and his cronies, Ursa, and Non break free from their floating prison (“The Phantom Zone”) just a short distance from Earth, where they then go whip up some terror and destruction. It’s corny, but I couldn’t get enough.

Back then (I grew up in the 80’s), Superhero movies were not that common. Today, of course, superheroes are everywhere in pop culture—movies, television, video games, etc. But despite their prevalence in our modern society, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of superheroes who most of us have never even heard of, many of which are quite powerful and intriguing.

The Most Powerful?
As a data guy, I started to wonder if there was some way to measure the overall strength of superheroes. (A quick sidenote here to say that I am not a superhero expert—I know about as much as the average guy, but no more, so please forgive me if I get something wrong). Someone must have created some sort of ranking system, right? As a matter of fact, someone has. A website called SuperheroDB rates each superhero and villain by six “powerstats”: Intelligence, Strength, Speed, Durability, Power, and Combat. For example, here are the ratings for Dr. Strange:
  • Intelligence – 100 
  • Strength – 10
  • Speed – 12
  • Durability – 84
  • Power – 100
  • Combat – 60

These scores are then brought together to create a final overall score (I am not sure of the formula used to derive this final score). The site also allows users to provide their own rankings, called uStats, which are also compiled into a final score; both the individual stats and final scores can differ quite widely from the site’s official ratings. Clearly, this is all very subjective, but considering it’s all just for fun, let’s not get too bent out of shape about it and just go with it.

I wanted to use the website to create some basic visualizations showing the most powerful superheroes and villains, but unfortunate, the website does not provide its data in a downloadable format. But I found some work by  Jonathan Skaza on his blog, Jon's Jibber-Jabber, in which he did some statistical analysis of the SuperheroDB data. He provides his data set, from July, 2014, so I used that as a starting point. Then, through use of some rudimentary web-scraping, I filled in some additional details and updated the data to account for changes. With that,  here’s my visualization of the top 25 most powerful superheroes and supervillains (you can find the full visualization here).



And here’s a visualization of the top 10, in no particular order.



A couple of observations:
  • Of the top ten, eight are supervillains. The only two heroes in the top 10 are The Silver Surfer (who started out as a villain) and Dr. Manhattan.
  • Very few of the most popular superheroes and supervillains are on the list. They simply are not the most powerful, which means their popularity must stem from other characteristics.

The Most Popular?
This last point was particularly interesting to me as it would seem that the most powerful heroes and villains would attract our imaginations. Anti-Monitor, for example, is number 2 on the list, but is a relative unknown. In fact, only a few of the top ten are well known to the average person. So, I began to wonder which heroes and villains are the most popular, if not the most powerful. For that, I turned to another unscientific data set, the IGN Top 100 Heroes and Villains. IGN chose their lists largely based on “cultural impact, character development, social relevance, general cool factor, and importance of storylines.” So, like the top 10 most powerful, I also visualized the top 10 most popular heroes and villains, again in no particular order.





Now these are characters we are all very familiar with, for the most part—Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Hulk, the Joker, Lex Luthor, etc. The one thing I notice almost immediately is that most of the characters are either human or a human mutant. Nine of the ten superheroes and seven of the supervillains fall into one of these categories (80% overall). The list of most powerful, on the other hand, only has two humans/mutants (20%). So, perhaps, the most interesting characteristic of a superhero or supervillain is their humanity, their likeness to ourselves. Perhaps we like to imagine being that guy or girl who gets bitten by a radioactive spider or undergoes an experimental treatment to obtain superhuman powers. Perhaps that’s what superheroes are all about—seeing some potential in ourselves to be better.

Well, that’s all I have on this topic, but please check out the full visualization, which also includes a comparison of Marvel and DC, based on the IGN Top 100 lists. And if you have any questions or comments, please note them in the comments section.

Ken Flerlage, January 2, 2017



2 comments:

  1. Beyonder is too low... if we are talking about pre-retcon beyonder, he should be way ahead of galactus.. and where is molecule man?? even his retconned version should put him in Galan's tier... And Apocalypse higher than Darkseid?? And if we are going to put in a superhero that is on Galan's league, where is Franklin Richards?? what about Nate Grey?? or Jim Jaspers???

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    Replies
    1. You certainly know more about this stuff than me. :) I'm just reporting the data from superhero db, which of course is subjective. I hope you at least had a bit of fun with this.

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