Alright, full disclosure: I have read comics here and there, but I don't fashion myself an expert. This is all opinion, and it's well within anyone's rights to disagree. There's nothing wrong with a respectful debate over opinions. Furthermore, I have a few characters that I consider to be true favorites, but it was incredibly difficult rounding out my top 5.
That being said, let's begin!
5. BLACK PANTHER
From the moment I encountered this superhero, I was starstruck. King T'Challa, ruler of the fictional Wakanda, was raised up to be the very best and the very brightest. Then, upon coming of age, a sacred rite involving a mystical heart-shaped herb allowed to him to connect to his people's Panther god, thus bestowing him with a superhuman physique.
And he is every bit the king he was raised up to be. Black Panther is a fierce and fearless leader; though he has a vast array of weapons and commands his own army, he has no problem putting himself out into the front-line, to face the likes of some of the most powerful and deadly foes the Marvel Universe has to offer.
Yet more impressive, he is far more than pure brute strength and physical prowess. His is a mind that leaves him rarely unprepared, and even allowed him to devise a system combining science and magic, called Shadow Physics, which lets him take on foes who would normally best him in strategy and combat.
Most awe-inspiring of all, the mantle of Black Panther is passed down through the generations. So, by their shared connection to the Panther god, T'Challa can communicate with his ancestors to gain knowledge from their experiences (similar to Aang or Korra with their previous incarnations in the Avatar series), lending yet more to the profound depths of wisdom he already possesses.
Born to the monstrous demon Trigon in another dimension, one might never expect that such a being would ever live among humans with a capacity to show love, kindness, or any of the other positive qualities associated with humanity. Yet, among her vast array of impressive magic powers, is that of Empathy. For one so distinctively otherworldly, many of her traits make her so understandable.
Now, admittedly, I haven't had the chance to read too many exploits of her adventures within the confines of comics, but I have read some, and I'd like to think that the Teen Titans show (the pseudo-anime version before Teen Titans Go!) did a good job of portraying the characters accurately to some degree. I can honestly say that show is the reason I love this character so much.
Within the comics and the show, Raven's personality has always come across to me as refreshing. Especially in the face of the dashing and daring Robin (or Nightwing), the tough and confident Cyborg, the fun-loving and impulsive Beast Boy and the quirky but clueless Starfire, Raven provides an air of mystery and distance that makes her far more engaging, to me, than her team-mates.
At first, you see a character who always seems aloof and distant (in the show, sarcastic and cynical), but as time goes on, you find out that she is broken in her own way. She struggles with her half-demon heritage, and her empathy is so intense that it requires daily meditation. Looking at her through that lens, you see that she uses her powers for good, as something of an atonement for her nature.
Ororo Munroe is the daughter of an African-American man and an African queen, but she has a couple of different origin stories from there. In some cases, she got separated from her parents in a disaster and got raised by a group of street criminals until rescued by Professor Xavier. In other cases, when her powers manifested, she was raised as a goddess queen in her native African home.
Personally, I'm just fine with either origin, because her personality has been solid along the way. From what I've seen of her developments through the years (again, I'm no expert), she has gone from one version of a strong and confident personality to another. She has always been beautiful without being a stereotype 'really-girly girl' or 'black widow femme fatale'. She's always been balanced.
Storm is graceful and charismatic, without being manipulative or sneaky. Her personality is always honest, straightforward. She has always shown herself to be a genuine and loyal friend. She is brave and willing to put forth the utmost of her skills to protect, defend and save any person in need, not just loved ones. What's more, she is wise, and diplomatic, not seeking to be right, but to be smart.
And you do not want to get on her bad side. She has shown herself to be every bit a force of nature, like the weather phenomena she commands. Even when an incident left her without powers , she managed to beat team leader Cyclops in hand-to-hand combat. And she is one of the few members of the X-Men team who has something of her own archnemesis--the hugely powerful Shadow King.
2. THE DOCTOR
Yes, I'm a New Whovian (I've watched Doctor Who from the time of the 9th Doctor up until now with the 12th). And I must say, the Doctor has got to be one of the most impressive heroes I've ever encountered. For those who don't know, he is one of a race called Time Lords, from the planet Gallifrey. And he is not just ONE Time Lord; he is, for all intents and purposes, the Last of the Time Lords.
Why is he the Last of the Time Lords? Is it because some terrible cataclysm destroyed his people? Is it because he's a rogue experimental mutant, making him the only of his type? No. He, a singular man, put a plan into motion, that ended the infamous Time War between Gallifrey's Time Lords and Skaro's Daleks, by trapping them in a metaphysical state of nonexistence.
The Doctor looks like perhaps the most innocuous character to meet, and yet, armies turn at his arrival, the brave hesitate, the fast stumble, and the smart reconsider. He is, quite simply, The Oncoming Storm. Armed with his signature Big Blue Box, the TARDIS (that is, Time and Relative Dimension in Space), the Doctor travels through both space and time, to save whoever needs saving.
Often, one of the only things he carries on him is a sonic probe called the Sonic Screwdriver, but looks can deceive. Armed with two hearts, a nigh-immortal shapeshifting life cycle through a process called Regeneration, a keen, cunning wit, and knowledge of all things wibbly-wobbly and timey-wimey, The Doctor is a force to be reckoned with. And don't even get me started on his Companions.
1. THE SILVER SURFER
And, as you might have expected, I saved the best (in my eyes) for last. Norrin Radd is part of a race on the planet Zenn-La, threatened by the deadly cosmic entity, Galactus. Rather than cower away in fear, he faced up to the impending doom with a brave face, and pulled the cosmic version of Katniss Everdeen's famous move to 'volunteer as tribute'. Enter the Herald of Galactus.
As Galactus' servant, Norrin Radd is invested with an amazing spectrum of abilities, a portion of what is referred to as The Power Cosmic. And with it, he must prepare planets to be drained of their life-sustaining energies, to satisfy the titanic hunger of his widely feared and despised cosmic master. Before long, Galactus suppresses his emotions, to make him more arbitrarily obedient.
On reaching Earth, however, he encounters the natives, and they help him reclaim his sense of self. From there, he has an off-again, on-again relationship with Galactus, as well as the people of Earth. His adventures bring him against daunting foes that few others can match, and yet, even in the midst of his forced service to one of these many evils, he has helped fend off many others.
His is a path of selflessness, and noble sacrifice. He possesses a power that is beyond human comprehension, and yet tries his best to work in the service of others. And when forced to make tough decisions, he is not hard-hearted or uncaring. After seeing so much evil and destruction in his outer-space travels, he still wants to make a positive difference, however he can.
Of course, so many other heroes come to mind, that I really like, and admire the qualities of. I could go on and on listing the good traits of other heroes, because over time, many writers have done a great job of winning my heart. Yet, at the end of the day, some heroes' traits shine forth with a special brightness and resonate deeper than most others. Each is a true credit to the title 'hero'.
What do you think of my picks? Maybe somebody should be a little higher, or a little lower on my Top 5 Countdown? Let us know in the poll and comments below!