There are so many different fictional universes, and so many bruiser and tank characters within each. Five wouldn't even begin to cover the number of folks who rely primarily or exclusively on brute strength and physical toughness as their mode of getting things done. Still, a few stand out, to me, above the rest!
5. THE INCREDIBLE HULK
Okay, so who didn't see this coming? Yes, I'm aware that Bruce Banner is a widely known, widely-loved favorite, but let's face it. He is an exemplary embodiment of the Doctor Jekyll/Mister Hyde dynamic, put to its most amazing extremes. Bruce is timid, the Hulk is fearless. Bruce is logical, the Hulk is uninhibited impulse. Bruce wants to help people and solve problems, Hulk is a big green berserker.
And then, better yet, the Hulk gets more and more powerful with deeper, more intense levels of anger. That alone should be enough to get anybody considering the depth of their own mind; can you imagine having enough deep anger built up within you, that the full force of your rage could break a planet apart? At my angriest, I can maybe put a dent in something metal, and even that really HURTS.
And then, to make things better, are the times when you see the two personalities overlap. As much as I love to see Bruce Hulk-out, I love even more when he gets super-creative with his strength feats. I mean, sure, a punch or a kick can do the trick, but the mile-long jumps, and the sonic clap, are pure joy to see. Creative strength feats make me think a little of Bruce's smarts is peeking through.
And nearly as satisfying, is when Bruce's personality pierces through the Hulk psyche at expected times. In the middle of a rampage, he can stop and avoid harming a little child who almost got caught in the crossfire, and (before she was Red She-Hulk) the mere sight of Betty Ross, the daughter of his enemy General Ross, was enough to help calm him for a at least a brief moment of clarity.
Another predictable pick for brute-strength powerhouse. Don't blame me, blame superhero marketing. Anyhow, yes, Superman is next in my listing. Yet, I can't help admiring the vast differences between his powers and his personality. Here is a person who starts off life knowing that he has powers that others do not, and yet he follows the teaching of (also-weak) adoptive parents to be a good person.
Just think. If he wanted to, young Clark could have been horribly bratty and utterly terrorized his adoptive parents. Who could stop him? And then, his powers would only mature as he got older. If he was that type of person, there would be no need to learn how to control his powers. He could just throw his powers around when he wanted something, and it would be his. He'd have made a terrifying villain.
Yet, Superman is one of the best renowned super heroes that the world has ever known. Of course, there were some artists who thought it was funny for Superman to be a jerk to people back in the old days, but those I write off as glitches, not features. Overall, Superman has been written as one who strives to use his capabilities to help others, as best he can, as often he can.
And perhaps his greatest contribution to modern fiction, Superman is such a great, insurmountable powerhouse, that in order for him to keep being relevant, he has to undergo new and creative changes, including new and creative villains. His are among my favorites--Mr. Mxyzptlk, Brainiac, Lobo, Maxima in her earlier years, Silver Banshee, Livewire...he literally pushes writers to strive for greater.
Granted, I find the character of Starfire to be very attractive (as a straight male, it'd insult your intelligence if I denied it), though I can also attest to my liking the character, whether she's in skimpy clothes or more decent ones. She has been a thoroughly enjoyable character throughout every time I've read her adventures or watched her on TV. I like everything about the character she is.
Every time I've seen her, Starfire has a personality that one could only describe as truly alien. She understands the meanings of words, but sometimes puts them together in a humorously broken manner, or takes things too literally, or perhaps makes an inside joke that only Tamaraneans would understand. She's capable of being emotional and sensitive, but overall, she's pleasantly quirky and upbeat.
And of course, Starfire's most famous powers are based on her body's energy absorption. Her body constantly absorbs energy from the sun, and due to some alien tampering, she is able to release that absorbed energy in the form of her famous 'starbolts', or even as a radiating blast. She has even been known to drain solar energy from Kryptonian foes to render them nearly powerless.
I'm not sure how many female characters had superstrength at the time she was created, but I, for one, found it refreshing. From what I saw in older comics, girls often had more passive or long-range abilities; she among the first I saw (Wonder Woman included), who didn't mind getting her hands dirty, and was perfectly equipped to do so, with super-strength and superior combat skills.
2. WONDER WOMAN
And Wonder Woman started off with a similar dilemma to Starfire (and for that matter, many/most female superheroes). Her original backstory was that of being gifted by the divine, in the same manner as the heroine of the famous Pandora's Box myth, but men still saw her as mainly a sex object. Early comics showed her kick butt, but on covers, she posed like a model.
In fact, the problem has persisted throughout most of her superhero career, and only recently have attempts to make her more practical as a superhero and female role model really emerged. Thankfully, though, most women seem to hold her name as synonymous with the ability to be confident, be ambitious, fearlessly defend what one thinks is right, and be competent to get things done.
Wonder Woman has formidable superhuman strength, for which only the biggest and the baddest have proven a true match. And while you might go down the list to pick your favorite Batman or Superman or Flash or Aquaman villains, doing the same would make short work for Wonder Woman's rogues gallery; despite her capacity for empathy and kindness, she will kill those deemed too dangerous.
Above all, though, I love her connection to Greek mythology. I've always been a fan of Greek myth, so having a hero so closely connected to that mythos is very exciting to me. I'm always happy to see her go up against Ares, or a monster from the Greek underworld. And while the Pandora connection was nice, for a start, it's way more entertaining to see her as an Amazon demigoddess daughter of Zeus.
On the note of Zeus' demigod children, we have my final contender. Above all the heroes with superhuman strength, durability and stamina, I am most entertained by, most interested in, and the biggest fan of Hercules. Born Alcaeus, he would go on to win the title Heracles from the Greek 'Glory of Hera', by completing Twelve Labors (incredibly difficult challenges from his goddess stepmother Hera).
And as Marvel tells it, he later went on to adopt the name by which he was addressed among the Romans, Hercules, because he wanted to be known for more than his connection to Hera. Literally. That's the story Marvel went by. No snipping and changing established myth. They just blended it all perfectly to make for one epic background life story. For a myth enthusiast like myself, that's great.
And what's equally great as keeping in touch with the original myths? Why, adding on to them, of course. While the myths tell tales of incredible strength by the muscle-bound demigod, the comics make his feats even more ridiculously awesome. Like that time he towed the entire island of Manhattan like it was nothing. Sure, it's not moving planets on a chain, but then, Superman can fly, so...
Best of all, despite his immense strength and physical power, he falls short of Superman's noble ideal, yet isn't as war-like as Wonder Woman can be. He's a proud, immature, impulsive, and absurdly promiscuous jock, yet he's among the only jocks whose personality I find hilariously endearing. He's besties with Norse god of thunder, Thor, for goodness' sake; that's more than good enough for me.
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!