Benedict Cumberbatch made the cover of October 21/28's Entertainment Weekly as Doctor Strange, eponymous protagonist of Marvel Studio’s new film (out November 4), but the Sorcerer Supreme ranks only 26 in the cover story’s list of “The 50 Most Powerful Superheroes.” No surprise perhaps, but Superman is merely 4th on the list. The surprise is Number One: topping the list by three tenths of a point is Wonder Woman. Then, in order, the rest of the top ten — Spider-Man, Batman, Superman, Wolverine, Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk, Black Panther, and The Flash.


To find the fifty most powerful of the skin-tights, the editors of EW devised a 100-point system that rated each character in nine categories: Cultural Impact, Bankability, Design, Modern Relevance, Mythology, Nemeses, Originality, Personality, and Powers. Each category was worth a maximum of 10 points except Cultural Impact: “The power of a superhero is defined most by this quality, so we measured it on a 20-point scale to tilt the final list in favor of characters who have the deepest cultural footprint.” The editors then assembled “a team of EW’s superhero experts and had them score 155 characters in each category.” Those scores were averaged and combined to create “an overall power total for each character.”

Wonder Woman scored 90.3 out of a possible 100. Spider-Man scored 90.0; Batman, 89.7; Superman, 87.2. Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman scored 20 in the Cultural Impact category; Spider-Man, only 18. Wonder Woman rated only 9.3 in Bankability; the other top four each got 10 points.

Superman ranked highest in Powers (9.7 out of a possible 10), Spider-Man in Personality (9.7), Wonder Woman in Originality (9.3 — ahhh, William Marston’s juicy menage a trois scores again), Batman in Nemeses (10) and Mythology (9.7), Wonder Woman and Batman in Modern Relevance (10 each), Batman in Design (9.3; Wonder Woman scored only 8.3; Superman, a mere 7.3).

Wonder Woman ranked first in only three categories; Batman scored highest in five (Spider-Man in two, and Superman in three). So how did Wonder Woman win? Probably because she scored so high in Originality—9.3 compared to the next highest, 8.0 for both Batman and Superman; that’s 1.3 points higher than her closest competitors in that category.

And she won by only 0.3 more than Spider-Man, who was second.

A cursory count gives Marvel 33 of the 50 characters; three of the remaining 17 are from publishers other than the Big Two (Hellboy, Buffy, and Raphael of the Ninja Turtles), leaving DC with only 14 of the top 50. Clearly, EW’s “superhero experts” are of the generation that was mesmerized by Marvel funnybook characters in the sixties and seventies or by the Marvel Studio movies of the last decade or so.

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