Geeks everywhere endlessly debate on which Comic Book character is better, often based on favoritism, personal experience, and a few facts. Here, in regards to the Silver Screen, we contimplate this very question. Who is the dominant on-screen superhero? What criteria do we use, and how do we adjust for the sheer number of films, adjustment for inflation, peer recognition and fan based opinions? The criteria is as follows:
Superhero based movies in this match-up must have a minimum of three films. This allows for more scrutiny as well as longevity of the title character. They must have live action, so animated films do not count. Finally, they must have been screened in theaters, so direct-to-video films do not count as well.
So the Superheroes who fit this bill are: Batman, Blade, The Punisher, Spider-Man, Superman, and the X-Men.
Now that we established the rules, we judge the films under a number of categories. The first is the Tomato Meter from Rotten Tomatoes. This is a fantastic resource that gathers professional critiques from movie critics of newspaper, internet, and television fame. After gathering all critiques, they give an overall percentage. The higher the percentage, the more the film is "approved by the experts." So we go film by film, record the tomato meter results, then average the total by the number of films in a single superheroes film history. By doing this, we see that Spider-Man is the winner. Punisher is dead last.
But we can't just go by what critics say. What about fans? What about the average movie goer? So we turn to Internet Movie Data Base to see the rating score. This score is comprised of thousands of scores that fans rate a film, from 1-10, then averages those ratings into a single score. Like the Tomato Meter, we gather the ratings of each movie, total the score, and divide by the number of films to get an overall averaged rating. In this method, X-Men came in first, with Spider-Man a close second. Surprisingly, Superman came in dead last. This is due to the enormous drag factor of the later sequels and Supergirl spin-off.
But in order to determine success of a film, because money talks and you-know-what walks, we also look at the box office. The fairest way to determine rank is to simply total the budgets of the films and then total the domestic gross of the films. We then divide the gross by the budget to determine the investment vs profit ratio. Here, Batman dominates this field with a domestic gross x3.05 that of the budget. The second was Spider-man at a distant x1.86. The Punisher performed terrible, actually losing profit at a x0.5.
Success also comes in the form of recognition and achievement. People like trophies. So we also take into consideration wins and nominations from movie awards. The problem here is, there are dozens of award companies. So for the sake of simplicity and appropriateness, we only consider awards and nominations from the Academy, Golden Globes, Mtv Movie Awards, and the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror. Because each Superhero has different amounts of films to back up, we again average the total to give a fair and balanced comparison. We also double-score the Academy as they are the most credible, and longest running awards company. Sadly, the Punisher didn't even hit the radar, while Spider-Man scored the highest.
With all this considered, we then take each category and combine their totals into one universal score. This score reflects movie critics, fan approval, financial success and film achievement to give a complete performance review. They are simply scored from 1-6 points per category. The final outcome is as follows:
Coming in at #6: The Punisher. With only 5 points, it would seem the only one who get's punished is Frank Castle. While the Punisher dominated the comic book scene in the 90's, he's small potatoes on the big screen.
Coming in at #5: Blade. This kung fu vampire franchise enjoyed moderate success with 10 points.
Coming in at #4: Superman: The Man of Steel can fly, but poor sequels tugged his cape hard enough to face plant him in Kryptonite with 11 points.
Coming in at # 3: X-Men. An example of consistency, the X-Men score 17 points, a significant jump over Superman.
Coming in at #2: Batman. Despite its awards and the Dark Knight dominating the box office, the Joel Schumacher films holy hamstrings the caped crusader's efforts. Still, it gained an impressive 19 points.
And the #1 Big Screen Superhero is...Spider-Man. With 22 points, Spider-Man is swinging into success.
Of course, we're talking Superheroes, and like the comics that inspired them, there is no finality. The fight will go on. in 2012 Reboots of Spider-Man and Superman will add to their respective performances, as well as the Dark Knight Rises finishing off Christopher Nolan's Batman series. Plus, with the Avengers release, we'll see the likes of Captain America, the Hulk and Iron Man throw their hats into the ring.
So, as Stan Lee would say, stay tuned true believers.