The web-slinging wall-crawler is possibly the best-loved superhero of all time, mainly because Peter Parker is so easy to identify with: he’s a smart-mouthed, scrawny kid who finds incredible powers thrust upon him and struggles with how to use them.
The archetypal superhero, the Man of Steel is as American as “mom’s apple pie” (despite being an alien from Krypton). Some find his heroism a little too straight-up, mind you – who didn’t love “bad Superman” in the third film?
No superpowers here. Watchmen’s iconic vigilante is instead packing some severe psychological trauma, a refusal to compromise and a clear black/white view of the world – reflected in his shifting inkblot mask.
Wolverine (aka Logan) is a mutant boasting enhanced senses, accelerated healing abilities and a set of retractable claws on each hand. Oh, and an adamantium skeleton courtesy of a secret government programme. His anti-authority, no-bull personality is a huge part of his popular appeal.
Another vigilante superhero with no actual superpowers, Batman relies on gadgets, stealth and cunning to dispense justice against Gotham City’s criminals. Haunted by a dark past, he’s a flip side to Superman – and every bit as iconic.
Playboy Tony Stark fancied fighting evil-doers, so he made himself an incredible flying suit of armour. Iron Man’s charm and wit – plus his ability to blow up tanks and stuff – sets him aside from the more self-important do-gooders of the superhero community.
The Invisible Woman
Sue Storm’s powers? Well, there’s a clue in her name, but she can also project energy fields allowing her to deflect bullets and knock down foes. Along with brother The Human Torch, husband Mr Fantastic and friend The Thing, she’s a member of The Fantastic Four.
His name is an anagram of One, because this movie hero is “the one” who will bring peace to the nightmarish future world of The Matrix. Able to manipulate the virtual reality world in which the human race is enslaved, Neo’s bullet-dodging, martial arts and crazy flying around powers had us all saying “woah”.
The Dragon Ball Z anime character possesses super strength, speed, resilience and the abilities to teleport AND shoot effing fireballs of chi energy. Possibly the most famous Japanese superhero – at least in the West.
The Cajun ladies’ man’s roguish charms make him more an anti-(super)hero than most of his fellow X-Men. Throws cards with deadly force and beats foes around the head with his bo staff.
The Silver Surfer
Starting off as a baddie – no less than the Herald of Galactus, picking out worlds for the cosmic entity to consume – this alien soon learnt the error of his ways when he visited Earth, betraying his master and being stuck on our planet as a result.
The Incredible Hulk
We all have our angry moments, but when scientist Bruce Banner gets irate he turns green, large and strong enough to smash his way through walls and anything – or anyone – else that gets in his way.
When Detriot cop Murphy is gunned down by criminals, his body is used as the basis for an experimental, pitiless and near indestructible corporate law enforcement robot. But while his body is no longer human, his memories remain – leading him to fight his corrupt creators.
The last of a band of Mjolnir-armoured “Spartan” space marines, the Halo hero is tougher, stronger and more agile than any other human being. Also pretty handy.
The “main baddie” off Heroes, Sylar is able to permanently take on the powers of any other superhero by killing them and examining their brain. While possibly psychopathic, Sylar is not so much evil as driven by a desire to “make a difference” – by the end of the series he has apparently changed his killer ways.
The first female superhero superstar, this Amazon has a similar set of abilities to Superman – plus a lasso that forces anyone bound by it to tell the truth. The 70s Lynda Carter TV show has made her a camp icon – but a long-rumoured movie could give her a Batman-style “serious” makeover.
Wonder Woman’s Justice League pal, this speedster can run physics-defyingly fast – over water, even – as well as think, react and punch with super speed. A movie is rumoured to be coming in 2013.
Currently appearing in your local cinema, Thor is no less than the bloody Norse God of Thunder and wields Mjolnir – which gives him the ability to control weather and fly. Also a founding member of the Avengers.
Watchmen’s only true superhero, Dr Manhattan is transformed into a god-like being when a physics experiment goes wrong. In Watchmen’s alternate history, his ability to control matter at a subatomic level allows the USA to win the Vietnam War. Also does a neat line in vaporising people.
The first black superhero to hit mainstream comics, Black Panther is an African chieftain (yeah, we know) with enhanced senses, speed and strength. A member of the Avengers, he’s married to Storm from X-Men – another African superhero.
The Green Lantern
The Green Lantern’s “power ring” enhances his will power, giving him the ability to do pretty much anything he can imagine. That makes him one of the most powerful superheroes around. A movie with Ryan Reynolds is hitting cinemas right about now.
Okay, so we know she’s technically a villain but Catwoman has her good moments – and who can forget Michelle Pfeiffer in “that suit” in Batman Returns? Just don’t dwell on the later so-bad-it’s-not-good Halle Berry vehicle.
The Toxic Avenger
Troma’s horror comedy spawned this monstrous creature, a scrawny weakling who becomes hideously deformed but hugely strong when he plunges into a vat of toxic waste. Wielding a mop, he takes on his former tormentors and the town’s crime ring in ultra-violent fashion.
A former CIA assassin sent to hell after he’s killed by his allies, Al Simmons makes a deal with the Devil to return to life. He does so as Spawn, an anti-hero who quickly decides to betray rather than serve his demonic masters.
Conceived to give the US a patriotic boost during the Second World War, Cap is a super soldier who derives his strength from a serum and carries an indestructible shield. He’s also the sometime leader of the Avengers. A movie starring Chris Evans (no, not that one) hits the screens this summer.