I was wandering through a store the other day when a packet of Marvel super-hero stickers caught my eye.
The set included 12 total characters (listed in alphabetical order for you): Beast, Captain America, Cyclops, Daredevil, Gambit, Hulk, Human Torch, Invisible Woman, Iron Man, Jean Grey, Mr. Fantastic, Punisher, Spider-Man, Storm, Thing, Wolverine.
The set got me wondering: Who would I pick as Marvel’s twelve iconic heroes?
More importantly, if I ran Marvel Comics, who would I push as Marvel’s “Big Twelve?” After all, these characters are key to the company’s real money maker — merchandising.
With that in mind, here’s my alphabetical list of the dozen marketable heroes Marvel ought to be pushing …
1) Archangel — While this character has little historical significance within the Marvel Universe, when you look at him, you instantly understand what his powers are. This makes him an easy sell. In his blue-skinned Archangel form, kids aren’t going to confuse him with Biblical angels either.
2) Captain America — He’s an obvious choice for promotional purposes. He also is a key figure within the Marvel Universe. His iconic costume and weapon make him easy to recognize and identify.
3) Hulk — Thanks to his media exposure, the Incredible Hulk is another simple one to place on this list. The emerald brute is ingrained in the American subconscious and his strength as a brand is unmatched.
4) Iceman — Though Iceman is often confused for the similar-looking Silver Surfer, Iceman slightly edges out Silver Surfer for placement on the list. Iceman has an easy-to-understand powers and an iconic look. (Silver Surfer has the iconic look, but his powers are a bit difficult to grasp.)
5) Iron Man — As a merchanidising tool, Iron Man is perfect. He has all sorts of variations. He can change his powers to suit his needs. These types of abilities make toy-designers drool, because you can resell the same toy again and again with minor variations.
6) Jack of Hearts — Huh? Jack of Hearts? I gotta be kidding, right? Well, no. Jack of Hearts has an incredibly unique costume. His powers (he blasts things) are easy to understand. Within the Marvel Universe, he has a fairly compelling back story (hunted by SHIELD because he’s considered a danger). While it hasn’t happened yet, he could be a unique addition to Marvel’s icons.
7) Ms. Marvel — Though she’s not well known at all, Ms. Marvel, with her her super-strength and Barbie-doll looks, is prime for merchandising. She’s a simple sell to girls and tough enough that boys don’t mind her much either.
8) Spider-Man — Again: Spider-Man is a character who is a no-brainer for Marvel’s merchandising machine.
9) Storm — The mutant Storm has three things going for her: She’s black, she’s a woman and she’s fairly well-known. All three make her a decent candidate for being an icon, but it’s her weather-controling powers that help her the most. Once again, they’re easy to understand and easy to remember. It’s these four benefits that edge her above Thor who might be better known, but his Aryan attributes are more of a detriment than a benefit.
10) The Thing — Thanks to his unique look and the recent Fantastic Four movie, the Thing is certainly among Marvel’s best brand-names. Despite his horrific and memorable look, his fun-loving personality makes him an easy sell.
11) White Tiger — While I’m most familiar with the original White Tiger, either he or the current female White Tiger, would serve as a powerful merchandising icon for Marvel. First the White Tiger represents a skilled martial artist (with more visual appeal than Iron Fist and Shang Chi), but it also provides some appeal to a Hispanic audience. Sure, he/she is a very small player in the current Marvel Universe, but the White Tiger also serves as a “street-level” hero that is only represented here by the likes of Spider-Man. Both White Tiger costumes also have an iconic appeal. Though simple, they are easily recognizable, thanks to their glowing-green amulets.
12) Wolverine — As the resident bad-ass of Marvel Comics, he’s one of the company’s most popular characters. This, along with his current media stature, make him an easy one to place on the merchandising list. Even though he sprouts deadly weapons from his hands, he’s still just “tame” enough.
Thirteen near misses: Invisible Woman, Human Torch, Spider-woman, Silver Surfer, Captain Marvel, Wonder Man, El Aguila, Power Man, Cyclops, Black Panther, Shang Chi, Cloak and Dagger.
So what do you think of my list? A little too much tokenism? Did I miss someone important? Let me know!