At The Comeback, we love sports and pop culture all year ’round, including December, so we don’t understand why so many best-of-the-year lists are announced before the year is actually over. This week, the last of 2015, we want to share with you some of our bests.
From the best male and female athletes, to the best new TV shows and movies, to the best coaches, the best superheroes, the most memorable moments and storylines, to who had the best year of anyone on the planet, we’re running down the best list of best lists of anyone in 2015.
We’ve covered the 15 Best Male Athletes in 2015, the 15 Best Female Athletes of 2015, and the 15 Best Coaching Jobs in 2015. Now, a little pop culture break, ranking the 15 Best Superheroes of 2015.
If you thought that the comic book bubble was close to bursting, just remember that 2015 gave us an Ant-Man movie. The bubble expanded, if anything, with more heroes than ever appearing on screens of all sizes. Shows like The Flash and Jessica Jones were monstrous hits, while Supergirl struggled with her initial takeoff. In the books, Batman is no longer Batman and Thor is no longer Thor. Both Marvel and DC basically decided to explode their existing universes and start nearly all over again – and it worked. Given all of these changes, successes and debuts, we had a pretty packed field when it came to choosing which hero had the best 2015. (Ed note: No, this kid didn’t make the cut, but he totally should have, Jordan.)
15. Peggy Carter
Marvel took a character from Captain America and gave her a series just to see what would happen. And it was pretty good! Hayley Atwell is delightful.
14. Phil Coulson
Coulson went from a Joss Whedon casualty to a main figure in both Marvel’s cinematic and comic book universe. He’s now the director of SHIELD, and in the comics, was a pivotal character in the tremendous Secret Avengers.
13. Captain America
This is kind of cheating, because it’s considering both the Captain America of the movies (still Steve Rogers) and the books (now Sam Wilson, formerly the Falcon). Both had pretty good years, though. Rogers stopped yet another madman — well, robot — hell-bent on destroying the earth, and Sam survived his first year holding the shield.
Thor’s been found unworthy several times before in the comics, and there have been other characters to wield Mjolnir, but never permanently. Marvel changed all that when they deemed Jane Foster (spoiler, we guess?) worthy and made her the new Thor. So far, the book’s been a hit, with Foster’s Thor wielding the hammer as the previous one, who now goes by Odinson, never did.
Arkham Knight was great. In the comics, it’s been interesting to see what DC is doing with Jim Gordon, not Bruce Wayne, behind the cowl. Also, Frank Miller. Still, in the cinematic world, Dawn of Justice looks like a train wreck.
10. Green Arrow
Green Arrow seemed to be having a pretty good year, at least in DC’s television universe. He got a new suit, finally got the girl, and his show was as popular as ever (it’s still a bit rough at times, but its popularity has allowed for the existence of The Flash and Supergirl). His year seemingly ended on a bit of a sour note, as his fiancée was killed (maybe) by one of his enemies. Still enough to get into the top 10.
9. Liv Moore
Though not a traditional superheroine, Liv Moore finds herself at number nine because of the success of the show iZombie. It’s much different than Arrow or Flash, in so far as she’s not always fighting superpowered villains, and instead uses her zombie abilities to solve murders. She’s quirky and fun, and one of the best parts of her rising popularity is it also increases the popularity of Mike Allred, the artist of the comic and the show’s intro. Allred has a singular style, and it’s a treat whenever he’s attached to a book.
The trailer alone was going to land the Merc with a Mouth in the top 10. Despite’s Fox’s groan-worthy handling of X-Men, it seems as if they got the tone right for Deadpool, thanks in large part to Ryan Reynolds’ dedication to the character and the movie. Then there’s the marketing surrounding the movie: Reynolds trick-or-treating, in character and costume, with some little X-kids; bashing Mario Lopez with a chair; the 12 days of Deadpool; they’re just perfect. If the movie is as good as the trailer (obviously a big if), we’re looking at a top-3 all-time comic book movie.
Honestly, if we’re going just by production, Supergirl should be lower on the list. Yet, as we do with sports, we must also consider future potential. We need a show like Supergirl, one that features a female hero. But the first few episodes of the show have ranged from average to awful. Too often, the writers beat us over the head with the fact that Kara is A Strong, Independent Woman Who Can Make It In A Man’s World, which thereby actually lessens her independence. It does a disservice to the hero and to the viewer. Hopefully, the show gets better. It has the brains behind it and the actors in front of it to do so.
Ant-Man was a surprising choice for a standalone movie because, well, it’s Ant-Man. Yet, while it wasn’t Marvel’s best movie to date, it was nonetheless a fun heist movie led by the charming, dry wit of Paul Rudd. And, despite its meager financial success, Marvel has greenlit an “Ant-Man and The Wasp” sequel. Let’s get weird.
Scott Lang also appeared in a new Ant-Man solo book, helmed by Nick Spencer. As with basically everything Spencer does, it is and has been terrific.
5. Ms. Marvel
Ms. Marvel didn’t have a movie, show or game this year. All she appeared in was in her comic and All-New, All-Different Avengers. But the force her book and character is enough to land her this high, maybe even higher. Kamala Khan isn’t just one of Marvel’s best creations in the past five years, she’s one of the most important.
Marvel characters are at their best when they’re empathetic and dealing with issues that relate to the reader. Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan, a Pak-American who is struggling to find her way in both the real and superhero world, hits on all of those notes.
4. Jessica Jones
Marvel’s first female superhero lead in their cinematic universe wasn’t Black Widow, Captain Marvel or She-Hulk. It was Jessica Jones, failed superheroine and an only-slightly-better private investigator. Krysten Ritter was wonderful in the titular role, with torture, rage and anguish oozing out of her.
A show featuring Jones was a bit of a gamble for Marvel, since she’s not at all a typical heroine. But maybe that’s exactly what we needed. Already we’re beginning to feel a bit of hero fatigue, with the spectacle of movies like Avengers and Captain America becoming overwhelming, if not draining. Jones—both the show, and the character, originally created by Brian Michael Bendis and brought to the small screen by Melissa Rosenberg—was a welcome reprieve, that still had all the elements of a comic book without ever feeling like one.
Hawkeye was the butt of every joke after the first Avengers, with many wondering why exactly he was in the film at all. He was bland, one-dimensional, and seemed out of place next to Thor and Iron Man. The second Avengers fixed that to a certain degree. They made Hawkeye more important (though the point was forced down our throats more than a little bit), but also gave him an actual personality.
The source material for that personality was clear to anyone who reads the comics: Matt Fraction, David Aja and Matt Hollingsworth’s recent Hawkeye series. As a character in the super-powered world, Clint Barton isn’t the most exciting or interesting hero. Fraction, Aja and Hollingsworth knew this, so rather than put Barton in a book where he’s fighting the Mandarin or Ultron, they showed what he does when he’s not avenging. The result: a Hall-of-Fame, Eisner-award-wining book, beautifully written, beautifully drawn and refreshingly original. Want an issue told mainly in sign language? Done! An issue told from the perspective of a dog? It was one of the best in the entire series. Hawkeye broke from the conventions of superhero storytelling, and in so doing, was one of the best series from any company. (Ed note: for another great Avenger-as-not-an-Avenger series, check out Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto’s Black Widow, which concluded in the summer of 2015.)
If you still think Hawkeye is one of the worst characters in the Marvel Universe, pick up Fraction, Aja and Hollingsworth’s series and you’ll see why 2015 was such a tremendous year for Clint Barton.
2. The Flash
Whereas Arrow didn’t quite hit the mark when it started (and still doesn’t consistently) and Supergirl had a rough take-off, Flash hit the ground running and never looked back. It’s the perfect example of how to execute a superhero show today. It never takes itself too seriously, but even in its goofiest, most comic book moments it’s never outrageous.
Part of what makes Flash so successful is its wonderful cast and the chemistry between them. Every scene between Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) and either his surrogate father Joe West (Jesse L. Martin) or real father Henry Allen (John Wesley Shipp, the original Flash) are so full of affection and emotion that you can’t help but be moved. Tom Cavanagh made Harrison Wells/Eobard Thawne as excellent a mentor as he was a villain, and Carlos Valdes steals every scene as Sisqo Ramon (unfortunately, while Danielle Panabaker and Candice Patton are also tremendous talents, they really haven’t been given much to work with in terms of their characters — Caitlin Snow and Iris West).
The character is supposed to make a cameo debut in Dawn of Justice, but as much as we love Ezra Miller, we’re a little hesitant to see another Flash besides Gustin.
The Flash has always been considered in the lower-tier of DC’s main heroes, but the show has rightfully vaulted him into the stratosphere of Superman and Batman.
The Man Without Fear has long been overlooked as one of Marvel’s best characters. His books have featured heavyweight after heavyweight in terms of writers, from Frank Miller to Brian Michael Bendis to Mark Waid, whose run may have been the best of all. Waid wrote Daredevil from 2011 to 2015, and did so without ever turning in a weak, average, or anything below a great issue. Somehow, Waid always found a way to satisfy your craving while always leaving you wanting more.
Then, of course, there’s the show, which was Marvel’s Netflix guinea pig. There were plenty of reasons to be skeptical of the show, not the least of which was what happened last time Marvel made a Daredevil movie. This, thankfully, was nothing like that abomination. It was dark and gritty yet hopeful, perfectly reflecting the mood of the books. Charlie Cox nailed the charm and inner-torture of Murdock, The action was brutal, to the point where you weren’t always sure Daredevil would make it out alive. It’s hard for Marvel to truly develop both sides of a hero in a single film, or even at trilogy, but they had ample time to do so in this series. As a result, we had a fully-fleshed-out, relatable and intriguing hero. The only downside of the show: the costume, which hopefully improves with the next season.
Honorable mention: Spider-Man. Finally, he’s back in the family. Maybe now we’ll get a good Spider-Man movie. (Last ed note, I promise. No Iron Man? Bendis writing Invincible Iron Man, and the RDJ-version of Tony Stark essentially causing the creation of and leading the defeat of Ultron, then being seen fighting both Cap and Bucky in the Civil War trailer? No?)
Dishonorable mention: Fantastic Four. Just…no.