Who's the ultimate superhero – Superman or Batman? The response could reveal more about a person's psyche than a Rorschach test. Superman people tend to be more optimistic; Batman people more pessimistic. At least that's what hero-watchers say.

The age-old debate about who is the caped champ rips faster than a speeding bullet back into the public consciousness with the big-budget Superman Returns , having just landed in theaters.

So what better time to see how the superhero movies stack up? Here, then, is my list of the Top 10 comic-book heroes appearing in film.


Alias: Bruce Wayne, playboy and millionaire.

Childhood baggage: Enough to fill a jumbo jet; witnessed his parents being killed, turned batty when he got trapped in a bat cave.

Coolest superpower/gadget: Not many superpowers, but has a wicked set of wheels and an industrialized-looking Bat Cave outfitted with gadgets.

Love interest/sidekick: Quite a few women turnstiling through his life. Actually, seems to prefer the company of Robin and Alfred the butler.

Should seek psychological help for: Everything ! Is antisocial, narcissistic and aloof. The urge for vengeance gnaws at his tortured soul.

Best movie: Batman Begins . Everything clicked in director Christopher Nolan's ( Memento ) dark knight tale – except for Katie Holmes as an assistant D.A. in high heels.

Worst movie: Batman & Robin . Director Joel (I'm a big hack) Schumacher took a sledgehammer to the series; and Arnold Schwarzenegger's Mr. Freeze got bipartisanly panned.

Best suited for the role: Christian Bale. Sorry Michael Keaton, Bale is incredibly hot and can brood better than you.


Alias: Clark Kent, starched-shirt reporter for the Daily Planet.

Childhood baggage: Still dealing with separation anxiety from his home planet; overly protective of host family.

Coolest superpower/gadget: Can see through everything, moves faster than a speeding bullet, is more powerful than a locomotive, yadda, yadda, yadda. This man's got it all.

Love interest/sidekick: Smitten with journalist Lois Lane, who possesses bullish tenacity and the eye-popping gams of a supermodel. Hangs out a lot with freckled shutterbug Jimmy Olsen.

Should seek psychological help for: Being too mild-mannered.

Best movie: Superman II . The first Christopher Reeve film was a blast, but the second brought it home, mixing up the action and myth-making while losing the bloat of the first.

Worst Movie: Superman IV: The Quest for Peace . Horrendous special effects almost matched the clunky screenplay.

Best in the role: With his square-boned jaw and chiseled face, Reeve made the perfect Superman. We miss you, pal. Brandon Routh has mighty big shoes to fill.


Alias: Peter Parker, freelance photographer and mopey student.

Childhood baggage: Mom and dad killed; kindly aunt threatened; uncle later killed.

Coolest superpower/gadget: Seriously, too many to count. The penultimate is his ability to make industrial-strength cobwebs shoot out like Silly String from his palms, a trick that enables him to swing Tarzan-like from skyscraper to skyscraper.

Love interest/sidekick: In the film series, just that cutie Mary Jane Watson, a woman with her own baggage. Tends to be a bit of a loner, but chums around with his wealthy schoolmate Harry Osborn (James Franco).

Should seek psychological help for: Gaining confidence, so he's not mealy-mouthed around women. Could benefit from being a tad more Zen about his superpowers.

Best movie: Tie. Both Spider-mans are tremendous, thanks to the right cast (Tobey Maguire), right director (Sam Raimi).


Alias: Too many to list. Would give Tolstoy a run for his money.

Childhood baggage: Like Freud said, bad parenting is often the culprit. Mom and Dad were so embarrassed that they carted their junior mutants off to a “special” school. The pint-sized X-Men could turn kids in a playpen into burnt toast if they wanted to.

Coolest superpower/gadget: Wolverine's retractable razor nails; Angel's wings; Pyro's ability to set the world afire; Storm's control of the weather, etc., etc. And isn't it a treat to see women kick butt even better than men?

Love interest/sidekick: More apt to flirt amongst their brethren; all are gorgeous but definitely not marriage material.

Should seek psychological help for: Let's just say forever! There's a lot of self-hatred going on. All could use help with control issues.

Best movie: X-Men 2 . Bryan Singer – Superman's ” new director – made it purr paying attention to the action, atmosphere and characters. Great cliffhanger, too.

Worst movie: Not a one. The original The X-Men could have been longer.

Best in the role: Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. This guy can act.


Alias: Bob Parr (Mr. Incredible) and Helen (Elastigirl), and their children Violet, Dash and Jack Jack.

Childhood baggage: Not much: dad suffers from a mid-life crisis, and the kids are learning to cope with their own superpowers.

Coolest superpower/gadget: Dash's ability to run like the Flash; Violet's invisibility; Dad's mega strength; and mom's rubber-band appendages.

Love interest/sidekick: Helen, aka Elastigirl, is Bob's equal in every way. Bob's buddy is Frozone (the name says it all), and he's a crack-up.

Should seek psychological help for: Let's just analyze Mr. Incredible: He needs to be more honest with his family, lose that Buddha belly and sign on with a career counselor.

Best movie: There's only one. Let's hope that changes.


Alias: The half-man/half-vampire Eric.

Childhood baggage: Scarred for life when his mom – a prostitute – became prey for a vampire doc who then turned Blade into a pseudo-bloodsucker. Adores violence and battles to the tune of a heavy metal soundtrack, sure signs he's screwed-up.

Coolest superpower/gadget: This man is a bloodhound for the undead; uses his hands and sword to slice and dice bad guys.

Love interest/sidekick: Seems like he's the love 'em and leave 'em sort. Visits his foster daddy (Kris Kristofferson) a lot; prefers the company of attractive people, like a yummy Jessica Biel and a sleek Ryan Reynolds in Blade: Trinity .

Should seek psychological help for: Anger management, commitment issues and dealing better with those midnight cravings.

Best movie: Blade II . Director Guillermo del Toro sinks his teeth into the comic mythology and draws out buckets of blood.

Worst movie: Liked them all, even if the third wasn't as sharp as the others.


Alias: Anung Un Rama. No wonder he goes by Hellboy.

Childhood baggage: If the Nazis snatched you out of the dark side, you'd probably have a couple kinks in that psychic armor, too.

Coolest superpower/gadget: His size, and his unfeeling yet powerful Right Hand of Doom, which can smack down any bad guy.

Love interest/sidekick: His childhood crush Liz Sherman, a fire starter, turns up the heat whenever she's around. He also has one of the comics' most intriguing buddies – an amphibious critter named Abe Sapien.

Should seek psychological counseling for: His silly obsession with cats, and his inability to properly assimilate.

Best movie: Just one, but another is on the way. Yea!


Alias: Al Simmons, a once-happily married U.S. agent, who rises from the dead and finds his home life has changed about as much as he has.

Coolest superpower/gadget: Those green glow-in-the-dark eyes and fluid-like red cape. Nifty motorcycle, too.

Love interest/sidekick: Still loves his wife, chews the fat with the devil and a bloated creature named the Clown.

Should seek psychological counseling for: Letting go of the past, and learning to have some fun in hell.

Best movie: Just one. There are plans, however, for Spawn 2 in 2007.


Alias: John Constantine, freelance exorcist.

Childhood baggage: Can spot the angels and demons among us better than Billy Graham, or Dan Brown, for that matter. Committed suicide when he was a kid; died for a few minutes before he came back to life, and now he wants God to pity him.

Coolest superpower/gadget: Ability to spot a fallen angel in America.

Love interest/sidekick: Angela Dodson, sort of. She's a twin who's investigating her sister's untimely death. Young sidekick is a wide-eyed taxi driver (Shia LaBeouf).

Should seek psychological counseling for: His killer smoking habit (he's dying of lung cancer), his cup-is-always-half-empty attitude, and his need to stop and smell the flowers even if they're adorning a coffin.

Best movie: Just one.


Alias: Dr. Robert Banner, UC Berkeley researcher.

Childhood baggage: Freud could have written volumes about this father-son relationship. A mad scientist Dad (Nick Nolte) is ultimately to blame for turning his boy into the not-so-Jolly Green Giant.

Coolest superpower/gadget: Ability to tear through Bay Area traffic – we should all be so lucky.

Love interest/sidekick: A true loner, but Robert (Eric Bana) still carries a torch for his ex-girlfriend (Jennifer Connelly); she's the one who can tame his inner Hulk most of the time.

Should seek psychological counseling for: Temper tantrum management. Also learning to express his emotions in a healthier manner, so he curbs his desire to tear up landmarks like Lombard Street.

Best movie: This is it, and it's not all that great, but it's not all that bad, either.

© 2006, Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.).

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.