EW Staff
August 06, 2012 AT 08:23 PM EDT

Who is the greatest superhero of all time? This month, we’re going to settle the age-old debate once and for all! Here at PopWatch, we’re taking 32 seeded contestants and pitting them against each other in a superpowered bracket game. Everything is on the table: The heroes’ costumes, their superpowers, the number of actual great stories they inspired. To level the playing field, we’ve separated the heroes into nine different groups for the first round of match-ups. Today, we’re featuring four incredible face-offs: Superman vs. Silver Surfer; Spawn vs. Captain Marvel; Spider-Man vs. Daredevil; and The Invisible Woman vs. Metamorpho.

Scroll down to vote in today’s polls, and be sure to click here to download the printable image of the complete Superhero Showdown bracket. Day One polls will close in exactly 48 hours, at 4:25 ET on August 8.

And check out our handy video introduction to all this superhero madness here.

Alien Showdown, Round One: Superman vs. Silver Surfer

Name: Superman

Origin Story: On a dying planet, a child is shot into space by his parents, given a chance at a new life on in a faraway place. The orphan’s ship crashlands in Kansas, where he’s discovered by a childless, utterly American couple. Oh, and when he grows up, he’s faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive…

Costume: You could argue that all superhero costumes are just riffs on Superman’s iconic look: The bright colors, the cape, the color-matched boots and exterior underwear.

Coolest Power/Ability: Anything you can do, Superman can do a million times better. He’s superstrong. He’s superfast. He can fly. But Supes also has a whole array of more subtle powers, and of that bunch, it’s hard to argue against the eternal usefulness of heat vision.

Defining Stories: Alan Moore’s “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow,” and Grant Morrison’s “All-Star Superman” are both fantastic modern explorations of the Superman myth — at once playful, deconstructive, and tragic.

Cultural legacy: Superman is the foundation for pretty much the entire superhero genre. Many major characters that came after him directly riffed on his iconography. (Just look at the number of characters on our bracket who grew up as orphans.) Richard Donner’s 1978’s Superman movie established the basic template for the superhero-movie — a genre that has now conquered Hollywood. Superman is also one of the most famous fictional characters ever. In the last quarter decade, though, Superman’s actual cultural influence has been significantly eclipsed by his darker, grittier, less impenetrably invincible buddy Batman. Can next year’s Man of Steel return the character to his past prominence? —Darren Franich


Name: The Silver Surfer

Origin Story: Long ago, Norrin Radd was an everyguy astronomer from the faraway planet Zenn-La. When traveling planet-eater Galactus threatened to devour Zenn-La, Radd offered his services as a herald in order to rescue his planet. Galactus imbued Radd with the Power Cosmic — a kind of all-purpose god energy — and transformed him into the Silver Surfer. He spent untold centuries scouting out planets for his boss’ appetite.

Costume: The slick Surfer is basically naked, covered from head-to-toe in mega-powerful silver material that makes him impervious to all damage and also incredibly shiny. He accessorizes with a mean silver board.

Coolest Power/Ability: The Surfer is arguably the most powerful superhero ever, especially considering that — thanks to the Power Cosmic — he’s always discovering exciting new skill sets. But let’s focus on the important stuff here: The guy has a surfboard that he rides through space.

Defining Stories: Fantastic Four (three-parter), 18-issue series by Stan Lee and John Buscema

Cultural legacy: The Surfer was a key player in the Marvel of the ’60s, when his stranger-in-a-strange-land status made him a uniquely poignant icon at a moment when the country was experiencing a whole host of dramatic societal shifts. Since then, he’s always been an essential background player. But he lacks the crossover appeal of some heroes in the bracket — his sole movie appearance came in the execrable Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. —DF

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