We’ve reached Round 3 of our Superhero Showdown bracket game. Some of the most famous comic book heroes in history have fallen by the wayside in the bloody battle to decide which costumed crimefighter is the Greatest Superhero Ever. (So long, Hulk! Farewell, Punisher! Sayonara, Wonder Woman!) The eight remaining contestants are a diverse bunch. Four come from Marvel; three come from DC; and the dark horse contender hails from, well, Dark Horse. You can vote today in a pair of quarter-final matches guaranteed to split your geek brain asunder. First, a top-seeded global icon will face off against a relative newcomer: It’s Superman vs. Hellboy, with the latter fresh from a pair of bruising upset victories over Ghost Rider and Captain Marvel. Then, one of Marvel’s most beloved characters will face off against a misunderstood DC comeback kid: It’s Spider-Man vs. Green Lantern. (Green Lantern’s only weakness: Yellow. Spider-Man’s only weakness: Existential angst.)
Click on the image above for a printable bracket. Check out our pocket biographies of each superhero, and scroll to the bottom of each page to register your vote. Voting will conclude in exactly 48 hours, at 1:00 PM EST on August 18. Be sure to check back tomorrow for a pair of truly thrilling superhero showdowns: Batman vs. Wolverine, and Captain America vs. Iron Man.
Northwest Regional Final: Superman vs. Hellboy
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
Origin Story: A demonic creature summoned to earth by the magician Rasputin to help the Nazis, Hellboy was instead raised by the army and trained to take on supernatural threats to America.
Costume: Hellboy is a big red guy with a tail, a pair of horns he shaves regularly, and a right hand made of stone. But that doesn’t mean he can’t be fashionable! Hence: The never-out-of-style tan trenchcoat.
Coolest Power/Ability: Remember that stone hand we mentioned? That’s called the Right Hand of Doom. It’s actually the key to releasing the Ogdru Jahad, the creatures who will cause the end of the world. Which means that Hellboy holds the Apocalypse in his right hand. Heavy.
Defining Stories: The first Hellboy miniseries, Seed of Destruction, is a great introduction to the character, and to creator Mike Mignola’s impressive mix of no-bull procedural and cosmic mythmaking. There are plenty of great Hellboy one-offs, but lately, Mignola has been telling grander serialized stories – the best of which, The Wild Hunt, delves deeper into Hellboy’s backstory.
Cultural Legacy: Hellboy is a creator-owned comic book that freely combines folklore, H.P. Lovecraft, world history, and Kolchak: The Night Stalker into one gloriously weird package. It doesn’t really seem like the fodder for a major Hollywood movie…which makes it all the more impressive that Ron Perlman played Hellboy in two major motion pictures directed by Guillermo Del Toro. (And some of us really like Hellboy 2. Like, I mean really, really, really like Hellboy 2.) Although the movies Hollywoodize the character ever so slightly, Hellboy is the rare comic book character to cross over into the mainstream with pretty much all of his weirdness and rough edges intact. —Darren Franich
NEXT PAGE: Spider-Man vs. Green Lantern