6 Underrated Pop Culture Heroes

"I can be your hero, baby. I can take away the pain." - Greek Proverb

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes - and the ones that come in the weirder shapes and the smaller sizes are usually ignored and maligned in favor of the flashier, cooler ones. But this isn't right - so many of these heroes that are unjustly derided and mocked by the internet are actually pretty great. It's a shame that they're associated with being worthless at best, irritating jerks at worst - so we've put together this list of 6 that just need some solid re-branding to get their public image in line with reality.

 

1. Cyclops

6 Underrated Pop Culture Heroes

Professor X may be the spiritual leader of the X-Men, but in combat situations, it's Cyclops who calls the shots. Scott Summers is one of the closest allies of Dr. Charles Xavier, and a powerful mutant who is not to be underestimated. His ability is shooting incredibly powerful beams from his eyes, which is why he has to wear that geeky-but-cool visor. Beside his power, he is calm, resourceful, well-trained and possesses sharp leadership skills. So... why does he get all the hate? Well, unfortunately for Scott, Wolverine happened.

Logan quickly established himself as the alpha male of the X-Men through his bad boy image, adamantium claws and nigh-immortality. So, by comparison, since Cyclops lacks Wolverine's Hugh Jackman-ish looks and Steve Blum-y voice, he must be the wuss. And that is so wrong on so many levels. Have you ever wondered how Scott survives all the crazy situations the X-Men have to deal with all the time? Rest assured that without the healing factor, Wolverine would die in every single storyline he ever was included in. Cyclops doesn't have the luxury of running into gunfire because he is just as vulnerable as any human. He had to train his body to its limits and in combat situations he constantly has to look out for his own safety just as much as those of his teammates. Logan is the cheap player who uses God Mode on the easiest difficulty setting. Scott tackles Hard, fair and square like a pro.

 

2. Robin

6 Underrated Pop Culture Heroes

Batman is, perhaps, the most popular hero of our time. He holds his own in a world full of people like Superman and Wonder Woman as a mere human being. And we love him for it. Unfortunately, that love doesn't apply to his trusty ally, Robin.

The two most important Boy Wonders are Dick Grayson (currently known as Nightwing), and Tim Drake. The one thing they have in common is the countless jokes about how worthless and crummy they were as sidekicks. Now that is curious for a number of reasons:

  1. They both learned their skills from Batman, who then treated them as equals. If they were good enough for the Caped Crusader, they should be good enough for us.

  2. All trash talk about Dick Grayson ceased when he quit as Robin and became Nightwing, hinting that all that illogical hate is aimed at the costume alone (ironically, Tim Drake/Joker really hated that Robin suit too in Batman Beyond: Return of The Joker).

  3. Tim Drake is both smarter and stronger than Bruce Wayne was at his age, earning the nickname 'Detective' from Ra's al Ghul (the only other person he calls that is...Batman)

As a matter of fact, Tim Drake just may be the most impressive character in the DC universe. He does everything Batman does and he isn't even old enough to legally purchase alcohol. When Batman was brainwashed by Brainiac, Robin had to keep Gotham safe all on his own despite being roughly 10 years old. By the time Superman showed up to temporarily impersonate Batman, Tim has had been doing the whole crime fighting alone for weeks. He also had to outsmart and take down a bold and potentially homicidal Dark Knight when Scarecrow eliminated Batman's fear. Batman can save Gotham from all his iconic villains, but only Robin can save Gotham from Batman.

 

3. Donatello

6 Underrated Pop Culture Heroes

TMNT fans usually come in 3 varieties. Some favor Leonardo for his role as leader, his code of honor influenced by the bushido, and impressive swordplay. Yet another bunch prefers Raphael for his hot-headed nature and sharp tongue. And the rest can't get enough of Michelangelo and his goofy antics. And somewhere, behind the others, Donatello weeps by himself, surrounded only by his inventions.

I don't know why Don is the least popular of his brothers. Maybe it's because his weapon is a stick, instead of something a little more flashy, like "two swords." Or maybe it's because he is less of a fighter than Leo and Raph, and lacks the rich personality of Mike. But the purple-clad genius still deserves a special place in all of our hearts. His invention skills (including the creation of the Turtle Van and Blimp) have been far more useful to the Turtles than any of Raphael's snarky quips.

Plus, he's the best character in the first TMNT NES game. Makes Rocksteady look like a straight up chump. Where you at now, Raph?!

 

4. The Question

6 Underrated Pop Culture Heroes

Look up the word 'ignored' in the dictionary, and you'll find Question's face (or...the opposite of that?). This detective/conspiracy buff is determined to discover 'The Truth' at all costs, risking his life all the time in his fight against The Man. Besides being one of the smartest characters in the DC universe and a frequent intellectual rival of The Riddler, Q is also among the top martial artists, learning his techniques from Richard Dragon. The original Question has since been replaced by former Gotham City police officer Renee Montoya (Madre de Dios!) in the comics after Vic died of lung cancer. And the poor man's legacy is that still to this day that he's just a cheap ripoff of Rorschach (despite that being the other way around).

The only piece of media that gave him the relevance he deserves was the animated show Justice League Unlimited, in which he was voiced by Jeffrey 'The Re-Animator' Combs. Originally just a creepy but hilarious character grumbling about conspiracy all day, he eventually ended up as one of the most important characters when Batman hand-picked him as the only member of the JL who can discover the connection between Lex Luthor and Project Cadmus. Apparently, The World's Greatest Detective has more faith in Question's detective skills then in his very own. That has to count for something, right?

 

5. Aquaman

6 Underrated Pop Culture Heroes

Aquaman is the quintessential cool-to-hate superhero, and all we have to blame is the 70s animated show Super Friends, in which he was portrayed as weak, useless, and WAYYY too into fish. Many of the A-haters weren't even alive back then, but somehow the reputation stuck (South Park, Robot Chicken, and Family Guy haven't helped much). Aquaman is a wuss in the eyes of most people, and there's nothing DC can do to make it change (but not for lack of trying).

In reality, the character today is pretty hardcore. One of the greatest fighters (on roughly the same level as Wonder Woman) and a brilliant strategist, Aquaman is not someone you want to be on the bad side of. He is already bad enough when one has to engage him one-on-one, but that is rarely the case. After all, with a city full of badasses just like him, and all the billions of terrifying creatures of the deep waters following his orders to the letter, he has the mightiest army on Earth. He can look someone like Lex Luthor dead in the eye and give a warning about staying away from his waters, knowing no one is stupid enough to call his hand (or, for a while, hook). He's like an underwater Conan The Barbarian, sitting on his mighty throne, just daring the land-dwellers to mess with him. The old saying from Alfred T. Mahan goes like: "Whoever rules the waves rules the world." To which Aquaman would probably say: "King of the seas, remember?"

 

6. Krillin

6 Underrated Pop Culture Heroes

Krillin is, possibly, the most underrated fictional hero of all time, and definitely the most underrated fictional human being. Known to people who don't watch Dragon Ball Z as a helpless bald midget who dies all time, Krillin is analogous to worthless cannon fodder on the internet. And while it is true that he is short and, for most of the series, has no hair, the rest is not exactly accurate. Krillin first shows up on Episode 14 of Dragon Ball (Goku's Rival), meaning that he is established as series canon for 495 episodes across DB, DBZ and DBGT. During the entire series, he dies at the grand total of 4 times. While that makes him the record holder of the series, it isn't exactly what anyone would call 'all the time'. By comparison, Goku and Vegeta both die twice, and Piccolo dies 3 times, meaning Krillin isn't that muchmore prone to dying than the more powerful characters.

Quick sidenote for those not familiar with Dragon Ball Z: death doesn't have a whole lotta weight on this show.

Also, Krillin actually survives a lot of seemingly fatal situations. Not counting Yajirobe (who barely participates), Krillin is the only human survivor of the Saiyan Invasion, and in the Namek Saga he outlives Vegeta by 9 episodes. He is also the only character to play a role in all 3 fights against Legendary Super Saiyan Broly, surviving all 3 encounters. As for usefulness, he is the proud inventor of the Kienzan (Destructo Disk), a move so awesome that pretty much every character ripped it off right away (Master Roshi had similar experiences with the Kamehameha, proving that humans come up with the best attacks ever).

And, finally, some food for thought: the power difference between Goku and Krillin is not nearly as huge as the one between Superman and Batman, and The Bat never had to deal with people calling him weak and useless. He is useful in different ways, and we accepted that. Bruce invented gadgets and provides funding for the League to remain useful (also being the most cunning, intelligent, brutal detective helped some). Krillin transcended the limitations of the human body to walk in Goku's footsteps. He remained relevant long after any human has any business being relevant in the series. By the end, he is the strongest human who ever lived (Uub kinda don't count, being the reincarnation of Buu and all) and could beat planet-wiping dudes like the Ginyu Force with both hands tied behind his back. Krillin is a character who deserves awe and respect.

Although, to be fair, he DID marry a robot and somehow had a kid with her. C'mon, Krillin.