What we read in our formative years can define us. Characters with special abilities, and sometimes even flaws much like our own, can help us both relate and escape to a world that is far, far away. Comics, manga, and graphic novels are no different. They bring stories to life and entertain our eyes with brilliant art, because many times pictures speak a million times louder than words.
I fell in love with so many of these characters, and would happily have a child share a name with them.
Maybe a mom-to-be discovered comics as a kid, like I did. Every summer when we went to my aunt and uncle’s cottage up north, the grown-ups would chat outside over the water, while my siblings and I would take quiet retreat on the floor of the guest room pouring over vintage and modern comics, mostly Archie.
Each year we’d shop used book stores for new “old” comics to add to this collection before we went back home to the city, and every summer we knew these stories would be waiting for us where we left them the very next summer.
Perhaps a friend or significant other or even a college or university course brought a mom-to-be into the world of graphic storytelling. No matter what got her there, odds are if she looked long enough she would find some brilliant characters who have told fantastic stories. Here are some of the best comic book and graphic novel characters to provide a little inspiration for the comic book fan in all of us.
25 Archie Andrews, Archie Comics
Good old Archie Andrews has been around for 75 years, and even though he’s gotten a bit of a makeover in recent years care of the most recent graphic novel series and Netflix interpretation called Riverdale, he’s still the boy next door. Archie, short for Archibald or Arthur is a Scottish name that means true and bold.
The name when introduced from Germany and England meant bald referring to a monk’s shaved head. While Archie is primarily a male name, it can also be used as a female nickname, and Emmy award winning actor Archie Panjabi’s (from The Good Wife) given name was Archana.
24 Barbara Gordon, Batman
Barbara Gordon is the daughter of Commissioner Gordon and became an integral and popular part of the Gotham crime fighting scene when she first joined The Dark Knight in 1967. Barbara Gordon has been a part of academic analysis on the roles of women, librarians, and disabled people within the mainstream media and in comics, and is seen as a revolutionary role model.
Barbara is a Latin name that means foreign woman. Barbara held the number two spot in terms of popularity as a name from 1937 to 1944, which may be why today it may be associated with older women. Today it ranks 639th in terms of popularity for little girls, and is a classic, yet less common choice.
23 Barry Allen, The Flash
Barry Allen is a superhero with pretty typical beginnings, his mother was murdered when he was a child and his father was wrongfully convicted. Barry decided he would dedicate his life, one of a scientist, to proving that his father is innocent. When a particle accelerator exploded in his lab, he was struck by lightning and in a coma for nearly a year.
When Barry woke up he realized he had superhero speed and other super abilities from his accident, and began his career as a vigilante. Barry is an Irish baby name that means fair haired, and also can be attributed to the Irish word meaning spear. This name has been used for boys since the 20th Century and currently ranks at 1876 in terms of popularity on Nameberry.
22 Bruce Wayne/Bruce Banner, Batman & The Incredible Hulk
The previous popularity of the name Bruce is pretty obvious since two major comic heroes share this name in their alter egos. Bruce Wayne is the rich playboy, billionaire, and philanthropist who is also Batman in secret.
Bruce Banner is Stan Lee’s creation, an awkward, weak, and reserved physicist and also The Incredible Hulk, after an accident involving gamma radiation makes him physically transform into the Hulk whenever he is under extreme emotional stress, making him a volatile hero.
Bruce is a French boy’s name that means from the brushwood thicket. It currently ranks 303 in terms of popularity. This short and sweet name was made famous by King Robert the Bruce who was known for winning Scotland’s independence from England in the 14th Century.
21 Clark Kent, Superman
Even if you’ve never picked up a comic book in your entire life, odds are that you know that Clark Kent is the alter-ego of Superman. This DC hero first appeared in 1933, when he was brought to planet earth as a baby by his scientist father just a few minutes before the destruction of his home planet Krypton. In early life on earth Clark Kent began to show super human strength and abilities. Superman is a close ally to Batman and Wonder Woman and works for Metropolis newspaper the Daily Planet when he’s not fighting for justice. Naming your baby Clark could be a “super” selection for your family. This English name means scribe, secretary, scholar, cleric, or clerk. The name became popular following Clark Gable and the popularity of Superman in the 1940s and 1950s. Today it ranks 198 on Nameberry in terms of a short yet strong name selection for little boys.
20 Diana Prince, Wonder Woman
Now that everyone is talking about the Wonder Woman movie, it would be a shame to leave the warrior princess of the Amazon off of this list. Wonder Woman was a game changer for little girls and comics and was among the first publicized female super heroes. Wonder Woman wasn’t anyone’s sidekick.
She provided young girls and women everywhere an option a little more like themselves, allowing them to fight crime just like Batman and Superman. Wonder Woman has an invisible plane and a lasso of truth, how cool is that? The name Diana has Indo-European roots and means divine and heavenly.
In Roman mythology Diana was a Goddess of hunting, forests, the moon, and fertility/child birth. Diana currently ranks 372 in terms of popularity on Nameberry.
19 Emma Frost, X-Men
The White Queen of X-Men has many loyal subjects. Emma Frost has gone from being a prominent super villain when she was introduced in the 1980’s, and has also been a central superhero leader to the X-Men, until Inhumans vs. X-Men.
She is a telepath who can also transform into a diamond state with additional strength and durability, but this state also temporarily stops her telepathic ability. She is also known for her sharp and dry wit. Emma is a female name with Germanic roots coming from the word ermen, meaning whole. Emma is currently ranked 20 in terms of popularity on Nameberry since falling from the number one spot in 2015.
18 Eric Draven, The Crow
A graphic novel, with a film franchise that turned tragic when star Brandon Lee was shot dead on set of the film. This novel is the ultimate romance of The Crow who comes back to avenge his, and his true love’s lives by seeking revenge on those who wronged him.
The graphic novel was created by James O’Barr to help him cope with the death of his girlfriend who had been killed by a drunk driver. The popularity of the Crow and true love speaks for itself and Eric Draven’s story (AKA The Crow) has been translated into 12 languages and sold over 750,000 copies globally.
17 Grayson (Dick), Batman
Dick Grayson is the alter ego to Batman’s right hand man (boy) Robin. Who wouldn’t be charmed by his comically endearing portrayal in the recent Batman Lego Movie? Dick Grayson is the youngest member of a family of acrobats, and Dick becomes an orphan after witnessing a mafia boss murder his parents in a plot to extort money from the circus.
In many comics Dick Grayson becomes the adopted son, and sometimes crime fighting partner, of Bruce Wayne (aka Batman). Grayson is also the leader of the group of teen heroes, the Teen Titans. Grayson is an English name meaning the son of the bailiff, highly appropriate for the son of Batman. The name is used for both boys and girls, but is more popular for little boys ranking at 70 currently.
16 Hal Jordan, The Green Lantern
What could be a better resource than a comic book character whose look was originally modeled on star Paul Newman? The original Green Lantern had a magic ring, but later the origin story would be about test pilot Hal Jordan who was gifted his ring by a dying alien who wanted him to replace him as a space cop organization run by the Guardians of the Universe.
This character can also travel through space and was often most appreciated when partnered with other super hero Green Arrow. His awesome oath, “In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight, let those who worship evil’s might, beware my power, Green Lantern’s light!”
15 Harley Quinn, Batman
Born in the early 1990’s, Harley Quinn is the Joker’s accomplice and love interest. She met her “pudding” when she was working at Arkham Asylum when Joker was her patient and he brought her over to the dark side. Harley Quinn made her first live action appearance in the 2016 film Suicide Squad.
There is some debate over the presence of this super villain, who is in a very abusive relationship with Mr. J. and Kate Roddy has described Harley Quinn as an, “ambitious career woman who gives up her autonomy to become an abused sidekick.” Harley is an old English name meaning the long field for girls and hare clearing for boys.
Harley is also associated with the motor bike. This name ranks 983 in terms of popularity for little girls and a less common 1129 for boys.
14 Jean Grey, X-Men
Jean Grey was created by Stan Lee as a member of the X-Men mutants back in 1963. Jean was born with telepathic and telekinetic powers that first appeared when she saw a childhood friend being hit by a motor vehicle. She is known as a caring and compassionate person, and is the spouse of X-Man Cyclops.
Her character is a part of much of X-Men history, and Imagine Games Network (IGN) ranked her number six on their list of the Top X-Men from the past 40 years. Jean is a Hebrew name meaning gift from God and is the Scottish version of the name Jane.
This name was once the feminine version of the masculine John and found mainstream popularity when Jean Harlow became a big name on the silver screen. Jean was in the top 20 most popular names from 1922 to 1936, but today ranks 993 in terms of popularity on Nameberry for little girls, and 2289 for boys.
13 Jessica Jones, Jessica Jones
I didn’t meet Jessica Jones until I first discovered her in the Netflix original, where she and her strong friends smashed every Blechdel test in the best possible way (The Blechdel Test is a way of evaluating whether or not a film or other work of fiction portrays women in a way that is sexist or characterized by gender stereotyping.
To pass the Blechdel test a work must feature at least two women, these women must talk to each other, and their conversation must concern something other than a man). Jessica is a newer comic character, and made her debut in 2001. Jessica is a former superhero who becomes the owner and only employee of her own detective agency.
Jessica is smart, strong, and fiercely loyal to those she cares about, despite her dark and troubled past. Jessica is an English girls name with little known meaning. Today Jessica ranks 302nd in popularity on Nameberry.
12 Logan, Wolverine (X-Men)
Everyone loves Hugh Jackman and his portrayal of X-Men’s own Wolverine, which has nearly spanned two decades. Well nearly everyone, he and Ryan Reynolds love to get a rib in at each other and their super hero alter-egos on Twitter. The name Logan, from the Scottish surname Logan, comes from a place in Scotland.
Logan likely originates from a place nearby Auchinleck in Ayrshire and comes from Scottish Gaelic Lagan. As a name, Logan has been climbing the popularity chart since the 1970s and even made the Top 20 most popular names for a period from 2006 to 2011, remaining most popular in Scotland and Wales.
11 Loki, Thor & The Avengers
Who says you can’t name your child after a bad guy with a cool name like this? Loki is the adoptive brother and usually enemy of hero Thor, and best known as portrayed by Tom Hiddleston. Loki is a complicated fellow who is sometimes shown to be a supervillain, and other times shown as an antihero.
The character Loki is closely affiliated with the Norse mythology behind the name, Loki is a shape shifting, gender-bending God of mischief. He can take on animal forms including that of a salmon, a seal, and can sometimes fly. Loki is both a friend and a foe to the other Gods.
10 Luke Cage, Luke Cage
Luke Cage, also called Power Man, made his first comic appearance in 1972. He was the first black superhero to be featured as the title character and protagonist of a comic book. Luke is an ex-convict who served time for a crime he did not commit, who gains immense strength and unbreakable skin after he is a part of an experimental procedure (against his will).
Luke is one of the New York City based superheroes and much of his Netflix series debut takes place in Harlem. Luke is a name that is Greek in origin meaning man from Lucania. The “cool guy” association with the name launched along with the popularity of the Star Wars franchise and movies like Cool Hand Luke.
9 Parker (Peter), Spiderman
Another tragic beginning for an iconic superhero who found great powers after he was bit by a spider. Using Peter Parker’s last name for a baby name is a subtle way to pay tribute to a fantastic character. Spiderman is strong, with super abilities, agility and can leap from building to building, secured by his spider webs.
Spiderman is one of the first teenagers to take on the role of the hero as opposed to sidekick, which is one of the many reasons young readers have always been so drawn to him, that and the fact that he has regular teenage problems alongside his superhero tragedies and responsibilities.
The name Parker is an occupational name meaning Park keeper, and is English in origin. This name is used primarily for little boys and peaked in popularity in 2015 at 72 in the US. Today it ranks 463 on Nameberry in popularity.
8 Ramona Flowers, Scott Pilgrim
Ramona Victoria Flowers is Scott Pilgrim’s main love interest in the comic book series Scott Pilgrim which was made popular in the mainstream because of the 2010 film adaptation starring Michael Cera, Ana Kendrick, Kieran Culken, and Aubrey Plaza.
Ramona, formerly from New York, has fled to Toronto to be rid of her Evil Exes, brings added conflict to slacker Scott’s life when he falls for her. She is a “ninja delivery girl” for Amazon and can travel through sub-space. Ramona changes her hairstyle/color every three weeks. Ramona is the feminine Spanish version of the name Ramon, and means wise protector.
Ramona is a classic little girl’s name that reached its peak in popularity in 1928 at 117, but today is a rarer choice ranking at 381 on Nameberry for little girls. Other awesomely notable Ramona’s include Beverly Cleary’s fictional clever girl Ramona Quimby.
7 Raphael, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
There were many turtles to choose from, but Raphael has always been among a favorite of mine, making him a fun addition to the list, since all of the Ninja Turtles were named after famous artists. Raphael is the turtle who sports a red bandana over his eyes and his weapon of choice is a twin sai.
He is usually portrayed as the rebellious turtle. He has a lot of angst, and is a little brooding, and has some issues, particularly with his older brother Leonardo who is the leader of the amphibian foursome. In 2011, Raphael was the only turtle to make IGN’s top 100 Comic Book Heroes, he ranked 23.
6 Remy Etienne LeBeau, Gambit (X-Men)
Introduced to the Marvel world in 1990, Gambit, Remy Etienne LeBeau, has superhuman X-Men abilities including the ability to create, control, and manipulate pure kinetic energy using his mind. He also uses card throwing and a staff in his combat, and has been known to “charge” his playing cards with kinetic energy to use them as explosive projectiles.
Remy was a part of a group of thieves before becoming an X-Man, which made other core members of the group distrustful of him, while many also believe he is seeking redemption. He is often shown to be a “ladies’ man” who is proud of his Louisiana background, and he speaks in a thick Cajun accent.
5 Rick Grimes, The Walking Dead
Perhaps it’s a little dark to assume that any parent will want to name their child after a hero in a graphic novel series, and his show about fighting zombies, but just the same this small town sheriff has a great name.
Rick awakened from a coma following a gunshot wound, to discover the world has become overrun with zombies and begins his fight for survival along with the select few other humans remaining. Rick becomes a leader, and is at constant battle with his and others’ moral codes as they strive to live and do what’s right in the middle of an apocalypse.
4 Robin, Batman
A name associated with Batman’s right hand man has entered this list twice, but mostly because Robin is such a fantastic name for little crime fighters who are boys or girls. Batman and Robin are often affectionately referred to as the dynamic duo or the caped crusaders.
Robin was originally created to gain young readership, and it worked, the addition of Robin doubled the sales of Batman publications. In 2008, Entertainment Weekly named Robin as one of the all-time greatest, “sidekicks”, so why not name your number one sidekick after boy wonder. The name Robin is named for the bird, and an English version of the name Robert.
Robin means bright fame and currently ranks 946 in popularity for little boys and 1139 for little girls.
3 Serena, Sailor Moon
Sailor Moon is the lead character in a Japanese Shojo manga series that began in 1991, with 200 cartoon episodes following the super and regular life of a school girl named Usagi Tsukino (or Serena to North American Audiences). Serena becomes Sailor Moon for battle alongside other Sailor soldiers to defend against evil, all while looking for the “Legendary Silver Crystal”.
She and her friends are real characters, with real strengths and flaws in addition to their super obligations. They are fantastic role models for little girls to look up to. Serena is a female name with Latin origins meaning tranquil and serene, and it currently ranks 227 in popularity.
2 Veronica Lodge, Archie Comics
With dark hair, a lot of money, and confidence to match what isn’t to love about the name Veronica? Veronica Lodge is sometimes a mean girl, but does what’s right most of the time, depending on whether or not her sweet Archiekins is involved. Veronica was introduced to Riverdale in 1942, and has been a staple of the Riverdale gang ever since.
In the Netflix series Riverdale, we’ve been presented with a softer, kinder version of the fair Ms. Lodge. The name Veronica is a Latin alteration of another name, Bernice. Veronica means she who brings victory or true image. In the Bible, Veronica was the woman who wiped Jesus’s face and her cloth was imprinted with his image.
Veronica is also the name of an herb with tiny bright blue flowers. The name Veronica was in a top 100 spot in terms of popularity from 1972 to 1991, and today ranks 333 on Nameberry for popularity. Less popular has been the nickname Ronnie that is often associated with Veronica.
1 Wade Wilson, Deadpool
Wade Wilson isn’t just a hero, he’s an antihero, who made his first appearance in 1991, but didn’t really make it “big” until he was portrayed by Ryan Reynolds in the 2016 film. Deadpool has regenerative healing after an experimental treatment due to a medical condition, and some of his origin stories vary.
Deadpool is Canadian, hailing from Saskatchewan, and is well aware that he is a fictional comic book character. He’s somewhat revolutionary in the way he breaks the “fourth wall” speaking to readers, used in an often humorous way. The name Wade can be used for both little boys and girls, and means at the river crossing.
Wade is English in origin and is not a common name, having never ranked in the top 1000 for boys or girls.
Sources: Marvel, Nameberry, Biography, Marvel Fans Unite Fanpedia