Captain America
Captain America is cool. And do you know why Captain America is cool? Garbage can lids! The little wings and the sticky-out ears I can take or leave, but as a child I discovered that, in a world where web-shooters and batarangs are tragically difficult to come by, you can fashion a workable Captain America shield out of a standard round trashcan lid. And it bruises, too! B+

The Incredible Hulk
The Hulk has gone through many permutations over the years -- smart Hulk, nice Hulk, Hulk Hogan -- but the real appeal lies with big dumb angry Hulk. With intelligence he's just a less-fiber-conscious Jolly Green Giant, but the old-style "You wouldn't like me when I'm angry" Hulk says something about the primal animal within us, about the transience of rage, and about Bill Bixby's ability to look dejected. B

Spider-Man's real power is his ability to attract great theme songs. From "Slings his web, any size" to "Nobody knows who you aaaaare!" Spidey has the best tunage this side of Adam West's minimalist Batman ditty. I actually haven't caught the most recent Spider-Man cartoon, which I assume has one of those drawn-out instrumentals so popular with the "Animated Adventures" set these days, but even if it sucks, it can't take away from the glory of such lines as "Is he strong? Listen, bud/He's got radioactive blood." Spider-sense is really cool, too. A

As much as I love to endorse the Nordic ("Endorse the Nordic" being my favorite Dead Can Dance album), and as much as the hammer makes a nice heroic accessory, there are a few things about The Chippendale Dancer of Thunder that are less than thrilling. First off, why was a Norse god talking like the King James Bible? Secondly, why was it that every third episode someone other than Thor manages to pick up his hammer, in spite of the mystical security measures, and Thor reacts like this has never happened to him before in his entire immortal existence? And finally, why did he have big blue circles on his chest? His torso looked like "Twister for Beginners." C

In the halcyon days of Marvel, which is to say any period where they published no more than one title beginning with "X-," they often had trouble coming up with decent female heroes. The ones that they did have usually just served as portable hostages and had dialogue that made June Cleaver look like Exene Cervenka. She-Hulk is a welcome exception to this rule, in spite of having a name that makes "Ant-Man" look pretty good by comparison. She kicks four-color butt. A-

Iron Man
Not bad, not bad. A bit impersonal; even as a kid it's hard to identify with someone with their head in a bucket, but hey, he's got repulsor rays. Rays are good things to have. The thing of it, and you're probably way ahead of me on this one, is that every time I hear the phrase "Iron Man Triathlon," I get the image of some guy in red and gold armor pedaling a bike. Don't even get me started on "Iron Maiden." B-