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The Great Superhero Draft

Tuesday’s draft participants explain themselves, and other Ringer staffers select their own teams. Plus: the best fan-selected teams.

Universal Pictures/Warner Bros. Pictures/20th Century Fox/Ringer illustration

On Tuesday, four Ringer staffers assembled in the company’s studio to draft imaginary movie characters and debate how well their imaginary teams would fare in imaginary battles with each other. Deputy editor Mallory Rubin was ruled the victor by judges Jason Concepcion and David Shoemaker, but not without controversy. So, the team managers and one of our judges have gathered here to defend their choices. We’ve also included teams selected by other staffers, who had the privilege of selecting any heroes on the board, as well as some of the best teams submitted by our readers.


Jason Concepcion: Mallory had the strongest team and I ruled as such. Amanda’s team gave Mal some matchup problems, it’s true. But ultimately, that’s not enough to swing the outcome. The Flash can get Magneto’s helmet off before the Master of Magnetism can even comprehend what’s happening. Then Professor X shuts him down, and Doomsday and Silver Surfer go in and clean up. I’m aggrieved that certain people (i.e., the people who I will not name and who designed this system, which included numerous misclassified heroes and an unfortunate punctuation error pertaining to Dark Phoenix) who don’t understand comic books, or really how a fantasy draft should be run, disagree with this decision. But it is correct and it is final.

Mallory Rubin, a.k.a. The Ringer’s Superhero Draft Champion: I’m tempted to just say “Scoreboard” and leave it at that, but despite what the violently competitive tenor of Tuesday’s live draft might have indicated, I’m a team player! While I will not be goaded into relitigating this entire process—a process that left me with a metaphorical crown on my head and very real pride in my heart—I’ll gladly [extremely Binge Mode voice] offer a brief refresher on what actually transpired when I built my team.

Here’s my victorious squad, presented in the order in which it was drafted:

Round 1: Iron Man (No Powers)
Round 2: Doomsday (Villain)
Round 3: Professor X (Born With Powers)
Round 4: The Flash (Acquired Powers)
Round 5: Silver Surfer (Cosmic Powers)

I’d like to quickly stress the “order in which it was drafted” point: It’s really dope that a bunch of Ringer staffers, viewers, and readers are getting in on the fun by constructing their own teams; it’s worth remembering, though, that they can do so absent competition. Picking against three other people in a live snake draft introduced a crucial variable into our shared experience: unpredictability. And so I attempted to account for that by crafting a strategy built on the power of scarcity.

Cosmic Powers is loaded, undeniably the deepest group of the bunch. Why take a character from that category no. 1 overall (cough, Chris Ryan) when you can wait and still get great value there in Round 5? Conversely, I identified early in my draft prep that the No Powers bunch was a wasteland, far and away the weakest in the game. I knew that if I got the clear top pick in that field, I’d be as well positioned as I was after selecting second baseman José Altuve in the first round of one of my 2017 fantasy baseball drafts.

And so I took Iron Man, whose riches, brilliance, technological capabilities (Hulkbuster, my dudes!), leadership, and battle experience made him great value regardless, and exceptional value given the putrid state of the No Powers field. I got Gronk in a tight end pool full of Ben Watsons.

In hindsight, I have only one real regret about how I argued my case at the end of Tuesday’s draft, as the coffee exited my bloodstream, the room of formerly cherished colleagues turned against me, and Amanda attempted to blind judges and viewers alike with her team’s sexiness. A large portion of Amanda’s argument, the judges’ (brief) support of her team, and Chris’s pro-Amanda betrayal of yours truly hinged on Batman’s plot armor, a.k.a. the belief that he’d figure out a way to beat my team, because he always figures out a way. Yet Amanda had already thrown her star game-day player under the bus, saying on Tuesday, “I was going to take Iron Man, so I think I’ll just take poor man’s Iron Man and go with Batman.”

A large portion of the pro-Amanda sentiment also more correctly hinged on Magneto, an undeniably formidable foe. But as soon as I drafted Professor X, who bafflingly fell to the third round despite being the clear top pick in the Born With Powers category (the second weakest of the five fields), I knew I’d need to account for the Magneto Problem other teams would try to use against me. That’s why I pivoted to selecting the Flash despite the availability of other characters, like Captain America, whom I’d ranked above him in Acquired Powers. This draft didn’t exist in a vacuum; I had to react not only to the team I was building, but to the teams others were building. Worried that Magneto will turn Iron Man into a tin can or render Charles irrelevant? I’ve got my dude Barry Allen on the case: Before Magneto could even think to act, Flash would rip off his protective helmet, and feeble Erik would bend to Professor X’s will or get absolutely crushed by Iron Man or Doomsday (my choice!). And if the unthinkable occurs and I lose? Barry runs into the past. New game, new day, new hope. The Flash gives me a fail-safe.

The moment when I knew I’d won the draft came long before Amanda selected Magneto or I chose the Flash, though: It came at the end of Round 1, when ALL three of my foes had selected someone from Cosmic Powers, the most stacked category. They couldn’t select another character from that field, meaning I had the luxury of waiting until my final pick to target my CP player—who happened to be my no. 1 pick in that category and no. 2 player overall (again, for the purposes of this draft, where Iron Man earned my top ranking because of how I valued scarcity).

Silver Surfer is not here for your bullshit. His Fantastic Four cinematic presence might not have wowed you, but he’s a true force. He wields the power cosmic, can manipulate the universe's energies, can scale his strength, and is almost indestructible. If (perish the thought!) the Flash falters, Silver Surfer’s got that time-travel shit on lock. His surfboard also becomes a lot less silly when you realize he can control it with his mind. Oh, and he can absorb energy from anything, meaning he can pull (and has pulled!) the radiation out of Hulk, rendering him moot. The same principle applies to Superman, who, again, went no. 1 overall in our draft. My guy might be a little moody, but last time I checked, emotional fortitude was never Jean Grey’s or Batman’s strength.

Ultimately, in a 20-player draft, I wound up with three of my top four overall players (no. 1 Iron Man, no. 2 Silver Surfer, no. 4 Doomsday) and four of my top 10 (no. 8 Professor X). The only character I selected from outside of my personal top 10 was the Flash (no. 18), who provided such undeniable strategic value for my team that he elevated above his station. (Also, I know this is about movies, but TV Barry is really dope. Come at me, CW haters!)

As Professor X says, “I don't want your suffering! I don't want your future!” I want my future: The one where my team easily wins.

Micah Peters: Let’s set aside for a moment the fact that Blade, the movie Blade, the one that I was talking about, was born to a mother who was bitten by a vampire and therefore was—per the parameters that were agreed upon—Born With Powers. I can’t control the way the draft goes, but I can pick the most wild cards without obvious weaknesses beyond Not As Brawny As The Hulk or Superman. We don’t need to win a whole final series, we just need to frustrate the other team into a loss for a single game (fight). Take, for instance, Doctor Strange, who was tremendously undervalued, for reasons not lost on me. It’s not Benedict Cumberbatch’s fault that his name and face are so funny, but I assure you Dr. Stephen Vincent Strange is no joke. His powers include: … literally any and everything you can think of, and some other things you probably can’t. Matter and energy manipulation, interdimensional travel, mental possession, all of that. He is also technically immortal.

I’ll admit that War Machine was mainly for coverfire. But Black Panther? Also not a whole lot of weaknesses to speak of. In fact, the only way to beat him is for him to know nothing about you, which isn’t exceedingly possible. If anything could, at any point, be a threat to Wakanda—which includes everything inside of and outside of its borders, in whichever universe—then he’s researched a way to neutralize it. Or kill it, which he’s willing to do. The only reason that Captain America and Batman have thicker plot armor is because they’re canonically white, it’s just that no one likes to say so. As for General Zod, he’s just here because you still need someone to go toe-to-toe with the Class 100 dudes while TWO OF THE SMARTEST PEOPLE IN THE KNOWN UNIVERSE figure out the rest.

Chris Ryan: It feels weird to defend drafting Bryce Harper, LeBron James, and J.J. Watt, but here we are. I thought that picking mutli-tool players from traditionally powerful superhero programs (X-Men, Avengers, Justice League) would put me in a good position to win. I thought the draft more as a popularity contest, or drafting heroes I'd like to fight with (for the most part), and less like a Dungeons & Dragons game that involved a lot of planning for weaknesses. [Andy Reid voice] That's on me. I have to be a better general manager.

Amanda Dobbins: As previously discussed, I have seen 15-20 superhero movies out of professional obligation and have otherwise never sought out the content in any form. That said, I know a star when I see one—and as luck would have it, the true superhero stars are the ones that win the battle at the end of the movie. So my strategy was simple: pick the cool ones, and the rest will follow. Wonder Woman is a no-brainer in this context; Gal Gadot’s Diana is the only superhero character who has ever made me tear up, and her comic timing is impeccable. (Also, Greek mythology–related superheroes >> all other superheroes.) I wanted Iron Man but had to settle for Batman, the least bad option in that lame category. Magneto was played by Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender in a turtleneck, so that’s a layup. I like Chris Evans. And finally, I picked Jean Grey because my friend Sean Fennessey told me she was a good mutant, and I didn’t feel like investigating further. Thank you for your support. My team should have won.

Staff Teams

Jack McCluskey:

No Powers: Iron Man
Acquired Powers: Spider-Man
Cosmic Powers: Wonder Woman
Born With Powers: Professor X
Villain: The Joker

My superhero team has it all:

  • young energy (Peter Parker is best as a fast-talking teen, and you know it);
  • earned wisdom (Charles Xavier’s been around a while, has seen everything, and can teach the next generation a thing or two);
  • righteous power (Wonder Woman, duh; haven’t you seen the no-man’s-land scene?);
  • deep pockets (between the glowering Bruce Wayne and the wisecracking Tony Stark, I’ll take the funny, brilliant inventor any day);
  • and pure, unadulterated chaos (as Alfred says in The Dark Knight, “Some men just want to watch the world burn”).

In this scenario, Professor X is the one calling the shots, Iron Man is the one financing and outfitting the team, Wonder Woman is the straight-ahead superhero focused on the task at hand, Spider-Man is making cracks and occasionally screwing up (as kids do), and everyone is trying to rein in the Joker, who is constantly undermining everything because he just can’t help himself. (He just wants to put a smile on that face, after all. And, yes, Heath Ledger is the Joker now and forever, amen.) Technological prowess, agility, power, brains, and unpredictability make for a potent (and entertaining) package.

Danny Chau:

No Powers: Batman
Acquired Powers: The Flash
Cosmic Powers: Thor
Born With Powers: Iceman
Villain: Apocalypse

My superhero team is actually built around my villain, Apocalypse, which means I have, for the first time in many years, successfully established an inverted pyramid.

The construction is centered around two of Apocalypse's powers: external energy absorption, and power enhancement. Thor is the God of Thunder, one of the most powerful heroes in the Marvel universe; on my team, he’s a handsome battery. The Flash is so fast he created the Speed Force, an otherworldly dimension that doubles as the source of his power; on my team, he is simply the liaison to a successful merger between the Speed Force and Apocalypse. Bruce Wayne is super smart and super rich, I’m sure he’d be able to figure out a way to augment Apocalypse’s power even further. That’s Phase 1.

Phase 2 involves Apocalypse’s ability to amplify the powers of other mutants. The classic read on Iceman is that he’s a font of untapped potential—the Kwame Brown of the X-Men. But imagine if Michael Jordan didn’t verbally abuse Kwame at every Wizards practice and instead was like, “Hey rook, let me give you all of my talent and indefatigable will to embarrass my competition.” Iceman is categorized as an Omega, the most powerful class of mutant there is. And with a nudge from Apocalypse, Iceman ought to be able to freeze all life across both cinematic universes.

Michael Baumann:

No Powers: Batman
Acquired Powers: Winter Soldier
Cosmic Powers: Silver Surfer
Born With Powers: Professor X
Villain: Magneto

The one must-have on this team is Magneto, who is the most righteous of superhero villains, and has shown he can work well with the good guys under the right circumstances. My hero with cosmic powers is the Silver Surfer, because Superman—an immortal being who has the power of flight, X-ray vision, and unlimited strength and stamina, and is literally called Superman—is the dumbest creation in the history of superheroes, if not all of narrative fiction. I don’t care how popular or powerful he is, I won’t have him on my team. Give me the guy who can travel faster than light and convert matter to energy and whose creation required more imagination than “God with a pair of neoprene briefs.”

Because Silver Surfer can do so much of the heavy lifting, I don’t, strictly speaking, need an ass-kicker on this team, which means I can carry Professor X, who can temper Magneto’s more destructive impulses and literally read minds, which also obviates the need for a sneaky reconnaissance person like Kitty Pryde, Nightcrawler, or Spider-Man. That means Winter Soldier doesn’t really fill a need, but the Acquired Powers category is light on people who do, unless you go with Reed Richards or the Hulk, and I worry about those two causing chemistry problems with Professor X and Magneto. There’s such a thing as too much brainpower.

Clearly you want a superhero who can harness the only cosmic force that eludes the Silver Surfer—capitalism—but why Batman and not Iron Man? So why the Winter Soldier, and not Deadpool or Captain America? The answer there is also chemistry: The team I’ve created is composed entirely of sad people. If Iron Man or Deadpool is in there cracking jokes or Spider-Man’s giving off his annoying teenage energy, that act is just going to annoy the rest of the team. Better to go full Listening To Nothing But Julien Baker, just so everyone’s on the same page.

Andrew Gruttadaro:

No Powers: Iron Man
Acquired Powers: The Flash
Cosmic Powers: Star-Lord
Born With Powers: Wolverine
Villain: Loki

What are we building a team for, exactly? Are we to assume the goal is global domination? Well, I’m a pacifist, so I’d rather build a team based on who would actually be decent to hang out with. In which case, look at that murderer’s row of fun personalities above. (Well, besides the very emotionally damaged Wolverine, but every crew needs a dark friend.) Can you imagine the witty banter these five would dish out? Star-Lord and Loki would get into a funny argument about galaxies, Wolverine would brood in the corner, and when Peter Quill inevitably compares himself to the Cars (or something), the Flash could chime in with a classic “I wasn’t even born yet” quip. And Iron Man could foot the whole bill—it’d be a great Friday night.

Also, for the sake of argument, I think these guys would put up a pretty good fight if any other superhero teams stepped to us.

Daniel Chin:

No Powers: Batman
Acquired Powers: Hulk
Cosmic Powers: Green Lantern
Born With Powers: Phoenix
Villain: Magneto

Every team needs its leader, and Batman is one of the smartest guys out there. The world’s greatest detective would have an answer for anything, and he’d be able to devise a plan that’d utilize each of his teammates to their fullest potentials. Like a young Steve Nash, this guy would bring the best out of everyone else’s games.

Hulk, a.k.a. “The Strongest Avenger,” is a wild card, no doubt, but his upside outweighs the risk. Put him toe to toe with any of the other big bodies on this list, and I’d bet money on the angry green guy every single time. His unparalleled strength makes him a worthy team member.

Green Lantern was a terrible, terrible movie, but that doesn’t stop him from being the ultimate utility man. Just like Ben Zobrist, put this guy anywhere in the field, and he’s going to come up with results. That shiny ring of his allows him to create anything his mind is capable of thinking up, whether it be a shield to protect one of his teammates or, I don’t know, a massive rock to drop on any of his enemies.

To not have a telepath on your team—someone who could rip apart the opposition by just getting in their heads (like Draymond Green)—would be a little foolish, I must say. Phoenix is the most powerful one in the X-Men universe. I do, however, wonder what she would do to this team’s already suspect chemistry. After all, she did kill the love of her life and disintegrate the guy who practically raised her. But, like Hulk, I think I’m gonna roll the dice on this one.

Lastly, Magneto provides the defense for this team. Not only does his helmet protect him from anybody trying to do some Jedi mind tricks on him, but Magneto (you guessed it) can manipulate metal. So if a member of your squad has any of that on him or her whatsoever—say maybe the man named after iron—then it’s already over. Oh, your team has Wolverine? Dope. With him anchoring down this All-Star lineup, no way any other stands a chance.

Kate Halliwell:

No Powers: Ant-Man
Acquired Powers: The Flash
Cosmic Powers: Silver Surfer
Born With Powers: Professor X
Villain: Hela

Professor X is an obvious choice from not only a powers-based standpoint, but from a leadership one. He can unite even the most ragtag team through sheer wisdom and charisma, and if that doesn’t work, well … he’s got the whole mind-control thing on lock. This one’s a given.

The Flash is an underrated ultra-powerful superhero, mainly because people tend to diminish his powers by saying he just “runs really fast.” Barry Allen can run *so* fast, he’s able to travel back in time. Imagine that awesome Quicksilver X-Men movie scene, but with the added benefit of time travel. Yep, Barry’s in.

The Silver Surfer’s powers are arguably limitless. While the technicalities of his powers tend to vary based on comic-vs.-screen interpretations, the consensus seems to be that he can at least travel across the galaxy, destroying (or healing) planets and peoples at will. In the better-forgotten Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, it’s established that his only weakness is his board—without it, he loses access to most of his powers. But as long as we get him one of those surfboard-ankle connector things, dude is unbeatable.

Ant-Man may seem like the dead weight of the group, but in his solo Ant-Man film, it’s explained that using Hank Pym’s shrinking technology, Ant-Man can shrink between molecules and access the quantum realm, where space and time cease to follow the rules of nature. If anyone can help Scott figure out how to best wield this power, it’s Professor X. Also, you know, Paul Rudd’s one-liners will be good for morale.

Hela is a risky choice, but not when you’ve also got Professor X on the squad. As demonstrated by Scarlet Witch in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Thor is as susceptible as anyone to mind control. Since Hela is an Asgardian like her brother, there’s no reason to think Professor X couldn’t easily keep her in line. The Goddess of Death took down Thor, Loki, all of the Valkyrie, and thousands of Asgardian soldiers. Also, she looks like Cate Blanchett. I see no downsides here.

Reader Submissions

@Klumpp13

No Powers: Howard the Duck
Acquired Powers: Doop
Cosmic Powers: Beta Ray Bill
Born With Powers: Squirrel Girl
Villain: Taskmaster

@free_rob5

No Powers: Tommy Oliver
Acquired Powers: He-Man
Cosmic Powers: Jaga from Thundercats
Born With Powers: Melt Man
Villain: Mr. Freeze

@earthdog

No Powers: Hawkeye
Acquired Powers: Captain America
Cosmic Powers: Silver Surfer
Born With Powers: Jubilee
Villain: Dr. Doom

@OSeb1

No Powers: Nick Fury
Acquired Powers: Captain America
Cosmic Powers: Green Lantern
Born With Powers: Colossus
Villain: Lex Luthor

@DoctorNerdly

No Powers: Nick Fury Sr.
Acquired Powers: Reed Richards
Cosmic Powers: The Phantom Stranger
Born With Powers: Hank McCoy
Villain: Mr. Mxyzptlk