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Robert Downey, Jr. makes Iron fly at the Box Office, but what Actor made the Best Comic-Book Hero ever?

POSTED:

OK, everyone knew Iron Man would hit box-office paydirt. But $100 million in one weekend ($104 million if you count the preview shows on Thursday night) and $201 million if you count the worldwide grosses. That's gold, baby, gold! What we have here is the second best debut ever for a non-sequel after 2002's Spider-Man, which took in $114 million, and the 10th biggest opening of all time. It's a great kickoff for Hollywood's summer 2008 and even better for audiences and critic types like me since Iron Man is actually one terrific movie. Not too many superhero epics can boast an award-caliber performance like the one Robert Downey, Jr. delivers as Tony Stark, aka Iron Man. Which brings me to today's topic: What actor gave the best performance ever as a superhero?

If you go by box-office, the hugest openings after Spider-Man with Tobey Magure and Iron Man with Downey are: The Hulk with Eric Bana, Fantastic Four with (I'm too bored to care), X-Men with Hugh Jackman as a lively Wolverine, Ghost Rider with a deadly Nic Cage, and Batman with a grave, much underrated Michael Keaton as the Caped Crusader. You could throw in Hellboy with a scrappy, red-faced Ron Perlman, Batman Begins with a hyper-focused Christian Bale and even Batman Returns with Michelle Pfeiffer as the definitive, purr-worthy Catwoman. But as a rival to Downey, I'd have to go with the late Christopher Reeve who, thirty years ago, brought humor and heart to the Man of Steel in Superman. Go ahead, let me hear your nominees. I'd also like your picks for the worst acting as a comic-book hero. George Clooney would nominate himself for Batman & Robin. But did you ever see Billy Zane in The Phantom? Now that's superlousy.

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Peter Travers

Rolling Stone senior writer Peter Travers has reviewed movies for the magazine for more than 20 years. Send your comments and questions to him here.

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