37 First Names of Famous Comic Characters and What Those Names Might Have Been If They Had Debuted in 2011
This list was inspired by a recent post by Glenn Weldon on NPR’s Monkey See blog in which he muses about the popularity of names over the decades, and how a name’s drop in popularity can date a fictional character that has been around for decades.
Take 1. Lois Lane. In 1938, the year in which the plucky reporter first appeared, Lois was the 33rd most popular female baby name in the U.S., right behind Ann, Linda and Sharon. But in 2011 (the most recent year the U.S. Social Security Administration’s website offers up data for), Lois didn’t even break the top 1000; the last time it did was in 1983, coming in at #983.
If Ms. Lane had first appeared in 2011, her first name might have been that year’s 33rd-most-popular girl’s name, Layla… which you have to admit is awfully convenient for those writers and fans eager to preserve the all-important Superman/L.L. connection.
For each entry below, I’ve done three things: (1) note where a character’s first name placed in the rankings for the year that he or she debuted; (2) note how much more or less popular that same character’s name was in 2011 and (3) reveal what the character’s new name would have been if he or she had debuted in 2011 and the creators used the name that was just as popular in 2011 as the original name. Occasional asides and pointless commentary may also take place.
Everyone clear? Then let’s begin:
2. Clark Kent (Superman)
Rank of Clark in 1938: 242nd
Rank in 2011: 616th
Probable name in 2011: Alexis Kent
Yes, Alexis. Even post-Dynasty, the 242nd most popular name for boys in the U.S. in 2011 was Alexis. Hmm, it might be interesting to pit Alexis Kent against Lex Luthor… nah, let’s stick with Clark.
No surprises here; Bruce enjoyed a bit of popularity in the mid-2oth century (hence your Springsteens and Willises of the world), but spotting Bruces down at the local daycare today is a bit of a challenge.
4. Richard “Dick” Grayson (Robin)
Rank of Richard in 1940: 5th
Rank in 2011: 127th
Probable name in 2011: Noah Grayson
All right, get it out of your system: “Wow, they sure liked Dick a lot back in the old days.” But seriously, folks: I was a little surprised to see Richard, a name I thought was still fairly common, come in behind Kyle, Kaleb and Giovanni. I guess people don’t like Dick as much as they used to (great, now I’m doing it, too…).
5. William “Billy” Batson (Captain Marvel)
Rank of William in 1940: 4th
Rank in 2011: 3rd
Probable name in 2011: Jayden Batson
William is one of those names that has never really gone out of style, placing near the top of the list for boys’ names every year for the past 100 years. So good call there, Messrs. Beck and Parker — I’m confident “Billy” will stand the test of time far longer than “Jayden” will.
6. Arthur Curry (Aquaman)
Rank of Arthur in 1941: 33rd
Rank in 2011: 338th
Probable name in 2011: Tyler Curry
And suddenly I’m seized with the need to see a movie starring a man in a fat suit wearing a dress and granny wig.
7. Diana Prince (Wonder Woman)
Rank of Diana in 1941: 100th
Rank in 2011: 203rd
Probable name in 2011: Kaitlyn Prince
That one’s probably a no-sell from the start; it’s hard to imagine a Wonder Woman of any generation not adopting the name of a Greek goddess. Unless Kaitlyn is the goddess of unnecessary spelling variations.
8. Oliver Queen (Green Arrow)
Rank of Oliver in 1941: 219th
Rank in 2011: 78th
Probable name in 2011: Drake Queen
Finally, we find a superhero name that has shot up in popularity since the character first debuted, in this case more than 70 years ago. And good thing, too; somehow, I don’t think a character named “Drake Queen” is going to fly. Not unless his super power is looking fabulous in a pair of pumps and a feather boa.
9. Stephen “Steve” Rogers (Captain America)
Rank of Stephen in 1941: 41st
Rank in 2011: 229th
Probable name in 2011: Carter Rogers
Yeah, doesn’t work for me, either.
Here’s the second name in our list that has dropped off the Top 1000, probably because the name will forever be associated with either a klutzy red-headed teenager or a middle-aged TV bigot (or a literary cockroach, if you’re so inclined). Fun fact: I used to work with a Corbin Andrews, so if he’s ego-surfing and ends up at this page: hi there!
11. Barry Allen (Silver Age Flash)
Rank of Barry in 1956: 69th
Rank in 2011: Not even in top 1000
Probable name in 2011: Chase Allen
A super-speedster named “Chase.” That’s probably the most appropiate re-naming we’re going to see on this list.
12. Harold “Hal” Jordan (Green Lantern)
Rank of Harold in 1959: 88th
Rank in 2011: 843rd
Probable name in 2011: Luis Jordan
Another interesting trend: once-reliable WASPish names like Harold, Ronald and George have been outpaced by names like Luis, Juan and Jesus, an obvious reflection of the growing Hispanic population in the U.S. I think I speak for many when I say I would totally pick up a book starring someone named Luis Jordan as Green Lantern.
13. Wallace “Wally” West (Kid Flash; Modern-Day Flash)
Rank of Wallace in 1959: 270th
Rank in 2011: Not even in top 1000
Probable name in 2011: Lane West
Again, a super-speedster ends up with a wholly appropriate name, “Lane.” I’m starting to suspect a conspiracy here.
14. Raymond “Ray” Palmer (The Atom)
Rank of Raymond in 1961: 48th
Rank in 2011: 234th
Probable name in 2011: Wyatt Palmer
Sounds like the name of a personal-injury law firm, doesn’t it?
15. Reed Richards (Mister Fantastic)
Rank of Reed in 1961: 589th
Rank in 2011: 368th
Probable name in 2011: Kale Richards
Nah, it doesn’t have that alliterative quality that Stan Lee liked so much for his characters. Let’s go down the list to the next R name: “Rory Richards.” Yeah, that screams “super-scientist,” doesn’t it?
16. Benjamin Grimm (The Thing)
Rank of Benjamin in 1961: 146th
Rank in 2011: 19th
Name if debuted in 2011: Rylan Grimm
Yeah, you heard right. The giant rock-skinned guy with a temper is now named “Rylan.” You think it’s a funny name, you go take it up with him.
17. Jonathan “Johnny” Storm (Human Torch)
Rank of Jonathan in 1961: 3rd
Rank in 2011: 31st
Probable name in 2011: William Storm
What did I tell you? Some names are just too classic to go out of style.
18. Susan Richards (Invisible Woman)
Rank of Susan in 1961: 3rd
Rank in 2011: 781st
Name if debuted in 2011: Emma Storm
From third most popular name to 781st in 50 years — yeah, that’s a huge drop, and I’ll be darned if I can explain why. Susan’s a great name! Susie is a fun gal who’s just wholesome enough to bring home to Mom and Dad, while “Emma Storm” makes me think of something Jane Austen would have come up with if she had worked in comics instead of romantic fiction.
Well, at least Flash Thompson would have a new nickname for him. “Hey, here comes Puny Parker. Let’s have some fun with him. Hey, Dizzy Izzy! Catch!”
20. Bruce Banner (Hulk)
Rank of Bruce in 1961: 41st
Rank in 2011: 470th
Probable name in 2011: Carter Banner
Yeeeeeah….no. “Carter” either needs a one-syllable name like Smith or a multisyllabic surname (“Carter Warchowski, pleased to meet you”) to work.
21. Stephen Strange (Doctor Strange)
Rank of Stephen in 1963: 29th
Rank in 2011: 229th
Probable name in 2011: Lucas Strange
Still works for me. Even sounds a little bit more mystical, which is good considering who we’re dealing with. But that could be the Luke/Force connection my Star Wars-saturated subconscious is making.
22. Janet Van Dyne (Wasp)
Rank of Janet in 1963: 40th
Rank in 2011: 951st
Probable name in 2011: Allison Van Dyne
I actually like Allison better, to be perfectly honest. “Janet” will forever make my TV-warped mind think of Jack Tripper’s more sensible roommate, and then I’d be thinking about what super powers Mr. Furley would get if he were a superhero, and then it all goes downhill from there.
23. Jean Grey (Jean Grey; also Marvel Girl in her early days)
Rank of Jean in 1963: 97th
Rank in 2011: Not even in top 1000
Probable name in 2011: Ellie Grey
Wow, that’s quite the drop for a name that used to be in the Top 100 only 40 years ago. Why no love for the Jeans of the world?
24. Scott Summers (Cyclops)
Rank of Scott in 1963: 12th
Rank in 2011: 372nd
Probable name in 2011: Matthew Summers
Give him whatever name you want; he’ll always be an insufferable douche who is nowhere near deserving of Jean’s love.
25. Robert “Bobby” Drake (Iceman)
Rank of Robert in 1963: 5th
Rank in 2011: 61st
Probable name in 2011: Noah Drake
Meh. Same difference.
Not much movement for Anthony; dare we thank the tireless efforts of Tony Danza for its continued popularity among young parents? Yes, I do believe I will take a chance and face the wind.
27. Matthew Murdock (Daredevil)
Rank of Matthew in 1964: 43rd
Rank in 2011: 12th
Probable name in 2011: Isaiah Murdock
Nope, not seeing that one work. Ha! I said “seeing” while talking about a blind superhero! Okay, fine, YOU find something clever to say for every one of these.
28. Samuel “Sam” Wilson (The Falcon)
Rank of Samuel in 1969: 64th
Rank in 2011: 26th
Probable name in 2011: Zachary Wilson
He was one of Marvel’s bigger-profile black superheroes at the time and he debuted in 1969 at the height of the Black Panther movement in the U.S. I’m halfway surprised he didn’t get called Isaiah.
29. Jonah Hex
Rank of Jonah in 1972: 646th
Rank in 2011: 144th
Probable name in 2011: Terrence Hex
Yeah, I agree, “Terry Hex” doesn’t have the same air of menace to it.
30. Lucas “Luke” Cage (Power Man, later just Luke Cage)
Rank of Lucas in 1972: 516th
Rank in 2011: 29th
Probable name in 2011: Talon Cage (Talon???)
From 516th pre-1977 to 29th in 2011. What a difference a beloved sci-fi trilogy can make.
31. Frank Castle (The Punisher)
Rank of Frank in 1974: 66th
Rank in 2011: 308th
Probable name in 2011: Levi Castle
No. Just…. no.
This one’s a bit different; although the character was introduced in 1974, he wasn’t given a name until 1977, and even though it was just “Logan” (it was purposely left unclear if that was his first or second name). The Origins mini-series would later reveal his full name, but until that came along Logan was all the fans would know. Is Wolverine responsible for the name’s meteoric rise among baby names between 1977 and 2011? It’s certainly possible. That, or a lot of people are really big fans of Canada’s tallest mountain peak.
33. Jefferson Pierce (Black Lightning)
Rank of Jefferson in 1977: 668th
Rank in 2011: not even in top 1000
Probable name in 2011: Makai Pierce
After much extensive research, I can tell you two things: “Makai” is Hawaiian in origin, and it means “toward the sea.” Not exactly the kind of name you’d expect for an urban electric-based hero.
34. Jennifer Walters (She-Hulk)
Rank in 1980: 1st
Rank in 2011: 134th
Probable name in 2011: Sophia Walters
Wow, quite a drop for Jennifer in just 30 years. And to be replaced with Sophia, of all names? Are there that many fans of The Golden Girls in my generation?
35. Albert “Al” Simmons (Spawn)
Rank in 1992: 205th
Rank in 2011: 392nd
Probable name in 2011: Xander Simmons
Try as I might, I really can’t picture Spawn as being either an “Albert” or a “Xander.”
36. Kyle Rayner (Green Lantern)
Rank in 1994: 24th
Rank in 2011: 121st
Probable name in 2011: Gabriel Rayner
I included this one to give an idea of how quickly names can fall out of favor in a very short time. Kind of the same way this character did, now that I think about it.
37. Connor Hawke (Green Arrow)
Rank in 1994: 59th
Rank in 2011: 54th
Name if debuted in 2011: Justin Hawke
My only reason for including this recent character on the list: because he shares the same cool name as a cool guy who just had a birthday. Happy 9th birthday, little man!