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10 Best Non-Marvel or DC comic book superheroes

(Image credit: Dark Horse Comics)

Hard as it might be to believe from a quick glance at the latest TV and movie releases, there are brilliant and beautifully drawn comic book heroes that didn't start life at DC or Marvel. Here are ten superheroes, picked for the characters' popularity in their heyday, their enduring legacy and historical influence, that are worth checking out. 

This is strictly a list for superheroes, so don't be surprised if you feel like a few big names are missing. We're going with characters that originated in comics, and who do extraordinary things in an otherwise ordinary world. While this rules out characters like the Shadow, the Incredibles, Flash Gordon, or Tank Girl, it makes for a much more concise list. 

Featuring an NYPD homicide detective with a magic gauntlet, a Japanese schoolgirl and a half-demon that looks good in red, here are our 10 best Non-Marvel or DC comic book superheroes.

10. Midnighter

(Image credit: Wildstorm)

There are many credible heroes who came out of Wildstorm's Image years, including the Wildcats and the Authority. But as it stands, now that they're all owned by DC - with Midnighter is the last man standing.

While many of Wildstorm's characters have appeared in the "New 52," as the clock turned to "Rebirth" it's Midnighter who received his own series. Midnighter is also notable for being one of the first major openly gay superheroes in mainstream comic books.

DC has revived WildStorm with a modern Warren Ellis-led reboot called The Wild Storm, but Midnighter remains WildStorm's calling card in 2018 to the public at large.

9. Witchblade

(Image credit: Top Cow Universe)

Witchlade may have started as part of the '90's "bad girl" craze that saw scantily clad superhero vixens take over the stands, but her legacy goes far beyond those roots, with a mythology all her own - and at one time being the top-selling book in all of comics.

Witchblade's staying power also resulted in a number of spin-offs from Top Cow, where numerous superheroes still reside. Witchblade's ongoing lasted for 20 years, and have even resulted in a short-lived live action TV series, and an anime.

She'll get her shot at TV again, with a series entering development at NBC.

8. Sailor Moon

(Image credit: Kodansha)

Sailor Moon may not have originated in American comic books, but that doesn't mean she's any less a superhero - she's got a secret identity, powers, even a whole team of other heroes at her side. And when it comes to her profile, she's still as strong as ever in the American market, her home turf in Japan and worldwide.

Many Americans first became aware of Sailor Moon through her animated series, but she actually started on in a long-running manga that was actually published concurrently with the TV show for much of its run.

Sailor Moon is a hero, a team and a brand, and in many ways she defined the magical girl hero subgenre.

7. Charlton/Valiant/Milestone

(Image credit: Valiant Comics)

There are some third-party universes that just won't quit. Take, for example, the Charlton Comics heroes. Blue Beetle, Peacemaker, Captain Atom, and Phantom Lady all started out in their own universe before being snatched up by DC. Interestingly, the Charlton heroes were the inspiration for the characters of Watchmen.

Also interesting is the origin of the Valiant universe, which began by publishing new adventures featuring the Gold Key superheroes Dr. Solar, Magnus, Robot Fighter, and Turok, Dinosaur Hunter. Of course, those heroes are once again divested of Valiant, who has since moved on to an entire universe of its own with characters like Bloodshot and X-O Manowar.

Finally, take the Milestone characters. Though they were licensed by DC for some time - with characters like Static Shock receiving a huge profile boost from it - they're back under the control of the original Milestone founders, with new titles planned in the coming months.

6. Plastic Man

(Image credit: Quality Comics)

Few people realize that Plastic Man didn't actually start out at DC Comics. In fact, he got his start at Quality Comics - a name you probably haven't heard much about. Not surprising, considering they went out of business in the '50's.

Even though they're no longer publishing, their characters endure. Beyond DC's mirthful, malleable man of mystery, the next entry on our list also spent some time at Quality.

5. The Spirit

(Image credit: Kitchen Sink)

The Spirit is far from the only enduring "mystery man" in comic books, but unlike characters like the Green Hornet or the Shadow - you know, the other fedora and trenchcoat types - the Spirit actually debuted in comic books.

Will Eisner's two-fisted crime fighter originated numerous tropes that are still in play today. In fact, Eisner's work is so indisputable that one of comic books' biggest awards is named in his honor.

4. Hellboy

(Image credit: Dark Horse Comics)

Hellboy is a perfect example of a third party superhero made good. With two movies and a slew of spin-off comic books under his belt, Hellboy is less a character and more a franchise all his own.

Since his debut in 1993, Hellboy's profile has only gotten bigger, and even though he died and went to Hell a few years ago, his legacy is still alive in B.P.R.D., several other spin-off titles, and a new movie reboot on the way.

3. Spawn

(Image credit: Image Comics)

When it comes to third party superheroes, Spawn is about as big a name as it gets. While his star has faded in recent memory, at one point, you couldn't walk into a comic store without seeing his face - and that massive cape.

With a movie, an animated series, and a toy line that launched an empire - not to mention one of the top selling comics of all time - Spawn is almost as good as it gets for a non-Marvel or DC superhero.

2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

(Image credit: IDW Publishing)

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are one of comic books' greatest success stories, with their roots as a self-published parody of hard-boiled '80's comics quickly giving way to a multi-media empire of toys, movies, and a massively popular cartoon series.

In fact, the Turtles' future looks a lot like their past, with a two recent films, an acclaimed animated series on the air, and a new toy line on the shelves, not to mention several ongoing titles from IDW.

1. SHAZAM

(Image credit: Fawcett Comics)

Captain Marvel, or Shazam as he's called these days, might be best known as one of DC's premier powerhouses, having been a mainstay of the Justice League for some time, and with a high-profile movie in the works, but he didn't start out there.

Shazam began life as a response to the popularity of Superman, but believe it or not, Shazam's popularity actually eclipsed that of the Man of Steel for a brief time. And let's just say DC - or National, as it was known at the time - was none too pleased.

National took Fawcett Comics, who owned Shazam, to court, resulting in Captain Marvel and his family of characters disappearing until DC actually acquired the rights to the characters, where they now reside.

Shazam is now on track to be the basis for not one, but two films from Warner Bros, with a solo film and a spin-off featuring his enemy Black Adam in the works.