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Masters of Memory

You may not have grown up watching characters like Iron Man and Captain America duke it out on the big screen, but you probably knew their names before they became some of the highest-grossing movie characters in box office history.

In fact, some comic book characters have been around longer than you think. Captain America might have made his silver screen debut in 2011, but Steve Rogers dates as far back as 1941. And Superman, one of the oldest (and most iconic) superheroes, first appeared in a 1938 issue of "Action Comics."

Whether you consider yourself an avid comic book collector or just a casual fan of the characters, there's no denying the nostalgia these superheroes evoke in us. Research now shows nostalgia is a powerful scientific reaction to things that make us feel comforted, safe, and even loved.

By definition, superheroes have superhuman strength and abilities that set them apart from the average person. But just how powerful is their impression on us? To find out, we asked over 150 people to recall from memory the emblems and logos of 12 of today's most popular comic book characters. While some of their renditions were somewhat less than perfect, others go to show how well some superheroes stay with us over time. Want to know which characters – from Black Panther and Deadpool to Batman and Superman – are the most memorable, and which ones people may forget the fastest? Read on to find out.

The Ultimate Superhero Showdown

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Like the art style depicting them over the years, the costumes they've worn, and even the characters behind the mask, superheroes are constantly evolving. Even the Hulk, whose costume is largely comprised of a single pair of shorts, has seen at least five design adjustments to his appearance since debuting in 1962.

The same is true for their logos. Even the iconic "S" embroidered on Superman's chest didn't always look the way you remember it. And similar to the number of times his movie franchise has been rebooted, almost no character has gone through as many iterations as Spider-Man. Of course, not every version of this web-slinging, photo-snapping superhero is really the same.

Without getting too specific, we used the longest-running logo in the comic books and the most current film version of each character's logo as our basis for judging the accuracy of these fan-created emblems.

Of the 12 superhero emblems fans were asked to recall and reproduce, only one had a more than 38 percent chance of being considered a good representation of the real deal: Deadpool. Even though over 1 in 4 people couldn't recall the logo at all, those who did knew it better than any other superhero on our list. Referred to as the "merc with a mouth," Deadpool doesn't have nearly as much history as other characters people drew far less accurately. Having made his comic book debut in 1990, Deadpool has gotten less screen time overall compared to characters like Captain America and The Avengers.

Still, we found fans had a much easier time remembering Marvel logos compared to DC Comics. Marvel movies may be dominating the box office in recent years, but DC Comics movies (like "Justice League" or "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice") have earned nearly as much per movie on average. However, even the most iconic DC superheroes might not be as memorable as you'd expect.

Superman's logo is one of the most recognizable symbols, but when asked to recreate it, less than 35 percent of fans could draw the stylized "S" to (near) perfection. Even Batman's logo, which fans were the most confident in recreating, scored just a four for average accuracy – just shy of Deadpool's 4.1.

Determined Designs

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After they took a stab at recreating these iconic logos, we asked men and women to rate their overall confidence in remembering them perfectly.

Despite being considered classic, some superhero emblems involve more details than others and may be difficult to recreate from memory. While the design specifics have changed over the years, the core elements in many of these emblems have remained largely the same. Like Batman, with a black silhouette of a bat occasionally surrounded by a yellow hue, the overall design has only been modified slightly over the years.

While men were most confident drafting The Flash' and Spider-Man's logos, women felt more confident recreating Wonder Woman's and The Avengers' logos.

All in the Details

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On the surface, many of these logos may seem relatively simple or straightforward. Of course, you might feel differently if you were asked to recall all of the finer details from memory.

"Avengers: Infinity War" just experienced one of the biggest box office debut weekends of all time. Still, this isn't the first time Marvel and The Avengers have accomplished such a feat, and it likely won't be the last. You might think that after so many years of watching "The Avengers" and preparing for its sequels people would feel relatively comfortable with the ensemble's logo, but we found most fans struggled to remember it correctly.

Less than 1 in 3 people scored an accuracy rating of five or higher for their drawings, which should have been an asymmetrical letter "A" encompassed by a full circle and right-facing arrow. Forty-two percent of fans forgot the arrow, and nearly 1 in 5 drew a typeface logo instead. Additionally, 12 percent of fans remembered that Black Panther's logo is a typeface design. More than half of people drew a panther's face instead, and 5 percent drew a panther's claw.

Batman's logo may have fewer details than that of The Avengers or even Captain America, but more than 36 percent of people managed to nail the iconic black bat against a yellow backdrop at an accuracy rating of five or higher. Of those who missed the mark, more than half forgot Batman's brooding black color and drew a hollow bat against a yellow circular backdrop. More than 1 in 3 remembered the dramatically curved wings made popular by the "Knightfall" series.

Over 38 percent of people managed to get Deadpool's design close to perfect: a full circle with a red line down the center, filled in with black, so both of Deadpool's eyes stand out. Seventeen percent of people drew the letter "D" instead, and roughly 1 in 4 forgot the vertical line in the center.

Imagine being in the Justice League but having to live in the shadow of Superman or Batman. That might be how The Flash or Green Lantern feels sometimes. Only 30 percent of people managed to reproduce the Green Lantern's emblem with an accuracy rating of five or better, followed by 28 percent for The Flash.

Not Every Drawing Is a Winner

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Some drawings were so close to perfect we were left in awe of respondents' memories and dedication to the characters. Others were slightly less so.

In this hall-of-fame showdown, we pitted the best of the best against the worst of the worst. You could say that effort is what counts, but we bet if Wonder Woman saw this half-hearted attempt at her iconic emblem, she might not feel the same way.

A Composition Competition

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The 2016 film "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" didn't earn nearly $874 million on accident – even if fan response to the movie was more tempered than anticipated. For almost as long as there have been superheroes, on film and in comic books, there have been superhero rivalries. Whether it's a battle over love interests (like Wolverine versus Cyclops from X-Men), a battle of speed (Superman versus The Flash), or a battle of morals (Iron Man versus Captain America), these throwdowns between the "good guys" have created some of the most iconic rivalries.

Batman and Superman have been going at it for decades. Making for some of the most memorable fights and storylines in comic book history, Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent have always approached their own brand of justice from unique vantage points. Like in Frank Miller's 1986 comic book "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns," where an aging Batman manages to beat Superman in a specially created suite of armor, or in the "Injustice: Gods Among Us" 2014 comic book series, where Superman nearly kills Batman by story's end, the winner's tally between these two superhero legends has gone back and forth over the years.

Regardless of who's actually stronger, Batman came out on top over Superman for the most accurate fan drawings. It averaged a four for overall likeness, while Superman scored a 3.7 in comparison.

Still, Superman's logo wasn't the least memorable DC logo. Barry Allen (The Flash) and Clark Kent have been racing almost as long as Batman and Superman have been fighting. And like the great debate between Batman and Superman, the battle rages on over who's actually the fastest of the two heroes. The Flash may come out on top for his speed frequently, but Superman ranked as the more memorable logo: 3.7 compared to 3.3.

Like DC Comics, Marvel has its own fair share of rivalries – and casual competition. More "frenemies" than actual adversaries, Spiderman and Deadpool have more in common than their color schemes. While Peter Parker may get more screen credibility than Wade Wilson, drawings of Deadpool (4.1 for accuracy, on average) scored higher than Spider-Man (3.4) or the X-Men (3.5).

Drawing a Blank

Comic book heroes are everywhere today. From their live-action, record-breaking box office films to action figures and even theme park debuts, it's hard to escape the power of their lore even if you aren't a die-hard fan.

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Of course, superhero movie fatigue may be setting in for some. Across all 12 superheroes on our list (of which every character has appeared in a movie adaptation at least once over the last decade), 22 percent of people couldn't remember the logos at all.

Perhaps with so many characters filling up the big screen these days, and more movies to keep track of than ever before, these "iconic" emblems start to blur together for some people in the end.

See for Yourself

Think you could do better than some of the drawings we received? Here are 156 drawings across 12 characters or teams. Like the Black Panther logo that was occasionally drawn more like a house cat than a fearsome warrior, or the Spider-Man logo drawn with six or 10 legs (as opposed to eight, like actual arachnids), remembering these designs correctly may be more difficult than you realize.

Here you'll be able to see each design for yourself. From the least accurate to the near-perfect, respondents' drawings prove just what people think of when these comic book characters come to mind.

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Better Than the Infinity Stones

Whether you grew up reading comic books and collecting action figures, or consider yourself a serious fan of the films, it's likely superheroes aren't going away anytime soon. In 2017, Marvel and DC Comics movies made over $4 billion worldwide, a figure that could be topped by movies like "Avengers: Infinity War" and "Deadpool 2" in 2018. But lining up for their movie debuts may not be enough to help fans remember the finer details of their logos. As we found, Deadpool's emblem was actually the most memorable of all, with over 1 in 5 people drawing it somewhat perfectly.

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We asked 156 people via survey to participate in our drawing experiment. Fifty-two percent of participants were men, and 48 percent were women. Participants ranged in age from 20 to 69, with a mean of 32.6 and a standard deviation of 8.1. Demographics with a sample size smaller than 20 were excluded from segmentation.

Before beginning, our participants were taught how to use the sketching software to maximize their accuracy. Each person spent roughly 28 minutes drawing the 12 superhero emblems using only their memory. Participants were then asked to rate their confidence in the accuracy of their drawing on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being most confident.

Drawn emblems were then independently rated for accuracy by a panel of five marketing professionals, who each scored over 1,800 drawings on a scale of 0 to 10 (with 10 being the most accurate) based on included features, colors, and proportions. The five independent scores were then averaged to establish an accuracy score for each drawing and participant.

A "good" drawing was a drawing that scored a 5 or higher on accuracy.

Due to the possibility of participants failing to follow our instructions not to utilize outside sources to aid them in drawing a logo, we cannot guarantee all emblems depicted were created solely from memory.


Fair Use Statement

You don't need all six Infinity Stones to distribute these data to the masses. Feel free to share our research with your readers for any noncommercial use. Keep Thanos happy by ensuring a link back to this page so that our contributors earn credit for their work, too.