Last edited by ceroxide; 12-18-2012 at 10:03 AM.
If you hypothesize that Captain America isn't as iconic, then you must throw Wonder Woman under the same bus; they rank near each other in "most popular superheroes" countdowns and both don't have as strong as a fanbase as before (actually, Superman lost a lot of steam as well).
Going back to legendary...I'm inclined to state that of the 4, the ones that equal and/or are inferior to Captain America in terms of not being iconic (since their inception, not in modern times) are Wonder Woman and Batman, but Wonder Woman at least represented something; Superman has been eclipsing Batman from the start and he was almost forgotten until the '70s rolled in with a noir take on the character; that was good enough to have people re-kindle interest in Batman.
This is a sample of my take on the most iconic characters:
1. Superman (archetype for the superhero genre and one of the first)
2. Spider-Man (after the likes of the Fantastic Four and the Hulk, this character assisted with ushering in a new era on superhero takes ; the flawed hero, the ethos of the Marvel Universe)
To a lesser extent, 3. Wonder Woman (first superheroine and an ispiration to female readers)
There is a reason why Spider-Man is #2 and I think we all know that like Superman, he has been a hit since his debut and dominated the decade and others to come (save Captain Marvel outselling Superman in the '40s).
Superman is (or was) DC's flagship hero for a reason as he best personifies DC heroes as a whole as larger-than-life, whereas Spider-Man is Marvel's flagship and best personifies Marvel heroes as flawed.
Sure, DC's top now is Batman and Batman and Spider-Man definitely go #1 and #2 respectively in terms of popularity, but certain characters gotten their iconography much later than others and not necessarily since their debut.
Marvel Heroes Analysis:
Participating in the Closed Beta.
"Iconic" doesn't have anything to do with popularity. It doesn't really matter that Wonder Woman comics don't sell too well. What makes her iconic is that you can show a picture of her to some random on the street and they'll be able to tell you it's Wonder Woman.
^ Exactly. Captain America is iconic because as soon as you see that costume the name is just obvious - no-one is going to mistake him for anyone else. Kirby really hit the nail on the head with his design, and the shield in particular is just a masterpiece of iconic simplicity. All of that comes together to make a character who is easily recognised and who's core concept is easily understood, making him one of the most enduring images of Marvel, regardless of whether you've read a Captain America comic or not. And I say that as someone who has little love for the character.
"Cyclops is gonna fry for what he did. Can't wait!" - Cancerous