I was recently drawn into a thread on Facebook that asked if we thought that the Atom was/is a "B-Lister" character. My EXACT response to this--"I do NOT find the Atom, Hawkman, Hawkwoman, Zatanna, Red Tornado, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Elongated Man, Aquaman or the Martian Manhunter to be ANYTHING but A-Listers!"
The reason that they are called "B or C-Listers" is because they are not supported by DC. Yes, they get their own books but when the readership starts to drop off, the books get cancelled! What happens when Batman's readership drops? They replace the writer and/or artist, start a new story line and/or begin a huge advertising push! That is all well and good, but imagine if they put that much effort into the so-called "B or C Listers!" ALL of the heroic characters listed above have lasted for over fifty years! True, some are legacy characters, but the concept is much the same on many of the heroes.
Hawkman and Hawkgirl/Hawkwoman had their origins changed from reincarnation to being extra terrestrials and the Ray Palmer Atom gained the ability to shrink, whereas the original Al Pratt Atom was originally just a short tough guy. But BOTH character versions were popular with the fans! When The newer versions of the Flash and Green Lantern debuted, many fans wondered what had happened to the original versions that they loved. And rather than just toss those earlier characters out , DC Comics brought BACK the heroes! This move proved to be popular with both sets of fans. The fans who remembered the original versions and the newer fans whom were being introduced to these heroes for the first time.
Also DC reaped many rewards from this. What would the summer have been like for both a Silver Age and a Bronze Age kid without the annual summer team-ups of the Legendary Justice Society Of America and the Mighty Justice League Of America?! They would have been much POORER, that is what! Those team-ups lasted for 21 YEARS (they only stopped because DC dropped the whole "multiple earths" concept in light of the Crisis On Infinite Earths maxi-series in 1985)! None of that HAD to happen. DC just recognized the worth of those characters, and that is what needs to be done with the so-called "B-listers".
All of them have had successful runs in the past. Each character has their fans. Superheroes are idealized characters! They are bigger than life. They are wish fulfillment. Aquaman is the ruler of the oceans! The Martian Manhunter has almost Superman level strength, various vision powers, plus the ability to shapeshift! The Elongated Man is an ace detective as well as a man with the ability to stretch. His identity is publicly known and he is one of the few superheroes who enjoys a happy marriage. Many readers have even posted the idea that DC Comics could make these characters into DC's answer to Nick and Nora Charles! This would be a fun book! The Dibneys are as whimsical as the Charles' are.
The main reason that people consider these character as "second stringers" is BECAUSE of their prior track records! Why should people buy a new series devoted to the Atom when they "know" that it will just be cancelled again? DC (and Marvel as well) have an amazing pantheon of fantastic characters. They just need to be allowed to shine. After all, who in 1980 would have thought that the Teen Titans would become a hit? For that matter, who, in 1975 thought that the Uncanny X-Men would go on to be as popular as they became? All of those heroes have the potential to be great!!