Gravity exerts a different force on children, pulling them toward certain beats, memes, and jokes adults might ignore or fail to notice. The people on this list — masked, plasticine, brilliant, strange — have a feel for those things. They know how to make them and how to share with them. They are Pied Pipers after a fashion, but we’re fine with it. We trust these guys and we like these guys and, sure, the 50th time we hear their songs or catchphrases, it’s a bit frustrating, but we know it could be sosososososo much worse. We’re thankful for the men on this list because they keep kids laughing and dancing and they keep us from worrying. That’s not a small trick.
And, yeah, we know LEGO Batman isn’t real. But, when it comes down to it, isn’t he?
Cool Dad Job: Frontman
Latest Cool Dad Achievement: Welcoming child number four.
It is a fact universally acknowledged that kids love Imagine Dragons. Maybe it’s the big beats. Maybe it’s the singable refrains. Maybe it’s the bounciness, but bops like “Believer” resonate in the eardrums of children. Fortunately, this isn’t exactly devil music. Reynolds, the band’s lead singer, is one of the most thoughtful people working in music, an advocate for LGBTQ youth (especially in the context of Mormonism, the faith in which he was raised), his fellow singers’ dignity (his support of Kesha has been nothing short of profound), and tighter gun legislation (he’s publicly proposed a benefit concert for organizations working on the issue). This year he and his wife, singer Aja Volkman, welcomed a baby boy they named Valentine to honor those killed during the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, which occurred in his hometown of Las Vegas. Big-hearted? Yes. Big star? Absolutely.
Cool Dad Job: Captain America
Latest Cool Dad Achievement: Starring in Apple TV’s first original film, The Banker.
When Mackie, who goes by The Falcon in the Marvel Universe, inherited Cap’s shield at the end of Avengers: Endgame, theaters across America roared with applause.That’s not because Mackie is the highest-profile actor in Hollywood — he’s known for stealing scenes, not starring roles — but because his character, a veteran with a heart of gold and wings of metal, feels like the protector America needs in a post-Steve Rogers, post-”America’s ass” world. But honor and duty aren’t the whole game for Mackie. There’s real acting, playing a businessman trying to make loans available to African-Americans in The Banker, and real life, in which he has three kids with his wife and childhood sweetheart, Sheletta Chapital.
Cool Dad Job: Caped Crusader, Plaything
Latest Cool Dad Achievement: Six new sets to celebrate the Dark Knight’s 80th anniversary.
Why so serious? It’s a reasonable question to ask the folks behind modern superhero flicks, which seem specifically designed to scare the bejeezus out of children. No wonder LEGO Batman, who went full MVP in 2014’s The LEGO Movie has stuck around. In the wake of starring in his eponymous film, the plasticine crusader — self-involved but noble, slapstick but brave — became a comforting presence. Kids love him for his goofy earnestness, voice artist Will Arnett’s dig at the entire hero-industrial complex, and adults love him for not existing in the same cinematic universe as Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker. Is he the hero we deserve or the hero we need? Neither. He’s the hero we can count on to make us smile. And there’s a lot to be said for that. He’s also a damn good father figure to his ward, LEGO Robin (depending on who’s playing with the minifigs).
Cool Dad Job: DJ
Latest Cool Dad Achievement: Becoming a go-to Halloween costume.
For years, Comstock, 27, managed to perform as DJ Marshmello while keeping his identity a secret. He would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids. But he was good-natured about his outing, and rather than abandoning what had initially been a side project, Comstock redoubled his effort to bring dance-able, bouncy EDM to the masses. He broke through to kids, already a significant part of his audience, in 2019 by throwing a concert inside Fortnite, the video game rapidly consuming the world. Now, he’s an accessible icon for many young gamers. Though not actually a father, he’s awarded an honorary position on this list for being the rare musician setting a good example by making joyful music for children. He can babysit whenever he wants.
Cool Dad Job: Ex-President, Author Missing Book Deadlines
Last Cool Dad Achievement: Creating the Higher Ground production company to make shows and documentaries for Netflix.
Never has a former president looked so good in comparison to his successor. Obama’s legacy (remember that time he lifted the country out of the biggest financial crisis since the great depression?) can and should be questioned by those to both his right and his left. He was and is, after all, a world historical figure. That said, what’s hard to question is his character. While in office he behaved with uncommon grace, humor, and dignity. He was a model father, husband, and pick-up basketball player. Now that he’s less present in public life, it’s easier to see his cultural accomplishments — the ways in which he helped Americans feel and be better even as the partisanship of the modern era spiraled out of control.