By Jim Gourley Best Defense culture correspondent
There are 25 Spartan-branded obstacle course races in the United States. Microsoft's Halo game series, whose protagonist is the last member of an elite group of futuristic super-soldiers known as Spartans, is a multi-billion dollar franchise. Recently named one of the "hot 100" companies by Internet Retailer and profiled in the Army Times, Ranger Up apparel company made approximately $4 million last year on sales of over 300,000 t-shirts. Sixteen of their 150 designs feature images of Spartan warriors. They're so popular they've been grouped into their own sub-category on the company's website, which leads off with the sales pitch: "Let's face it. When it comes to the definition of the warrior ethos, it is hard to top the Spartans."