"If I could be a superhero I would be... Awesome Man I’d fly around the world fighting crime According to my awesome plan And if I saw criminals trying to lie Hurting other people and making them cry I'd haul them off to jail in my awesome van 'Cause I would be Awesome Man"
For a list of tropes common to the genre, see Superhero Tropes.
A series where the main character has powers and/or abilities that set him aside from other people. Usually (unless he's Not Wearing Tights
) he is a costumed do-gooder with a colourful outfit (which likely sports a Chest Insignia
), a Secret Identity
and often unusual and useful superpowers or equipment. Sometimes he's a loner trying to deal with the hand that fate dealt him. Usually his reason for existence is to defeat his nemesis or arch-enemy the Supervillain
Sometimes the show focuses on a team or other grouping
of powered individuals. The original
modern superhero is arguably The Shadow
(first published April 1, 1931 in The Shadow Magazine
, seven years before Action Comics
#1 introduced Superman
). Though he did not initially have have super powers other than being a master hypnotist, he gains psychic abilities beginning in 1937 that let him induce psychological invisibility
in the radio series. He was inspired by previous fictional adventurers and crime fighters, such as Zorro
(who may be the Ur Example
). In turn, he has inspired many future superheroes, most notably Batman who was an Expy
at first before being differentiated into how he's currently recognized.
The first comic strip
superhero would have been Mandrake The Magician
(June 11, 1934) and the first spandex-type costumed Super Hero is arguably The Phantom
(first published Feb. 17, 1936), who wore a skin-tight purple outfit with a mask. Culturally the concept was crystallized
, who remains doubtlessly the world's most recognized superhero; indeed, any similar character that came before is likely to be classified as a Proto-Superhero
. After Superman's debut, the concept was repeated
numerous times, eventually spawning the Justice Society of America
which was the first superhero team.
Note that not all superheroes are super-powered; Batman
is often considered a superhero despite having nothing but training, intelligence, willpower, minor gadgetry and the writers on his side; Phantom was in peak physical fitness, had excellent reflexes and was a sharpshooter. They are generally considered superheroes, partly because of the costume. In trope terms, they go under Non-Powered Costumed Hero
Sooner or later, all superheroes have an origin story
. If the series lasts long enough, the Sorting Algorithm of Evil
will introduce the bigger threat of a Supervillain, possibly an Arch-Enemy
. If the superhero fights enough of them often enough
, they may gather a Rogues Gallery
Superheroes are not
limited merely to comic books and their derivations. Gladiator
, Golden Bat
, Prince of Gamma
, Lone Ranger
and Green Hornet
predate all comic format Superheroes, and Knight Rider
or The Six Million Dollar Man
are television examples partaking fairly little of the comic book medium. On Japanese television though, the tokusatsu has a long and proud tradition of superheroism, most famously Ultraman
and Kamen Rider
, serving as the national image of superheroes. Anime
is also chock full of super heroes from Astro Boy
to Sailor Moon
and Magical Girl Warrior
are two Japanese genres that are an outgrowth of this, not to mention Super Robot
, which is a gigantic
variant of the superhero.
In a broader sense, superheroes can be considered old as the superhuman heroes of ancient mythology, with Gilgamesh
being the Ur Example
. Other examples include Hercules
, and SunWukong
(a.k.a. Son Goku
In some continuities they may be called something other than superhero
, but they're usually still recognizable as such. See also Superhero Prevalence Stages
and Standard Superhero Setting
See also The Cape
, Stock Superpowers
, Form-Fitting Wardrobe
, and of course the Most Common Super Power
. The exact opposite would be the Un-Sorcerer
If you feel you have a handle on the elements of a superhero comic book, hop on over to So You Want To Write A Superhero Comic
and see what you can contribute.
Works in this genre:
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Anime & Manga
Film (Live Action)
- Golden Bat - Japan's first superhero, debuting in 1930 (in Kamishibai paper theatre), 8 years before Superman and 9 years before Batman. Golden Bat was the first illustrated superhero, and the first superhero with all the ingredients of the modern superhero archetype: Stock Superpowers such as Super Strength and Super Speed, Flight, The Cape, etc. He was the Trope Maker for Japanese superheroes, including the Sentai superheroes of Tokusatsu films and shows, and Manga and Anime superheroes ranging from Astro Boy and Goku to Magical Girls like Sailor Moon and even Super Robots.
- Prince of Gamma - Japan's second major superhero, debuting in early 1930's Kamishibai paper theater. An intergalactic alien prince orphaned on Earth, he lives in Tokyo in the guise of an alter-ego, a poor street urchin. When danger calls, he becomes a caped superhero with Powers such as Flight and Super Strength to fight threats to Japan. His Origin Story resembles the origin stories of later superheroes like Superman and Goku.
- Mrs Hawking- A series of plays about a Victorian era society widow with a secret life as a covert agent for otherwise helpless women in London. Heavily influenced by both Sherlock Holmes and Batman.