The Birth of Superheroes

Trying to define a superhero is quite taxing. Do they all have to wear capes? What about secret identities? Super strength or maybe they can fly? Categorizing them in this superficial way will get you no where. So then what truly makes a super hero? Jess Nevins is the author of “The Evolution of the Costumed Avenger”. In his book, Nevins’ theory dates super heroes further back than you might imagine. Try 4,000 years. He talks about “protosuperheros”; these are the characters that existed before the era of superman that had similar super hero qualities but were not classified into the same genre we see today. Examples of this would be the Middle Eastern epic poem of Gilgamesh or the 17th century cross-dressing crime fighter Moll Cutpurse. He makes the connection between Hulk and Gilgamesh as well as Batman and Moll Cutpurse. Both of these superheros are very different. I did a google search earlier asking “how do you define a superhero?” just to get a basic consensus from the internet. It read “a benevolent fictional character with superhuman powers, such as Superman.” This is entirely inaccurate. Let’s use Batman as an example. Does he have superhuman powers? No. What about the Hulk? Not entirely. These “defining factors” for superheros are too broad and indefinite. So I guess the next question would be what do I think the defining factors for a superhero are? Well, even after reading the article about Jess Nevin’s book and watching the original Superman cartoon, I still struggle to put my finger on it. In simplest terms, I would have to say that a superhero is a fictional character that uses their abilities (superhuman or not) to fight crime and protect citizens against anything that puts them in danger. The more research I do about the history of superheros, my own personal definition more than likely will change.

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