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Date Posted: 12:33:47 06/21/16 Tue
Author: cjl
Subject: What is a "superhero"?
In reply to: fresne 's message, "Super Heroes" on 17:00:34 06/16/16 Thu

fresne...always a joy to watch your words pirouette across the screen.

Now, as to the question at hand:

The superhero has many, varied antecedents: the myths of Babylonia, India, Greece and Rome; the Norse Eddas, the Mahabharata and the Bible; folk tales from Africa and China. In recent times, we've had the adventure tales of the Scarlet Pimpernel, Zorro and the Musketeers; the fantastic fiction of Verne, Burroughs and Wells; and the pulse-pounding pulpiness of Doc Savage, the Phantom and the Shadow.

But the modern superhero begins with Superman.

First of all, the superhero is a creature of the metropolis. He or she flies over the enormous spires of the city or races through its canyons at superspeed. Superheroes are not meant for bucolic splendor and quiet pastures; they are part of the hustle and bustle of city life, with jobs (reporter, police scientist) and personal lives reflecting their environment.

(I remember a Defenders annual where the supervillains set up shop in rural Oklahoma so they could avoid superheroes.)

Superheroes, generally, are also products of a Rational Age. Their origins and powers have scientific explanations and obey some form of pseudoscientific principle. Kryptonians can soar in Earth's lighter gravity, and their skin is thick enough to stop a bullet. (When we shifted from the Modern Age to the Atomic Age, radiaton became a very convenient all purpose explanation for all kinds of nonsense.)

And finally, superheroes are public figures in the very modern sense, with every move watched by the press, the authorities, or the public, their reputations as fragile and changeable as any other celebrity.

These are not hard and fast rules, of course. Elements of alternate genres like horror and fantasy do get mixed in on occasion. But this is my definition, and I'm sticking to it; and that means I don't see Buffy as a superhero in the classic mold. BtVS was a horror series with smatterings of superhero elements, not the other way around--but that doesn't diminish Buffy's awesomeness in the slightest.

Still, if Buffy isn't a superhero in the classic mold, that just begs the followup question: who is? You can say Wonder Woman, Storm, Phoenix, Jessica Jones, Carol Danvers, Supergirl, Xena--and all those fit the bill beautifully.

And yet...

It bothers me that all these superheroines were created by men. Maybe it shouldn't, but it does. They are either direct counterparts of male heroes or pointed refutations of a stereotype of the male viewer. Which is okay, but is there a superhero out there, created by a woman, that doesn't reference the male POV at all?


My current fanboy crush, Steven Universe (created by Rebecca Sugar) has three incredible female superheroes, living gems who, as the theme song puts it, "always save the day."

That's why the people of this world
Believe in Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl!

(Catchy theme song.)

Defenders of a city? Check. Refugees from an oppressive alien civilization? Check. Subject of constant speculation by the citizens they protect? Check. Fearsome warriors AND the best surrogate moms in the universe?

We have a winner.

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  • Re: Super Heroes -- Rich, 17:38:25 06/30/16 Thu
  • Re: Super Heroes -- dickbd, 12:32:25 09/06/16 Tue

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