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Heroes vs Superheroes

Posted 8 Months ago by Weird Occurance

I’m sure this is something I can find across the internet, but I was just having a think about this over the last few days for the fun of it. I’m curious if there’s an actual distinction between heroes and superheroes that have been made in the fandom.

Here are some examples of what I mean:

I always found it interesting that Batman and Iron Man and considered superheroes, when their powers hinge around intelligence and wealth. I wouldn’t put them on par with someone like… Rogue or Mystique or most x-men characters for that matter, who have an actual innate superhuman ability. I guess one could argue that Tony Stark has abnormally high intelligence, which I can see myself conceding lol but am curious on your thoughts here.

Another thought I’ve had is about people who were given superpowers through science - like Captain America, or even Spider-Man, from a spider bite. They do have innate superhuman abilities that elevate them to superhero level, but are they also on par with, again, x-men characters whose powers just kind of surfaced while they were growing up? Are these on the same level? And is Hawkeye a superhero or a hero? Are his skills of perception superhuman or just very high?

Last musing - aliens in superhero media. Superman is from Krypton and every single kryptonian has the same superpowers- of they’re on a planet with a yellow sun. Sure, Superman is superHUMAN and is a superhero by Earth standards, but is just the same as every other Kryptonian, so he’s not actually distinct or special by intergalactic standards, if that makes sense. It’s just traits of an alien species.

I know nothing about Captain Marvel’s origin story. Is she distinct amongst her race?

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There are 20 Replies


There are sort of distinctions made between like, different types of superheroes, as you mention. Batman, Green Arrow, and Iron Man are "normal" people who have turned themselves into superheroes via gadgets and technology. And then you get all the X-Men or Superman and Wonder Woman, who are innately superpowered beings. And then you get "regular people" who are *turned into* superheroes - so like, Hulk, Captain America, Spider-Man, Green Lantern.

But they're all functionally "super"heroes, though. When a long-standing debate in the fandom is who would win in a fight, Batman or Superman, it's safe to assume that functionally they're all just "superheroes." And how they got to that point varies. (And to be sure, they're all written in this way. Like there's no reason why they wouldn't be able to write Iron Fist as being able to beat Thanos if they really wanted to.)

8 Months ago
Jet Presto

I think it has more to do with intent and ability than whether those abilities are innate. If you have superhero ability (regardless of how you get it) and the intent to do good / save the planet, you're a superhero. If you have the ability and the opposite intent, you're instead a supervillain. Other intents besides those will just make you a superpowered being (if the abilities are innate) or just a normal highly skilled person (if not). Having the intent but lacking the ability will instead make you a hero.

One of the more interesting aspects of this is whether your powers are innate or not can depend on the context -- like yeah on krypton superman isn't anything exceptional. Similarly, in the TVA the infinity stones are worthless paperweights despite causing the "super" status of many superheroes and villains in the rest of the MCU.

As far as innate powers go, there are some interesting parallels between Tony Stark and Thanos (which I think was deliberate) -- they're both normal people that lack superpowers and instead use technology and/or skill and/or wealth/power to achieve their goals. Like yeah Thanos is literally an alien but he doesn't have unexplainable supernatural powers beyond I guess just being freakishly strong. Other aliens like superman or captain marvel (or even Thor and Loki) have supernatural powers beyond their own alien physiology. Thanos would be like if Skurge started an interstellar empire (which I'd pay to see ngl)

8 Months ago
Xhin
Sky's the limit

*pushes up poindexter glasses* I mean, if you want to get into the technicalities of Thanos from a comic book perspective, I'm pretty sure Thanos is an Eternal. So he's more than just "some alien."

And *also* Superman doesn't have supernatural powers beyond their alien physiology. If any Kryptonian came to Earth or were near a yellow star, they would have the same super powers as Kal-El. Like, he has *extra* powers because of the environment he lives in, but they are not abnormal for Kryptonian physiology, as what is normal is innately contextual on what color star they're near. So yes, Kal-El on Earth has more abilities than a Kryptonian on, well, Krypton pre-explosion. But any of those Kryptonians on Krypton come to Earth, they'll have the same powers as Superman. So he *technically* doesn't have powers that are outside the norm of the Kryptonian physiology.

I'm not sure how much Thor ultimately has powers and abilities beyond what is possible for any Asgardian, versus he just has a magic hammer, though. Like he and Loki were raised to exhibit certain skills and strengths, but they don't generally do things that other Asgardians *couldn't* do if given the same resources and training (and magical items.)

8 Months ago
Jet Presto

*laughs in super saiyan*

8 Months ago
sniper of hell

As far as I am able to tell, the distinction between "hero" and "superhero" is metafictional and it relates more to how a character is serialized/syndicated/iterated than any specific piece of lore about the character. I think the "feeling" of interacting with a piece of superhero media depends on the faith of the auditor in the eternal nature of the character, so knowing that both Batman and Superman are likely both going to outlive us while, say, a main character in A Song of Ice and Fire is almost certainly going to get fucking destroyed by the end of the series creates a distinction in the mind between those types of characters, regardless of powerlevel or origin.

8 Months ago
galbraith

if you want to get into the technicalities of Thanos from a comic book perspective, I'm pretty sure Thanos is an Eternal.


Well I meant MCU Thanos, not the one who's trying to court the female personification of death.

I'm not sure how much Thor ultimately has powers and abilities beyond what is possible for any Asgardian, versus he just has a magic hammer, though. Like he and Loki were raised to exhibit certain skills and strengths, but they don't generally do things that other Asgardians *couldn't* do if given the same resources and training (and magical items.)


Thor apparently has some kind of supernatural connection with thunder, and loki can do illusion magic. Again, going by the MCU here.

8 Months ago
Xhin
Sky's the limit

I think to make a determination between what is and is not a Super Hero you first have to determine what makes a Super Hero considered "Super". Is it having physical abilities beyond what a human could have naturally? Or is it having more intelligence than what a normal Human would have? Or is it a combination of those 2? Batman and Ironman are both super smart and use their genius combined with their wealth to build suits/gadgets to match the situations they are presented. Then you have "super" heroes like Hulk and Thor that have super strength but are not as intelligent as most humans, especially the Hulk, but then he has Bruce Banner who is a genius but doesn't have the super strength (until he became smart hulk).

And conversely you have "super" villains like Lex Luther, Riddler and King Pin who use their intelligence and cunning to present a rival to the "super" heroes.

So maybe a Hero is someone who is at the right location to jump in and save someone, or to do something without regard to themselves. Or someone who chooses to serve their community and put the welfare of other people's safety ahead of their own like firefighters, EMT's and first responders.

And "super" heroes are heroes who choose to go after the source of crime or villainy. but really I think it comes down to what each person considers to be Super.

8 Months ago
Q2
 

What superhero goes after the source of crime or villainy? They just go after the perpetrators of crime and villainy.

8 Months ago
Jet Presto

Setting and behavior, probably. Kick-Ass is a superhero, as is Mumen Rider. Despite that, they're not much more impressive than an average person.

8 Months ago
Axem Great Water

What superhero goes after the source of crime or villainy?


Batman, Daredevil, Spider-Man, Superman, I mean the list goes on and on.

8 Months ago
Q2
 

Some authors’ Green Arrow famously cares about the causes of crime and villainy.

8 Months ago
chiarizio
 

Batman, Daredevil, Spider-Man, Superman, I mean the list goes on and on.


I meant more, who actually tries to tackle the causes of crime. Not who punches the most criminals to stop them while they're committing crimes while leaving the systems that produced said crime from being so common. With all the money and political power Batman has/could have if he wanted, it's kind of a pretty big knock on him that Gotham always remains such a hub of criminal activity.

Green Arrow has attempted it at times, yeah.

8 Months ago
Jet Presto

Green Arrow has attempted it at times, yeah.


In one that was mostly Batman vs Superman, Batman seemed to really be out to solve the injustices that led to crime.
Superman was more in favor of law and order and the Constitution; Bats was more in favor of making things right than following the rules.
Green Arrow had only one arm, a fact he blamed on Superman.
GA agreed to help Batman if he could get one shot at Supes with a hi-Tek arrow he’d put together.
That happened. He missed, but he got to take his shot!

Can you remember who created that one?

8 Months ago
chiarizio
 

Probably The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller.

8 Months ago
Jet Presto

Pretty sure it was Frank Miller! Thanks!
Not sure it was Dark Knight Returns; might have been.

8 Months ago
chiarizio
 

Not who punches the most criminals to stop them while they're committing crimes while leaving the systems that produced said crime from being so common.


I’m sure that if you delve into the long history of the comics there are story lines of when Bruce Wayne or Matt Murdock did go after the broken parts of the systems giving villains like King pin or the Joker the ability to create a crime empire. But sometimes the cause of the crimes are those that plan it and they don’t do it because of a broken system but because they want to. If you’re wanting to attempt to fix the cause of every problem you’ll be at it until the end of time.

8 Months ago
Q2
 

I'd be interested in literally any series wherein any of those folks like Batman or Iron Man start to actually try to fix some of the systems. I'm forgiving of Daredevil because he's just a random lawyer who clearly does ok, but isn't really like a billionaire or well-connected lawyer in a position to really change anything. Even if it inevitably winds up collapsing, I'd be interested to see a story of them grappling with that.

8 Months ago
Jet Presto

@Jet Presto:
I think the hero in Ex Machina actually becomes mayor or something?
It’ll take me a while to retrieve the hero’s name. (Mitchell Hundred).
I may have even got the title of the series wrong! (No, I got it right.)
Seehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ex_Machina_(comics)

8 Months ago
chiarizio
 

Yeah, Ex Machina is Brian K. Vaughn, whose work I usually enjoy a lot.

8 Months ago
Jet Presto

Having a rich person use his/her wealth to solve the systemic problems the rest of us face is a lot like the “white savior” trope.
I don’t think we can trust millionaires to both really understand our problems and also prioritize them in the order we would.
There are some we can trust to try, but none I can think of can we trust to succeed.
Billionaires even less so.

The fact that the pandemic has made the rich few even richer and fewer, and the poor many even poorer, is one cause for my suspicion above. The gap in wealth and income has grown; and people who used to be in the middle are being shoved back down.

Still; it would be great if more of them tried harder!
Doing some good is a success, even if conceivably they might have done better.

7 Months ago
chiarizio
 

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