The Superheroes

Inside the mind of Batman and other larger-than-life heroes.

What Do YOU Think Defines a Superhero?

I want to know what YOU think defines a superhero. Help me collect some data; please complete my survey. Read More

I was very interested in

I was very interested in completing the survey (as I am in following this new Psychology Today blog), but I found myself unable for I got stuck in the first question.

For the question, What is a superhero?, the options available are these:

1) An individual who repeatedly acts heroically and whose abilities are significantly greater than those of the average person, but theoretically within the realm of a human
2) An individual who repeatedly acts heroically and whose abilities are very clearly beyond what is humanly possible
3) An individual who repeatedly acts heroically and wears a costume while doing so (but does not necessarily hide his or her “real” identity)
4) An individual who repeatedly acts heroically and has a different identity for acting heroically (and so must wear some type of costume to differentiate the identities)

I don't think any of these fits perfectly, but mostly I have a problem with options 1 and 2. Options 3 and 4 can readily be discounted because the use or not of a costume has nothing to do with 'superheroness.' (I can give plenty of examples. For instance, Marvel's the Black Widow, Luke Cage, Blade --although you could make the case that they are able to get away with it because they live in a world surrounded by costume-heroes).

The problem with options 1 and 2 is that some superheroes have abilities greater that the average person, but theoretically plausible, while others clearly and by far exceed anything you could deem "within the realm of a human." I'd say that Batman is clearly some sort of superhuman, but Green Arrow, The Punisher or the Question, I'm not so sure. They look like regular people to me. On the other hand, Superman is --in my opinion-- not even close to a human, and the same feel I get from Parallax, Spawn, Metamorpho, The Flash, Green Lantern or, for that matter, Wolverine (who these days can apparently regrow his organs' entire tissues).

Maybe, even if The Question seems like an ordinary bloke, you can perceive him as been above average because he's too intelligent (as happens with Batman, of course). But I don't think a superhero's abilities have to be within human reach --they don't even need to be physically possible, as happens with Magneto, Graviton, Atlas/Giant Man, Atom (he can breath oxygen even when he's the size of a molecule?) or The Human Torch (really?).

So... I suppose what I'm saying is that, to me, a superhero/superheroine is:

"An individual who repeatedly acts heroically and whose abilities can go from greater than the average person to god-like."

or simpler:

"An individual who repeatedly acts heroically and whose abilities are above the mean".

Congratulations on the blog.
Regards

Tweak to Survey

Dear Diego:

Many thanks for your thoughtful comment. I understand the point you're trying to make, and have added a fifth option along the lines of what you proposed ("An individual who repeatedly acts heroically and whose abilities can go from greater than the average person to god-like.").

Best,

Robin: Thanks a lot for

Robin:

Thanks a lot for responding and taking my ramblings into account. I have already filled the questionnaire. I wish you and this blog the best. I'll stay tuned.

Best regards

You forgot about the super

You forgot about the super villains!

The "rogues gallery" as some call it is what makes Batman go from pulp detective to superhero. All of Gotham city super villains are either as talented as Batman or somehow have computable resources or even more superpowered.

The Joker has an unexplained and endless supply of lethal toys (literally toys and gag items turned lethal) and is a highly capable chemist with his trademark laughing gas.

Scarface is a puppet who controls his ventriloquist.

Clay-face is a man in need of clay who can mold himself into anybody.

The only reason these characters aren't superheroes is because they break the law and are the enemy of the superhero.

Another example is how I consider sonic the hedgehog to be a superhero:
sonic has super speed and agility but this doesn't make him a superhero by himself. What makes him go from action hero superhero is that he confronts a villain who is also "superpowered" (I consider Dr. Robotnik/Eggman to be the ultimate mad scientist character).

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Robin S. Rosenberg, Ph.D., has taught psychology at Lesley University and Harvard University. She is the editor of the anthology The Psychology of Superheroes. more...

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