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What Makes a Superhero Comic a Superhero Comic?

This topic’s popped up some in the Top 100 Runs discussion. So I thought I’d take a stab at a definition. It sure seems obvious until you get down to the nitty gritty of trying to actually figure out if a given comic is a superhero comic or not.

And while I don’t think I’m up to definitively defining “superhero” I can provide a continuum and define comics as more superhero or less superhero. Which is at least a starting point, and hopefully you guys can work up a more concrete definition.

First thoughts:

Let’s narrow the topic down into a recognizable thesis statements:

What criteria , in the context of American comic books, makes a specific comic, run, or graphic novel fit into the superhero genre?

Well, it’ll be easiest to work backwards. Let’s take a crapload of superhero comics and see what they all have in common.

Some of ‘em are easy to define:

SUPERHERO!


NOT SUPERHERO!

But the problem is stuff like this:

Could Go Either Way!

So here’s the plan: I’m going to try to come up with a list of traits that are common to superhero comics, and try to stake out the boundaries of a continuum between More and Less superhero-y. Then we’ll gather a control group and test ‘em.

So, here’s

Six Traits of Superhero fiction.

(More or less in order of importance.)

1) Superhero stories are designed for escapism through audience empowerment.

The audience reads about a character who has a great deal of control over their own destiny and, in turn, feels empowered through identifying with the character.

That… that sounds really strange. Anyone got a better explanation for how superhero stories work than that?

Note that this isn’t superhero specific, mind. It’s true of most genre fiction

Tangent Begins: In fact, for classification purposes, I’d argue the line between literary and genre fiction deals with the perceptions of pandering to (or playing to the fantasies of) the audience.

Granted, many people doing the dividing haven’t read my handy definition, leading to a large number of divisions that feel fairly arbitrary. Phillip K. Dick, who writes fairly sad, humanistic stories set in the future, and he ends up in the science fiction section. Kurt Vonnegut does the same thing, and he’s literature. Gabriel Garcia Marquez magical realism? Literature. Charles De Lint’s magical realism? Fantasy.

But it’s the perception of pandering, whether accurate and justified or not, that divides literary and genre fiction.

2) The protagonist of superhero fiction has superhuman abilities, or is extraordinarily skilled.

3) Superhero fiction is concerned with the divide between good and evil, or right and wrong.
Sidebar: There’s an element of moral instruction to superhero fiction, much like ancient myths, and it tends to be conservative in it’s outlook. Superheroes don’t change the world, they protect the status quo from invasion.

4) The protagonist of superhero fiction takes a pro-active role in the stories….eventually.

Superheroes aren’t reluctant to be superheroes: They’re not Bilbo Baggins, Alice in Wonderland, or Arthur Dent. (Although many start out as victims of fate before deciding to take a pro-active role.) Superheroes regard their role as a duty, a calling, or a job. Which doesn’t mean they’re not sometimes roped into trouble, or even passive victims, but this is generally a result of their previous pro-activity.

Also, I think the superhero’s reason for doing what they do has to be open ended. If your main character is trying to recover the mystic Wydget of Yendor so they can protect the village of East Buttocks where they will return and live out their lives as an unassuming seller of novelty dog byproducts, they’re probably not a superhero. If they’re trying to end crime in Gotham City, or make peace in the man’s world, or protect the earth – Then, yeah. Superhero.

5) Superhero fiction is set in the present, and it’s a present that’s more or less like our own.

No robots or flying robot cars.

6) Superhero protagonists wear costumes.

Be those costumes spandex, or black leather, or simply green speedos, superheroes are immediately identifiable by their clothing. (Or, in the case of the Thing or the Martian Manhunter, by their inhuman appearance.)

Sidebar: This is probably more for marketing rather than storytelling reasons And the fact that costumes makes the characters easy to tell apart, even when drawn by not-particularly skilled artists working extremely quickly, probably has something to do with the costuming of superheroes as well.

6A) Superheroes have a secret identity. This was it’s own category, but I don’t think you can have this without costumes. And, yeah, Marvel seems to be actively phasing these out in the name of realism. Which feels t’me like trying to empty the ocean with a bucket – Realism pretty much goes out the window as soon as you have Shiny, Naked Space Jesus flying around on a magic surfboard – But whatevs.

And a converse to the above:

Superhero stories can be defined by the ABSENCE of one through six. Evanier and Aragones FANBOY or (I think, from reading reviews) Millar and Romita Junior’s KICK-ASS are about the absence of special-powers. The fact that the main character is not extraordinarily skilled is a major theme of the stories, unlike, say, DEATH OF A SALESMAN or WINNIE THE POOH.

Ok. Having defined some traits, let’s gather our control group and see if the above criteria apply.
Here’s five superhero-ish comics I have handy, one per decade going back to the sixties, and chosen more or less at random. All are DC and Marvel, because they make up the bulk of my superhero comics collection. And I figure the people who control the Bat and the Spider are the definitive superhero people, anyway.

ALL STAR SUPERMAN fulfills all the categories as does ICON: They’re definitely superhero books. The FANTASTIC FOUR and DOOM PATROL fulfill the first six criteria, but not 6A) Secret Identies. They’re still superheroes, but not as much so as the first two. PSI-FORCE, which lacks a pro-active stance, or costumes, only fulfills four of the big six criteria.

It’s certainly LESS of a superhero book than the other four. Still, four outta six is pretty good. I’d say that anything with 3 out of six or less is definitively not superhero… But since this one only misses two of the less important categories, it still counts.

Superhero!

For the record, I’d say CONCRETE definitely isn’t. It fulfills conditions 2 and 6, but doesn’t fall under the other categories. Not superhero!

Things I am unsure of:

1) Any story set within a superhero-centric milieu (Say, the DC or Marvel Universe) is a superhero story?

Is the Hulk (clearly, at it’s core, a horror/monster story that ) a work of superhero fiction? Is Spider-man Love Mary Jane? If Groot, a space-monster who’s first appearance pre-dates Fantastic Four number one, is ret-conned into the Marvel Universe as of Annihilation Conquest, does that make Groot a superhero book?

2) If a superhero story fulfills exhibits all the traits BUT number one, is it still a superhero book? If, say, Spider-man (clearly a superhero) spends a four issue mini-series discussing lawn growing tips with his neighbors, is that particular series a super-hero comic?

OK, over to you guys: What defines the “superhero” in superhero comics for you?

63 Comments

I’m a little uneasy with the last two categories. If being set in the present is a requirement, how about Marvel 1602 or LXG?

And the costume requirement is purely syntactic. I don’t think it’s any more important than saying Westerns must have people in cowboy boots. If you were to re-create the Punisher, but without his skull logo, so he was just running about in standard black tactical gear like any generic SWAT team member, would he be less superhero-ish?

That said, I can’t immediately think of any substitute requirements I’d prefer.

No robots?

No Superman robots, Braniacs, or L-Rons? No Robotman, Ultron, Red Tornado, Vision, Human Torch (the original one), or H.E.R.B.I.E.?

No Fantasticar?

Something just doesn’t seem right about that rule…

And the costume requirement is purely syntactic. I don’t think it’s any more important than saying Westerns must have people in cowboy boots. If you were to re-create the Punisher, but without his skull logo, so he was just running about in standard black tactical gear like any generic SWAT team member, would he be less superhero-ish?

Yes. I think.

Sounds good to me.

Just I’m not so keen on requirement #5, as superhero stories set in a fantasy or science fiction mileau aren’t so uncommon (LSH, Guardians of the Galaxy, many Silver Surfer stories where he doesn’t set foot on Earth for dozens of issues might as well take place in the future too, same could be said of Thor in Asgard).

And perhaps I’d add another requirement (or perhaps a result of several of the other requirements?)

7) Superheroes are seen as someone “special” or “apart” from society by the general populace of their settings.

It’s something that distinguishes superheroes that otherwise have many characteristics similar to heroes in other genre fiction. Such as the Punisher and your typical action movie hero, or the Guardians of the Galaxy and the crews from Star Trek.

Ishmael, I bet Mark means that robots and flying cars aren’t stuff that the average citizen of the setting will have access to. But superheroes, supervillains, and secret government agencies can have access to them.

Last comment.

I won’t comment whether secret identities make comics less realistic, but personally I find the concept a bit overused, and have little patience for stories where the hero coming up with stupid excuses to fool his friends and relatives is a big part of the plot. Not to mention that the hero most times comes accross as an ass to me, for lying to his family and close friends. Particularly when it’s someone that raised them, like Aunt May.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

April 13, 2008 at 11:04 pm

Particularly when it’s someone that raised them, like Aunt May.

And especially now that we know what would happen if she found out.

I’m not convinced about a lot. Set in the present certainly seems off. 1602 is a good example. Batman Beyond another. Spider-Man 2099.

Costumes is a concern too. The Fantastic Four didn’t have costumes in their first issue. Had fans not complained, they never would have. Doesn’t make it less of a superhero book.

Wolverine has had several costume-free eras. The Runaways don’t really have costumes.

And then there’s things like Sleeper, which perhaps you are trying to exclude as it’s got a noir/spy thing going on. But it’s about heroes and villains with powers. And he has no costume.

Also, I feel like there are lots of reluctant superheroes. Or superheroes whose motivation is money. Or superheroes who do the right thing for the wrong reason. This would be more convincing with examples, but I’m blanking at the moment. I’ll come back to this tomorrow.

Your first condition also seems to be too broad of a stroke. There have been lots of goals of superhero stories and those who read them. Escapism being a primary one. Sometimes the morality play is the point. Quite frequently it really is the melodrama that’s the goal.

Number 2 seems solid. That the hero should be somehow more than ordinary I feel like always holds, except where the negative is purposely employed for effect.

Number 3 seems pretty close too. The battle between good and evil seems to be there somewhere. But that they’re defenders of the status quo seems too restrictive. That was often true of classical superheroes, so there have been many superhero comics written where that isn’t the case. Watchmen, Squadron Supreme being the classic examples. But it’s all over the place where a superhero gets it in his head he can do more. Often superhero comics seem to be about the revolution against the powers that be, because the powers that be are often corrupt.

Yeah, those are some thoughts.

I also have reservations about Trait #5 For example, Spider-Man 2099 is something I would call a superhero book, Through and through but this could be chalked up as an exception.

All in all though, I think you hit the nail on the head.

I was going to quibble with point number five (“Superhero fiction is set in the present…”) until I realized that all the counterarguments I could come up with (Legion of Super Heroes, Marvel’s 2099 line, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) do seem slightly less “superheroic” to me than similar books set in the present would. In fact, that’s sort of always been my problem with LoSH – for a team with “Super Heroes” in the name, they never seemed any more like superheroes to me than, say, Luke Skywalker or Lt. Cmdr. Data did. Although I think you have to define “present” loosely enough to include anything from World War II to the vague “not too distant future” era where authors set things when they want it to include military technology a few generations beyond what actually exists or fictional heads of state without explicitly setting their story in an alternate universe. Although, if you rule out “robots or flying cars,” that would make the Marvel Universe fail on that count, as S.H.I.E.L.D. has those in abundance.

It does seem to me, though, because there are a lot of police and sports stories that qualify on every count except 6A (and some professional wrestlers even satisfy that point, although I see no problem with classifying professional wrestling as for-all-intents-and-purposes superhero stories) and some military and espionage stories meet all the criteria. Maybe something to the effect that superheroes have to operate outside of the organizational structure of the real world.

One thing that occured to me as I was writing this (sorry to go on so long) is that all of the criteria suit stories about villains just as well as heroes, since point 3 doesn’t specify which side of the good/evil or right/wrong side the protagonists have to be on. I suppose that fits into your first point under “Things I am unsure of,” but I’d say that in order to be a superhero comic, the protagonist has to actively do good deeds, which would, indeed, rule out many, but not all, Hulk stories (at least as far as getting a 6-out-of-6 score on your scale). It would also rule out a lot of X-Men stories (as they seem to spend more time just trying to stay alive than actually helping other people) but the X-Men always seemed less superheroic than the Avengers or the Justice League to me personally, anyway.

I think Rene made several of my points a lot more succinctly than I did, and consequently did not have quite as many other people make the points he was going to make between when he started writing and when he actually submitted his comment as I did. :)

And for all that typing, I screwed one sentence up: the second paragraph of my post should start “It does seem to me, though, that there needs to be one more requirement…” I went back to rephrase something, and deleted too much. Everyone could probably figure out what I meant, but it reads pretty badly with the “because” referring to nothing in particular.

Generally, I agree with you Mark, but I’m going to go with the apparent consensus on number five. I see no reason why a superhero story has to be set in the present.

Vincent Paul Bartilucci

April 14, 2008 at 2:19 am

While it won’t be popular with some folks, I’d add one additional criteria:

The character who represents the “good” or “right” side of the moral question displays what some might consider an unreasonable or unrealistic amount of restraint when considering the use of deadly force. By and large, super-heroes do not kill.

What interests me more than this, is what makes a comic book mainstream? That’s a much bigger question (IMHO) than the one about superheroes.

I’m definitely not on board with most of these criteria. It seems to me only number 2 and possibly 1 hold true for all (or even most) of the books that I would definitely solidly consider superhero books.

Let’s take a look at James Robinson’s STARMAN. Is it a traditional superhero book? Not in any stretch of the imagination, nor by the conceits listed above.

Jack Knight didn’t want to be a superhero.
He didn’t wear a costume (just a distinctive jacket).
His identity wasn’t secret.
It would have felt really unnatural to see him talking about “good” and “evil,” and in fact one of his most important allies was a classic Flash villain, the Shade — not a profound divide there, really.
And just to top it off, a substantial portion of it was set in the past.

Now when you’re going through your “favorite comics of all-time,” and you’re thinking about which books to share with your friends, and how to talk about your favorite comics, it’s tempting to say something like “STARMAN isn’t really a superhero book.” Because it flaunts all the old conventions, and it’s so literate, and the characters act like real people, and so on. It’s not about the punching and the powers; okay. It’s not an adolescent male power fantasy; true enough.

And yet it’s ALL ABOUT a superhero and his world, and there are loads of capes and capers, and it’s full of fantasy. If it weren’t for the superhero genre and all of its conceits, STARMAN wouldn’t exist. Yes, the brilliant thing about the series is how Robinson uses the genre, and occasionally comment on it, to tell a marvelously literate story, and we applaud him for so completely transcending the genre. But at the end of the day we find in the book what we find in teh traditional superhero books; we’re just look at it through a different LENS. And this is also true of Watchmen, The Twelve, Powers, Top 10, and all those other realistic superhero books you can think of. Not so much Concrete, I’ll concede.

What is and what isn’t a superhero book is still a tricky question… and I guess that’s my main point here. Putting speciic criteria or rules on whether something gets to be considered a book is a little dubious. Guardians of the Galaxy under Jim Valentino was definitely a superhero comic, 31st century or no. At the same time, Steve Gerber’s Guardians of the Galaxy were less so… even though from the outside, you know, this was basically the same time, at the same time, with a similar mission.

While I applaud the author’s attempt to make sense out of the chaotic, well… somtimes it’s better to just float with the chaos. Why do we need to define this?

Interesting idea. I think the basic premise is solid. “Here” are the criteria and anything that fits 3/6 is a superhero comic works.

However, I have a few modifications.
For #4, I’d change it to “The protagonist of superhero fiction refuses to ignore actions which contradict his own private morality and actively opposes them.” Starman might not want to take a pro-active role, but he won’t stand by and allow the Circus of Evil to operate. I think private morality is more important than pro-active.

For #5, I’d substitute “Superhero fiction is set in a world that is recognizable as our own with the introduction of characters with superhuman abilities.” That allows for stories set in the past (such as All Star Squadron) or future (Legion) because the basic premise for both is still the “normal” world with the inclusion of those abilities.

For #6, I’d substitute : “Some characters are set apart from normal people whether by costumes, secret identities or simply possession of superhuman abilities.” This allows for Batman, Spiderman, mutants, and a variety of others.

Anyway, those are my thoughts.

If Groot or Patsy Walker are retconned into the Marvel Universe, that does not change the fact that their original stories were not super-hero stories. Nothing in those pre-FF #1 stories puts them in the super-hero genre. Similarly, Archie Comics has super-hero stories about Archie characters (“Pureheart the Powerful”), but the Archie “universe” is not a super-hero universe.

The Hulk is an anomaly. He is part of a super-hero universe, and has performed acts of super-heroism. He is also an adversary to many super-heroes. I guess he’s usually a super-hero in his own title or Defenders, and usually not a super-hero outside of those comics.

Starman may not have conformed to many of the traditions of super-heroic fiction (although I would argue that his distinctive jacket & goggles are his costume), but he righted wrongs with his super-powered device. That makes him a super-hero to me.

Are anti-heroes like Wolverine or the Punisher still super-heroes? They right wrongs through killing. That, in some people’s eyes, make them equally as wrong, or even more wrong, than many of their adversaries. There are distinct differences between the anti-heroes and their villains (e.g. Wolverine kills to stop evil, Sabretooth kills for pleasure or profit), but I don’t know if those differences are enough to bring them over to the super-heroic part of the character spectrum. Wolverine’s another anomaly: he is more a super-hero with the X-Men or Avengers, and more the anti-hero in his own book.

The word “pro-active”….it burns me with its stupid.

Guys, I think Mark’s requirements hold a lot better than you’re saying (except perhaps for #5), in almost all the counter-examples provided, they hold.

Note the specific phrasing. Requirement #2 says the stories are concerned with right or wrong. Not that the characters themselves are unreasonably “right”. Jack Knight Starman, Bruce Banner, Wolverine, even Garth Ennis’ Preacher, their stories are concerned with what constitutes right, what constitutes wrong. That is one of the reasons Banner agonizes so much over the Hulk’s actions. And that Jack Knight is a reluctant hero doesn’t make his “vocation” any less of a calling in the stories.

Requirement #4 also holds pretty well once you note the specific phrasing. That the hero takes a pro-active role in the stories, eventually. It doesn’t mean the hero is “out to do good”, or that the hero wants this pro-active role. He can be motivated by money (or say that he is) but still be pro-active in his actions, like Booster Gold or Luke Cage. He can bemoan his own career endlessly, but still go out and fight the bad guys by the end of the day, like Jack Knight Starman or the Silver Surfer. Or even when Banner and Rick Jones maneuver the Hulk to end a threat even greater than himself.

Requirement #6 also is elaborated on by Mike, explaining that the hero must be distinctive in looking, not that he is wearing a traditional costume. Jack Knight qualifies by his jacket, tattoos, goggles, and staff that he carries everywhere. By the way, Preacher also kinda qualifies in that and Requirement #4.

That is the strange thing to me. That John Constantine and Jesse Custer stories seem to fulfill most of the six requirements, except perhaps for #1.

John Constantine tricked the devil into saving his life. Jesse Custer could make anyone do anything with The word, but he resists using his power because he’s a tough sonovabitch. Although there are a lot of “downer” stories in Hellblazer & Preacher, they both provide the audience with empowering fantasy. Hellblazer less so, due to one of its major themes being “magic always has a price.”

Hmm. Wow, Danar, good points.

I really didn’t like the “good and evil” thing acting within one’s private morality, or at least integrity, sounds more in line with what heroism is, super- or not. So that’s a good re-framing of rule 3 and rule 4 together into one…

With those qualifiers I might just gel with these criteria, with the exception of rule 5 as a whole…

“A world recognizable as our own, aside from super-powered beings” sounds a lot better than just “the present,” but it would still rule out stuff like Valentino’s GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, which despite being set in the 31st century on an Earth which was very much NOT our own. Despite having certain elements of science-fiction the book absolutely read like a standard superhero book rather than a sci-fi one. This is the one example I can think of, but I’m sure there are others… well actually, even if you look at other cosmic superheroes like Quasar or the Silver Surfer, they’re not really operating in worlds that are like our own, even though the original Quasar may have been FROM our world.

I think this is a pretty good breakdown, except for the “set in the present” bit. Legion of Super Heroes isn’t a superhero comic? C’mon.

I’d say Preacher and Hellblazer are certainly superhero comics. Preacher was all about empowerment.

I’m taking my next vacation to East Buttocks.

The Lord of the Rings is a superhero story!

1) The point of the story is that two simple, relatable little people take on the greatest evil in the world and win. That’s escapism through audience empowerment.

2) Frodo can turn invisible. Many of his team-mates have extraordinary fighting skill, one has super-senses, and one can use magic.

3) The story is concerned with the divide between good and evil, right and wrong.

4) Frodo takes a pro-active role (eventually) and in doing so saves the world.

6) The characters wear strange costumes.

That’s five out of six, including the four which you say are the most important. The Lord of the Rings is clearly a superhero story!

Wolverine and Punisher stories are still superhero stories. Those stories are very concerned with good and evil. The Punisher doesn’t kill randomly; his stories (and Authority’s stories, and Wolverine’s stories) spend a whole lot of time showing us how evil his enemies are. If anything, Punisher stories are more moralistic and judgmental than Superman stories.

As a true counter-example, the Sopranos TV show isn’t as concerned with good and evil.

Watchmen is very concerned with good and evil, and the nature of both, and how destructive the pursuit of “good” can be, etc.

Mutt, it’s true, Hellblazer and Preacher fulfill all criteria.

Weird!

I think this was quite interesting. I have seen lots of attempts to define superhero fiction that have not been nearly as good as this one. There can be made a lot of arguments that it is not perfect, but come on! If you had been able to make a perfect definition in one try I would have been impressed. It would be nice if you could take your points and rework them on the basis of the comments people make here, and then post it again later for a second round. With this starting point it could easily become, If anything, the best definition of superhero comics that I myself have ever come across.

As for the points themselves I think that number one is perhaps the most interesting, but I agree with whoever said that “an active protagonist who makes moral choices” is better than “a pro-active protagonist”. There are many superhero comics where the main characters are forced in to something that they never wanted to be a part of, but they always end up “making the right choice” sooner or later. I cannot think of any superhero comics where the hero always acts for selfish reasons, or is always left with no room to choose and only one possible course of action (and certainly not with a completely passive hero). This may seem a bit to obvious, but it is by no means a given in fiction. I can think of several examples of characters with extraordinary abilities and even mythical qualities who could easily have been superheroes if not for their passivity or lack of moral judgment.

Well said on Starman (the first post) but I think the definition of right and wrong in Robinson’s Starman, was defined (or not-defined) early on when the Super-Villain came looking for a Hawaiian Shirt that opened a portal to Heaven, thus the following exchange (and trust me, I’m doing this by memory, so it’s not word for word just the ideas)
“If you’re going to steal from me, I’ll fight you. But I’d rather not fight you.”
- Villain – “You have no interest in the Shirt?”
JK – “Not my bag, but if you want to buy it, go ahead, but I don’t even want to see it”

Now, a NORMAL superhero would have put up the fight… but Jack was so tired he could care less.

On his “costume” yeah, the Jacket and the Sheriff’s star were a costume, in tribute to his dad… but everything else, besides the anti-flare goggles (because he’d have to fight at night… again, useful) changed. Some times he had a Rag Doll T-shirt on, other times not.

He sided with the police, even though he didn’t trust them. In the end, he became a super hero… but that’s what it was, the journey to become a super hero, not necessarily that he was one.

At least that’s my opinion… (and it’s still the only DC series that I kept after selling my collection off)

Here’s a quick way to distinguish between most fantasy/myth and most superhero fiction.

What’s more important, the singular quest or the hero? If it’s the quest, it’s likely fantasy/myth. If it’s the hero, it’s likely superhero fiction (most superheroes don’t have a singular quest.)

And it occurs to me that a better way to handle the above criterion.

Superhero fiction is naturally open-ended, in a way most other fiction is not.

SanctumSanctorumComix

April 14, 2008 at 8:35 am

I was going to hop on the bandwagon with my own take on the points, however, everyone here (DANAR especially) have removed any need for me to chime in with my own 2cents…

So, I’m just going to say two words:.

MAN-THING.

# 1 is sorta fulfilled – having Manny burn the face off of a murderer will give you that wish-fulfillment empowerment requirement .

# 2 is there. He has special abilities that separate him from mere humans:
- empathic senses
- burning touch
- ability to morph form
- invulnerability/ immortality/ able to reconstruct his form from a single molecule
- protector of Nexus of realities
- innate mystical properties
- known to hang around talking ducks, half-naked Witch chicks & Sorcerers (some of the Supreme variety).

# 3 is present as well. He IS “concerned” (empathically anyway) with the nature of good and evil.
Evil HURTS him. Evil thoughts are things that draw him to act against them – to end them.
Goodness tends to sedate him. He usually protects and defends “good” thoughts and emotions.

# 4 – while he is usually a lump of mossy, crap-smelling vegetation that sits around and observes things happening around him, EVENTUALLY, due to his empathic nature and/or the “guardian of the Nexus of All Realities” aspect(s) of the character’s raisons d’être force him into action – usually for the case of the story – in a HEROIC way. One that protects “good” /”innocent” and punishes “evil”/”guilty”.

# 5 – Yup. Stories (mostly) take place in the here and now on Earth (fine. In a swamp, but still, he has gone “into town” on occasion).
Yes, MANY Man-Thing stories take him to other worlds or dimensions (or bring such things TO HIM), but his nature is LOCKED to the swamp and the nexus. He doesn’t leave it for very long.

# 6 – Well… he doesn’t wear a costume. He IS the costume. Man turned into swamp-creature. Muck-monster IS the costume. And since it has also “masked” his true identity AND his mind, that’s as deep a cover as you’re going to get.

Now, the stories with Man-Thing CAN and sometimes DO have other superheroes interacting with him.
MOST heroes have had dealings with Man-Thing – or at least know of him, so he exists fully in the M.U. proper.
Certainly, he (like Doctor Strange) could fit perfectly well in their own “Vertigo”-type of side universe, but that isn’t how Marvel plays (usually).

So… While I wouldn’t really call Man-Thing a “superhero” title or character, (I’d say he leans more towards horror/ fantasy/ humanistic morality play/ theatre of the absurd), he does fall within the parameters as outlined herein.
Especially when handled by a deft writer like Steve Gerber, who understood that such a title could BE ANYTHING and EVERYTHING if handled correctly.

SO…any thoughts?

~P~
P-TOR

Most fantasy fiction fails most of the requirements anyway, even Lord of the Rings.

The protagonists must have extraordinary abilities, but it’s *relative* to their setting. While the Punisher is extraordinarily able as compared to most modern-day humans, and Thor is extraordinarily able as compared to most Asgardians, I’m not sure the heroes from Lord of the Rings are so extraordinarily above the norm in their world (well, perhaps Gandalf is, but he is more the mentor than the hero).

The protagonists also must have a distinctive appearance as relative to their setting. The heroes from Lord of the Rings don’t look or dress that different from the other people in Middle Earth. Also, I don’t think they even have traits that make them quickly identifiable, unlike, say, Jack Knight (you know it’s Jack by a few visual cues). While Thor don’t dress funny when compared to other Asgardians, his particular costume *is* unique, no other Asgardian wears that blue thing with the six silver circles.

Mark also already specifies under requirement #4 that the pro-activity of the hero must be open-ended, so that also disqualifies most fantasy fiction. I also would refer to my own requirement #7: while superheroes are above or somehow apart from their societies, fantasy heroes are the best their societies have to offer (but they’re still very much part of them). In this, I’d say Thor differs slightly from other superheroes, in that he is not so much a maverick in his own society (though he is still the only Asgardian that has ties to Earth). But note that Sub-Mariner and Aquaman are mavericks in their societies, due to their part-human inheritage.

I said number one? I meant number four, of course.

And now that Man-Thing is mentioned: I think that Man-Thing definitely has much less of a superhero feel to it than its DC counterpart Swamp Thing, and the reason for this is precisely because he is not a character that makes active moral choices. While Man-Thing just follows his nature, Alec Holland actively seeks to do the right thing, even though he is often manipulated or uses his powers in selfish ways that he later regrets (by making war on Gotham City to save Abby).

I think the above definitons fail, but the reasons people are failing to argue their point is because they are taking counter-examples that are too close to the superhero genre to start with (except for the Lord of the rings example)
Take as a case, James Bond or Jason Bourne – both clearly satisfy 1, 3, 4, 5, and it could easily be argued that they satsify condition 2 through Bond’s gadgets and Bourne’s martial arts abilites. While they don’t have costumes as such (not counting Bond’s dinner suit) they do however frequently use aliases, thereby satisfying 6A. I doubt that either would actually be considered superhero fiction however, either in book or film form.
In fact there are dozens of action heroes that would qualify under the listed criteria, eg. Rambo, Dirty Harry, or the guy from the Death Wish movies.

SanctumSanctorumComix

April 14, 2008 at 9:12 am

MartinO,

That is correct.
Swamp Thing is more active in his choices, while Man-Thing is passively acting VIA his NATURE.

I wasn’t trying to PEG Man-Thing AS BEING a superhero title, merely that it WORKS as such under the requirements of these criteria.

That said,
the MAN INSIDE the beast (Ted Sallis), is a fairly heroic one.
Or at least, he has made the transition FROM selfish, destructive person TO a heroic, self-sacrificer within the arc of his character.

Before he became Man-Thing, he was attempting to replicate the super-soldier serum – while the reasoning and actual intended usage of the serum changed over the course of his history – eventually becoming more and more of an “evil” goal – either way, it would be used for war and that, he didn’t care to question.
(Kinda like Tony Stark’s origins)

Then, after he became a mockery of what he was attempting to create, he lost all – or at least most – cognitive abilities.

However, the few times that he has reverted back to human:
- with Ben Grimm via the Molecule Man,
- active therapy and rehabilitation
- sorcerous methods (several times)
- altered reality and/or subconscious dream-time

he has slowly been made to realize that his actions should be more heroic and less selfish or cowardly.
Each time he emerges from the slime to be able to think, he makes heroic choices – even if it means becoming the monster again to save another.

That’s the mark of a hero, and again, places him within the superhero milieu.

~P~
P-TOR

Heh. James Bond.

I do think the additional requirement I offered is actually very important to superhero fiction. The protagonist is some sort of maverick in their society. He is at the same time above and apart. And while James Bond may seem to be above, he isn’t apart. James Bond is the very definition of a man who is very much PART of his world.

I think that superhero fiction at it’s core appeals to the dispossessed teenager inside all of us. The classic Superman sits at his Fortress of Solitude and feels isolated from Lois Lane. James Bond goes to the greatest parties and gets the most beautiful women (and then discards them).

It’s no surprise that the maverick/renegade aspect of superhero fiction appeals to gay people (myself included), while James Bond seems to be the most straight of all straight fantasies (cars! babes! drinks! guns! sophistication!) and also seems to be more of an middle-aged fantasy than a teenager fantasy.

The definition of a superhero? That’s easy!

NFL SuperPro, baby!

The core of a superhero story has to be a focus on the supernormal traits of the protagonists, and their desire to use these traits as part of the story. Other features are incidental (e.g., colourful costumes) or too broad to be helpful as part of a definition (e.g., escapist).

A story that focuses on other matters in a setting in which persons other than the protagonists have supernormal traits does not seem to me to be a superhero story. So Top Ten is a superhero story in a way that Powers was not (until recently). Similarly, Concrete and Marvels seem to fall outside the definition for me.

Basic thoughts for the next draft:

Yeah, I totally wasn’t thinking Legion or Spider-man 2099. # 5 is gone, and lumped in with number two. They have special powers, and these powers set them apart, as Rene said in post 10:46.

The second part of number four, which was written to exclude quest -based fiction in general and Lord of the Rings in specific, is getting expanded into it’s own point. (Something very much like Thok’s quote from 8:16.) That should help exclude Die Hard, etc. as well.

VincentI’ll stick no killing in somewhere: In the first draft I didn’t want to exclude super VILLAIN books – the Joker, Doom 2099, Catwoman, Super-Villain team-up, etc, and I was a little leery of excluding Golden Age heroes, who were a little more laissez-faire in their attitudes towards nazis falling off buildings as well.

But “no killing” is a trait of most superhero morality. It’s not an absolute criteria, but I think characters who respect life are more “superhero pure” than killers. And, again, helps exclude Die Hard.

Danar and Martin O
“an active protagonist who makes moral choices” is better than “a pro-active protagonist”.

Oh God yes. That’s definitely getting changed. I do think P-Tor’s Man-Thing argument was a bit of a reach, but that should eliminate it.

I am adamant and completely inflexible as an indication of superhero purity. (And Starman has a freaking costume. Goggles, jacket, staff. You stick those three on your three year old, you have recognizable Starman. You stick ‘em on your eighty year old Grandmother, you have recognizable Starman. If the costume is recognizable regardless of the wearer, it’s a costume.)

SanctumSanctorumComix

April 14, 2008 at 10:10 am

I’ll even go so far as to say that Man-Thing’s empathic nature (good feels good to him, evil is painful to him) is merely an INGRAINED (would it be internalized or externalized) variation of a MORAL sense.

Instead of his having to make an active decision his new physical make-up (as provided by the Nexus) provides for him to FEEL whether something is right or wrong, and to then act upon it accordingly.

Although, depending on the writer, they sometimes DO give him enough of a clouded intellect to realize when something bad is happening and to WILLFULLY act against it – or if someone innocent in in peril and to CONSCIOUSLY act to save them. However, again, it depends on the writer and/or story circumstances.

I don’t know why I’m even writing about this, truth be told. I’m just spit-balling here.

Sure, I love Man-Thing stories, but never really saw him as a “super-hero” (willing, fated, reluctant or otherwise).
Merely, that the criteria do allow for him to be “labeled” as a super-hero – of sorts, and the more one examines the nuances of such a character (although, it does help to have a good, “well-read” understanding of the history of said character), then more and more of the subtleties of his persona (even if it is a subdued one) stand out and invite closer inspection.

Hmmm…. here’s another angle that I JUST thought of:

Let’s see if THIS exercise alters his potential “heroic nature” in any way.
(emphasis on “potential” since we all do acknowledge that ManThing is not an ACTIVE hero, per se.)

What if you remove ALL cognitive ability from the character.
Complete tabula-rasa, with ONLY the empathic nature to go on.
Now, surround him with a supporting cast (can change each issue – regardless) as long as there are a range of types of people and emotions present.
If a good person (a child perhaps) sees that another is in danger from a third party (escaped convict on the run in the swamps, witch-woman causing trees to kill people, evil demon-things from hell on the loose, ‘gator attacking, etc…) and that good person’s emotions and/or thoughts for the safety of the person who is beset upon is FELT by Man-Thing, it would be enough to sway him (or compel him) into action to act against the evil and save the good. He would be able to UNDERSTAND their needs and act accordingly.
That would be similar to Martian Manhunter flying high above the city and “hearing” a plea for help, and then swooping down to the rescue, right?

Much like a person making a verbal argument for the cause (like a lawyer) to punish the guilty could make the hero (the jury?) do the right thing and punish evil, Man-Thing is able to detect the true, underlying nature of the “emotional/thought” plea and act accordingly.

Think of it as the “angel & devil” on the shoulder of ANYONE.
If the angel wins out and you act accordingly, then you have done something (quite possibly) heroic.
If the devil wins, you do nothing, or act in your own interests. Not heroic.

Man-Thing HAS such agents that are tangible.
Real people with real emotional/physical needs, and he can either sense or sometimes cogitate by himself, who needs saving and what needs to be done.
And it would be nearly IMPOSSIBLE for an EVIL person to dupe him by disguising their intentions (or thoughts) as being good.
(How many stories have you read where the hero is duped by the villain into doing wrong?)

Again, sure… it usually boils down to his own physical comfort (evil hurts him), but sometimes he is able (barely) to stop from hurting an innocent if they are innocent and merely feel fear of him (which would also cause him pain and make him wish to end that emotion – usually by burning the offending party).
That said, ANY thinking hero can be (and probably HAS been) guilty of hurting an innocent.
If it isn’t intended, but merely “in the line of fire” then it’s not malicious. Merely tragic or regrettable.

The few innocents that have been slightly burned by Manny’s acid touch weren’t INTENDED victims.
Merely “friendly fire” so to speak.

OK. Sorry.
I was just thinking WHILE I was typing and letting it all out onto the “paper” as it came to me.

Oh well…

peace.

~P~
P-TOR

SanctumSanctorumComix

April 14, 2008 at 10:21 am

hahaha…. JUST so everyone understands that I’m NOT trying to make a plea for Man-Thing actually being considered as a superhero.

I’m merely playing “devil’s advocate” with some loose interpretive thought processes.

OK.
I’m done.

;-)

~P~
P-TOR

The mistake many scholars of the comic book art form, first among them Scott McCloud, make is seeing superheroes as a genre. The superhero is an archetype that is often found within science fiction, fantasy, and adventure stories. The superhero is any protagonist who possesses abilities beyond that which an normal human could hope to accomplish with intense training. Non-powered heroes still qualify because their feets (for instance, Batman’s tech or Hawkeye’s aim) go beyond what a normal man could even hope for. Of course, the concept of genre and it’s supposed separation from so-called “literature” is absurd. Alan Moore said it best. I’m sure I’m screwing up the middle of this quote somewhat, but I remember clearly the beginning and the end. “Life doesn’t have genres. It’s a it’s a science fiction fantasy romantic mysterious comic drama – with a little of of pornography, if you’re lucky.” Nothing great has ever limited itself to one genre.

Dan (other Dan)

April 14, 2008 at 10:45 am

I love Concrete, and it is different from many superhero stories, but I definitely count it as a superhero book. A speechwriter is placed in a stone body with superhuman abilities uses it to “dare great things.” The focus is on more mundane aspects of life, but points 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 & 6/a of your definition are all satisfied.

I find myself defending Concrete as something different because it’s so good! That speaks more about the constraints placed on most superhero stories and the lack of quality and imagination of many of them. Shouldn’t superhero comics be able to have the depth and range Concrete has?

Omar, are you not just saying that because you saw that Simpsons episode at an impressionable age like I did? “Pro-active? Isn’t that just a buzzword stupid people throw around to sound educated? I’m fired, aren’t I?” I remember thinking, ‘yeah, that’s totally what I’m going to think to be cool!’

While a superhero is just a protagonist with supernormal powers, stories about superheroes derived from the Superman mold have multiplied and evolved into a genre of their own, with their own set of conventions and expectations.

After all, many different things define genres. Horror is a genre defined by the emotion it seeks to cause on the audience. Western is a genre defined by the place and time a story is set. It isn’t a stretch to say superhero is a genre defined mostly by the kind of protagonist you have.

I would not stick “no killing” in. Surely Wolverine is a superhero.

The “no killing” wasn’t even originally present in Batman comics, as I recall. It occurred later to writers that he may not want to use guns.

“No killing.” That’s tricky.

Let’s go back to Jack Knight. He killed twice, once because he felt his life, family, and city were threatened, and once because he was in the middle of an interstellar war. While he did not make killing a habit, and his killings could be considered justified, he still took life intentionally. Is he still a super-hero? I say yes, because his basic moral (non-killing) code prevailed in most situations, because the two instances may have been life-or-death, and because innocents were threatened.

The Punisher, on the other hand, kills often. He doesn’t just kill if his life was threatened. He doesn’t only kill the very worst criminals. He kills drug dealers and pimps as often as he does mass-murderers. His moral code justifies killing those that do harm to others. He seems more a sociopath than a hero, even if goals seem to benefit society. Steve Gerber’s Foolkiller mini-series showed just how sick that kind of person can be, even if the reader sees his point. I consider Punisher, Foolkiller, and Wolverine (outside of X-Men) anti-heroes.

Golden Age super-heroes may have killed, but the definition of a super-hero is malleable. The earliest form of the super-hero may not be the same as the modern super-hero.

People throwing around the word “sociopath” don’t seem to understand it. A sociopath/psychopath (the designations are the same thing) is someone without emotional connection who cannot feel for other people. Punisher seems cold a lot of the time, but in the end he does what he does because he cares about people. It’s fine to not think of him as a hero, but he is certainly not a sociopath.
And if the Golden Age definition changed to something else in the Silver Age then why can’t it be something else entirely today?

This is such an easy question. If there are costumes and/or superpowers, it’s a superhero book. That’s it.

Funny, I think of the Punisher as someone who can not build connections to others, who does not care about others, who is single-minded in his quest to eliminate criminals. He has an external motivation, but in the first Garth Ennis issue, he was shown to be at peace with the fact that his family was in heaven. He still went back to keep killing criminals. I’d say he has dissocial personality disorder, a form of psychopathology. Hence, sociopath. I’m not a fan of the character, as you can probably tell. Maybe Ennis has humanized him more in the last few years, but my impression was all he cares about is his quest.

Concrete has superpowers, a code name, and a secret identity. I don’t think he’s a superpower, although he has done good deeds in his world. The last story-arc dealt with Concrete becoming pregnant and arguing about population control. I don’t think the story fell within the super-hero (sub?) genre.

No, the Punisher isn’t a psychopath. A guy that makes a vow to kill people because those he loved were killed can’t be a psychopath, because a psychopath can’t ever have loved anyone. A psychopath wouldn’t feel sorrow because his family was killed, and certainly wouldn’t have start killing on account of that. Psychopaths are not homemakers anyway, and wouldn’t have a stable, loving marriage like Frank Castle did. Contrary to popular notions, people don’t “become” psychopaths, except in extremely rare circunstances involving brain damage, from what I’ve read.

You’re right, I wasn’t thinking about Frank’s life before becoming the Punisher. Still, he thinks taking the life of a criminal is a justifiable act. I don’t know if PTSD could account for such a profound change. At any rate, I don’t consider him a super-hero.

I’d only agree with 2 and 3 as being necessary for a superhero story.

I think that Legion of Super-Heroes is certainly a superhero comic book.

When it comes to genre I think that comic books have the same issues as movies. Is Star Wars a Sci-Fi movie or a Western? I think that Rick Altman tackled the subject as well as anyone in his Film/Genre where he took up a semantic/syntactic approach (he also added a 3rd category in the book but I don’t remember what it was) in that there are the stock elements of a genre, the costume, the secret identity, the powers, and then there are the stories of a genre, fighting evil, hiding your identity, avenging fallen friends or family.

So we can say that something like Concrete takes some of the semantic elements of the Superhero genre but takes the syntactic stories from more naturalistic dramas and melodramas. Hellblazer takes the syntactic stories and mixes them with the more noir or mystery genre elements.

I think this is a *very* apropos topic these days, as I feel most DC superhero comics of late are *not* really superhero stories. They’re failing the “Hero” part. Heroes are supposed to WIN. A character who is noble and faces great struggles but does NOT win in the end is, at best, a martyr, not a Hero.

But you might say, “But DC heroes DO beat the villains most of the time!” Beating a villain isn’t the same as winning. If the bad guy gets away with killing even one person, it’s not a real victory. And of late, they get usually away with killing SEVERAL people before the hero stops them, often in pretty gross ways. Heck, heroes are dying, or being morally twisted so much in DC of late, that even when they ‘win’, they lose. That’s just *not* a superhero story. A superhero story is supposed to leave you feeling good.

I’m not saying heroes *always* have to win. They can be defeated; they can have doubts. But when they fail to save people, or are left feeling miserable despite their achievements, in such a constant basis, they just can’t be considered truly heroic.

And I’m not saying people cannot enjoy such ‘unheroic’ stories if they want- heck, whole genres of fiction, from Crime Stories to Horror are just like that. But let’s call a duck a duck: If a movie had gangsters in it but they never committed any crime, is it really a gangster movie? No. Similarly, just having people with powers and costumes in a comic book does *not* make it a superhero comic. To fit the genre, the Good Guys MUST win in the end, and not Pyhrric victories.

Dunno about that. The two most commercially succesful superhero comic book runs from the 1980s seemed to have a lot of Pyhrric victories in them (Uncanny X-Men and New Titans). Stories that always end in a high note run the risk of becoming too predictable. Obviously, is the stories always end sadly, it can get predictable too.

The teenage mindset that superheroes seem to spring from is manic-depressive, I guess. The empowering part is greatly attractive, but melodramatic tragedy also seems to be a big part of it.

In an effort to provide a base control group, I’d like to point out that the TV shows: Monk, Psych, Law and Order Criminal Intent, House and WWE all fit all six criteria.

1. They all provide escapism. The characters say what the viewer wishes they could say if they were ever in that situation. The characters act like the viewer wishes they could act if society allowed it.

2. Adrain Monk and Shawn Spenser are almost superhuman in their powers of observation. Shawn Spencer and Gregory House are also fantastic in their interpretations of body language and human nature. Det. Gorman seems to be an expert in any fringe field, as does Gus at times. The physical feats demonstrated in WWE really speak for themselves. (It’s amazing what one can do without wires or special effects when both fighters are cooperating, isn’t it?)

3. The detective shows (Monk, Psych, L&O: CI) are obviously about good versus evil. The detective finds the villian and brings them to justice. House is a little more abstract in that the “villian” is sometimes the dissease (IMHO, the shows that have a human antagonist are the weakest ones.) And, the underlying theme of the WWE for years has been the struggle of the lone hero against the group of villians.

4. Again, this fits by the very nature of the shows. While the police or detectives may get proded by the villian’s actions in order to get involved, they follow through to the end even if they could reasonably stop. Shawn Spencer sometimes continues to think about the case even after he has caught the bad guy, leading him to realize that he caught the wrong person. Det. Gorman continues to search for evidence even when his chief tells him to let it go. Matt Hardy continues to atatck Randy Orton to get revenge for injuring him, even though he isn’t in contention for Orton’s title.

5. WWE may break this one. The others certainly fit. But, WWE sorta lives in a world where the laws don’t behave like they do in real life. A world where kidnapping, threats of violence, and property damage are par for the course, and not a job for the police. Although, that seems to fit most super hero comic books as well, so I think we can let it go.

6. The definition of “Costume” is kinda loose, so I’ll give it a try. I propose: “The Super Hero’s appearance is one that is consistant and can be easilly identified, picked out of a crowd or recognized at a distance.” So, when the camera pans by a crowd shot, do you recognize Adrian Monk, Shawn Spencer, Detective Gorman, Gregory House, or Stone Cold Steve Austin? Does the actor look “less” like the character in candid shots, or “out of costume”?

Are these super hero stories?

I’m asking because if these are not intended to be super hero stories, then maybe some of the rules need edited or added to.

Theno

In WWE, is there a “greater good” at stake? I don’t know, because I don’t watch it. I know there are good guys and bad guys, but what is at stake besides a title belt? I think super-heroes have greater good to protect (loved ones, society, innocent lives), and fighting to see who is “the best” is not the point of most super-hero stories.

Monk etc. have mental abilities that set them apart, but they are not super-powers. The abilities those characters display are rare, but within the realm of the possible. Even Batman, with no super-powers, can dodge bullets, is a master at many different scientific disciplines, can survive muliple gunshots and concussions without lasting mental or physical damage, and has sci-fi gadgets for every occasion. I think we can agree that such a character could not exist in the real world. There is a layer of fantasy that one finds in super-hero stories that is beyond what one finds in other genre fiction.

In WWE fighting over a title belt is the rarest of feuds. There is a tag team that won a guaranteed title match in Feb 2007, but because the good versus evil story of DX fighting against a crazed machivelian dictator-like manager involved him using the current tag team title holders as enforcers, that “guaranteed” match never happened.

Usually a WWE plot centers around getting revenge for the harming of a loved one, protecting someone who is being bullied, or similiar. The current story in ECW involves Colin Delany wanting to work for the company, and the manager keeps putting him in match after match against the biggest and the meanest performers across two shows (sub-plot of a sharing of talent to establish a cooperation of villain managers). Tommy Dreamer got involved to protect the cruiserweight Colin as he was forced to battle in a long string of unfair fights just for the sadistic amusement of the manager.

The basis of the John Cena / Randy Orton title feud lies in the fact that Orton attacked Cena’s father when he attended a show last fall. The Jeff Hardy / Randy Orton feud lies in the fact that when the actor portraying Jeff’s brother (his brother in real life as well, but work with me) needed to take medical leave for an appendix operation, so Orton attacked him backstage to explain why his character was off TV. Orton is the go-to bully of the Raw show. A lot of his storylines involve heroes trying to protect people from him, or get revenge for him injuring others. Even his title reign comes from the fact that the person he was feuding with at the time (the aforementioned John Cena feud) was legit injured and the title had to be moved.

And, I’d argue that the observation skills of Adrian Monk and Shawn Spencer are the equal of Batman, Robin, and Nightwing. If we aren’t considering Detective Gorman’s “know anything” ability, or Doctor House’s puzzle solving ability as “Superhuman abilities, or is extraordinarily skilled” then we really shouldn’t count Batman or Punisher either. Even Mr Terrific starts to be on shaky ground.

And, again, I’m not trying to argue that my example shows aren’t super hero stories. I’m just pointing out that they qualify under the listed rules. And, that they qualify on more points than some established super hero comic book titles.

Theno

I have a book somewhere, The Encyclopedia of Superheroes. It was written in the 80′s. It’s mainly a Who’s Who of what the author considers superheroes from religion, mythology, and fiction. The prologue contains the author’s own criteria, which I’ll post if I can find the book. One of the things is that he doesn’t require characters to fit all criteria and used some judgment to tip certain cases one way or the other. For example, he uses the “no killing” clause as a reason to exclude Moses, but include the Lone Ranger.

Personally, I wouldn’t make “no killing” a hard and fast rule. Instead, I’d focus on the preservation of life being one of the heroes’ primary goals. Alternately, you could delineate between patterns of killing in a fight vs. cold-blooded killing. This is where I think the Punisher falls off and Wolverine remains. The punisher has no qualms about sitting on a rooftop and shooting someone in the head. Wolverine tends to go man to man and kills people who are trying to kill himself or others.

[...] – What makes a superhero comic a superhero comic? [...]

What makes a good comic book?? I don’t know,and researching what does make a good comic book. Because next school term I have to make one. And researching about comic books. Thanks

Jared
April 13, 2008 at 10:16 pm

And the costume requirement is purely syntactic. I don’t think it’s any more important than saying Westerns must have people in cowboy boots. If you were to re-create the Punisher, but without his skull logo, so he was just running about in standard black tactical gear like any generic SWAT team member, would he be less superhero-ish?

……………..Jared, have you ever heard of Mack Bolan, the Executioner? Or Paul Benjamin/Paul Kersey? Or John Eastland, the Exterminator?

[...] Comic book enthusiast, Mark Andrew explains his six criteria for determining a Superhero comic in his online post entitled “What Makes a Superhero Comic a Superhero Comic?” Check out full post here: http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2008/04/13/what-makes-a-superhero-comic-a-superhero-comic/ [...]

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