Superhero class – What makes a superhero?

Madam Fatal

Today in class we talked about a few “failed” superheroes, meaning ones that never quite gained a following.

Then we read an excerpt from Grant Morrison’s book, Supergods.


Take a look at this quote by Grant Morrison, a well-known comic writer and the author of the book we read part of in class today.

“The best superhero stories deal directly with mythic elements of human experience that we can all relate to, in ways that are imaginative, profound, funny, and provocative. They exist to solve problems of all kinds and can always be counted on to find a way to save the day. At their best, they help us confront and resolve even the deepest existential crises. We should listen to what they have to tell us.”

Pick a “superhero” that you follow – anyone from the Marvel/DC standards to Star Wars to anime to anything else. In the comments below, explain how this character taps into what we discussed in class or the quote above. What is the “mythic element of human experience” it taps into? Add a picture to your comment if it’s possible.

Here’s a list of a number of archetypes you can use to really ground your ideas in what we’ve been discussing in class: archetypesforliteraryanalysis


24 thoughts on “Superhero class – What makes a superhero?

  1. Captain America-
    Captain America’s staying power derives from him not being just some ordinary run-of-the-mill superhero. He had a special touch that made him unique: like his incomparable righteous attitude. and he was able to remain popular with not only this but other key attributes–he’s even the leader of an organization that fights enemies like Loki, all while using nothing but a shield as his weapon of choice. Captain America relating to the common man with his charisma and patriotism, and represents the collective idea of ‘doing what’s right”.


    • Punisher
      The punisher might as well be a villian without his sad background which might go toe to toe with batmans origins story, his family was slaughtered and as a normal human with military training he himsef tried to take on the mobsters who killed his family, his struggle of trying to be a hero and failing is it was gives us the iconic sense of being able to relate for he is only human and didnt have the abilities to take them on unlike other heroes, he has a humanistic limitation that gives us a way to relate, this a much more realistic tone for a comic. The hero is nearly killed only to rise from his ashes like a pheonix. If it wasnt for his humor that lightens the heaviness of the comic we wouldnt cheer on or let alone enjoy one taking revenge the old fashion way. “At their best, they help us confront and resolve even the deepest existential crises.”, like as the qoute says i believe the crisis being face that gives the hero the likable feeling is its very clear of the realism that limitations are and how with enough determination one can past those limits for a while and have a glimpse of what a superhero or super human might feel like.


  2. The Flash-
    I am a big fan of the flash, or Barry Allen. He is the ideal super hero that always saves the day. His incredible ability to run at ultra fast speeds and do the impossible is relatable to the average human! You may be asking yourself, how is that relatable? simple. Have you ever thought to yourself.. man I’m late for school, or work, or an appointment or something, I wish I could just run there super fast? The flash can do that! we relate to him in the sense that he shares similar problems others do. The difference is that he can accomplish most problems we cant because he has super powers.

    I agree with Grant Morrison’s statement that ” At their best, they help us confront and resolve even the deepest existential crises. We should listen to what they have to tell us.” The flash quite frequently preaches of the simpler it is to get things done with his powers, but it is still possible to get things done…with hard work. Even he, with super speeds, has to work hard to accomplish his tasks.

    obviously the flash is not a real person, but his reliability and frequently fantasized powers makes him a successful superhero that will continue on in many other forms.


  3. Rorschach’s staying power is his reasoning when it has to do with crime, also how when speaking about Rorschach as a character you can make the argument of hero and villain for him. You can make this argument by how he handles him crime, which makes him interesting but controversial. Rorschach’s “successfulness” has to do with him being a controversial character and him being a somewhat mysterious character. Him being mysterious is because we don’t know everything about him, we don’t know why he handles crime that way, we know a little bit of Rorschach background but not a lot. People are attached to Rorschach because of what we know so far of his backstory His backstory is know for being sad and for some reason a lot people who watch it enjoy watching those types of shows. Rorschach is an example of human decision.


  4. Itachi Uchiha
    Itachi taps into our discussing , by just the character he is. He truly wants peace and dies happy being a part of his village even though they think he’s a filthy criminal and think he’s just a peace of sh** but he died protecting his village multiple times and still died happy he was part of that village. even though he joined an evil group right after getting kicked out of his village and being on the bingo book as a criminal he still does everything for his village and only joined the evil group o stay close to his village and to make sure is little brother is safe at all times. Itachi Uchiha stayed true to his village and the reason for why a superhero stayed true.


  5. I believe that Spiderman is the ideal hero. he might not be the strongest but he is imaginative and very funny. Not only that but he always is trying to save the world and tries to solve any problems. He doesn’t just saves the world the big bad villain, but he also tries to help the police solve any type of crime in New York. He also shows a great message, since when he was young both his parents died in a plane crash and he became an orphaned. However, instead of living a horrible life as a thug or anything else, he decided to make the best of his powers (once he got them) and became a hero. Meaning that he did the best he could with his life, even though his childhood wasn’t so great, he never gave up.


  6. Going back to the quote, it says “deal directly with mythic elements of human experience that we can all relate to, in ways that are imaginative, profound, funny, and provocative”. This superhero relates to some people in different ways. For example, Zatanna. She starts as a stage illusionist prior to discovering her magical abilities while investigating the disappearance of her father Giovanni “John” Zatara. She connects to the audience as being someone without a father in her life. Zatanna looks for her father using what he passed down to her (the mythical powers), which gives a mythical element to a real life experience.


  7. The hero I am talking about is, Agent Venom. Now you may be thinking, Venom, like from Spiderman? Well this is the same symbiotic parasite, but its been tamed and bonded Flash Thompson. Find out more in the Secret Avengers comic series.

    The thing about Flash Thompson or Agent Venom, and how he gets his Staying Power, is that he’s actually a creative twist on the Venom. A change on the character’s story could pull the reader in.

    So another thing is that in the Agent Venom origin story, Flash was a war vet, and lost the mobility in his legs, and could bond with the Venom Symbiote and controlled it. Which shows that literally anybody has the potential to be a hero, and shows patriotism, supporting the war fight.

    So the main reason is just this hero pulls the reader in with connection to themselves and to their country.


  8. Captain America’s staying power because he is not just an ordinary man. He has a special powers that just make him stick out, like his attitude and he is still popular. Not only that but he is even the leader of people who fights enemies, similar to polices except cooler and with more attributes and with just using nothing but a shield as his weapon of choice. Captain America is like a symbol of all U.S but with all due respect no judgement but equal and fair to everyone else. And fights enemies like if it was the last thing he will do before he die’s


  9. Robin Hood is known as a heroic outlaw who steals from the rich and gives to the poor. He has been portrayed in different versions whether in a Disney film as a fox or a film as a human being, but carries the same idea that Robin Hood has and abilities he is known for: his outstanding skill as an archer, his anti-clericalism, and his strong hostility towards the Sheriff of Nottingham. What makes Robin Hood “legacy” continue on is the idea that he is a fugitive who chooses to steal in order to help those in need alongside with the Merry Men. Every child is known to have at least one superhero in their life that they can hold on to and connect to which is why Robin Hood is one due to his courageous nature to risk his life in order to help others he knows are in trouble.


    • Wonder Women
      One of the most popular female superheroes of which is shown in the DC comics where a majority of the time she is the only female superhero on display. A few reasons why she is so popular is because she was created during world war II where “any person, thing or object could be drafted into service in the struggle against darkness.” As men went to war, women were able to start working. Wonder Women is an example of breaking the chains of prejudice, prudery and man’s superiority. She is part of the idea that she is a warrior with depicting honor, strength, strategy, willpower. Her entire being has the potential to act on the ethical imperative that will heal society’s constructed problems that persist through a misogynist manipulation of cultural norms. If she determines that a violent act is warranted and will contribute to her goals, she will not hesitate. People find her character relatable because she symbolized individual freedoms and violent action only in the face of oppressive forces.


  10. Wonder Women is an ambassador for peace and a fearsome warrior. Wonder Women is smart, strong, and knows the difference between right and wrong, as it says in this quote “The glorification of strength, health, and simple morality seems born of a corn-fed, plain-talking, fair-minded Midwestern sensibility.” Wonder Woman was trained at a young age. She has developed fighting skills and is an expert in armed and unarmed combat. Her Amazonian blood gives her enhanced hearing, vision, speed, strength, and great regeneration properties. One of the things that she has is the lasso of truth. It is unbreakable and can confine beings as strong as superman. It also forces the victim to speak nothing but the truth. Her complexity and her balance of peaceful diplomacy and strategic fighting deepen Wonder Woman as an intriguing character.


    • Dante

      In Dante’s Inferno it is clear that there is the archetype of light vs. darkness. Dante wants to renew/ rekindle his love life with his former wife Beatrice. But she is stuck in hell and he must find her through the circles of hell. The whole story is Dante fighting for his desire of his wife vs. demons trying to stop him and eventually satan himself.
      What makes Dante’s famous is the fact that he was a normal man. He was originally a crusader but he made mistakes and cheated on Beatrice. I feel that people can relate to Dante , he made mistakes in his life but despite those mistakes he wants to chase his wife which is almost a symbol of redemption. Everyone looks for redemption for their wrongdoings and Dange just shows that no one is perfect.


  11. Spider-Man:
    People relate to someone when they understand what they are going or have been through. Grant Morrison agrees specifically with superheroes. He writes, “The best superhero stories deal directly with mythic elements of human experience that we can all relate to”. More readers are going to like a superhero when that superhero possesses qualities that are common in average people along with their super powers or capabilities. For example, Spider-Man or also known as Peter Parker is your typical average nerd that gets bullied in school and doesn’t fit in, he is an outcast. This outcast person is easily relatable to because everyone at a certain time in their life has felt like they didn’t belong somewhere or they stood out among the crowd. Spider-Man also has his love story which gets people excited and hooked because along with his strong, brave side he has a soft and sweet side which makes readers/watchers love him even more. Also the factor of Spider-Man losing his parents at a young age comes a little bit into play. I do however believe the more tragic and memorable death is of his true father figure his Uncle Ben. Everyone has experienced death of a close family member, Spider-Man as well having gone through this makes us relate to him. Before Spider-Man was Spider-Man he was Peter Parker. Peter, possesses the common lifestyle of a teenager who is a nerd and gets bullied at school, and is in love with one of the prettiest girls at school. He lives the average lifestyle up until one very special day. This average lifestyle is why he is so relatable, memorable and still popular today.


  12. Agustin Rac
    Superman staying in power because of his personification of a true hero. He was send to earth as a Savior to protect and lead the people. Therefore in my view point superman relates to Jesus Christ; both of them them have similarities in the way that they have this power to save and protect people. Therefore superman is still popular because of the stories that he tell have relation to many situations in the real world. Also he is relatable , powerful, inspirational and above all its great and fun. Therefore superman is successful because of personification of a true hero and relatable to the real world.


  13. Batman:
    Batman’s staying power is that he has a unique story to why he started fighting crime and became a hero. After batman witnessed the murder of his parents he swore to get revenge on criminals. He trains himself physically and intellectually and created a bat like persona to fight crime. His suit has Special abilities and weapons and he had high intellect. His story is kinda like Spider-Man with the losing their parent at a young age. I believe batman is successful because he has a story about what makes fight crime and he has a enemy that always comes in to play and have drama with.


  14. Shazam a super hero from the Dc universe who is in fact a boy that turns into a man in tights with extraordinary features; invulnerability, flying, extremely fast, super strength, and mythical powers, because of the wizard Shazam himself. He endured many obstacles in his life for example his parents died and his sister was taken away from him and his trust fund was stolen by a relative of his and he was thrown out in the street. Having to make a living for himself and survive in this world is a common archetype used in a lot of stories. Someone who loses everything and basically hits rock bottom gains some type of mythical power or a type of excellence that helps better their life. Like Morrison states how authors create ” a radical enchantment of the mundane,” with Shazam the other gave him a sad back story that can relate to a part of the audience who has suffered and then with a twist the author gives Shazam a power out of the norm, that helps him better himself and have a better life. Which also helps the audience to believe there is still a hope of goodness to happen to them not on the same level as this superhero with mythical powers but something else that can help them bounce back and to strive for a better life. In addition to that his story is sort of a recycled collection of great characters that people look up to, each letter in Shazam stand for the Greek gods for example as Zeus, and Hercules. people love these incredible characters and the creator of Shazam utilized these stories and put it into one boy who relates to kids who feel like they lost everything to adults who believe there is still hope to be special.


  15. My favorite hero is even though he never really got popular is Toxin. After an encounter with Carnage, NYPD officer Patrick Mulligan is implanted with somewhat of a symbiote egg and the egg eventually grew to become Toxin. Not wanted by his father, Carnage abandoned him. Toxin was born with traits of both Venom and Carnage, having tentacle-like hands that can shift into weapons like Carnage and a humanoid form similar to Venom. What makes Toxin interesting is his backstory that a lot of people can relate to and the fact that he is more of anti-hero. Toxin was born with this natural born blood lust and Pat was the one that raised this kind of new born alien that killing was wrong. After Pat was killed, the lines started to blur and Toxin’s morality becomes more gray. He was not afraid to kill or get innocent people involved to get the end result he wants. I find his story to be very profound, realistic and a little relate-able. You get brought up with humble beginnings and build up a strong foundation but all it takes is one major event in your life for your life to change and take a sudden turn. Toxin’s story is very relate-able because most people have experienced something similar to this in their lives.


  16. Wonder Woman
    Diana, born on paradise island. Diana had been created by a small piece of clay in which her mother Queen Hippolyta had created. A soul in which was left be hide was bonded into the clay allowing Diana to come to life. Once life was formed gifts were granted. Demeter, great strength, wisdom, courage, a hunters hear, communion with animals, beauty along with a loving heart, sister hood with fire, and speed with power to fight. Wonder Woman has been able to hold her place and be remembered mainly because of the fact that she is a woman. Comic books dated back to the 1940’s / 1950’s were very sexist in which cause more male figures to be created and acknowledged then woman had been. Wonder Woman also was able to stick around because of her personality and the great powers she had, showing that she was Nobel, companionate and determined made people like her more in which let her to sticking around just like all the other well knows heroes. “They exist to solve problems of all kinds and can always be counted on to find a way to save the day” being one of the few acknowledged woman heroes people enjoy her story because it shows that no matter what sex you are you shouldn’t let people get in your way or stopping you from doing right. Diana became wonder woman because she didn’t give up and she didn’t let her mother stop her from entering into a contest that allowed a emissary to the man’s world.


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