iPhoneOgraphy – 05 Dec 2016 (Day 340/366)
In modern popular fiction, a superhero (sometimes rendered super-hero or super hero) is a type of costumed heroic character who possesses supernatural or superhuman powers and who is dedicated to fighting crime, protecting the public, and usually battling super villains. A female superhero is sometimes called a super heroine (also rendered super-heroine or super heroine). Fiction centered on such characters, especially in American comic books since the 1930s, is known as superhero fiction.
By most definitions, characters do not require actual supernatural or superhuman powers or phenomena to be deemed superheroes. While the Dictionary.com definition of “superhero” is “a figure, especially in a comic strip or cartoon, endowed with superhuman powers and usually portrayed as fighting evil or crime”, the longstanding Merriam-Webster dictionary gives the definition as “a fictional hero having extraordinary or superhuman powers; also: an exceptionally skillful or successful person”. Terms such as masked crime fighters, costumed adventurers or masked vigilantes are sometimes used to refer to characters such as the Spirit, who may not be explicitly referred to as superheroes but nevertheless share similar traits.
Some superheroes use their powers to counter day-to-day crime while also combating threats against humanity from super villains, who are their criminal counterparts. Often at least one of these supervillains will be the superhero’s archenemy. Some long-running superheroes such as Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, Captain America, and Iron Man have a rogues gallery of many villains.
The word ‘superhero’ dates to at least 1917. Antecedents of the archetype include such folkloric heroes as Robin Hood, who adventured in distinctive clothing. The 1903 play The Scarlet Pimpernel and its spinoffs popularized the idea of a masked avenger and the superhero trope of a secret identity. Shortly afterward, masked and costumed pulp-fiction characters such as Zorro (1919) or The Shadow (1930) and comic strip heroes, such as the Phantom (1936) began appearing, as did non-costumed characters with super strength, including Patoruzú (1928), the comic-strip character Popeye (1929) and novelist Philip Wylie’s protagonist Hugo Danner (1930).
In the 1930s, both trends came together in some of the earliest superpowered costumed heroes such as Japan’s Ōgon Bat (visualized in painted panels used by kamishibai oral storytellers in Japan since 1931), Mandrake the Magician (1934), Superman in 1938 and Captain Marvel (1939) at the beginning of the Golden Age of Comic Books.