My Definition of a Superhero

SUPERHERO-BANNERS-3_smWhen I do a Superhero Team Training, one of the first questions is: “What is a Superhero?”  There are many different definitions of a superhero. Here’s the Merriam-Webster version:

1 : a fictional character who has amazing powers (such as the ability to fly)

2 : a very heroic person

Now, definition (1) would exclude non-fictional characters, and those without amazing powers. This means that I (and, I’m assuming, you) wouldn’t qualify as a superhero.

The secondary definition is a little more interesting, even though they’re cheating a bit (yes, we know a superhero is heroic). It’s saying that being a superhero is more about character than about powers.

Whenever this topic comes up in trainings, I bring up “the Batman problem.”  The problem is this: Batman (or Green Arrow or Black Widow or Hawkeye) has no superpowers. None. He has many wonderful toys, is in great shape, and has spent years honing his detective and combat skills, but he is never portrayed as anything more than human. And, he is considered one of the original superheroes (coming onto the scene just a few years after Superman).

So, if a superhero doesn’t necessarily have superpowers, then how do we define what a superhero is?

To cut to the chase, I was looking for a definition of superhero that would leave the door open for anyone who aspired to be a superhero to become one, and here’s what I’ve come up with:

“A Superhero is anyone who rises to the occasion, regardless of the difficulty, using all of their skills and abilities, to make the world a better place.”

We’ll unpack and discuss the ramifications of this definition in a future post.

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One Comment

  1. Love your site! More posts please! As to this first one, I would add to your definition: “A superhero is anyone who rises in the face of an extremely difficult challenge to the well being of humanity, and commits their skills and abilities to overcome that challenge in order to make the world a better place.”

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