Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The Three Types Of Superheroes - A Snippet

This is one of those things that is so obvious that I'm not sure I should post it, but it's also one of those things that's so obvious that I'm not sure anyone else has said it. If someone else has, I'm sorry, I didn't rip them off or anything, I came to these conclusions on my own. And if you find this painfully obvious, well, good for you.

I realised a while back that there are really only three types of superheroes (and villains, I suppose): the god, the human, and the human that becomes a god. Every superhero fits into one of those categories and they are just as basic as they sound. And, each of the three biggest superheroes represent one of the categories.

The god is the superhero who has always been superpowered. The representative here is Superman. Superman is the archetypal god in superhero comics. He was born Superman and always will be Superman. The challenges faced to the god are unique in that a question of their abilities is almost never the focus--unless it is a story where those abilities are lost. They are usually confident in those abilities and seem to gravitate towards leadership roles--almost a natural feeling of superiority.

The human is exactly what it sounds like: a human with no extra abilities. Batman is the archetypal superhero in this regards. Like the god, the human is also confident, but more to the point of brash arrogance. They seem to think that because they are playing with the big boys, they are better. They have worked hard to get where they are, so their confidence in their abilities is usually more warranted than that of the god--and are usually more reliable too. They almost always end up playing the saviour role because the villain underestimates them or they are able to improvise more.

The human who becomes a god is the more interesting and complex type of superhero. Spider-Man is the best known example of this. Here we have a human who suddenly gets powers. They tend to be less confident and sure of themselves simply because they're put in a new situation, but the confidence grows over time. This type of hero is used the most because it lends itself best to an origin story and growth that the readers can identify with. How many stories have we all read that started with typical guy leading typical life that could be your life and then suddenly something happens and he's a superhero now? It's the most effective way at drawing the reader in, because you can relate to the character from the beginning and there isn't a sense of resentment at someone who is basically you, but actually made something of themselves like the human. They are usually less driven than the human and more likely to have "human" problems than the god. Basically, it's the best of both worlds.

The only problem I've run into with this theory is the question of mutants. My instinct to to place them in the human that becomes god category because they don't receive their powers until puberty, but then again, they are born with them . . .

Anyways, that's the basics of it. I would most definitely welcome any thoughts on this. And if you can think of someone who doesn't fit, I'd like to hear it.