Why is he considered the first superhero?

Avatar image for ssejllenrad
#1 Posted by ssejllenrad (13110 posts) - - Show Bio

Superman. "Without him there would be no superhero genre" or something of the sort has been the uttered by tons of comic fans. Whether you like him or hate him, he is much respected by everyone (except the close-minded "dark-themed-only" preferring people). But why is he considered the first superhero?

I could just go and discuss mythology and legends and how every culture has had some hero that surpasses the ordinary and goes so far as being supernatural. But I won't. A lot them have already been written and I doubt I would be more interesting in writing such a post. Achilles, Hercules, Charlemagne, blah blah blah! A lot them have been inspirations for Superman. We all know that!

What I want to talk about is the characters released within the era of Superman but predated him by some years. First would be Gladiator (1930). Obvious inspiration (and claimed by some as ripped-off) by Superman. Superhuman strength, invulnerability, etc. So we have superpowers then tons of feats then trying to make change. Superhero? Maybe not. He's not in comics (yeah that's a prerequisite of being a superhero) and no costume! Yeah these are pathetic excuses not to call him superhero but I want to move on now.. :D

Next, Doc Savage(1933). Ok. He's just a man (but so is Batman and a load of other superheroes). I know. But tons of adventures and yeah, he appeared in comics. But one thing's missing. Costume! Moving on.

Next? The Shadow (1931). Superpowers? Check! Supervillains? Check! Comicbook release? Later on, yes, so check! Then why the hell is he not considered the first superhero? Is it because he's a pulp hero? Does that justify it? Are they mutually exclusive? Why? Why? Why? I'm ranting cause I don't know a lot!

Moving on... The Spider (1933). Superpowers? No. But had something to compensate for that. His supergadget! The silent air pistol. Costume? The mask counts. Again, for me, I guess he counts as a superhero. (insert my rant here)

Last and probably most popular... The Phantom (1933). Also no powers but he's got a ring! What? Yes! A ring! Plus he's got uber awesome fighting skills. Those count! Costume? Of course! Secret identity? Yes plus something better! Secret identity of a bloodline not just a person! Comics? Do I even have to answer this? So he's a Superhero right? (insert bigger rant here).

I'm not really taking anything away from my man Supes. It's just that I don't think all superherodom (is there such a word?) should be attributed to him. I could be wrong (so correct me if I am) and I know a lot of viners already know what I just posted. But post your thoughts anyway.. :D

Avatar image for vance_astro
#2 Edited by vance_astro (90090 posts) - - Show Bio

Superman is the first superhero because his creation created the word superhero.Those other characters also aren't "super".

Moderator
Avatar image for kallarkz
#3 Posted by Kallarkz (3388 posts) - - Show Bio
Hes one of the more popular...but I've never met anyone who has considered Superman the first superhero o.O
Avatar image for vance_astro
#4 Posted by vance_astro (90090 posts) - - Show Bio
@Kallarkz said:
 who has considered Superman the first superhero o.O "
 But he is.
Moderator
Avatar image for shadow_thief
#5 Posted by Shadow_Thief (2511 posts) - - Show Bio

I don't think he was so much the first superhero as he was one of the first to really catch on outside of the comics. Even a guy who's never picked up a comic book in his life will recognize Superman.

Avatar image for ssejllenrad
#6 Posted by ssejllenrad (13110 posts) - - Show Bio
@Vance Astro said:
" Superman is the first superhero because his creation created the word superhero.Those other characters also aren't "super". "
So ordinary humans like Batman were only considered superheroes after Supes? Is that what distinguishes superhero from pulp hero? I mean costumed heroes before Supes were just considered pulp heroes? Forgive me if my questions are a bit dumb.
Avatar image for vance_astro
#7 Posted by vance_astro (90090 posts) - - Show Bio
@ssejllenrad said:
" @Vance Astro said:
" Superman is the first superhero because his creation created the word superhero.Those other characters also aren't "super". "
So ordinary humans like Batman were only considered superheroes after Supes? Is that what distinguishes superhero from pulp hero? I mean costumed heroes before Supes were just considered pulp heroes? Forgive me if my questions are a bit dumb. "
I don't know for sure but I believe that the word superhero came along with Superman and nobody had really used it to describe their characters before.It's my understanding that characters like Batman are "crime-fighters" not "superheroes".
Moderator
Avatar image for redk
#8 Posted by RedK (2541 posts) - - Show Bio

all the Characters that you mentioned like the Phantom were all normal humans while Superman had superpowers

Avatar image for ssejllenrad
#9 Posted by ssejllenrad (13110 posts) - - Show Bio
@RedK said:
" all the Characters that you mentioned like the Phantom were all normal humans while Superman had superpowers "
The Shadow has powers. And do you think Batman, Green Arrow, Cap, Black Panther, Hawkeye, etc aren't superheroes?
Avatar image for catpanexe
#10 Posted by CATPANEXE (9505 posts) - - Show Bio

technically, Popeye is the first superpowered comic book character, and grandfathered a lot of the trends set thereafter, but the whole genre of super-heroism in comics itself stems from
Superman, him being the character by which all others are judged by either being close to or far away from him. note though, considered the first, more meaning the " prime " or " absolute "
superhero, and in the overall comic fan base. it's more his influence and the design aesthetic than anything else that's taken into account when that is said.

Avatar image for fadetoblackbolt
#11 Posted by FadeToBlackBolt (23389 posts) - - Show Bio

Superman was the first to have superpowers not related to mysticism of some kind. He was genuinely "Super" rather than just magical.

Avatar image for warlock360
#12 Posted by warlock360 (28187 posts) - - Show Bio
Avatar image for ssejllenrad
#13 Posted by ssejllenrad (13110 posts) - - Show Bio
Avatar image for warlock360
#14 Posted by warlock360 (28187 posts) - - Show Bio
@ssejllenrad: And as for Masked superheroes, The Phantom.
Avatar image for nova_prime_
#15 Posted by Nova`Prime` (4172 posts) - - Show Bio

You forgot a very important charcater someone that predates all of those characters and is still human like The Phantom, The Spider, and Doc Savage

No Caption Provided
Avatar image for vance_astro
#16 Edited by vance_astro (90090 posts) - - Show Bio
@ssejllenrad said:

" @RedK said:

" all the Characters that you mentioned like the Phantom were all normal humans while Superman had superpowers "
The Shadow has powers. And do you think Batman, Green Arrow, Cap, Black Panther, Hawkeye, etc aren't superheroes? "
They aren't, those characters are crime fighters.Superman's purpose is greater than organized crime and super-villains.
Moderator
Avatar image for redk
#17 Posted by RedK (2541 posts) - - Show Bio
@Vance Astro said:
" @ssejllenrad said:

" @RedK said:

" all the Characters that you mentioned like the Phantom were all normal humans while Superman had superpowers "
The Shadow has powers. And do you think Batman, Green Arrow, Cap, Black Panther, Hawkeye, etc aren't superheroes? "
They aren't, those characters are crime fighters.Superman's purpose is greater than organized crime and super-villains. "
exactly he's earths champion, he defends the planet. also most of those characters opperate in the shadows while Superman is a someone people can see and know that he's out there doing what he can to not stop petty crimes but to inspire people to make the hard choices and turn away from crime.
Avatar image for ssejllenrad
#18 Posted by ssejllenrad (13110 posts) - - Show Bio
@RedK: If you say so dude... Crime fighter it is!
Avatar image for ssejllenrad
#19 Posted by ssejllenrad (13110 posts) - - Show Bio
@beatboks1 said:
" The term superhero didn't originate with Superman at all. I believe it was first used in 1916 to 18 in a book about airmen/flyers. It also wasn't used in relation to Superman too much around his debut. In fact during the GA the "Superheroes" were referred to as "Mysterymen". It was only use sporadically during teh GA. I think I remember it mentioned in the book all in color for a dime as first being used (in relation to an actual costumes hero)  in sensation in reference to the Guardian. The term super hero wasn't really used until the start of the SA and is only posthumously applied to the GA. "
I seriously thought you remember the golden age era... I was like "he's that old?!?" Had to re-read it... hehe! Anyway, great info.
Avatar image for mutenroshi
#20 Posted by MutenRoshi (881 posts) - - Show Bio
@Vance Astro said:
" Superman is the first superhero because his creation created the word superhero.Those other characters also aren't "super". "
Doc Savage was pretty super, he bounced bullets off his chest but he didn't come with a red cape
Avatar image for mutenroshi
#21 Posted by MutenRoshi (881 posts) - - Show Bio
@beatboks1 said:

" The term superhero didn't originate with Superman at all. I believe it was first used in 1916 to 18 in a book about airmen/flyers. It also wasn't used in relation to Superman too much around his debut. In fact during the GA the "Superheroes" were referred to as "Mysterymen". It was only use sporadically during teh GA. I think I remember it mentioned in the book all in color for a dime as first being used (in relation to an actual costumes hero)  in sensation in reference to the Guardian. The term super hero wasn't really used until the start of the SA and is only posthumously applied to the GA. "

I read before an article saying the time 'super human' came into popular use was during Hitlers time. Siegel made a number of attempts at selling Superman and failed to get published, first was a bland abrahamic  hero... second? i think...the second was a  Siegel creating a villain modeled on Nietzsche's idea. Finally he made the successful charming guy who was faster than a speeding bullet but he kept some abrahamic/christian mythos and just kept the superman name as a parody of the stuff that German propaganda was trying to sell. Superman also shares similarities with other heroes like Doc Savage and Doc also had a "Fortress of Solitude". Gladiator Hugo Danner and the Man of Mars could leap tall buildings and bend steel with their hands, again many years before Superman

I wonder if the red cape is even original
Avatar image for gambit1024
#22 Edited by Gambit1024 (10217 posts) - - Show Bio

Superman is the first COMIC BOOK superhero, but that doesn't make him the first superhero to have ever existed. It also depends on what your definition of superhero is. 
To me it's: A being who takes the law into their own hands for a greater purpose by fantastical means.

Being: Doesn't have to be human (ie. Superman, Thor, Silver Surfer, etc.)


Greater purpose: Such as defending those who cannot defend themselves, ending crime altogether, or just saving lives. 

Fantastical means: Super powers or things you just can't do in real life. You think someone could actually do what Batman or the Punisher does daily and live to tell their story? Nope. 
Avatar image for doctor_____
#23 Posted by Doctor!!!!! (2135 posts) - - Show Bio

History channel told me he was the first superhero.

Avatar image for joshmightbe
#24 Edited by joshmightbe (27562 posts) - - Show Bio

He was not the first hero with powers but he is the source of the term or at least popularized the term super hero so in a way he was the first super hero but technically he wasn't 

Avatar image for batman_is_god
#25 Posted by batman_is_god (1192 posts) - - Show Bio

@ssejllenrad: 
It's because he was the first to do the cape and boots with the symbol on his chest. While I am sure this will be a controversial statement, I hope everyone can be mature enough to agree that since their creation every superhero copies either Superman or Batman in some way. I am not saying they are the first, just like Dick Grayson was not the first sidekick and Luigi was not the first player 2. However, sidekicks and player 2 meant nothing before Dick and Luigi, just like superheroes meant nothing before Superman (and Batman).

 

Proof of that is that most people think of capes and boots and symbols on chests when they think superhero, except how many of them ACTUALLY have all of that? Capes are actualy one of the least seen accessories in comics, and symbols are dying out as well. Mario could be seen as the first video game hero, but he's not. However, you can see why people would say that.

Avatar image for AssertingValor
#26 Posted by AssertingValor (8137 posts) - - Show Bio

Hercules is the first hero, in mythology and in comics............................................................................................................................................
Avatar image for joshmightbe
#27 Posted by joshmightbe (27562 posts) - - Show Bio
@ebuchanan: Actually there were a few before Hercules such as Orion
Avatar image for ssejllenrad
#28 Posted by ssejllenrad (13110 posts) - - Show Bio
@joshmightbe said:
" @ebuchanan: Actually there were a few before Hercules such as Orion "
Gilgamesh predated both of those.
Avatar image for joshmightbe
#29 Posted by joshmightbe (27562 posts) - - Show Bio
@ssejllenrad: I know I was just giving an example, Stories of heroes with power beyond that of normal humans have existed for almost as long as people have been telling stories so its really difficult to know which was truly the first 
Avatar image for ssejllenrad
#30 Posted by ssejllenrad (13110 posts) - - Show Bio
@joshmightbe: Yeah but the point of the thread is that of the modern age "superheroes".. But I guess you know that.. :D
Avatar image for joshmightbe
#31 Posted by joshmightbe (27562 posts) - - Show Bio
@ssejllenrad: I know 
Avatar image for AssertingValor
#32 Edited by AssertingValor (8137 posts) - - Show Bio

@ssejllenrad
and the cave man that saved his village  from wolves before him, are we talkin comics or comic history here????

 

Hercules was a regular hero, who did good deeds and slayed monsters..............

he is the first true constant hero........................................ first apeared in 1936...............................

Avatar image for misterjj
#33 Posted by MisterJJ (229 posts) - - Show Bio

@ssejllenrad: Hugo Herc is the father of Hugo Danner, and his Grandson is Superman.

No Caption Provided
No Caption Provided
No Caption Provided
No Caption Provided
No Caption Provided
No Caption Provided
No Caption Provided
No Caption Provided
No Caption Provided
No Caption Provided
No Caption Provided

Avatar image for misterjj
#34 Posted by MisterJJ (229 posts) - - Show Bio

@ssejllenrad:

http://www.barnaclepress.com/new-strip-samson-the-strong-man/

Avatar image for heavenlydarkdragon
#35 Edited by HeavenlyDarkDragon (2219 posts) - - Show Bio

@ssejllenrad:

I believe Superman status is a result of the impact his creation did. The creation of Superman brought about the super in super-hero.

There's always been heroes. Both reallity and myth. But there wasn't superheroes. Least of all, a universe where a lot of superheroes each had their own space, personality, way of doing things. Those superheroes even started working together, combining their strengths to do, what each of them alone could not do.

When we read the stories of Hercules, Achilles, Perseus, and many others, they were mostly individuals born special and apart from the rest of humanity. They were the sons of gods and goddesses, with mortals, making them outsiders. Not entirelly gods and also not mortals.

Not only that Superman brought about something new. That even the most apparently normal people have in them the potential to be like gods. Remember that on Krypton, Kal-El would never have become Superman, he'd be just a man.

His story is one that mostly inspires people to seek their true potential.

While with the stories of old. One had to be born special to do special things. With Superman a new concept was introduced. That every person can become a hero, and even more, a superhero. Because another concept that Superman brought was that one doesn't need powers to be a superhero. It's one's determination, commitment and will that creates a superhero.

Avatar image for z3ro180
#36 Posted by z3ro180 (8778 posts) - - Show Bio

He is the first superhero

Avatar image for 2cool4fun
#37 Posted by 2cool4fun (2418 posts) - - Show Bio

Superman is not the first "hero" but he is the first Superhero, he created the standard Superhero costume (and cape ), morals, secret identity gimmick & the word "superhero" came with him.

Avatar image for bastion76
#38 Posted by Bastion76 (285 posts) - - Show Bio

@ssejllenrad: I think the reason is because he's the first *comic book* superhero. The others you mentioned either were pulp fiction magazines or newspaper comic strips. They're superheroes, maybe even comic superheroes but comic *book* superhero they are not

Another thing for a superhero to be considered a superhero they need to have some super human abilities or gadgets (they don't need super powers), wear a costume that represents their origin or character, and often has a secret identity (though the last one has become less important)

The Phantom seems like a super hero but if I showed you a picture of him would you immedetly think a ghostly figure? If o showed you Zoro would you think fox or master fencer? The Shadow a mysterious rootin tootin gunslinger? With Superman he is based on circus strongmen and has an S on his chest with a magnificent flowing cape. He looks well super. Sure the others have superhero like qualities like masks, secret identities, super powers, gadgets, villains, costumes etc but the fundamentals of them don't make them a superhero but instead a super hero. Though to say we'd have no superhero genre solely because of Superman is a bit false since he in himself is inspired by the others I've mentioned. But he did give way to a new type of fictional super hero

Avatar image for iara
#39 Edited by Iara (970 posts) - - Show Bio

Bah Sherlock Holmes is the first Superhero, everyone knows that!

I'm kidding in-case some people can't tell.

Avatar image for rdclip
#40 Posted by RDClip (2792 posts) - - Show Bio

The period preceding Superman with pulp heroes greatly influenced his creation. But Superman pretty much brought together and popularized all the troupes we now associate with superheroes: superpowers, mysterious origins, bright colourful costume, recognizable symbol (not as important or common anymore, but was very common back then) etc.

It also has to do with the fact that he was massively popular, has stayed popular, and is DC's (the oldest comic publisher still around) first real superhero. If DC would have flopped after the war like a lot of comic publishers, we probably wouldn't even remember Superman.

Avatar image for knight101
#41 Posted by Knight101 (390 posts) - - Show Bio

@ssejllenrad: Superman is considered the first Super-Hero because, simply put, he IS the first Super-Hero.

Characters like Doc Savage, the Shadow, etc, are different because they are "Pulp Heroes" who appeared in pulp magazine stories. Superman appeared in the very first comic in that kind of format (a lot different than pulp fiction). Superman not only became a huge hit, he is responsible for putting the term "Super-Hero" on the map.

Even if guys like Doc Savage and the Shadow can be called Super-Heroes, Superman perfected the term "Super-Hero" like no other could. And it's also because of Superman's popularity that he also made comics popular. This wasn't pulp fiction, it was an entirely different format. And thus, Superman not only popularized the term, he launched the Super-Hero genre. So, yes, without Superman there would be no Super-Hero genre, no Marvel comics, etc.

Either which way the pie is sliced, Superman started something that is still ongoing today. He has had such a major influence on the world that Doc Savage and the Shadow can only stand back and watch with envy.

Avatar image for superabrasax
#42 Posted by SuperAbrasax (90 posts) - - Show Bio

While powered superbeings playing hero are as old as human literature and religion, the combination of: 1) comic strip medium; 2) spandex muscle suit with cape; and 3) zany science-fiction plots put Superman as a good contender for the first full-fledged superhero. Many elements predate Superman (and pulp fiction), but the above combination of features is shared by the majority of superheroes ever since.

Avatar image for druzzie
#43 Posted by Druzzie (538 posts) - - Show Bio

He was the first guy in comic to break the small minded imagination of the world at the time. Believe it or not, thinking about far off planets called Krypton and sending a baby to Earth on a spaceship was ground breaking at the time. Back then we didn't even have frigging satellites much less going out in space.

Avatar image for amendment50
#44 Edited by Amendment50 (14740 posts) - - Show Bio

Superman is the first superhero. He's obviously not the first superhuman character nor is he the first vigilante character ever made. But he is the first superhero.

Online
Avatar image for quinlan58
#45 Posted by Quinlan58 (1444 posts) - - Show Bio

@druzzie: I wouldn't underestimate the imagination of people up to that point. Jules Verne and H.G. Wells already existed, after all.

Avatar image for druzzie
#46 Posted by Druzzie (538 posts) - - Show Bio

@druzzie: I wouldn't underestimate the imagination of people up to that point. Jules Verne and H.G. Wells already existed, after all.

And I didn't say they werne't but they were not wide spread, remember HG wells novel was pretty under appreciated at the time. Now a days we like it and love it but back then it even caused a panic that one time. Superman was the first of his kind with a fantastical story and sparks imaginations. He was the first super hero just like HG Wells might have been the first true sci fi author. I would put Jules vernes as Adventure.

This edit will also create new pages on Comic Vine for:

Beware, you are proposing to add brand new pages to the wiki along with your edits. Make sure this is what you intended. This will likely increase the time it takes for your changes to go live.

Comment and Save

Until you earn 1000 points all your submissions need to be vetted by other Comic Vine users. This process takes no more than a few hours and we'll send you an email once approved.