What, exactly, makes a super hero? People think that Captain America is a superhero because of his super-human abilities. But could he also be seen as a hero because of his desire to protect the country, coupled with his leadership qualities. Or maybe it’s his courage and bravery that make him such an iconic comic book character.
People typically think that the way to become a superhero is to have super powers. This is, obviously, not the case. There are plenty of superheroes who don’t have what we would consider “super powers”. Look at Hawkeye. It doesn’t matter if I’m talking about Kate Bishop or Clint Barton. They’re simply normal people who happen to be excellent marksmen. They don’t need to have mind control or be able to fly to be considered Avengers. The reason they are considered Avengers, and popular ones at that, is because despite their vulnerability as human beings, they still go out every day and put a stop to crime. Whether it be taking down a mafia ring of Russian guys in tracksuits that say “Bro” too much, or an all too powerful Doctor Doom, all that they have are a simple bow and a quiver full of trick arrows. Kate and Clint are proof that the only thing you need to be a superhero is bravery and the willingness to risk your life for the greater good. The same points can be made with Green Arrow.
Batman and most of the other heroes associated with him in Gotham aren’t superpowered. As I stated in a previous article, I’m not Batman’s biggest fan. But I do respect that even though he has no powers, he still risks his life to protect Gotham. However, for the sake of this article and my sanity, I’m going to avoid talking about Bruce Wayne.
One of the things I’ve always loved about the Robins(*) is the fact that they are always young when they’re in the costume. People don’t realize what it means to younger comic readers like me to see someone my age or younger running around in tights and stopping crime. It makes us realize that if the Robins can go out on a school night and stop muggers while still getting their homework done on time, why can’t we write this essay that’s due next week? I should make WWRD bracelets to help keep me motivated when I start to procrastinate with my work. One of the most inspiring things about the Robins is that they’re just kids. The Robins are just typical minors that end being superheros. Not to mention that as time goes on and the Robins move on to different superhero titles like Nightwing, Red Robin, Red Hood, Batgirl,etc. they continue to being inspiring with their choices to live two lives as normal people and superheroes.
Then there’s characters like Agent 13 and Mockingbird. Both have a tendency to be overlooked on the grounds that they’re “just S.H.I.E.L.D. agents”, but they are so much more than that. If Agent 13, Sharon Carter, was just only a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, Red Skull wouldn’t have deemed her important enough to be used as a pawn to take out Captain America. Mockingbird is easily recognized as an Avenger and even ran the West Coast Avengers with her husband at the time, Clint Barton. In fact, when Steve Rogers was re-assembling the Avengers after the events of Civil War, she was among the group of people who he wanted to become Avengers again. Although recently, during “Fear Itself”, she is injected with a formula that is a mix of the Super-Soldier Serum and the Infinity Formula, and now has similar super-human abilities to Captain America. But until that point, she has been known as a powerless superhero.
If you think about it, Tony Stark doesn’t have any super powers either. Tony Stark is a human being in a high tech suit of armor made of gold titanium-alloy that’s riddled with guns and rockets. The only superpowers Tony actually has are his intelligence and money. In “The Avengers” (which you can get here) Captain America makes a point to him saying, “Big man in a suit of armor. Take that away and what are you?” which of course, Tony replies to with some snarky comment that makes the audience laugh. But the point stands. Tony Stark has no more powers than you or I do. Sure, he can create suits that have powers that we couldn’t even imagine a super-human having. However, this doesn’t change the fact that Tony Stark is ultimately powerless without his suits and the abilities they give him.
These are just a few examples of non-powered heroes. I promise you, there are so many more and they are all worth reading up on. So to answer my previous question, the only defining characteristics that make someone a superhero is bravery and courage. You don’t need to be able to lift a car over your head or read minds or fly to be a superhero. All anyone needs to be considered a hero along side characters like Super Man and Ms. Marvel is willingly to put your life on the line for the good of the world and to have a weapon to protect yourself with. Superheroes are superheroes, regardless of powers.
Want to read more about our favorite superpowerless superheroes? You can read the first volume of Hawkeye here to learn more about Clint and Kate fighting off the tracksuit mafia here.You can also read about Iron Man here, Mockingbird here, Agent 13 here, and the Robins here.
(*) Editor’s note, due to there being male and female Robins, we’ve decided to use “them, their, they’re” pronouns.