What makes a superhero story so super?

To begin this assignment I read “How Ancient Legends Gave Birth to Modern Superheroes”  watched the very first Superman cartoon (I had never seen any of the original Superman cartoons before), and watched Kurt Vonnegut’s talk on the shapes of stories. I found the article by Evan Narcisse to be extremely interesting. I really enjoy the idea of superhero’s being on a diverse spectrum, not just a yes or no qualification. It is not just having powers or wearing a cape that constitutes someone to be a superhero. The genre of science fiction specifically in regards to superhero characters has created a classic look and idea that comes to mind when someone thinks of a superhero. The most common things that you see within this genre are individuals with superhuman powers, a strong moral compass, good intentions, and usually a costume. Many of these are big deal breakers for people when deciding if someone is a superhero or not.

For me I personally agree with the idea that superheros are on a spectrum because not all of them can fit into that one box, but that does not make them any less super. For example one of my favorite newer science-fiction movies Deadpool. Realistically Deadpool is not the classic halo wearing superhero who always does the right thing. Deadpool was just some average hired gun, technically a bad guy. Then something terrible happens to him causing him to have the supernatural ability to regenerate and heal his body. Deadpool uses this ability to destroy the man who is torturing other people and creating human weapons that threaten the general population. Again technically he does a lot of wrong to get to that positive end goal, and he might be doing it for mostly selfish reasons, but I consider him to be a superhero because he uses his extraordinary gifts to help people, and hinder the bad guy.

This superheo story follows exactly what Kurt Vonnegut explained in his youtube video on the shape of stories. A Deadpool starts at a level of health and happiness, and through out the course of the movie his happiness and health level drop dramatically when he is diagnosed with an untreatable form of cancer and leaves his girlfriend. Then it comes right back up by the end of the movie due to his new abilities and the reuniting of his love. This arch and story shape is clearly crucial to all story lines, including superhero stories.

To me a superhero and a superhero story needs to have an individual who uses their extraordinary circumstance whether that be superhuman powers, incredible resources such as wealth or technology, etc to help people against a person trying to hurt the general population. That is what makes a character super to me.

2 thoughts on “What makes a superhero story so super?”

  1. I love Deadpool and totally agree with your assessment, great example. I might suggest hyperlinking Vonnegut’s video for those unfamiliar with the talk.

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