The Essence of a Superhero, and the Genuine Thing: “Super Heroes”

“Super Heroes”

Sometimes hyphenated or capitalized, the word crackles with sensationalism.  Naturally, the joint trademark is held by the two largest publishers of superhero comics, Marvel and DC.  Neither publisher invented the word, and there seems to be no consensus about its inventor.  Credit is sometimes given to G. Stanley Hall (1844-1924), adolescent psychologist and first president of the American Psychological Association.  But the inaccessibility of the original meaning is only more reason to look to the irony of the word itself: a hero is already distinguished from “ordinary human beings,” and yet presumably a superhero is to be distinguished from “ordinary heroes!”


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