When I was younger, I managed to get my hands on a leather-bound copy of Jeff Rovin’s ‘Encyclopedia of Super-Heroes,’ a totally priceless source of information on the history of superhumans ranging from the obvious (Superman) to the inexplicable (Fruitman) to the utterly ludicrous (Richard Pryor’s NSFW superhero identity from his 1983 stand-up album.)  The book contains an explanation/justification of what Rovin’s criteria for super-herodom was during the writing, but makes a point of excluding characters like Indiana Jones and James Bond, while including Tarzan, Conan The Barbarian and Doc Savage.  In my mind, the differences between Indiana Jones and Doc Savage (especially as regards their respective superheroic qualities) are very much subjective, and Buck Rogers (who was not covered) is more superhero than Luke Skywalker (who was.)

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) thinks that a light-saber has the potential to be as much a super-power as Batman’s bottomless checkbook, asking: Could Luke Skywalker and Indiana Jones count as superheroes?  Why/Why Not?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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  1. Dino
    November 9, 2012 at 12:00 pm — Reply

    Luke Skywalker, yes. All Jedi are superheroes (especially in the EU stuff, lol). Indiana Jones is more of a pulp hero, but if one considers the likes of Batman or Daredevil to be superheroes, he doesn’t seem that far off. Plus, he survived the wrath of God from the Ark of the Covenant, defeated the Thuggy Cult by channeling the power of Shiva, drank from the Holy Grail, and survived an atomic explosion. Seems pretty super to me.

  2. Jon
    November 9, 2012 at 12:19 pm — Reply

    A character can be Super, without being especially Heroic. So I’ll say that being a superhero means being exceptionally good at some skills/talents, and doing good even when not doing good would otherwise be an option.

    Indiana Jones is a great example. On the one hand, he’s just an archeologist. A very good archeologist as observed by the esteem and respect his colleagues (both friend and foe) pay him. Handy with a bull-whip (no easy task), good with a gun, and more athletic than the average fella. I think it’s fair to say that he is super at his job and posses some above average physical qualities.

    Though to be fair, his adventures are just a consequence of him doing his job. Nothing particularly heroic about looking for artifacts. However, there are times when it would clearly be easier for him to just pack up in the face of danger and ditch people in need. Which he doesn’t do, and in fact he often goes out of his way to help people in need. Or to prevent terrible acts from befalling others. Often at the risk of his own life. That quality of his actions seems heroic.

    You can even say he has some of the trappings of a superhero. A uniform and a dual identity (Dr. vs. Indiana).

    So yes, I do believe that Indiana Jones qualifies as a Superhero.

    Luke is easier. Clearly has superpowers. Puts others above himself, even and especially in the face of danger. Has that rustic, monk uniform. Luke = Superhero.

  3. Frank
    November 9, 2012 at 1:29 pm — Reply

    Regarding Luke, a good analogy for the Jedi would be the Green Lantern Corp. They all have a similar power set stemming from the same source. In that respect, I would consider Luke to be a superhero.

    Regarding Indy, that’s a little harder. He does have the ‘uniform’ and heroic actions, but his heroics always seem to be a reaction to what ever situation he is in rather that proactively trying to save the day.
    So, no.

  4. Shush
    November 9, 2012 at 1:38 pm — Reply

    Could be? Yes, yes they could be.

    It’s pretty straightforward with Luke Skywalker, so I’ll move onto the more hazy of the two hypotheticals examples: Indiana Jones.

    Given Jon’s lucid and well thought out opinion, I find myself agreeing. (But wait, there’s more!) However, I don’t consider him a superhero, myself, because of genre.

    Indiana Jones is a Pulp Hero, as pointed out before, and his world is that of Pulp Serials. Genre can be a sort of nebulous term, one of those things were you can’t always put definite dividing lines between the categories, but you can tell the differences when you see them. So saying, Indiana Jones’ status as a Pulp Hero rather than a Superhero has more to do with the stories and adventures told with him rather than his abilities themselves. Were he thrust into situations where it wouldn’t be reasonably feasible for a regular human type guy to survive, i.e. impossible situations, than his stories become Superhero stories and he would be a superhero. (I’ll admit, surviving a nuclear explosion by hopping into a refrigerator may be stretching credibility mighty thin, but the intent wasn’t for it to be superheroic.)

    So having said all that, the respectable Dr. Jones is not a superhero. Not currently. But he still -could be-. All he needs to be given is a Superhero Storyline to take part in.

  5. Oldcomicfan
    November 9, 2012 at 7:27 pm — Reply

    Tricky. Luke, with his Jedi powers, is obviously a super hero. All the Jedi are. Indiana Jones is pretty much a normal man. He’s no more a super hero than James Bond, John Steed or James West and Artemis Gordon. In fact, he’s a bit of an anti-hero by the light of today’s standards. His archeological explorations would run him afoul of modern “politicially correctness” advocates who insist that historical relics that have resided in museums for centuries were “looted” by their discoverers and must be returned to whatever midden heap they were found in. And Indy had a dark side. He, after all, did unmentionable things to an underage Marian Ravenwood, and, it’s strongly hinted at, he was prone to fooling around with some of his college students (although his misdeeds are conveniently ignored or forgotten in the later films). Bad Indy!

    • November 9, 2012 at 8:48 pm — Reply

      James Bond, John Steed and company all seem to have a lot in common with Batman?

  6. Ian
    November 9, 2012 at 7:31 pm — Reply

    I’ve spent unto;d hours poring over that wonderful book. Great for the old obscure heroes and defunct publishers.

  7. November 9, 2012 at 8:04 pm — Reply

    I’d say they both fall outside the confines of ‘superhero’. Since superheroes pull from pulp traditions there is a bit of a grey area, but I don’t think those two characters cross over.

    On a related note, did you know there is also a Rovin’s Guide to Supervillains?

    Use the Major Spoilers Amazon link if you decide to buy it!

    • November 9, 2012 at 8:42 pm — Reply

      And by “you,” he means “you”, Faithful Spoilerite, as “I” already own it…

  8. November 10, 2012 at 2:26 am — Reply

    I’ve never counted Luke as a superhero. When the powers of a Jedi are semi-common (closer to having a specific skill, like being able to play basketball well or being able to play a specific instrument, rather than something unique), then it takes away the “super” part. He’s a hero with superpowers, just not a superhero.

    On the other hand, Han is like the Batman of a galaxy far, far away. He has no power (unless you count his luck) and relies mostly on his skills and still manages to survive far more than any normal man would. He even manages to survive without Chewie, so it isn’t just the Wookiee that keeps him safe (although Chewie certainly is responsible for helping Han survive as long as he has).

  9. aerohalen1
    November 10, 2012 at 11:20 am — Reply

    Luke ,because of the force yes.Indiana Jones is in now way ,shape or form a superhero.

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