There are superheroes who have super strength, some who get their powers from bug bites, others who use a chemical enhancement, and some who use a special totem.  Some heroes have great costumes, and others go for lots of skin, and some go for both at the same time.  There are a variety of bits and pieces that make a hero, but what attracts you to read them or sympathize with them?


What makes a good superhero?

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The Author

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment.

You can follow him on Twitter @MajorSpoilers and tell him your darkest secrets...

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  1. ArcticPhoenix
    November 13, 2012 at 12:52 pm — Reply

    I went for their Current Circumstances because, although the look of a superhero and their personality is important, its all about the story for me. A superman set in the middle of the ocean with him fighting squids would not be as interesting as a superman story in the middle of the ocean fighting squids… with lasers on their head!

    • dantemarx
      November 13, 2012 at 3:43 pm — Reply

      Yup, I concur. Powers are swell, but some superheroes have absurd powers and make them work. Likewise, some characters have awesome powers and would never make a good superhero. Same thing with intelligence. Looks and gender go hand in hand – a good superhero can lack either of them and still be a superhero. I can definitely see back story and beliefs as key to being a superhero, but without circumstances requiring heroic behavior, there is no hero.

  2. November 13, 2012 at 1:07 pm — Reply

    I’m currently in a phase of reading a bucnh of old back issues so it’s now backstory to the current circumstances, and I’m finding most of it fascinating.

  3. Cat Halo
    November 13, 2012 at 1:08 pm — Reply

    Powers. While the other aspects are important, ultimately it’s Powers.
    It doesn’t matter how cool the costume is, who their friends are, or what shenanigans they’re caught up in, if they’re super power is acidic dandruff!!

  4. Oldcomicfan
    November 13, 2012 at 1:29 pm — Reply

    I’m giving this one a pass, because it’s none of the above. For me, it’s the quality of the story and the quality of the art. I’ll enjoy a good superhero story even it its about Radioactive Pill Bug Man – but if the story is dreadful or the art is by Steve Ditko or otherwise awful, I will give it a pass. All the rest of the stuff on your list either falls under art or story.

  5. November 13, 2012 at 1:38 pm — Reply

    None! The answer is good writing. The Legion if Backup Heroes have AWFUL powers (and as far as I know, little to no back story) but they have still had some top notch stories written about them.

  6. Gary
    November 13, 2012 at 2:17 pm — Reply

    Back story/motivation – it’s why they constantly retell origins. It drives everything else.

  7. SmarkingOut Adam
    November 13, 2012 at 2:48 pm — Reply

    I vote for the character’s sense of humor. I picked that one because…oh. You didn’t give me that option. Jerk.

  8. November 13, 2012 at 3:01 pm — Reply

    I wasn’t happy with the choices because there really are too many factors, from the quality of the story to what kind of world it takes place in and so on.

    But of the choices, I choose Allegiance/Beliefs because that is something I find interesting about a superhero. Good and Evil aren’t always so black and white, and how a hero justifies the actions they take is just as interesting as the actions themselves. A character who is a smalltime criminal isn’t always an evil mastermind, and someone who saves the lives of others may not be doing it for selfless reasons.

    At the same time, I’m always interested in seeing the differences of heroes belief systems in terms of those that come from other places. Look at all the various races that are represented by the Green Lantern Corps and think about how very different they are from each other. What might be taboo or considered evil on Earth might be something of honor on another world.

  9. GeorgeDubya
    November 13, 2012 at 3:02 pm — Reply

    I went with Allegiance/Beliefs here. I’m not saying that the character has to believe a certain thing or be connected to specific people, but a character has to have a set of beliefs and connections to people (or a plausible reason to not have connections).

    The way a character views the world and connects to the people in it are very important to me. Understanding where a character is coming from and why they’re doing the things they’re doing are directly connected to their beliefs.

    To quote Shepherd Book in Serenity – “I don’t care what you believe in, just believe in it.”

  10. Law
    November 13, 2012 at 3:28 pm — Reply

    Two poeple posted how I feel. None of the choices are good. Writer and storylines make a good hero COMIC. In the comic world I would have to say abilities.

  11. CB Robinson
    November 13, 2012 at 4:24 pm — Reply

    The thing that makes every hero interesting is their weaknesses. Sometimes their weaknesses stem from their powers, sometimes their beliefs, sometimes even their back story is the root of their weaknesses. But for me its always the struggles that are created by their vulnerabilities that make them worth reading about.

  12. Ricco
    November 13, 2012 at 4:43 pm — Reply

    Backstory all the way, would Superman be so big if he wasn’t the ultimate immigrant? Would anyone care for the capes crusader if he was just a spoiled billionaire looking for a thrill by beating up villains?

    Even a guy like Captain America which some would say is great because of his believes, I would say the fact that he was a weakling that became a hero is more important. he literally embodies the American dream, born to rags and weak to be come a hero through efforts alone (and illegal drugs, but lets not dwell in details)

  13. November 13, 2012 at 9:34 pm — Reply

    I voted “Allegiance/Beliefs” because it’s who they are, their personality, that really makes them who or what they are.

    Peter Parker could lose his ability to climb walls and he would still believe “with great power comes great responsibility.” The Doctor could lose the TARDIS and his sonic screwdriver, and he would still outwit the Master and do his best to protect the children of the world. Batman doesn’t even have powers; Bruce Wayne could lose his entire fortune and he would still have the belief that no child should lose his or her parents the way he did and he would see to that with whatever he had access to.

    It’s not their powers, it’s what they choose to do with them.

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