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  1. #16
    Amazing Member Adam Allen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Riv86672 View Post
    And the reason we have Superman is because of characters lke Tarzan - 1912, Zorro - 1919, Buck Rogers - 1929, The Shadow - 1930, Doc Savage - 1933, The Lone Ranger - 1933, Mandrake The Magician - 1934, The Green Hornet - 1936, The Phantom - 1936, and of course Philip Wylie‘s 1930 novel Gladiator.

    I don’t mind giving Superman his due, but let’s not pretend he doesn’t stand on the shoulders of those that came before.
    Yeah, he could beat up all of those guys, too.

    Also, for all that they of course moved to exist in other forms of media, and that there are other kinds of stories besides superheroes in comic books -- I think the primary medium being comics, and how crucial superheroes have been to comics -- is another important factor that distinguishes Superman from the ones who came before.
    Be kind to me, or treat me mean
    I'll make the most of it, I'm an extraordinary machine

  2. #17
    Extraordinary Member Revolutionary_Jack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Powerboy View Post
    If we just disqualify everyone who was around before the term existed, kind of pointless discussion.
    The reality is that it's because of Superman that we can even concieve or group all these examples that came before, that without Superman we wouldn't group or think of these characters the way we do now.

    Quote Originally Posted by Riv86672 View Post
    And the reason we have Superman is because of characters lke Tarzan - 1912, Zorro - 1919, Buck Rogers - 1929, The Shadow - 1930, Doc Savage - 1933, The Lone Ranger - 1933, Mandrake The Magician - 1934, The Green Hornet - 1936, The Phantom - 1936, and of course Philip Wylie‘s 1930 novel Gladiator.
    That's not really the debate though. The point is "who's the first superhero"?

    The fact that Superman and the superhero genre derives influences from a whole lot of sources is of course true, but a character and concept is more than its sources and inspirations, and there's a sense of Superman adding on to our understanding of these sources as much as he takes inspiration from them.

    Listing sources, inspirations, and influences is useful and educational, and if you want to promote an earlier neglected works then it's important but the superhero genre is more than the sum of their influences.

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Allen View Post
    Also, for all that they of course moved to exist in other forms of media, and that there are other kinds of stories besides superheroes in comic books -- I think the primary medium being comics, and how crucial superheroes have been to comics -- is another important factor that distinguishes Superman from the ones who came before.
    This is a magnificent point and argument but stuff like Phantom existed in comics before then. The Shadow was adapted into comics before then (in fact Bob Kane spliced Shadow comics and traced over panels for Batman).
    Last edited by Revolutionary_Jack; 01-24-2021 at 09:02 PM.

  3. #18
    Astonishing Member Riv86672's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Revolutionary_Jack View Post



    The fact that Superman and the superhero genre derives influences from a whole lot of sources is of course true, but a character and concept is more than its sources and inspirations, and there's a sense of Superman adding on to our understanding of these sources as much as he takes inspiration from them.
    ^^^ And yet you're saying things like this...:

    Quote Originally Posted by Revolutionary_Jack View Post
    [I]
    ...without Superman, would the concept of secret identity as people come to know it exist without Superman? The answer would have to be no.

    Superman created a genre of stories about a main character protecting or defending a city, wearing an iconic costume with his logo, while also living as a civilian in that same place. His stories have elements of romance, action, comedy...
    ...which is not true, as all these things existed prior to Superman, via the Characters i and other have cited.

    You go on to mention wide appeal over niche audiences, and that is REALLY not the debate.
    No ones denying Superman’s popularity or that he popularized the superhero concept.

    He just didn’t come first.

    His popularity doesn’t retroactively put him before the characters who came before and were already doing the same things Superman would go on to do.

  4. #19
    My Face Is Up Here Powerboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Revolutionary_Jack View Post
    The Shadpw is part of a pulp storytelling tradition, alongside Doc Savage, alongside Judex, also Sherlock Holmes, and other detective stories. These stories are heavy on crime and violence, but lack the warmth, wit, romance that is also there in Superman and is also central to the genre. In any case, nobody thought of The Shadow as a superhero until after Superman. So no dice.

    It doesn't really matter no matter what example you give. Defining a genre and concept isn't a race you can decide by slow motion replay and finding out who is a few inches closer to the finish line or not. It's about impact, influence, capturing the cultural zeitgeist, starting a movement. Take anything and squint at stuff with a microscope and you find everything has footnotes or strings attached to it and yet at the same time new genres and new concepts are created all the time.

    The reason we have an entire genre of storytelling is because of Superman, not The Shadow, not anything else. Superman led to Captain Marvel, led to Batman, led to Wonder Woman, and Captain America and so on and so forth. Would any one of them exist without Superman, would the concept of secret identity as people come to know it exist without Superman? The answer would have to be no.

    Superman created a genre of stories about a main character protecting or defending a city, wearing an iconic costume with his logo, while also living as a civilian in that same place. His stories have elements of romance, action, comedy, and are targeting a wide audience and not just a niche readership or niche public like the original audience of The Shadow stories and the radio show.
    But the problem is it was pointed out that there were previous characters that met every criteria you listed. So then you just expanded the requirements to make them even more Superman-centric. Now we have to have "warmth, wit, romance". You might as well say Heracles lasted thousands of years but he didn't start as a modern character in comic books as his original genre so he's disqualified regardless of his influence.

    Superman made a new medium, the comic book superhero. The question seems to be more than "Who caused the term, superhero, to come into existence?" It's more, who has been the most influential? To people alive right now, the guy who was only created 80 years ago, obviously. Overall, maybe the guy who has been influential for three thousand years? Or the guy who put together all the elements that define the super hero (Zorro or the Shadow).

    And, of course, nobody thought of the Shadow as a superhero before Superman because the term superhero didn't exist. They thought of him as a masked crime fighter with powers who had a secret identity- which seems to disqualify him for you because the term didn't exist yet but nobody is saying Superman didn't cause the term to come into existence.
    Power with Girl is better.

  5. #20
    Astonishing Member Zelena's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Powerboy View Post
    And, of course, nobody thought of the Shadow as a superhero before Superman because the term superhero didn't exist. They thought of him as a masked crime fighter with powers who had a secret identity- which seems to disqualify him for you because the term didn't exist yet but nobody is saying Superman didn't cause the term to come into existence.
    What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
    By any other name would smell as sweet;
    I would say a “super-hero” is a hero with super-powers.

    I unterstand why Superman is often quoted but I consider that it’s like the difference between ancient and modern Olympic Games… Superman is the obvious choice for a narrow definition of super-hero. For a broad definition… I choose Hercules which is still around through modern fictions. He is even in Marvel. Note that, in ancient times, heroes weren’t necessarily good people, they did extraordinary things.

  6. #21
    Extraordinary Member Revolutionary_Jack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Riv86672 View Post
    ...which is not true, as all these things existed prior to Superman, via the Characters i and other have cited.
    Existing before Superman isn't the same as defining the common understanding of the trope. When people talk about "Secret Identity" they mean superheroes. It's an instant connection. And Clark Kent/Superman is the classic secret identity. The entire concept of a villain being the hero's father as in Star Wars is old and has a lot of mythic stuff behind it. But Lucas defined that concept so viscerally and definitively that everyone associates it with Star Wars, that's because Lucas with his really big megaphone, big platform, and big audience defined that classic trope in a bigger public than existed for any earlier myth.

    You go on to mention wide appeal over niche audiences, and that is REALLY not the debate.
    No ones denying Superman’s popularity or that he popularized the superhero concept.

    He just didn’t come first.
    He doesn't have to do it first. He just has to do it the most. And he did. Superman defined and created the superhero genre virtually overnight. Whereas no genres were created overnight by Zorro or others.

    His popularity doesn’t retroactively put him before the characters who came before and were already doing the same things Superman would go on to do.
    His popularity does in fact do that, because directly as a result of Superman you had Captain Marvel (who in a few years became more popular and successful than Superman), you had Batman, you had Wonder Woman and an entire comics industry decided to shift focus and create superheroes.

    There's a direct link, a smoking gun if you will. Without the instantaneous success of Superman after Action Comics #1, would the creation and development of Batman, Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel among others have fallen suit? The answer is no. A genre isn't a race. You can't say someone is the first just because they pre-existed something and then offer slow motion replay as evidence.

    Quote Originally Posted by Powerboy View Post
    You might as well say Heracles lasted thousands of years but he didn't start as a modern character in comic books as his original genre so he's disqualified regardless of his influence.
    He's disqualifed for a lot of other reasons. The concept of the "hero" is obviously old and ancient. In fact there are probably heroes who pre-existed the myths that we know about but are forgotten because nobody put it to writing. The idea of the hero is ancient and old, so on that level yes Heracles, Thor, and Robin Hood and other folklore and mythological figures do anticipate the superhero. But again, it's just not the same thing as the modern superhero genre in several essential ways.

    I read Norse Myth original sources in the Eddas and I read Marvel's Mighty Thor and believe me reading the two side-by-side clarifies differences and no similarities. You can't imagine a story like "The God Butcher" in the ancient myths, just as Thor tossing dwarfs into a funeral pyre for Lulz would not be in keeping with Marvel Thor.

    There's an entire distance of culture, values, attitudes between the ancient world and the modern society, and people need to respect that.

  7. #22
    Astonishing Member Riv86672's Avatar
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    So Superman comes first because of popularity?
    Yeeeeaaaaahhhh ... we’re not gonna see eye to eye on this, as we view time in different ways.

    Agree to disagree. Done here.

  8. #23
    Boisterously Confused
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Kelly View Post
    It's Superman because Superman popularized the term super-hero for action heroes. He was super, after all, and a hero. Retroactively you can say that all these other action heroes that came before Superman were super-heroes, but they weren't called that at the time. Superman begins the convention of using super-hero to mean such characters.
    The term superhero didn't get applied to the genre (which at the time wasn't really a genre) until it had been around a few years. Reading the early DC titles, they typically referred to the characters as "mystery men" until sometime in the early-mid 1940s. In its infancy, the characters and situations that became superheroes were more like an illustrated sub-genre of the existing pulp genre.

  9. #24
    Astonishing Member babyblob's Avatar
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    Superman was indeed the most popular and the most ground breaking. He was the first superhero? maybe but only because the term did not exist yet. There were many others who had secret identities, fought crime and had powers before Superman. Even if those people did not have powers they were still superheroes. there are many heroes today that do not have powers but are still called heroes.

    Saying Superman is the first and discounting everyone else who came before just because the term superhero did not exist is a bit goofy in my view. Would the comic book industry exist if not for Superman? Most likely not. Does that make him first? No. Just makes him the most popular. Saying a group of people did not exist because the popular term was not there at the time they existed is not true.

    Science fiction was defined by Star Wars. That does not mean it did not exist before Star Was. Jini Hendrix was a defining guitar player but that does not mean there were non before him.

    Just a side note. The term Superhero did not even start with Superman. At least if Mike Benton who in a 1992 book called "Superhero comics of the golden age The Illustrated History" said the term superhero was used as early as 1917 to describe a public figure of great talents or accomplishments,
    Last edited by babyblob; 01-25-2021 at 09:29 AM.
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  10. #25
    Ultimate Member Kirby101's Avatar
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    Since the term "superhero" dates the 1917, Superman could not be the first superhero. As the word was coined to describe characters that already existed decades before him. As to the first, that can't be definitive and only arrived at by consensus. I suspect it will be as agreed on as much as the first Bronze Age comic book.
    There came a time when the Old Gods died! The Brave died with the Cunning! The Noble perished locked in battle with unleashed Evil! It was the last day for them! An ancient era was passing in fiery holocaust!

  11. #26
    Astonishing Member babyblob's Avatar
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    Even if we dont use the 1917 example. The term Superhero was used in the August 1937 issue of the pulp magazine Thrilling Wonder Stories in the letters page to describe the character of the book Zarnak by Max Plaisted. Two years before Superman. So no Superman was not the first. Just the first popular one.
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  12. #27
    Ultimate Member Kirby101's Avatar
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    The fact that it was in the letter pages shows it was a known term to fantasy readers.
    There came a time when the Old Gods died! The Brave died with the Cunning! The Noble perished locked in battle with unleashed Evil! It was the last day for them! An ancient era was passing in fiery holocaust!

  13. #28
    Ultimate Member Kirby101's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Revolutionary_Jack View Post
    All the things that came to define the superhero genre:
    -- Civilian Secret Identity
    -- Vigilante crime-fighting
    -- City setting
    -- Superpowers
    -- Crimefighting
    -- Flashy iconic costumes with logos and so on.
    So Batman is not a superhero, no superpowers. The Fantastic Four are not superheroes, no secret identity. Adam and Dr Strange were not superheroes, no secret identity or crime fighting. And on and on.
    There came a time when the Old Gods died! The Brave died with the Cunning! The Noble perished locked in battle with unleashed Evil! It was the last day for them! An ancient era was passing in fiery holocaust!

  14. #29
    Spectacular Member CaptainEurope's Avatar
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    Were Max and Moritz the first super villains, though?

  15. #30
    Astonishing Member babyblob's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kirby101 View Post
    So Batman is not a superhero, no superpowers. The Fantastic Four are not superheroes, no secret identity. Adam and Dr Strange were not superheroes, no secret identity or crime fighting. And on and on.
    And dont forget Peter Parker during the Civil War Mini. he no longer had a secret Identity. The Question has no powers so he/her are not superheroes either. There is a whole list we could do of superheroes who do not meet these definitions. What about Swamp Thing? or Namor? Groot?
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