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  1. #1
    Boisterously Confused
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    Default the first superhero was...?

    It's debatable.

    Superman?
    Doc Savage?
    Zorro?
    The Scarlet Pimpernel?
    El Cid?
    Siegfried?
    Sir Lancelot?
    Herakles?
    Gilgamesh?
    Samson?
    Who was the first superhero?

  2. #2
    Extraordinary Member Revolutionary_Jack's Avatar
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    Superman is the first superhero.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Revolutionary_Jack View Post
    Superman is the first superhero.
    Because?...

  4. #4
    Extraordinary Member Jackalope89's Avatar
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    Probably go Hercules/Herakles on this. The mythos on him has been around for millenia, and some of it has served as the basis for future heroes.

  5. #5
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    I thought it was The Phantom

  6. #6
    Old school comic book fan WestPhillyPunisher's Avatar
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    I suppose it could be argued that Hercules was the first superhero, thanks to the cred he got from the Twelve Labors.
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  7. #7
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    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.
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  8. #8
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    The Clock.

  9. #9
    Astonishing Member Riv86672's Avatar
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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.
    Basically yeah.
    He was first in that he was the character that coined and almost universally defines the term, but he wasn’t first in that there were heroes before him who fall under that term.

    I’ve seen ppl stubbornly refuse to acknowledge that distinction though. And, I won’t argue w. them.

  10. #10
    Extraordinary Member Revolutionary_Jack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrNewGod View Post
    Because?...
    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.

    All of that comes together with Superman in one package to the extent that it doesn't do so with the example you cite.

    Before Superman, nobody thought of Hercules or Zorro or any other character you cited as a superhero. It's because of Superman and all that came after Superman, that retroactively people are trying to make a case by going "Um...actually" the genre begins with this or that. People thought of Hercules as a mythological figure. Zorro was seen as a swashbuckling adventure hero in the mould of Robin Hood, The Three Musketeers, The Prisoner of Zenda.

    If you squint you can say Herakles is like Superman or <insert mythical hero> is like a superhero but no mythical hero had anything like a civilian secret identity nor were they associated or identified with a single costume or design that they had to sport to do their thing. Neither Hercules nor Siegfried is associated with a single city like Superman is with Metropolis. Nor can it be said that Herakles and others fought crime or were mainly about crime fighting.

    So yeah, Superman is the first superhero. He's the first character that made people realize that there's a thing called superhero (and the title of superhero shares a prefix with Clark Kent).

  11. #11
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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.

    All of that comes together with Superman in one package to the extent that it doesn't do so with the example you cite.

    Before Superman, nobody thought of Hercules or Zorro or any other character you cited as a superhero. It's because of Superman and all that came after Superman, that retroactively people are trying to make a case by going "Um...actually" the genre begins with this or that. People thought of Hercules as a mythological figure. Zorro was seen as a swashbuckling adventure hero in the mould of Robin Hood, The Three Musketeers, The Prisoner of Zenda.

    If you squint you can say Herakles is like Superman or <insert mythical hero> is like a superhero but no mythical hero had anything like a civilian secret identity nor were they associated or identified with a single costume or design that they had to sport to do their thing. Neither Hercules nor Siegfried is associated with a single city like Superman is with Metropolis. Nor can it be said that Herakles and others fought crime or were mainly about crime fighting.

    So yeah, Superman is the first superhero. He's the first character that made people realize that there's a thing called superhero (and the title of superhero shares a prefix with Clark Kent).
    The Shadow did all of that. They just made the powers ambiguous.

  12. #12
    Extraordinary Member Revolutionary_Jack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrNewGod View Post
    The Shadow did all of that.
    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.

  13. #13
    My Face Is Up Here Powerboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrNewGod View Post
    It's debatable.

    Superman?
    Doc Savage?
    Zorro?
    The Scarlet Pimpernel?
    El Cid?
    Siegfried?
    Sir Lancelot?
    Herakles?
    Gilgamesh?
    Samson?


    Who was the first superhero?
    If you mean the first to actually be called a super hero, obviously, Superman.

    The Shadow meets all of the requirements. Secret identities. Costume of sorts. Powers.

    Zorro meets all the requirements except powers but then you'd have to say Batman doesn't count as a super hero.

    If we just disqualify everyone who was around before the term existed, kind of pointless discussion.

    Gilgamesh is the furthest back, I think.

    Do we just mean "a hero with powers"?

    Do we just list Superman's qualities and say that's the superhero requirement list? Well, then, Superman wins.
    Power with Girl is better.

  14. #14
    Astonishing Member Riv86672's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Revolutionary_Jack View Post
    [I]
    The reason we have an entire genre of storytelling is because of Superman
    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.

  15. #15
    Amazing Member Adam Allen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrNewGod View Post
    It's debatable.

    Superman?
    Doc Savage?
    Zorro?
    The Scarlet Pimpernel?
    El Cid?
    Siegfried?
    Sir Lancelot?
    Herakles?
    Gilgamesh?
    Samson?
    Who was the first superhero?
    Superman. Because he can beat up the rest of them. But would choose not to, because he's a hero. A superhero. The first! :P
    Be kind to me, or treat me mean
    I'll make the most of it, I'm an extraordinary machine

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