If I were to name a few Superheroes or Villains, I could end up with a really interesting mixture:

Superman, Batman, The Flash, The Joker, Bane, Cpt. Cold, Vibe, Wonder Woman, Spider Man, Green Arrow, Deadpool, Firestorm, Black Widow, Cpt. America, Iron Man, Ant-Man, Nightwing, Domino, Green Goblin, Sandman... and so many others.

The thing is, while Superman (who isn't anything special if compared to his kin), Flash or Captain America are supernatural — as in, they have abilities beyond human capability (superspeed and durability as examples) — others, simply put, have weapons.

Captain Cold, Iron Man, Green Goblin, The Joker, Batman and Green Arrow have no special powers, other than advanced technology, extreme training and being good strategists. While both training and strategy is what makes them special, anyone can do the same and obtain similar results. In fact, if you simply go back in time to the middle ages, and carry a grenade launcher and a machine gun, you would be a superhero in that time period, just the same as Iron Man is for 2016.

I could picture this

Interviewer: What's your superpower?

Donald Trump: Money

Hence this question: is there any in-universe and out-universe explanations why 'guys with good gear' are considered Superheroes / Supervillains?

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    Related discussion, possible dupe: Are there criteria for being a super hero and does Batman meet them?
    – phantom42
    Commented Jan 31, 2016 at 21:25
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    Also, of note: many of the "superheroes" that aren't supernatural - the general public has no idea of the origins of their abilities or even the extents of their abilities. There was a Batman: The Animated Series episode where multiple people retold a single encounter with Batman, and each one thought they were seeing supernatural powers that were really just his gadgets.
    – phantom42
    Commented Jan 31, 2016 at 21:28
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    Captain America is normally described as being a human being at peak capacity (thanks to the super-soldier serum), rather than having power beyond human capability. And I think the Green Goblin in most incarnations has a serum that does give him superhuman strength. Commented Jan 31, 2016 at 21:50
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    To paraphrase Dumbledore, it is not our abilities that determine who we are, it is our choices. So you're a superhero if you do heroic things.
    – RedCaio
    Commented Jan 31, 2016 at 21:50
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    Save a life once and you'll be a hero, save the world several times and you'll be a superhero
    – Bardo
    Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 12:41

1 Answer 1



extremely good


a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities

a person who is greatly admired

the chief male character in a story, play, movie, etc.

Now here comes the potato:


a fictional character who has amazing powers (such as the ability to fly)

a very heroic person

Althought the definitions are very clear, the dates (especially superhero's definition origin) of their origins are kind of unclear.

According to merriam-webster.com, the first usage of "superhero" word dates back to 1917. But, of course, in folkloric tales (not in comic sense) similar types of characters such as Robin Hood (15th century) were known with their heroic acts. But he didn't have a superpower. He was good at shooting arrows (and he was handsome AFAIR).

But if we need to work on an example, I can point Tony Stark as a man without superpowers who is considered a superhero. When Captain America states that when they take his suit of armour and what is left is just but a man, Tony says:

"A Genius. Billionaire. Playboy. Philanthropist." -Tony Stark.

It is his characteristic behaviour that makes him a superhero. Like Batman in DC. You can see the list of superheroes and supervillains without powers here.

You don't have to have powers to be a superhero (or supervillain).

  • 4
    "You don't have to have powers to be a superhero (or supervillain)." We know that is you Syndrome
    – user001
    Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 9:46
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    @user001 Who's super now?
    – burcu
    Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 9:54
  • While people like Tony Stark and Syndrome (and Batman, and many others) may not have physical superpowers, their intellect is such that it could be considered "super" given what they end up using it for.
    – JAB
    Commented Feb 28, 2018 at 21:22

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