Despite this description there are quite a few "Super Heroes" without "super" powers. There are definately more than the 22 included in the ComicVine link (21 if you remove Captain America), as Hawkman and the first Atom are not mentioned. Who was the first costumed, crime-fighting Super Hero without super powers to appear in the 20th century in either the comics or newspaper funnies?

I'm looking for the first over-the-top Good Samaritan to appear in graphic form in the 20th century. A hero that is a regular person when they aren't saving the world... And yes, gadget users are included.

  • 7
    Question is too vague. Define super-hero. Are we talking about costumed adventures who predate the "4 color heroes" by a decade? Are we talking about the "mystery men" or "golden age" heroes? Would this include the mega-violent (for the time) heroes like the Shadow, the Black Bat or the Phantom? How about the science heroes like Doc Savage and the Fabulous Five? More definition is required. Jul 6, 2012 at 19:07
  • Let me rephrase the post. Jul 6, 2012 at 19:11
  • And looking at the ComicVine listing, some of those people don't count because they use technology to give themselves superpowers. Iron Man, War Machine? They are the epitome of super-powered heroes. They define an entire class called "Gadget Heroes" or "Armored Heroes" so we definitely need a clear definition of "heroes without powers." Jul 6, 2012 at 19:12
  • I suggest that "without powers" refer to heroes who a typical person could stand a chance against in a fight but for the heroes martial talents and skills. If the hero has a gun, this is fair because we can assume the opponent to have one too, but they can't have a powered armor suit because the typical person can't have one of those. Batman is still very borderline in this regard, but generally fights with things that most people could have in theory.
    – John O
    Jul 6, 2012 at 19:24
  • Gadgets users are included. I'm looking for a hero that is a regular person when they aren't saving the world. Jul 6, 2012 at 19:28

1 Answer 1


The Phantom was the first non-superpowered costumed adventurer to appear as a comic serial in 1936.

The Phantom had no superhuman abilities. He relied on his strength, stamina and legendary abilities as a immortal ghost to subdue his enemies. He was the first hero to adopt the colorful outfit commonly seen on superheroes today, including his domino facial mask with no pupils.

First Phantom, colored Sunday appearance in 1939.

The series began with a daily newspaper strip on February 17, 1936, followed by a color Sunday strip on May 28, 1939; both are still running as of 2012. At the peak of its popularity, the strip was read by over 100 million people each day.

The Phantom on Wikipedia

  • The Phantom has occasionally been portrayed with ESP and low-level superhuman strength and agility. Jul 6, 2012 at 21:00
  • 3
    In the limited edition animated series, "Defenders of the Earth" he does possess limited, short-term superhuman abilities, but in the mainstream canon work, he does not. Jul 6, 2012 at 21:14

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