This is a re-thinking of a question about superheros that has been closed because it would be considered a list question. After going over what I wanted to find out and the subject matter with a moderator, here is a different question:

I don't want examples of every single superhero, but from what I've seen in comics, there seem to be a number of repeated tropes for the creation of a superhero:

  • Scientific accident that creates superpowers (Spiderman, Fantastic Four)
  • Driven by guilt or revenge (Batman)
  • Born with it (Superman, Wonder Woman)
  • Chosen by another person or force (Green Lantern)

And I found one that doesn't seem nearly as common, and that's someone that develops their skills or powers entirely out of free will and makes a choice, without being driven by guilt or revenge, to be a hero or superhero and help others. (In my experience the only one I knew of before discussing it here was the Green Arrow, but I've since been told in a newer version, he does it out of rebellion.)

Are there other tropes we see repeated in the creation of superheros? It looks like most superheros did not choose to be that way, but became that way through something other than their own choosing. Is that right?

(I'm not looking for how every single superhero is created, more just information on the tropes we see repeated over and over in comics of superhero creation. And I'm not looking for a "one trope per answer" situation. I'm trying to understand the archetypes involved in creating superheros, but it seems there's almost no way to ask about this without getting a lot of one item answers.)

closed as too broad by user20155, Jason Baker, Stan, Null, The Fallen May 28 '15 at 2:29

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    The point, though, is that this will have all the pathologies of other list-making questions. – dmckee Jan 25 '12 at 2:12
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    @dmckee: Well, all I can say is I'm doing as one of the mods suggested. The issue (as I understand it) with list questions is they can go on and on, with each answer adding another item on the list. In this case, I'm talking about only the more common origins and that's something that can be well covered with a short list that does not need to be open ended. – Tango Jan 25 '12 at 2:22
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    I'm used to being ignored on this issue. I'm also used to people coming around at least a little over time. The problem with list questions is that they break the question and answer model and they breed. They're popular, so they get votes, so people ask more of them. Soon enough the "highest voted" sorting dominated by them. People start asking "common foo with restriction bar" questions and those get a lot of votes. – dmckee Jan 25 '12 at 2:27
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    Personally I think you're on the wrong track--discounting the emotional basis that might give someone the motivation to do extraordinary things as not being "by choice"--but I don't see how you could ask it. If it these accomplishments were accessible by ordinary means they wouldn't be "super". – dmckee Jan 25 '12 at 2:41
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    Asking for "more common" makes it list fodder. Another way would be to ask if there is a single prevailing template which they all invariably follow. That would not be a list, it's asking for a definition of a superhero origin, which can be loosely applied to others. – Eight Days of Malaise Jan 25 '12 at 3:04

The big one I've noted in the past is "The father must die so that the son can come into his own". Here's a quick list of superheroes whose fathers, foster or otherwise, die and thus play a role in propelling the hero towards his destiny:

  1. Luke Skywalker (Uncle Owen, in particular because he's holding Luke back)
  2. Batman (duh)
  3. Superman (in some adaptations, Pa Kent)
  4. Spiderman (Uncle Ben)
  5. Hamlet (!)
  6. Harry Potter

TVTropes has a related one Deceased Parents Are Best. This trope of the father dying to free the son is just one of the aspects of what was referred to by Joseph Campbell as the Monomyth - the idea that all of these stories are really the same story told over and over again with just our different cultural flairs added to the mix. George Lucas was really big on this.

  • How'd a useless idiot like Hamlet end up in a list of superheroes? – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 25 '12 at 3:42
  • Also, Luke Skywalker's father died as well. *duck and cover* – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 25 '12 at 3:42
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    So did his father-mentors Obi-Wan and Yoda. Luke was sure hard on Father Figures. – Oldcat May 27 '15 at 20:36

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