Do you have to have superpowers to be a superhero?
A soldier feels the grains of sand biting into his skin as he looks for the target he sent for. Suddenly, the soldier feels the pain of a bullet tearing into the flesh of his leg as he collapses onto the ground. As the soldier look around wildly, expecting the next shot to be the one that takes him away from this earth, he hears the shout of the words “corpsman” from the all too familiar voice of his squad leader. The captain comes running up to him, sweaty, exhausted and with his full combat gear on. The captain yells at him “Stand up Marine!” as the soldier quickly tells the captain he can’t because he was shot in the leg. He gives the soldier a shrug and says “Can you still shoot?” Before he can answer the captain’s question he slings the soldier across his back as he says “Don’t let me down soldier. No Marine is ever left behind.” As the captain runs across the battlefield, the soldier glances at him, in awe at how he’s able to run with another man on his back, especially with full combat gear on. The soldier can’t help but look at him and think as he takes him back to safety, ‘This man is a superhero.’
The real question to ask first is what is a superhero? By the Merriam-Webster definition a superhero is “a fictional hero having extraordinary or superhuman powers.” However just because the definition states that the hero is fictional doesn’t mean we don‘t have real superheroes in life, here. Most importantly the definition says the “hero has extraordinary or superhuman power.” The use of the word “or” creates the situation of saying that this superhero does not have to have superhuman powers, they can just have extraordinary powers. This would mean that a superhero could be the soldier overseas who carried his injured compatriot out of a war zone on his back under heavy fire because he had the extraordinary power and strength to carry his wounded comrade out of battle with full combat gear on and managed to not get hit by enemy fire. From a fictional point of view this would make Iron Man a superhero because even though he has no superhuman abilities he has an extraordinary technological and analytical mind which allowed him to build the Iron Man suits and use them for the good of the people.
Now rather than focus on the physical traits of superheroes the next step is to look at what else makes them a superhero other than the physical. The most common theme time and time again especially in superhero movies is that the main character has a defining moment that makes them want to help the people. From popular superhero culture an example could be Batman. The defining moment in his life that made him want to be a superhero was after witnessing the murder of his parents as a child, he swore revenge on criminals. This defining moment is what makes him the hero he is in the beginning, but then of course there are many other moments in his life as a superhero that changes what defines him as a superhero.
Because a stereotypical superhero possesses power like the ability to fly, some people believe that these powers make a superhero For example, many people would say that Superman is a superhero because of his many powers such as flight, super-strength, and super speed to name a few. And yes this is exactly what a superhero is “a fictional hero having extraordinary or superhuman powers” by definition. Yet, having superpowers doesn’t mean you are a superhero, being a superhero is all about the way the person uses their powers. For example, if a person has an incredible ability such as an amazingly high intelligence and they choose to use it to commit a crime such as pulling off a heist, this transforms this person’s incredibly high intelligence. This person who could be considered a superhero totally changes into an average person with an above average intelligence since the use of their superpower is not heroic.
As the soldier lays on a cot in the infirmary he can’t help but reflect back to his rescue and the superhuman abilities the captain seemed to exert. After all the captain could have left his soldier for dead there, but he did what any commanding officer should do and followed the mantra every Marine knows, “No Marine left behind” part of which states that “Marines will intentionally risk their own safety to aid wounded comrades…” and that is exactly what the captain did. His brave, heroic actions made him a hero, but he went above and beyond carrying another man completely out of battle exerting a superhuman amount of strength, proving that even though he didn’t have any powers he was still a superhero.