Super Hero Tropes?

What are some super hero tropes or super hero fiction tropes you have come across?

I’ve noticed that in super hero fiction characters often have powers that reflect their personalities, or personalities that reflect their powers - for example, a character with ice manipulation is cold or calm or controlled; a character who can shape shift into other people is evasive, mischievous, cunning, and is usually a villain or anti-hero (Loki, Mystique); a character with fire manipulation is usually hot-headed and impulsive, and again, an anti-hero or villain.

Also, a lot of super heroes tend to have super strength and/ or an enhanced condition (super endurance, super agility, etc.) i.e. Spider Man, Captain America, Thor, the Hulk and Superman while villains have more varied super powers. In fact, a lot of super villains seem to have either cosmic or magical powers (Galactus, Darkseid, Loki), a highly versatile power or a power that can cause a lot of damage (Mystique, Magneto, the Juggernaut) or else no powers but are highly intelligent (Lex Luthor).

Likewise, women who have super powers generally have less ‘active’ or ‘destructive’ powers than male super heroes, and are more likely to have nature, animal, or psionic powers.

Does anyone have anything else? (Also, correct me if I’m wrong about any of these things, I’m not a hardcore Marvel or DC fan, so I don’t know everything :))


Gotta make a rebuttal here. The new Captain Marvel is certainly in the super strength/enhanced condition category.

I’m so happy that this happened, point for female super heros.

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I haven’t seen the female Captain Marvel yet the reboot seems to be along the same lines and the 6 million dollar woman–make a successful movie or show with a male character, then reboot it with a women making very few changes to the show. It also changing the color of a product to pink, charging more for it, and marketing it to women. So the male product is supposedly for everyone, even though it’s designed for men, then the female product comes out with only cosmetic changes. It still was designed for men.
I see this something going on with the entire superhero idea. The first superheros were male and designed by and for males. Then to mix things up female superheros were added and more female readers and writers brought in, but the underlying idea of super hero remains male. This can be fun for flipping the idea in a subversive way. I’m not sure that Captain Marvel does this. It might be the equivalent of power drill made in pink plastic but which is just as unnecessarily loud and heavy as the unmarked male version.


TRUTH. It’s so aggravating. I want original female superheroes :triumph: Original female heroes that aren’t all sexed up and have personalities and aren’t just strong because “they don’t need no man” or can thrash people around. They’re strong because because of their personality and the choices they make


You have a fair point - its a very complex world of marketing we live in. Especially when we start talking about superheros which have been tirelessly revamped and are always searching for new angles.

That being said, I thoroughly appreciate the addition of Marvel.

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Oh, I say this because of this website
It analyses super powers of male and female super heroes and charts them, with one of the conclusions being that females have less active powers than men.


I kind of think such a story would no longer be a superhero story. The idea that a person is strong because they are super good at fighting, is a male type idea. Males of nearly all species gain status by fighting. Think of elk sparing or rams butting heads. It’s a way of determining who is stronger and who can father the next generation. Females don’t usually gain status the same way. Putting horns on an ewes head and having her butt heads with the silly rams is well, kind of silly. It doesn’t show that she’s stronger or more deserving of producing children. I hope I didn’t offend anyone, but if we are to have stories that celebrate being a woman they should come genuinely out of women’s desires and experience, not a male fantasy modified to fit. That’s why I stay away from the whole super hero thing, books, movies, and comic books. But maybe this cutting down of male fantasies to fit women is a thing we need to go through as a society.


I think such a story in the super hero genre is possible, but it’s whether or not it would be popular is the thing. What’s popular now is women kicking ass for the sole reason they are a woman (not because they fought/earned their way there), female remakes of male characters (just as you said), and/or women being sex objects. Since these things are popular and ‘working’, not a lot of writers will push for the creation of these types of characters since they would be a risk to create.

Just as male characters can have motivations, powers, and backstories, women characters can, too.

But why not? I think it would be a cool story to have a super heroine (or maybe even villain) rise through the ranks and gain respect like this, but of course, through an actual journey and not just because she’s a woman

I agree with this. Some women desire to be fighters and leaders. Others may want a more calm, domestic life. Either is fine as long as it’s the life she wants to pursue, not what was forced upon her

And if you’re worried about me being offended, don’t be. I’m not offended at all :slightly_smiling_face:


I see no mention of Wonder Woman and, her being my favorite superhero–and the only superhero movie I can seem to happily watch, I feel the need to mention her name. Her powers could certainly be destructive if she wanted them to be.


that is beautiful data, thanks for sharing! I guess I’m hopeful that the tides can turn…

Jean Gray / Phoenix also crossed my mind for this discussion. Interesting example as she has HUGE powers, but difficulty establishing control over them

My own perspective of my femininity makes it difficult - I’m cis and hetero - but have never felt well aligned to the feminine expectation. I’ve spent lots of time in competitive athletics and my professional life in male dominated fields and found I enjoyed some of the traditionally male aspects. I think this is part of why I enjoy badass female superheros that might be descended from male expectations.

(not trying to be offensive or butt heads, just trying to explore)

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I have felt the same way. I’ve also engaged in competitive athletics. I suppose that’s part of why I see that women do things differently. You can take a character, make them female, put them in the same competition and expect them to do as well as the males for whom the sport was designed. I competed in Nordic skiing. A small sport I know but I’ve done it on and off since I was 5 years old. Women on average do not have the VO2Max that men have. So no matter what a woman does she’s not going to be in the lead when both men and women are in the competition, but she might be faster than most men. You do this by focusing on technique and training. Making a character kickass by giving her the muscles and lung capacity of a man ignores what women have to do to be competitive.
I compete less than I used to. I actually prefer going out for a ski with a friend and going slow enough to talk. Setting up competitions seems to be a male sort of thing. I do know that I can easily win a competition if I can chose the rules. The men have set up the rule for superhero stories, so they have an edge.
I also sold sporting goods for twelve years. I have frequently worked with the difference between men and women when they engage in sports. Some of these differences are prosaic but important. In general women have longer legs in relationship to their torso. This is important to sizing bicycles. The industry handles this by making bicycles which aren’t marked by gender but which have male proportions–long torso with short legs. Ot the industry sizes for women but makes the bicycles in lower quality. I believe they do this to take advantage of economy of scale. There are more woman that want an inexpensive bicycle than those who want high end bicycle that fits. So the women who would like the high end version compromise, getting a cheap bike that fits. The same situation occurs with ski equipment. It can be painful when it comes to boots and male vs female foot and leg proportions.
The other thing to do, this was a big part of my job, was swapping out part so that the bicycles fit. This results in women spending more on parts and labor. A women competing will be paying more for a bicycle, riding a heavier bike or riding a bike that doesn’t fit.
A more equitable arrangement would be for bicycle manufacturers size for the human average. Both men and women would be swapping out parts. This isn’t a complete solution because some people, typically male, have torso so long in relationship to legs that they can’t ride a bike even with how they are currently designed.

Personally I’m a fan of ‘superheroes’ that become hosts for some kind of horrific entity that they have to control and then use in moderation. I think the Hulk is a character that does this well because Banner the human is a pretty stark contrast to the Hulk and is often afraid to let him out because he knows that it could go horribly wrong. I reckon the genre needs more of these kinds of characters that have to constantly fight with the destructive tendencies of their own powers. Maybe this is too broad a concept to be a trope, but I’ve seen enough of superheroes that don’t have to struggle with the risk of even using their powers in the first place.


My story is about Superheros but not in a conventional sense. It centers around Mental Disabilities, and how these people’s disorders act as their superpower. (They have to save the world from “Unidentifiable Beings” that are invisible/undetectable by people without a mental illness of some kind) My main character has ADHD and Tics, so, for example, his strength when fighting these UB’s would be his reflexes/instincts and fast-working mind.

I feel like superheroes get painted as attractive, healthy, savior-type people (and that’s fine!) but sometimes it’s nice to actually be able to relate to them as opposed to look up to them, you know?

The biggest super hero trope is simply their mere existence

Oh yeah. I always liked that about the Hulk. Wasn’t Nightrider that way as well?

Is that the vampire dude?

Whoops. I was thinking of Spawn.

Just had a quick google about Nightrider and he’s pretty much what I’m talking about anyway haha.

I always liked when he talked to David Hasselhoff thru his watch. :upside_down_face: