Heroes Ain’t Superheros: Part 1, the Origin

Peter Coogan here.

A few years ago Peter Sanderson asked me if I thought NBC’s Heroes was a superhero show.  I was uncertain, but proposed, “All Heroes has to do is show one costume and employ one codename.”  Sanderson posited the first season of Heroes as one long origin episode.  And if after that first season the characters had suited up, I think it could have become a superhero show and closed the question. This is, in essence, what Smallville did when it introduced Green Arrow, though because of the show’s necessary conclusion–the adoption of the Superman identity by Clark Kent–the show’s genre status was never seriously in question, and with the “Red/Blue Blur” and Clark’s adoption of the El family crest as a chevron and signature (ala Zorro), the show’s genre status is solidly superhero.

But I’ve closed the question on Heroes to my satisfaction.  I just came back from the University of Oregon, which last week hosted the Understanding Superheroes conference and has an ongoing show of original superhero art.  U of O English professor Ben Sanderson invited me out to give a talk on the essence of the superhero (along with Reading Comics author Douglas Wolk, who spoke on superhero art).  This talk gave me the excuse to examine Heroes in depth and to conclude that “Heroes Ain’t Superheroes.”

I’ll be laying out my talk in the weeks to follow.

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