Not all heroes wear capes. And if you ask Edna Mode of The Incredibles, no superhero should wear a cape. But that’s a story for another day. Though it’s easy to name the various superheroes that exist, it’s not always easy to define what in particular makes them so super. Whether it’s the powers or the personality, we’re going to look at the history of superheroes, what makes them so powerful in our minds, and how you can represent your favorite superhero thanks to the expansive collection of superhero shirts on the Sons of Gotham website. Seriously, their selection is a superhuman feat all in itself. But before we get into that, let’s check out the history behind some of our favorite superhero characters and how they rise above the rest.
Defining A Superhero
Let’s start with the tried and true textbook definition. Despite being surrounded by the likes of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and The Flash, it’s not always easy to find the perfect definition to encompass what it means to be a superhero. While Dictionary.com believes that a superhero is “a figure, especially in a comic strip or cartoon, endowed with superhuman powers and usually portrayed as fighting evil or crime,” the Merriam-Webster Dictionary takes a different route, defining the term as "a fictional hero having extraordinary or superhuman powers; also: an exceptionally skillful or successful person.” Urban Dictionary takes a similar approach to its stricter literary friends, defining a superhero as, “A being with extraordinary physical or mental powers, far beyond the range of normal human ability, who uses these powers to protect the innocent and for the general good; or one who is granted such powers by some external means, such as advanced technology or magic, and uses them with similar intent.” The Cambridge Dictionary also gives a standard definition, that a superhero is “a character in stories or movies who has special powers, such as the ability to fly, that are used for fighting evil or helping people.”
While most dictionary definitions are common and not descriptive of one particular character, variations of the term “super hero” are jointly trademarked by DC Comics and Marvel Comics. Iterations of the term have been trademarked since the 1960s and enforced particularly in countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Some critics claim the registration is a misuse of trademark law to reduce competition, and to date, no disputes involving the trademarked term has ever been brought to trial.
If you’re familiar with any kind of superhero, chances are you’re familiar with DC Comics, Inc. Founded in 1934 as National Allied Publications by Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, DC Comics is one of the oldest and largest American comic book companies, responsible for creating superheroes such as Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, Aquaman, and Supergirl (read more about our favorite young lady superhero by checking out this blog post). But what you may not realize is that in addition to The Justice League, DC Comics is also the powerhouse behind the Suicide Squad, V for Vendetta, and Watchmen.
The true superhero era began in the 1930s with the creation of Superman in 1938. Within a few years, The Flash and Green Lantern made their debut appearances, along with the first known female superhero, a production of writer-artist Fletch Hanks known as Fantomah. The most iconic female superhero however was, and still is, Wonder Woman. Modeled after the Amazons from Greek mythology, she made her first appearance in All Star Comics #8 in December of 1941. While others have come and gone over the years, there are definitely a few that have found their way into the hearts of readers – and viewers – across the globe.
“Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive.” With the description of The Man of Steel on the DC Comics website, it’s no wonder Superman is quite possibly the most beloved superhero of all time. With his iconic blue uniform, billowing red cape flowing behind him, and the S insignia plastered on his chest, adults and children alike have come to fawn over him — especially with Brandon Routh and Henry Cavill donning the historic suit. But we digress. Superman was the last survivor of the planet Krypton. Following his arrival on Earth, Superman was raised in Smallville, Kansas as Clark Kent. Despite his beginning popularity as a comic book star, Superman quickly gained fame on the radio as the star of a syndicated transcribed children’s program from February of 1940 to March of 1950, where some of the signature phrases used to describe the Man of Steel originated.
“Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings at a single bound!"
"Look! Up in the sky!"
"It's a bird!"
"It's a plane!"
"Yes, it's Superman — strange visitor from another planet who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Superman — defender of law and order, champion of equal rights, valiant, courageous fighter against the forces of hate and prejudice, who disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice and the American way."
Whether you know him as the Caped Crusader, Batman, or the Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne is the man protecting the streets of Gotham City in an attempt to avenge the murder of his parents he witnessed during his childhood. A billionaire playboy by day, Batman is one of the most iconic superheroes in history, second only to Clark Kent himself. Batman is an example of the ways that human and beyond-human talents and capabilities intersect in the superhero universe. Following the death of his parents, Bruce Wayne conditioned his body to near perfection, while simultaneously developing a weapons arsenal in the caverns below his family’s estate. With his butler Alfred keeping a watchful, and often times judgmental, eye on the youngest Wayne, Bruce is able to remove himself from his billionaire lifestyle as he keeps watch over the streets of Gotham.
Though appearing on screen in recent years with the beautiful Gal Gadot lending her image to this famed superhero, Wonder Woman has been the leading lady of DC Comics for nearly 80 years. Also known as Princess Diana of Themyscira, or Diana Prince when she’s outside of her homeland, Wonder Woman stands for truth, justice, and equality for people everywhere. Raised on the hidden island of Themyscira, Wonder Woman’s character was created during World War II.
As described by the narrator in All Star Comics #8 when she was introduced, “At last, in a world torn by the hatred and wars of men, appears a woman to whom the problems and feats of men are mere child's play. A woman whose identity is known to none, but whose sensational feats are outstanding in a fast-moving world. She serves as a symbol of integrity and humanity, so that the world of men would know what it means to be an Amazon. With a hundred times the agility and strength of our best male athletes and strongest wrestlers, she appears as though from nowhere to avenge an injustice or right a wrong! As lovely as Aphrodite, as wise as Athena, with the speed of Mercury and the strength of Hercules. She is known only as Wonder Woman!"
Diana possesses a wide variety of weapons, though most a bit more unique than those seen on other superheroes, including the Lasso of Truth, indestructible bracelets, and a headpiece that serves as a projectile. Essentially, much more ladylike technology for the sole female in the Justice League’s lineup.
First appearing in the Flash Comics, The Flash, also known as the Scarlet Speedster, defies the laws of physics through his use of the speed force. Unlike his other Justice League comrades, The Flash has been depicted by three characters throughout this tenure: college athlete Jay Garric, forensic scientist Barry Allen, and Barry’s nephew Wally West. Each iteration of The Flash has been a distinct part of at least one of DC’s superhero teams, including the Justice Society of America, the Justice League, and the Teen Titans.
According to DC Comics, “The Flash has mastery over not just speed, but time itself, and he has often used his powers to travel through different eras and even into other dimensions. Although the Flash has not always been fast enough to outrun personal tragedy when it has come for him, he always does his best to prevent the same from happening to the people of Central City and Keystone City. In so doing, he's earned himself a spot among the greatest Super Heroes the DC Universe has ever known.”
The Green Lantern
Though movie lovers have probably tried to block Ryan Reynolds’ 2011 appearance as the Green Lantern out of their minds, the character has been around since its creation in 1940 by Martin Nodell. His origin is fairly simple. Following a railway crash, railroad engineer Alan Scott discovered a magic lantern that promised him power. Alan Scott used the lantern to create a magic ring that increased the powers he was able to control. One of the most notable aspects of the Green Lantern’s reign is the oath he recites when he charges his ring, “... and I shall shed my light over dark evil. For the dark things cannot stand the light, the light of the Green Lantern!”
Unfortunately for Alan, The Green Lantern comic book was cancelled in June of 1949. A decade later, the character was revived as Hal Jordan. Although his superhero powers were similar to those of Alan Scott’s, the character itself as well as its origin story had changed entirely. Over the years, the Green Lantern has taken on many forms, with seven other characters stepping in to take on the role throughout the course of the superhero’s adventure through DC Comics. Those who are fans of the Green Lantern do have something to look forward to, however. According to the Internet Movie Database, Green Lantern Corps is set to be released in 2020 with a story that focuses on the Green Lanterns of Earth, including four of the nine characters that appeared in the comics — Hal Jordan, Guy Gardner, John Stewart, and Kyle Rayner — who join forces with the Green Lantern Corps to “fight an interstellar war against the Sinestro Corps, an army led by the former Green Lantern Sinestro who are armed with yellow power rings and seek a universe ruled through fear.”
Created by Mort Weisinger and Paul Norris, Aquaman first appeared in the DC Comics in November of 1941. Though still a founding member of the Justice League, Aquaman was originally created as a backup feature in DC’s superhero anthology. The character’s animated debut in the 1960s caused a major uptick in his popularity and has gone on to play a prominent role in DC superhero features. If for no other reason than the fact that the cinematic release of Aquaman featured Jason Momoa, we foresee the Atlantean ruler getting a bit more play in the DC Extended Universe.
While you may not be faster than a speeding bullet or be able to draw out the truth from villains with a magical lasso, you can still play the part of your favorite superhero thanks to thousands of superhero shirts on the Sons of Gotham website. Whether you’re a fan of the washed-out rendition of the Superman logo splashed across the front of a t-shirt or a “not on my watch” screen print, Sons of Gotham has more superhero shirts than you can imagine. Not only can you search by character — maybe you’re partial to Batman or Superman. We personally like Wonder Woman — you can also check out an entire brand. If you’re into DC Comic superhero shirts in general, you’ll find everything from the Bat and the Man of Steel to Wonder Woman, The Flash, and the Green Lantern. But don’t just believe us when we say that their collection of superhero shirts is impressive. Go look for yourself. Visit their website by clicking here and browse through everything from classic t-shirts to button-ups featuring your favorite superhero characters.
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