superhero n.

a person who uses superpowers or superscience for benevolent purposes

SF Encyclopedia


  • 1937 N. F. Stanley Letter in Thrilling Wonder Stories Aug. 120/2 page image

    Re ‘Zarnak’; the strip started off very well, but I must agree with others that it is rapidly degenerating into the juvenile antics of a musclebound superhero. This latter sort of stuff may be all right in the Sunday comics but it is decidedly out of place in a respectable science fiction magazine.

  • 1942 D. W. Boggs Letter in Thrilling Wonder Stories Oct. 120/1 page image

    Seriously, ‘Burning Sea’ was just another variation of the enslaved-future-world-saved-singlehandedly-by-a-super-hero theme.

  • 1953 L. S. de Camp Science-Fiction Handbook 161 L. Sprague de Camp

    These are world-flinging space-operas similar to those that Edmond Hamilton was writing at the same time, with dastardly villains, spotless heroines (who stay that way even when stranded with the hero for months on one of Jupiter’s moons) and super-heroes who get out of tight predicaments by single-handedly inventing super-ray projectors to melt their enemies' planets.

  • 1958 O. Binder in Adventure Apr. (front cover) Otto Binder

    Featuring ‘The Legion of Super-Heroes’.

  • 1958 O. Binder in Adventure Apr. 3 (in figure) Otto Binder

    You would be the greatest super-hero of us all!

  • 1959 Adventure Dec. 1 (cartoon caption)

    Saddened and hurt, he departs from the planet earth, and encounters an even worse fate when…he becomes…prisoner of the super-heroes.

  • 1983 R. E. Moore in Dragon Magazine Jan. 38/2

    There are also a number of games out now about superheroes, in which players take on the personas of various costumed do-gooders of comic-book fame.

  • 1983 R. E. Moore in Dragon Magazine Jan. 39/2

    You could probably count on the fingers of one hand the number of superheroes who have been killed in the comics.

  • 1991 Science Fiction Chronicle May 24/2

    Dollman, inspired by the old comic book superhero.

  • 1991 D. R. Koontz Cold Fire i. iv. 135 Dean R. Koontz bibliography

    Even a self-appointed superhero with clairvoyant powers might just spend a day…doing nothing more dangerous than eating Szechuan Chinese with the chef’s hottest mustard.

  • 1997 R. Tiner Superhero in J. Clute & J. Grant Encyclopedia of Fantasy 905/1 bibliography

    Superheroes, fantasy characters with superhuman powers visually marked out from the rest of humanity with their fantastical apparel.

  • 2000 Interzone Nov. 41/1

    The moment you allow the superheroes the kind of freedom of association that they take for granted in a mainstream comics universe, all hell pops loose.

  • 2002 Dreamwatch Sept. 25/2

    That makes it very different because he’s not going to do the kind of things that you’ll expect from a super-creature. Superheroes have these unique abilities, the ability to do something that humans cannot do.

  • 2020 N. Okorafor Ikenga iii. 30 Nnedi Okorafor bibliography

    Superheroes got to view the world differently because their lives were so crazy; they could be anyone and they could dive into danger when it was at its worst and win. Superheroes survived. Nnamdi would have loved to have a conversation about all this with even Auntie Grace but instead she kept talking.

Research requirements

antedating 1937

Earliest cite

Norman F Stanley, letter

Research History
Garrett Wollman submitted a 1997 cite from Ron Tiner's entry on "Superheroes" in Clute's and Grant's "Encyclopedia of SF".
Enoch Forrester submitted a 1983 cite from an article by Roger Moore in Dragon Magazine.
Jay Rudin submitted cites from the April 1958 and December 1959 issues of Adventure comics.
Fred Galvin submitted a 1942 cite from the cover of Supersnipe Comics.
Fred Galvin submitted a 1953 cite from L. Sprague de Camp's "Science Fiction Handbook".
Fred Galvin submitted a 1937 cite from a letter by Norman F. Stanley to Thrilling Wonder Stories.
Ben Ostrowsky submitted a 2020 cite from Nnedi Okorafor.

(There are no cites in the OED explicitly with the sf sense.)

Last modified 2022-09-07 03:56:09
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.