Superhero fiction is a genre originating in and most common to American comic books, though it has expanded into other media through adaptations and original works. The form is a type of speculative fiction examining the adventures of costumed crime fighters known as superheroes, who often possess superhuman powers and battle similarly powered criminals known as supervillains.
A superhero is most often the protagonist of superhero fiction, although some titles use superheroes as secondary characters. A superhero (sometimes rendered super-hero is a type of stock character possessing "extraordinary or superhuman powers" and dedicated to protecting the public. Since the debut of the prototypical superhero Superman in 1938, stories of superheroes—ranging from brief episodic adventures to continuing years-long sagas—have dominated American comic books and crossed over into other media. The word itself dates to at least 1917.
In 1938, writer Jerry Siegel and illustrator Joe Shuster, who had previously worked in pulp science fiction magazines, introduced Superman. The character possessed many of the traits that have come to define the superhero: a secret identity, superhuman powers and a colourful costume including a symbol and cape. His name is also the source of the term "superhero".
DC Comics, which published under the names National and All-American at the time, received an overwhelming response to Superman and, in the years that followed, introduced Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash, Hawkman,Aquaman and Green Arrow. Although at the time DC dominated the market, The Human Torch and Sub-Mariner from Marvel Comics were also hits.
During World War II, superheroes grew in popularity, surviving paper rationing and the loss of many writers and illustrators to service in the armed forces. The need for simple tales of good triumphing over evil may explain the wartime popularity of superheroes. Publishers responded with stories in...