Look, I know we, unfortunately, live in the “real world” and there are no radioactive spiders that are going to give you awesome spidey powers any time soon. (Actually, if there are radioactive spiders, I want them to stay very far away from me!)
According to Stan Lee:
[…] in order to be a superhero, you need a power that is more exceptional than any power a normal human being could possess, and you need to use that power to accomplish good deeds.
Peter “Star-Lord” Quill
Setting aside the half-alien part, Peter Jason Quill does not have any magically enhanced abilities. I think there’s a serious case for him to end up on the Brilliant, but Lazy trope page. (Not an insult, by the way. Some of my favorite fictional characters make this list, such as Jake Peralta and Sterling Archer.) Especially as played by Chris Pratt, Peter can come across as someone who is not to be taken seriously. That could not be farther from the truth.
His skill set comes in being a master strategist and tactician. He’s a learner, an observer. He takes in what he sees around him and turns it into his advantage. He can take a situation that is completely stacked against him and still come out on top, because he can figure out what needs to be done and see it through.
Hawkeye (and Hawkeye)
Arguably my favorite super-duo of all-time, Hawkeye and Hawkeye are the definition of badass normal. These expert markspeople are products of training, practice, and dedication to doing the right thing.
Clint Barton – depending on if the writer is paying attention to canon – is deaf, making him one of only a handful of disabled superheroes, as well. Although, I have to assume he does have some sort of rubber bones considering his remarkable ability to keep falling off of buildings and surviving. After running away from a foster home, Clint literally ran away with the circus, which is where he honed his acrobatics and his marksmanship.
Kate Bishop is just as deserving of respect for her abilities. Like Lara, Kate is another dissatisfied socialite who would rather donate money to hungry families than spend money on an extravagant wedding — something she chastises her older sister for. Even as a teenage girl, the skills she had gained from fencing and archery were so impressive that Captain America gave her the mantle of Hawkeye. (Granted, everyone thought Clint was dead at the time, except he wasn’t because… reasons. Comic book reasons. As you do.) Whether she’s off running her own Private Investigator business without a license, palling around with the Young Avengers, or cleaning up after Clint, Kate holds her own.
Sokka of the Southern Water Tribe
The Entire Bat Family
Is this cheating? It kinda feels like its cheating. But it’s also true.
Dick Grayson, Barbara Gordon, Kate Kane, Jason Todd, Tim Drake, Cassandra Cain, and the list goes on. Sure, Bruce Wayne has more money than most of us will ever see in our lifetimes. And with money comes really awesome gadgets. (Did I get that quote right?) Scroll through their wiki pages and you find the same abilities over and over — Hand-to-hand combat, martial arts, marksmanship, peak human conditioning, acrobats, investigation, genius level intellect, swordsmanship, etc…
So, basically, the Bat Family is a family of training, dedication, and consistency and who wouldn’t want to be a part of that family?
Honorable Mention – Eli “Patriot” Bradley
Eli skirts the list a little bit on the grounds that he has super-strength. But he’s going up here anyway.
Patriot breaks onto the page with a team of teenage Avenger knock-offs which the press dubs the Young Avengers. From the moment we meet him, he is very adamant about one thing – protecting the legacy of his grandfather, Isaiah Bradley – the black Captain America.
Isaiah was one of very few African-American soldiers to survive a round of experiments to recreate Erskine’s serum after Steve Rogers’s apparent death in 1945. Despite becoming a war hero and destroying a nazi death camp, Isaiah was immediately court-martialed upon his return and sentenced to life in prison for theft of the Captain America suit. Even from a young age, Eli rebelled against the injustice—dedicating himself to preserving his grandfather’s legacy. He donned his own suit, saying the serum ran through his veins.
Except, that wasn’t exactly true. Eli’s mother had been conceived before Isaiah had been subjected to the experimentation that turned him into Captain America. Eli’s strength came from illegal mutant growth hormone injections (say no to steroids, kids!), up until the point when he took a bullet for Steve Rogers, requiring a blood transfusion.
Isaiah matched his blood type.
Eli’s greatest strength is not what came from the fictional steroids, or the fictional serum. His strength is the passion, dedication, and persistence to do the right thing.
And that is really what it all boils down to.
No one on this list was handed their abilities. They were not born with some sort of innate gift. No alien DNA. No gamma radiation.
They all made a choice.
They chose to pursue excellence, to overcome odds, to be more than the others around them. It is a very real choice, one that we all can make. If these are superheroes, then why aren’t we?
We’ve only got one shot in this world – so what life do you want?
Let me know in the comments which superhero inspires you!
Sign up below to join the Superpowers Sold Separately mailing list.