DC Animated Universe
Superman (JLU)

Superman, one of the more famous superheroes.

A superhero is a term used to define a person or creature who uses power, ability, or technology beyond that of the general public, in the pursuit of good.

Superheroes come in various types:

  • regular vigilantes who use natural prowess, advanced technology, or a combination of the two
  • magic-users or extraterrestrials who use abnormal powers
  • metahumans or bang babies
  • regular human beings who use alien or magical technology

History of superheroes[]


El Diablo

El Diablo, an early costumed vigilante.

While vigilantes and rogue policemen have existed for millennia, it wasn't until the Old West era in the western America that the first costumed crime-fighters appeared. The costumed superhero El Diablo hid his identity while fighting alongside other vigilantes, such as Bat Lash and Sheriff Ohiyesa Smith.[1]

By the 1940s, the idea of costumed superheroes was still far-fetched in the minds of American soldiers,[2] although at least one costumed vigilante helped out during World War II: Spy Smasher.[3]

Superheroes in fiction[]

Gray Ghost

The popular Gray Ghost, from The Gray Ghost.

In popular fiction around the 1950s, the Justice Guild of America comics were published featuring a superhero team fighting against colorful villains. These concepts were based on an alternate Earth that tapped into the minds of comic book creators.[4]

By the mid-20th century, a popular children's television show, The Gray Ghost, centered around a costumed vigilante fighting crime.[5]

First superheroes[]


Soul Power, the first modern superhero.

In the 1960s, an accident at the Hoover Dam gave a young Morris Grant power over electricity. Becoming the first metahuman hero, Grant took on the identity of Soul Power and was the first crime-fighter in Dakota. He would take on the sidekick Sparky and gain a powerful archenemy: Professor Menace.[6]

A couple decades later, billionaire Bruce Wayne adopted a costumed identity known as the Batman to strike fear in the hearts of criminals after he discovered that infiltration did not work.[7]

At some point, a Marine named John Stewart was recruited from Earth into the Green Lantern Corps becoming the Green Lantern. He spent much of his early career off-world and wasn't known until after the recruitment of another Green Lantern.[8]

The first extraterrestrial superhero, and arguably best known by the public, was Superman, named by Lois Lane after appearing in Metropolis. He was able to use his Kryptonian powers to aid Metropolis and the world during a time when technology and alien contact had nearly caused massive disasters several times over.[9]

Explosion of superheroes[]


The superhero Flash.

In Gotham City, Batman had taken on several partners in his crime-fighting duties that were superheroes in their own right.[10] He also helped both Jason Blood (a well-known occultist)[11] and the Creeper become costumed crime-fighters.[12]

Although he never took partners, Superman paired up with burgeoning superheroes as well. Supergirl,[13] Steel,[14] and the Green Lantern[15] all entered service under Superman's guidance. The discovery of New Genesis[16] and Atlantis[17] also expanded costumed crime-fighters, and various superheroes, such as the Flash, appeared as friendly rivals to the Man of Steel.[18]Superman would also cross paths with and team up with Batman on several occassions.

The Big Bang in Dakota expanded the level of metahuman activity in that region. Although it affected a group of gangbangers, at least three superheroes appeared: Static,[19] Rubberband Man[20] and Gear.[21]

Following the creation of the Justice League (see below), the amount of costumed superheroes seemed to increase exponentially.

Superhero teams[]

JL expanded

The Justice League, the first major superhero team.

Although superheroes often teamed up for various missions, it wasn't until after the Imperium invasion that a permanent crime-fighting force (discounting the Green Lantern Corps) was formed amongst superheroes. The Justice League, proposed by Superman, operated out of the Watchtower and took on forces that were too much for one hero.[22]

Teams were formed in the wake of the Justice League, including the Titans[23] and the Hoop Squad,[24] and the Justice League itself reformed after the Thanagarian invasion to include most active crime-fighters (which had expanded to over sixty by that time).[25]


Terrific Trio

The Terrific Trio, government-endorsed superheroes.

The Justice League would reform itself into a smaller group, the Justice League Unlimited,[26] and a new generation of superheroes were born, including a second Batman,[27] the Terrific Trio,[28] and Zeta.[29]

By the 29th and 30th century, superheroes were strictly organized within the United Planets as members of the Legion of Super-Heroes.[30][31]

Regional variations[]


Anansi, hero to Ghana.

Although most superheroes seemed to originate in North America, others operated and originated elsewhere in the world.

Anansi was a well-known African superhero, whose illusory powers originated from a mystical spider.[32]

Atlanteans such as Aquaman and Aquagirl bore no allegiance to any world country and generally operated in the interests of Atlantis.

List of superheroes[]


  1. McDuffie, Dwayne (writer) & Riba, Dan (director) (January 22, 2005). "The Once and Future Thing Part One: Weird Western Tales". Justice League Unlimited. Season 1. Episode 12 (airdate). Episode 12 (production). Cartoon Network.
  2. Berkowitz, Stan (writer) & Riba, Dan, Lukic, Butch (directors) (November 9, 2002). "The Savage Time, Part I". Justice League. Season 1. Episode 24 (airdate). Episode 24 (production). Cartoon Network.
  3. Wayne, Matt (writer) & Dos Santos, Joaquim (director) (February 25, 2006). "Patriot Act". Justice League Unlimited. Season 2. Episode 7 (airdate). Episode 33 (production). Cartoon Network.
  4. Kreisberg, Andrew (writer) & Riba, Dan (director) (April 28, 2002). "Legends, Part II". Justice League. Season 1. Episode 17 (airdate). Episode 19 (production). Cartoon Network.
  5. O'Flaherty, Dennis, Ruegger, Tom (story) & Wolf, Garin, Ruegger, Tom (teleplay) & Kirkland, Boyd (director) (November 4, 1992). "Beware the Gray Ghost". Batman: The Animated Series. Season 1. Episode 32 (airdate). Episode 18 (production). FOX Kids.
  6. Beechen, Adam (writer) & Beechen, Adam, Semper Jr., John, (teleplay) & Uncredited director (June 21, 2003). "Blast From the Past". Static Shock. Season 3. Episode 15 (airdate). Episode 35 (production). Kids WB!.
  7. Melniker, B., Uslan, M. (Producers), & Radomski, E., Timm, B. W. (Directors). (1993). Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. United States: Warner Bros.
  8. Berkowitz, Stan (story) & DeMatteis, J.M. (teleplay) & Dos Santos, Joaquim (director) (September 18, 2004). "The Return". Justice League Unlimited. Season 1. Episode 8 (airdate). Episode 7 (production). Cartoon Network.
  9. Superman: The Animated Series
  10. Batman: The Animated Series; The New Batman Adventures
  11. Berkowitz, Stan (writer) & Tanaka, Atsuko (director) (May 9, 1998). "The Demon Within". The New Batman Adventures. Episode 10 (airdate). Episode 18 (production). Season 1. Kids WB!.
  12. Gerber, Steve (writer) & Fogel, Rich (story) & Riba, Dan (director) (November 7, 1998). "Beware the Creeper". The New Batman Adventures. Episode 10 (airdate). Episode 23 (production). Season 2. Kids WB!.
  13. Dorkin, Evan, Dyer, Sarah (writers) & Fogel, Rich (story) & Geda, Curt (director) (May 2, 1998). "Little Girl Lost, Part II”. Superman: The Animated Series. Season 2. Episode 28 (airdate). Episode 38 (production). Kids WB!.
  14. Bader, Hilary J. (writer) & Geda, Curt (director) (November 8, 1997). "Heavy Metal". Superman: The Animated Series. Season 2. Episode 23 (airdate). Episode 34 (production). Kids WB!.
  15. Bader, Hilary J. (writer) & Lukic, Butch (director) (February 6, 1999). "In Brightest Day...". Superman: The Animated Series. Season 3. Episode 7 (airdate). Episode 47 (production). Kids WB!.
  16. Fogel, Rich (writer) & Riba, Dan (director) (February 7, 1998). "Apokolips... Now!, Part I". Superman: The Animated Series. Season 2. Episode 25 (airdate). Episode 33 (production). Kids WB!.
  17. Bader, Hilary J., Fogel, Rich (writers) & Tsuji, Shin-Ichi (director) (May 8, 1999). "A Fish Story". Superman: The Animated Series. Season 3. Episode 9 (airdate). Episode 54 (production). Kids WB!.
  18. Fogel, Rich (writer) & Masuda, Toshihiko (director) (September 13, 1997). "Speed Demons". Superman: The Animated Series. Season 2. Episode 4 (airdate). Episode 22 (production). Kids WB!.
  19. Simmons, Christopher (writer) & Tucker, James (director) (September 20, 2000). "Shock to the System". Static Shock. Season 1. Episode 1 (airdate). Episode 1 (production). Kids WB!.
  20. McDuffie, Dwayne (writer) & Sichta, Joe (director) (March 23, 2002). "Bad Stretch". Static Shock. Season 2. Episode 8 (airdate). Episode 19 (production). Kids WB!.
  21. Burnett, Alan (writer) & McDuffie, Dwayne (teleplay) & Uncredited director (February 1, 2003). "Gear". Static Shock. Season 3. Episode 2 (airdate). Episode 29 (production). Kids WB!.
  22. Fogel, Rich (writer) & Riba, Dan, Lukic, Butch (directors) (November 17, 2001). "Secret Origins, Part III". Justice League. Season 1. Episode 3 (airdate). Episode 3 (production). Cartoon Network.
  23. Dini, Paul (writer) & Uncredited director (January 25, 2003). "Hard as Nails". Static Shock. Season 3. Episode 1 (airdate). Episode 27 (production). Kids WB!.
  24. Uhley, Len (writer), Garber, David (writer) & Chele, Victor Dal (director) (February 28, 2004). "Hoop Squad". Static Shock. Season 4. Episode 7 (airdate). Episode 45 (production). Kids WB!.
  25. Berkowitz, Stan (writer) & Dos Santos, Joaquim (director) (July 31, 2004). "Initiation". Justice League Unlimited. Season 1. Episode 1 (airdate). Episode 1 (production). Cartoon Network.
  26. Dini, Paul, Burnett, Alan (story) & Berkowitz, Stan (teleplay) & Lukic, Butch (director) (November 11, 2000). "The Call, Part I". Batman Beyond. Season 3. Episode 7 (airdate). Episode 50 (production). Kids WB!.
  27. Berkowitz, Stan (writer) & Geda, Curt (director) (January 10, 1999). "Rebirth, Part II". Batman Beyond. Season 1. Episode 2 (airdate). Episode 2 (production). Kids WB!.
  28. Fogel, Rich (writer) & Lukic, Butch (director) (February 21, 1999). "Heroes". Batman Beyond. Season 1. Episode 6 (airdate). Episode 8 (production). Kids WB!.
  29. Goodman, Robert (writer) & Riba, Dan (director) (April 8, 2000). "Zeta". Batman Beyond. Season 2. Episode 20 (airdate). Episode 28 (production). Kids WB!.
  30. Berkowitz, Stan, Fogel, Rich (writers) & Lukic, Butch (director) (October 31, 1998). "New Kids in Town". Superman: The Animated Series. Season 3. Episode 3 (airdate). Episode 44 (production). Kids WB!.
  31. McDuffie, Dwayne (story) & Dini, Paul (teleplay) & Riba, Dan (director) (April 15, 2006). "Far From Home". Justice League Unlimited. Season 2. Episode 10 (airdate). Episode 36 (production). Cartoon Network.
  32. McDuffie, Dwayne (writer) & Uncredited director (February 8, 2003). "Static in Africa". Static Shock. Season 3. Episode 3 (airdate). Episode 28 (production). Kids WB!.