This weekend I had a great conversation with my good friend Ellis who is a tremendous fan of the show Smallville, which is about Superman as a teenager. We got to talking about the publication histories of major characters, the intents of the characters’ creators, and the effect that time had had on the development of the depth and significance of great characters such as Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man. I mentioned that I believe there are probably a finite number of basic archetypal characters from which all superheroes are derived. Ellis pointed out that these three in particular represented three basic archetypes: Superman, the hero who is born with super powers; Batman, the hero who has no super powers; and Spider-Man, the hero who suddenly gets super powers at some point in his life. Later that weekend, I remembered a line from Shakespeare‘s Twelfth Night.
“…some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”
Back in the day, William Shakespeare keenly observed that among heroes, some such as Superman are born great, some such as Batman and Iron Man achieve their own greatness, and some such as Spider-Man and the Hulk have greatness literally thrust upon them.