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Superheroes and Ethical Philosophy

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Encyclopedia of Heroism Studies
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Moral principles; Super heroes and morality; Virtue


Fictional superhero characters embed attitudes about morality and the stance that individuals should take for a pursuit of justice.


Though its etymology is complex, the term “superhero” was popularized after Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s character Superman was introduced in the Action Comics #1 in 1938. The genre of superhero comics and its later expansion into other media, now most notably film, derive from that publication and the Superman-influenced prototypical character type that Peter Coogan defines as having “a selfless, pro-social mission; with superpowers” (2006). Though “superpowers” vary between narratives and sometimes fall within a nominally human ability range, the element places the genre in speculative fiction, with vacillating degrees of science fiction and supernatural fantasy. Because actual individuals cannot by definition be superhuman, the fictional hero type can be problematic...

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Correspondence to Chris Gavaler .

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Gavaler, C. (2023). Superheroes and Ethical Philosophy. In: Encyclopedia of Heroism Studies. Springer, Cham.

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  • Print ISBN: 978-3-031-17125-3

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