What do you think makes a Superhero?

No superpower? Then Batman and Iron Man wouldn’t count.
No secret identity? Iron Man and Dr. Strange wouldn’t count.
I’ve decided costume, although I suppose Constantine might count?

Have abilities that far exceed the average person whether they are technical (Iron Man/Batman), extreme training (Batman/Green Arrow) or “magical” powers (most of them).

Would Doc Savage count then? Zorro?

I would say no. The abilities need to stretch into fantasy abilities. Beyond what is actually possible. Doc Savage and Zorro push against the possible but maybe could happen.

Zorro and the Lone Ranger are in the category of Masked Crime Fighters — no supernatural or impossible-tech elements, just a very highly capable operator with a gimmick. Doc Savage with his team at times looks IMO more like Bruce Wayne without a secret identity (and with some disturbing methods) but yeah, on the edge.

Pretty much this for a tight technical definition. More broadly Doc Savage, Zorro, Batman, Tarzan, John Carter can be mentioned but need an asterisk next to their name in the record book.

I’m not sure how to consider someone with no actual super powers who is perceived as a superhero in their own universe where people don’t know the details of their 'origin. Wouldn’t people who see Hawkeye battling gods and monsters with the Avengers assume he has super powers?

How 'bout the Shadow (he can cloud men’s minds so they cannot see him)?

  1. Having super powers.
  2. Doing heroic things.

I’ve mentioned before that Daredevil and The Phantom can get this question to an interesting place: the one who has bona fide super powers acts like he doesn’t — yep, just a masked crimefighter who does some mundane detective work and sneaks up on crooks and beats them unconscious with a billy club, surely you don’t think it’s all due to inhuman sensory abilities — while The Ghost Who Walks puts on a big show of being The Man Who Cannot Die, but the truth is that, no, behind that mask is just a really fit guy who has skills and guns and money and, well, a reputation, is all.

A costume and code name are the only requirement, and even that can be very loosely interpreted. If you want to go further, the only requirement is that the medium considers the character as such.

Rorschach, for example, lacks powers and skills and his actions are only nominally heroic…. But he’s a superhero.

The “super” part refers to their deeds, not their powers. That’s why people like Batman and Iron Man count. A superhero is a costumed vigilante who goes around doing “superhero shit” basically.

Is Sherlock Holmes a superhero? Is Heracles? What exactly is the borderline between Hero and Superhero? Who was first called a “superhero” or “super hero”?

(emphasis added)

Aren’t some superheroes duly authorized law enforcement officers?

You need a power that no one else has so you can be qualified as ‘super’, but to be a hero you must have reason to be afraid.

Wasn’t there a GoT exchange that went:

“Father were you ever scared?” ,
“Yes, all the time.”
“How can you be brave if you’re scared?”
“Being scared is the only time a man can be brave.”

Anything resembling Super Man punching muggers is like me pistol whipping a blind kid.

I think anyone who does super heroic things qualify - no superpowers needed.
Plus I’d say you would need to do this on a semi-regular basis. A one-off wouldn’t count to confer status.

Internally (not necessarily logically), I define it by medium. Superheroes are the creations of comic books. Earlier heroes from books, magazines, and radio are pulp heroes. Those arising from film or TV (eg. the Six-Million Dollar Man) are…well, something else.

I wonder if the real question is, how close are you to being Superman?

Like, if you’re Batman, you say, hey, I hide my secret identity behind a costume and a codename when I fight crime and save lives, just like he does, and at some point we all okay it; and if you’re Superman, you say, I’m Superman.

“Superhero” is a genre, not a species. You’re a superhero if you’re a powerful do-gooder in a superhero setting. That includes powered and unpowered heroes alike, though most “unpowered” superheros like Batman and Iron Man do superhuman shit all the time.

I would say not. The OP is asking “What makes a superhero?” not What makes the best superhero. It’s easy to point to Superman, but as Sitnam points out, Supe’s punching muggers isn’t very “heroic”.

A mom raising her son isn’t that “heroic”, but if she dies and that task is left to the son’s 15 year old sister, that could considered heroic.

I don’t see the relevance of hidden identities to being a superhero.

Given this, they are all superheroes. Easier I think to point out who isn’t, given the genre setting

Well, yeah; but, of course, the whole point is that (a) Superman, as written, in fact does heroic stuff, and (b) even if someone eventually cobbled together a better candidate for Best Superhero, it’d arguably still be seen as riffing on the gold-standard Superman — uh, motif, or prototype, or whatever? Like he’s some kind of point of reference.