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The Different Types of Superheroes (From Tanks to Mentalists)

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Robbin has been a gamer for a long time and has a full-time job with Electronic Arts.

Learn the many different types of superheroes and how they can be categorized by superpowers.

Learn the many different types of superheroes and how they can be categorized by superpowers.

Superheroes and Superpowers

There are a ton of superheroes in existence. If you look, for instance, at Marvel Comic's A-Z character index, the list seems to go on forever!

Superheroes possess an immense and varied range of powers. From Superman's laser eyes, to the stretchy body of Mr. Fantastic, to the psychic powers of Jean Grey, there seem to be as many superpowers as there are heroes. And what about heroes like Batman and Ironman, who possess no actual superpowers?

As it turns out, superheroes can be categorized in numerous ways. For instance, they can be grouped based on heritage or powers. In superhero role-playing games like "Champions" or "Mutants and Masterminds", superheroes are divided into categories based on their strength and abilities. Groupings like these are commonly used in comics as well. Often, these categories blend and overlap, as individual heroes can possess a variety of abilities.

Superman has been the inspiration for many superheroes over the years, so much so that he could be called an "archetype" — that is, a model that has been copied many times.

Superman has been the inspiration for many superheroes over the years, so much so that he could be called an "archetype" — that is, a model that has been copied many times.

Categories of Superheroes

Here is a list covering the most common categories of superheroes, explaining their powers and listing some examples.

Superman Archetype

Superheroes based on Superman belong in this category. Such heroes include those who share some or all of Superman's powers (i.e., ice breath, laser-eyes, flying, super strength and endurance) and superheroes who were the first in their worlds and who set the bases for later heroes.

Martial Artist

This category includes superheroes who are more human than superhuman, but are masters of one or more martial art. Most superheroes in this category have no or almost no superpowers. Rather, they are extremely athletic and highly trained. Examples of martial artists are Batman and Daredevil.

Brick/Tank

These are superheroes with superhuman strength and endurance. They are usually incredibly big and muscular. Examples include Hulk, Thing and Juggernaut.

Blaster

Heros whose primary power is a distant attack, like an energy ray, belong to this category. For example, Cyclops and Starfire are blasters. This category can be further divided into the following sub-categories:

  • Elementalist: A hero who controls certain elements or forces of nature, such as Storm
  • Mage: A hero who uses magic or the supernatural, such as Dr. Strange
  • Marksman: A hero who uses projectile and/or throwing weapons like firearms, bows and arrows and throwing knives. Examples include the Punisher, Hawkeye and Green Arrow
As a highly trained expert armed with handfuls of tools and devices, Batman could be categorized as both a martial artist and a gadgeteer.

As a highly trained expert armed with handfuls of tools and devices, Batman could be categorized as both a martial artist and a gadgeteer.

Gadgeteer

This category describes heroes who use special gadgets and apparatuses to give them superpowers. This category can be further divided into the following sub-categories:

  • Armored Hero: A gadgeteer whose powers come from a special armor or costume, such as Iron Man
  • Dominus: A hero who has a giant robot (Mecha) at his disposal. These are mostly Japanese superheroes or heroes from science fiction stories. Examples include Super Sentai, Power Rangers and Megas XLR
  • Metal Hero: A variant of the armored hero, they are usually a type of cyborg or android

Speedster

This type of hero has superhuman speed and reflexes. Examples include Flash and Quicksilver.

Mentalist

Heroes who possess psychic or telekinetic powers are known as mentalists. Examples include Professor X and Jean Grey.

Shapeshifter

Heroes who can manipulate their bodies and therefore take many forms and shapes belong to this category. The ability to manipulate their body can mean stretching and shrinking, as in the case of Mr. Fantastic, or it can take an entirely different form (think of Mystique).

  • Size Changer: A special group in the shapeshifter category. These heroes can change their body size to become extremely big or extremely small. Examples include Henry Pym, Wasp and the Atom

Henshin Hero

This type of superhero is mainly popular in Japanese series and comics. Henshin heroes can transform their bodies (sometimes via a special device or object) from their normal human form to their superhero form. Examples are Super Sentai and Kamen Rider.

Rider

This category describes heroes who use special transportation that (partly) gives them their power, such as Silver Surfer.

Superheroes and superpowers come in all shapes and forms. Quicksilver is so fast he can disarm an entire militia in the blink of a eye.

Superheroes and superpowers come in all shapes and forms. Quicksilver is so fast he can disarm an entire militia in the blink of a eye.

More Heroes! More Powers!

Comments

MemeandI on November 22, 2014:

Doesn't gymanst fall in the martial artist category?

Robbin (author) from Oevel on October 16, 2012:

Yeah, that's true, totally forgot about them!

Domenick Dicce on October 15, 2012:

Love the break down of the different types of powers. I think I would add gymnast and animal endowments to the list.

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