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"This foppish baronet was the world’s 1st superhero" Topic

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09 Mar 2022 8:28 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

  • Crossposted to Superhero board

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Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian09 Mar 2022 8:22 p.m. PST

Wonder Woman, Iron Man, Superman, Black Widow … they can all trace their origins back to an exiled Hungarian baroness who dreamed up The Scarlet Pimpernel while riding the London Tube

The Guardian: link

Covert Walrus10 Mar 2022 2:49 a.m. PST

They seek him here, they seek him there . . . Indeed, very much a batman-like hero and worthy of being brought back to attention.

Augustus10 Mar 2022 7:12 a.m. PST

..his enemies seek him everywhere, but they shall never find my Scarlet Pimpernel.

Personal logo Herkybird Supporting Member of TMP10 Mar 2022 11:33 a.m. PST

They seek him here, they seek him there, they seek him simply everywhere, is he in Heaven, is he he in Hell, NO – he's in the Swan Hotel!

Florida Tory10 Mar 2022 12:06 p.m. PST

. . . The Frenchies seek him everywhere. Is he in Heaven? is he in Hell? That demned elusive pimpernel!


robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP10 Mar 2022 1:08 p.m. PST

Mark the date, gentlemen: the Guardian has spoken the truth. If you consider the essence of super-heroism to be the possession of a secret identity while doing good deeds at personal risk, Sir Percy is where it all begins, and the Guardian's "Greek myths" be hanged. They had, sometimes hidden heritages or simple disguises, but the Pimpernel is the first authentic dual identity, where the hope of the helpless is also a different man--married, with taxes to pay and an estate to manage.

But BACK to attention, Covert? Two copies sit on my shelves and the Howard/Oberon movie is in the regular rotation. He's as real to me as any politician or businessman in my news feed--and considerably more real than the "celebrities." (Are there really Kardasians? Apart from Star Trek in its declining years, that is?)

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP10 Mar 2022 3:08 p.m. PST

A friend of mine did a "retake" on the Scarlet Pimpernel set in a post-post-post-post apocalyptic world several thousand years in the future, where history was essentially repeating itself (though no one knew it). Fun take, as she reversed her protagonist and love interest. Neat read, and ideal for any teenage girls in your circle; adventure, independence, and just enough romance to have ‘em sighing— Rook by Sharon Cameron.

And yes, the author is a huge fan of Baroness Orczy and the original works.

arthur181510 Mar 2022 3:28 p.m. PST

Surely being a 'super hero' usually means to possess abilities outside of those of ordinary mortals, such as X ray vision, adamantine retractable claws, shape changing and so on. Personally, I never cared for such heroes because their extraordinary powers meant they were not being brave and skilful in the way that Hornblower, Holmes and Biggles were. One could strive to emulate them, but not Superman, Wolverine or the Hulk.

Leading a double life, having a secret identity and so on was practised by Zorro, the Lone Ranger and probably many others I've forgotten, besides Sir Percy.

Eumelus Supporting Member of TMP10 Mar 2022 3:41 p.m. PST

Concur with arthur1815 that a superhero differs from a hero in being, well, super. Plenty of mythological examples of "gods among us" like Herakles, Maui, Samson, etc. And of course Mr 1815 is also correct that unlike a hero, we mortals cannot emulate a superhero or be inspired by their example. We can be stirred to courageous action by Hektor, but not by Herakles.

One who was conspiracy-minded might wonder if the transformation of the vast – nay overwhelming number of movie protagonists from heroes to superheroes (whether costumed or not – the key test being whether we see this character perform deeds clearly impossible for a human) is a deliberate program by those who run the world. If modern generations grow up thinking that only a superhero is capable of action, they're less likely to cause trouble for those in command.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP10 Mar 2022 5:07 p.m. PST

Zorro is short stories starting 1919, arthur1815. The Lone Ranger is radio drama from 1933. The Scarlet Pimpernel opened on stage in 1903, and was published in novel form in 1905. No one suggested there have been no others, but no one has another candidate for first, except the "Greek myth" crowd. (Actually, the odd ones out in the Guardian are Wonder Woman, who only rarely and inconsistently has any sort of "secret identity" the the Black Widow, who flat doesn't. But one does not visit the Guardian for logical thinking.)

I have some sympathy with the "super power" argument--though I'd hate to disagree with Stan Lee on the definition of superhero--but note that you're also discarding Batman, Green Arrow, Hawkeye, the Black Widow, Captain America (sometimes) and a number of others. There would be mourning in Hollywood.

Andy Skinner Supporting Member of TMP11 Mar 2022 6:51 a.m. PST

A minor sidetrip from the conversation, but I've thought for a long time that the Count of Monte Cristo was a bit like Batman in some ways.


Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP12 Mar 2022 9:42 a.m. PST

Yes, "super hero" has never been relegated just to people with supernatural powers, Batman being indeed the prime example.
Others go back almost as far— The Blue Beetle and The Question were/are definitely "super heroes" in the modern parlance, despite neither having any superpowers at all. And as noted above, Captain America, aka Steve Rogers, is simply supposed to be a normal human being "maxed out" to full physical potential (though the comics and films are inconsistent on this point).
For the record, Iron Man has no super powers as Tony Stark— he just wears an incredible suit of very high tech armor. The Falcon, too, is just a guy with mechanical wings on his outfit. Now, the tech they use may be fantastic in terms of what we can actually make today, but otherwise they're perfectly normal human beings.

mrinku31 Mar 2022 9:26 p.m. PST

On the other hand… there is also Edward Hyde (1886). Not a hero, though, and despite League of Extraordinary Gentlemen not powered either (just murderous and vicious).

JoLeCaliPout28 Dec 2022 9:48 a.m. PST

If one is considering super-powerful adventuring people. then Gilgamesh would be the oldest.

ConnaughtRanger28 Dec 2022 11:19 a.m. PST

"..the Guardian has spoken the truth."
Not a phrase I thought I'd ever hear in my lifetime.

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