Did A Woman Invent Superheroes?

Wonder WomanDC Comics

Finally, female-led superhero films are getting the due-diligence that they deserve. With next year’s Wonder Woman,  the possibility of Marvel producing a Black Widow movie, and casting Brie Larson as Captain Marvel, it seems Hollywood is slowly bringing women into the superhero fold. Rather, back into the superhero fold. As fans like Bob Chipman have pointed out, it was a woman who invented the concept of a superhero in the first place.

Chipman, along with many other superhero fans, have attributed the genre to Baroness Emma Orczy and her novel The Scarlet Pimpernel that was published in 1905. For those that weren’t forced to read the novel in any high school or college literature class, it follows Sir Percy Blakeney, a wealthy man who acts as a simple socialite during the day, but dresses up as a masked vigilante — known as the Scarlet Pimpernel — by night to rescue people sentenced to death during the French Revolution. (Sounds a bit like Bruce Wayne and Batman, doesn’t it?)


The original novel spawned many sequels written by Baroness Orczy, one of which detailed the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel: a group of men who masqueraded as the same fictional hero — another concept common in comic books.

While it’s true that many comic book heroes don’t fit into the mold created by Baroness Orczy’s Scarlet Pimpernel — not all superheroes have secret identities, for one thing — her novels are the first documented occurrence of a character that doubled as a socialite and a masked vigilante.

So, yes, a woman invented superheroes. You go, Emma!