JLA/Avengers #1 (Written by Kurt Busiek, Art by George Perez)

Superheroes, Metahumans, and Mutants: The Breakdown

Three main entities make up the comic scene: superheroes, mutants, and metahumans. The three entities walk a fine line to many geeks and how they are different may be controversial. 

When people argue that all comic book characters are simply characters, they forget the thing that shows us the differences. People will choose a blind argument without realizing that there is a reason others find themselves more connected to one universe over another. The epic argument of DC versus Marvel is more complex than most might think.

Article written by Brooke Vecchi


The universes that lived among our bookshelves and played on our TV screens have left a sincere impression on fans. We grew up finding hope in these characters. They are an escape from the reality that we were surrounded by in our lives. We walk around our lives seemingly strangers to one another, connected by heroes, metahumans, and mutants that made us believe in something greater than our mundane lives.

Comic books are fairy tales for grown-ups.

Stan Lee

These characters from DC or Marvel gave us an amazing gift: to never have to be too old to believe in heroes or villains. Understanding the differences between the types of characters helps us to understand them more deeply. 



Superheroes that do not fall under the categories, metahumans or mutants, are the ones who stepped up with no powers or abilities that were genetically given to them.  There are many beloved characters that fall under this category starting with the most obvious, the Bat-Family.

The Bat Family consisted of not only Batman but also characters that became his family over the years. These characters begin at the “golden age” of Batman with the one and only Robin. The Bat Family started off as an army for Batman and the DC universe and quickly became a family.

Superheroes are not born with their powers. They do not have a supernatural experience that gave them an unlikely edge over the rest of the world. Like Iron Man, Arrow or Batman, they simply choose to do what they could to help the community around them. Superheroes are a standalone breed of hero, even though fans mistake them as metahumans and mutants. 



Metahumans are a selection of characters that specifically exist in the DC universe and not in the Marvel Universe. They are metahumans because they are born with a specific genetic variable known as a metagene. This gene causes them to gain their powers or super abilities after an accident or a time or something in their life that caused times of intense physiological trauma. These incidents trigger the gene and that is how they get their powers. Until an event like this occurs, the gene that brings their powers to life remains dormant. For example, lightning struck The Flash, which then allowed him to move at unexplainable speeds even to other timelines or dimensions. Other commonly known metahumans in the DC universe are Killer Frost, Livewire, and Poison Ivy. 



Unlike metahumans, mutants are born with their powers. Mutants exist in the Marvel Universe. This is a common way to remember if a character is from the Marvel or DC universe by figuring out which group they belong to, metahuman or mutant. Mutants have a gene, known as the x-gene.

Mutants are born with their powers but they usually do not manifest until the individual reaches puberty. This can be a challenging time for mutants who most commonly live completely ordinary human lives up to this point. The most common example of mutants is in X-Men where Dr. Xavier gives mutants a safe school to learn and educate themselves. People often confuse mutants and metahumans, even though they live in different universes, and mislabel them as simply superheroes. 



We all have the ability to choose to be heroes. Some of us are like mutants who are born with that hero gene and have the savior complex that makes us want to run into burning buildings or rescue kittens from trees. Others are more like metahumans, something occurs in us that makes us realize how they were a hero all along. Still, there are others we know that have no certain thing about them that makes them a hero other than their own heart to want to make our world a better one. As Iron Man once said, “Heroes are made by the path they choose, not the powers they are graced with.”

What kind of hero are you made of? Let us know on Twitter @geekgalsco or let us know in the comments below.

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Featured image credit: JLA/Avengers #1 (Art by George Perez), via SyFy.com

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