10 Defining Rules Of Iconic Characters (That Came Later Than You Think)

Batman never uses guns... Except in literally his first issue...

Batman Gun
DC Comics

It's good to have rules. Rules help to make a character into someone who has a distinct identity. Whether hero or villain, a character seems more unique if they have a personal code that sets them apart from others - like, for instance, if they have their own approach to saving (or destroying) the world.

Our favourite icons don't just arrive on the page or screen fully formed, though, and a lot of what we now think of as the rules that define a popular character weren't always a part of who they are. Even core aspects of a character's identity aren't necessarily worked out by their creators in their early incarnations.

You can call it character development or just a good old-fashioned retcon, but either way a character can end up known above all for his anti-gun policy even when he spent his early years mowing down mobsters with a semi-automatic. And someone who started out a family man can end up being synonymous with the mantra of: "don't form personal connections".

Development is natural for most fictional beings, but it's rare for their most defining elements to come years after they first appeared. The following characters all had their most defining traits added in long after their debut, and in truth, it's hard to imagine them existing in any other way...

10. Superman Fights For Truth, Justice And The American Way

Batman Gun
DC Comics

He's the archetypal old school superhero, an earnest do-gooder with a clearly defined heroic code. As the phrase goes, Superman is here to fight for truth, justice and the American way.

In his early days, however, Supes' approach to hero work hadn't quite settled into being the Big Blue Boy Scout we know and love.

Far from being a lawful good guy, 1930s Superman was a law unto himself, someone with a chaotic approach to doing the right thing that often saw himself as above the country and humanity's rules of truth and justice.

Like many other Golden Age heroes, early Superman had no problem disposing of villains by killing them. He also frequently relied on a zany, destructive, and decidedly un-boy-scout-ish scheme.

In one infamous 1939 story (Action Comics #8: Superman In The Slums), the Last Son of Krypton threatened to crush some pickpocket kids to a pulp and trashed their slum homes to try and force the government to replace them with better ones. The story ends with Superman fighting off the National Guard and being declared a wanted fugitive.

It wasn't until the backdrop of the Second World War and, particularly, the Cold War that Superman became an avatar for the all-American good guy, with the "Truth, Justice and the American Way" mantra first appearing in the 1940s radio serial before becoming a fixture in the 50s TV series.

More recent stories have flipped right around on the boy scout characterisation and "American Way" affiliation. Henry Cavill's Man Of Steel trashing a military drone wouldn't have felt at all out of place in the world of Superman In The Slums, even if it is at odds with much of the character's history!


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