International Journal of

Arts , Humanities & Social Science

ISSN 2693-2547 (Print) , ISSN 2693-2555 (Online)
DOI: 10.56734/ijahss
“With Great Power Comes Great Impressionability” A Study of the Relation Between Stereotypes and Superheroes


The present multimethod research examines different stereotypes about race via a comic book superhero lens. This study focuses on the ascription of traits to a superhero figure developed specifically for this research, examining differences in trait ascription based on the race and sexual orientation of the hero. A diverse sample of participants (N= 371) were presented random drawings of either White, African American, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, Asian, or Native American superhero images and asked questions about their perceptions of the hero’s traits, character role (hero, villain, sidekick), powers, and socioeconomic status. Additionally, hero sexual orientation was manipulated (Heterosexual x Gay), bringing 12 conditions of hero identity that were randomly assigned to participants in a 6 (Race: White x Black x Latinx x Asian x Arab x Native American) x 2 (Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual x Gay) cross-sectional design.  Results indicated that participants ascribed certain traits differently based on the race of the hero as well as how race and sexuality of the hero interacted. Additionally, results supported the use of original, fictional images as a means of examining participant perceptions of race and sexuality. These empirical findings can be helpful in the creation and real-world adaptations of comic book superhero media and understanding effects of comic media on the development and dissemination of stereotypes.