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.