Even though the term “superhero” arose in the early 1900s, humanity's fascination with mythical and real heroic tales dates back centuries. Ancient cave paintings and scrolls depict stories of men slaying magnificent beasts to defend or feed their villages.
Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Norse mythologies tell the stories of gods and demigods who possess superpowers and battle otherworldly foes to save humanity. One might say superheroes are the modern equivalent of the heroes in these age-old tales.
Marvel created Superhero Day in 1995, and each year on 28 April, we celebrate modern-day superheroes from comic books and movies. Many choose to honour real-life superheroes and tell their stories of extraordinary bravery and selflessness. Let’s look at how superheroes came about, where the antiheroes fit in and discover superhero-themed slots.
The Original Superhero
Legendary comic book creator Stan Lee described a superhero as a character with extraordinary powers that performs heroic acts. Unlike police, firefighters, and other ordinary heroes, superheroes have unique capabilities such as flying and super strength or speed.
The first character that fits this description in modern times is Mandrake, the magician. Lee Falk's 1924 creation became the first to wear a superhero outfit as The Phantom Magician. Modern-day DC and Marvel groupies may not recognise the magician as the original, but his influence is evident. Clad in tights, a cape, and a mask, his character inspired the look of pretty much all that followed. He directly influenced the likes of Batman, Superman, and The Phantom, whom many believe to be the first superhero.
Technicalities aside, the originals in the superhero realm trigger images of Superman, Batman, and Captain America. We could ascribe this to their link with the two most prominent and oldest comic book creators, DC and Marvel. These characters truly stood the test of time.
Spanning as far back as the late 1930s, story writers constantly reimagine these characters to suit the generation they find themselves in. Their popularity spans multiple generations and, in recent years, increased so much that grandfathers and grandsons equally relish the release of the next Marvel or DC box office hit.
Superman first appeared in June 1938, spurring the start of the superhero revolution with new comic book publishers popping up everywhere. The man of steel’s origin is probably the best known of all, but it is interesting to note that he could not always fly.
His original powers included invulnerability, incredible strength, super speed and the ability to leap great distances. Superman's power only grew due to his competition, primarily Fawcett Comics' Captain Marvel. Captain Marvel could fly, and his popularity soon rivalled Superman, outselling him in the 1940s. Subsequently, Superman's creators swapped his great leaps for the ability to fly.
World War 2 saw Superman become the beacon of patriotism for the DC universe, taking on Axis forces frequently. Post World War 2 saw a steep decline in sales of superhero titles, yet Superman continued to enjoy success in other media such as radio, television and big-screen movies. Since then, the character has endured highs and lows to become one of the most recognisable superheroes in pop culture, with the latest box office hits grossing $600 million and $800 million globally.
Batman debuted in May 1939 in Detective Comics no. 27 and was an immediate sensation. Unlike Superman, Batman has no superpowers. Instead, after losing his parents and declaring war against crime, a young Bruce Wayne spends years training his body and mind to perfection. He uses his inheritance to develop technology that aids him in fighting crime.
Initially, Batman was hardcore, throwing thugs off rooftops and executing a vampire with a silver bullet, sparking the debate about him being the original modern antihero. However, they eliminated this for fear that its young audience would emulate the sinister elements. Creators steered Batman away from fierce battles and firearms, and the character was later softened, even more, when his sidekick Robin arrived on the scene.
Although many comics did not survive Frederic Wertham’s 1954 book, Seduction of the Innocent, Batman rose from the ashes. His revival in 1964 enjoyed the success that continues today with many movies, animated series, and graphic novels, and the dark knight is still a beacon of hope in pop culture today.
✓ Captain America
Modern followers recognise him as the leader of The Avengers, but Captain America arrived on the superhero map in March 1941 in a stand-alone title called Captain America Comics. The plot was pretty simple, kicking Nazi butt, and he became increasingly popular after the bombing of Pearl Harbour. Captain America was the hero young Americans needed in a time of great uncertainty.
After the war, they put Captain America on ice in an issue where he and his sidekick, Bucky, attempted to diffuse a bomb on a plane that exploded over the ocean, sending Cap's body into the icy waters below. Producers later used this scene when rebooting the character. Even though it didn't enjoy the same success as powerhouse titles such as Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four, it remained a cornerstone of the Marvel Universe throughout the sixties.
Fast forward to 2011, and Cap appears on the big screen for the first time in almost 70 years. Captain America: The First Avenger propelled the character to icon status, enjoying even more success than Batman and Superman.
The Rise of the Antihero
The antihero is a central character of a story who lacks conventional heroic qualities. These heroes typically have good intentions, but their method of arriving at the desired result is often questionable. In other words, the antihero is more relatable and thus more likeable. They are more human, even though they possess superhuman abilities.
Perhaps they address our shadow self, as the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche would say, transcending the boundaries of good and evil in pursuit of the greater self. The antihero’s fight is often not only against the forces of evil but also the forces inside himself, whether it be guilt, anger, or rage.
We can use Harry Potter as an example here. The only way he could combat Voldemort was to release the "monster" inside himself. While fighting for the greater good, Batman often operates outside the law and uses the death of his parents to fuel his pursuits. Deadpool, Wolverine, and even James Bond kill to realise their goal and assign the methods and outcomes as collateral. Although it may be morally wrong, perhaps they could not achieve the goal otherwise.
Spin with Your Favourite Heroes
Slot developers have titles inspired by all, from the most classic and loved heroes to the antihero leagues that force us to reflect on our shadow selves. Comic book fans and followers of traditional Marvel and DC heroes have a list of titles available from Playtech, thanks to their partnership with Warner Brothers.
That being said, some studios tap into their imaginations and introduce heroes of their own making, giving slot players a vast collection of exciting hero-themed games.
✓ Superman II by Playtech
One of Playtech’s newer additions to their selection of DC comic titles is Superman II, which is based on the 1980s film with the same title. An absolute must for followers of the franchise as imagery includes Christopher Reeve as the man of steel and all the original characters that joined him in the famous films.
Set in the Metropolis skyline, this nostalgic slot comes with the iconic soundtrack and sound effects to thrill players, as a silver screen production does. The 5x3 slot grid presents 25 paylines and multiple extras to match the phenomenal superhuman powers the hero from Krypton owns.
Every spin is a battle for Metropolis, and the nefarious General Zod will stop at nothing. Superman randomly turns up to 4 symbols into Wilds or reveals more Wilds with his X-Ray vision. During the Unlimited Phantom Zone Free Games, a 2x2 Walking Wild and win multipliers add excitement. More features await in the Skyline Fight bonus, and Superman II is part of Playtech's DC Super Hero Jackpot range of slots.
✓ Wonder Woman Gold by Bally Technologies
If you enjoy retro design work and 70s fashion, Bally Technology's Wonder Woman Gold is the perfect online slot game. Based on the iconic 70s TV series, the superhero-themed slot presents original characters from the cast and a jackpot feature.
The developers of this superhero slot remained faithful to the series that inspired the game, and punters play the 5x4 reels while the original soundtrack plays in the background. With 40 paylines, 5 Bonus Features, and 3 Jackpots, Wonder Woman Gold isn't just a blast from the past; it is a must for any superhero fan’s slot list.
Pop art symbols may include mystery symbols to reveal any standard paying symbol for bigger wins. Mystery Stacked Reels and an expanding Wild symbol create a thrilling base game experience while jackpots could trigger at any given moment. Three gold shield Scatters with Diana on them trigger Free Spins, where punters choose between options for a customised experience with Wonder Woman.
✓ Robin: Sherwood Marauders by Peter & Sons
In a YG Masters collaboration with Peter & Sons, we find an antihero loved by the poor and loathed by the rich. Robin: Sherwood Marauders is a video slot inspired by the famous archer and thief, Robin Hood. The rebellious hero sets out to steal treasures from the wealthy, and he is in good company with a band of merry men.
The graphic design work is in faithful Peter & Sons' style, with quirky cardboard-like cartoon images containing beady eyes. Six reels spin in the wood-framed grid, and cascading wins increase the win multiplier in this volatile game. With 4,096 ways to find winning combinations and soothing instrumental music fit for Robin’s era, this title provides superb entertainment.
Pillage the reels in Free Spins with 3 Scatter chests in view and enjoy the thrilling combination of cascading symbols, increasing multipliers, and expanding Wilds. Fill the Super Free Spin bar by collecting 670 chests and start the bonus game with a 5x multiplier.
✓ Star Guardians by Evoplay
This revolutionising game introduces a band of heroes geared to change the slot world as they fight in an intergalactic battle to save humanity. Star Guardians is Evoplay’s biggest budget game, allowing punters to become sharpshooters in this third-person shooter slot and trade the reels for a trigger and bullets.
Meet Butcher, Skyler, and Kelliot, who comprise the special forces team and accompany your hero of choice on the mission of a lifetime. Each hero has unique skills to enhance gameplay, and instead of clicking spin, punters pull the trigger. Confident shooters can change from automatic to manual mode for a more immersive experience. The heroes blast their way through rooms filled with insect-like aliens, while the movie-like score adds to the adventure.
Collect wins from kills and loot boxes that appear at certain room exits with Butch, Skyler, and Kelliot contributing multipliers, loot box keys, or guaranteed loot. A random event can trigger the bonus feature where players battle it out with the swarm queen, and big prizes await those who take all her heads.