X-Men: Who Actually Coined the Term 'Homo Superior'?

Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the seven hundred and forty-sixth installment where we examine comic book legends and whether they are true or false.

As usual, there will be three posts, one for each of the three legends.

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Comic book icon Otto Binder coined the term "homo superior" for mutants



In 1963, X-Men #1 (by Jack Kirby, Stan Lee and Paul Reinman) was released, which was about a group of super-powered mutants. Here, let's see them discuss their powers...

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Later in the issue, though, when Magneto attacks a military base, he can't shut up about homo superior...

That was when the terms "homo superior" and "mutant" were entered into the Marvel Comics lexicon, but as I noted in an old Comic Book Legends Revealed, a decade earlier, when Fawcett was in the middle of dropping their superhero line of comic books, two of their superhero creators (writer Otto Binder and artist Kurt Schaffenberger) contributed to an article in one of Fawcett's magazines about what a world following an Atom War would look like and Binder used the term "homo superior" for that article (notable for its use in conjunction with the the term "mutants")...

The prominence of that article in recent years have led to the idea that Otto Binder essentially created the idea of mutants and homo superior.

However, Binder was really just working off of an already long history of science fiction stories that discussed a lot of the same themes that would be present in both Binder's article and then Kirby and Lee's X-Men. In fact, it seems more likely than not that when Kirby and Lee introduced the X-Men, they were MORE likely to have taken their cues from the previous pulp novels on the topic and less likely to have taken from Binder's article specifically (not that Binder's article was NOT an influence, but it just seems more likely that if there are a lot of different possible sources, it is less likely that you took from one SPECIFIC source over the others).

For instance, in the same year that Binder's article came out, there were TWO books about mutants released that same year (both collections of stories that originally appeared in pulp magazines), Children of the Atom by Wilmar Shiras...

(which is pretty much the X-Men, with a group of young people whose parents had been exposed to atomic radiation form their own school)

and Mutant by Henry Kuttner (writing as Lewis Padgett), a collection of short stories about mutants...

Those books, in turn, were likely influenced by A.E. van Vogt's 1940 novel, Slan, which was also originally serialized in a pulp magazine. Slan was about a hunted group of telepathic mutants...

Finally, the granddaddy of them all, Olaf Stapledon's 1935 novel, Odd John, about an evolved race of psionics who form their own island community until the humans can't let them be...

It was Stapledon who coined the term "homo superior."

Looking at these books, it is easy to see how there was a clear zeitgeist that existed before Kirby and Lee came up with the X-Men.


Check out some other legends from Legends Revealed:

1. Did the BBC Buy the Trademark to Blue Police Boxes From the Metropolitan Police?

2. How Did Optimus Prime Save the Life of Duke from G.I. Joe?

3. Did the Scarecrow Accidentally Light Himself on Fire During the Filming of Wizard of Oz?

4. Did Kenneth Cole Launch His Company By Inventing a Fake Film Company for New York’s Fashion Week? _______________________________________________________________________________

Check back soon for part 2 of this installment's legends!

And remember, if you have a legend that you're curious about, drop me a line at either brianc@cbr.com or cronb01@aol.com!

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