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"Today, I am a wiener. Not a winner."
Major Victory, Who Wants to be a Superhero

Who Wants to Be a Superhero? is a reality show hosted by Stan Lee, creator of Spider-Man, the original X-Men, The Incredible Hulk and the Fantastic Four. Contestants dress up as comic book superheroes of their own invention.

Each week, Lee challenges the contestants to represent what "superheroes are all about." The twist is that almost every challenge has a second Secret Test of Character that will be obvious to the viewer. Each episode, one or more of the superheroes deemed the least deserving is eliminated. The grand prize for the winning superhero is to have his or her character star in a Dark Horse Comics comic book written by Lee. They also have a cameo appearance in an original movie to be aired on Sci Fi Channel; whether or not this can be considered a reward is debatable.

A UK version aired on CBBC in early 2009. Instead of adults, the contestants are children. The programme is hosted by CBBC presenters Sam Nixon and Mark Rhodes while Stan Lee merely contacts the heroes through a television set to give them their missions and later give a debriefing. The premise is basically the same mentioned as in the above paragraphs. The prize for the winner is to go to Hollywood and be turned into a comic book hero by Stan Lee. Unlike the American version they will not appear in their own tv movie, and the winner's comic will not be sold in the shops.

The two winners of the two American competitions are Matthew "Feedback" Atherton (Season One) and Jarrett "The Defuser" Crippen (Season 2). The winner of the UK version was Karl "H2O Man" Harris.

Examples of:
  • Ascended Fanboy: Pretty much everyone, Feedback especially.
  • Attack of the 50 Foot Whatever: The giant clone of Stan Lee, which is created by stealing electricity or something. As one IMDb poster put it, "Oh no, a giant old man is on the loose! Somebody head him off at the county buffet!"
  • Badass Normal: The Defuser's concept, and appropriately, he usually winds up leading. Also, when you get down to it, all the contestants are Badass Normals. Or at least they want to be.
  • Big Bad: Dr. Dark.
  • Big No: In the UK version, Dolphin Girl, on realising she has given away her real name and other personal details to the reporters and that Dr. Dark is likely to have heard it.
  • Blown Across the Room: Dr. Dark's defeat at the end of season two has the Defuser, Hyperstrike, and Hygena send him flying through a door with a combined blast. Of course it was a stage fight, but that doesn't take away from the awesome.
  • Bound and Gagged: The pet shop owner in episode five of the UK version. Sam and Mark get the same treatment a number of episodes later.
  • Broken Aesop: Stan Lee has a bit of a problem with this. Example: He chastised Major Victory for being an ex-stripper, despite being the creator of the short-lived Spike animated series Stripperella. Not only that, but there was a large picture of Stripperella behind Stan for most of the second season!
    • Even more than that, Stan was concerned that Major Victory wouldn't be a good role model because of his past as a stripper. Stan was probably suffering from selective amnesia, as quite a few of Stan the Man's most prominent creations have done FAR worse things and still been considered heroic role models. And a fair number were even active criminals and terrorists before becoming heroes.
      • In fairness, as far as Major Victory goes, it sounded more like he was asking how confident and prepared V was for going about being a hero despite his past, rather than outright saying "You're not good enough". It's not like any of Marvel's successes were terrorists in one issue and randomly became heroes the next.
    • Another notable example is that in season one, he criticizes Ty'Veculus for not being able to admit he doesn't like his new costume--and then in season two, he criticizes Hyperstrike for not being able to accept a costume he disliked.
    • Another time, after emphasizing the importance of being honest for the rest of the episode, he eliminated Ty'Veculus for openly naming who he believed should be eliminated (rather than choosing himself) when asked. Even more ironic: Ty'Veculus was the same guy who he criticized for not being honest about the costume he didn't like in the previous episode, so now he gets eliminated for being honest!
      • Not exactly. He was eliminated for choosing someone else over himself, something a true superhero would never do. However, Ty'Veculus himself seemed to believe he was doing the right thing by honestly calling out someone he saw as a liability rather than self-sacrificing himself for the selfish reason of staying in the game due to knowing that it was the secret challenge.
    • An episode of the UK version has Sam and Mark remind the viewers that superheroes should never accept rewards for their deeds, to the extent that Dolphin Girl was powered down because of it. One episode later, Nine Lives receives a reward (immunity from the power down). A couple of the superheroes were not happy.
  • By-The-Book Cop: The Defuser, the winner of season 2 in the US, was this for the most part. A case of Truth in Television, since he was a police officer in Real Life.
  • Catch Phrase: Most of the contestants in the UK version had one, though Nine Lives's was probably the most memorable, it was his "theme song".

 Five, six, seven, eight, Nine Lives! Nine Lives! Nine Lives!

    • It was later parodied by Dr. Dark after he got hold of his secret identity file.

 Five, six, seven, eight, NO LIVES!

    • Ty'Veculus had the particularly hammy, "By the source of light, I am Ty'Veculus!" Though, this was arguably one of the best that the series ever offered.
    • You want hammy? Try Major Victory. "Be a winner, not a weiner."
  • Captain Ersatz/Writing Around Trademarks: Mr. Mitzvah, in Season 2, originally entered as Peaceman, a character he'd invented and previously used as part of his charity work. When he learned he'd have to sign away the copyright to the character to be part of the show, he came up with the Mr. Mitzvah persona instead, which is pretty much just Peaceman with a goofier costume.
  • Captain Obvious "Meet Monkey Woman. She is a woman who sounds like a monkey!"
  • Chest Insignia: Major Victory, Levity and Nitro G, among others.
  • Civvie Spandex: The Defuser wears a tactical vest over his costume.
  • Cloning Blues: Second season villain Dr. Dark made an evil clone of Stan Lee.
  • Code Name
  • Comes Great Responsibility: The contestants get held to an extremely high standard, especially as Stan starts running out of people to eliminate.
  • Cool Old Guy: Stan Lee himself
  • Determinator: Oh, so many, but to pick one for each season...
    • Season 1 had Monkey Woman. In episode 2, the heroes had to cross a yard to the back door of a house with two attack dogs pulling them away. Three candidates rushed the door and made it in under thirty seconds. Five others try, but quickly cry uncle (literally - that was the safe word). Monkey Woman, however - she fights the dogs back and forth across the lawn for nine minutes and forty-three seconds to finally, successfully make the door.
    • Season 2 had Hygena, a hero who is just a little compulsive about cleaning, having to dive into several messy challenges one after another. You can see her on the verge of freaking out several times - but each time she fights it down, and often takes a position of leadership to power through it. She ended the season as the only contestant who never voluntarily gave up on a challenge.
  • Face Heel Turn: Iron/Dark Enforcer
  • Flanderization: Parthenon in Season 2 started out as Straight Gay like Levity from Season 1 was, but a few episodes in, he began to act ridiculously Camp Gay and remained that way for the rest of the show.
  • Fun Personified: Major Victory, who deliberately played his role over the top. Also Hyper-Strike from season two, with his exaggerated Dragonball Z esque moves.
    • It helped that Hyper-Strike was actually a stuntsman, so he was actually doing flips and high kicks. Excellent!
  • Genre Savvy: Several nice cases. In Season 1, Lemuria passes the self-nomination challenge and smugly tells the cameraman later that "Stan will have to try a lot harder to outsmart me like that." In Season 2, Hygena is the only one to consider that Doctor Dark is lying when he implies that one of the heroes is a spy (as indeed he was).
  • Giant Spider: Episode 12 of the UK version featured one.
  • Green Aesop: In the UK version, S.G.W.'s mission (his intials stand for Stop Global Warming). To an extent, H2O Man who occasionally stresses over the merits of water.
  • Jaywalking Will Ruin Your Life: Believe it or not, one of them got in trouble for this, too. Stan is always watching!
  • Jerkass: Mindset from the second US season. Aside from insulting Ms. Limelight, he deliberately failed a challenge out of refusal to spell words with an extra bee, getting his teammates stung by bees in the process.
    • According to Mindset, at least in the second case, he was refusing to play by Bee Sting's twisted rules and banking on that being the secret challenge of the day. (On this show, stranger things have happened.) Except it turns out it wasn't, and he was reprimanded for putting himself above his teammates, who had no say in his choice even though it affected all of them, and they were understandably not pleased.
    • The Iron/Dark Enforcer from the first season also counts, but he's apparently a lot nicer in real life.
  • Large Ham: Pretty much everyone, Stan Lee included. EXCELSIOR!, indeed.
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor : Mr. Mitzvah, who after being portrayed as nearly a villain during Season 2, was revealed to be a philanthropist in real life who helps raise money for children's charities.
  • Most Common Superpower: The comic book versions of the superheroes tend to be more muscular (for males) or have bigger breasts (for females) than the real-life counterparts.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: The editors sometimes go crazy with the special effects.
  • My Name Is Not Durwood: In the UK version, Mark got called "Mike" a couple of times.
  • Nineties Anti-Hero: Iron Enforcer. After his elimination, Stan Lee pointed out that "you make a lousy hero," before making him into the villainous Dark Enforcer.
  • Older Than They Look: In the UK version, Santh and S.G.W. are 20 and 360 years old respectively (well their characters are anyway).
  • One-Scene Wonder: HOME-LESS MAAAAHHHHN!
  • Only in It For the Money: The first contestant eliminated in the first season of the US version got cut after admitting he'd joined the show with hopes of marketing the hell out of his character. Stan wasn't thrilled to have someone sign on out of sheer greed and tossed him out.
  • Race Against the Clock: Many of the challenges involved this.
  • Reality TV
  • Sdrawkcab Name: Rotiart backward is...traitor! Apparently, people really do fall for this in real life. Even when it's spelled out for them right across his chubby chest.
  • Secret Identity: It's one of the basic rules of the show that the contestants are never to break character by "revealing their secret identity" to the public (that is, giving their real name or admitting they're contestants in a show or (in the UK version) giving away their hometown). Breaking this rule may be cause for elimination; in fact, this, along with her having lied about her real-life occupation, got first-season contestant Monkey Woman eliminated without even the usual chance to defend her actions to Stan.
    • It wasn't so much the fact that she gave it away, as most of the others had, as well; it was that she gave it away voluntarily, and as part of introducing herself to the contact.
  • Secret Test of Character: Nearly every challenge had one hidden in it.
    • Some were so obscure, or even counterintuitive, that a fair portion of the second season's contestants went past Genre Savvy and into paranoid trying to meet the secret requirement of the day. This usually did not work out for them.
  • Seven Deadly Sins: One could make the argument that each contestant from the first season of the US version personified at least one sin each.
  • Shout-Out: In the final battle against Dr. Dark, Hyperstrike does a Kamehameha attack while shouting "HY-PER, HY-PERRR STRIIIKE!"
  • Smug Snake: Dr. Dark is intentionally played as this. He talks in a raspy voice and spends his screentime boasting about how evil and brilliant he is. Then when his big plan in the second season fails, he confronts the superheroes personally and gets beaten up in a fight that lasts about a minute and a half.
  • Special Guest: The UK version featured Danni Harmer, known for playing Tracy Beaker, Best Of Friends presenters Abs and Rani, Prank Patrol presenter Barney Harwood and one of the presenters of Newsround. And a season 2 episode of the US version featured WWE wrestler Rob Van Dam.
  • Stock Super Powers: Most of the first season's heroes were Superman-style flying bricks, although the second season's contestants were more creative as a whole.
  • Team Dad: In Season 2, eventual winner The Defuser took on this role to some of the other contestants, most notably Whip-Snap.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Iron Enforcer was constantly criticized for having a BFG as his power. The second-season contestants caught on and explicitly declared their abilities to be non-lethal.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Ms. Limelight. Her greatest moment was when, during the course of the season, Stan pointedly asked her what kind of powers she had. She stood there and went "Umm..." for a good five minutes because she'd evidently never given the background of her character any thought.
    • There's also Nitro G from the first season in the USA. One of the first challenges required the heroes to find a place to change into their costume in the middle of a public park and then Race Against the Clock to a predetermined point. While most of the heroes failed the real test - a Secret Test of Character (i.e. noticing a lost child and then stopping to help her) - Nitro G was the only one who failed the first part of the challenge... by stripping down to his skivvies and changing into his costume in an open field in broad daylight!
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Contestants frequently get to deal with any phobias they have, whether it be tight places, roller coasters, insects, or, yes, snakes. One memorable example is Lumeria from season 1, who was terrified of high places and broke down in tears when one of the tests included them.
    • The snakes example was for Parthenon, who got penalized (not eliminated though) for letting out a girly scream when he accidentally touched one.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Several contestants tried to employ tried-and-true "reality show" backstabbing tactics, failing to realize that the show was serious about looking for a superhero. And heroes aren't selfish, lying, backstabbing reality-show creatures. (Usually.)
  • Yiddish as a Second Language: Mr. Mitzvah turned this trope up to 11. His catch phrase? "L'chaim! To life!"