Wednesday, October 10, 2007

How do you spell superhero?

A fascinating blog entry by Marvel Comics Executive Editor Tom Brevoort ("Things I Learned From Stan") discusses, among other things, the proper spellings of superhero and supervillain. It apparently depends on whether you work at Marvel or at DC:

4) SUPER HERO IS TWO WORDS; SUPER-VILLAIN IS TWO WORDS WITH A DASH. This all goes back to the joint trademark that Marvel and DC have on the terms super hero and super-villain—in their case, it's super-hero and super villain. (The one exception is Marvel Super-Heroes, which was trademarked as a title with the dash still in place.) Why? Because that's the way the trademark applications were filled out way back in the '70s. And as a conclusion to the Mark Gruenwald mantra by which I learned all this, superhuman is one word.

I guess it's the copy editor in me that finds this fascinating.


Unknown said...

This is still confusing me. Which is the correct way to spell 'super hero' and super-villian'? (You've said that it's spelled this way and then you said that it's spelled, 'super-hero' and 'super villain'.)
So, which is it? I'm really needing to know.
Thank you,
Lea Ellen {night owl in IL}

Matt Holm said...

Hi. Sorry if this is vexing! "Authorities" on something like an evolving language like English are slippery at times. There is no Central Bureau of English Grammar and Spelling that makes the rules.

That said, if I were still working as a magazine editor, I would defer to the wisdom of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. That was our bible at Hearst. Webster says:

"Superhero" (

Alas, they have no entry at all for supervillain/super-villain/super villain. I would tend to go with "super-villain". The hyphen indicates the words are linked and that super- is a prefix, yet also shows that consensus has not reached the point whereby most people would concatenate them into a single unbroken word.

Hope that helps. Why, if I might ask, is this information so desperately needed?