After watching one of the Spider-Man movies, Morgen and I were discussing how Peter Parker is an introvert, just like us (meaning: we think that’s a good thing). The word introvert is often misused to mean shy, retiring, or socially awkward. But in fact, all it means is that a person builds energy from solitude and expends it on social interactions; extroverts are the opposite. (And yes, there’s a whole continuum between introversion and extroversion—it’s not a binary thing.) Introverts do tend to be introspective and quiet, too, but those aren’t defining characteristics. They’re just the roughly 50% of the population that recharge by being alone. You might be surprised how many actors and musicians, who think nothing of performing before thousands or millions, are in fact introverts.
Back to Peter Parker…it occurred to me that many superheroes’ secret identities (or true identities, if that’s how you want to look at it) are introverts. In fact, introversion seems to be quite a helpful attribute—more than glasses or an unfashionable haircut, an introverted demeanor can effectively deflect unwanted attention and help to disguise the superhero’s super nature. (At the opposite extreme, we have Tony Stark—the not-at-all secret identity of Iron Man. Enough said.)
So here’s my list of the top five superheroes who, in my estimation, are introverts—at least until they slip on the old mask or cape, and sometimes afterwards too. (A disclaimer: I’m not a comic book guy—sorry!—so my opinions were formed based on TV and film portrayals.)
- Batman: I know what you’re going to say (because I’ve had this argument before): Bruce Wayne is a billionaire playboy and businessman. Clearly he loves being around other people! That may be so, but look at how much more time he spends alone. A lot. And, a great deal of the time he spends in other people’s company, he’s quiet—listening, thinking, observing. Not only is Bruce Wayne an introvert, but Batman himself is arguably the most introverted superhero of all time. Unlike some, he stays out of the spotlight as much as possible, and is quick to return to the seclusion of the Bat Cave.
- The Hulk: Bruce Banner (Robert Bruce Banner in the comics, and _David Bruce Banner in the 1970s TV series with Bill Bixby) is as quiet and reflective as any stereotypical scientist. Furthermore, “recharging” in Banner’s case really means avoiding stimulation that could make him angry; solitude definitely helps there. And the Hulk? It’s just not easy being green. I speak from experience.
- Superman: Two words: mild-mannered. No, wait…three words: Fortress of Solitude. Yep, Clark Kent is a solid introvert, and even Superman gets away from it all to recharge.
- Spider-Man: Although Peter Parker’s personality has undergone numerous changes, he always seems to like spending time alone, and obviously puts a lot of his energy into mental (as well as physical) gymnastics.
- Jean Gray: My favorite X-person, and not just because she’s attractive and can levitate things. On second thought…no, that’s exactly why. But also: there’s clearly a lot more going on inside her head than she lets on outwardly.
Note: This is an updated version of an article that originally appeared on SenseList on May 10, 2007.