As the Marvel/Netflix show The Punisher proves this week, you don't need superpowers to be a superhero. While the likes of Superman, Spider-Man, and Wonder Woman are famous for their amazing superhuman abilities, there are plenty of heroes who have nothing but incredible training, high-tech gadgetry, and access to alien artifacts and body enhancing serums to help them.
OK, that's quite a lot, but at least they didn’t have to be bitten by a radioactive spider to get their abilities. Let's look at some of the best non-superpowered superheroes.
Natasha Romanova is a highly-trained Russian agent who defected to the West and was recruited by Nick Fury and SHIELD to use her abilities for the side of good. She's a superspy and master of disguise with unbelievable fighting skills. Powers not needed.
There have been three Blue Beetles over the course of many decades, but none have had their own superpowers. While the second version (Ted Kord) was simply equipped with a superpowered suit, the first and third Beetles (Dan Garret and Jaime Reyes) drew their powers from a piece of mysterious technology known as the Scarab. And although Dan just had to touch it, poor Jamie had it fused his spine.
Like Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark, Oliver Queen is a super-rich playboy who eventually found that fighting crime is a better use of his resources than drinking and womanising. His prowess as a hunter and martial artist and his skills with a bow are the rival of many more superpowered peers. He also has some super cool arrows, including gas and explosive tipped bolts.
If DC has Green Arrow, Marvel has Hawkeye. Like Oliver Queen, Clint Barton fires arrows with scary accuracy and incredible speed but, again, it's all through training. He's also one of the only other heroes able to throw Captain America's shield just as well as Cap himself, and he wears purple better than any other superhero.
Batman is of course, the most famous powerless hero of them all. Of course, it helps when you are a billionaire under the cowl, with an unlimited budget to design and develop some of the coolest crime-fighting gadgets ever. However, the best Batman stories have always shown Bruce Wayne's vulnerabilities too, from the aging hero of The Dark Knight Returns to his bruising, spine-snapping encounters with Bane.
Iron Man is the closest that the Marvel universe gets to Bruce Wayne. But Tony Stark is no shadowy vigilante--his identity isn't even a secret. But his enormous wealth has allowed him to build a super-powered suit that does pretty much everything. Flying, super strength, high-tech weaponry--Stark's got it all.
Silver Sable is one of the more ambiguous characters in the Marvel universe, and a frequent ally/adversary to Spider-Man. A mercenary also known as, er, Silver Sablinova, she is a highly trained expert in most forms of martial arts. She also wears a Kevlar costume and is armed to the teeth with a variety of guns and bladed weapons. Don't mess.
Despite his incredible strength, agility, and endurance, Steve Rogers technically has no superpowers. The Super-Soldier serum that he was given has pushed his body to the outer limits of human potential, and while many of his athletic feats are clearly impossible in our world, within the Marvel universe they are still count as just about achievable by a human. Also, we all love Cap, so he's in.
It's one thing to be amazingly skilled with a sword--it’s another when that sword contains the soul of your dead husband. But that's the fate of poor Tatsu Yamashiro, whose trusty blade, the Soultaker, was used to kill her husband Mateo and was soon possessed by his spirit. Despite this, Katana's weaponry skills and general martial arts prowess ensured that she has been a key part of both the Birds of Prey and The Outsiders.
SHIELD boss Nick Fury may not have any powers but with some of the world's greatest heroes at his disposal, he doesn't need any. He also has the coolest eyepatch in the history of comic books, and in the MCU gets to be played by Samuel L Jackson. Admittedly, Fury's aging process has been slowed down by the use of the Infinity Formula, but who can blame him for wanting a few less grey hairs?
There have been four Batgirls to date, and while none possess superpowers, all are highly trained and every bit the match for DC's other famous Bat-themed superhero. Barbara Gibson is her most famous alter ego, but Betty Kane, Cassandra Cain, and Stephanie Brown all kicked serious Gotham criminal ass.
Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier
Like his good pal Steve Rogers, Bucky doesn't have any powers. What he does have is years of physical training and intense Soviet brainwashing, plus a supercool bionic arm. As The Winter Soldier, Bucky fought on the side of the Russians, before being brought under the wing of Nick Fury and his old buddy Steve.
Avenger and SHIELD agent Barbara "Bobbi" Barton is another recipient of the Super Soldier serum, which she was given after sustaining a deadly injury. But even before that she was a highly trained combatant, with bone-crunching abilities with batons and bo-staffs. Plus, she has a PhD in biology!
Bruce Wayne's legendary partner Dick Grayson might not have any powers, but he learned from the best. After many years as Robin, Dick took to the streets of Gotham as Nightwing when he quit the Batcave to pursue a solo career.
Frank Castle takes the vengeful vigilantism of Batman to the next level. While Bruce Wayne aims just to hurt his enemies and leave them for the cops, the Punisher has no interest in such niceties. If you're deserving of his wrath, you deserve to die. And possibly get tortured first. Castle obviously has an incredible arsenal of weaponry, but he has also trained his body and mind to a degree that he can withstand pain and any psychic or telepathic attacks that his enemies might employ against him.