A genre in of itself, Superheros are hugely popular and have strong fan bases. Characters like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Thor, Captain America, and so many more are household names. Secret identities and crime fighting are the characteristic tropes of this sub-genre (tights, capes and masks help out here). The popularity and well-known tropes make it an an easily identifiable sub-genre. Is there a person with super special abilities, a strong sense of morality, two identities? Is there another person with special abilities and a penchant for the evil? Now we have a story.
Recently though, superhero stories have taken on more interesting and diverse stories. The worlds may be darker, the morality grayer, or the need for superheros less. Some modern Superhero fantasy might in fact be critiques or subversions of the typical "We Need a Hero to Save the Day" theme or a look at how damaging to one's psychology having super powers might be. Stories are also being told from other perspectives like the villain or the sidekick. Outside the comic book format there is tons of room for writers to play with this sub-genre.
Superhero stories have ties to both Fantasy and Science Fiction camps; the strength of the tie depends on the origin of superhuman powers. Regardless, the powers are not really plausible by our current level of science, which is why superhero stories are often categorized as Fantasy even when they lack more traditional fantasy elements. The stories are imaginative and contain plenty of world-building.
Low. Superheros are special because of their unique and powerful abilities. These abilities are rarely magical and most of the population does not possess them (otherwise Superheros wouldn't be very super). Sometimes the powers are based on magic, some on technology, or something else entirely.
Moderate. Superhero Fantasy is an interesting lens by which writers examine our society. Aquaman is pretty big on protecting the ocean and all its life. Batman is a testament to the failures of our justice systems. X-men is an examination of racism and class structures. However, superheros have great power and have the potential to seriously alter the world around them. So why don't they fix all those pesky social issues? For the most part, superheros maintain the status quo. They defeat the threat and the world goes back to normal.
High. Characters are the heart and soul of this sub-genre. Superheros make for some pretty awesome characters. In addition to their fantastic powers they usually have some pretty deep psychological issues and motivations. What makes someone with superhuman powers a hero or a villain? What drives one person to the defense of entire cities? Why does evil tentacle guy want to murder everything? These, and many others, are deep and interesting questions that readers will enjoy unraveling.
High. Action! Superhero stories are action-packed stories. The cause and effect of actions shape the events and the characters. All of the events tend to lead up to a final battle where our awesome superhero triumphs.
High. Superheros fight against the forces of evil and they fight violently.
Heroic Fantasy. Both sub-genres focus on a strong main character whose goal is defeating evil.
By George R.R. Martin. This series is a relatively realistic take on the superhero genre; a virus is the cause of superpowers and those who have them do not hide behind masks.
By Chelsea M. Campbell. Damien Locke is the son of a supervillian and a superhero, this is the story of how he chooses sides.
By Jeramey Kraatz. The Cloak Society is an organization of supervillians who were once defeated by superheros, but they seek to resurface.
By Austin Grossman. This book has two perspectives: that of a new superhero recruit, and that of an established supervillian who escapes from jail.
By Michael Carroll. The first book in the New Heroes/Quantum Prophecy series introduces us to two young boys who are the legacy of the vanished superhumans—but not everyone wants the superhumans to come back.
By Tracy Hickman. A Batman story that reveals some of the darker past of his parents.
By K.M. Johnson-Weider. Do superheros change the world or does the world change superheros?
By John David Anderson. Drew is in middle school and he's also part of the secret organization to train superhero sidekicks.
By Michael Chabon. The Escapist is a superhero created to play out the fantasies of Kavalier and Clay—part magician, part escapist, part superhero. The two create this comic book character. The story is about this partnership and also about their personal struggles to find meaning and escape nazis.
By Minister Faust. Dr. Brain is a therapist who helps the extraordinarily abled, who are struggling with life after the defeat of all archenemies.
By Brandon Sanderson. An epic superhero fantasy by Brandon Sanderson. This is world imagined where people with superpowers emerge, but not as heroes as villians.