There's something I need to tell you all, dear readers, and it may be a bitter pill to swallow. Superhero comics are just soap operas with spandex and punching. This also goes for professional wrestling, but that's a topic for someone whose knowledge on the subject is more up to date than about 2003.
Don't get me wrong, I like seeing superpeeps thrashing seven shades of superpoop out of each other as much as the next person, but the real reason people keep coming back to the ol' funnybooks is the drama. Sure, Batman is cool, but would he still be popular after all these years if all he ever did was fight? Of course not! If that were the case, we'd be celebrating the 90s as a New Golden Age instead of quietly pretending they didn't happen while making jokes about pouches and feet.
Unfortunately, the superbiffing is the easiest part of the whole thing to translate to video games, so that's generally what we get. Occasionally a developer will remember that Batman is the World's Greatest Detective, or that web-swinging is clearly the most fun part of being Spider-Man, but it's usually in service to the fighty parts. Telltale's Batman stands out as one of the few examples of something a little different.
Instead of going straight for action genres, or even something more strategic like the venerable Freedom Force or the forthcoming Midnight Suns, I reckon the best starting point for a great superhero game is actually The Sims.
No, no come back. Hear me out. It's good, I promise.
Picture a game with the X-Men, the Teen Titans, or a generic cohabiting superteam if your imagination can't afford a license. You build your own base of operations, stuff it full of Danger Rooms, living quarters and an insufficient quantity of loos, then let your supersquad loose within its confines.
Your job is to look after the needs of the team, train them, build friendships and manage rivalries before they get out of hand. The better you take care of them, the better they'll perform when you send them out on a mission. On their return, you patch them up and get ready for the next one, while continuing to navigate the escalating drama. What happens when one of your heroes takes a shine to a villain? Or if someone's teen offspring from a dystopian alternate future shows up at the door?
That's what you're supposed to do, but anyone with experience of Will Wright's magnum opus will know that the real fun comes with poking the proverbial ant's nest and seeing what mayhem and distress you can inflict upon your hapless virtual households. I giggle with impish glee at the thought of forcing perennial love rivals Cyclops and Wolverine to share a room, or seeing exactly how much Superman's yellow sun-powered Kryptonian biology helps him when you've removed all of the toilets and beds.
Good superhero fiction isn't about what makes the heroes super, it's about what makes them human, even if they're mutants or aliens or have the power of gods. A game that allowed us to engage with these characters at their most mundane moments would evoke these themes better than another game about putting superboot to superbutt.