In another idea from this concept of player characters as real Heroes, or even Superheroes let’s look at some characters for comparison. The comparisons are not going to be straight across, due to the differences in worlds, but I think it is an interesting comparison. Let’s compare the Companions of the Hall, from the many R.A. Salvatore books to the Avengers from the first Avengers movie.
The Companions of the Hall at the core consist of Drizzt Do’Urden, Drow Ranger, Bruenor Battlehammer, Dwarf Fighter, Cattie-Brie, Human Fighter/Mage, Wulfgar, human Barbarian, and Regis, Halfling Rogue. Looking at that core it was a pretty combat heavy group. By the current books, Bruenor is the King of a Dwarven Nation and the most revered Dwarf leader in the Forgotten Realms. Drizzt is considered the toughest warrior in the land, capable of tackling Demons almost singlehandedly. Cattie-Brie is now a powerful Mage, with Divine powers as well. Wulfgar is still seemingly one of the strongest warriors in the land. And Regis is now a competent alchemist, in addition to his startling rogue skills.
The Avengers are Iron Man (billionaire, philanthropist, playboy), Captain America (Super Soldier), Thor (Demigod Alien), the Hulk (yeah), Black Widow (Spy, renowned fighter), Hawkeye (archer supreme.) Yeah, this group obviously rocks in combat, from the nearly unstoppable Hulk, the tactical cunning of Captain America and Black Widow, missile fire from Iron Man and Hawkeye, and Thor for tackling the biggest members of the opposition. And obviously important figures as well, from Thor being Crown Prince of Asgard, to one of the richest men in the world in Iron Man.
Again, comparisons won’t be straight across for all the characters, in part due to the settings. But some of these can be pretty interesting.
In many ways Wulfgar is a cross of Hulk and Thor, even using a hammer. Wulfgar is ridiculously strong and fearsome. He is prone to barbaric rages where he goes kind of crazy.
Bruenor is closest to Captain America in terms of being the old wise one and having all those years of training. In addition, his quests and leadership are often what keeps everyone together as a team.
Regis fulfills the roles of Hawkeye and Black Widow when it comes to rogue actions like infiltration, spying, dealing with traps. And in some ways acts as the heart of the group that the others fall back on.
Cattie-Brie is probably the toughest comparison. But in the recent works, she is probably closest to an Iron Man role, at least in combat. Providing the magical firepower like Iron Man provides the technological firepower. In early books, she was the archer, closer to a Hawkeye figure.
Drizzt is definitely unique. He is the best fighter, which in many ways compares to Captain America. But he is not the leader, instead, he often does his own thing to help the team, be it missile fire, or infiltrating, or challenging the best opponent. And he is the most alien and feared, making him more like Thor or Hulk.
The big thing about this is that these are all classic D&D characters, and when treated as a team they can all be treated as a Fantasy equivalent of the Avengers. And more interestingly there is no reason that a person who is creating a character in D&D or Pathfinder could not look to an Avenger for inspiration as much as a Forgotten Realms book character. And by extension, when the characters get sufficiently advanced it stands to reason that they could have just as big of an impact on their setting and world as the Avengers have in the Marvel Universe.
Role playing characters, especially in fantasy settings, have been derived from books for the most part. And if you told a traditional player that they could look to a comic book for inspiration they would likely disagree vehemently. My point is that there is no real line there. A powerful character is a powerful character, and it doesn’t matter if their story is told in print, graphics or on screen.