Herc was a god, Beowulf was a hero but not a super one. Still I'm not speaking of myths or ancient stories. I'm talking about the modern idea of a super hero.... John Carter was first. The entire shtick on how superman got his powers... A child of another planet who's gravitation was greater giveing him super powers on this new world, came from John Carter. Superman was a knock off of Edgar Rice Burrough's, ( also wrote Tarzan) John Carter.
Exactly.. he originated as very John Cater ish.... Only John Cater was based on the Southern Civil War hear John Mosby... Calvery Officer under Jeb Stuart, natural fighter, Chief of scouts, etc... And thus wasn't a good hero for everybody in the country... Mosby after all was hated in the north, and became to be hated in the south after he endorsed Grant for President and joined the GOP.
I don't think that John Carter was the first Superhero. Not even close I suspect. You had characters such as Paul Bunyan, Pacos Bill, John Henry that were really folk tail heros and before that, Daniel Boone, Jim Bowie, Davie Crockett, hero's who were real people but became Super Hero's in legend and through dime store books. Before that you had super heros like King Arthur and his knights who also reached superhero status. I don't really know where you draw the line as modern day, per say.