You might call DC’s Golden Age character Wildcat an elemental superhero, verging on the generic.
Created by writer Bill Finger and artist Irwin Hansen for Sensation Comics 1 (Jan. 1942), Ted Grant was a champion boxer who put on a costume to clear himself after he’d been framed for murder.
Why a costume? Because a kid who’d been reading about the comic book hero Green Lantern gave him the idea, of course. Wildcat was meta before meta was cool. And his costume had a clean, black-silhouette design.
That back-to-basics approach made the character popular with a number of readers over the decades, among them Piperson in The Great Comic Book Heroes blog.
“Wildcat is a hero who takes on a masked identity for a believable reason with believable physical prowess,” he wrote. “I love the down-to-Earth environment that the story takes place in. This is not some Art Deco Metropolis or some Gothic Gotham, this is the streets of New York City or Chicago. This is Madison Square Garden. And Wildcat is not some idealistic ‘fighter for justice.’ He is a guy who has been wronged and he is taking back what they took from him using the skills he has available to him. Even the costume makes sense in that he is on the run from the law and so has to stay incognito. It’s a great take on the whole superhero genre, one that Brubaker, Rucka or Bendis would appreciate with their gritty, down-to-Earth styles.”
Of course, if you were to show the character to somebody off the street today, they’d be likely to say, “Oh, yeah, I know him! That Marvel character, what’s his name? The Black Panther!”