I am an enormous fan of Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey. However, let me offer up another way to examine the hero figure. Northrop Frye’s description of literary modes in his essays collected in Anatomy of Criticism puts forward the idea that heroes can be divided into four types: mythic hero (man as a form of divinity, superior to all other men); the romantic hero (man as superior to other men, but not divine), the low mimetic hero (the hero as one of us) and ironic hero (the hero as lesser; the irony deriving from the idea of someone lesser taking on the role of hero).
There is no reason that this version of hero can't be used in conjunction with Campbell's vision, but it does offer an interesting look at hero for authors as we consider how to plot our literature and how to handle the role of hero in theme and plot resolution.
Consider Harry Potter (I've been re-examining these books of late). An essay by Kathleen Malu, an associate professor at William Patterson University in New Jersey, argues that Potter's success in children's literature is a represents something of a merger of romantic hero and iron hero. Her point of view is that while Harry has powers and opportunities that none of us may have access to, he is nonetheless an ordinary boy who struggles with common activities such as confusion over how to deal with certain interpersonal relationships, difficulty in mastering certain academic pursuits, and coming to terms with loss and identity. Indeed, while Harry may have access to supernatural abilities, the only time he seems to use these abilities is when he is presented with supernatural threats.
What about other figures in contemporary fantastic literature? Where would they fall in Frye's hierarchy. Laurel K. Hamilton's Anita Blake? Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden? What about William Jones' Rudolph Pearson?
Does this reading change anything? Why re-examine literature at all? Maybe because it's a way to enhance our appreciation, to give us a different perspective and to offer us a deeper reading.