Posted by: Doc Comics | January 27, 2010

Superheroes as Mythology

“The very definition of myth is problematic today; here narrow,partial, “monomythic” definitions are rejected in favor of acomplex, inclusive one, the seventeen items of which are thendiscussed. A mythological corpus consists of a network of myths,which are culturally-important imaginal stories conveying, bymeans of metaphor and symbol, graphic imagery, and emotionalconviction and participation, the primal, foundational accountsof the real, experienced world, and humankind’s roles and relativestatuses within it. Mythologies may convey the political andmoral values of a culture, and provide systems of interpretingindividual experience within a universal perspective, whichmay include the intervention of suprahuman entities, as wellas aspects of the natural and cultural orders. Myths may beenacted or reflected in rituals, ceremonies, and dramas, orprovide materials for secondary elaborations. Only a polyphasicdefinition will provide appreciation of their manifold roleswithin a society.”  ~William Doty, Mythography

Comic Book Superheroes as Mythology

“Comic-book superheroes are a new form of mythology as they draw on previous incarnations of myths and draw them into themselves to form the latest myth for the times. These mythic themes historically repeat themselves in endless variations.”

Comic Books and Social Issues



  1. Pre-Golden Age superhumans

  2. I have that Alex Ross hardcover. Great book. And I definitely think that superheroes work as a form of modern-day mythology.

    • Thanks for the comment, MM!
      The “mythology debate” depends a lot on how strictly one defines myth (I prefer to distinguish different “mythic functions” from say “fantasy functions” or “cultural functions” in these narratives, but that’s a whole lecture related to my “critical rhetorical perspective”). For an impassioned counterpoint, check out this guy:

      • I think that fellow is overthinking it a bit.

  3. And a 1960s PSA you should get a Bat-kick out of:

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