Superheroes: A Modern Mythology

Decent Essays

Jameson Vu
Professor Hackelton
English 01C
25 August 2016
Challenging the Superhero The publication of Action Comics #1 in 1938, by Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster, saw the establishment of the superhero with the creation of Superman (Goulart 43). This initiation saw a multitude of comic books and similar facsimiles – all of which led to the inception of the archetype – that are considered mediums of fantasy and simplistic storytelling. Examining the word “superhero” invokes images of “black-and-white caricature” (Spivey and Knowlton 51); a morally upright individual, clad in spandex, who defends a city and its inhabitants while maintaining a good relationship with the public and authorities. This model was challenged by the twelve-issue series …show more content…

There are three distinct eras of publication in the comic book genre, chronologically differentiated as the “Golden Age,” from 1938 to 1955; the “Silver Age,” 1956 to 1972; and the “Bronze Age,” 1973 to 1985 (Flynn 5). Richard Reynolds attempts to provide a definition to the genre in his book Superheroes: A Modern Mythology by describing five traits common amongst superheroes. The first of these involves the idea of “the man-god”, where “superheroes will be like earthbound gods in their levels of powers” (Reynolds 13). The second trait makes note of the importance of upholding justice, even over legality and laws. The relationship between “the normal and the superpowered” (Reynolds 14) is touched as the third trait; the extraordinary abilities of the superhero are contrasted with the normality of his surroundings. The concept of a split identity, where normal life is at odds with the alter-ego of crime-fighting, is touched upon as the fourth trait. The final trait that Reynolds writes of is the “superpowers and politics”, where superheroes “can be capable of considerable patriotism and moral loyalty to the state, though not necessarily to the letter of its laws” (Reynolds 15). With these five traits in mind, examining the character of Dr. Manhattan is essential to understand the inner workings of Moore and Gibbons as they deconstruct the superhero …show more content…

Osterman takes his father’s advice and becomes a nuclear physicist. However, Osterman is accidently locked into a nuclear test chamber and vaporized in 1959. His subsequent death and rebirth earns him the name Dr. Manhattan, bestowed upon him by the United States government as a nod to the Manhattan project that preceded him. Osterman’s consciousness reconstructs his physical form into a blue-skinned being of god-like capabilities, many of which are never explained or shown in the

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