• The Third Side of the Coin: Constructing Superhero Comics Culture as Religious Myth

    Aaron Ricker (see profile)
    Comics Scholarship/Comics Studies, Religious Studies
    Comics, Mythology, Popular culture studies, Religious studies
    Item Type:
    comics, Mythology, popular culture, religious studies
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    The claim that superhero comics culture is a modern religious and/ or mythopoeic expression has been repeated so often by academic observers of pop culture over the years, it has assumed the dimensions of a modern myth in its own right. Critically evaluating this claim that superhero comics culture is in effect a modern religious or mythopoeic expression can, though, feel at times like reading comics produced by M.C. Escher, since superhero comics “mythology” so often includes elaborate homage to (and exuberant plagiarism of) real-world religions and myths, including the religions and myths held sacred by the heroes themselves. To complete the picture of confusion, one needs only to note the fact that “religion” and “myth” are both notoriously difficult to define, and the related fact that taking any given set of phenomena seriously as “religious data” effectively makes it religious data for the practical purposes of human cultures and their study - a further layer of recursivity pregnant with its own puzzles and problems. This article "tries on” common academic approaches to religion and myth, to establish how well they “fit” the superhero comics culture data most commonly identified (in both “positive” and “negative” terms) as religious and/or mythopoeic in nature, and closes with conclusions about the ethics of scholarly participation in such interpretive games. My review indicates that the most common ways of reading superhero comics culture as a religious/mythopoeic expression are, to date, unfortunately little more than self-serving and self-fulfilling prophecies, which turn out in the end to be critically self-limiting.
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    Last Updated:
    2 years ago
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