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The Myth of the Superhero

, 216 pages

66 halftones

March 2013



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The Myth of the Superhero

A refugee from his broken planet who saves earth (more than once), Superman was sent to America as his father’s final act before dying. Does this make him the ultimate immigrant success story? Disillusioned with a crime-filled world, Bruce Wayne seeks guidance from a shaman and transforms himself into the flawlessly moral Batman. Through a series of close readings of DC and Marvel comics, Marco Arnaudo explores the influence of religion and myth on superhero stories as well as their relationship to the classical epic and baroque style.

Superheroes embody the most positive and inclusive aspects of American culture. Arnaudo asserts that, amidst the exciting action, tender love stories, and tales of self-sacrifice, superheroes are role models for tolerance and moral decision making. Translated for the first time into English, The Myth of the Superhero looks beyond the cape, the mask, and the superpowers, presenting a serious study of the genre and its place in a broader cultural context.

Marco Arnaudo is an associate professor of Italian and director of graduate studies in Italian at Indiana University. He has published several books in Italian, including Il trionfo di Vertunno: Illusioni ottiche e cultura a letteraria nell’Etàdella Controriforma.

"A very original and valuable contribution to the field of American pop culture."

"Best suited for students of literary studies looking for cultural and ideological analysis; the general reader will glean useful insight into Superman’s psyche."

"Even though this is a rather thin volume, it refers to a multitude of aspects that place the superhero in the role of a fighter for tolerance, diversity and justice; the blueprints of their actions, however, were designed hundreds of years ago."

" The Myth of the Superhero is a work that should stand as a touchstone within institutional comics studies, while at the same time being an accessible and highly relevant text for casual and fanboy/girl readers."

"Arnaudo's book is an interesting analysis of some of the commonly overlooked significances of one of the most important media in modern pop culture. The criticism of the superhero comic book in regard to its dialogues with mythology is particularly perceptive, and sets up Arnaudo's discussion of the ways in which it can be used to portray and challenge ethical and cultural ideas."

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