Standard of an American Comic Book Superhero: Taking Classical Hero into Modern Times

Published: 2021-06-29 07:06:27
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Standard of an American Comic Book Superhero: Taking Classical Hero into Modern Times

1. The origin of the American idea of a superhero

The existence of superheroes in literature was present throughout most of the written history of the world. Every country, nation and culture have their tales and myths about a special person that sets out to become a savior of the world or about a warrior who spends most of his existence in search for the truth and whose life is a metaphor of the quest for the meaning of life. The superhero is a seeker, who focuses on solving an elaborated enigma, the unknown, and yet may be perceived as everyman. What is more, superheroes are self-made people, who by constantly pushing themselves forward achieve better results in normal life, and also become renowned among their society as peacekeepers.
American comic book characters draw on from models taken from myth composites of such ancient cultures as Norse Scandinavian (Beowulf), Greco-Roman (Hercules), and even Babylonian (Gilgamesh). What is easily observable in their myths, is how all characters may fall under one very simple model of composition: the hero is usually marked for his destiny early in his childhood; learns and trains physically until he or she becomes mature; sets out alone (or with just a few most trusted companions) on a journey to seek his or her final destiny and truth about themselves; becoming perfect in their masculinity and femininity and being desirable by opposite the sex; fighting for their beliefs and the righteousness of their cause; protecting the weak; defending the borders and system of original culture; succeeding in a god-given task; embodying the most wanted values, they fight against evildoers and attackers; they are fortunate and reach the very peak of human bodily abilities.
The main point of this work is to asses these earlier mentioned features that are used in the creation of the modern superheroes that appear in the American comic books. The proliferation of superheroes is a world scale phenomenon that lately exceeds the cartoon literature industry.
Ryan Edwardson has once written that "nations need heroes, even fictional ones" , so that even though just an imaginary creation, they are an important part of s nation's cultural identity; being something that was, is and still will be present in the cultural awareness of its people, making just a fictional superhero a distinctive, and easy to associate, feature of the culture. For example, when thinking about Jersey Devil he is instantly associated with the myth of a strange creature in the USA; if we are talking about Moses, then we are visualizing the Israeli long struggle for independence; and if we are thinking about St. Peter, we are commonly recognizing him as an important part of Christian culture. Some may consider this as an inappropriate or even offending comparison; however, what I want to stress out here is the power of popular myths.
Ever since the first superhero made his debut appearance in the summer of 1939 (Action Comics, June 1939) , there has been established a canon of casting heroes as the defenders of traditional American values such as the authority of God, country, freedom, liberty, father and mother, proclaiming the necessity for the children to be self-reliant. It is important to investigate the American myth in which the concept of a hero appears. Lawrence and Jewett in their discussion of the myth of American superhero use the term 'monomyth' to explain this issue:

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