Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Review: The Mythology of the Superhero by Andrew R. Bahlmann

Synopsis: Superheroes have been an integral part of popular society for decades and have given rise to a collective mythology familiar in popular culture worldwide. Though scholars and fans have recognized and commented on this mythology, its structure has gone largely unexplored. This book provides a model and lexicon for identifying the superhero mythos. The author examines the myth in several narratives--including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Green Arrow and Beowulf--and discusses such diverse characters as Batman, Wolverine, Invincible and John Constantine. (from the back of the book)
Review: I wrote my undergrad thesis on myth and fairy tale in Disney movies, and as such, read extensively about mythology in popular culture. This is one of the better books. With accessible prose, clear organization, logical points, and careful scholarship, Bahlmann intelligently explains the modern mythology of the superhero.
He begins by explaining what makes a superhero mythological – using “tropes” found in classic mythology, updated for the new era.  Tropes like Androcentric, Codename, Sidekick, Justice over Law, and Orphan. He builds a framework for identify stories of the new mythology. In the subsequent chapters, he then applies this framework to several characters or groups of characters: Green Arrow, Buffy, Alphas, and Beowulf. He does not make an argument for or against (indeed he states that is not the purpose of the book) but simply shows how one might use the framework to identify, understand, and study superheroes as the new mythology.
He pulls his examples from a wide range of sources – comic books, of course, but also video games, television, and film. He clearly has extensive knowledge of superhero stories. In addition, he quotes scholars of mythology and popular cultures, including J. R. R. Tolkien, Joseph Campbell, and Arthur C. Clarke – as well as those currently studying this topic. This increased the value of his supplemental information, which includes a complete list of superhero tropes.
For anyone who enjoys superheroes or intellectual analysis of pop culture, I highly recommend this book. Fascinating and thought-provoking, it’s worth the time to read.

Note: I received this free as part of LibraryThing’s Early Review Program, in exchange for my fair and honest opinion

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-476-6624-80
Year Published: 2016
Date Finished: 12-23-2016
Pages: 203

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