The Superhero in the American Comic and the Varieties of Evil


My dissertation project focuses on the American supervillain whose characterization is directly dependent on the accompanying superhero. The villain figure is extremely complex and correlates with the hero’s portrayal. The mutual relationship between the two is therefore the basis of my analysis. In its course, I will have a closer look on different types of villains, for which theories on evil in general serve as starting point. The object of inquiry is the American comic predominantly of the so-called Silver Age.1 This era comprises roughly the 1960s and is the birthplace of many popular heroes of today’s movies like The Avengers, The Amazing Spiderman, Black Panther or The Fantastic Four. As the titles adumbrate, the Silver Age is also called the Marvel Age. Stan Lee’s publishing house left its mark on the medium comic, the genre of the superhero comic and the characters depicted. This is the reason why my focus lies primarily on Marvel comics but also considers the ones published by the other great comic publisher DC. The characterization of hero and villain is analyzed against the backdrop of the political, social, (pop)cultural, scientific and religious contexts of that time. Therefore, my project examines the varieties of evil, their portrayals and functions in the contexts of the comics’ time.



[1] Since the Golden Age of the superhero comic has established most of the genre’s conventions and the Bronze Age has deconstructed them, both eras serve as comparative values as do comics published by smaller publishing houses as well as postcolonial or feminist comics, which function as reaction to the established conventions of the genre.