Look around you today and you’ll see the impact of comic book culture in almost every medium there is today. The sheer amount of upcoming movies based off a comic book adaptation is mind boggling, more and more TV shows are following suit, and you can find countless references in music, art, and fashion. To see the culture grow from where it was when I was a little kid, to where it stands now is crazy to me. It’s no longer relegated to the “nerds” of the world, and the love for the culture doesn’t stop after a certain age. Instead, it gets passed down to the next generation, and that got me thinking.
Comic books have become our primary mythology. I’ve come to this conclusion by making the (strongly supported) assumption that ancient Greek mythology is, and always was, the predominant mythology of our culture (western culture). Ancient Greece was the basis for modern Western culture and societies so it’s no wonder their mythology was the one most widespread. Their gods, heroes, mythological creatures, and extraordinary tales were known by all and were represented in all walks of life; from plays and movies to mascots and names. Hell, my dog was named after a Greek god (Apollo). But times have changed; ask anyone from the newer generation about Greek mythology and they could hardly tell you, but ask them about the origins of Batman, Superman, or Spiderman and they could tell you without batting an eye.
Batman, Superman, and Spiderman are what I like to call the big three of comic books. Everybody knows Superman came from another planet, Batman’s parents were killed, and Spiderman was bit by a radioactive spider.
The big three have fully matured
Batman, Superman, and Spiderman are what I like to call the big three of comic books. Everybody knows Superman came from another planet, Batman’s parents were killed, and Spiderman was bit by a radioactive spider. This however, wasn’t always the case. In their beginning, comic books were written off as childish propaganda. But over the decades they matured; their characters became multidimensional, their stories became more complex and layered, and their worlds began functioning in the moral grey areas that were more representative of the real world. This maturation pushed them from childish tales into true mythology that concerned their heroes (and antiheroes), villians, and the nature of the world.
Many critics try to write off this current comic book boom we’re in as a fad that’ll pass like the Western. But that’s a naive sentiment from people that don’t understand the true literary history that’s been laid by the likes of Jim Lee and Jack Kirby.
Many critics try to write off this current comic book boom we’re in as a fad that’ll pass like the Western. But that’s a naive sentiment from people that don’t understand the true literary history that’s been laid by the likes of Jim Lee and Jack Kirby. It’s a massive, rich universe that’s been developed in a relatively short amount of time and continues to grow by the year. Just like Greek mythology, comic books’ role is much larger than just storytelling. They are life lessons, cautionary tales, and a reflection of the times. The likes of Superman, Batman, and Spiderman stand as beacons of our morals and virtues; standards for us to strive to meet. So move over Zeus, Hercules, Odysseus; there are new gods atop Mount Olympus.
Get ready to start calling a lot of kids Kal and Bruce.
Comic books have fully arrived and developed into true mythology with their extraordinary characters and stories that reflect our society and time. They are the tales, origins, and characters that we’ll be passing on to our next generation. So get ready to start calling a lot of kids Kal and Bruce.