Religion and Myth in the Marvel Cinematic Universe


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About the Book

Breaking box office records, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has achieved an unparalleled level of success with fans across the world, raising the films to a higher level of narrative: myth. This is the first book to analyze the Marvel output as modern myth, comparing it to epics, symbols, rituals, and stories from world religious traditions. This book places the exploits of Iron Man, Captain America, Black Panther, and the other stars of the Marvel films alongside the legends of Achilles, Gilgamesh, Arjuna, the Buddha, and many others. It examines their origin stories and rites of passage, the monsters, shadow-selves, and familial conflicts they contend with, and the symbols of death and the battle against it that stalk them at every turn. The films deal with timeless human dilemmas and questions, evoking an enduring sense of adventure and wonder common across world mythic traditions. Instructors considering this book for use in a course may request an examination copy here.

About the Author(s)

Michael D. Nichols is an Assistant Teaching Professor in the Cornerstone Integrated Liberal Arts program at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.

Bibliographic Details

Michael D. Nichols
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 208
Bibliographic Info: 18 photos, notes, filmography, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2021
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8159-7
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4208-6
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments 1
Introduction: A Myth in the Making and Making the Case for a Myth 5
One. The Ritual Birth—and Death—of a Superhero: Rites of Passage and Initiation in the MCU Origin Stories 17
Two. A Shadow Follows: The MCU Superheroes versus Their Darker Selves 38
Three. Impurity and Pollution in the MCU’s Phase Two 64
Four. Families Divided: Internecine and Intergenerational War in the MCU 85
Five. Death Stalks the MCU: Thanos Among the Monsters of the MCU and World Mythology 113
Six. The Superhero’s Quest: Journeys to the Underworld and the Final Battle Against Death 133
Conclusion: A Myth for This (and Every) Age 156
Chapter Notes 165
Filmography 183
Bibliography 185
Index 197

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “This book contributes to a fuller understanding of what the first three phases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, both as a whole and with its individual films, has accomplished”—Vince Tomasso, assistant professor of classical studies, Trinity College
  • “Deserves a place in classrooms to engage younger audiences studying folklore.”—Journal of American Folklore