Heroes Masked and Mythic

Echoes of Ancient Archetypes in Comic Book Characters


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About the Book

Epic battles, hideous monsters and a host of petty gods–the world of Classical mythology continues to fascinate and inspire. Heroes like Herakles, Achilles and Perseus have influenced Western art and literature for centuries, and today are reinvented in the modern superhero. What does Iron Man have to do with the Homeric hero Odysseus? How does the African warrior Memnon compare with Marvel’s Black Panther? Do DC’s Wonder Woman and Xena the Warrior Princess reflect the tradition of Amazon women such as Penthesileia? How does the modern superhero’s journey echo that of the epic warrior? With fresh insight into ancient Greek texts and historical art, this book examines modern superhero archetypes and iconography in comics and film as the crystallization of the hero’s journey in the modern imagination. Instructors considering this book for use in a course may request an examination copy here

About the Author(s)

Christopher Wood is an art historian, classical archaeologist and museum professional. An alumnus of the American Academy in Rome and the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, he lectures in art history at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

Bibliographic Details

Christopher Wood

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 264
Bibliographic Info: 55 photos, glossary, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2021
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8315-7
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4138-6
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Preface 1
Introduction 21
I. Captain America: An Achilles for the Modern Age 37
II. Wonder Woman: Echoes of the Amazon Warrior 54
III. A Mind for War: Odysseus and the Iron Avenger 72
IV. Unstoppable Rage: The Incredible Hulk and the Greek Berserker 85
V. The Heart of the African Warrior: Memnon and Black Panther 104
VI. He Who Commands the Sea: Proteus, Scamander and Denizens of the Deep 115
VII. Double Trouble: Divine Twins in the Epic Tradition 128
VIII. Defending the Epic City: Gotham and Troy 143
IX. Swift and True: Tales of the Epic Archer 153
X. Gods Among Us: Hero as Man and Superman 165
XI. Wind Walkers and Winged Warriors: Hawkman, Falcon and the Sons of Boreas 181
XII. Dangerous Beauty: Helen of Troy and the Femme Fatale 197
XIII. The Hand of Fate: The Infinity Gauntlet and the Moirai 208
Epilogue: The Legacy of the Epic Hero 219
Glossary 221
Chapter Notes 229
Bibliography 245
Index 251

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “Comic-book lovers, film fans, and classicists will all enjoy this entertaining and erudite work.”—Booklist
  • “A detailed analysis of the parallels between the heroes of Ancient Greece and comic book superheroes of the modern era…[an] in-depth study…Wood delivers some striking insights…persuasive and intriguing…useful for scholars and students of classicism looking for ways to trace historical developments and archetypes.”—SFRA Review