New-York Historical Society: Superheroes in Gotham

Photo Oct 10, 10 04 30 AM

Superheroes and popular culture. They’re like peanut butter and jelly. For almost as long as there’s been a “popular culture,” there have been superheroes. I mean, Edgar Rice Burroughs¬†had superhero archetypes in the Barsoom and Tarzan novels as early as 1912 . . . and he wasn’t even the first.

But, realistically, when people think of superheroes, they’re not thinking of John Carter or Dejah Thoris. They’re thinking of Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, Iron Man, and all the rest. In short, they’re thinking of DC and Marvel characters.

Even those characters are much older than many people think. Mention Superman, and odds are people think of Christopher Reeve. Mention Batman, and people probably think of Christian Bale, Michael Keaton, or his animated form. Iron Man? That’s easy.¬†Robert Downey, Jr. essentially introduced the character to a huge population that had never heard of him before.

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