Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Christopher Kuipers, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Gian S. Pagnucci, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Alexis Lothian, Ph.D.


The primary trajectories for this dissertation research project are to expand comic studies' definition of the comic book superhero, explore the American literary influences from the early nineteenth century through the early twentieth century on the comic book superhero genre, and look at ways the genre has evolved since its inception. Within this framework, I suggest possible answers to the question of what makes so many contemporary comic book superheroes uniquely American--or at the least, perceived to be so. Special attention is paid to ways literary movements starting with the American Romantics and moving up to the Modernist movement laid the groundwork that early comic book creators would build upon as they established this relatively new literary medium, which continues to inform the national discourse on American values in contemporary times. Research activities will primarily consist of analyzing a broad survey of both conventional American literature in addition to comic books from the superhero genre and reporting on the different influences of the former on the latter. Critical works from writers such as Grant Morrison's Supergods and Peter Coogan' Superheroes: Secret Origins of a Genre will further inform this project as it seeks to historicize the superhero genre in relation to its literary antecedents from American literature, and providing a thorough understanding of the genre and its key conventions will prove essential.