Marvelous Myths: Theological Perspectives on the Perils and Promise of Marvel Superheroes

Date(s) - 04/23/2022
9:30 am - 11:00 am


Marvelous Myths: Theological Perspectives on the Perils and Promise of Marvel Superheroes
Saturday, April 23, 9:30 am to 11:00 am (Central Time; plus online content to be viewed prior to the sessions.)

Russell W. Dalton is Professor of Religious Education at Brite Divinity School. Before coming to Brite, he served as the G. Ernest Thomas Professor of Christianity and Communication at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, and Director of United’s Master of Arts in Religious Communication degree program. An ordained American Baptist minister, Dalton served several congregations prior to pursuing doctoral studies. Dr. Dalton has written numerous books and articles, including Marvelous Myths: Marvel Superheroes and Everyday Faith, for which he interviewed Stan Lee, Chris Claremont, and other well-known Marvel Comics creators. He has led a number of national and regional conferences and workshops exploring theological perspectives on superheroes and fantasy stories, including public lectures at several university campuses and at Comic-Con International in San Diego.

What makes someone a hero? What constitutes a heroic life? In the early 1960s, writer Stan Lee and artists Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko created a new kind of superhero. Their creations, including the Avengers, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Black Panther, and the X-Men, were not perfect heroes living in an uncomplicated world of good and evil, but fallible people with physical ailments and personal problems who faced difficult moral dilemmas. In recent years, the films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have broken box office records and the stories of Marvel Comics have emerged as a sort of modern-day mythology. But how do these heroes’ stories function as myths in our culture, and how do they compare to the stories of our faith?  In what ways do these stories reflect and in what ways do they challenge the values of American culture? For example, in a genre in which good guys beat up bad guys, how have Marvel storytellers embraced or resisted the belief that violence can resolve our conflicts and save us? This seminar will explore these questions and more by exploring the Marvel superheroes phenomenon from the perspectives of our faith.