This Independent Study traces the changing notions of what makes a superhero “super” throughout periods in American history. By doing three case studies on popular heroes in distinct eras, this study reveals that superhero comics have been growing steadily more overtly political, in ways that are increasingly subversive. I approach Wonder Woman in the 60s, Batman in the late 80s, and Captain America in the early 2000s, and tackle each moment individually. 60s Wonder Woman is not as stale as comic book enthusiasts suggest, and in fact reveals a progressive view of womanhood that contrasted sharply with the reigning view at the time. 80s Batman revived the comic book industry with its dark new take on the caped crusader, reflecting a growing fear of urban crime which placed a violent Batman as the answer. Finally, post 9/11 Captain America appears in 2002, and while using pro-American rhetoric, also re-defines what it means to be American, centering compassion over following one’s government. Each era I study shows a slow move towards centering the action in the real world, and making explicit, political commentary on the realms of gender, crime and punishment, and race.


King, Shannon




Cultural History


Superheroes, Comic Books, Batman, Wonder Woman, Captain America

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis Exemplar



© Copyright 2016 Caroline G. Breul