I’m fascinated by graphics, especially those that emerged in the 1930s and 1940s, so this story in the Times Higher Education caught my attention:
If you could have one superpower, what would it be? This is a popular question in team-building exercises. Flight? Invisibility? Super strength? Would you want to be able to hurl balls of fire, communicate telepathically or run faster than a speeding bullet? Sometimes we imagine possessing the powers of other animals: flying like a bird, leaping like a tiger or swimming like a fish. Other times we imagine having supernatural powers, such as telekinesis or an ability to shape-shift, that as far as we know nothing has nor could possess. We might just imagine having more of what we’ve already got: strength, speed or heightened senses.
I can declare a degree of knowledge in such matters, having read superhero comic books from my early years. There were no books in the house when I was little, but a few pence bought the adventures of the Hulk, the Fantastic Four and, my favourite, Spider-Man. Initially my older sister read them to me, putting on different voices for each character. But they provided the perfect incentive for me to learn to read for myself.
The myth of the superhero and their supervillain counterparts appears firmly enshrined in popular culture, but the superpowered beings that are recognisable the world over today are relatively new. Superman dates back only to 1938, with merely a few prototypes preceding him. Yet the superhero may be merely the modern manifestation of a more persistent archetype.
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