From Hercules to Superman: Ancient Heroes Inspire Modern Comics

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

by Amanda Sapio '13

PHILADELPHIA (December 11, 2013) — Carl Cardozo ’15, history and ancient studies double major, was one of four undergraduate students selected via blind submission to present a research paper at the annual meeting of the Classical Association of the Atlantic States (CAAS) in Philadelphia this fall. The third largest association for classicists in the country, CAAS seeks to strengthen teaching and research and foster public support for the languages, civilizations and cultures of ancient Greece and Rome in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Cardozo’s paper, titled “The Postmodern Amphora: Examining Greek Drama and Myth Through the Graphic Novel,” is focused on an area of classics called “reception,” which refers to how classical antiquity is perceived in the modern era. His thesis explores the classical theory of the monomyth, or hero’s journey, which posits that there is a universally applicable pattern found in all heroic stories, regardless of culture or time period. Cardozo also analyzes the correlation between Greek mythology and graphic novels, such as Frank Miller’s 300, which chronicles the story of the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C.E.

“When writing my paper, I looked at modern adaptations of Greco-Roman heroes such as Hercules, as well as characters inspired by Greek myth, like Wonder Woman, whose narrative is rooted in the mythological Amazons, a race of female warriors,” says Cardozo, a Philadelphia native. “I studied the similarities between the modern ‘super-hero’ genre and the ancient heroic epic, pointing out similar patterns and themes, and drawing parallels between characters like Superman and ancient heroes.”

As a result of the success of his presentation at the CAAS annual meeting, Cardozo was invited to serve as a guest speaker at the annual meeting of the Philadelphia Classical Society in November.

“Carl’s paper demonstrates the pervasiveness of ancient Greek culture and its importance in all modern subject matters, including comic books,” says Konstantinos P. Nikoloutsos, Ph.D., assistant professor of Latin studies and director of the ancient studies program, who encouraged Cardozo to submit his paper to CAAS. “[It] suggests new ways of considering the past and understanding the present.” 

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