Superheroes of the Round Table

The other day I was browsing the Rice library and ran across a little book called “Superheroes of the Round Table: Comics Connections to Medieval and Renaissance Literature” (ISBN 0786460687). It’s about how literature has influenced comic books, and how comic books shed light on literature.

I don’t know much about comic books, or about medieval and renaissance literature, but it’s fun to see someone draw them together, especially since the former is considered low culture and the latter high culture. It reminds me of Scott McCloud’s book Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, a serious book about an art form that isn’t often taken seriously.

I’ve only skimmed Superheroes of the Round Table, but it looks like a fun book. It draws connections, for example, between The Faerie Queene and Iron Man and between The Tempest and X-Men.

Just to give a flavor of the book’s analytical style, here is a classification the book gives for Arthurian legend in comic books.

  1. Traditional Tale. Arthur in comic book form with minimal superhero elements.
  2. Arthurian Toybox. Elements of Arthur sprinkled into other stories with no regard for literary context.
  3. Arthur as Translator. A modern superhero is dropped into Arthur’s Britain, like Mark Twain’s Connecticut Yankee.
  4. Arthur as Collaborator. Using Arthurian symbols and themes such as the sword in the stone or the round table.
  5. Arthur Transformed. Arthur placed into a new context.

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