The Repository @ St. Cloud State

Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type


Degree Name

English: M.A.




College of Liberal Arts

First Advisor

Matthew Barton

Second Advisor

Glen Davis

Third Advisor

Brad Chisholm

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Keywords and Subject Headings

Genre Theory, Superhero, Comics, Comic Books, Superman


A genre, literary or otherwise, is a group of texts that share several characteristics, or discursive properties. Based on the presence or absence of these discursive properties, other texts are included or excluded from the genre. However, as new texts join a genre, they influence the parameters of the genre, and it transforms. The Superhero genre has undergone significant transformation since its introduction in 1938.

The superhero genre was created when Superman first appeared in Action Comics # 1. In his first stories, Superman established most of the discursive properties of the Superhero genre. These conventions developed throughout the Golden Age of comics in the stories of Superman and the many superheroes who followed him.

During the Silver Age of comics, Marvel Comics focused heavily on developing the realism and continuity of its universe. A new generation of creators, led by Roy Thomas and Jim Shooter, mastered this approach to superheroes, and in the Bronze Age realism reached its zenith with the introduction of "relevance" to superhero stories. The Bronze Age also saw the introduction of the first modem superhero, Luke Cage, who challenged many of the conventions of superheroes.

The Modem Age began when DC Comics reset its continuity in the mini-series Crisis on Infinite Earths. The most influential superhero comics of the Modem Age, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen were published soon after. These stories deconstructed the genre and challenged each of its discursive properties. Furthermore, they served as a model for many creators to follow as they changed the face of the superhero and the Superhero genre.