Superhero stories have been around for millennia. For example, the ancient Greeks told stories about characters with extraordinary abilities as a result of their connection with the gods who could bless or doom mankind with their actions.
These myths existed for the purpose of explaining real natural phenomena at a time when knowledge about the world was fairly limited. But what about modern superheroes? What inspired their stories? Well, it may be surprising to find out that today’s superhuman characters and those of ancient times are not so separated from each other.
The Flash, created in 1940, was initially based on the Roman god Mercury, the swift messenger. Wonder Woman was obviously inspired by the Greek legend of the Amazon warriors.
DC’s Aquaman and Marvel’s Namor are based on the Atlantis civilization described by the Greek philosopher Plato. Thor is inspired by the homonym god of Norse mythology. So it is interesting that many of the first created superheroes are inspired by mythological figures and cultures.
Superman, created by the artists Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, is one of the most complex characters when it comes to determining the influences behind his creation. Superman is partially inspired by characters from other stories of the time, such as “John Carter of Mars.”
As Siegel and Shuster were children of Jewish immigrants, it is also believed that Superman was a reimagining of Jewish myths, especially the myth of the golem. Just as the golem was an unstoppable being created to free the oppressed, Superman is an all-powerful savior who came to rescue the innocent in the midst of a cruel world.
In short, the fictional superheroes of our times are a modernized version of the legends that our ancestors believed were real. But that is not coincidence.
Such myths often used the same narrative model to tell the story of a certain individual destined to become a hero and fight evil. That type of story proved so effective at captivating people that it is still used today on everything from comics to movies, and superheroes are no exception.