Superman’s first appearance in Action Comics #1 (1938) proclaimed that the character would “reshape the destiny of the world.” The advent of the first superhero initiated a shared narrative—the DC superhero universe—that has been evolving in depth and complexity for more than 80 years. Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman have become key threads in the tapestry of the American mythos, shaping the way we think about life, right and wrong, and our relationship with our own universe. Their narrative world is enriched by compelling stories featuring lesser-known characters like Dr. Fate, the Doom Patrol, John Constantine, and the Legion of Super-Heroes. Stories set within this shared universe have explored questions of death, rebirth, the apocalypse, the nature of evil, the origins of the universe, and the destiny of humankind. This volume brings together the work of scholars from a range of backgrounds who explore the role of theology and religion in the comics, films, and television series set in the DC Universe. The thoughtful and incisive contributions to this collection will appeal to scholars and fans alike.
Gabriel Mckee (M.T.S., Harvard Divinity School) is Librarian for Collections and Services at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University.
Roshan Abraham (Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania) is an instructor/advisor in American University’s First-Year Experience program and an adjunct professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religion.
Introduction – Gabriel Mckee and Roshan Abraham
1. A Plenitude of Creators: Cosmogony in the DC and Christian Canons – Christopher Heard
2. By(e) Rao! Personification or Deception – David A. Skelton
3. Reimagining Gnostic Theo-Mythology through Grant Morrison’s JLA: Rock of Ages – Matthew J. Dillon
4. Superman v. The Powers: What Walter Wink’s Nonviolent Theology Reveals About the Man of Steel’s “No-Killing” Rule – Andrew Kuzma
5. Providentialism and Political Religion: Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel – John C. McDowell
6. Wonder Woman and the Labors of Hercules – Janelle Peters
7. Dr. Fate and Meher Baba: The Aesthetics of a Comic Book Cosmology – James Newell
8. The Queer Theology of the Doom Patrol – Michael Barnes Norton and Jana McAuliffe
9. The St. Francis of the DC Universe: How Animal Man Makes the Case for Pluralism in Animal Ethics – Andrew Kuzma
10. The Gospel According to Robin Hood and the Rebirth of Green Arrow – Danielle Terceiro
11. In the Land of No Return: Nergal and Mesopotamian Religion in DC’s Hellblazer – Gina Konstantopoulos
12. Lost Souls and Old Sons: Augustinian Theodicy and the Path to Redemption in NBC’s Constantine – Darian J. Shump
13. God Will be All in All: Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Darkseid as Omega Point in Final Crisis – Matthew Brake
14. Utopia, Rebellion, and the Kingdom of Heaven in the Legion of Super-Heroes – Gabriel Mckee
15. War and Hope: Apocalyptic Theology in Kingdom Come – Gregory Stevenson
A fascinating and thought-provoking deep dive into the religious, spiritual, and metaphysical dimensions of the DC Universe.
This volume represents yet another fine installment in the Theology, Religion, and Pop Culture series, and it will speak to numerous audiences. The scholar of religion with a passing interest in popular culture and/or comics will find broad explorations of and engagements with key terms and issues, such as cosmology, apocalypticism and eschatology, theodicy, and even animal ethics. Long time fans of DC comics and the DCU will likewise find not only the usual suspects (like Superman and Wonder Woman) but deep cuts including Dr. Fate, Animal Man, and John Constantine. The target texts are similarly broad, and include comics, TV, and film. Anyone who picks up and delves into this book will find their efforts rewarded by the insights and interpretations of a stellar roster of authors.
For over half their existence, DC Comics didn’t explicitly mention religion, yet faith and its questions still are embedded in those works, as well as the later stories when the restrictions were lifted. Examining those connections, and how they influenced their millions of followers is a challenging mission, and Theology and the DC Universe takes it as seriously as Batman guarding Gotham by night.
Editors Roshan Abraham and Gabriel Mckee have put together an impressive collection of essays by authors who know their DC worlds and know their theology. From origin to apocalypse, from the Gnosticism of the Justice League of America comics to the animal rights advocacy in Animal Man, from the queer theology in Doom Patrol to the contradictory religious worlds of Wonder Woman and Superman, this collection moves across decades of history and comics to show us a variety of ways that DC Comics can be seen as theological texts and as intellectual engagements with theological ideas. Historically and culturally rooted and impressively up to date on the DC Universe, this book, and this series, continue to expand how we think about theology and popular culture, and, in the process, shape the future of our religious imagination.