How Ancient Legends Gave Birth To Modern Superheroes

This article is a review of the book “The Evolution of the Costumed Avenger” By Jess Nevins.

After the introduction an excerpt from the book is presented, this excerpt begins the exploratory process of this text by challenging all ‘definitions’ of superheroes.  A bit dry for what most people would think of as a ‘fun’ read but this certainly does set up the tone and premise of the book.

A quote from the author Nevins is: “A lot of previously ignored or overlooked characters become fair game when we talk about the lineage of the superhero. I think redrawing the boundaries is important, because now we can see that the superhero wasn’t a 20th-century invention, but rather the weaving together of many different heroic traditions that date back centuries or even millennia, and the recapitulation of a wide range of historical character types.”

This is a fascinating analysis of superheroes and the historical characters that influenced, consciously or subconsciously, their creation.  If you like DC, Marvel, etc, and/or history, myths, legends, etc. then this will probably be a fascinating read.  Some day when I am feeling more philosophical I will have to go over this text and find out where some of my favorite heroes come from.


Death Gods: An Encyclopedia of the Rulers, Evil Spirits, and Geographies of the Dead by Ernest L. Abel

Encyclopedia began with a 23 Page preface and Introduction (2 page preface the rest was introduction).  If you are interested in theories behind death mythos and some religious philosophy then these are great pages for a brief overview.  There are 13 pages that make up the alphabetical list of entries and 10 pages that make up the guide to related topics.  If you are interested in using this as a teaching tool, reference book, or just to get a brief overview about some philosophies and history of death and dying (specifically religious rituals and mythos) then this is a great resource.


Cro-Magnon and Neanderthals had begun burying their dead with objects as early as 50-60 thousand years ago, indicating that death was simply a transition into another life for which their dead might need these objects.
     *alternatively, in my opinion, this could also be seen as a sense of ownership, these objects belonged to the dead so they            should be left with the dead.  This practicality could have morphed into the spiritual and ritual versions found in Egypt.
several religions/cultures advocate that there are 2+ souls, one that goes on to their creator and another that may remain to torment those left behind.
Abaasy in Yakut Siberian Mythology, demons ruled by Ulu Toyo’n that travel in packs to deliver death, disease, storms, famines, etc. (1)
Agaman Nibo– Hatian Voodoo Mother of Baron Samedi- goddess of the dead (8)
Aiaru Tahitian Mythology goddess who foretold death (10)
Alinda– Australian Aboriginal Mythology a god of death (13)
Ankou– in the northwest tip of France this is supposed to be a skeletal spirit in a long flowing coat and wide brimmed hat that drove a cart of 4 skeletal black horses and gathered the souls of the dead.  (19-20)
Azeman– Surinam south American folklore a female vampires who dons the skin of an animal at night and preys on her family and neighbors (29)
Azeto Voodoo- evil spirit of the dead (29)
Bacalou (aka Loa) Haitian voodoo evil deified spirit of death represented by a skull and crossbones (30) (*symbol for poison?*)
Baka– Haitian Voodoo evil spirit of death to whom black roosters and black goats are sacrificed to appease his anger (31)
Baron La Croix– Haitian Voodoo- One of the grand Loa or Gede- Lord of the cemetery- literally spirit of the cross. (33)
Baron Samedi (Gede Nibo or Gede Nimbo)Haitian Voodoo- Death personified- black top hat and long black tailcoat- long white beard, eyeless sockets, also known as three spades, three picks, or three hoes, because he carries the tools of a gravedigger.  Offerings are made in black colored items with the skull and crossbones painted on/  Big Brigitte his wife rules over cemeteries.  Encourages orgies that result in death, reanimates zombies.
Bhut– Hindu folklore- evil spirits that haunt cemeteries, zombies essentially
Donn– Irish god of the dead who was later equated with Satan.  The dead briefly visited or passed by his house just after the moment of death (57)
Java– Polynesian mythology the island home of the dead- (90)
Lough Derg– Celtic Mythology a small island in northwest Ireland regarded as the entrance to the underworld (97)
Owl– common symbol or omen for death- welsh they are called the corpse bird- mesopotamian, aztec, romania, greek, all equated death and owls (111)
Shuck -East Anglian folklore- large black dog often associated with  death and avatars of the devil thought to be the source of Doyle’s Hound of the Baskervilles (*probably also the Grim in Rowling’s Harry Potter*) (126-27)
Zo’tzi-Ha– Aztec one of the five regions of the underworld where Camazotz ‘the death bat’ brought death to any that entered it.  (147)