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Why is the comic-book superhero such a persistent topic of cultural representation? Citing Dutton’s evolutionary aesthetic, we argue that comic-book superheroes persist because they offer a cultural means of negotiating the gap between the small group size that human beings have evolved a cognitive architecture to deal with, and the much larger group size that is entailed by modern social arrangements. This position implies four predictions: the superhero should (1) exhibit punitive prosociality, (2) be supernatural or quasi-supernatural, (3) be minimally counterintuitive and (4) display kin-signalling proxies. These predictions are tested against seventeen superhero figures from various comic-book universes.

Original publication

DOI

10.1353/phl.2014.0019

Type

Journal article

Journal

Philosophy and Literature

Publication Date

01/10/2014

Pages

195 - 215

Keywords

Comic-book, Cultural Studies, Evolutionary Psychology, Narrative, Cognition and Culture