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The Globalization of Superheroes: Diffusion, Genre, and Cultural Adaptations  

Kyle Hammonds

Superheroes are a global phenomenon. The superhero genre has been proliferated through modern industrial societies by way of movies, television, comics, and other forms of popular media. Although virtually every nation in the world has heroic myths, the modern superhero, as marked by the inception of recent American comics heroes in 1929, is a uniquely Western invention. Superheroes are “Western” insofar as they embody and exhibit Western civic values, such as democracy, humanism, and retributive justice. These characters have been communicatively incorporated into globalization processes by means of diffusion and thereby enact aspects of cultural imperialism. Even so, superhero figures have been in high demand across many populations for their entertainment value. As superheroes have diffused in non-Western cultures, they have not only been absorbed by new cultures but also refigured and adapted. These non-Western adaptations have had a recursive influence, such as the global popularity of Japanese manga. The recursive relationship between Western superheroes and their non-Western adaptations implies superheroes are an important aspect of cultural fusion in global popular culture.