Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2016

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Religious Studies

First Advisor

Richard Brent Turner

First Committee Member

Richard B Turner

Second Committee Member

Kristy Nabhan-Warren

Third Committee Member

Jordan Smith

Fourth Committee Member

Corey Creekmur

Fifth Committee Member

Deborah Whaley


This dissertation will argue that, rather than simply reflecting the religious worldviews of his creators and readers, the presentations of Superman that span more than 75 years in a variety of mass media, have produced a mythology, iconography, ethical code, and set of practices that reflects a dynamic relationship with the complex religious systems in the United States. Obviously, the presentation of Superman by his creators and the reception of Superman by his readers are heavily influenced by Christianity, Judaism, and American civil religion (he does, after all, represent “truth, justice, and the American way”) along with many other religious worldviews. It explores the dynamic and complex interactions between Superman and his fans and show that the figure of Superman is utilized by his fans to understand theological and ethical issues, while, at the same time, their understanding of Superman shapes those theological and ethical opinions and ideas. American religious traditions influence the popular images and representations of Superman, but Superman also influences the understanding religious traditions across a breadth of historical and cultural contexts.

Superman’s state of multiple expressions of permanent liminality allows the character and his stories to be useful sites for people to perform the religious work of constructing, strengthening, and/or negotiating boundaries between categories, such as the human and the divine or the secular and the religious. It is through these boundaries that people define and interpret their religious worldviews.


American religion, Comics, Popular Culture, Religion, Superhero, Superman


viii, 155 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 145-155).


Copyright 2016 Brandon O'Neal Dean

Included in

Religion Commons