by Philip Ball

The University of Chicago Press
2021, 426 pages, $30

ISBN 13: 978-0-226-71926-9

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There are some predictable chapters in MODERN MYTHS, which traces the origins of myths in literature. But, oh my, are there some intriguing chapters: such as Chapter 8, “I Am the Law,” examining the superhero, Batman, from his origin in print comics in 1939 to the present day.

It’s a tale of the masked crusader and his world saving, as well as his relationships, especially with Robin, the Boy Wonder, introduced in 1940. While the Batman’s brutal vigilantism was tamed somewhat, it makes Batman more human. And while Batman is off dispensing justice, billionaire Bruce Wayne, the real-life Batman, may have had a too-close relationship with Robin. Is Batman gay? Could be. Read this chapter and make up your own mind.

Chapter 9, “Myths in the Making, Myths to Come” doesn’t do a lot of postulating about the future, but insists the myths to come are already in development today. Ball writes about the new genre of storytelling called “creepy pasta”  or “horror tales that propagate on the internet, and often take the medium itself as their subject matter. In these tales, people may find unbranded laptops that show them awful images of themselves, or play computer games that surreptitiously invade their minds.”Who knew?