Super Power, Power Struggle: Captain America, Authority, and the Atomic Bomb

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Angela Nostwick


Jack Kirby was one of the most influential and innovative American comic book creators of the 21st century. Kirby’s body of work reflects the evolution of comic books as the medium shifted toward more complicated narratives and characterization. Kirby’s Captain America series—beginning in the early 1940s and spanning over two decades—is a prime example of this. As time went on, Kirby’s portrayal of the titular super soldier became more dimensional. This not only reflects how comics and the comic book industry transformed over the years, but also changing attitudes toward American militarization at the time. A character that originated as a patriotic endorsement of military force began to take on a more critical tone. In the advent of the atomic bomb, the Captain America comics began to question the legitimacy of domination in terms of Max Weber’s definition: “the possibility of imposing one’s own will upon the behavior of other persons.” This project examines the claims to authority made by both heroes and villains in these comics, through of lens of Weber and other theorists interested in power dynamics—including Hobbes, Hegel, and Nietzsche.

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