Hostname: page-component-5d59c44645-mhl4m Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-02-28T14:46:59.979Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Fighting the Battles We Never Could: The Avengers and Post-September 11 American Political Identities

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 December 2013

Annika Hagley
Roger Williams University
Michael Harrison
San Diego Mesa College


On June 26, 2012, Marvel's The Avengers became the third movie in history to earn $600 million dollars at the box office. The film was well received by fans and critics alike and it stood at the apex of a series of superhero movies released in the last decade. The mass appeal of the superhero, as evidenced by this success, has never seemed more powerful than in the years since September 11, a day that floored the likes of Captain America, who wept amidst the rubble with Spider-Man. “Some things are beyond words. Beyond comprehension. Beyond forgiveness” (Straczynski, Romita, and Hanna 2001, 2–3). In this atmosphere of uncertainty, comic book writers struggle to deal with the realization that, when America needed its heroes the most, they could only stand among the wreckage of the smoldering twin towers with the rest of us and ask “why?”

Symposium: The Politics of the Superhero
Copyright © American Political Science Association 2014 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)



Campbell, Joseph. 1949. The Hero With a Thousand Faces. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Costello, Matthew J. 2011. “Spandex Agonistes: Superhero Comics Confront the War on Terror.” In Portraying 9/11: Essays on Representations in Comics, Literature, Film and Theatre, eds. Bragard, Véronique, Dony, Christophe, and Rosenberg, Warren, 3043. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.Google Scholar
Engelhardt, Tom. 1995. The End of Victory Culture: Cold War America and the Disillusioning of a Generation. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
Jenkins, Henry. 2006. “Captain America Sheds His Mighty Tears: Comics and September 11.” In Terror, Culture, Politics: Rethinking 9/11, eds. Sherman, Daniel J. and Nardin, Terry, 69102. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
Kading, Terry. 2005. “Drawn into 9/11, But Where Have All the Superheroes Gone?” In Comics as Philosophy, ed. McLaughlin, Jeff, 207–27. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi.Google Scholar
Straczynski, J. Michael (w), Romita, John Jr. (p), and Hanna, Scott (i). 2001. The Amazing Spider-Man 36.Google Scholar