The comic book has become an essential icon of the American Century, the period Republican Party Presidential nominee Donald Trump refers to when he talks about making "America great again".
This era is defined by optimism in the face of change and by recognition of the value of democracy and modernization. For many, the Middle Ages stand as an antithesis to these ideals, and yet medievalist comics have emerged and endured, even thrived alongside their superhero counterparts. Dr Chris Bishop, from the ANU School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics, charts the history of medievalist comics, setting them against a greater backdrop of modern American history.
Dr Bishop looks at the medievalist comic, with its stories, characters, settings, and themes drawn from the European Middle Ages:
Hal Foster's Prince Valiant emerged from an America at odds with monarchy, but still in love with King Arthur
Green Arrow remains the continuation of a long fascination with Robin Hood that has become as central to the American identity as it was to the British
The Mighty Thor reflects the legacy of Germanic migration into the United States
The rugged individualism of Conan the Barbarian owes more to the western cowboy than it does to knights in shining armour.
In the narrative of Red Sonja, we can trace a parallel history of feminism.
In his book, Dr Bishop argues that each comic's success (Prince Valiant and The Mighty Thor) and failure (Beowulf: Dragon Slayer) is a result of and an indicator of particular American preoccupations amid a larger cultural context.