Superheroes were created by twentieth-century individuals we can identify and interview, yet most are owned by large corporations that sought new creators when the originals got wise. This makes them one of the strangest continuous fictional experiments ever, as if Jane Austen sold Pride and Prejudice’s Elizabeth Bennett, then was replaced by a mixture of jobbers and geniuses that kept extending her adventures into the present.
Despite that corporate ownership, superheroes on a day-to-day level are constantly being re-appropriated. Fans, taxi drivers, families, and artists refashion t-shirts, tattoos, stickers, and custom-made costumes into personal icons and alter egos. One never dared dress up as Zeus: children and adults from Rio to Rochester don the mask of the Bat. Or the smile of The Joker.