Publication Date

Spring 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Art and Art History


Dore Bowen


Batman, comic book, dominance, graphic novel, hegemonic, masculinity

Subject Areas

Art history; Gender studies; Social structure


For decades, comic books have been a prevalent media format through which cultural perceptions of masculinity are disseminated. Batman is an exemplary character who is expected to perform and behave in a manner that corresponds with social constructs of the American masculine identity: strong, dominant, and protective. These gendered traits, as represented through Batman’s body and relationships with various allies, are analyzed through the lens of R.W. Connell’s theory of dominant and subordinated masculinities (derived from her larger theory of hegemonic masculinity). As our cultural perception of masculinity has shifted, so has the visual representation of Batman over his eighty-year history with contemporary depictions presenting the audience with a hero that is “hyper-masculine” (an exaggeration of stereotypical masculine qualities). These attributes are explored through two case studies, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Hush; both narratives interweave the notions of male identity and the further perpetuation of masculine ideologies. Through these case studies I have examined Batman’s dominant role within the framework of his relationships with his subordinated allies, making this a distinctive approach to the current bodies of research on Batman, masculinity, and the cultural impact of comic books and graphic novels.