Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

The Influence of Steroid-enhanced Bodybuilders on Comic Book Superheroes

Dr. Terry Todd.

Over 60 years ago, Superman, Batman, and Captain Marvel began to use their physical powers to capture the imagination of American youngsters by fighting—and consistently defeating—the “forces of evil.” Depicted by the comic book artists of six decades ago, those three Superheroes were shapely and athletic, with wide shoulders and shoulders that were wide relative to their hips. However, the superheroes of that period were not shown to have exceptional muscularity.

For the next 25years, the depictions of these Superheroes changed very little—they remained buff but not overly muscular. However, as the 1960s began to produce bodybuilders with a combination of muscle size and muscle definition never before seen, things began to change and the reason behind this dramatic change began to surface. That secret was anabolic steroids.

An analysis of the depictions of Superman, Batman, and Captain Marvel from the 1960s until the present will demonstrate that these depictions parallel the bodies anabolic steroids helped bodybuilders to produce—bodies that were ever larger and yet more muscularly defined. How this effected comic books is that the photos of these hyper-muscular bodies in the “muscle mags” provided artists with real life models that rivaled or exceeded the images of superheroes they had previously drawn. With these models from real life, the artists could fire the imaginations of the boys who read comic books and, in some cases, become bodybuilders themselves.


Dr. Terry Todd  (United States)
Todd-McLean Physical Culture Collection, Department of Kinesiology & Health Education
The University of Texas at Austin

Terry Todd is the founder and co-director of the Todd-McLean Physical Culture Collection and is the co-editor of Iron Game History: The Journal of Physical Culture. He is also a widely recognized authority on strength training and conditioning.

  • Comic Books
  • Body Ideology
  • Bodybuilding

(30min Paper presentation, English)