I’m a pretty big superhero fan, and it’s rare when I miss a big, new movie that leaps off the comic book pages, but I just about choked on my Cheetos when I heard Man of Steel director Zack Snyder wax poetically about the “Superman mythology,” because there is no such thing.
Superman was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. The character has been written and drawn by a long, but known, list of writers and artists. Likewise, the television and film adaptations all have ample lists of credits, so we know who has contributed to the rich, complex story which has evolved around this captivating character.
All this, we know.
Mythology is not a body of tales with known authorship; they have joined human history without credit attached. They may be true, or partly true, or mistranslations, or intentional allegories, and there’s plenty of debate over that question. But they don’t have copyright notices, and no one can point to a specific person or persons as their writers.
These are all things we do not know about myths. If we did, they’d be stories.
You can’t make a myth up. Neither can I. I may write a story about Poseidon and Selene, exploring their relationship and how the tides came to be, but that’s not a myth, because you know that I wrote it. No “mythology” is even slightly mythological if the author is known. The tales could be compiled as a sacred text, but mythology emerges from mystery, not from identity.
I love Superman. Maybe in a thousand years, after the comic books of today are forgotten, his stories will be myths. But right now, they’re stories. Good stories, but nothing more than stories.