If you were The Hulk, wouldn’t you tire of the constant, uncontrolled transformation into a green version of the Governator? Wouldn’t people’s reliance on your pea-colored, tumescent masculinity get a little old? And eventually, wouldn’t you just want to hop over to the Renaissance Faire, buy a pretty ruff, some breeches, and sit for a portrait that’d express not just your superhuman physique, but also the inner turmoil (and, perhaps, the inner Renaissance fetish) that physique stirs?
The reason we’re so drawn to superheroes isn’t strictly — or even predominantly — their superhuman powers. Rather, it’s the way the human emotional spectrum interacts with and copes with these superhuman appendages. We like to see people like us suddenly imbued with power, fighting not just the battle against evil, but the battle between competing desires to be “super” and “human.”
This is clear in artist Sascha Goldberger‘s Super Flemish series, where we see superheros (and a smattering villains and of other iconic fantasy/sci-fi characters) reframed as models in Renaissance-era Flemish paintings. According to Goldberger, “the collection demonstrates the use of 17 century techniques counterpointing light and shadow to illustrate nobility and fragility of the super powerful of all times.”