Thursday, 9 August 2012

The Social Network of Masked Vigilantes


The past few years brought an exciting renaissance for comic geeks. Spiderman and Batman were reborn on the silver screen (not to mention the upcoming Superman movie in 2013) and the doors of the Marvel universe opened up not only for the fans of the stripes, but everyone else too. Former comic laymans got the chance to discover the world of Marvel heroes from the Avengers to Spiderman for themselves.

Regardless of their species – mutant, human or extraterrestrial - they are lovely and brave heroes, who have saved our lives and the world on more than one occasion.  The mass hysteria surrounding characters like Iron Man or Spiderman is not accidental; these heroes and stories are all excellently drawn and written, thereby shaping our image of the superhero and the everyday joe.

Many of us just began to discover the Universe of Marvel and DC.  The endless discussion about their quality and rank is pointless, since these stories and characters all are unique in their own way. Our analysis depicts the cooperation and fighting network of Marvel heroes. (We apologize to all DC lovers, but the Marvel database proved more accessible and user-friendly, and the authors of the article were biased due to successful marketing of the Avengers movie :)



This graph shows us what the significant marvel network looks like. Opponents, collaborators and central figures are shown, and connections between hubs representing teams are visible. An apology to Marvel fans is due as well: in order to downsize the Universe (including more than 25000 characters), we weighted connections by their frequency, and the final cut left those, who had more than 100 mutual appearances.

After the network was drawn, teams became instantly visible: the Avengers are in the centre coloured purple, the X-Men are red ones on the right, and green dots represent the Fantastic Four. Peter Parker aka. Spiderman did not get a unique color because he flies solo, but has a web of family, friends, romantic and hostile connections. The blue nodes stand for romantic involvements: i.e. Mary Jane Watson, future Mrs.Parker. The size of the nodes depends on the number of connections so the bigger the size of the name is, the more common stories the characters have.

At first sight we can establish that war veteran Captain America is excellently connected, with links to all the major teams. The X-Men are the biggest bunch, thanks to the next generation of New Mutants. Bridges – people in the network connecting teams and bigger groups – include Henry McCoy aka. Beast, and Thor who connects Asgardians and our realm.
Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist Tony Stark and his red suit not only occupy the hearts female fans, but the center of the network as well. Their central role of various Avengers in the network collides with the sole purpose of the team: collecting the creme de la creme of the Marvel universe, and fighting mankind’s biggest enemies.
The double and triple connections represent relatives, loves and enemies who collaborated with others many times but are not included in the 3 main groups. Another curious aspect of the network is, that the individual characters are relatively old, compared to the teams: Marvel started publishing in 1939 under the name Timely Publications, while various teams were established in the sixties, adapting the various trends of comic history. The success they brought is undeniable. Their legacy: a magnificent Universe with more than 25 thousand characters speaking to fanatic and newcomer, old and young alike.


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