Two words: Pheonix Jones
He and the Rain City Superheroes are a PhD dissertation waiting to happen. Or maybe just a Good Morning America segment.
And Joseph Campbell says that we live in a society with no myths? That our society is too much in flux to develop myths we can believe in and interact with? Pheonix Jones is nothing if not an example of a modern myth believer and interactive.
I'm working on a grad school statement of purpose along these lines. I was just going to look at speculative literature/film/comix and fandom as examples of modern myth, but these Real Life Superheroes go beyond fandom. And I might just need to modify that statement of purpose.