I posted this in the HG forum, but for those Man-Maniacs who don't frequent it:
Three Spanish mathematicians have been studying the universe of Marvel comics as a social network. Basically, if you consider comic characters as nodes, and draw lines between two nodes if the two characters have appeared in a comic together, then you get a structure that's known in graph theory terms as a collaboration network. These chaps have studied the properties of the Marvel network and found that it's similar, but not identical, to real world networks.
For the daring, here's the abstract with links to PDF's or PS files of the article:
Interesting results: the graph has 6,486 nodes (characters) and 168,267 edges (links between two characters appearing in the same book). The diameter of the network is 5, meaning that at most 4 connections are required to link any two characters. The average (minimum) separation between characters is 2.63. Captain America is on average 1.70 steps away from every other character, making him Marvel's Kevin Bacon. (I note that, although the authors are careful to point out that they distinguish between different characters using the same name, they don't specifically mention which Captain America they mean, so I wonder if they lumped all three (?) of them together.)
This is also the first time I've seen the words "Brotherhood of Evil Mutants" in a scientific paper.
Not counting the ones in Canadian Journal of Physics, of course.