The Superhero Reader
Publication Year: 2013
Despite their commercial appeal and cross-media reach, superheroes are only recently starting to attract sustained scholarly attention. This groundbreaking collection brings together essays and book excerpts by major writers on comics and popular culture.While superhero comics are a distinct and sometimes disdained branch of comics creation, they are integral to the development of the North American comic book and the history of the medium. For the past half-century they have also been the one overwhelmingly dominant market genre. The sheer volume of superhero comics that have been published over the years is staggering. Major superhero universes constitute one of the most expansive storytelling canvases ever fashioned. Moreover, characters inhabiting these fictional universes are immensely influential, having achieved iconic recognition around the globe. Their images and adventures have shaped many other media, such as film, videogames, and even prose fiction.The primary aim of this reader is twofold: first, to collect in a single volume a sampling of the most sophisticated commentary on superheroes, and second, to bring into sharper focus the ways in which superheroes connect with larger social, cultural, literary, aesthetic, and historical themes that are of interest to a great many readers both in the academy and beyond.
Published by: University Press of Mississippi
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Our thanks go to our contributors, as well to Bart Beaty, Walter Biggins, Paul Buhle, Jon B. Cooke, Craig Fischer, Ian Gordon, Karen Green, Tom Hart, Dean Haspiel, Gene kannenberg, Jr., Jude killroy, Guy Lawley, andrei Molotiu, Heather Nunnelly, and Julia Worcester. We are pleased to dedicate ...
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To wrench the human soul from its moorings, to immerse it in terrors, ice, flames, and raptures to such an extent that it is liberated from all petty displeasure, gloom, and depression as by a flash of lightening: what paths For if ever there does appear upon this planet a tightly knit minority of really superior people, it will be the end of all the rest of mankind and man-...
I. HISTORICAL CONSIDERATIONS
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...almost all superheroes have an origin story: a bedroCk aCCount of the transformative events that set the protagonist apart from ordinary human-ity. If not a prerequisite for the superhero genre, the origin story is certainly a prominent and popular trope that recurs so frequently as to offer clues to the nature of this narrative tradition. To read origin stories about destroyed ...
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Reprinted by permission from Superhero: The Secret Origin of a Genre (MonkeyBrain Books, 2006), 165–74.though dime novels, sCienCe fiCtion, adventure stories, and the pulps contain the main predecessors of the superhero genre, the superhero did not spring to life in literature but in comics. Comics—both books and strips—Essentially unknown today, J. Koerner’s [actually William H. D. Koerner’s—...
Men of Tomorrow
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Copyright © 2005 Gerard Jones. Reprinted from Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic Book, 80–88, by permission of Basic Books, a member of the Perseus Books Group.philip Wylie Was the son of a presbyterian minister Who broke angrily with his father’s God, studied theater at Princeton, dropped out to become a successful advertising writer, lost his career to a dubious paternity suit, decided ...
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...reprinted by permission of Harold ober associates, incorporated from Gladiator (Manor Books, 1976 ), hugo had three hours to Wait for a ChiCago train. his Wages pur-chased his ticket and left him in possession of twenty dollars. His clothing was nondescript; he had no baggage. He did not go outside the Grand Central Terminal, but sat patiently in the smoking-room, waiting for the time to pass. ...
The Great Comic Book Heroes
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Reprinted by permission of the author from The Great Comic Book Superheroes (Bonanza Books, 1965), section nine.had i only been six years older i Could have been in ComiC books from almost the beginning: carting my sample case in the spring of 1939 instead of 1945; a black cardboard folio with inside overlapping side sheets, secured tight with black bows on its three unbound corners, containing 14 x 22 pages of ...
The Comics and the Super State
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Reprinted by permission from Arizona Quarterly, vol. 1, no. 3 (autumn 1945), 34–48. © The arizona Board of in the 25,000,000 ComiC books that are produCed in this Country per month, each to be read by an average of four or five individuals, and in the 6,000,000,000 comic strips that appear every month in U.S. newspapers, there is at work a squirming mass of psychological forces. What all these forces ...
The Superman Conceit
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Reprinted from Seduction of the Innocent (Main Road Books, 2004 ), 94–102 by permission of the President the atmosphere of Crime ComiC books is unparalleled in the history of children’s literature of any time or any nation. It is a distillation of vicious-ness. The world of the comic book is the world of the strong, the ruthless, the bluffer, the shrewd deceiver, the torturer, and the thief. all the emphasis is on ...
The Great Women Superheroes
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Reprinted by permission of the author from The Great Women Superheroes (Kitchen Sink Press, 1996), 2–14.in 1938 tWo teenage boys, Jerry siegel and Joe shuster, introduCed their creation, Superman, in Action Comics #1, and superheroes entered the world’s consciousness. Their story of a superpowered foundling from another planet had been rejected by every comic strip syndicate and comic book editor ...
Fandom and Authorship
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Reprinted by permission from Batman Unmasked (Continuum, 2000), 250–79.the disCourses of ComiC fandom and ComiC authorship Were born as twins and have grown up together over the last few decades, siblings locked into a relationship of debate and mutual dependence. Both originated in the early 1960s [in fact the history of letters pages and fandom in comics predates ...
II. THEORY AND GENRE
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...a genre is an empiriCal soCial reality: not only a CritiCal Category for organizing works, but also a tradition and pastime upheld by an audience at-tuned to such works. Indeed a genre is something on the order of a loose social compact, a set of concepts and practices that groups of people use to help them sort through and make sense of things. It therefore has a lived-in qual-...
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Reprinted by permission from John G. Cawelti, Adventure, Mystery, Romance: Formula Stories as Art and Popular the Central fantasy of the adventure story is that of the hero—indi-vidual or group—overcoming obstacles and dangers and accomplishing some important and moral mission. Often, though not always, the hero’s trials are the result of the machinations of a villain, and, in addition, the hero fre-...
Crowds of Superheroes
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Reprinted by permission from Robert Jewett and John Shelton Lawrence, The Myth of the American Superhero (Wm. folloWing the phenomenal suCCess of superman ComiCs in 1938, the axial decade closed with a proliferation of superheroes. The masks, uniforms, miraculous powers, and secret alter egos combine with sexual renunciation and segmentation to complete the formation of the monomythic hero. Batman, ...
The Epic Hero and Pop Culture
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Sections I –III and V of Rollin’s essay are reprinted by permission of the National Council of Teachers of English from The student’s unmediated responses are to his comic books and television programs, while his response to Macbeth has every conceivable kind of many a teaCher of english vieWs With trepidation the prospeCt of in-troducing members of the present student generation to the study of Beowulf, ...
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Reprinted by permission from Superheroes: A Modern Mythology (University Press of Mississippi, 1994), 7–25.most widely known fictional characters ever conceived. Created as comic-book heroes, they remain more widely known through television, the movies and (in the case of Batman and superman) through a vigorous presence in american and European popular culture that ensures their recognition by millions who ...
The Revisionary Superhero Narrative
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Reprinted with permission from How to Read Superhero Comics and Why, 25–52, by the Continuum International in his introduCtion to Batman: the Dark knight returns, alan moore gives the reader the first hint toward understanding the relation that this work has with the complex tradition in which it participates. He writes:[Miller] has taken a character whose every trivial and incidental detail is ...
Jack Kirby and the Marvel Aesthetic
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Reprinted by permission from Hand of Fire: The Comics Art of Jack Kirby (University Press of Mississippi, 2011), it has often been said, though not so often ConvinCingly, that super-heroes constitute “a modern mythology,” and that the Marvel Universe in particular called forth or made more obvious this mythic quality. Such argu-ments are inexact. If Marvel constitutes a mythos, then it is one that does ...
Navigating Infinite Earths
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...“Navigating Infinite Earths: Readers, Mental Models, and the Multiverse of Superhero Comics,” by Karin Kukkonen, is reproduced from Storyworlds 2, with permission from the University of Nebraska Press. ©2010 by the University in a reCent study of multiple Worlds in physiCs, philosophy, and narra-tive, Marie-Laure Ryan argues that our “private encyclopedia” is deeply rooted in the classical notion that there is one world in which we live and through ...
A Song of the Urban Superhero
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...chapter originally titled “The Boys in the Hoods: a song of the Urban superhero,” reprinted by permission from Matters of Gravity: Special Effects and Supermen in the 20th Century, 184–223. © 2003 Duke University Press. all rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of the publisher. www.dukeupress.edu.There is a city, a glorious and singular place. Old and yet pristine, ornate and yet streamlined. A metropolis of now and then and never was....
III. CULTURE AND IDENTITY
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...as henry Jenkins notes in his essay on “death-defying heroes,” WhiCh closes this volume, superheroes “have been more or less in continuous pub-lication since the 1930s or early 1940s.” “Nowhere else in popular culture,” he says, “can you find that same degree of continuity.” Comics fandom takes this decades-long history quite seriously, as witnessed by the fact that comics ...
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Reprinted by permission of the author from Wonder Woman (Bonanza Books, 1972), 2–7.ComiC books Were not quite respeCtable, WhiCh Was a large part of the reason I read them: under the covers with a flashlight, in the car while my parents told me I was ruining my eyes, in a tree or some other inaccessible spot; any place that provided sweet privacy and independence. along with ...
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Reprinted by permission from Wonder Women: Feminisms and Superheroes (Routledge, 2004), 88–94.What may be Called the neW marvel attitude begins With the Creation in 1961 of The Fantastic Four, with mutations, internecine insults, ambiva-lence, and irony all over the text, but drawn in the traditional adventure or detective comics mode. The first major change in artistic style did not occur ...
Love Will Bring You to Your Gift
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Reprinted by permission from Ink-Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors: Superwomen in Modern Mythology (I.B. “love”—a CompliCated ConCept if there ever Was one. buffy is told by her spirit guide that love will bring her to her gift. William Marston’s Wonder Woman is made of love, simply because she has the body of a woman. He even wrote that “Man’s use of force without love brings evil and unhappiness. But ...
Batman, Deviance and Camp
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Reprinted by permission from Roberta E. Pearson and William Uricchio, eds. The Many Lives of the Batman: Critical Approaches to a Superhero and His Media (Routledge, 1991), 149–163.Only someone ignorant of the fundamentals of psychiatry and of the psy-chopathology of sex can fail to realize a subtle atmosphere of homoerot-ism which pervades the adventure of the mature “Batman” and his young ...
Color Them Black
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From Super Black: American Pop Culture and Black Superheroes, 9–35, by adilifu nama. © 2011. By permission of Oh, we can beat them, forever and ever. Then we could be heroes just for sCores of readers have used superhero ComiCs to viCariously defy gravity and bound over skyscrapers, swing through the Big apple with the greatest of ease, stalk the dark streets of Gotham, or travel at magnificent ...
Comic Book Masculinity
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Reprinted by permission from Black Superheroes, Milestone Comics, and Their Fans (University Press of Mississippi, if ComiC book superheroes represent an aCCeptable, albeit obviously extreme, model of hypermasculinity, and if the black male body is already culturally ascribed as a site of hypermasculinity, then the combination of the two—a black male superhero—runs the risk of being read as an overabun-...
The Punisher as Revisionist Superhero Western
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Reprinted by permission from Terrence R. Wandtke, ed. The Amazing Transforming Superhero! Essays on the Revision of Characters in Comic Books, Film and Television (McFarland, 2007), 192–208.the man in blaCk With vengeanCe in his heart has Come roaring onto our movie screens in many guises, across eras and vastly different pop-culture landscapes. Whether he is a cowboy, a Jedi knight, or a comic book charac-...
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Reprinted with permission from The Wow Climax: Tracing the Emotional Impact of Popular Culture (New York media sCholars draW an important distinCtion betWeen mass Culture and popular culture. Mass culture is mass-produced for a mass audience. Popular culture is what happens to those cultural artifacts at the site of con-sumption, as we draw upon them as resources in our everyday life. Many ...
List of Contributors
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Page Count: 368
Publication Year: 2013