Posts Tagged ‘Superheroes’

By David Reynolds

If you’re looking for an introductory history of the superhero, then you’ll be satisfied with the PBS documentary Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle. Hosted by Liev Schreiber, who played Sabertooth in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the film provides an adequate overview of the history of superheroes, but it may not quite quench the thirst of more advanced comics buffs.

Much like my own dissertation on the subject, Superheroes: An Analysis of Popular Culture’s Modern Myths, this PBS documentary focuses on superheroes as they appear across media, unlike other histories which focus only on comics in general or the superhero’s role in comics. Hearing legends like Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Joe Simon, and Alan Moore share their stories about the industry provides invaluable input about the infancy and growth of the genre. However, while this documentary collects interviews with many legends of the industry, it falls short in scholarly expertise. Trina Robbins‘ input as a comics historian is quite valuable in this respect, but there ought to be further reference to academic expertise throughout the series.

Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle is divided into three episodes, which roughly correspond to the Golden, Silver, and Modern Ages of Comics. Accordingly, the first episode covers the birth of the superhero in 1938 with the emergence of Superman in Action Comics #1. The origins of Batman, Wonder Woman, Captain America, and other superheroes are covered here, as well, acknowledging the inspiration taken from pulp characters, like the Spider or the Shadow. The film also discusses superheroes as American gods, emphasizing their role as modern hero myths, and it even touches on how superhero narratives were used as wartime propaganda. These are perspectives I have considered in my own dissertation. Such accounts in Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle tend to reflect the scholarship, although the treatment of these subjects in the film is brief.

In discussing the sizable slew of superheroes that emerged following the success of Superman and Batman, the film highlights Fawcett ComicsCaptain Marvel. Here is where I have a particular gripe with the documentary’s portrayal of events. The film makes no mention of the despicable copyright lawsuits that resulted in DC Comics (known as National Comics at the time) winning the rights to Fawcett’s Captain Marvel. Basically, DC claimed that Captain Marvel was infringing on Superman’s copyright, claiming the characters were too alike. They are about as alike as any other pair of superheroes, but the courts eventually favoured with DC and Fawcett had run out of money to pursue the fight. This is one of many dark stains on the genre, in my opinion, because it represents the tremendous level of greed inherent to the industry. Don’t forget how the big publishers all too often denied copyright and royalties to creators, most infamously the creators of Superman, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Well, the comic book copyright wars are overlooked entirely in this documentary. Don’t take this as too damning a critique, however; most are quite satisfied to enjoy the view of the tip of an iceberg.

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The second and third episodes provide accounts of the Silver and Modern Ages. The Silver Age is largely portrayed as defined by Stan Lee’s revolution of telling stories about superheroes with relatable problems, noting the introduction of the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man. Superman, Batman, and other archetypal superheroes had hitherto seemed impervious to the everyday troubles of regular folk, so Stan Lee’s departure from that norm is truly remarkable even if it seems like a no-brainer to fans today. The Modern Age is defined by further narrative complexity, citing Frank Miller‘s Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore’s Watchmen as definitive texts that reflect relevant social tensions. These works challenged the very foundations of superhero narratives, forcing readers to question the motives of all these masked vigilantes. This sort of complexity continues after the destruction of the two towers on September 11, 2001, when superhero narratives again challenge our assumptions about the value of security and civil liberties, such as with Marvel’s Civil War crossover series. The documentary literally juxtaposes the implementation of George W. Bush‘s Patriot Act with the issues addressed in Civil War. That the film engages in this conversation is reassuring, because to dismiss it would be a crucial oversight. However, the film does not go so far as to point out the troubling normalization of mass surveillance in Christopher Nolan‘s film Dark Knight.

Ultimately, Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle is well worth watching for any fan of superheroes. If you’re new to reading comics, you might find some classic titles to check out for yourself. If you’re a long-time fan, then you’ll find a great deal to be nostalgic about across all three episodes. There are some unusual moments unique to this documentary, as well; nowhere else have I heard Adam West (of campy ’60s Batman fame) read lines from Miller’s dark and brooding Dark Knight Returns. So, if you haven’t seen this one yet, you might find it on Netflix.

And, if you’re interested in reading a more advanced take on how superhero narratives function in popular culture, then you should check out my book, Superheroes: An Analysis of Popular Culture’s Modern Myths. Please, read and enjoy!

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You’re still here? Great! If you dig this review, then “Like” my Facebook page! You might also check out what else I am up to over at Problematic Press. Many thanks! Cheers!

Listen up, eager readers!

If you are an Amazon Prime member, then check this out: from now until October 26, 2013 Superheroes: An Analysis of Popular Culture’s Modern Myths will be available to borrow from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. That means you can borrow the book and read it all you like!

Superheroes: An Analysis of Popular Culture's Modern Myths

On top of that, for 5 days only, between September 3 and 7, 2013, the Kindle edition of Superheroes will be made FREE to download. It’s like my Back-to-School gift to you! That’s right, during this limited-time offer absolutely anyone can download a FREE copy of my dissertation on how superhero narratives function in society. You don’t even need a Kindle e-reader to take advantage of this opportunity because the Kindle App is freely available for PC, Mac, and mobile devices.

So, be sure to get your digital copy of Superheroes for the Kindle, and then head on over to Problematic Press to see what other projects I’ve been working on. There you’ll find more FREE reading material and, of course, the Problematic Press Shop (CAN and US) is the place to find my projects in print and digital formats.

Please, read and enjoy!

Cheers!
DR

So, Fredric Wertham was a liar. In the 1950s, Wertham nearly destroyed the comic book industry, leading an overzealous attack on the whole medium based on his claims that crime comics caused juvenile delinquency. Understand that, in his usage, crime comics referred to any comic containing a criminal act, so all of the superhero comics were included in his criticism. At the time, he managed to rally enough angry parents through his fervor to lead the Crusade Against Comics, nearly crushing the comics industry with his testimony before the United States Senate’s Judiciary Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency. Recently, Carol L. Tilley, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois, revealed that Wertham grossly overstated his evidence.

I am not surprised by this, really. In my book, Superheroes: An Analysis of Popular Culture’s Modern Myths, I acknowledge the bias in Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent, his laughably overzealous attack on the comics medium. However laughable it may have been, the book’s publication is commonly regarded as the event signalling the end of the Golden Age of Comics.

Tilley’s findings, having scoured Wertham’s vast depository of notes at the Library of Congress, indicate the differences between his research and his testimony. In her article, “Seducing the Innocent: Fredric Wertham and the Falsifications that Helped Condemn Comics,” Tilley reveals many discrepancies, some of which paint Wertham as even more conservative and homophobic than one would have previously thought. Wertham completely misconstrued his evidence in his testimony to the Subcommittee. He did this in a number of ways, such as by combining accounts from multiple cases into a singular, more convincing case, as if the many were just one patient. At times, he would omit evidence that was inconvenient for or contrary to his argument. Furthermore, Wertham would pass off hearsay as if he witnessed the events himself. Clearly, Tilley’s paper discredits Wertham’s worth as an expert.

So, how do these revelations affect how I have covered Wertham in Superheroes? Ultimately, I think it has little bearing on my own arguments regarding Wertham’s work. I readily acknowledge that his argument was overzealous, and it’s not a big step to accept that he exaggerated his findings beyond what can be acceptable. I write in Superheroes that “The soundest portion of Wertham’s heated criticism is that art is a mode of communication. As we take in art as entertainment, we take in its messages constantly and the content of art’s messages may influence us.” I stand by that interpretation. My argument really only acknowledges the validity of the most basic foundation of Wertham’s position. Beyond that, his testimony has lost whatever credibility it may have clung to over the years.

Superheroes: An Analysis of Popular Culture's Modern Myths

Yes, it’s true. Although they’ve been available as e-books for quite some time now, both of my previous works are now available in print! I don’t know about you, but this feels like a big deal to me! I know I’m stoked, at least. ha!

Indeed, both of my e-books now have print editions. And, this comes directly on the heels of TEDxStJohns (which was an amazing experience). It’s been quite a week for this dude right here. *points thumbs at myself* Actually, if it wasn’t for TEDxStJohns, I don’t know if I would have reached this point. Working on my TEDx talk, I started to look into self-publishing in print again. I should also thank Morgan Murray of Words in Edgewise for pointing me towards Amazon‘s print-on-demand service, CreateSpace. On top of that, let me just thank everyone who has ever been supportive of my writing efforts. I really appreciate all the encouragement!

But, that’s enough praise for others; this is my blog, so let’s return to my books in print. *ridiculously happy smiley face* If you’d like to purchase any of my works, I’ve created a Canadian Shop and a U.S. Shop where you can find them all conveniently in the one place. Links to each store are also placed in the main menu near the top of the blog. Besides that, there are a variety of channels where you can purchase my works in print and e-book formats. So, to promote some kind of freedom of consumer choice, let me list some of those here:

You can buy directly from CreateSpace
Paperback: Superheroes: An Analysis of Popular Culture’s Modern Myths
Paperback: Fawning, Fear and Frustration: A Collection of Teenage Poetry from the 90s

You can buy from Amazon.ca
Paperback: Superheroes: An Analysis of Popular Culture’s Modern Myths
Paperback: Fawning, Fear and Frustration: A Collection of Teenage Poetry from the 90s

You can buy from Amazon.com
Paperback: Superheroes: An Analysis of Popular Culture’s Modern Myths
E-book: Superheroes: An Analysis of Popular Culture’s Modern Myths
Paperback: Fawning, Fear and Frustration: A Collection of Teenage Poetry from the 90s
E-book: Fawning, Fear and Frustration: A Collection of Teenage Poetry from the 90s

Or you can visit one of my stores to find my own works along with some recommendations. My stores are powered by Amazon, so if your total purchase is over $25, then you qualify for FREE shipping! (* Certain conditions apply. See Amazon.ca for details, or see Amazon.com for details.) That’s partially why I have included recommended works in the store. The other reason is because those are some fantastic books and comics! You should read them!

Ultimately… I’m blown away by my recent good fortune! Thank YOU so much for helping me get here!

Cheers!
Dave

UPDATE: Superheroes: An Analysis of Popular Culture’s Modern Myths is presently (as of 3:45PM, June 3, 2012) available on Amazon.ca and it is eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping! There was an issue with this before, but it seems to be fixed now. Thanks for your patience, and sorry for any inconvenience.

Cheers!

Today, Flava’s Street Team goes into action, hitting the streets, pounding the pavement, and what not. It’s still a team if there’s just one, right? Whatever.

Today is also FREE COMIC BOOK DAY, and I couldn’t think of a better time to do some D.I.Y.-style promotions for my own work surrounding comics (and the 90s poetry stuff, despite being completely unrelated). So, I’ve done up some posters with QR codes to post around St. John’s on this beautiful wet and foggy day! The way it works is simple; whip out your smartphone, scan the QR code, and – BOOM! – you’ll be taken by the magic of technology right to the Kindle website where you can purchase either Superheroes: An Analysis of Popular Culture’s Modern Myths for just $3.99 or Fawning, Fear and Frustration: A Collection of Teenage Poetry for just $0.99!

Keep an eye out around town for these posters:

Superheroes Poster

Fawning Poster with QR Code

And, hey, if you happen to feel like helping out the Flava Street Team, go ahead and print off some posters to place around wherever you may be. Leave me a comment if you do, and you’ll have my infinite (and intangible) thanks!

See you at the comic shop!

This is it!  My first eBook, Superheroes: An Analysis of Popular Culture’s Modern Myths, is now available in the Amazon Kindle Store!

How exactly do we read imagery in comics?

What do you really know about Superman’s origins and his role in the World War II propaganda campaign?

Would you ever compare Batman to a real-world carpet manufacturer?

Have you ever asked yourself what makes superheroes so special?

Superheroes: An Analysis of Popular Culture’s Modern Myths goes beyond the typical fanboy fantasies to provide a rigorous, multifaceted examination of how superheroes and comic books have influenced North American culture.  As an extension of ideas presented by Friedrich Nietzsche, Joseph Campbell, and Umberto Eco, this dissertation argues that superhero tales must be regarded as modern mythology, similar to how people think about the heroic tales of Hercules, Odysseus or Gilgamesh.

My aim with this dissertation was not only to engage with philosophy and literary theory but to apply the theory to a fun and interesting subject matter, namely superheroes.  If you’re reading it from a scholarly perspective, perhaps it will broaden your view of language and the role comics play in communication.  If you’re reading this as a fan of superheroes and comics, then the dissertation may lead you to a fuller appreciation of the subtleties that many fans overlook.  So, while the dissertation proceeds with the rigor of an academic interrogation, applying those scholarly concepts to superhero narratives allows for a greater degree of potential insight.

Visit my Author’s Page to see a teaser trailer for Superheroes: An Analysis of Popular Culture’s Modern Myths by following this link.

Get your copy now in the Amazon Kindle Store!  Remember, you can sample the Introduction for FREE!

Download your copy now! Superheroes: An Analysis of Popular Culture’s Modern Myths