The Contemporary Comic Book Superhero

The Contemporary Comic Book Superhero

The Contemporary Comic Book Superhero

The Contemporary Comic Book Superhero

Synopsis

Finding expression in comic books, television series and successful blockbuster films, the superhero has become part of everyday life. Exploring the superhero genre, its storytelling practices, its hero-types and its relationship with fans, this anthology fills a gap in research about the comic book superhero of the last 20 years.

Excerpt

One of my earliest memories is of being a little girl of about three years old: lying on the floor on my stomach, with feet swinging rhythmically to a nonexistent beat, I’d flip excitedly through the pages of my superhero comic books (courtesy of my pop-culture-enlightened dad), looking up occasionally to allow my face to be bathed by the calming rays of the television screen. Many decades have passed, but not much has changed— well, perhaps now I tend to prefer wallowing in the latest adventures of my superheroes while propped up by pillows in the comfort of my bed. The thrill of eagerly turning each page remains as intense as it was when I was a young girl, but now I also have the advantage of being able to read and even understand the funny scribbles in the boxes and bubbles that are scattered across the pages. Since those early days, my tastes and interests shifted and developed, adjusting, especially since the 1980s, to the darker, more maladjusted hero types: the Preacher, the Invisibles, Hitman, the Punisher, Swamp Thing, John Constantine—they all occupy a special space on my ever-growing bookshelves, but my favorite has never wavered. It was Batman when I was three and it’s Batman today. I took him into my life and let his mysterious and dark brand of heroism cut deep into my being. The arrival of the television series in the 1960s further convinced me that this man in tights (not glaringly colored and tasteless spandex like those of Superman or Spiderman) really did exist out there somewhere. How could this complex, brooding being that affected me in such real ways not be real? (As a kid I repressed the extreme campiness of the TV show—hell, I thought camp was a place your parents sent you when they wanted you out of the house for a week!) Perhaps, like Fox Mulder, I still want to believe.

Heroic narratives have a history that’s as old as that of the establishment of human socialization. This major cultural construct began before Hercules slew the Nemean lion with his bare hands or Odin killed the giant Ymir, and often reflects the social need for extraordinary action. Hero myths contain universal elements and have a continued presence in cultural memory, yet they’re dynamic beings who shift and metamorphose to accommodate themselves to specific eras and historic-cultural . . .

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