Super-history: Comic Book Superheroes and American Society, 1938 to the Present

Super-history: Comic Book Superheroes and American Society, 1938 to the Present

Jeffrey K. Johnson

Language: English

Pages: 230

ISBN: 0786465646

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

In the less than eight decades since Superman's debut in 1938, comic book superheroes have become an indispensable part of American society and the nation's dominant mythology. They represent America's hopes, dreams, fears, and needs. As a form of popular literature, superhero narratives have closely mirrored trends and events in the nation. This study views American history from 1938 to 2010 through the lens of superhero comics, revealing the spandex-clad guardians to be not only fictional characters but barometers of the place and time in which they reside.




















about what happens to average humans. By the end of Watchmen the being that was once Jon has entirely become Dr. Manhattan. He has lost his humanity and is the embodiment of the 1980s understanding of nuclear power — cold, calculating, and extremely dangerous. This transformation is showcased in many Watchmen scenes, but one of the most memorable involves Jon, his wife Sally, and Rorschach, a costumed vigilante. Rorschach asks Jon if a recent death concerned him and Jon replies, “A live body and

for a moment. After World War II, DC Comics creators and editors made a consensus decision to focus on Superman’s personal life and allow readers to become part of Superman’s “family.” Less than a decade before Superman had been a social avenging force of nature but by 1946 he is a super-citizen with problems that mirror the average American male. The Man of Steel became more physically powerful with every passing year. (In 1938, Superman could not fly and a bursting shell could penetrate his

often very different from the young, white, middle and upper class university students that founded the movement. The Civil Rights movement slowly expanded politically and socially, and gradually began to change some Americans’ ideas about race and society. The counterculture at first seemed odd to many, but little by little several of its aspects became part of the social norm. Although it did not happen quickly and mainstream society required the most radical ideas to be remade or watered down,

disagreed with the war in Vietnam. Rioters destroyed American cities. Blacks staged rallies, sit ins, and marches. Young men grew their hair long. The younger generation talked about free love, dressed oddly, and questioned American society and its values. To many, the world seemed to have gone mad, a far cry from the postwar American society that many citizens had worked so hard to build and maintain. The peace and security that many so desired during the 1950s was replaced with conflict and

Americans to rethink their changing lives. The 1970s was a decade of transition in which most Americans had to amend many of their social and cultural beliefs, not just the ones concerning celluloid Kryptonians. At the start of the decade, people were questioning the place of traditional institutions in American society following a shift in the 1960s toward more liberal philosophies. Others wondered whether the country had changed too much during the 1960s and even more citizens asked if the

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