Comic Book Superheroes and American Society, 1938 to the Present


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About the Book

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. Instructors considering this book for use in a course may request an examination copy here.

About the Author(s)

Jeffrey K. Johnson, a World War II historian for the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command in Honolulu, Hawaii, is the author of several books and articles.

Bibliographic Details

Jeffrey K. Johnson

Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 230
Bibliographic Info: 26 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2012
pISBN: 978-0-7864-6564-4
eISBN: 978-0-7864-9035-6
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      ix
Introduction      1

1: We Need a Hero: New Deal Social Avengers and Vigilantes (1938–1940)      7
2: World War II and Super-Patriots (1941–1945)      29
3: The Nuclear Era (1945–1989)      49
4: The Postwar 1940s and 1950s: Supernormal (1946–1959)      69
5: Counterculture Heroes (1960–1969)      86
6: The American Malaise (1970–1979)      101
7: Super-Conservatives and Neo-Cowboys (1980–1989)      125
8: Searching for a New Direction (1990–1999)      150
9: Decade of Fear (2000–2009)      170

Conclusion      189
Notes      191
Bibliography      205
Index      217

Book Reviews & Awards

“[Johnson is] always showing causes and the effect on American society and hence comic book artists who resigned their superheroes to conform to the current status of culture, society and fashion to be better compatible with reality. …I enjoyed this particular history lesson and learned a thing or two. If you want to know why Spiderman was not invented earlier, or why Captain America was revived several times, what started the comic Silver Age, or why the Watchmen appeared at that certain time in history you could look it up here.”—