War, Politics and Superheroes

Ethics and Propaganda in Comics and Film

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About the Book

Superhero adventure comics have a long history of commenting upon American public opinion and government policy, and the surge in the popularity of comics since the events of September 11, 2001, ensures their continued relevance. This critical text examines the seventy-year history of comic book superheroes on film and in comic books and their reflections of the politics of their time. Superheroes addressed include Batman, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, Superman, the Fantastic Four and the X-Men, and topics covered include American wars, conflicts, and public policy. Instructors considering this book for use in a course may request an examination copy here.

About the Author(s)

Marc DiPaolo is an assistant professor of English at Southwestern Oklahoma State University. He has written books on Jane Austen and on environmentalist science fiction and fantasy. DiPaolo has been interviewed on NPR, BBC4, and appeared in the AMC documentary Robert Kirkman’s Secret History of Comics.

Bibliographic Details

Marc DiPaolo
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 342
Bibliographic Info: 66 photos, filmography, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2011
pISBN: 978-0-7864-4718-3
eISBN: 978-0-7864-8579-6
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      ix
Preface      1
Introduction: Are Superheroes Republicans? On The Avengers, Star Trek, and Watchmen      11

1. Batman as Terrorist, Technocrat and Feudal Lord      49
2. Wonder Woman as World War II Veteran, Feminist Icon, and Sex Symbol      70
3. Spider-Man as Benedict Arnold, Objectivist, and Class Warrior      92
4. The Punisher as Murderous Immigration Officer and Vietnam War Veteran      115
5. Superman vs. Ronald Reagan and the Ku Klux Klan      138
6. The Special Relationship: Britain and America in James Bond, Doctor Who, and Hellblazer      169
7. Tortured Consciences: Jack Bauer, the Invisible Woman, and George W. Bush’s America      196
8. Gay Rights, Civil Rights, and Nazism in the X-Men Universe      219
9. In Brightest Day, in Darkest Knight: President Obama vs. the Zombie Apocalypse      248

Chapter Notes      279
Bibliography      299
Index      317

Book Reviews & Awards

  • Choice Outstanding Academic Title
  • “A thorough, thought-out treatise that offers new ways of looking at comics and film. It will take its place in the annals of exceptional comic book/film scholarship…essential”—Choice
  • “This unique work on popular culture is a seamless, well-constructed, deeply researched, sharply written, and politically insightful academic book”—Religious Studies Review
  • “Examines the 70-year history of comic book superheroes as they are presented in print and on celluloid”—CBQ
  • “DiPaolo’s command of real-world politics as well as the broad knowledge of so many superhero stories (with “superhero” also defined in a very broad sense) really sells the project. I don’t think there is another book like it, and my hope is that it will inspire fanboys who love the superhero narratives to also take more of an interest in the political intrigues and relationships that genuinely affect our lives.”—Will Brooker, Kingston University, author of Batman Unmasked and Using the Force.