What is a Superhero?

What is a Superhero?

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What is a superhero? Everyone knows, right? And yet everyone seems to have a different answer. If asked, most people will say that a superhero is a fictional character with "superhuman" abilities or powers - and one who uses those abilities for the common good. Some might add that superheroes wear costumes. But this is only part of the story.

In this innovative collection of essays, renowned psychologist Robin Rosenberg and comics scholar Peter Coogan explore the question "What is a superhero?" from a variety of viewpoints. What is the role of power and superpower? Heroism? The environment? How is the superhero a metaphor? Perhaps most intriguing, what are supervillains and why do we need them? These and many other fascinating topics are taken up in this exciting new book. With essays from scholars and commentary by the writers and
creators themselves, including exclusive material from Stan Lee, Danny Fingeroth, and their peers, What is a Superhero? is the first volume to provide a true synthesis and reflection of the state of superheroes in our culture today.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 200 pages
  • 162 x 236 x 19mm | 400g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0199795274
  • 9780199795277
  • 498,065

Table of contents

Foreword ; Michael Uslan ; Introduction ; Robin Rosenberg and Peter Coogan ; Part I. Super and Hero: Powers and Mission ; 1. The Hero Defines the Genre, the Genre Defines the Hero ; Peter Coogan ; 2. We Could Be Heroes ; Will Brooker ; 3. What is a Female Superhero? ; Jennifer Stuller ; 4. Straddling a Boundary: The Superhero and the Incorporation of Difference ; Clare Pitkelthy ; 5. Save the Day ; A. David Lewis ; Part II. Context, Culture, and the Problem of Definition ; 6. Superheroes and the Modern(ist) Age ; Alex Boney ; 7. Heroes of the Superculture ; Richard Reynolds ; 8. Superhero by Design ; John Jennings ; 9. The Experience of the Superhero: A Phenomenological Definition ; Dana Anderson ; 10. What is a Superhero? No One Knows: That's What Makes 'em Great. ; Geoff Klock ; Part III. Villains ; 11. Why Supervillains? ; Paul Levitz ; 12. Superheroes Need Supervillains ; Frank Verano ; 13. Superheroes Need Superior Villains ; Stanford Carpenter ; 14. Super and Villain: A bad guy with superpowers ; Chris Deis ; 15. Why the Villain Needs the Hero ; Andrew Smith ; 16. Sorting Out Villainy: A Typology of Villains and Their Effects on Superheroes ; Robin Rosenberg ; Part IV. Professionals Speak ; 17. More Than Normal, But Believable ; Stan Lee ; 18. Making The World A Better Place ; Jeph Loeb ; 19. Nobility of Purpose ; Danny Fingeroth ; 20. Superheroes and Power ; Dennis O'Neil ; 21. The Importance of Context: Robin Hood Is Out and Buffy Is In ; Kurt Busiek ; 22. Superheroes Are Made ; Tom DeFalco ; 23. Extraordinary ; Joe Quesada ; 24. The Superprotagonist ; Fred Van Lente
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Review quote

This collection is a helpful glimpse into the current opinions on the nature and meaning of the superhero among scholars and creators. * Anthony R. Mills, Independent Scholar, Journal of American Culture, June 2015 *
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About Robin S. Rosenberg

Robin S. Rosenberg is a clinical psychologist. In addition to running a private practice, she writes about superheroes and the psychological phenomena their stories reveal. She is editor of Psychology of Superheroes and Our Superheroes, Ourselves.

Peter Coogan is director of the Institute for Comics Studies, co-founder and co-chair of the Comics Arts Conference, and an instructor at Washington University in St. Louis. He holds a Ph.D. in American Studies, and authored Superhero: The Secret Origin of the Superhero a monograph on the development, history, and functioning o the superhero genre. He is a nationally known commentator on comics and superheroes, is a semi-regular pundit on the Major Spoiler Podcast, and is co-editor
of this volume.
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Rating details

48 ratings
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2 4% (2)
1 0% (0)
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