This book explores how the heroes and villains of popular comic books—and the creators of these icons of our culture—reflect the American experience out of which they sprang, and how they have achieved relevance by adapting to, and perhaps influencing, the evolving American character.
Do Spider-Man's adventures consistently reaffirm a belief in the inherent goodness of humanity? Could the Disney character of Scrooge McDuck cloak biting social critique about the more disturbing aspects of materialism? There is far more meaning and significance within the identities of comic book heroes and characters than it would seem.
Multiple generations have thrilled to the exploits of the heroes and villains of American comic books. These imaginary characters permeate our culture—even Americans who have never read a comic book grasp what the most well-known examples represent. But these comic book characters, and their creators, do more than simply thrill: they make us consider who we are and who we aspire to be.
Icons of the American Comic Book: From Captain America to Wonder Woman contains 100 entries that provide historical background, explore the impact of the comic-book character on American culture, and summarize what is iconic about the subject of the entry. Each entry also lists essential works, suggests further readings, and contains at least one sidebar that provides entertaining and often quirky insight not covered in the main entry. This two-volume work examines fascinating subjects, such as how the superhero concept embodied the essence of American culture in the 1930s; and the ways in which comic book icons have evolved to reflect changing circumstances, values, and attitudes regarding cultural diversity. The book's coverage extends beyond just characters, as it also includes entries devoted to creators, publishers, titles, and even comic book related phenomena that have had enduring significance.
• Includes contributions from 70 expert contributors and leading scholars in the field, with some of the entries written with the aid of popular comic book creators themselves
• Provides sidebars within each entry that extend readers' understanding of the subject
• Offers "Essential Works" and "Further Reading" recommendations
• Includes a comprehensive bibliography
• Goes beyond providing straightforward history to explain how each subject impacted both the comics industry and the wider American culture