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The Superhero Reader

The Superhero Reader

Edited by Charles Hatfield, Jeet Heer, and Kent Worcester
Hardcover : 9781617038020, 368 pages, June 2013
Paperback : 9781617038068, 342 pages, June 2013

A full exploration of the history, politics, and aesthetics of the superhero genre


With contributions from Will Brooker, Jeffrey A. Brown, Scott Bukatman, John G. Cawelti, Peter Coogan, Jules Feiffer, Charles Hatfield, Henry Jenkins, Robert Jewett and John Shelton Lawrence, Gerard Jones, Geoff Klock, Karin Kukkonen, Andy Medhurst, Adilifu Nama, Walter Ong, Lorrie Palmer, Richard Reynolds, Trina Robbins, Lillian Robinson, Roger B. Rollin, Gloria Steinem, Jennifer Stuller, Fredric Wertham, and Philip Wylie

Despite their commercial appeal and cross-media reach, superheroes are only recently starting to attract sustained scholarly attention. This groundbreaking collection brings together essays and book excerpts by major writers on comics and popular culture.

While superhero comics are a distinct and sometimes disdained branch of comics creation, they are integral to the development of the North American comic book and the history of the medium. For the past half-century, they have also been the one overwhelmingly dominant market genre. The sheer volume of superhero comics that have been published over the years is staggering. Major superhero universes constitute one of the most expansive storytelling canvases ever fashioned. Moreover, characters inhabiting these fictional universes are immensely influential, having achieved iconic recognition around the globe. Their images and adventures have shaped many other media, such as film, videogames, and even prose fiction.

The primary aim of this reader is twofold: first, to collect in a single volume a sampling of the most sophisticated commentary on superheroes, and second, to bring into sharper focus the ways in which superheroes connect with larger social, cultural, literary, aesthetic, and historical themes that are of interest to a great many readers both in the academy and beyond.


"The introduction provides a superb analysis (and diagnosis) of the current state of the field, while the anthology itself gathers some of the most influential and intelligent critical writing on superhero comics into one place. The Superhero Reader is an essential volume for any comics scholar."

- Ben Saunders, author of Do the Gods Wear Capes? Spirituality, Fantasy, and Superheroes