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Working-Class Comic Book Heroes - Class Conflict and Populist Politics in Comics

Working-Class Comic Book Heroes

Class Conflict and Populist Politics in Comics

Edited by Marc DiPaolo
Hardcover : 9781496816641, 240 pages, 45 b&w illustrations, April 2018
Paperback : 9781496818188, 240 pages, 45 b&w illustrations, April 2018

The first book to tackle the blue-collar hero and working-class creators


Contributions by Phil Bevin, Blair Davis, Marc DiPaolo, Michele Fazio, James Gifford, Kelly Kanayama, Orion Ussner Kidder, Christina M. Knopf, Kevin Michael Scott, Andrew Alan Smith, and Terrence R. Wandtke

In comic books, superhero stories often depict working-class characters who struggle to make ends meet, lead fulfilling lives, and remain faithful to themselves and their own personal code of ethics. Working-Class Comic Book Heroes: Class Conflict and Populist Politics in Comics examines working-class superheroes and other protagonists who populate heroic narratives in serialized comic books. Essayists analyze and deconstruct these figures, viewing their roles as fictional stand-ins for real-world blue-collar characters.

Informed by new working-class studies, the book also discusses how often working-class writers and artists created these characters. Notably Jack Kirby, a working-class Jewish artist, created several of the most recognizable working-class superheroes, including Captain America and the Thing. Contributors weigh industry histories and marketing concerns as well as the fan community's changing attitudes towards class signifiers in superhero adventures.

The often financially strapped Spider-Man proves to be a touchstone figure in many of these essays. Grant Morrison's Superman, Marvel's Shamrock, Alan Moore and David Lloyd's V for Vendetta, and The Walking Dead receive thoughtful treatment. While there have been many scholarly works concerned with issues of race and gender in comics, this book stands as the first to deal explicitly with issues of class, cultural capital, and economics as its main themes.


"It's a bird, a plane, a flying bullet. . . no it's the working class who achieve the impossible and vanquish the bad guys. Under Marc DiPaolo's masterful direction, his scholarly super team of ten takes us on an unforgettable journey into comic book history that opens eyes wide to a panoply of proletarian heroes and their superpowers as created in and through economies of work and intersectional identities. Working-Class Comic Book Heroes is our revolution. "

- Frederick Luis Aldama, The Ohio State University Distinguished Scholar and author of Latinx Superheroes in Mainstream Comics

"Many comic book heroes, including Batman, Iron Man, and Wonder Woman, hail from elite backgrounds. But some are more or less working class in origin and feature in stories that revolve around issues of work, status, privilege, and power. Working from the reasonable assumption that the theme of social class has been largely overlooked in comics studies, Marc DiPaolo has pulled together a thoughtful collection that explores the nexus of comics and class. While many of the chapters are concerned with superhero comics, others address such genres as horror (The Walking Dead), gothic horror (Preacher), and political allegory (V for Vendetta). The superheroes covered in the book include well-known figures like Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and The Thing, but more obscure heroes as well such as Man-Thing and Shamrock. The result is a lively and engaging look at how comic book storytelling has commented on, confronted, and reproduced enduring patterns of social demarcation. "

- Kent Worcester, author of Peter Kuper: Conversations and many other books published by University Press of Mississippi