Superheroes and American Self Image: From War to Watergate, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Superheroes and American Self Image

From War to Watergate, 1st Edition

By Michael Goodrum


248 pages

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pub: 2017-06-16
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This book offers an interdisciplinary approach to the study of comic-books, mobilising them as a means to understand better the political context in which they are produced. Structured around key political events in the US between 1938 and 1975, the author combines analyses of visual and textual discourse, including comic-book letters pages, to come to a more complete picture of the relationship between comic-books as documents and the people who read and created them. Exploring the ways in which ideas about the US and its place in the world were represented in major superhero comic-books during the tumultuous period of US history from the Great Depression to the political trauma of Watergate and the end of the Vietnam War, Superheroes and American Self-Image sheds fresh light on the manner in which comic-books shape and are shaped by contemporary politics. As such it will appeal to scholars of cultural and media studies, history and popular culture.


’Michael Goodrum has provided a fantastic resource on the historical evolution of American self-image in the twentieth century. Particularly striking is his deployment of superhero comics as a fun-house mirror that actively reworks American self-image, indicating how identities must be actualised in specific forms. By cutting back and forth between the political struggles and the superhero narratives of the time, Goodrum articulates the complex geopolitics of the twentieth century with verve and charm.’ Jason Dittmer, University College London, UK

Table of Contents

List of Figures



1. The Second World War and Before

2. The End of the Second World War: What next for the US?

3. Rise of McCarthyism: End of Alternatives

4. The ‘Liberal Consensus’: Comfort, not Critique

5. New Left, New Right, New Comic Books: Superheroes and Unrest

6. The Changing of the Code: Origins, Debate and Effects

7. Vietnam, Watergate and the end of Consensus: What’s a Superhero to do?



About the Author

Michael Goodrum is Senior Lecturer in Modern History in the Department of History and American Studies at Canterbury Christ Church University, UK.

About the Series

The Cultural Politics of Media and Popular Culture

The Cultural Politics of Media and Popular Culture
Dedicated to a renewed engagement with culture, this series fosters critical, contextual analyses and cross-disciplinary examinations of popular culture as a site of cultural politics. It welcomes theoretically grounded and critically engaged accounts of the politics of contemporary popular culture and the popular dimensions of cultural politics. Without being aligned to a specific theoretical or methodological approach, The Cultural Politics of Media and Popular Culture publishes monographs and edited collections that promote dialogues on central subjects, such as representation, identity, power, consumption, citizenship, desire and difference. Offering approachable and insightful analyses that complicate race, class, gender, sexuality, (dis)ability and nation across various sites of production and consumption, including film, television, music, advertising, sport, fashion, food, youth, subcultures and new media, The Cultural Politics of Media and Popular Culture welcomes work that explores the importance of text, context and subtext as these relate to the ways in which popular culture works alongside hegemony.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / Cultural
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Popular Culture