Superheroes and American Self Image : From War to Watergate book cover
1st Edition

Superheroes and American Self Image
From War to Watergate

ISBN 9781138306462
Published June 16, 2017 by Routledge
258 Pages

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Book Description

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.

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?



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


’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