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Superman on the Couch: What Superheroes Really Tell Us about Ourselves and Our Society Paperback – February 27, 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic (February 27, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826415407
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826415400
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #859,805 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The golden age of comic books may be over, but our "hope (and fear) that there may be more to this world than what we see" draws us to pop culture heroes who mesh otherworldly powers and smarts with a sense of duty and even some human frailty. This is part of a global "superhero comic consciousness" that, observes Fingeroth, transcends religious and national boundaries to infect us with do-gooder inclinations while still letting us delight in violent retribution against imagined villains. Connecting the dots from ancient warriors and biblical figures to modern-day superheroes, Fingeroth analyzes archetypes like the angry young man (Wolverine), the avenging orphan (Batman), the dual personality (Superman) and other modern derivatives like Dirty Harry and Rambo. Not surprisingly, super-heroines have struggled for decades to achieve the popularity of their male counterparts. Powerful women are threatening whether drawn or born, concludes Fingeroth, and until the 1990s advent of Buffy and Xena, Wonderwoman was a lonely lady at the top. With humor and a touch of comic book hyperbole, the author capably mines the genre’s cultural morphologies and the societal changes it reflects – a subject largely overlooked by contemporary pop psychologists and academics. While this psychological journey through comic hero history can seem reductive at times with page-filler statements like "We achieve immortality through the superheroes," the book, like the escapist but enduring media it chronicles, proves an illuminating read.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–Fingeroth offers a lucid and accessible social critique of the mainstream comics' preternatural characters as well as reasoning why and how the public welcomes such stories. Although he rightfully reaches back to earlier literary uses and developments of heroic character types, these discussions don't demand strong academic knowledge of world cultures, nor do his analyses of superhero motives require readers to be grounded in theoretical psychology. Instead, this is an engaging discussion that may turn some readers into literary sleuths and deeper thinkers, simply because the writing is so solid and the presentation so balanced. Even those who aren't fans of Spider-Man or Batman will be able to understand the relevance of considering how fiction and culture interact with one another. An excellent resource for both research and pleasure reading.–Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Newton Ooi on June 21, 2004
Format: Paperback
I am a fan of comic book superheroes; I try to see all the major Hollywood movies on superheroes like X-Men, Batman, Superman, etc... I am also a fan of the Sunday comics. But I have never read a comic book. So I picked this book up last month thinking it would be a good way to learn about comic book lore and history. This book accomplishes that. It covers the origins (and conclusions) of all the major comic book heroes. It also goes a little into the history of the authors / creators / publishers of these comic books.
The pace is quick, the book is short, and most teenagers should be able to read the whole book in a weekend. But as a piece of literary criticism, it is okay. This book to the comic book genre is like having one Cliff Notes book for all of Shakespeare; you sacrifice depth for breadth. Overarching themes are emphasized over storylines of the individual comic book heroes. There are a lot of interesting facts though; such as Harry Potter being an orphan, just like Batman, Superman, and the Hulk. In all, this book is worth reading if you have the time to spare. I definitely would recommend it as reading material for a college class on say 20th century American culture, or Mass Media / Entertainment.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Lauren on February 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover
It is clear to me that this book is not aimed at people who actually READ superhero comics. Though relatively well-written, it is incredibly superficial. The conclusions drawn about the superheroes themselves are often basic and flawed from the point of view of a diehard fan (though diehard fans come in many shapes and some may love him). The conclusions drawn about why we relate to superheroes are the obvious ones.

Fingeroth choses to look only at the surface, saying, for instance, that because Superman is an alien, Clark Kent is the 'unreal' identity when compared to Superman. The name 'Kal-El', Superman's Kryptonian name, is never mentioned. Fingeroth also can't account for the fact that Clark was raised human, and his canon reasons for being Superman stem from his childhood as Clark. Even the name Superman isn't something he chose--Lois Lane slapped it on him the first time he saved her.

That is just an example, but the whole book reads like that. Fine if you're only interested in pseudo-pop psychology, with no depth into the history or variation of the characters.

And THEN there's the fact that the only place women are mentioned in this book is in the chapter set aside for them (I thought 'separate but equal' was a thing of the past), and Fingeroth never mentions any comic book superheroine other than Wonder Woman. WW, Xena and Buffy are the focus of this chapter--legitimately, and with good discussion. However, he neglects so many women from the original superhero medium that I couldn't stand it: Black Canary, Storm, Rogue, Elektra, Supergirl, Batgirl, Oracle and Catwoman to name a few--who he doesn't name.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By C. Harris on May 28, 2009
Format: Paperback
This book is unusual, but great for relating comic book heros and society! I had to use it for class and ended up reading it from cover to cover! such an interesting read!
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