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The Science of Superheroes Paperback – September 1, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0471468820 ISBN-10: 0471468827 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1st edition (September 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471468827
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471468820
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #991,099 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


* ""... the science of superheroes suggests that a number of them are feasible, including Batman and the Incredible Hulk..."" (Independent on Sunday, 26 October 2003)


"What seemed impossible just sixty years ago during the Golden Age of Comics, now appears increasingly plausible. The Science of Superheroes serves as an entertaining and informative guide to comic book wonders bound to come." —Julius Schwartz,Editor Emeritus, DC Comics

"We comics fans have known it for years, of course: somewhere, in some nether dimension or on some alternate world, there is an Earth on which super-heroes are real, living, breathing beings... and now Lois Gresh and Bob Weinberg have shown us how that's possible. Mutants... aliens... scientific geniuses with a penchant for wearing costumes and masks... or just plain Joes who've trained their bodies within an inch of their lives... all are probed, dissected, examined in loving details. To paraphrase an old DC Comics feature: Science says you're wrong if you believe that The Science of Superheroes isn't more fun than a barrel of genetically-altered winged monkeys." —Roy Thomas, writer and editor of X-Men, Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk, Superman, Justice League of America, Legion of Superheroes, Star Wars, and many other comic book classics. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

I mean, come on... we all know they are impossible, be we would like to see science that shows what might be possible.
It would seem to spell trouble if a book on comics couldn't get an intro writer who was at least knowledgeable about the subject matter.
Ivan A. Wolfe
The first couple of chapters were quite enjoyable, but the rest of the book just kept me wishing that it was going to get better.
M. G. Bloedorn

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Peter Vinton, Jr. on September 29, 2003
Format: Paperback
Perhaps movie director Kevin Smith said it best when he commented that it was a touch of the impossible that makes superheroes so appealing: "Nobody's built like superheroes are in the comics, women or men. If you were really as ripped as The Hulk, you couldn't leap from building to building -you'd barely be able to stretch enough to put on your socks."
Gresh and Weinberg address this and many other blatant impossibilities in an absorbing collection of real-world science lessons that dissect, piece by piece, some of the central plotlines of most superhero comic book stories. Beginning with the "is there intelligent life on other planets?" question that revolves around Superman's origins, the book points out the many and varied examples of "pseudo-science" and assorted technobabble that form many a backstory.
Each chapter begins with a well-known superhero's origins, along with a brief history of the storyline and developments along the course of that character's emergence as a popular genre icon. After this summary, a thorough (and merciless) scientific or technical debunking follows. The true nature of cosmic radiation and gamma radiation (the supposed genesis of Marvel's Fantastic Four and the Incredible Hulk) are explained. A brief history of the legend of Atlantis and some basic marine biology follows (erasing the likelihood of characters such as Aquaman and the Sub-Mariner). A lesson on arachnid physiology and behavior is examined, making Spider-Man's powers seem pretty far-fetched. A few fundamental premises about mass-energy conservation are reviewed, putting the idea of fifty-story giants or microbe-sized superheroes firmly outside the realm of believability, as well as the premise of high-speed heroes such as The Flash and The Avengers' Quicksilver.
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Format: Paperback
I can only echo what the 2stars or lower reviewers said:

This is a lazily-written book that craps all over an interesting premise. Too much time on origin stories (apparently to bloat the page-count), when 95% of the target audience knows all this stuff.

If you're a comics fan who wants to know what's possible, impossible and if there's "any way these things could happen," you'll come away very dissapointed. The only part that rises above itself is the alternative, more plausible explanation for the Hulk's origins.

The X-Men chapter is awful (for an evolution vs creatonism 'debate,' google it, and any random piece will be better written).

Even the science is off, or at least not followed through. While the Square-Cubed Law is touched on (why Ant Men and Giant Ants will never happen), the same rules/restrictions are not factored into the issue of super-strength. I know why Spider-Man has almost nothign to do with a "six foot spider". But tell me why he (or any human sized living creature) is prohibited from "pressing 10 tons" (Marvel Universe stat). Or are they?

Too much of this book is about why all this is "impossible", using 9th grade physics. But none of it, or virtually none of it, exlores how it _could be_.

How strong could an Iron Man be in reality? If we could somehow alter the genes to strength bones/muscle, how powerful could a Spider-Man type be? Is there any way to circumvent Sqaure-Cube Law, or the restrictions of size-scaling? THAT'S what I wanted to hear about.

Buy it if it's avaialable used for a buck or two, but otherwise you'll be really dissapointed.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By C. P. Halliday on November 4, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I really wanted to like this book, as I have a fondness for the writing of Robert Weinberg. However, I found this book to be tedious, lacking in charm, badly researched and wildy inaccurate in some areas.

While it's clear that the authors (or at least one of them) love comic books, it's also clear that they haven't done much reading of them since the early 80's. The book spends much of its length deriding the lack of scientific thought behind superheroes, ignoring the efforts of modern writers to make their characters at least slightly more realistic. Frequently, the characters that they dissect are the 1950's versions, while in the comic books those characters have moved on considerably.

Also, I found the whole direction of the book disappointing. Sure, there's a good deal of accurate science here, but there's also some spurious material, and when it appears it's almost always used to disprove a "superheroic" possibility. In fact, the entire book seems designed to show us how superheroes are impossible, which seems to carry with it the message that science is boring. It would have been far more engaging to show how certain superheroes (or approximations of them) might be scientifically possible.

Compare and contrast this book to the far more interesting and engaging "The Science of Superman" by Mark Wolverton and Roger Stern. Sure, it's less scientifically rigourous, but it's also much more interesting and more likely to encourage the reader to delve more into the subject. The sub-text of this book appears to be "superheroes are impossible, and you're stupid for reading about them."

That said, there are some interesting sections. The science is, for the most part, good, if a little out-dated. Just don't rely on this book for an idea of what modern superheroes are about.
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