- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books (June 7, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1250043921
- ISBN-13: 978-1250043924
- Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1.2 x 8.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 23 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #629,432 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Last Night, a Superhero Saved My Life: Neil Gaiman!! Jodi Picoult!! Brad Meltzer!! and an All-Star Roster on the Caped Crusaders That Changed Their Lives Hardcover – June 7, 2016
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“At the heart of the collection are contributions that plunge deeply into dark recollections...these essays bear out how superheroes are powerful psychological receptacles, helping us define the crucial strength we need to survive―a sentiment which will be of great value to many soul-searchers...There’s ample insight to be found here, not the least of which is that superheroes have a deep, resounding place in our cultural and individual psyches.” ―Booklist
“This is a collection with a lot of heart and variety; each piece takes the premise in a different direction and unveils in compelling ways why these superheroes are so revered.” ―Library Journal
“A fantastic example of how heroes, real or made up, can change lives. It serves as a testament to the staying power of story and how, sometimes, a fictional character can save a real life.” ―Book Reporter
About the Author
By day, LIESA MIGNOGNA is VP, Editorial Director of Simon Pulse, an imprint of Simon and Schuster Children's Books, where she edits novels for teens and tweens including the #1 New York Times bestselling Dork Diaries series. By night, Liesa is a passionate comics fan and lover of all things Batman. Liesa lives in New Jersey with her photographer husband and their son, whose first word was "Bat."
Top customer reviews
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I enjoyed the insights into the lives of the authors, many of whom discussed their influences from the world of comics during various eras in comics history where I was also following comics.
Some of the material felt familiar, especially some of the thoughts on the Batman, who has been analyzed by many different writers over the years. More interesting to me were some of the essays focusing on less known characters, including Matt Wagner's Grendel, John Byrne's Next Men, Underdog, and even Marvel's somewhat obscure cosmic entity the In-Betweener.
As far as the essays themselves, among my favorites was Anthony Breznican's "Dented Hearts", about Iron Man and a family history of heart disease. "Becoming Bethany" by Alethea Kontis recounts a year in which the author lost seven friends and family members, some deaths expected and some not, and relates the process of grieving to John Byrne's invulnerable Bethany from Next Men. Jenn Reese, in "Swashbuckle My Heart", told the story of her love for X-Men character Nightcrawler set in her teenage years against a background of domestic abuse.
As someone who has lived in geek and fandom culture my whole life, the essays give fascinating glimpses into the minds of some very creative people, while expounding on themes familiar to generations of comic book readers.
It was a little surprising --- and relieving --- to get into this collection and find that it wasn’t essay upon essay about swapping comics with friends in basements and consecutive Halloweens dressed as Superman. This doesn’t come across as a book strictly for fans of comics. Instead, each new essay carries a weight --- a tribulation suffered by the writer and the strength found through a comic book superhero.
In Delilah S. Dawson’s exquisite essay, “On the Hulk: You Wouldn’t Like Me When I’m Angry,” she discusses a turbulent home life with a drunken and verbally abusive father, a suicide attempt as a teenager and the Hulk she harbors inside her. In the South of France as a 17-year-old exchange student, Ms. Dawson decided she couldn’t go back to the States, to her home and to her father, so she took a swim in the sea. She swam as far out as her body would physically take her, and then she sank into the murky water, letting it fill her lungs as she willingly gave up.
She came to on sand, waves gently lapping at her feet. “Some monstrous, unbeatable, utterly indestructible beast inside me was willing to rise and bypass my brain and heart to keep going, even when the rest of me had given up,” she writes of finding herself alive on the beach. Rather than repress her Hulk, she embraced it, and it served her well in the life she continued to live.
Brad Meltzer writes humorously about the first love of his life, Terra of the Teen Titans series, and “slam books” of 1980s Brooklyn, how his choice of girl in a fifth grade slam book was indicative of his adoration for Terra several years later. She ultimately broke his young heart when she betrayed the Titans and morphed from lonely orphan into femme fatale.
Batman wins as most popular character. Even in essays that don’t focus on the Caped Crusader, he’s in the shadows. Unlike his counterparts --- Superman, who is an alien and can fly in space; Wonder Woman, who is an Amazonian princess and has a Lasso of Truth --- Batman is human. He’s a guy with a chip on his shoulder who knows parkour and wears a cape and cowl. This seems to make him the most empathetic to mortals. The sentiment allows that if Batman can survive The Jokers and The Riddlers of Gotham, we as humans can survive the deaths, abuses, depravities and tragedies that befall us.
As this is an anthology, themes recur, and it can start to feel redundant. Reading it straight through can make some essays lose meaning. Conflicts and heroes begin to meld, voices become less unique, and the niche that was charming in the beginning feels repetitive, as though the book needs to be about 60 pages shorter. To get the most out of the collection, read it in sections --- it’s set up with three to four essays in each section, e.g. Superheroes and Love, Superheroes and Being Human --- or choose an essay from several different sections to read in one sitting.
It is, regardless of reading method, a fantastic example of how heroes, real or made up, can change lives. In some regard, LAST NIGHT, A SUPERHERO SAVED MY LIFE is an ode to the importance of reading in childhood, as the vast majority of essays steer clear of modern cinematic adaptations and stick to the original panel comics. It serves as a testament to the staying power of story and how, sometimes, a fictional character can save a real life.
Reviewed by Sarah Jackman