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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."
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Top Customer Reviews
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
As an adult I have been almost exclusively a Marvel reader, though I have also read in superhero universes other than DC or Marvel, such as Robert Kirkman's INVINCIBLE, Alan Moore's Tom Strong series, the Authority (featuring the remarkable Jenny Sparks), the superbly well drawn Hellboy, the world of POWERS, and the Astro City heroes. I don't read much DC except for whatever Power Girl comics I can find. I find PG particularly compelling because of the complexity of her some of her incarnations (she has been reinvented with regularity, but at her best she is the hero who has known the most lost, having lost not only her original homeworld of Krypton (she is the Earth Two version of Supergirl, though with a startling larger chest) but her adopted homeworld of Earth Two. And though Kryptonian, in some versions she is invulnerable to Earth One kryptonite, since it is not her actual homeworld. I have not, however, been a huge fan of the recent EARTH'S FINEST incarnation, where she and the Earth Two Robin, aka Huntress, the daughter of Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle, stranded on Earth One, strive to return to their own world.
But despite my lack of attention to DC as an adult (I was ten years old when most of Marvel's heroes were created, and was disinclined to give up Superman, Batman, the Atom, Green Lantern, and the Flash for those Marvel characters like Iron Man, whose suit looked more like a prison than something capable of movement, I owe more to them than I can say. The fact that I can read at all I owe to DC in general and Superman in particular. I was somewhat precocious when I started elementary school. In the late 1950s kindergarten and preschool were considered optional, so I plunged straight into elementary. I realized pretty quickly that all the things that others found in school, I found easy. In fact, too easy, and school didn't come close to challenging my mind. But late in second grade I discovered Superman comics. I had watched the George Reeves TV series so taking up the comic was a natural transition. As boring as I found school, that is how fascinated I was with Superman and I soon began spending my weekly allowance on Superman and whatever other DC hero was out that particular week. I loved the drawing, especially in The Flash, but was fascinated by the stories as well, and I both loved and hated learning new words. I still remember trying as hard as possible to figure out the unpronounceable "invulnerable." I neither understood what the word meant or how to say it, and it was the first word that I ever looked up in a dictionary. After two or three years I shifted from books with pictures to books without and I abandoned Superman and the Atom for Robert Louis Stevenson and Booth Tarkington and Mark Twain. But without Superman I would never have discovered Stevenson and Twain, and without them I would never have gone on to Proust and Dickens and Austen, and from them on to Spinoza and Wittgenstein and Kierkegaard and Marx. And eventually back to comics. I'm probably not the only person who entered the world of words through the comic book.
So even though the stories that the writers in this book contribute are not my story, they all feel familiar. If you love comics, you will almost certainly enjoy this book.
For example, one writer wrote about how he liked Batman "because every morning he makes a point of getting up again as Bruce Wayne" despite the traumas, cracked ribs, etc. suffered last night in fighting crime. Yet he wonders why he needs a night job, why a lifelong free-running fistfight in a Halloween suit?
Another, a man, identified with Terra who had super powers but turned bad. There was a patina of masochism in his delight in reading about how she mistreated men. "Without a doubt, I loved every second of it.
A woman liked Wonder Woman. It taught her that her college professors were wrong in saying that science fiction and fantasy are not literature. It also taught her that woman can be fighters.
Jodi Picoult tells us things about how the Wonder Woman series began in 1941. That it was created by a male psychologist who invented the polygraph and who lived with two women in a polyamorous relationship.
Another spoke of what draws men to Wonder Woman - her breasts – covered by a revealing half shirt without straps which wonderfully did not fall down.
I was given this book for free on the condition that I write an honest review.