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Super Black: American Pop Culture and Black Superheroes Paperback – October 1, 2011
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Winner, American Book Award, Before Columbus Foundation, 2012
Super Black places the appearance of black superheroes alongside broad and sweeping cultural trends in American politics and pop culture, which reveals how black superheroes are not disposable pop products, but rather a fascinating racial phenomenon through which futuristic expressions and fantastic visions of black racial identity and symbolic political meaning are presented. Adilifu Nama sees the value—and finds new avenues for exploring racial identity—in black superheroes who are often dismissed as sidekicks, imitators of established white heroes, or are accused of having no role outside of blaxploitation film contexts.
Nama examines seminal black comic book superheroes such as Black Panther, Black Lightning, Storm, Luke Cage, Blade, the Falcon, Nubia, and others, some of whom also appear on the small and large screens, as well as how the imaginary black superhero has come to life in the image of President Barack Obama. Super Black explores how black superheroes are a powerful source of racial meaning, narrative, and imagination in American society that express a myriad of racial assumptions, political perspectives, and fantastic (re)imaginings of black identity. The book also demonstrates how these figures overtly represent or implicitly signify social discourse and accepted wisdom concerning notions of racial reciprocity, equality, forgiveness, and ultimately, racial justice.
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Throughout, Nama takes a refreshingly nuanced approach to his subject. Nama complicates the black superhero by also seeing the ways that they put issues of post-colonialism, race, poverty, and identity struggles front and center. ― Rain Taxi
About the Author
Adilifu Nama is Associate Professor and Chair of the African American Studies Department at Loyola Marymount University. He is the author of the award-winning Black Space: Imagining Race in Science Fiction Film, the first book length examination of the topic.
- ASIN : 0292726740
- Publisher : University of Texas Press (October 1, 2011)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 180 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9780292726741
- ISBN-13 : 978-0292726741
- Item Weight : 1 pounds
- Dimensions : 9 x 6 x 0.5 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #898,354 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Adilifu Nama does a good job of summarizing the various black superheroes which managed to break through that barrier: Luke Cage, Falcon, Black Lightning as mentioned above, Storm, and Spawn. There's some interesting stories absent about these characters and I think we could have investigated some of the characters more thoroughly. For example, we have a good amount of talk about Cloak and Dagger's interracial relationship but almost none about Luke Cage and Jessica Jones. The book also stops just before the introduction of Miles Morales, which seems like it would have been an excellent place to stop the book.
While the book begins with an introduction that explains it'll primarily follow the characters of DC as well as Marvel comics, it loses this focus roughly halfway in. It talks about the Spawn, Icon, and a number of other characters while not discussing the Milestone legacy at all. The absence, for example, of Static and his cartoon show seems like a big absence. Still, he manages to not only discuss the timeframe of individual heroes but how they fit into the larger cultural framework. I especially liked the discussion of the Blade movies.
Overall, the book is quite entertaining but a bit on the shallow side. I recommend it for individuals who want to understand the cultural relevance of black superheroes to the community as well as some of their missteps.