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War, Politics and Superheroes: Ethics and Propaganda in Comics and Film

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Superhero adventure comics have a long history of commenting upon American public opinion and government policy, and the surge in the popularity of comics since the events of September 11, 2001, ensures their continued relevance. This critical text examines the seventy-year history of comic book superheroes on film and in comic books and their reflections of the politics o Superhero adventure comics have a long history of commenting upon American public opinion and government policy, and the surge in the popularity of comics since the events of September 11, 2001, ensures their continued relevance. This critical text examines the seventy-year history of comic book superheroes on film and in comic books and their reflections of the politics of their time. Superheroes addressed include Batman, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, Superman, the Fantastic Four and the X-Men, and topics covered include American wars, conflicts, and public policy. Instructors considering this book for use in a course may request an examination copy here.


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Superhero adventure comics have a long history of commenting upon American public opinion and government policy, and the surge in the popularity of comics since the events of September 11, 2001, ensures their continued relevance. This critical text examines the seventy-year history of comic book superheroes on film and in comic books and their reflections of the politics o Superhero adventure comics have a long history of commenting upon American public opinion and government policy, and the surge in the popularity of comics since the events of September 11, 2001, ensures their continued relevance. This critical text examines the seventy-year history of comic book superheroes on film and in comic books and their reflections of the politics of their time. Superheroes addressed include Batman, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, Superman, the Fantastic Four and the X-Men, and topics covered include American wars, conflicts, and public policy. Instructors considering this book for use in a course may request an examination copy here.

30 review for War, Politics and Superheroes: Ethics and Propaganda in Comics and Film

  1. 5 out of 5

    Osvaldo

    Where this book is strong, it is strong. I was particularly impressed with Dipaolo's ability to craft readable and in-depth meta-narratives of the superhero characters he spends the most time on, covering the major writer/artist combinations on a title or character at different times, presenting an understanding of the influences of these writers/artists on how the character is understood and thus providing a sketch of potential positionalities from/through which the character can be understood. Where this book is strong, it is strong. I was particularly impressed with Dipaolo's ability to craft readable and in-depth meta-narratives of the superhero characters he spends the most time on, covering the major writer/artist combinations on a title or character at different times, presenting an understanding of the influences of these writers/artists on how the character is understood and thus providing a sketch of potential positionalities from/through which the character can be understood. As someone who knows quite a bit about Spider-man, I found the chapter on the wallcrawler particularly rich, not because it necessarily told me things I didn't already know, but because Dipaolo does a great job of not only bringing it together, but also drawing important distinctions, like between Ditko-era and Romita-era Spidey, and presenting the tensions between Ditko and Stan Lee that were foundational to the character. The Wonder Woman and Batman chapters are very strong as well, and I loved that he spent time on Invisible Woman (aka Invisible Girl), a favorite of mine that does not often get a lot of individual critical attention. Where it is weak. . . well, I did like Dipaolo's ability to draw connections between various media representations of superheros and their descendants and variants (including a great argument for why Buffy the Vampire Slayer is more a Spider-man variant than a Wonder Woman descendant - while making clear that she is clearly both)-thus, he spends quite a bit of time talking about film adaptations of heroes and shows like 24. He also draws connections between comic book politics and contemporary American politics which are bold leaps, but no less convincing. However, where he falters in doing this at times is in his unabashed left-leaning political bent. Not because of the views themselves (clear from his analysis), but because of the ham-handed way he often introduces it and tries to be "jokey" about it. Like an unneeded distinction he makes between Green Lantern John Stewart and the Daily Show's Jon Stewart, which manages to argue that the latter would also make an excellent candidate for an Oan power ring. Ultimately, however, the problem with Dipaola's insertion of his own politics is that they seem so mainstream center-left ho-hum that it hardly seems worth it to mention them. Still this is going to be a valuable book for me in my dissertation work and I look forward to getting back to it.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Rob

    Interesting book. The author spends a lot of time describing how select iconic characters were created, including political influences. For instance the differences between Stan Lee, somewhat of a hippie, and Steve Ditko, a libertarian, which led to the popularity of Spider-Man's early issues. There are also some great details on Wonder Woman's forgotten history, and a wicked comparison of similarities between X-Men and Harry Potter. But be forewarned though: The author has an overt political bia Interesting book. The author spends a lot of time describing how select iconic characters were created, including political influences. For instance the differences between Stan Lee, somewhat of a hippie, and Steve Ditko, a libertarian, which led to the popularity of Spider-Man's early issues. There are also some great details on Wonder Woman's forgotten history, and a wicked comparison of similarities between X-Men and Harry Potter. But be forewarned though: The author has an overt political bias which often kills the mood. In short, anything dumb, violent and totalitarian is defined as conservative. Anything thought-provoking, complex and altruistic is progressive. Once you accept those ground rules, you can enjoy the book for what it is and get an interesting perspective. One other nitpick. The author, Marc Dipaolo, spends a lot of time discussing characters' portrayal in recent movies. Given that the movies are rarely cannon, I eventually began skipping some of those pages. The actual history of the characters and the politics of their comic origins and adventures was much more interesting and revealing.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Matt Sautman

    Marc DiPaolo's War, Politics, and Superheroes is an interrogation into how comic books participate in the milieu of American culture. Most of Dipaolo's attention is given towards traditional superheroes--such as Superman, Batman, and Spiderman--though he does turn his attention towards other forms of comics towards this work's final chapter, such as zombie comics and comics that feature Obama as their protagonist. Overall, this is a deeply political work--rooting its scholarly apparatus principa Marc DiPaolo's War, Politics, and Superheroes is an interrogation into how comic books participate in the milieu of American culture. Most of Dipaolo's attention is given towards traditional superheroes--such as Superman, Batman, and Spiderman--though he does turn his attention towards other forms of comics towards this work's final chapter, such as zombie comics and comics that feature Obama as their protagonist. Overall, this is a deeply political work--rooting its scholarly apparatus principally in how comics respond to the dominant culture and contemporary social movements. Readers less inundated with how ideology shapes texts--regardless of explicit authorial intent--may not be compelled by all of DiPaolo's claims, but for anyone interested in how comic book culture evolves alongside the mid-20th through early 21st-centuries, DiPaolo synthesizes history with political analysis to reveal otherwise hidden dimensions present in American comic book culture.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Deana Armstrong

    Squirrel as the talking dog says The title suffers some preposition confusion. It should be subtitled "Comics and Film as Propaganda With Occasional Thoughts on Pseudo-Utilitarian Ethics." It then would have reflected the content more accurately. I bought the book hoping for a substantive discussion on how propaganda and ethics were portrayed in superhero genres and most chapters started there but we're quickly distracted by the author's diatribes on the politics behind the narrative. The book co Squirrel as the talking dog says The title suffers some preposition confusion. It should be subtitled "Comics and Film as Propaganda With Occasional Thoughts on Pseudo-Utilitarian Ethics." It then would have reflected the content more accurately. I bought the book hoping for a substantive discussion on how propaganda and ethics were portrayed in superhero genres and most chapters started there but we're quickly distracted by the author's diatribes on the politics behind the narrative. The book could have proved its thesis in about a third of the space of the author had trimmed the tangential and focused on not trying to prove his political credit by delving into the real world with page after page of extraneous detail about it. Despite being in general agreement with his positions U found myself skimming page after page looking for any mention of the ostensible subject of the book, chiefly superheroes.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Maëva Catalano

    Un ouvrage de "vulgarisation" des comics et de la politique. Parfait pour faire le lien entre les deux. Des sujets tels que la torture la sexualité la guerre les affaires étrangères... Des chapitres complets sur chaque personne étudié. Je recommande.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jessie B.

    An interesting look at how politics filters through comic books

  7. 4 out of 5

    bks

    More like a collection of essays. I do enjoy IronMan on the cover, who else could possibly link the concepts of war, politics and superheroes closer than him?

  8. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    This is a fascinating application of politics into superhero comics. The chapter titles are interesting and hysterical. Examples include, “President Obama vs. the Zombie Apocalypse” and “ The Punisher as Murderous Immigration Officer and Vietnam War Veteran.” The content is definitely biased, but he provides strong evidence for his statements. It covers all figures from the X-men to Thor to the Green Lantern to James Bond.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Alejo

    Ranty and preachy, also profoundly subjective, the book does offer very good information on comic book history and possible interpretationes, but is marred by a manichean view that posits liberal=left=good and conservative=right=evil (both terms have more depth than the American media of all sorts gives them), forgetting that is a complex world and comic books are just a symptom of it.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Oscar

    Fairly interesting, if surface read. I got a lot of the insights contained within from other sources; the chapters including the Punisher, Wonder Woman, and Superman seemed especially rote to me. Still interesting to see insight on the creation of Spider-Man that takes into account both Stan Lee's and Steve Ditko's tendencies, and credit to Jack Kirby is often and expounded upon.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Thomas J. Molinaro

    see my review on facebook

  12. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Naish

    A well researched and enjoyable read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas Phillips

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dylan Baker

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nane Mertens

  17. 4 out of 5

    Michael

  18. 4 out of 5

    krisansky

  19. 4 out of 5

    Grant Nemzek

  20. 5 out of 5

    Leadpsyche

  21. 5 out of 5

    David Wilson

  22. 4 out of 5

    Shippey

  23. 4 out of 5

    Alex Luca

  24. 5 out of 5

    Patience

  25. 4 out of 5

    Luke

  26. 5 out of 5

    Rafael Ponce-Cordero

  27. 5 out of 5

    Çağdaş

  28. 5 out of 5

    Morgan

  29. 4 out of 5

    Elise

  30. 5 out of 5

    Chris Carron

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