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18 May, 2007
Book Review: Super/Heroes: From Hercules to Superman
Read and reviewed for armchair interviews
These days it’s hard to not know what the idea of a superhero is. With the summer movie offerings having many adaptations of comics to the big screen, it seems like it is hard to be able to turn around and not be inundated with images of superheroes. Our culture is one that has the super hero ideals ingrained into it.
Super/Heroes From Hercules to Superman is a compilation of essays that all deal with the idea of heroes, and what makes them so fascinating to our culture. Its goal is to traverse the boundaries between heroes and super heroes. Many of the essays in the collection explore parallels between the hero myths of our past and popular culture, with the intention to shed light on the creative process of mythmaking. The essays included in this collection are a product of the “Men in Tights” Superheroes conference which was held at Melbourne University, Australia in 2005.
The book was divided into five sections. Each of these topics has five essays dealing with topics that fall into the idea of the section. The ideas discussed in the book are as follows: Being a Super/Hero: Myth and Meaning, Into the Labyrinth: Dark Journeys, We Can be Heroes: Bodies that Hammer, Collisions: Gods and Supermen, and Media Convergence and Selling Hero Culture. Each of these topics gives us the reader something to ponder: Whether it be what is a super/hero, what journeys do heroes make that define themselves and their powers, How can popular culture icons such as wrestlers, musicians and television characters embody the super/heroe culture, Comparisons of mythical heroes and current day characteristics, and the influx of the superhero culture into our everyday lives.
This collection was a nice change of pace for me. I enjoyed the academic views on the hero culture and integration of superheroes into popular culture. The essays comparing mythological heroes and current popular things like Harry Potter and rap made me smile, and think hard about the ideas proposed by the author of the essay.