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review 2014-11-20 23:55
Death, Disability, and the Superhero by José Alaniz
Death, Disability, and the Superhero: The Silver Age and Beyond - José Alaniz

Death, Disability, and the Superhero is an academic book that looks at superheroes comics published by Marvel and DC, from their inception to around the 1980s and 90s. It examines comics' portrayal of the body, how it could be read against the ways death and disability were viewed in American society, and how that portrayal has evolved throughout the years. The author, José Alaniz, uses many case studies to illustrate this study, including Superman, Captain Marvel, Doom Patrol, She-Thing, and Daredevil, among others.

As (sadly) I had never before read academic writing on disability, this book opened my eyes to entirely new ways of thinking and ideas. It’s too early to say I’ve formed an opinion on everything that’s written (and there are a lot of different ideas to ruminate on), but it definitely served to make me ponder new perspectives about physical and cognitive “otherness,” specifically as it is portrayed in comic books. I would have liked to see a discussion of more recent comics, since the discussion on disability only focused on those from the Golden and Silver Age of Marvel and DC comics, whereas the chapters on death referenced more recent developments. In fact, I was left feeling this could have been split into two different books: one about disability and the other about death, since the discussions did not overlap often (with the exception of the theme of assisted suicide). And the chapters do tend to feel a bit repetitive after a while.

Nevertheless, this is a thought-provoking, well researched book that treats comics with the respect they deserve. Recommended for serious fans who are interested in a different, deeper reading of the material they love.


Note: I got this book for review purposes through NetGalley.

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