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Superman on the Couch: What Superheroes Really Tell Us About Ourselves and Our Society Paperback – 6 May 2004

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd. (6 May 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826415407
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826415400
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.3 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 882,764 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


"Of the series of academic books that I have seen addressing comic books, and the superhero genre in particular, Fingeroth's work is one of the best."- Brett Chandler Patterson, "Science Fiction Research Association- SFRA Review, "Jan/Feb/March 2007, #279--Sanford Lakoff

About the Author

As former Group Editor of Marvel Comics's Spider-Man line, Danny Fingeroth became intimately familiar with the key elements of superhero mythology. He is exceptionally well versed in just what it takes to breathe life into these characters. Fingeroth is currently the creator and editor of Write Now magazine. He lives in New York City with his wife, sons, and 30,000 comic books.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By UniStudent on 29 Nov 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Great insight into socialogical levels in major superheroes together with examples as wide as Buffy Summers (the Vampire Killer).
Great for Undergraduate Level writing.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 6 reviews
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
interesting light reading 21 Jun 2004
By Newton Ooi - Published on
Format: Paperback
I am a fan of comic book superheroes; I try to see all the major Hollywood movies on superheroes like X-Men, Batman, Superman, etc... I am also a fan of the Sunday comics. But I have never read a comic book. So I picked this book up last month thinking it would be a good way to learn about comic book lore and history. This book accomplishes that. It covers the origins (and conclusions) of all the major comic book heroes. It also goes a little into the history of the authors / creators / publishers of these comic books.
The pace is quick, the book is short, and most teenagers should be able to read the whole book in a weekend. But as a piece of literary criticism, it is okay. This book to the comic book genre is like having one Cliff Notes book for all of Shakespeare; you sacrifice depth for breadth. Overarching themes are emphasized over storylines of the individual comic book heroes. There are a lot of interesting facts though; such as Harry Potter being an orphan, just like Batman, Superman, and the Hulk. In all, this book is worth reading if you have the time to spare. I definitely would recommend it as reading material for a college class on say 20th century American culture, or Mass Media / Entertainment.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Super-ficial 7 Feb 2008
By Lauren - Published on
Format: Hardcover
It is clear to me that this book is not aimed at people who actually READ superhero comics. Though relatively well-written, it is incredibly superficial. The conclusions drawn about the superheroes themselves are often basic and flawed from the point of view of a diehard fan (though diehard fans come in many shapes and some may love him). The conclusions drawn about why we relate to superheroes are the obvious ones.

Fingeroth choses to look only at the surface, saying, for instance, that because Superman is an alien, Clark Kent is the 'unreal' identity when compared to Superman. The name 'Kal-El', Superman's Kryptonian name, is never mentioned. Fingeroth also can't account for the fact that Clark was raised human, and his canon reasons for being Superman stem from his childhood as Clark. Even the name Superman isn't something he chose--Lois Lane slapped it on him the first time he saved her.

That is just an example, but the whole book reads like that. Fine if you're only interested in pseudo-pop psychology, with no depth into the history or variation of the characters.

And THEN there's the fact that the only place women are mentioned in this book is in the chapter set aside for them (I thought 'separate but equal' was a thing of the past), and Fingeroth never mentions any comic book superheroine other than Wonder Woman. WW, Xena and Buffy are the focus of this chapter--legitimately, and with good discussion. However, he neglects so many women from the original superhero medium that I couldn't stand it: Black Canary, Storm, Rogue, Elektra, Supergirl, Batgirl, Oracle and Catwoman to name a few--who he doesn't name.

As for the things Fingeroth claims superheroes tell us about ourselves, well, he simply repackages the obvious: Superman=immigrant, adolescent power fantasy, outsider belonging, joy in having another secret, powerful identity. I think he makes some original claims, but everything is biased toward his own experience and I honestly don't remember any.

I won't say this is a bad book, but if you're looking for a thoughtful analysis of superheroes, this is not it. This is pure surface.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
FABULOUS 28 May 2009
By C. Harris - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book is unusual, but great for relating comic book heros and society! I had to use it for class and ended up reading it from cover to cover! such an interesting read!
Always insightful 4 Jan 2014
By Steven Zisser - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've long enjoyed Danny's work, both in comics and his subsequent writings about comics. Perfect companion to "Disguised as Clark Kent"
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Superheros R Us 28 Oct 2007
By Tim Lasiuta - Published on
Format: Hardcover
What do superheroes mean to culture?

In `Disguised As Clark Kent', Danny Fingeroth established the basis of Superman and other heroes in Jewish and Eastern mythologies. `Superman On the Couch' takes a step back, and discusses what superheroes tell us about ourselves and society.

For instance, this tome contains fascinating discourses on The history of superheroes, dual identities, the storm of the orphan, our amazing feminine superheroes, the groups like the Justice League of America, The X Men, and Fantastic Four, anger and superheroes, changing of the guard, and villains.

Now, as a `mature' reader, I can understand how superhero mythology developed. So much for a simple comic book I guess. But, all things in balance. Comics can be comics, and enjoyment is enjoyment. As a reader, I still enjoy reading comics. So here comes Mr Fingeroth and his verbalization of arguments that have been around in academic circles for years.

Did the early creators and writers of comic books know what they were doing when they produced the books of our youth? Were they that smart? Did they research their stories in advance? Are modern educated writers with college and university degrees any more thoughtful in drawing on classic influences?

Whether we are more intelligent or not, we draw on our references. Shuster and Siegel drew on Zorro, Gladiator, Doc Savage, and Gladiator for Superman. Modern writers use Superman, Batman, and Spiderman as templates. We stand on what has gone on before. Superhero convention and archetypes will always be present.

I guess that is the point of the book. Superheroes reflect how we see what our potential is with respect to our own limitations. Even Jesus reflected on that when he compared faith the size of a mustard seed that could move a mountain. Tell a man he cannot triumph against forces of evil, and constrain him, and he will not. Give him `superhuman' abilities, and he will. Such are superheroes, and Mr Fingeroth presents strong arguments on the validity of superheroes for today.
Are you a superhero? Read this book and find out how close you might be!

Tim Lasiuta

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