An eye-opening exploration of the relationship between racial attitudes and the evolution of the superhero in America, from Superman’s debut in 1938 through the Civil Rights era and contemporary reinventions.
Taking a multifaceted approach to attitudes toward race through popular culture and the American superhero, All New, All Different? explores a topic that until now has only received more discrete examination. Considering Marvel, DC, and lesser-known texts and heroes, this illuminating work charts eighty years of evolution in the portrayal of race in comics as well as in film and on television.
Beginning with World War II, the authors trace the vexed depictions in early superhero stories, considering both Asian villains and nonwhite sidekicks. While the emergence of Black Panther, Black Lightning, Luke Cage, Storm, and other heroes in the 1960s and 1970s reflected a cultural revolution, the book reveals how nonwhite superheroes nonetheless remained grounded in outdated assumptions. Multiculturalism encouraged further diversity, with 1980s superteams, the minority-run company Milestone’s new characters in the 1990s, and the arrival of Ms. Marvel, a Pakistani-American heroine, and a new Latinx Spider-Man in the 2000s. Concluding with contemporary efforts to make both a profit and a positive impact on society, All New, All Different? enriches our understanding of the complex issues of racial representation in American popular culture.
- List of Illustrations
- Introduction: Into the “Gutters”
- 1. “World’s Finest”? The Wartime Superhero and Race, 1941–1945
- 2. Struggling for Social Relevance: DC, Marvel, and the Cold War, 1945–1965
- 3. “We’re All Brothers!”: The Ideal of Liberal Brotherhood in the 1960s and 1970s
- 4. Guess Who’s Coming to Save You? The Rise of the Ethnic Superhero in the 1960s and 1970s
- 5. “Something for Everyone”: The Superteam in the Age of Multiculturalism, 1975–1996
- 6. Replacement Heroes and the Quest for Inclusion, 1985–2011
- 7. Something Old, Something New: Heroes Reborn and Reimagined, 1990–2015
- Coda: Born Again (and Again and Again . . . and Again and Again . . .)
“All New, All Different? discusses not only mainstream superhero comics from Marvel and DC but also lesser-known texts over a long time span. In addition to examining African American superheroes, it also critically engages with Asian/Asian American, Native American, and Latinx characters. Its comprehensive coverage will make a meaningful contribution to the growing field of comic studies.”
Lan Dong, University of Illinois Springfield, editor of Teaching Comics and Graphic Narratives: Essays on Theory, Strategy and Practice