The Superhero Symbol: Media, Culture, and Politics

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Liam Burke, Ian Gordon, Angela Ndalianis
Rutgers University Press, Dec 13, 2019 - Performing Arts - 288 pages
“As a man, I'm flesh and blood, I can be ignored, I can be destroyed; but as a symbol... as a symbol I can be incorruptible, I can be everlasting”. In the 2005 reboot of the Batman film franchise, Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne articulates how the figure of the superhero can serve as a transcendent icon.

It is hard to imagine a time when superheroes have been more pervasive in our culture. Today, superheroes are intellectual property jealously guarded by media conglomerates, icons co-opted by grassroots groups as a four-color rebuttal to social inequities, masks people wear to more confidently walk convention floors and city streets, and bulletproof banners that embody regional and national identities. From activism to cosplay, this collection unmasks the symbolic function of superheroes.

Bringing together superhero scholars from a range of disciplines, alongside key industry figures such as Harley Quinn co-creator Paul Dini, The Superhero Symbol provides fresh perspectives on how characters like Captain America, Iron Man, and Wonder Woman have engaged with media, culture, and politics, to become the “everlasting” symbols to which a young Bruce Wayne once aspired.

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About the author (2019)

LIAM BURKE is the Cinema and Screen Studies Coordinator at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia, where he also teaches classes on comic books and cinema. He has written and edited a number of books including The Comic Book Film Adaptation (2015), Fan Phenomena Batman (2012), and Superhero Movies (2008).

IAN GORDON teaches cultural history and American Studies at the National University of Singapore, where he is the Head of the Department of History. His books include Superman: The Persistence of an American Icon (2017), Kid Comic Strips: A Genre Across Four Countries (2016), Comic Strips and Consumer Culture (1998), and the edited work Film and Comic Books (2007).

ANGELA NDALIANIS is Director of the Centre for Transformative Media Technologies at Swinburne University of Technology. The books she has written or edited include The Horror Sensorium: Media and the Senses (2012), Science Fiction Experiences (2010), The Contemporary Comic Book Superhero (2009), Super/Heroes: from Hercules to Superman (2007), and Neo-Baroque Aesthetics and Contemporary Entertainment (2004).

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