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Secret Identity Crisis: Comic Books and the Unmasking of Cold War America

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What Cold War-era superheroes reveal about American society and foreign policy Physicist Bruce Banner, caught in the nuclear explosion of his experimental gamma bomb, is transformed into the rampaging green monster, the Hulk. High school student Peter Parker, bitten by an irradiated spider, gains its powers and becomes Spiderman. Reed Richards and his friends are caught in What Cold War-era superheroes reveal about American society and foreign policy Physicist Bruce Banner, caught in the nuclear explosion of his experimental gamma bomb, is transformed into the rampaging green monster, the Hulk. High school student Peter Parker, bitten by an irradiated spider, gains its powers and becomes Spiderman. Reed Richards and his friends are caught in a belt of cosmic radiation while orbiting the Earth in a spacecraft and are transformed into the Fantastic Four. While Stan Lee suggests he clung to the hackneyed idea of radioactivity in creating Marvel's stable of superheroes because of his limited imagination, radiation and the bomb are nonetheless the big bang that spawned the Marvel universe. The Marvel superheroes that came to dominate the comic book industry for most of the last five decades were born under the mushroom cloud of potential nuclear war that was a cornerstone of the four-decade bipolar division of the world between the US and USSR. These stories were consciously set in this world and reflect the changing culture of cold War (and post-cold War) America. Like other forms of popular entertainment, comic books tend to be very receptive to cultural trends, reflect them, comment on them, and sometimes inaugurate them. Secret Identity Crisis follows the trajectory of the breakdown of the cold War consensus after 1960 through the lens of superhero comic books. Those developed by Marvel, because of their conscious setting in the contemporary world, and because of attempts to maintain a continuous story line across and within books, constitute a system of signs that reflect, comment upon, and interact with the American political economy. This groundbreaking new study focuses on a handful of titles and signs that specifically involve political economic codes, including Captain America, the Invincible Iron Man, Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD, the Incredible Hulk to reveal how the American self was transformed and/or reproduced during the late Cold War and after.


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What Cold War-era superheroes reveal about American society and foreign policy Physicist Bruce Banner, caught in the nuclear explosion of his experimental gamma bomb, is transformed into the rampaging green monster, the Hulk. High school student Peter Parker, bitten by an irradiated spider, gains its powers and becomes Spiderman. Reed Richards and his friends are caught in What Cold War-era superheroes reveal about American society and foreign policy Physicist Bruce Banner, caught in the nuclear explosion of his experimental gamma bomb, is transformed into the rampaging green monster, the Hulk. High school student Peter Parker, bitten by an irradiated spider, gains its powers and becomes Spiderman. Reed Richards and his friends are caught in a belt of cosmic radiation while orbiting the Earth in a spacecraft and are transformed into the Fantastic Four. While Stan Lee suggests he clung to the hackneyed idea of radioactivity in creating Marvel's stable of superheroes because of his limited imagination, radiation and the bomb are nonetheless the big bang that spawned the Marvel universe. The Marvel superheroes that came to dominate the comic book industry for most of the last five decades were born under the mushroom cloud of potential nuclear war that was a cornerstone of the four-decade bipolar division of the world between the US and USSR. These stories were consciously set in this world and reflect the changing culture of cold War (and post-cold War) America. Like other forms of popular entertainment, comic books tend to be very receptive to cultural trends, reflect them, comment on them, and sometimes inaugurate them. Secret Identity Crisis follows the trajectory of the breakdown of the cold War consensus after 1960 through the lens of superhero comic books. Those developed by Marvel, because of their conscious setting in the contemporary world, and because of attempts to maintain a continuous story line across and within books, constitute a system of signs that reflect, comment upon, and interact with the American political economy. This groundbreaking new study focuses on a handful of titles and signs that specifically involve political economic codes, including Captain America, the Invincible Iron Man, Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD, the Incredible Hulk to reveal how the American self was transformed and/or reproduced during the late Cold War and after.

30 review for Secret Identity Crisis: Comic Books and the Unmasking of Cold War America

  1. 4 out of 5

    Maëva Catalano

    Un must! Se concentrant très largement sur les comics Marvel avec quelques références sur Dc comics, cet ouvrage est nécessaire afin de contextualiser la vente des comics et l'évolution des personnages des années 50 à 2010. L'œuvre brille par son exhaustivité ! Je recommande à 100% ça va devenir l'œuvre centrale pour rédiger mon mémoire. Un must! Se concentrant très largement sur les comics Marvel avec quelques références sur Dc comics, cet ouvrage est nécessaire afin de contextualiser la vente des comics et l'évolution des personnages des années 50 à 2010. L'œuvre brille par son exhaustivité ! Je recommande à 100% ça va devenir l'œuvre centrale pour rédiger mon mémoire.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kirsten

    Extremely interesting, but occasionally very academic and harder to read.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Craig Werner

    Disappointing, pedestrian overview of how comics changed along with the larger social and political culture. Costello focuses almost entirely on Marvel, which makes it almost impossible to understand the comics turf of the 1960s (my primary interest, both biographically and in scholarly terms). He's right to observe that Marvel didn't often confront the major issues of the time, but it's attitude was strikingly different from that of D.C. (home to Superman and Batman among others). Both aestheti Disappointing, pedestrian overview of how comics changed along with the larger social and political culture. Costello focuses almost entirely on Marvel, which makes it almost impossible to understand the comics turf of the 1960s (my primary interest, both biographically and in scholarly terms). He's right to observe that Marvel didn't often confront the major issues of the time, but it's attitude was strikingly different from that of D.C. (home to Superman and Batman among others). Both aesthetically and politically, Marvel was subversive, providing room to test out ideas that had absolutely no place in the D.C. universe. His argument that Marvel held closely to a Cold War approach during the early part of its superhero phase, when the Fantastic Four, Spiderman, the Avengers, the X-Men, etc. were establishing themselves is accurate enough. But he doesn't have much useful to offer on the transition to more introspective and anti-authoritarian perspectives.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    A little slow at first, but get to Chapter 2 and Costello really does a nice job analyzing the progression of comic book themes through the changing lens of national identity due to the rise and fall of the Cold War. His detailed analysis of Iron Man, Captain America, and Nick Fury, and their changes in behavior and portrayal since the 1960s, is really fascinating. It kind of make you think that Stan, et al., really were trying to say something outside of just making funny books.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Karla Kitalong

    I bought this because I thought it would have something in it about the comic book version of the 9/11 report. It didn't. But it was an interesting view of late-twentieth-century history and politics as it was portrayed in Marvel comics. It was a fast read and a good reminder of who we are as Americans and how we got here. I bought this because I thought it would have something in it about the comic book version of the 9/11 report. It didn't. But it was an interesting view of late-twentieth-century history and politics as it was portrayed in Marvel comics. It was a fast read and a good reminder of who we are as Americans and how we got here.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ian

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ed

  8. 4 out of 5

    Martin Lund

  9. 4 out of 5

    Alejo

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ian Horton

  11. 5 out of 5

    John

  12. 4 out of 5

    Matt Smith

  13. 4 out of 5

    Shippey

  14. 4 out of 5

    Keighley

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mark

  16. 4 out of 5

    Arthur Gibson

  17. 4 out of 5

    Will O'mullane

  18. 5 out of 5

    Cristin Williams

  19. 5 out of 5

    April

  20. 4 out of 5

    Justin

  21. 4 out of 5

    Charley Smith

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kenna Day

  23. 5 out of 5

    Angela

  24. 4 out of 5

    Grace

  25. 4 out of 5

    Dan

  26. 4 out of 5

    Shane

  27. 5 out of 5

    Joel

  28. 4 out of 5

    David T.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Vinger

  30. 5 out of 5

    Leslie

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