“Look! Up in the sky! It’s…YOU!”
When I decided to study the comic book “culture” for a government class term paper, I took the ever-controversial Ruth Benedict approach: I researched and studied a topic that was completely foreign to me. My extent of comic book reading went so far as the love-triangle among Betty, Veronica, and Archie (I know, pathetic). I decided to begin my journey with a few easy reads, one of them being Superman on the Couch: What Superheroes Really Tell Us about Ourselves and Our Society by Danny Fingeroth. I wanted to know why we need superheroes in the first place and how much they reflect our own ideas of good vs. evil; this book definitely surpassed my expectations.
So what stands out about Superman on the Couch?
- The author, Danny Fingeroth has over two decades of experience working with Marvel Comics and his book even includes a forward by Stan Lee. If that’s not credibility, I don’t know what is!
- I had never thought about it, but as a society we need and yearn for superheroes and their achievements.
- Fingeroth covers a wide range of topics such as the dual-identity we all posses, family structure, females in comic books (including a section about Gloria Steinem!), and why we need super villains.
- It’s always a breath of fresh air to learn about society and the human psyche in a non-academic context, so why not by way of comic books?
- Whether you are new to the comic book world as I am, or you have been enjoying them for years, this is a worthwhile read.
Most importantly, Superman on the Couch forces us to question why we idolize certain figures. Do you look up to someone because they have so much more potential than the common individual? Or maybe you believe that while you and your favorite superhero may have the same potential, they do a much better job of reaching it? It could also be, (and this will really make you think) we subconsciously choose heroes based on the theory that a hero embodies what we believe is best in ourselves” (Fingeroth). Classic American superheroes such as Superman and Captain America clearly embody the values our society holds in high esteem: do your heroes do the same for you?
Amanda is an international relations and Spanish major who is interested in the non-profit field, specifically in sexual education and awareness. She enjoys analyzing the role comic-books play in Japan and the United States.