Traveling Identities: Themes of Turkish National Identity Represented Through Travels of Abdulcanbaz

During the Sixth International Graphic Novel and Comics Conference / Ninth International Bande Dessinée Society Conference that took place in Paris between 22 – 27 June 2015, I presented a paper titled Traveling Identities: Themes of Turkish National Identity Represented Through Travels of Abdulcanbaz.

Abdulcanbaz by Turhan Selcuk. Copyright © Biz A.Ş.

Abdulcanbaz by Turhan Selcuk. Copyright © Biz A.Ş.

Abdulcanbaz, written and drawn by Turhan Selçuk mainly between 1957 and 1987 is among the towering achievements of sequential art in Turkey. Over the course decades, Selçuk took his cadre of characters, led by the titular hero, the ultimate Ottoman gentleman, into a wide variety of adventures across space and time where the cunning, strong and honest Abdulcanbaz bested all his foes. His encounters resulted in entanglements with legendary historical and fictional figures, such as Sherlock Holmes and Al Capone and took him into the future, presenting one of the earliest examples of science fiction in Turkey.

With this paper, I attempted approaching this epochal work as a reflection of the internally ever-roaming nature of Turkish national identity. Still reeling from the cataclysmic transformations of the earlier decades and bracing for a turbulent future, 20th century Turkey could be defined by its struggle to self-identify. The voyages of Abdulcanbaz perfectly encapsulated this internal strife of the aspiring-modern Turk. Desperately yearning to be proud of its heritage meanwhile grasping for a future which clearly lay in the ‘other’.

Building on my previous work on the conflicting themes of Turkish national identity and my experience in studying comics, I presented a close reading of this significant work and discussed its potential insights.

My thanks to the organizers of the Voyages conference for inviting me and the wonderful audience of the panel for their kind attention and great feedback.

Serialization in Popular Culture

Serialization in Popular Culture, recently released by Routledge includes a chapter by me titled "Circling the Infinite Loop, One Edit at a Time: Seriality in Wikipedia and the Encyclopedic Urge".

Here is the description of the book from the publisher:

From prime-time television shows and graphic novels to the development of computer game expansion packs, the recent explosion of popular serials has provoked renewed interest in the history and economics of serialization, as well as the impact of this cultural form on readers, viewers, and gamers. In this volume, contributors—literary scholars, media theorists, and specialists in comics, graphic novels, and digital culture—examine the economic, narratological, and social effects of serials from the nineteenth to the twenty-first century and offer some predictions of where the form will go from here.

You can purchase the book from Amazon and iBooks or ask for it to be ordered by your university library.

My thanks to the brilliant editors of the volume Rob Allen and Thijs van den Berg for inviting me to contribute and wonderfully carrying this project to completion.

Translating Comics: It’s Not Just In The Bubble

For the 2013 edition of the Norwich Papers, "an annual journal based at the University of East Anglia, consisting of a range of essays and papers on issues in Translation Studies", Canan Marasligil and I have written an article on translating comics.

This article starts with a brief history of comics as an independent art form, then highlights some of the unique aspects of the medium, such as the immediacy of the cartoon and the expressive potential of the word balloon. The latter half of the article recounts Canan's personal experiences with translating comics, where she highlights particular challenges and joys of working with a medium where the textual and the visual are fundamentally intertwined.

As passionate comics readers, researchers and translators, it was our hope to provide a helpful guide to comics for aspiring translators and enthusiasts alike.

Romy Fursland has our gratitude as this article benefitted immensely from his meticulous editing.

You can download the full text of the article here (PDF).

Wikimedia Conferentie Nederland 2012

The Netherlands Chapter of the Wikimedia Foundation has kindly invited me to talk at the Wikimedia Conferentie Nederland, held in Utrecht on 2 November 2013.

At the event, I presented the main findings of my dissertation and during the lively discussion that followed, I had an opportunity to reflect on how observations from my historical analysis reflects on current and future challenges that face Wikipedia.

Image: Sebastiaan ter Burg

Image: Sebastiaan ter Burg

Imagining Global Amsterdam

History, Culture, and Geography in a World City

Edited by Marco de Waard and released in 2012 by the Amsterdam University Press, distributed in the US by the University of Chicago Press, this volume features an edited and updated version of my paper co-authored with Dr. Joyce Goggin, presented at the 2009 conference Imagining Amsterdam, re-titled "Romance and Commerce: Imagining Global Amsterdam in the Contemporary Historical Novel".

The book is available through the publisher's website as well as online retailers and local bookshops. 

The abstract for the collection from AUP: 

IGA_cover.jpg
Imagining Global Amsterdam brings together new essays on the image of Amsterdam as articulated in film, literature, art, and urban discourse, considered within the context of globalization and its impact on urban culture. Subjects include: Amsterdam’s place in global cultural memory; expressions of global consciousness in Amsterdam in the ‘Golden Age’; articulations of Amsterdam as a tolerant, multicultural, and permissive ‘global village’; and globalization’s impact ‘on the ground’ through city branding, the cultural heritage industry, and cultural production in the city.

 

Being There

Historic City as a Virtual Playground

Imagining Istanbul: Urban Imaginaries and Popular Cultures.

Dogus University, Istanbul, Turkey. May 17, 2013.

ImgeIst.jpg

The relationship between the novel and the city has entire college courses dedicated to it and cultural policymakers aiming to promote their cities can often be found to turn to authors and filmmakers to champion their causes. Even the once lowly comic books are being drafted to the cause of sharing urban histories due to the increasing recognition of their unique ability to offer an intimate narrative.

However, video games, despite being the fastest growing form of entertainment, rarely enter into this discussion, even though the field of video game studies is burgeoning in many universities across the globe.

During my presentation at the Imagining Istanbul Workshop, held on May 17 2013, I discussed the potential contribution of video games in sharing and promoting the image of a historical city. Taking the series Assassin’s Creed (Ubisoft Studios, 2007-2013), which frames its narrative through different cities across historical periods, as an example, I discussed the unique potential of video games in presenting the historical city as a navigable space. The intellectual framework, and the primary inspiration for this presentation was a 2004 article by Henry Jenkins titled “Game Design as Narrative Architecture“.

Highlighting the importance of spatial construction to both the creation of narrative immersion and player agency, Jenkins argues that game designers should be understood “less as storytellers and more as narrative architects”.

ac-ist.jpg

As the exploration of space takes the primary mechanic through which the audience interacts with the narrative structure of the game, video games are uniquely able to project the sense of presence and offer a multitude of opportunities to explore cityscapes and their histories.

While such an understanding of games and their interaction of spaces are not foreign to game designers or scholars of the field, as part of the mission of Imagining Istanbul workshop, I aimed to cultivate a broader appreciation of the possibilities inherent within the medium and the lively discussion following the session was further proof in the broad appeal of the subject.

This post, with slight differences, also appeared on the official blog of the Imagining Istanbul  project.

Mass Effected Endings

Authorial Voice vs. Player Choice in Digital Stories

  CREATE, ACT, CHANGE: 5th International Digital Storytelling Conference.

Hacettepe University, Ankara. May 8-10, 2013.

DSC.png

For the uninitiated, Digital Storytelling  might be a deceptive title. However, it denotes a very dedicated and rich community of practitioners and researchers focused on "short form of digital media productions that allow everyday people to share aspects of their life story". During my attendance to the 5th International Digital Storytelling Conference, titled CREATE ACT CHANGE, I had a chance to acquaint myself with the priorities and perspectives of this lively and engaging community. 

For my presentation, as part of the panel titled "Digital Storytelling Formulas & Networks", I discussed the controversy that surrounded the ending of the video game Mass Effect 3 that erupted shortly following its release in March 2012. After going over the events surrounding the release of the game, I highlighted possible implications of this intense community reaction, and more specifically, the rhetoric of authorship employed by the fans, to the Digital Storytelling community.

Developed by Bioware studios, Mass Effect is a role-playing action game celebrated by fans and critics primarily for the extend to which it allows for player action to shape the main character and the overall narrative arc. Thanks to these qualities, the series enjoyed a fervently dedicated fan base that took immense pride in the characters that they built up and the story they shaped over the course of years, leading up to the frenzied anticipation of what was announced to be the last chapter of the story. However, the intense excitement turned quickly into vitriolic rage when a considerable number of the game’s most loyal fans started expressing disappointment with the concluding scenes of the game. One month after the release, and citing this disappointment, the developers announced plans for an “Extended Cut”, making significant additions to the ending sequence.

Building on the community reaction and the stances and actions taken by the developers of the game, this paper questioned the evolving role of authorship and fandom in the age of digital interactive storytelling. After presenting the series of events, starting from the fostering of a strong and opinionated community by the developers from the beginning of the franchise,  to the ending fiasco, as it came to be known, I discussed the unique position of the writers of digital interactive fiction and the compromises they have to consider as they are expected to turn in an engaging piece of narrative while allowing for player action.

Moreover, these fundamental issues regarding authorship are further complicated by the ever-increasing use of social media and other community building tools utilized by publishers and developers. In the case of Mass Effect, the hundreds of videos critiquing the endings posted to YouTube, threads on various forums that expand into thousands of pages and the widespread press coverage these community actions inevitably generated, played a crucial role in the ultimate response from the developers of the game.

Video games have become one of the most dominant forms of entertainment in the past decade and one theme among many theories to explain their appeal is the interactivity and immersion they offer to the player. Through this high profile, and recent, event that exemplifies some of the challenges that are faced by the creators of digital stories, my presentation aimed to offer a multifaceted analysis of the issues at hand based on a theoretical and historical framework, highlight the impact of social media on both community building and communication between the creator and the audience, and ultimately pointed to further areas of research and discussion points on possibilities of improvement.

Knowledge-as-read, Knowledge-as-consented

Wikipedia and the Evolution of Encyclopedic Knowledge

Click-on-Knowledge Conference. University of Copenhagen, Denmark, 2011.

Conference Banner.png

Presented almost exactly one year before I handed in my dissertation, this paper gave me the chance to demonstrate my method and approach to incredibly friendly and like-minded scholars. 

In this paper, I addressed the ways in which Wikipedia redefines encyclopedic knowledge by its consensus based, collaborative structure. The first component of this analysis was an overview of the inherent assumptions underlying Wikipedia, drawn from the findings of some of the latest scholarship. I then put these assumptions into context by analysing them through a historical perspective and identified areas where Wikipedia confirm to the norm or disrupts it.

While history of the encyclopedia has been told, and there is no lack of attention to the inner workings of Wikipedia, these two spheres of interest are aware of each other only on the periphery, despite the considerable insight they might offer to each other.

As with my dissertation project, this paper aimed to address this perceived deficit.

My presentation was followed by an excellent discussion about Wikipedia and digitisation of knowledge in general. Also, having met Prof Dr. Charles Lock at the conference, I invited him to be on my doctoral committee the following year.

“That’s not how it happened in my story!”

Immersion and Expansion in the Multi-Media Serial of Mass Effect

What Happens Next: The Mechanics of Serialization. University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, NL, 2011.

This paper was my first foray into analysing video games and I choose to start with something very near and dear to my heart, Mass Effect. Below is a slightly updated abstract of the paper.


When the Canadian game developer Bioware released Mass Effect in 2007, a role playing game set in a futuristic science-fiction setting, Seth Schiesel reporting for the New York Times found it surprising that the project director Casey Hudson chose to praise the game’s realistic face animations and the corresponding close-up camera angles usually associated with cinema. However, the team at Bioware was adamant that since their game gave the players the power to decide over the outcome of hundreds of events, the emotional involvement of the player was paramount.

This paper focuses on the relationship between the Mass Effect video games and the three subsequent novelizations by Drew Karpyshyn, lead author of the first game. The novels Revelation (2007), Ascention (2008) and Retribution (2010), while following their independent storylines, occasionally borrow characters and refer to the events and mirror the timeframes of the games.

Mass Effect games and novels, sorted according to events.

Mass Effect games and novels, sorted according to events.

Video game novelizations like the Mass Effect series are often dismissed as mere marketing devices only of interest to hardcore fans. However, their interaction with the games themselves can be revealing into the nature of serials in general and video games in particular. The apparent effort of Drew Karpyshyn to separate the events of the novels from the game is of particular interest to this study. Since both for publishers and fans, the novels are attributed a secondary role to the games and therefore gamers’ own, unique, version of events are “the canon”, the interactive story space of Mass Effect represents a unique look into a condition under which a serial is supposed to sustain itself. 

Building upon the fact that it is a common sentiment among reviewers and fans of the games to not revisit a poor decision in the game to achieve better results, this paper will start by investigating the possible place of the novelization for such an audience. Then, by drawing upon the latest literature on both video games and serialization, the unique conditions presented by Mass Effect franchise will be analyzed with further implications for the future of serialized narratives.

Commonplace Imaginings

Encyclopedias as a Space of Shared Knowledge Throughout the Ages

Articulation(s): ASCA International Workshop 2010, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, NL, 2010.

ASCA.jpg

Presented at the 2010 ASCA International Workshop and coinciding with the conclusion of the historical overview of my doctoral research, this paper focused on the common thread that binds all incarnations of the encyclopedic ideal as a meeting place of scholars, philosophers and ideas. While the focus of education and centres of intellectual power shifted throughout centuries and among nations, encyclopedias, in one form or another, remained a virtual shared space for ideas and what is accepted as knowledge.

Building on the seminal works of Henri Lefebvre and others on the construction and use of social and virtual spaces, I first investigated the viability of such an approach to the encyclopedic ideal and then moved on to the specific case of Wikipedia to discuss the impact of its collaborative and consensus based nature.

Challenging the arguments and subject matter of an existing research project against a different theoretical framework proved to be a worthwhile exercise and the ASCA community was receptive and forthcoming as always to participate in my experiment.

Amsterdam and Golden Age Finance through the Eyes of a Sci-Fi Author

Co-Authored with, and presented by, Dr. Joyce Goggin

Imagining Amsterdam: Visions and Revisions. University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, NL, 2009.

IMG_1411.jpg

Based on my fascination with Neal Stephenson's massive Baroque Cycle trilogy, this paper aimed to explore whether the gaze of a science-fiction author is unique when turned on a historical subject, namely, golden-age Amsterdam.

After a brief exploration of what defines science-fiction (Science Fiction by Adam Roberts offers an accessible introduction), the paper presented a comparative analysis of the sections of the Baroque Cycle with other works of recent historical fiction set in the same era and location, like The Girl with the Pearl Earring and Tulip Fever. Ultimately, I argued that through a combination of audience expectations and predilections of authors dominantly working in particular genres, presentations of similar objects, or cities, display considerable variation in tone across genres.

I am always curious about exploring definitions of genres and the unique approaches afforded by their conventions. This paper allowed me to delve deeper into understanding science-fiction, a genre I love deeply, and explore what makes it great.

Lifting Reportage to a Higher Level

The Comics Journalism of Joe Sacco

 University of Birmingham, UK, 2009.

conference2009_banner.png

Aiming to further explore what makes comics such a powerful medium, I presented a paper on Joe Sacco at the 24th annual conference of the Society for the Study of Narrative, held in Birmingham, UK. 

Sacco's comics journalism has been lauded by a wide audience including Edward Said, who wrote that “with the exception of one or two novelists and poets, no one has ever rendered the terrible state of affairs better”. Over the past two decades Sacco has travelled to intense conflict zones such as Palestine and wartime Bosnia and produced highly acclaimed accounts of his encounters.

In this paper I discussed Sacco’s work as a powerful demonstration of the unique narrative capability of the comic book medium, and its capacity to tell stories that are informative and objective as well as touchingly personal and emotional. My paper analysed the media-specificity of Sacco’s work and highlighted the particular narrative strengths comics makes available to journalistic practice. While building on current theoretical work on comics and journalism I also discussed the reception of Sacco’s work as an indication of how various audiences interpret his narratives.

By illustrating how Sacco constructs both partial yet informative journalistic narratives of specific events, as well as personal and emotional autobiographic journeys within the same texts, I demonstrated some of the unique artistic possibilities available to the practitioners of one of the most popular narrative media forms of 20th century.

Yearning for Knowledge

Encyclopedic Endeavour and the Internet

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Ma. US. 2009.

mit6.jpg

After beginning my doctoral research in September 2008, I had an opportunity to present my project at the Media in Transition conference organised by the Comparative Media Studies department at MIT. In addition to the usual benefits of a well-organized conference, being able to visit the university I fantasised about since my childhood and the department I admired the most since my introduction to the field of Media Studies was an absolute joy.

From the outset, by studying Wikipedia through a historically comprehensive background, I was hoping to address questions regarding new media and society from a comparative point of view across historical periods.

  • What does Wikipedia, with its content and form, represent for encyclopedic writing in the future?
  • Which issues does the encyclopedic heritage provide helpful guidance?
  • And what aspects of established encyclopedias are merely dismissible conjecture?  

While at the beginning of my doctoral research I had more questions than answers, attempting to present these cohesively helped me greatly in planning my later stages of my dissertation. Moreover, the feedback I received from colleagues at the conference was truly beneficial and merely participating in this amazing event was the best kickstart I could ever hoped for the oncoming four years of research.

Intertextuality in the Dreaming

Theory and Application of Intertextuality to Neil Gaiman's Graphic Novel, The Sandman

8th Annual Graduate Student Conference, Department of English - Southern Connecticut State University, 2007.

IMG_1397.jpg

Abstract:

My first project to be presented at an international conference, this paper was about the fruitful applicability of the theory of intertextuality to the comic book medium. As a sample work, I choose Neil Gaiman's The Sandman as it is arguably the richest text in comics in terms intertextual depth. At a time when the academic study of comics was still a risqué endeavour, my attempt in this paper was to develop my understanding both of comics and the theory of intertextuality. My co-panelists at the small comic book event at the end of the conference taught me a lot with their papers and the conference hosts were incredibly welcoming and hospitable.

Defended

I successfully defended my doctoral dissertation on October 4th at the Agnietenkapel, Amsterdam and received my doctorate.

My thanks to my supervisors, Prof. Dr. Mireille Rosello, Dr. Joyce Goggin as well as the committee members and all those who were present for making this event a stimulating and joyful celebration.

Batman Unmasked - Will Brooker

Although books focused on superhero comics are not unheard of, such an in depth study of a single character like Will Brooker's investigation of Batman is still a very welcome entry.
In his own words, "This book is an investigation, a detection, a 'forensic examination' of the disparate texts which have borne the signifier 'Batman' over 60 years, in an attempt to reconstruct their context and hence recover the meanings carried by this cultural icon at key moments in his history".

Covering the entire history of Batman can be a daunting task where a detailed study can easily lose focus, but Brooker manages to sustain his perspective by being consistent in his questions that he directs to all periods of history, which he lists as;
-What does Batman signify in this cultural moment?
-What wider context surrounds this particular inflexion?
-What different interpretations govern this meaning, and within which matrix of imposed, 'dominant', delimiting and counter-definitions is it situated?

By carefully defining his objectives, Brooker then moves on to provide a very useful and detailed overview of the history of Batman. Starting with his origins, he discusses how the essentials of the character are established, then moves on to how the Batman franchise opened up to different interpretations, especially with the controversial 60's TV series. While discussing the issue, Brooker demonstrates excellent non-partiality and successfully places his objects within their carefully defined cultural contexts.
His attitude is similarly objective and perpective when analyzing the later incarnations of the Batman, like the 80's Miller graphic novels and movie adaptations by Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher.
Although he admits being a fan of Batman and warns the reader that he can not be fully value-free in analyzing his beloved chilhood hero, Brooker's work is the most objective study of a comic book character I have came across until now. He successfully identifies the cultural components of each of the eras that he analyzes and places the relevant Batman titles within them with insight.
For the fans of the Dark Knight, Batman Unmasked will make a revealing read, an excellent demonstration on how personal tastes and preferences can disturb perception.
For all those who are interested in the academic study of comics, Brooker's excellent study is a brilliant example of how a character as complex and layered as Batman can, and should, be treated.
Overall, an excellent read, highly recommended.

Superman on the Couch - Danny Fingeroth

In his 2004 volume Superman on the Couch comics industry veteran Danny Fingeroth aims to go beyond the history of superhero comics and analyze the reasons for our persistent fascination with them and what this can tell about our societies.
For his analysis, Fingeroth identifies certain key elements that are common amongst superhero comics starting with their dual identity and their orphanage, moves on to their built-up anger and the values they represent. But before tackling with these individual aspects, Fingeroth addresses the question, where do superheroes come from and what they represent.

According to Fingeroth, a superhero represents what we believe is best in ourselves, he/she is a standard to aspire to as well as an individual to be admired.
In general, then, a superhero is an individual who possess extraordinary skills and abilities, with a strength of character and a set of values. The superhero is determined to protect these values with his/her abilities, regardless of the circumstances. Fingeroth points out that these exact identifiers can also be applied to a supervillain. An interesting observation that he later picks up in his chapter on values.

Defining superheroes as such, Fingeroth also states that they relate to many important social an psychological issues on many levels and that they have a timeless quality that can be adapted by an endless variety of media and audiences.

After providing a brief history of superhero comics, Fingeroth moves on to the key issues he identifies within them, starting with the dual identity. Arguing that dual identity is appealing to the readers because it lets them imagine themselves as superheroes deep down, Fingeroth also mentions the particular attractiveness of such a setup to a young immigrant generation, which was a principal audience of the comics in 30's and 40's. Fingeroth argues that the immigrant experience of a divided identity between an everyday American on the street and an ethnic minority at home amongst family is well-represented by, especially, Superman.

Speaking of the family ties of the superhero, the next issue Fingeroth takes up is the orphanage of the superhero character. He argues that being an orphan leaves the young hero free of parental guidance and lets himself invest into his pursuit, while all his achievements will be even more impressive for they are accomplished without any external support.

Following these issues that concern the individuality of superheroes, Fingeroth turns his attention to women in superhero narratives and observes that traditionally, women who acquire great power would eventually become evil characters, but recently this trend is being abandoned and powerful female superhero characters like Buffy are becoming very popular.

Next topic addressed in the book is the family relations as they are represented by the superhero comics. Fingeroth argues that throughout their history, superhero comics have presented many opportunities to analyze and fantasize about family from the 'real' family issues of the Fantastic Four to the chosen, surrogate, family of the X-Men.

Fingeroth then return to issues surrounding individual superheroes and takes up the issue of anger, which play a very central role in the characterization of some of the most important figures of the genre, most prominent of which is the Batman. Fingeroth compares Batman's determined and rationally channeled anger with the uncontrollable rage of the Hulk, which he likens to the primal scream resulting from our daily existence. In contrast, Batman takes this existential anger, combines it with the anger towards a system corrupt to the core, and puts it to a constructive use.

Another important aspect of the superhero character, and hence the subject of the next chapter, is the teenage sidekick. When the likes of Robin the boy wonder, were first introduced,they primarily served the purpose of keeping the hero company and giving him someone to talk to. Also, they were aimed to provide a character to be identified with for the teenage audiences. But with the changing times the role of the teenage sidekick has changed as well and finally with Spider-man, a teenage character has become the superhero, and not just any other one but the one of the most interesting and popular characters ever created.
After his analysis of Spider-man's unique characteristics, Fingeroth argues that Spidey is the apex of the superhero genre.

Finally, Fingeroth considers the values superheroes represent and the villains that they fight against. Although his analysis of this issue is not as deep as some other works like the American Monomyth, he asks some relevant and important questions and, like others, mentions the self-reflective character of the latest movement in the comics. An interesting observation that Fingeroth makes is that the movie adaptations of superhero stories are aimed at non-jaded newcomers that are not bothered by the simplistic morals of the the stories, therefore the movies generally can afford presenting them while the comic books themselves are bought and read by an audience that is learned in these simplistic ways and are ready to question them.

Overall, Superman on the Couch points to a very useful set of issues concerned with superhero comics, some of which are dealt in a more detailed way elsewhere but some unique to Fingeroth's study. Although the analysis accompanying the identified issues are not always dealt with great depth, the inquisitive approach of the author is exemplary and his work can be considered as an excellent entry volume into a better understanding superhero comics and hopefully inspire its readers to further the very interesting research agenda attempted by Fingeroth.

The American Monomyth - Robert Jewett and John Shelton Lawrence (Pt.2 - On Superman)

For a general introduction of The American Monomyth, please refer to the first part of my review.

In their discussion of the development of the American Monomyth, Jewett and Lawrence refer to the period between 1929 and 1939 as the axial decade (185) where the development of the national monomyth has begun to enter into its maturity, where the slowly developing hero becomes a superhuman with extraordinary abilities along with a completely repressed sexuality and a fully hidden identity.

Of course, the most easily recognized figure who feature these characteristics is Superman. Originally dreamed up by Siegel and Shuster in 1933, he became a publishing phenomenon in 1938 and almost single-handedly created the superhero comic genre and defined its core principles for the decades to come.

In tracing the development of the superhero cult, the authors follow the emergence and development of the nameless hero figure who starts out by saving troubled frontier towns from external evils. Jewett and Lawrence argue that such a figure is endemic to the American culture and dates as far as the discovery of the continent. Over time, the feats that the nameless hero accomplishes grow more incredible and his powers become ever greater. At last, in the axial decade, we arrive at Superman. The success of Superman also signified an important transition in the form of Clark Kent. The redemptive God with superhuman strength was now disguised as Everyman, enabling the ordinary masses to share the fantasy.

The love triangle between Louis Lane, Clark Kent and the Superman is very significant in explaining this phenomenon. While Clark is desperately in love with Louis, as Superman, he sees her only as a helpless hostage to be rescued from dire situations and does not care that she is in love with him, and Louis, in turn, despises the dull and clumsy Clark and desires the infinitely powerful Superman.

The authors argue that such a relationship is very appealing to comic book readers, who are mostly boys approaching puberty. They know themselves to be "Clark Kent"s, but the fantasy leads them to believe that they are Superman underneath the glasses and although the girl they are in love does not care about them, they will in turn not care about the girl when they become Superman. Also implied in this triangle is the completion of the sexual renunciation of the superhero, necessitated by the serialization of his adventures. For any true superhero to continue his exploits every week, no single episode can end with a superhero flying off to the sunset with his bride.

Another effect of the serialization, brought by comic books and radio plays, while taking away the blissful union of partners at the end (signifying the restoration of Eden), is to carry the redemption acts into miraculous territories. Comic book pages and radio broadcasts allowed the presentation of spectacular actions of superheroes and blessed them with capabilities that enable the heroes to confront previously unthinkable odds.

A very central element in these superhuman abilities is some form of rapid mobility. The authors state that the ability to transcend space and time, like Superman, is the most characteristic and coveted form of freedom in America. But, beyond all else, the most crucial implication of the superhero myth relates to power, society and democratic institutions.

By destroying evil in magnificent feats, superheroes restore the peace and harmony in heaven, as argued before, in that sense they fulfill the promise of religious redeemers, while secularizing this ideal, superheroes also project their power onto ordinary citizens with their alter egos. In this sense, while they are a display of absolute power, their power remains benign, transforming lawless vigilantism into a perfect embodiment of law enforcement.

The authors argue that with these conventions, the monomyth fails to capture tragic complexities of human life. It forgets that every gain entails a loss, that extraordinary benefits exact requisite costs, and that injury is usually proportionate to the amount of violence employed.
The American monomyth offers vigilantism without lawlessness, sexual repression without resultant perversion, and moral infallibility without the use of intellect. The superhero who delivers this absolute justice by eliminating due process of law constitutes a form of leadership without paying the price of political relations or responding to the preferences of the majority.

In conclusion, the authors argue that the monomyth "betrays deep antagonism toward the creative exercise of reason on the part of the public as well as the individual." (215)
"In the exercise of redemptive power, purity of intention suffice; careful deliberation, knowledge of law, and mastery of book learning are usually presented in monomythic materials as indicator of impotence and corruption.
Heroes are either static, innately possessing all the wisdom they need, or they learn all they require from a single incident.
So hostile is monomythic material to individual intelligence that one of its most durable conventions is to use "brains" as a distinguishing trait of evil persons" (215).

"In summary, the American monomyth rejects democratic values at a number of crucial points. It conveys a pessimism about democratic institutions and public responsibilities, a messianic expectation that society can be redeemed by a single stroke, and an impatience with constitutional process.
In its repeated celebration of the evasion of collective responsibility, the monomyth has become a ritual of the demonic. So skillful, so eloquent and moving are its materials that they are probably the most effective sources of the erosion of democratic credibility today" (216).

As a conclusion, the authors not the ability of the monomythic material to glorify individualism but argue that the form has to incorporate democratic ideals and cooperation instead of redemption by a single and omnipotent purge.

It should be noted however that the subject matter of the study is not limited to comic books and purpose of the work was to survey the popular culture landscape of 20th Century America, which comic books constitute a significant element. Nevertheless, although somewhat dated, most of the arguments presented in the book provide useful insights and present further research opportunities for researching comics.