my review of Chris Gavaler’s On the Origin of Superheroes is now up at the Los Angeles Review of Books web site.
“SUPERHEROES, as characters and as a genre, are frustrating to study. Once any sort of critical apparatus is applied to the “superhero,” this figure becomes extremely difficult to define. Does he or she have to have superpowers? Batman doesn’t. Does he or she have to wear a costume? Several don’t. Does he or she have to have a selfless mission? Not all do. Do they have to appear in superhero comics? Again, one can find exceptions. In the face of this difficulty, superhero scholars have devoted entire books to attempting to define this aggravatingly fuzzy and nebulous character type.”