Critical Survey of Graphic Novels: Heroes & Superheroes

Critical Survey of Graphic Novels: Heroes & Superheroes
A two-volume survey of the field, part of an overarching series of critical studies. I contributed essays across the line. Here, I wrote about Walt Simon's run on Thor and Mike Grell's Jon Sable, Freelance.
About the Book

130 essays covering graphic novels and core comics series that form today’s canon for academic coursework and library collections, with a focus on the hero/superhero genre.

A “first” in the field, this brand new Critical Survey series focuses on all aspects of the graphic novels format, aiming to establish it as an important academic discipline and research topic in libraries. Designed for academic institutions, high schools, and public libraries, the series provides unique insight into the stories and themes expressed in historic and current landscape of the graphic novel medium.

Scope & Coverage
The first title in this series, Critical Survey of Graphic Novels: Heroes and Superheroes, provides in-depth insight into over 130 of the most popular and studied graphic novels. Researchers will be familiar with the characters and stories included in this collection, but will gain a deeper new understanding, as the literary nature of the stories is presented in critical format by leading writers in the field of study. Essays look beyond the “pop culture” aspects of the medium to show the wide range of literary themes and artistic styles used to convey beliefs and conflicts, some harking back to ancient times. Today’s graphic novels expose the vulnerabilities and character flaws that previous comic book stories glossed over or never covered. The impact of death becomes real, as popular heroes are killed, leaving an impact on the remaining characters. The theme of anti-hero runs deep as characters dismiss morality and engage in situations that are not heroic in nature. These concepts challenge the researcher to see beyond the panels of a comic book, showing readers how the themes of ancient literary tradition are still alive in the literature of graphic novels.

A partial listing of works covered in Critical Survey: Heroes & Superheroes:

100 Bullets
All Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder
All Star Superman
American Flagg! (First Comics)
Animal Man (Grant runs only)
Arkham Asylum (DC)
Astonishing X-Men 
Astro City: Life in the Big City
B.P.R.D (Dark Horse) 
Batman: Black and White, Vol. 1
Batman: Dark Victory
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again
Batman: The Killing Joke
Batman: The Long Halloween
Batman: Year One
Batman: Year One Hundred
Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot
Black Panther: Who Is the Black Panther
Blood: A Tale
Books of Magic, The
Boys, The
Buffy the Vampire Slayer 
Camelot 3000
Chronicles of Conan (Dark Horse)
Cosmic Odyssey
Criminal, Vol. 1: Coward
Crisis on Infinite Earths (12 issues)
Daredevil: Born Again 
Daredevil: The Man Without Fear 
Death of Captain America
Death of Captain Marvel (Marvel)
Death: The High Cost of Living
Doom Patrol
Dylan Dog Case Files
Earth X
Elektra Assassin (Marvel; Miller, Frank)
Elektra Lives Again
ElfQuest (series)
Ex Machina (series)
Fallen Son: The Death of Captain America
Flaming Carrot
Give Me Liberty
Green Arrow: Year One
Green Lantern/Green Arrow Collection
Green Lantern: Secret Origin
Grendel (Dark Horse)
Groo the Wanderer 
His Name Is …Savage!
History of Violence, A 
Human Target
Identity Crisis
Infinite Crisis (DC)
Infinity Gauntlet (Marvel)
Jack Kirby’s Fourth World
4 volume omnibus)
JLA The Nail 
Jon Sable, Freelancer
Judge Dredd
Just a Pilgrim
Kick Ass (Marvel Icon)
Kingdom Come
Kraven’s Last Hunt (Marvel)
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen 
Life and Times of Martha Washington
in the 21st Century, The
Light Brigade
Mage (3 vols Comico/Image)
Marvel 1602 (Marvel)
Marvel 1985
Marvel Zombies 
New Frontier
Nexus Archives, Vol. 1
Omega the Unknown
Originals, The
Plastic Man: On the Lam
Rocketeer, The
Ronin (DC)
Runaways series
Sandman (DC/Vertigo #1-75)
Sandman Mystery Theatre 
Savage Dragon
Secret Wars (Marvel)
Silver Surfer: 1978 Graphic Novel
Spawn Collection Volume 1
Spirit Archives, Vol. 1, The
Stuck Rubber Baby
Superman: For All Seasons
Superman: Red Son (DC)
Superman: The Man of Steel
Swamp Thing, The 
The Mask Omnibus Volume 1 
Tom Strong
Top Ten
Ultimates, The
Uncle Sam
V for Vendetta 
Wolverine Origin
Wonder Woman: Love and Murder
Wonder Woman: The Circle 
X-Men: Days of Future Past
X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills
X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga 
Y: The Last Man series

Organization & Format
The essays are arranged alphabetically, and each essay is approximately 3 to 4 pages long. Essays begin with full ready reference top matter, including the title or subtitle, the primary author or authors, the illustrators who contributed to the work, the first serial and book publication, the publisher, the number of pages, the ISBN, the genre and/or subgenre and the work’s intended age group. Subsequent subsections include:

Publication history – overview of the work’s origin and publication chronology. 

Plot – a synopsis of the main story and story arcs. 

Volumes – listings of individual volumes/collections, often comprising different story arcs and representing the accepted reading order of the work; publication year of each volume and issue; synopsis of each volume’s main focus and a discussion of its significance in the collection. 

Characters – detailed descriptions of major character in the story, including “also known as” names (e.g., “Logan” for Wolverine), physical attributes, the role the character played (e.g., antagonist, protagonist), and their relationships with others. 

Artistic Style – analysis of the work’s visual content as it relates to characterization, plot, and mood; analysis of the illustrators use of color, grays, and black and white illustrations; discussion of any changes in the style as the story progresses and the artists’ distinctive use of bubbles, dialog, captions, panels, background, and more. 

Themes – identification of central themes in the work and how they relate to characterization and style. 

Impact – the work’s influence on the creators’ careers; the creation of new characters or new series; publishing houses; the history of graphic novels; and literature in general. 

Films – films based on this work, their differences and/or similarities with the novel, and their effectiveness. 

Television Series – TV series based on this work and their differences and/or similarities with the novel, and their effectiveness. 

More Good Reads – three to five other graphic novels that audiences for this one will want to read. 

Bibliography – secondary literature for more in-depth study of the work, its creator(s), or the genre. 

About the Author – all about the author or the entry, his or her degrees, experience, relevant publications, and other credentials for writing the entry. 

See also – listing of related entries of interest. 

Special Features
Several helpful finding aids are located at the end of Volume two. Appendixes include a “More Graphic Novels” list, a list of major awards, a comprehensive glossary, a timeline of important events, relevant electronic resources, and a general bibliography. Four complete indexes round out the set: Works by Publication Date, Works by Publisher, Works by Author/Artist, and a Subject Index.

Look Inside
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some links in the page above are "affiliate links." If you click on the link and purchase the item, I may receive an affiliate commission. I disclose this in accordance with the FTC's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."