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‘The DC Comics Universe: Critical Essays’ (review)

Edited by Douglas Brode
Published by McFarland Books

 

The DC Universe, shepherded by Douglas Brode, is, unfortunately, another pretentious tome that offers a long selection of woke essays attempting to overanalyze and deconstruct the DC superheroes within a modern context.

It’s all pointless, at times rambling, and worst of all, with one notable historical inaccuracy.

That inaccuracy comes in the Introduction, which goes on at some length about Jerry Siegel’s legal fight against major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, the legendary founder of National Comics.

Having been forced out early on by Harry Donenfeld and Jack Liebowitz, though, the Major was long gone by the time Siegel and Shuster attempted to regain any control of Superman. In fact, the Major had been squeezed out before the company ever even bought Superman.

Some of the book’s chapters are so busy citing other works that I sometimes wondered why I wasn’t reading them instead of this.

Several others are obsessed with the sexual preferences of these fictional characters, forgetting, perhaps, that fictional characters in any medium can only have whatever sexual preferences are assigned to them by whomever is writing them at the moment.

One of the more interesting essays is Michelle D. Miranda’s “From Sherlock Holmes to Contemporary Superheroes,” focusing on forensic detection in the DCU going back to the Silver Age.

The fact that there’s an entire section solely on Ambush Bug is interesting, until you realize that Ambush Bug as a character was—with early exceptions—just a silly excuse for humor at the expense of the DCU. Thus, it turns out just to be an overreaching summary of the character’s “adventures,” comparing him at one point to a Samuel Beckett character.

Brode himself returns with an essay on, of all characters, Tomahawk, which was actually pretty interesting, even though I personally never cared for that title until Frank Thorne and Bob Kanigher redid it as Son of Tomahawk.

The writers of all of these pieces are introduced at the end of the book—for the most part a series of professors, adjunct lecturers, doctoral candidates, librarians and Ph.Ds.

I’m glad these learned folks are interested in the once lowly comic book, but I’m on record as saying that perhaps comic books don’t need to be treated like the Dead Sea Scrolls and The DC Universe, here, provides the latest example of that.

 

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