The Psychology of Superheroes: An Unauthorized Exploration

BenBella Books, Inc.
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Psychologists get inside the human (and superhuman) mind, in these insightful essays about Batman, Wonder Woman, and many more of our favorite characters.
 
Why do superheroes choose to be superheroes? Where does Spider-Man’s altruism come from, and what does it mean? Why is there so much prejudice against the X-Men, and how could they have responded to it, other than the way they did? Why are super-villains so aggressive?
 
The Psychology of Superheroes answers these questions in a wide range of essays on topics from Aquaman to Arkham Asylum—exploring the inner workings our heroes usually only share with their therapists.
 
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Additional Information

Publisher
BenBella Books, Inc.
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Published on
Mar 1, 2008
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Pages
272
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ISBN
9781935251361
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Psychology / Movements / Psychoanalysis
Social Science / Popular Culture
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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On a frigid March night, journalist Tea Krulos shivered in a Milwaukee park, waiting for a masked crimefighter. Finally the Watchman arrived, not in a Batmobile or swinging from a web shooter, but driving a tan, four-door Pontiac. He was in costume, of course—a trenchcoat, motorcycle gloves, army boots, a domino mask, and a red hooded sweatshirt emblazoned with a “W” logo. The two had spoken before on the phone, but never face-to-mask. By the end of the interview, Krulos wasn’t sure if the Watchman was delightfully eccentric or completely crazy. But he was going to find out.
            Heroes in the Night traces Krulos’s journey into the strange subculture of Real Life Superheroes, random citizens who have adopted comic-book style personas and hit the streets to fight injustice—helping the homeless, gathering donations for food banks, or patroling their neighborhoods looking for crime to fight. By day, these modern Clark Kents work as dishwashers, pencil pushers, and executives in Fortune 500 companies. But by night, only the Shadow knows.
            Well, the Shadow and Tea Krulos. Through historic research, extensive interviews, and many long hours walking on patrol in Brooklyn and Seattle, San Diego and Minneapolis, Krulos discovered what being a RLSH is all about. Heroes in the Night profiles dozens of RLSHs and shares not only their shining, triumphant moments, but some of their ill-advised, terrifying disasters as well.
 
Tea Krulos is a freelance journalist and creator of the blog “Heroes in the Night.” He lives in Arcadia, Florida.
Superhero fans are everywhere, from the teeming halls of Comic Con to suburban movie theaters, from young children captivated by their first comic books to the die-hard collectors of vintage memorabilia. Why are so many people fascinated by superheroes? In this thoughtful, engaging, and at times eye-opening volume, Robin Rosenberg--a writer and well-known authority on the psychology of superheroes--offers readers a wealth of insight into superheroes, drawing on the contributions of a top group of psychologists and other scholars. The book ranges widely and tackles many intriguing questions. How do comic characters and stories reflect human nature? Do super powers alone make a hero super? Are superhero stories good for us? Most contributors answer that final question in the affirmative. Psychologist Robert J. Sternberg, for instance, argues that we all can learn a lot from superheroes-and what we can learn most of all is the value of wisdom and an ethical stance toward life. On the other hand, restorative justice scholar Mikhail Lyubansky decries the fact that justice in the comic-book world is almost entirely punitive, noting extreme examples such as "Rorschach" in The Watchmen and the aptly named "The Punisher, who embrace a strict eye-for-an-eye sense of justice, delivered instantly and without mercy. In the end, the appeal of Superman, Batman, Spiderman, and legions of others is simple and elemental. Superheroes provide drama, excitement, suspense, and romance and their stories showcase moral dilemmas, villains we love to hate, and protagonists who inspire us. Perhaps as important, their stories allow us to recapture periods of our childhood when our imaginations were cranked up to the maximum--when we really believed we could fly, or knock down the bad guy, or save the city from disaster.
Man and His Symbols owes its existence to one of Jung's own dreams. The great psychologist dreamed that his work was understood by a wide public, rather than just by psychiatrists, and therefore he agreed to write and edit this fascinating book. Here, Jung examines the full world of the unconscious, whose language he believed to be the symbols constantly revealed in dreams. Convinced that dreams offer practical advice, sent from the unconscious to the conscious self, Jung felt that self-understanding would lead to a full and productive life. Thus, the reader will gain new insights into himself from this thoughtful volume, which also illustrates symbols throughout history. Completed just before his death by Jung and his associates, it is clearly addressed to the general reader.

Praise for Man and His Symbols

“This book, which was the last piece of work undertaken by Jung before his death in 1961, provides a unique opportunity to assess his contribution to the life and thought of our time, for it was also his firsat attempt to present his life-work in psychology to a non-technical public. . . . What emerges with great clarity from the book is that Jung has done immense service both to psychology as a science and to our general understanding of man in society, by insisting that imaginative life must be taken seriously in its own right, as the most distinctive characteristic of human beings.”—Guardian

“Straighforward to read and rich in suggestion.”—John Barkham, Saturday Review Syndicate

“This book will be a resounding success for those who read it.”—Galveston News-Tribune

“A magnificent achievement.”—Main Currents

“Factual and revealing.”—Atlanta Times
It's easy to name a superhero--Superman, Batman, Thor, Spiderman, the Green Lantern, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Rorschach, Wolverine--but it's not so easy to define what a superhero is. Buffy has superpowers, but she doesn't have a costume. Batman has a costume, but doesn't have superpowers. What is the role of power and superpower? And what are supervillains and why do we need them? In What is a Superhero?, psychologist Robin Rosenberg and comics scholar Peter Coogan explore this question from a variety of viewpoints, bringing together contributions from nineteen comic book experts--including both scholars in such fields as cultural studies, art, and psychology as well as leading comic book writers and editors. What emerges is a kaleidoscopic portrait of this most popular of pop-culture figures. Writer Jeph Loeb, for instance, sees the desire to make the world a better place as the driving force of the superhero. Jennifer K. Stuller argues that the female superhero inspires women to stand up, be strong, support others, and most important, to believe in themselves. More darkly, A. David Lewis sees the indestructible superhero as the ultimate embodiment of the American "denial of death," while writer Danny Fingeroth sees superheroes as embodying the best aspects of humankind, acting with a nobility of purpose that inspires us. Interestingly, Fingeroth also expands the definition of superhero so that it would include characters like John McClane of the Die Hard movies: "Once they dodge ridiculous quantities of machine gun bullets they're superheroes, cape or no cape." From summer blockbusters to best-selling graphic novels, the superhero is an integral part of our culture. What is a Superhero? not only illuminates this pop-culture figure, but also sheds much light on the fantasies and beliefs of the American people.
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