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Russell, Vanessa. "The Mild-Mannered Reporter: How clark kent surpassed superman." The Contemporary Comic Book Superhero. Ed. Angela Ndalianis. Routledge Research in Cultural and Media Studies. London, New York: Routledge, 2009. 216–32. 
Added by: joachim (7/20/09, 1:28 AM)   Last edited by: joachim (6/1/20, 9:01 AM)
Resource type: Book Chapter
Language: en: English
BibTeX citation key: Russell2009
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Categories: General
Keywords: "Maus", "Palestine", "Superman", Comics Journalism, Identity, Journalism, Mask, Sacco. Joe, Spiegelman. Art, Superhero, USA, War
Creators: Ndalianis, Russell
Publisher: Routledge (London, New York)
Collection: The Contemporary Comic Book Superhero
Views: 54/1279
Superheroes thrive in times of war. Superheroes spectacularly fight the supervillains created by war propaganda, where ambiguity is put aside as nations are categorised as good or evil. During World War II, superheroes such as Superman and Captain America were used as morale boosters for both troops and civilians, but their participation in the war involved an intricate balance between intervention and diversion. In 1941, Superman was humiliated: Captain America had slugged Hitler in the face while Superman was stuck throwing punches at ambiguously-labelled warplanes and saving civilians from dictators in fictional European countries. Superman's publisher, DC Comics, was hesitant to overtly enlist their star superhero in a war that America was not yet involved in. In December 1941, Pearl Harbor was bombed and America was at war. Superman came under increasing pressure to enlist and fight with Allied soldiers in Europe and Japan. But Superman could not go to war: his instant victory would undermine the nation and its troops, not to mention his own credibility. Clark Kent was made to take the blame and was declared 4-F, unfit for service, so that Superman could be spared further embarrassment. When World War II ended, superhero comics sales took a sharp downturn because of the lack of a clear enemy. Captain America ailed until he was eventually euthanised in 1957, while Superman was given extra powers that made him near-invincible. It was not enough to protect comic sales. By the late 1960s, a Vietnam-era America was changing. Alternative comix denied the need for superheroes and placed the individual at their centre. Autobiographical comics focused on observing and reporting the world and its effects upon the individual and society. In 1986, Art Spiegelman published Maus I: A Survivor's Tale in which he drew himself as Artie, a mouse-cartoonist, who interviewed his Holocaust survivor father and recorded the difficulties of their relationship. Spiegelman disguised himself and his father in mice masks that allowed Spiegelman the freedom to take on a persona—a (not-so) secret identity—to explore the effects of the Holocaust. Joe Sacco first published Palestine in 1993 after spending two months in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank interviewing Palestinians about their experiences under Israeli occupation. A qualified journalist, Sacco then returned home and transcribed his interviews into comic books and included himself as a comic-book character caught in the act of interviewing. A new term, comics journalism, was coined and it seemed that the reversal of comic-book authority from Superman to Clark Kent was complete. With the rise of the reporter as both subject and object in comic books, the superheroes' stranglehold over comic-book subjects has been broken. The surpassing of Superman by Clark Kent has enabled both Spiegelman and Sacco to use their comic books to record the extraordinary and ordinary effects of life under war.
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