February 16, 2015

The Brief Guide Gotham Deserves: a review of Brian J. Robb's "A Brief Guide to Superheroes"

A Brief History of Superheroes
by Brian J. Robb
Robinson Publishing (2014)
304 pages
ISBN 1472110552 

Available at Amazon.com

For now, at least until Joss Whedon jetisons his genius from the Marvel Universe, superheroes are running hot at the box office. But with all the hoopla over the capes and cowls on the silver screen, the comic book industry has been building itself to this point in time for decades upon decades.

Now, with a title like "A Brief History" that is exactly what you get. No one aspect of the genre is covered in great detail, rather this serves as a compendium of jumping off points for the uninitiated. It's something a newcomer or just a movie-goer curious about where all those superheroes come from can glom onto and get a little bit of knowledge before diving deeper into more specific topics.

The book touches upon a myriad of eras, all the way back in history to what many consider the original superheroes: gods. Seeing the larger-than-life heroes of fables and folklore gives a bit of perspective as we near the twentieth century and the big bang of what we come to know as the quintessential superhero. With so much ground to cover, the book focuses on a chronological approach, touching on some of the more pivotal moments in the history of the medium. How superheroes adapted to the patriotic era of World War II, to the reactionary Comics Code and its effect, to the rise of the anti-hero.

The writing can feel a bit clinical at times, and the just-the-facts-maam style minus some contextual commentary from Robb leaves you wanting for more as a reader. But again, this is for the neophytes and casual fans of the genre. In that aspect, the book does a serviceable job with lots of talking points and tidbits, that if you find yourself wanting to read more in-depth on a particular topic raised, you'll know exactly where to go. If you're a die-hard comic book fan, chances are much of this is familiar ground and this book would work more for you to hand off to friends and family you might want to lure into your ranks.

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