A giant behemoth of a book,  Superheroes! is, as it promises, 204 pages in full color. Based on the three-part PBS documentary “Superheroes: A Neverending Battle” this book starts pre-Superman with the early comic strips of the Depression and tracks the evolution of the comic hero through to President Obama’s appearance in The Amazing Spider Man #583 and the current boom of comic book-based movies.

“Opportunity was also painted with a brush dipped in India ink.”

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Although Superheroes! seems like a coffee table book on first glance, its actually a ridiculously concise history of the main through lines, mostly in the Big Two companies (Marvel and DC), that’s informative, socially conscious, and not too overwhelming.

Why is this on our bookshelf?

This giant book of superheroes is more of a general reference book for the evolution of comics than a specific look at a single one, and it satisfies the historian in me.

If you’re looking to refer to a specific “era” of a character (the Golden Era, the Silver Era, etc) you won’t find them directly, but the book is arranged chronologically with only completely sensible dodges back or forward in time.

Rating (4 stars)

This is a LOT of book, even for a history brain like me, and I fully admit that while I read the beginning and end chapters all the way through, I skipped around a lot in the middle just to get a sense of what was inside.

I liked the fact that Gail Simone’s “Women In Refrigerators” garnered a mention in a later section on “The Battle of the Superheroine” that also went on to mention Ms. Marvel and her rise to Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Captain Marvel. I disliked the fact that in the pop out section on Wonder Woman, Elizabeth Marston, wife of William Moulton Marston and co-creator of Wonder Woman, was left out completely.

Some of the pop-out sections throughout focus on the “big” characters that have made it through to today: Captain America, Wonder Woman, Spiderman, etc, and give an overview of their development as well as their ever-evolving backstory. Others look at topics like parody and satire of comic heroes, famous (loved or hated) villains, black characters, and how different characters have been portrayed in movies.