"Captain America, Masculinity, and Violence reveals a shapeshifting mythic character responsive to national perils, creator sensibilities, ownership changes, and passionate fan letters. The deaths, rebirths, and transfigurations of old Cap are presented with outstanding clarity."—John Shelton Lawrence, co-author of The Myth of the American Superhero and Captain America and the Crusade against Evil
"Captain America, Masculinity and Violence is the latest addition to a literature using Captain America as a way into the tightly entangled threads of American identity, righteous violence, and political legitimacy. Stevens is at his strongest when he weaves together character developments with changes at Marvel HQ; his archival work on industry newsletters and fan magazines uncovers fresh insights into the corporate underpinnings of the Marvel Universe."—Jason Dittmer, author of 'Captain America and the Nationalist Superhero
"There hasn’t been such a thorough treatment of Captain America done previously and that makes (this work) original. . . . The survey of previous scholarship in each chapter takes into account major theoretical voices such as Eco and cultural historians like Wright. . . . A great resource for students in courses dealing with comic books, popular culture, and/or American history."—Terrence Wandtke, author of The Meaning of Superhero Comics Books
"Stevens provides a chronological character study of one of the most important comics superheroes to have emerged out of the 'Golden Age' of comics. This book employs a compelling political/cultural analysis of the character, as well as an 'industry history' of the series. . . . Stevens accomplishes (his) goal in a thoroughly effective way, creating a study that is both profound in its exploration of its topic and engagingly readable. I can think of very few similar studies that match it, and none that are better."—Gary Hoppenstand, Michigan State University
"It’s about time for a book like this. Professor Stevens shows how and why Captain America is an icon that can transcend decades of political turmoil and social unrest. Captain America is no political stooge, but rather a living breathing example of cultural change in action as a storytelling device which this volume demonstrates."—Robert G. Weiner, Popular Culture Librarian Texas Tech University and editor of Captain America and the Struggle of the Superhero
"Captain America, Masculinity, and Violence is a fine piece of scholarship on a popular culture creation that requires no apology. It is also, and could and should be read as, an analysis of American history and social development over the past seventy years, with Captain America reflecting and resisting the country that made him—just as all of us Americans do in all our actions, repeatedly 'retconning' ourselves individually and collectively."—Anthropology Review Database
"Well written and wide-ranging, Stevens’s book will appeal to readers interested in how popular culture has reflected the ongoing national discourse about America’s role in the world. . . . An excellent addition to a growing body of literature examining the ubiquity of superheroes in American culture."—Journal of American History
"Stevens uses Captain America’s shifting identity to relate the story of the company’s tumultuous journey over the course of six decades, and he presents his examination in a clear and concise fashion that will appeal to communication and pop culture scholars, historians, and even comic book fans longing for an in-depth analysis of Marvel Comics."—The Popular Culture Studies Journal
Since 1940, Captain America has battled his enemies in the name of American values, and as those values have changed over time, so has Captain America’s character. Because the comic book world fosters a close fan–creator dialogue, creators must consider their ever-changing readership. Comic book artists must carefully balance storyline continuity with cultural relevance. Captain America’s seventy-year existence spans from World War II through the Cold War to the American War on Terror; beginning as a soldier unopposed to offensive attacks against foreign threats, he later becomes known as a defender whose only weapon is his iconic shield. In this way, Captain America reflects America’s need to renegotiate its social contract and reinvent its national myths and cultural identity, all the while telling stories proclaiming an eternal and unchanging spirit of America.
In Captain America, Masculinity, and Violence, Stevens reveals how the comic book hero has evolved to maintain relevance to America’s fluctuating ideas of masculinity, patriotism, and violence. Stevens outlines the history of Captain America’s adventures and places the unfolding storyline in dialogue with the comic book industry as well as America’s varying political culture. Stevens shows that Captain America represents the ultimate American story: permanent enough to survive for nearly seventy years with a history fluid enough to be constantly reinterpreted to meet the needs of an ever-changing culture.
J. Richard Stevens is assistant professor in media studies at the University of Colorado Boulder.
Series: Television and Popular Culture
6 x 9, 400 pages