We’re nearing two months since Not All Supermen came out, and thanks again to everyone who’s picked it up! I hope you’re all enjoying it. It’s been fun to see how timely it’s been, in a totally unplanned way. There’s a whole section on She-Hulk in the book, just in time for the Disney+ show to drop, and the cancellation of the Batgirl movie is basically everything the book is talking about when it comes to the superhero genre’s issues with female, POC, and queer representation. On that front, Not All Supermen may well be timely for a while, I’m afraid.
Dear Watchers covers all sorts of alternate universes, so we chatted a bit about how sexism and toxic masculinity play out in different worlds, plus I got to go on about my favourite AU, DC Comics Bombshells, which is always a blast. It was a great conversation, and I had a lot of fun being on the show. Give it a listen!
I’ll end with one last recommendation: Following up on the mention above, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law on Disney+ is GREAT and you should totally check it out! I may be preaching to the choir here, but if you haven’t tuned in yet you’re missing out on a hilariously delightful time. The cast is fantastic, the writing is sharp, and it’s commenting on some of the sexist trends in the superhero industry and the world at large in fun, illuminating ways. I highly recommend it!
Not All Supermen has been out for nearly a month now, and THANK YOU to everyone who’s picked up a copy! I’ve heard from a lot of you who enjoyed it, and I’m so glad it seems to be resonating with people. It was also nice to see last weekend, a few weeks after the book’s release, that it hit #1 on Amazon’s “Women’s Literature Criticism” chart:
A niche category, sure, but a) a pretty darn cool niche category, and b) #1 is #1! Thanks again to everyone who’s checked it out!
Speaking of, if you’ve picked up a copy and want to get it signed, I still have a few bookplates left. Just send me proof of purchase (of any kind; get creative if you want!) to firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll send you whichever one of these two lovely bookplates you’d prefer, signed and addressed to you, free of charge. I’m starting to run low, so jump on this one!
Thanks as well to everyone who registered for the “Unlearning Toxic Masculinity” panel hosted by LTHJ Global last week! I thought it was a great conversation. Linsdey was a fantastic host, and Ben and Muchingo had wonderful insights and really dug into the topic in compelling, vulnerable ways. I hope my comic book chatter was enlightening, too. If you missed the panel, it’s up now on Youtube:
If you’ve got a copy of the book and noticed the short bibliography at the back, fear not! I’ve posted the full bibliography online if you, like me, are the sort of nerd who likes to scan through the backmatter when you finish a book. We had to do a select bibliography because the endnotes got VERY long. The book covers so many characters, eras, and topics that I ended up citing a ton of stuff. So it was either trim the bibliography or lose a chapter, and that was a pretty easy choice for me. And now the full version is available.
Finally, the Twitter thread exploring characters and comic panels mentioned in Not All Supermen has reached it’s end today. Since I last updated you, we’ve had chats about how Batman went from this to this:
How the Punisher’s murderous ways and gun enthusiasm led to him becoming a mascot for the Blue Lives Matter movement:
And this week we’ve been digging into the She-Hulk! Originally created to be a monstrous being like her cousin, the Hulk, She-Hulk was gradually sexualized over the years. She went from a wild force of destruction in her debut issue to the star of pin-up pages two years later, and this trend continued as time went on:
It’s fascinating to me that a character who was originally noticeably different from the uniform body shape of female characters, in the same monstrous vein as the Hulk, so quickly became hyper-sexualized for the male audience. Fascinating, but not surprising. That’s superhero comics for you. You can follow the full thread on Twitter, or check out the hashtag #NotAllSupermen!
I got a physical copy of Not All Supermen this week (international shipping is a whole scene) and it looks SO good! Also, getting the book and taking the picture above raised the question: What do you call five books? A quadrilogy? A pentology? There seems to be options. Whatever the case, I’ve written five books and that’s ridiculous and fun. It’s been such a treat, spending so much time with these great characters! I have an excellent job.
There’s been some fun developments surrounding the book this week, so here’s a quick recap for you all!
I’ve made bookplates for Not All Supermen AND you can get one for free! Just send proof of purchase to email@example.com with your mailing address and which bookplate you’d prefer, and I’ll mail you a signed bookplate to stick in your copy of the book, free of charge. Live events are tricky in pandemic times, so this is probably your best opportunity to get your book signed. Jump on it! I’m printing a limited number of bookplates, and they’re going quick!
Finally, over on Twitter my weekly spotlight on different characters discussed in Not All Supermencontinued this week with the Fantastic Four’s Sue Storm, the Invisible Girl. It was an apt name for a character who was often captured and ineffective, a common situation for Marvel’s female character in the 1960s. Sue was there to be a pretty face to inspire the boys, and her marriage to Reed Richards a few years after the book debuted didn’t improve her role much:
You can follow along with the thread, or follow the hashtag #NotAllSupermen. Next week we’re going to look at the Caped Crusader, from the 1966 TV show through to Dark Knight Returns in 1986. Here’s a subtly improved cover from Life magazine featuring Adam West:
This is a lovely promotional tie-in, given that my new book is called Not All Supermen: Sexism, Toxic Masculinity, and the Complex History of Superheroes, but I also think it’s important to address toxic masculinity directly and have conversations about what it means, it’s impact on society, and how it hurts us all. The expectation that men should only be tough and aggressive, combined with a disdain for femininity and a constant focus on power and status, is such a limiting and harmful mindset. We all contain multitudes, and we should strive to engage with the world in ways that encourage a broad, accepting approach to gender instead of conforming to narrow viewpoints that hold back ourselves and others. I’ll be talking about superheroes a bit, I’m sure, but I’m also anticipating a larger discussion about toxic masculinity in my day-to-day life that I think will be interesting to delve into.
I’m on the panel with some great guests that I’m looking forward to chatting with! Lindsey T.H. Jackson is our host, as well as the CEO of LTHJ Global, leading their work to promote. diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). I’ll be joined by Ben Reuler, the founder and CEO of In The Area Productions whose work focuses on antiracism, and Muchinga Mutambo, the head of programs for Copper Rose Zambia, an organization focused on youth-led and women’s development. It’s going to be a great conversation.
Now that Not All Supermen is officially out and available to purchase in stores and online, I hope lots of you are receiving your copies and enjoying the lovely cover design (and the words inside, too!). Some of you might even be keen to get your book signed, but alas I am far away on the Eastern coast of Canada and not traveling for many events or conventions this year. The pandemic is still ongoing, and most conventions have gotten pretty lax about masks and other protections. Even the big comics convention here in Halifax “encourages” masks but doesn’t make them mandatory, which is rather disappointing and a no-go for me. I don’t want to get sick, and I especially don’t want my 88 and 90 year old grandparents to get sick either, so it’s safety first, always.
But fret not, because you can still get your book signed! As I’ve done for every book I’ve written, I’ve built some fun bookplates to stick in the front cover. I started this because I was afraid of spelling someone’s name wrong of making a mistake while writing directly in the book they’d just purchased. That would not be ideal. But it turns out, I like making things, and having a choice of bookplates for every book I do is very fun!
This time, we’ve got subtly improved comic book covers. The first features some classic moments from the Silver Age, highlighting the first appearance of Bat-Woman, an early Fantastic Four story in which Sue (surprise, surprise) gets captures, and a the heights of Bat-mania after the Batman TV show began. The second bookplate takes us to the 80s, when everything got grittier and sexier, with the grisly Batman of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns, the gun-toting Punisher, and the constantly objectified She-Hulk. I had a very good time making new logos for all these issues, this being exactly the sort of persnickety task I enjoy. Working around She-Hulk’s hair was quite the job, but I think it call came together in the end.
Since I probably won’t see you in person, you can get one of these bookplates by sending me some proof of purchase for your copy of Not All Supermen. Any sort of receipt is fine, or a picture of you with the book. Get creative with it, if you like, and drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or DM me on Twitter with your proof, your address, who I should sign it too, and your preferred bookplate. In return, I will send you a personalized, signed bookplate at no cost to you that you can stick in your book!
(Anywhere in the Canada or USA will be no problem at all, but if you’re outside of those areas, let me know and I’ll see what I can do. Chances are I can make it work, but we can discuss costs on a case by case basis for all you folks around the globe.)
I’m printing a limited number of bookplates, so jump on it now while I’ve still got some! It’ll be like a comic book convention in your mailbox. A book signing in your very own home. Get on it, gang!
The book was a fun one for me, a chance to take on broader view on the superhero industry instead of my usual deep dives into particular characters. It was a bit trickier, having the entirety of an eighty-year old genre at my disposal. The limitations imposed by a narrower focus have their benefits. But ultimately, I had a great time exploring the full scope of the history of superheroes, picking my spots to dig into in order to illuminate the trends in each era. Sexism and toxic masculinity aren’t the cheeriest topics, I’ll admit, but they are most definitely fascinating, especially in this context and how they they begin, become enshrined, and evolve over the decades. I’ve been writing about superheroes for a long time now, and Not All Supermen really changed how I see the entire industry, even after all this time observing it.
On this, the official release day, I’d like to thank everyone at Rowman & Littlefield, especially Christen, Deni, Kathi, Nicole, and Annie! They are all wonderful to work with, and I’m so pleased with how the book turned out. Putting out a book really is a team sport, and this is a fantastic team to be a part of.
So yeah, Not All Supermen is out now! Go buy yourself a copy! And in the meantime, check out some other book related news:
First, we got a lovely review from the Library Journal, in which they call the book “well-researched and written” and say “this title is a must-have for any library to give some new insights on superheroes as well as their true origin stories.” I love libraries, so an enthusiastic review from the Library Journal is extra special indeed. Having fun isn’t hard if you’ve got a library card, after all.
Third, I’m going to be part of a great panel discussion titled “Unlearning Toxic Masculinity” for LTHJ Global on August 3, talking about toxic masculinity and why it’s bad news. I’ll have more to say about the panel with a full post next week, but for now you can check out the website and register to watch the panel online! It’s going to be a fascinating conversation, and I think we’re going to have a fun time.
Finally, I’m still posting fun panels that are relevant to Not All Supermen on Twitter, and this week we dug into Bat-Woman! She’s cool, but not as cool as Batman. Smart, but not as smart as Batman. Tough, but not as tough as Batman. In part because she’s a woman and it was the 1950s, but also because she wasn’t really there to be an awesome superhero. She was there to be Batman’s girlfriend, and counter Fredric Wertham’s allegations of homoerotic undertones in Batman and Robin comics.
Things go about as well as you’d expect, in that they go pretty poorly for her. She gets bested by the Dynamic Duo often, sidelined a bunch, and ultimately benched once enough time had passed. Not great.
While Not All Superman is officially out now, the promotional fun isn’t stopping! Next week I’ll have some big news on bookplates and how you can get your own for free (basically: just buy a book! I’ll mail you one!), plus the #NotAllSupermen hashtag continues on Twitter with a conversation about the Fantastic Four. Here’s a peek at a subtly improved version of an early Fantastic Four cover that will kick off the thread on Monday:
My new book, Not All Supermen: Sexism, Toxic Masculinity, and the Complex History of Superheroes, is officially out a week from today! And with a new book on the way, things are starting to get busy with promotions.
First up, my publisher has kindly offered a 30% discount on the book if you order it directly from them! This is a great deal. Unlike some other publishers, books from Rowman & Littlefield don’t typically get marked down a lot by big retailers like Amazon and the like, so 30% is huge savings, and a much better deal than you’ll find anywhere else. Head over to the Rowman & Littlefield site and enter the promo code RLFANDF30 to take advantage of the promotion. It’s a real steal for all of this hardcover fun!
Second, I got to be a guest on the Word Balloon podcast this week, one of the best comic books podcasts out there. I always think of it as the Tonight Show of comics podcasts, a flagship that features great interviews with the biggest names in the business. And me as well! I had a great chat with John Siuntres, one that was a bit more exciting than the usual promo fare given he’s got a more optimistic view on the superhero industry than I do and was willing to make his case. But he was also willing to listen to mine, and I think the end result was a good conversation all around. You can watch it all here:
There should be more fun to come next week! The book is out, of course, but I’m also working on some bookplates and will be glad to send you a signed one to stick in your copy once you’ve picked it up. More on that soon. I’ve got a few other things in the works too, which may be popping up next week. And on Twitter, we’ll be focusing on Bat-Woman and the Silver Age, which is a real treat. Here’s a sneak peak of the subtly improved Detective Comics cover that will kick off the new chapter of the thread on Monday: