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Superman on the Couch: What Superheroes Really Tell Us About Ourselves and Our Society
Reviewed by Mark Finn, © 2004

Format: Book
By:   Danny Fingeroth (author)
Genre:   Nonfiction
Released:   Published February 1, 2004
Review Date:   November 12, 2004
RevSF Rating:   8/10 (What Is This?)

That's former Marvel Comics editor Danny Fingeroth to you, fanboy. The introduction by Stan Lee should have tipped you off, if you didn't recognize his name from such auspicious titles as The New Warriors and Darkhawk. . . .

Fingeroth is no stranger to his subject matter, and this book is a surprisingly thought-provoking examination of the psychology of everyone's favorite spandex-covered icons. More specifically, it's a reflection of how comics mimic and underscore real life, and how we in real life adopt the badges of superheroes as avatars.

Fingeroth breaks no new ground here, except to put all of the floating theories of the superhero gestalt in one place to sort through and compare them. Superman on the Couch is a very personal work for Fingeroth, and his voice is almost apologetic at times, with many exceptions and caveats. In essence, Fingeroth makes it clear that these are all his opinions, and they may be wrong at that. I wish he'd stepped out more and been more confident with his observations. There's some great stuff in the book that really needed to be more forcefully delivered.

What's good about the book is that it cuts completely through all levels of pop culture, from Harry Potter to rap artists, from Star Wars to Spider-Man, and shows how the aspects of heroism are part and parcel of the appeal of comic book characters. In using so many references to ancillary heroes and seemingly unrelated aspects of pop culture, Fingeroth actually makes his case more convincing.

Superman on the Couch makes a great follow-up to The Rough Guide to Superheroes, expanding on the soundbite-style explanations with numerous examples and observations. While it's nothing you haven't seen before, it's all laid out in one place. Reading it will force you to contemplate what it is that attracts you to superheroes, and you may be pleasantly surprised.

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