A selection of books proving that there’s more to popular culture than meets the eye……
The wonderful graphic designer Chip Kidd has had a hand in a number of beautifully designed comic book homages over the years, and this exuberant celebration of the iconic Captain Marvel from the 1940s is one of his finest. This much-loved character has an interesting history, his demise in 1953 seemingly caused by flying too close to his nearest rival, Superman, which saw the latter’s parent company DC knock him out of the sky with some well aimed legal proceedings. His popularity, like the good Captain himself, has happily proved indestructible!
Speaking of Superman, the television series Smallville has only just recently wound up after a phenomenol 10 seasons, and with its radical reimagining of the early years of Clark Kent/Superman it has managed to expand much of the mythology surrounding this most iconic of all popular culture characters. This series of essays applies a scholarly lens to the proceedings and shows yet again the burgeoning intersection in media studies between the popular and the academic. Favourite chapter headings: The Kryptonite Closet: Silence and Queer Secrecy in Smallville, followed closely by, No Flights, No Tights: Smallville and the Roles of Special Effects in Television. Look, up in the sky…….
Now there might be some unkind souls out there who think that the title of this book pretty well sums up the general state of contemporary television, and that’s probably a fair point as far as it goes. But once you struggle past the plethora of infotainment and reality shows that we all know and love (!!) there are infact quite a few series that really extend the narrative possibilities of the traditional “TV show”; indeed, we arguably live in a golden-age of television. Horror has a long tradition on the small screen from the Twilight Zone through Kolchak: the Night Stalker to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, True Blood and Supernatural, which is the focus of this collection of essays. Once again it’s fascinating to see how such popular fare can provide so much room for observation and conjecture; not forgetting that it can scare the billy-o out of you as well!
The “classic” Hollywood beach movie of the sixties finally gets some serious (and not so serious) attention in this wonderfully entertaining book. Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Fabian, Troy Donahue, they’re all here clad in not-so-revealing boardshorts and bikinis, surfing, dancing, singing and doing whatever it is teenagers generally do; or used to. Thomas Lisanti clearly loves this under-appreciated genre and each film is described, dissected and discussed with loving attention to detail; some of the behind-the-scenes shenanigans could make your sun-bleached hair curl! Cowabunga!