This week we’re drifting back into the comics-adjacent territory that I’m so very fond of and taking a look at a book…about comics! Moreover, a book that tackles the subject of how the comics world and real life intersect and what it means in the grand scheme of things.
Super Soldiers: A Salute to the Comic Book Heroes and Villains Who Fought for Their Country by Jason Inman is a fascinating look at the portrayal of comic book characters who just so happened to serve in the military. Based on the lengthy title I had half expected to see that the book had been penned by some stuff academic, but that was SO not the case. Inman is perhaps the best qualified person to write a book on the subject being both a veteran AND a comic book fan.
At time of publication, I’m about eight chapters deep and had really hoped to the entry on Beetle Bailey before giving my final thoughts on the book. You read that right…Beetle Bailey. However, I’ve already digested chapters on both Marvel captains (America and Marvel), two Green Lanterns, War Machine, Captain Atom, and Eugene “Flash” Thompson.
Since I already burned my “fascinating” card two paragraphs above, I’ll have to say that this is an engaging read. I would absolutely guarantee that this book contains avenues of thought that your average civilian comic book reader hasn’t even fathomed. Inman brings a unique perspective in each chapter as he writes about how each character is defined by their military service along with pointing out a few inaccuracies along the way (cough Civil War II cough).
After a few chapters I was comfortable enough to recommend the book to an old army buddy of mine. To borrow a joke from National Lampoon’s Vegas Vacation, I wasn’t in the army but I have played cards with men in uniform before. Joking aside, Inman’s experiences as part of the US Army inform the text as he each character is viewed through his lens as veteran. It provides a much needed dose of modern context for what today’s military is like. If you fall squarely in the middle of the veteran/nerd Venn diagram, you’re going to enjoy this book for sure.
It’s an important book for civilians to read as well, as I mentioned previously I never served and I admittedly had a fairly one-dimensional view of the military in my youth. As a high school newspaper columnist my relationship with the ROTC was somewhat…adversarial. At the time I was possessed with the clarity of vision that is only known to uninformed sixteen year-old suburban boys. The weekly calls from recruiters didn’t exactly help foster any feelings of goodwill towards enlisting.
Eventually, with the benefit of time, experience, and perspective I have much more well-rounded view of things. Both my grandfather and father served in the military. My grandfather took some shrapnel while in Italy during World War II which, narrowly missing one of his eyes, slightly bent the bridge of his nose, the rest of it hung out inside of him for the remainder of his days. My father was also fairly adamant about me attending college (since he didn’t get the chance to) and may or may not have exchanged words with a recruiter over the telephone about it. In brief, I have a lot of appreciation for their efforts.
Super Soldiers: A Salute to the Comic Book Heroes and Villains Who Fought for Their Country will be on sale June 18th. You can order your copy here.