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Wham! Wow!: DC Comics at 75

By Tom Ashbrook

The superheroes of the comic book world have worked their way deep into the American imagination – and managed to hang on. They’ve been attacked and celebrated, and they’ve gone to Hollywood and Broadway.

This year, DC Comics, which created Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, and many others, is celebrating 75 years of comic book publishing – from the first grainy, grinning, all-new format in 1935.

Paul Levitz, former publisher of DC Comics and a longtime writer for many of its most enduring characters, says comic books are our society’s way of creating myths. And they help us play out universal human feelings and aspirations.

“It’s a natural human reaction to dream of what it would be to being empowered, to be able to solve things that you can’t otherwise,” says Levitz, whose new book is 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking. “The dilemmas that we face in the world – whether it’s the economy or what’s going on in our lives, our jobs, our personal lives – all are things that we wish we had more control over, more ability to affect. And the great superhero characters all reflect some element of that.”

DC Comics has also created such memorable characters as Lex Luthor, The Joker, Robin, and The Green Lantern, and Levitz is celebrating the whole long list. He says the characters often embody a very compelling human longing.

“The fundamental fantasy of Superman – that Lois would realize that I’m an incredible person if she could look past my glasses and just see my inner Superman – that’s so basically human,” Levitz tells On Point. “How many of us have had that feeling at some moment, when we wish the other person would just get us?”

Guests:

Paul Levitz, a 38-year veteran of DC Comics. He was president from 2002-2009, and he’s now a contributing editor. During his decades at DC Comics, he has written most of the classic DC characters, including Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman. His new book is “75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking.”

Charles Henebry, lecturer of rhetoric at Boston University’s College of General Studies. He is a longtime comics fan and has written extensively on the place of comic books in popular culture.

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