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Caped Cru-Saviors

Celebrated authors Neil Gaiman, Leigh Bardugo, Scott Westerfeld, and more write about what superheros mean to them in the essay collection, Last Night, A Superhero Saved My Life.

Caped Cru-Saviors

BOOK REPORT for Last Night, A Superhero Saved My Life edited by Liesa Mignogna

Cover Story: Comic-Inspired
The Most Fist-Pump Worthy: “We Are Not Amazons” by Leigh Bardugo, “Swashbuckle My Heart: An Ode to Nightcrawler” by Jenn Reese
The Most Eye Roll-Inducing: “Weapon X” by Ron Currie, Jr.
The Most Educational: “Spider-Manhattan” by Scott Westerfeld
Bonus Factors: Superhero Adoration
Break Glass In Case Of: Seeking Nerd Solidarity

Cover Story: Comic-Inspired

The top ¾ of this cover is awesome. The colors, the use of comic book-like imagery, the bold title. But then you get to the lower ¼ and the Comic Sans filled bubbles hit you in the face like a villain’s punch. I understand that Comic Sans is based on a lot of comic lettering, but there are so many better options out there these days.

The Deal:

This anthology features essays by 21 authors from a wide variety of genres about how the love of superheroes, or a particular superhero, changed their lives or affected their personalities

The Most Fist-Pump Worthy: “We Are Not Amazons” by Leigh Bardugo, “Swashbuckle My Heart: An Ode to Nightcrawler” by Jenn Reese

For anyone who’s familiar with Leigh Bardugo’s work, it should come as no surprise that she connected from an early age with Wonder Woman. But her essay actually tells of an appreciation that ebbed and flowed over the years due to body image issues, societal pressures and changing views on feminism. It’s an essay filled with powerful feelings that most anyone who’s ever dealt with unattainable standards and wavering self-esteem—girl or no—can relate to, and ends on a very positive and confident note. Reading the essay made me like Leigh Bardugo more than I did, and that bar was already raised quite high.

I was never a nymph. I skipped the stage glorified by pervy old directors in artfully lit coming-of-age films. Puberty came on faster than a locomotive and I was helpless, ties to the tracks. … It made me miserable. It made me slouch. And it changed the way I looked at superheroes.

I’ve never read any of Jenn Reese’s books, but her essay on Kurt Wagner, a.k.a. Nightcrawler, made me want to seek more of her writing out. The essay describes how Wagner’s unwavering self-confidence helped Reese grow out of a more Wolverine-like (i.e., abrasive and quick to anger) personality. It’s an important read, or a familiar read, for anyone who’s ever lashed out because of self-dislike.

What Nightcrawler did for me was lead by example. He showed that it was possible to overcome a rough start. That it was possible to find joy amid adversity. … He took himself for what he was, and he reveled in it. Kurt Wagner took a life born of lemons and spent his years juggling them for laughs.

The Most Eye Roll-Inducing: “Weapon X” by Ron Currie, Jr.

Although I agree with Ron Currie, Jr.,’s appreciation of Wolverine (a.k.a. Weapon X), his essay is filled with odd assertions that recent generations of men are far less “manly” than generations prior and a lot of patting himself on the back for his personal accomplishments. I agreed with certain parts of the essay, but was left at the end with a bad taste (reminiscent of mansplaining) in my mind.

Would it be overstating things, or otherwise foisting an unreasonable amount of cultural weight on a mere comic book character, to suggest that Wolverine might be the ideal for postfeminist men seeking a balanced masculinity?

The Most Educational: “Spider-Manhattan” by Scott Westerfeld

I’m not surprised that Scott Westerfeld is a fan of snarky-smart Peter Parker, but his essay, which talks about how Spider-Man is truly a hero for the people due to the level at which he swings through Manhattan was surprisingly informative. As someone who never studied New York City architecture, I had no idea that there is a rule that a certain amount of sky must be visible around all skyscrapers, which is the reason for many buildings’ tiered looks. Nor did I know that walk-ups were regulated, in 1929, to be six stories or under.

But Spidey was the original rooftop bounder, the embodiment of skyline travel, and Manhattan was perfect for him.

Because it was designed to be that way.

Bonus Factor: Superhero Adoration

As someone who’s a big fan of superheroes, but has a real difficulty when it comes to choosing a favorite, I applaud the writers in this book for connecting so strongly with one or two in particular. It was entertaining to read their reasons, and I could agree with a lot of them.

Break Glass In Case Of: Seeking Nerd Solidarity

There are a wide variety of superheroes written about in this book, from Superman to Wonder Woman to Nightcrawler to Wolverine to Batman—there are a lot of stories about Batman, actually—but even if your favorite superhero isn’t named by name, there’s bound to a be a story in this collection that strikes a chord in your own nerdy heart.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Thomas Dunne Books, and got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. Last Night, A Superhero Saved My Life is available now.

Mandy Curtis's photo About the Author: Mandy is a small town girl living in a nerdy world, or—if you want to get literal—an editor/writer living in Austin, TX. In addition to yearning for YA books—the more dystopian or fantastical, the better—she can also be found swooning over superheroes, dreaming of The Doctor and grinning at GIFs.
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