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101 Superheroes of the Silver Screen    by John L. Flynn order for
101 Superheroes of the Silver Screen
by John L. Flynn
Order:  USA  Can
Galactic Books, 2007 (2007)
* *   Reviewed by Lance Victor Eaton

Within Superman's first decade, hundreds of spinoff comic books had been created and could be found at newsstands and candy shops throughout the United States. The concept of a superhuman caught on quickly on the silver screen and led to serial films and cartoons taking up the charge with new icons but also those of the past such as Superman, Batman, and Captain America. Now, almost seventy years later, scores of superheroes have fought the good fight in movie theaters and televisions around the world.

With what must be painstaking diligence, John L. Flynn has catalogued 101 Superheroes of the Silver Screen. They're arranged in alphabetical order, each entry focusing on a particular superhero, providing the first comic appearance (when valid) of the character. Flynn also includes other media appearances (though he defines media solely as film and television), origins (both real-world and literary), the plot of the movie, and random trivia surrounding the character or film. Speckled throughout the entries are thumbnail pictures. Many of these are film box covers or posters, comic book cover pages, or film stills, but not all of the pictures seem relevant. Flynn also provides a Fanboy Rating which gives individual scores on Babes, Effects, Action, and Brainwaves, along with a Total score. These ratings fall rather flat.

The biggest difficulty, especially for hardcore fans, is dealing with Flynn's choices and definitions. Though the term silver screen is traditionally reserved for cinema films, he includes many television series and made-for-TV movies. He does not define superhero and readers may raise an eyebrow at his inclusion of Howard the Duck and X-Men in the same book. Flynn seems to sway back and forth about whether this is a book about superhero motion pictures (film or television) derived from comic books or just a book of motion pictures about superheroes, while at the same time never explaining what is a superhero. This can seem pedantic or even just a fan's desire for perfection, but the author spends two pages on both Spysmasher and Roger Rabbit, while he ignores The Toxic Crusader and Punisher 2. He includes an entry on the upcoming Ant-Man movie (now in pre-production), but does not cover the Generation X movie, Legends of Superheroes two one-hour specials, or the Justice League and Teen Titans cartoons.

These only become shortcomings when methodological explanations are not provided. In the end, what Flynn does include proves impressive. In particular, he provides a good share of information about the many film serials from the 1940s that is rare to find in books of this kind. For the selections he does provide, he has certainly done his homework and readers' main frustration will be in wanting to find and watch the many films and shows discussed.

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