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Our Gods Wear Spandex: The Secret History of Comic Book Heroes
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Our Gods Wear Spandex: The Secret History of Comic Book Heroes

3.34 of 5 stars 3.34  ·  rating details  ·  120 ratings  ·  30 reviews
Was Superman's arch nemesis Lex Luthor based on Aleister Crowley? Can Captain Marvel be linked to the Sun gods on antiquity?

In "Our Gods Wear Spandex," Christopher Knowles answers these questions and brings to light many other intriguing links between superheroes and the enchanted world of estoerica. Occult students and comic-book fans alike will discover countless fascina
ebook, 240 pages
Published November 30th 2007 by Weiser Books (first published November 1st 2007)
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Dru Pagliassotti
This book provides an overview of superheroes' roots in pulp fiction and early comic strips, with an attempt to draw links between various occult traditions and certain superheroes (or at least their creators). The book also offers an archetypical analysis of superheroes -- e.g., the Messiah, the Golem, the Amazon -- and bios of notable writers and artists in the field. It's a good supplemental source for a comics scholar, offering food for thought about the history, development, and symbolic im ...more

It's kind of strange to call this "non fiction" and yet here we are...

A LOT of my friends are into superheros. In fact, although I don't read superhero comics, I DO adore the movie adaptations of them... and so my friends often chat with me about the characters in more depth... and that is what made me pick up this book at the library, and read it.

The author does an amusingly good job of taking apart our 'gods' the superheros, and pointing out how it is that they have become such prominant figur
An uneven yet interesting examination of the evolution and transformation of mythic heroes from ancient cultures to the present, with a focus on how the hero archetype has been interpreted and depicted in popular culture and media.

The thesis that comic book heroes are in many cases reinterpretations of archetypal heroes and superbeings is a natural one. This is examined through mythical and mystical themes explored in late 1800/early 1900 spiritual and occult societies, as well as in popular fa
Ryan Scicluna
This book has an interesting premise but somehow it falls flat. Most of the things in the book are just speculation and few are actually factual things. Also, the concept that comic book superheroes are essentially the old gods but in new costumes and stories, is not a new one. There are many other books out there which elaborate more on this, especially Grant Morrison’s “Super Gods”. I already knew most of the things in the book and anyone who might have read any book about the history of comic ...more
This read like a series of blog posts and student essays loosely linked underneath a premise that had more assertion than evidence behind it. Since many sections were divided into brief biographies, any overall theme or premise was consistently derailed by info dumps.

Mr. Knowles' apparent desire to flatter the egos of his presumed audience (of "hardcore," "brainy" male readers) backfired slightly when being read by someone not part of that favored audience. In particular, his constant reference
Aug 28, 2013 Wendy rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Wendy by:
I wanted to like this book. Unfortunately, it reads like it was excerpted from Wikipedia articles, and I never felt the author had any real expertise or serious knowledge of the subject. The work is superficial at best, and in some cases wrong-headed. (For example, he lists Batman as being a Golem archetype. I have no idea where he's getting that crazed idea, even after reading it. The Thing, the Hulk maybe, but BATMAN?? No.) The brief section on female superheroes focuses a great deal on two th ...more
Bill Bridges
"Who are our gods today?" is a question Jack Kirby asked himself in the late '60s. His answer was the New Gods, his unfinished masterwork published by DC Comics. Christopher Knowles answers a different question: Who are our superheroes? The answer is that they're nothing new: they're the old gods in new disguise.

Jung believed that when we deny the gods they disappear into the unconscious but return in new forms -- in our diseases, for one. Our aches, pains, anxieties, failings. But, as Christoph
Zach Freeman
Jan 07, 2008 Zach Freeman rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: comic book fans
Author, artist, and comic-book fanboy Christopher Knowles knows a thing or two about the history of superheroes: their creators, their inspirations and the powerful draw they have on readers of all ages. Tying this information in with his knowledge of the occult and pagan religions, Knowles has created The Hero With a Thousand Faces… the comic-book version. In an almost Cambellian way, Knowles new book, Our Gods Wear Spandex, deconstructs our most revered superhero figures to reveal their basic ...more
Peter Tupper
This book argues that superhero comics, and their literary antecedents, are descendents of ancient tales of gods and heroes, and they inspire a devotion that is literally cultish. In the past century or so, a lot of it comes for theosophy, a distinctly modern fusion of religion and pseudo-science.

While some of this is interesting, it ignores all the other genres that have contributed to modern superhero stories, including crime/detective fiction, science fiction, fantasy and so on. Sometimes Kn
Kenneth Shaw
I enjoyed this book, but wondered if it could have been condensed into a smaller magazine or web article.

I am familiar with mythological archetypes used in comics but know very little about the occult underground or counter culture. It makes for fascinating stuff but leads this author into assumption a few times. While it's meaty stuff to hear of comic creators dabbling in the occult, to me Lex Luthor as Aleister Crowley was a stretch.
Mar 14, 2008 Ian rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Comic book fans, pop culture geeks
Recommended to Ian by: Brian
Shelves: comics
Our Gods Wear Spandex is basically a cultural anthropology of comic book heroes and culture. It looks all the way back to ancient cultures (most notably Egyptian) and the way they viewed their gods. It traces those lines all the way up to the present, passing through secret societies, masonic imagery, victorian occultism, and American immigration on the way.

e.g. At festivals celebrating the gods, certain ancient Egyptian sects would dress up like their gods - sound like a comic con to anyone?

A great book, if you are unaware of the fact that--wait for it--many superhero comics are based upon mythology! Mr. Knowles pads his underwhelming and unremarkable thesis with common knowledge available in textbooks or high school enrichment classes. The difference is that the textbooks are usually more entertaining and better written. When Knowles is not putting his readers to sleep with the bleeding obvious, he's making stuff up. Ever heard of the Chromium Age of Comics? Me neither. One good t ...more
Brian Tacik
This was great. All of the editorials about how bad Image and Rob Liefeld were got old. (I get it: You hated the chromium 90's) Also his Alex Ross lost fest is a little...too lovey. But overall this book was great. so many little samples of all of the literary influences throughout history that created the world's love with super heroes. It's easy to make fun of comic books and super heroes, but we all love them in one way or another. This is a great book for getting tastes of so much "source" l ...more
This was not very good. There were many factual errors. Nearly everything is speculation. There were a few interesting facts. I think the best thing that I got out of this is how Lex Luthor looks like Aleister Crowley. I have never thought of this. He has a point. I already knew most of what the book told me. It would have been better if I was less knowledgeable about comics and the occult. Although I would have doubted pretty much everything due to the inaccuracies.

I would recommend this book t
David smith
nice overview of history relevant to comics and good analysis of men's involved in the literature.
Stewart Blackburn
This is a remarkable book that goes into the metaphysical and mythic origins of the comic books we all delight it. I never knew most of the history of the comic books, nor did I get how each hero was related to the cultural context at the time. Of particular interest to me were the recurring themes of personal empowerment and individuality versus collective effort. I really recommend this one to anyone who has enjoyed fantasy and science fiction.
Is it a comics book, is it a comparative religion textbook, or is it a personal theology book? It's really hard to tell, and appearently the author isn't too sure either. Fortuneately these are all interesting subjects - so it's fairly easy to forgive him as he meanders from one genre to the other. But it also prevents the text from a tighter focus that might have made it a more compelling read.
Cody White
I read this in my research process, and while I did gain a handful of nominally useful facts, this text was simply too biased to be of any significant use. Add in a handful of items that were factually incorrect, and even more that seemed like too much of a stretch, and I just find recommending this book to anyone but some of my more off-the-wall friens difficult.
Jeffery Moulton
Interesting book. The idea that comic book superheroes represent the gods of modern culture is nothing new, but this book takes it further by explicitly linking superheroes to their religious and occult roots. Sometimes it feels like Knowles tried too hard to link comics with historically occult figures, but the premise is interesting and leaves the reader thinking.
There was nothing in this book I didn't walk in knowing, sadly- but it's a damned good overview of the reality of 20th century mysticism having shaped the comics industry from the get-go. A very good read for someone new to the concept: not as much of a good read for someone who's already versed in comics history and early 20th century mystical foo.
it wasn't what i had expected.
it's very brief. shallow research.
tries to do too much in too little and falls short.

had a couple of neat facts, though.
bonus points for a snazzy cover.
Dangeruss Noyes
This book was amazing! I highly recommend it for anyone interested in comic books, mythology, and/or the occult. Christopher Knowles clearly reveres comics as the art form that it is.
Steve Wiggins
A fun and sometimes profound book. See a fuller review at Sects and Violence in the Ancient World.
This was a really interesting book. I read it as a source for a research paper and it helped out a lot. Definitely gives you a different perspective on the formation of superheroes.
This book was terribly written. The author jumps around constantly, makes outlandish claims and rarely offers evidence to support them. I couldn't finish it.
Well worth a read for anyone with an interest in the origin of comic books. Also a bonus if you have any interest in the occult or esoteric fields.
An excellent overview of the convergent lines of mythology, occultism, and fantasy that reach their pinnacle in modern comic books.
Aqeel Khalid
Read this as part of a research project, very interesting
Not the right time for this one.
Matthew Atherton
Nov 15, 2007 Matthew Atherton is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: superheroes
Currently reading it now!
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