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Social Science Popular Culture

Rise of Real-Life Superheroes

and the Fall of Everything Else

by (author) Peter Nowak

Douglas & McIntyre
Initial publish date
Sep 2020
Popular Culture, Comics & Graphic Novels, Social Activists
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2020
    List Price

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Meanwhile, back in the darkened alleys of a city near you… trouble is brewing. A fight breaks out. A mugger shakes down an innocent tourist. Inequality is on the rise.

Enter our heroes. Dark Guardian chases off an angry drug dealer in Manhattan. Mr. Xtreme charges in and breaks up a San Diego bar brawl. T.O. Ronin hugs a homeless man on the snowy streets of Toronto. These aren’t the big-screen or comic-book heroes that have been increasingly dominating pop culture. They’re real-life superheroes: individuals who take on masked personae to fight crime and help the helpless. They don’t have superpowers, but they do try to make the world a better place.

Lifelong comic-book fan and veteran journalist Peter Nowak goes to the source of this phenomenon, meeting with real-life superheroes in North America and around the world to get their stories and investigate what the movement means for the future of society. To some people, real-life superheroes may seem like quirky outliers or dangerous vigilantes but, as Nowak shows, they are also archetypes whose job is to remind us of the better part of human nature.

About the author

Peter Nowak is an award-winning journalist, best-selling author, and syndicated blogger. He has been an editor and writer for the Globe and Mail, and a correspondent for the Boston Globe, the Sydney Morning Herald, the South China Morning Post, the National Post, the Vancouver Sun, and the Toronto Star. While working in New Zealand, he was named the technology journalist of the year by the Telecommunications Users Association; back in Canada, he won the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance award for excellence in science and technology reporting. He is now a syndicated blogger for Maclean's, Canadian Business and regular contributor to the Globe and Mail, the Huffington Post, MSN, CBC and the New Scientist. His first book, Sex, Bombs and Burgers: How War, Porn and Fast Food Created Technology as We Know It, was a national bestseller and was published in Canada, the UK, and the US. Humans 3.0 will be released simultaneously in Canada by Goose Lane Editions and in the US by Lyons Press.

Peter Nowak's profile page

Editorial Reviews

“Peter Nowak breaches various Fortresses of Solitude and secret hideaways to interview people who have chosen to don capes and cowls in real life. Enlightening, surprising and often moving, this book chronicles the emergence of a growing subculture inspired by superheroic adventurers.”

Mark Askwith, creator / producer of Prisoners of Gravity

“The Rise of Real-Life Superheroes takes its subject seriously, and offers a globally-attuned and historically-informed account of an unlikely phenomenon. Peter Nowak avoids snark and cynicism; his kind-hearted yet honest analysis fits well with his material and leaves the reader feeling, in a small way, encouraged.”

Damien K. Picariello, author of Politics in Gotham

“We’ve all had the experience of watching a superhero movie or reading a comic, and then fantasizing about fighting bad guys for real. In The Rise of Real-Life Superheroes, Peter Nowak does a great job exploring how a person could wear a cape and cowl to actually fight crime in real life, and he walks the line between respect and skepticism in learning why certain people take The Hero’s Journey to heart.”

Eric Molinsky, host of Imaginary Worlds podcast

“In this fast-moving and hard-hitting book, Peter Nowak considers what drives some of us to read about superheroes, and a select group to try to be them. Engagingly written and well-researched, this is a welcome addition to superhero scholarship.”

Michael Goodrum, author of Superheroes and American Self Image

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