Cates's essay considers the benefits and constraints of genre within superhero comics and recent alternative comics that make use of the figure of the superhero. Individual superheroes (Batman, Superman, Spider-Man) emerge as nearly allegorical figures for particular ideas or ideologies; the figure of the superhero more generally is also figured in these works as a symbol of arrested maturity, both within the fictions and within a larger metafiction about the genre. Works discussed in detail include Frank Miller's The Dark KnightReturns (1986), Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons's Watchmen (1986–87), Mark Waid and Alex Ross's Kingdom Come (1997), Chris Ware's JimmyCorrigan (2000), and Daniel Clowes's David Boring (2002) and “The Death Ray” (2004).

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