Mutants and Mystics: Science Fiction, Superhero Comics, and the Paranormal

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Product Details

University of Chicago Press
Publish Date
6.2 X 1.3 X 8.5 inches | 1.9 pounds
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About the Author

Jeffrey Kripal is the J. Newton Rayzor Professor of Religion and chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Rice University. He is the author of six books, including Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion and Authors of the Impossible: The Paranormal and the Sacred.


"An invigorating read, and a cross-cultural bonanza you never saw coming. Boldly embracing the enigmatic Id, Jeffrey Kripal has gathered the silver threads of grand mythologies, sacred texts, and mystical creeds, binding them to the visionary Super-Ego at the heart of modern literature's bastard sons--comic books and science fiction."

--Barry Windsor-Smith

"Mutants and Mystics chronicles the emergence of a complex and startlingly dangerous energy in our world. Because we don't know what it is, we identify it as paranormal. But perhaps what it should really be called is 'abnormally powerful, ' for, as Jeff Kripal reveals with satisfying skill in this book, it has come to define the very essence of the popular imagination. Instead of fairies and sylphs and gorgons, our rationalist world is defied by a folklore of superheroes, supervillains, and dangerous strangers, and, as I know all too well, can be shattered by them in some very real ways. Mutants and Mystics is the first book that shines the light of reason and insight into this swarming forest. As a wanderer here, I found the light that poured from these pages as blessed as it is breathtaking."

--Whitley Strieber, author of Communion

"For most of the history of popular culture, the creators and the academics--the storytellers and the scholars--have sat in different rooms, in different houses, virtually on different worlds, having virtually no contact with each other. Even when the professors began to discover the secret, inner meanings and contexts of B-movies and comic books and science-fiction pulps, there was little contact between the classroom and the creators. Now, however, Jeffrey J. Kripal has come along--both analyst and aficionado, examiner and enthusiast. He bridges the gap between spirituality and its sometimes seedy outcroppings in pop culture, and forges--or rather, reveals--a synthesis that was really there all along, if so many guys with PhD's hadn't had a vested interest in not recognizing it. More power to him, I say! Or rather--more super-power!"

--Roy Thomas, writer of The Uncanny X-Men, Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk, and more

"Jeffrey Kripal is not only serious about some very strange stuff in Mutants and Mystics, he is seriously smart and singularly thought-provoking about it. Trust me, I've been there and this book is an excellent guide, maybe even a new map of mysterious terrain first charted in antiquity. Always scholarly yet never stuffy, always fun but never superficial, Mutants and Mystics makes a solid case for contemplating ancient myth as secret (if garbled) history and demonstrates how that myth/history is perpetuated in pop culture, whether today's creators are fully aware of what they're doing or not."

--Doug Moench, author of Batman and The Big Book of the Unexplained
"The message is that we need to step backwards from our culture to see these hidden patterns, and in this endeavor Kripal provides new maps of the secret world of superpowers. To access these deep strata of reality and to achieve a measure of self-realisation, we need to embrace this strangeness and not be frightened of it. . . . Kripal has a lively style and a deep love of (perhaps reverence for) his subject matter."--Fortean Times
"Intriguing."--Times Literary Supplement