Aside from Batman and Superman, Wonder Woman might be the most famous caped crusader around, and she's certainly the most famous superheroine. But as Jill Lepore's The Secret History of Wonder Woman reveals, her origins might be even more interesting than her travails on the comic-book page. Created by William Moulton Marston, who also invented the lie-detector test, Wonder Woman has origins in his ardent feminism, and her adventures revealed many of Marston's own secrets, including a dalliance with bigamy. When he died, the character was largely neutered, but she may still hold the key to many of the feminist movements of the '60s and beyond. Even if you've never picked up a Wonder Woman comic, this is a fascinating look at the brilliant and complicated man who created her.
Appearances: City Arts & Lectures, 11/13
Remember the Danish political cartoonist who got in hot water with Muslim terrorists for drawing Muhammad? Brock Clarke has turned him into the protagonist of his quirky, darkly humorous new novel The Happiest People on Earth, imagining him as a witness-protection refugee in a small town in upstate New York. Given a new job as a high-school guidance counselor, he begins having an affair with the principal's wife, who is still trying to get over a past romance with a CIA operative—one of many hidden in the town. The book deftly skewers Americans' obsession with safety and security, with a bit of spy-thriller action to boot.
Hip-hop's origins in late-'70s New York are complex and fascinating, and Ed Piskor's graphic novel Hip-Hop Family Tree is an obsessively researched look at how young upstarts like Grandmaster Flash, Kurtis Blow, and The Sugarhill Gang originated the form. Along the way, Blondie and The Clash make cameos, Fab 5 Freddy's rise from graffiti artist to art-world darling is chronicled, and the main players go from underground to mainstream. Made with care and beautifully drawn, it will resonate with anyone who loves hip-hop—and it's being sold in a two-volume collection with a bonus mini-comic, just in time for the holidays.
Appearances: City Lights, 11/20