cover image Nerd: Adventures in Fandom from This Universe to the Multiverse

Nerd: Adventures in Fandom from This Universe to the Multiverse

Maya Phillips. Atria, $27 (288p) ISBN 978-1-982165-77-2

Phillips (Erou) casts a keen eye, honed as a New York Times art critic, on the comics and cartoon figures that shaped her in this astute collection. In “The Animation Domination, Toonami, and Hellmouth High,” she breaks down her fandom as her tastes evolved from superhero cartoons to teen horror, and recounts her father, exhausted from an overnight shift, settling in to watch TV with her: “These Saturday morning cartoons gave us a universe that was infinite.” In “Moon Prism Power, Make Up!” Phillips explores anime’s subversive representation of girlhood and queer relationships, and in the book’s most affecting essay, “The Birth of a Black Hero,” she grapples with her lifelong love of an art form that excluded her in its representation of the heroic—until, that is, she and her mother attend a screening of Black Panther in a Long Island theater: “I, a fan who had grown up seeing white heroes, saw a powerful and multifaceted depiction of Blackness. It felt like a homecoming.” Sometimes Phillips’s detailing of cartoon plots verges on encyclopedic, but for the most part, she keeps things brisk and is never short on sharp reflections. These sparkling essays demolish the boundaries between high and low art. (Oct.)