Superheroes have been the major genre to emerge from comics and graphic novels, saturating popular culture with images of muscular men and sexy women. A major aspect of this genre is identity in the roles played by individuals, the development of identities through extended stories and in the ways the characters inspire audiences. This collection analyses stories from popular comics franchises such as Batman, Captain America, Ms Marvel and X-Men, alongside less well known comics such as Kabuki and Flex Mentallo. It explores what superhero narratives can reveal about our attitudes towards femininity, race, maternity, masculinity and queer culture. Using this approach, the volume asks questions such as why there are no black supervillains in mainstream comics, how second wave feminism and feminist film theory may help us to understand female comic book characters, the ways in which Flex Mentallo transcends the boundaries of straightness and gayness and how both fans and industry appropriate the sexual identity of superheroes.
The book was originally published in a special issue of the Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics.
Section 1 - Race 1. The Ku Klux Klan and the birth of the superhero Chris Gavaler 2. The absence of black supervillains in mainstream comics Philip Lamarr Cunningham 3. Islam’s Trojan horse: battling perceptions of Muslim women in The 99 Edwin Shirin Section 2 - Narrative and the Development of Superhero Identities 4. The pursuit of identity in the face of paradox: indeterminacy, structure and repetition in Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman Clare Pitkethly 5. The Dark Knight under revision Molly Hatcher Section 3 - Boys and Girls 6. Scott Pilgrim vs. hegemony: nostalgia, remediation, and heteronormativity Ryan Lizardi 7. Good Girl Art – facing images of women in David Mack’s Kabuki Frida Beckman 8. Who does she think she is? Female comic-book characters, second-wave feminism, and feminist film theory Mel Gibson 9. Seeing double - the transforming personalities of Alan Moore's Promethea and the Ulster Cycle's Cuchulain Hannah Means Shannon 10. The body unbound: Empowered, heroism, and body image Ruth J. Beerman Section 4 - Supermoms 11. The feminine mystique: feminism, sexuality, motherhood Ross Murray 12. Supermoms? Maternity and the monstrous-feminine in superhero comics Jeffrey A. Brown Section 5 - Queer 13. Hero of the beach: Flex Mentallo at the end of the worlds Will Brooker 14. Queer resistance, gender performance, and ‘coming out’ of the panel borders in Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III’s Batwoman: Elegy Paul Petrovic Section 6 - Audiences, Reception, Fandom 15. From fan appropriation to industry re-appropriation: the sexual identity of comic superheroes Gemma Corin and Gareth Schott 16. Captain America in the news: changing mediascapes and the appropriation of a superhero Jason Dittmer 17. Altered egos: gay men reading across gender difference in Wonder Woman Andrew R. Spieldenner 18. ‘Nice Cape, Super Faggot!' Male adolescent identity crises in young adult graphic novels Mark Malaby and Melissa Esh