April 22, 2015
Posted by Danny
It’s my great pleasure to announce that I will working with Inter-Disciplinary.net to lead an academic conference on The Superhero to be held in Oxford this September. I presented, with my colleague Barbara Brownie, my first academic paper – entitled “Negotiating Ordinariness and Otherness: Superman, Clark Kent and the Superhero Masquerade“ – at an I-D.net conference devoted to Comics in 2013 and, in the wake of that invigorating experience, I was encouraged by Barbara to propose an entire conference devoted to Superheroes. Happily, Simon Bacon at I-D.net was most eager to pursue the idea and, having developed a proposal that was rigorously vetted by their panel of reviewers, we are good to go for the inaugural meeting of what I very much hope will be a long-term academic concern, for myself and I-D.net. As my endeavours in Academia progress and expand, this is both a milestone and a very exciting prospect indeed. Hopefully, much will come of it!
Here’s the call for papers:
CALL FOR PAPERS: The Superhero
The Superhero Project: 1st Global Meeting
Monday 7th September – Wednesday 9th September 2015
Mansfield College, Oxford, United Kingdom
“Superman! Champion of the oppressed, the physical marvel who had sworn to devote his existence to helping those in need.” – Action Comics #1, 1938 (DC Comics)
In the twenty-first century, in which notions of good versus evil have thrived, the word “hero” has taken on a striking resonance. As a consequence, the decades-old superhero of comic books (as established in the guise of Superman in 1938) has been thrust to the forefront of mainstream popular culture, present across multiple media and the character’s signature emblems now among the most recognisable in the world, functioning as powerful, pervasive and vastly profitable brands
Most notably, this domination is no more apparent than the realms of blockbuster cinema. With Superman: The Movie (1978) having provided an epic, special effects-fuelled spectacle finally worthy of the superhero’s stature, and the vast cultural and commercial impact of Batman (1989), the superhero movie made a popular return to prominence with X-Men (2000), leading to billion-dollar earning and critically-lauded films such as The Dark Knight (2008) and The Avengers (2012) – and with more than thirty further films set to be released by 2020.
Meanwhile, real individuals are being elevated to the status of superhero – literally and metaphorically. The “First Responders” of the 9/11 attacks were labelled as super-heroic, new military technologies enable personnel to surpass their natural physical potential in combat, while the 2013 “Soldiers of Steel” media campaign directly equates US National Guard soldiers to the titular “Man of Steel”, Superman.
After seventy-seven years of comic book existence, the superhero remains regarded as an inspirational figure, but also a divisive one, perceived in some quarters as a promoter of violence and vigilantism. Superheroes position themselves as purveyors of a specific set of moral values, sometimes above the law, but always striving for the greater good. Superheroes are typically depicted in a constant struggle with notions of personal responsibility, and questions of identity and destiny, in line with Joseph Campbell’s “Monomyth”.
Perceived as a modern form of mythology or folklore, the superhero currently occupies a diverse and expansive space in modern popular culture. Yet, while still largely American in focus, the superhero has become increasingly international, capable of reflecting specific issues and operating as a powerful messenger of them – a power they have possessed since their inception. As more and more people wear the symbols of superheroes (via t-shirts at al) as an expression of values as well as fandom, the superhero is becoming us.
The 1st Global Conference on Superheroes invites inter-disciplinary discussion on superheroes and the notion of the super-heroic. Areas of discussion could include: the propagation of the notion of the soldier as superhero; post-human technological augmentation and the cyborg body as enabled by Google Glass; the real-life costumed superhero group known as The Rain City Superhero Movement; India’s superhero Priya and the character’s addressing of sexual violence; Marvel Comics’ decision to change the gender of Norse god superhero Thor and the ethnicity of Spider-Man; superhero movies’ presentation of urban mass disaster as spectacle; the co-opting of the Guy Fawkes mask as made famous by Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta mask by social activist group Anonymous.
Indicative themes for discussion may include but are not limited to:
– Technology & augmentation / armour
– The Übermensch
– Mutations and genetic engineering
- Dual Identities:
– The power of the mask
– Alter-egos and secret identities
– Costume and Disguise
- Gender & Ethnicity:
– Depictions of the female superhero
– Ethnic diversity in superhero comics and their readership.
– LGBT Superheroes
– Queer readings of established characters
– Gay Representation in Superhero Comics
– Camp and the Superhero
– Superheroes vs Sexual Violence
– The anti-hero
– The post-9/11 Superhero
– The Everyman superhero
- Social Responsibility:
– Superheroes as role models
– Childhood play
– Heroism and cowardice
- The Heroic & the Patriotic:
– The monomyth (the hero’s journey)
– Patriotism and nationalism
– National personification
– The Soldier as Superhero
– “Truth, justice and the American way”
- Pop Culture Depictions:
– The superhero as brand
– Merchandising and franchising
– Fans and cultural capital
In addition to the presentation of conference papers, the Steering Group welcomes the submission of shorts workshops and accounts of professional practice, as well as other contributions, including performances. It particularly welcomes the submission of pre-formed panel proposals.
What to Send:
300 word abstracts should be submitted by Friday 5th June 2015. If an abstract is accepted for the conference, a full draft paper should be submitted by Friday 7th August 2015. Abstracts should be submitted simultaneously to both Organising Chairs; abstracts may be in Word or RTF formats with the following information and in this order:
- a) author(s), b) affiliation as you would like it to appear in programme, c) email address, d) title of proposal, e) body of proposal, f) up to 10 keywords.
E-mails should be entitled: SUPER1 Abstract Submission.
Please use plain text (Times Roman 12) and abstain from using any special formatting, characters or emphasis (such as bold, italics or underline). We acknowledge receipt and answer to all paper proposals submitted. If you do not receive a reply from us in a week you should assume we did not receive your proposal; it might be lost in cyberspace! We suggest, then, to look for an alternative electronic route or resend.
Danny Graydon: [email protected]
Rob Fisher: [email protected]
The conference is part of the ‘Ethos’ series of research projects. The aim of the conference is to bring together people from different areas and interests to share ideas and explore various discussions which are innovative and exciting. All proposals accepted for and presented at the conference must be in English and will be eligible for publication in an ISBN eBook. Selected proposals may be developed for publication in a themed hard copy volume(s). All publications from the conference will require editors, to be chosen from interested delegates from the conference.
Inter-Disciplinary.Net believes it is a mark of personal courtesy and professional respect to your colleagues that all delegates should attend for the full duration of the meeting. If you are unable to make this commitment, please do not submit an abstract for presentation.
Please note: Inter-Disciplinary.Net is a not-for-profit network and we are not in a position to be able to assist with conference travel or subsistence.