Reading the Superhuman, Embodiments of Multiplicity in Marvel Comics
Peppard, Anna Florence
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The goal of this project is to identify, analyze and historicize the operation of embodied multiplicities within superhero comics from the postwar era using the example of comics produced by the Marvel group between 1961 and 2005. This project argues that the superheroes created during this era reflect major social and cultural upheavals that continue to reshape the postwar era; this includes the dawn of the Atomic Age as well as the rise of the Civil Rights movement, second-wave feminism, the sexual revolution, and liberal multiculturalism. This project furthermore argues that superhero comics are especially useful vehicles for exploring both the practice of polysemy in popular texts as well as the ongoing evolution of popular bodily desires and fantasies within postwar American society and culture. Reading superhero comics as a body genre, this project offers a formally and visually driven analysis focusing on evolving representations of gender, race, sexuality, and disability, and the fantasies and anxieties those representations reflect, resist, and negotiate. Ultimately, this project argues that superhero comics embodied multiplicities offer especially rich opportunities for subverting hegemonic narratives that would devalue the meaning of bodily expression and the diversity of bodily experience. It also argues, however, that superhero comics possess especially sophisticated tools for negating such subversion, routinely mobilizing seeming resistances to hegemonic narratives in ways that in fact reassert those narratives in new, bright costumes and fantastical metaphors.