“That's how Dad did it, that's how America does it…and it's worked out pretty well so far…” - Iron Man (Favreau, 2008)
In the early 2000’s, Marvel had firmly re-established itself on screen – via various film studios – with The X-Men (2000-2005) and Spider-Man (2002-2007) trilogies, two Fantastic Four entries (2005 and 2007) and Ang Lee’s Hulk (2003), all of which showcased sustained digital-based comic book spectacle that, in only the prior decade, seemed impossible.
However, the release of Iron Man in 2008 - featuring veteran Hollywood actor Robert Downey Jr in what is now arguably their signature role – began what would be a supremely ambitious process of consolidating Marvel’s iconic stable of superhero characters into a shared universe via the Disney-owned Marvel Studios. In the fifteen years since, The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has become the shining and formidable front line of global representation of the superhero genre, a grand and singular feat of interconnected storytelling across multiple media.
As 2023 opens, the MCU comprises an astonishing thirty films across four “phases” (cumulatively grossing in excess of $28 billion, a tenth of which earned from a single film, 2019’s Avengers: Endgame), sixteen television shows, two TV specials and an array of short films, web series, video games and theme park attractions. Such is the ferocious rate of development, new MCU content will be released approximately every six weeks through to mid-2025.
A spectacular evocation of the superhero genre as a modern mythology, The MCU’s impact on the contemporary superhero landscape has been truly seismic. Guided by a strong fealty to the style and tone of the comics, the franchise has generated an array of screen portrayals widely regarded to be as quintessential as Christopher Reeve’s iconic 1978 performance as Superman and, historically, provided the first blockbuster super-team film with 2012’s Avengers Assemble.
Alongside showcases of titanic spectacle (Endgame), the MCU has successfully infused superhero cinema with comedy (Guardians of The Galaxy, Thor: Ragnarok, Ant-Man), genre hybridity (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Black Widow), cultural diversity (Black Panther, Shang-Chi) and, strikingly, integration of pre-MCU Marvel films (Spider-Man: No Way Home, Deadpool 3). In the MCU’s televisual endeavours, the Netflix series Daredevil, Jessica Jones, The Punisher and Luke Cage provided a rich infusion of the adult, “grim and gritty” tone that has defined the superhero genre in recent decades, alongside nuanced narratives that reflected contemporary social issues, fulsomely echoed in the recent Disney+ series.
As the MCU enters Phase Five, questions abound regarding the franchise’s ability to recalibrate and progress after the MCU’s inaugural 19-film Infinity Saga and, as a prodigious generator of mainstream corporate entertainment content, has the MCU simply become too big and too demanding of its devoted audiences? Moreover, has the MCU’s de facto representation of the superhero as a globally dominant screen action hero in the 21st century fundamentally altered what a superhero is?
For its seventh edition, The Superhero Project invites inter-disciplinary discussion on The MCU’s first fifteen years, encompassing all of its media outputs. Indicative themes for discussion in the context of superhero discourse may include but are not limited to:
· Fan cultures
· The MCU as Transmedia
· The MCU as Contemporary Mythology
· The MCU and Disneyfication
· Multiversal Storytelling
· Diversity & Inclusion
· The MCU and the Globalised Superhero
· The MCU as ground for Culture Wars
· Representations of Mental Illness / Disability
· Sexuality, Gender & Ethnicity
· Audiences (Relationship with / Demands Upon)
· The MCU and The Hollywood Star System
· Representations of Violence
· Symbiosis with Comics Source Material
What to Send:
300 word abstracts should be submitted by Tuesday 28th February, 2023 to the following e-mail addresses: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org .
E-mails should be entitled: SUPER VII Abstract Submission.
Abstracts should be submitted simultaneously to both Organising Chairs; abstracts should be in MS Word 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.
Accepted proposals will be notified by Monday March 13th , 2023.
We acknowledge receipt and answer to all proposals submitted. If you do not receive a reply from us in a week you should assume we did not receive your proposal, If this is the case, please do resend to both e-mail addresses. If you have any questions, the Organising Chairs will be only to happy to assist.
Danny Graydon (University of Hertfordshire): email@example.com
Torsten Caeners (University of Duisburg-Essen): firstname.lastname@example.org