“Where does he get those wonderful toys…?” – Batman (1989)
Technology has been a constant presence in the Superhero genre, starting from the very first panel of Superman’s debut in Action Comics #1 (1938) which depicted the space rocket transporting the infant Kal-El from the dying planet Krypton to Earth. The following year, Marvel Comics #1 introduced The Human Torch - an android who could surround themselves by flames - initially a monstrosity of technological otherness, but quickly becoming a hero with a society-benefitting mission.
In the decades since, technology has suffused the genre, from the many science fictional oddities of the Silver Age (1956-70), to informing the origins of disparate characters such as The Flash, Iron Man, Ant-Man, Cyborg, Blue Beetle, Vision and Black Panther. More recently, technology has been utilised as a means of infusing the genre with a degree of realism and aligning the superhero with our contemporary world of rapid technological progress.
Technology in the superhero genre is largely presented as a form of augmentation and the non-superpowered Batman – marking his 85th anniversary this year – is a character very much defined by this, not least by his signature and iconic utilisation of the Batmobile. Batman’s iconic costume was mainly defined as a means of promulgating fear in his criminal prey – with the utility belt containing gadgetry - it is now an intensely technological construct of multi-faceted purpose (Batman Begins, Arkham Asylum) that provides his power as a superhero.
Within superhero cinema, the representation of technology is a way of aligning the characters with contemporary screen action heroes (the gadget-infused James Bond) and our modern culture. The flagstone of Marvel Cinematic Universe is an explicitly technological superhero – Iron Man – and characters like Spider-Man are less defined by their physical powers, than the technological capabilities of their costume, from the familiar and plausible (drones, augmented reality) to the comparative “magic” of nanotechnology.
Outside the narrative worlds, Technology has a fundamental role to play in the production of superhero spectacle. The tagline of Richard Donner’s seminal 1978 film Superman: The Movie – “You’ll Believe A Man Can Fly” – was a bold proclamation of then bleeding-edge practical special effects technology that finally enabled cinema to be equal to Superman’s grand spectacle. Since the renaissance of superhero cinema with 2000’s X-Men, the growth of digital-based visual effects has been a driving factor in the achievement of most, if not all, screen superhero spectacle, realising what was mostly impossible previously.
For its eighth edition, The Superhero Project invites exploration and discussion of the potent intersection between the superhero and technology. Indicative themes for discussion in the context of superhero discourse may include but are not limited to:
Technology as Spectacle
Technology as Power
Technology and Costume
Technology and Origin Stories
Technology and Supervillainy
Technology as Otherness
Reflection of Contemporary Technologies
Technology as Magic
Representations of AI
Technology and World-Building
WHAT TO SEND:
300 word abstracts should be submitted by Monday 11th March, 2024 to the following e-mail addresses: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org .
E-mails should be entitled: SUPER VIII 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 25th, 2024.
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 too happy to assist.
Danny Graydon (University of Hertfordshire): email@example.com
Dr Torsten Caeners (University of Duisburg-Essen): firstname.lastname@example.org