“Who are you in this vast multiverse, Mr. Strange…?” – The Ancient One, Doctor Strange (2016)
The superhero genre has evolved far, far beyond its origins in the late 1930’s within American comics as disposable entertainment for young children. Eighty-four years after the debut of Superman in Action Comics #1, the superhero today represents one of the dominant discourses of global popular culture, embodied via thousands of characters worldwide negotiated in and through all types of media.
Alongside successive incursions into multiple media over the last eight decades – notably cinema, where Christopher Reeve’s Superman (1978-1987) or Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man (2008-19) are seen to have provided “quintessential” portrayals of their respective characters – the superhero has also negotiated significant expansions of their audience via exposure to multiple generations and an increasingly broad age range of target groups.
With the genre’s evolution and diversification having significantly accelerated since the turn of the millennium, generating a vast diversity of creative expressions, the superhero discourse has to contend not only with highly different and often conflicting expectations directing the character’s various portrayals but also stringent demands regarding their alignment with real world issues. Consequently, this has resulted in an increasing fragmentation within the genre.
While the superhero genre has negotiated fragmentation throughout its history, the genre’s current status as a dominant example of global popular culture has exacerbated these tendencies and processes. This in turn has allowed the discourse to adapt meaningfully to a globalized postmodern world that is itself characterized by continuous processes of economic, social, technological, communal as well as individual fragmentation.
Identity can be seen as a core arena for such fragmentation within the superhero genre, given the centrifugal tensions between the superhero’s crime-fighting persona and their civilian alter-ego that provide the basis of teeming narratives. Fragmentation provides the basis – and can be employed as an analytical framework for – the investigation of individual identities such as Batman and The Joker in White Knight (2017-18) or the array of intertextual versions of a single character, as seen in the Spider-Man series Spider-Geddon (2018). Yet, this can also extend into political and communal identities (Captain America: Civil War), gender identities (Loki, Captain Marvel), race and ethnicity (the Miles Morales incarnation of Spider-Man, Falcon), Capitalism and Technocracy (Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark) and family (Superman, Black Widow).
Fragmentation is also a direct consequence of the superhero genre’s formidable transmedial presence. Serialised superhero narratives now occupy such a wide array of media platforms, the characters and story worlds are spread far and wide intertextually, leading to a mosaic presence and distinct facets via medium, be it comics, video games, social media etc. The recent cinematic release of Spider-Man: No Way Home and forthcoming releases of The Flash and Dr Strange In The Multiverse of Madness indicate a rise in combining fragmented story worlds
For its sixth edition, The Superhero Project invites inter-disciplinary discussion on the theme of “The Fragmented Superhero”. From a broad understanding of the concept of fragmentation, indicative themes for discussion in the context of the superhero discourse across all media and prior decades may include but are not limited to:
· Processes and effects of fragmentation in/and Identity
· Disguise as a means and an expression of fragmentation
· Fragmentation in the Context of Sexuality, Gender and Ethnicity
· Fragmentation and Adaptation
· Fragmentation as / and Deconstruction
· Fragmentation and Globalisation
· Fragmentation and Postmodernity
· Social Responsibility / Cultural Diagnosis through Processes of Fragmentation (individual, social, genre, etc.)
· Processes and effects of fragmentation in the context of Diversity and Inclusion
· Fragmentation and / in Fan Cultures and Audiences
· Fragmentation in / through Cross- and Transmedia
· Fragmentation and Mythology
· Fragmentation via Intertextuality
What to Send:
300 word abstracts should be submitted by Monday 28th February, 2022 to the following e-mail addresses: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com .
E-mails should be entitled: SUPER VI 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 14th , 2022.
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. We believe it is a mark of personal courtesy and professional respect to your colleagues that all delegates should attend for the full duration of The Superhero Project: 6th Global Meeting. If you have any questions, the Organising Chairs will be only to happy to assist.
Danny Graydon (University of Hertfordshire): firstname.lastname@example.org
Torsten Caeners (University of Duisburg-Essen): email@example.com