CFP: The Superhero Project

"The Superhero Project: 3rd Global Meeting"
Die Wolfsburg, Mülheim an der Ruhr, Essen
September 20 - 22, 2019
Stichtag: 15.04.2019

The Bat-Man, a mysterious and adventurous figure, fighting for righteousness and apprehending the wrong doer, in his lone battle against the evil forces of society… his identity remains unknown.” – Detective Comics #27 (1939)

In 2018, the superhero genre reached a remarkable milestone with the eightieth anniversary of Superman, with the character’s signature title of Action Comics reaching its one thousandth issue, which sold over half a million copies and, not unimportantly, finally returned The Man of Steel to his iconic red trunks.

And yet, it was undoubtedly a banner year for the genre beyond that, particularly in the realm of cinema, where the superhero maintains an aggressive dominance: the Marvel Cinematic Universe celebrated its tenth anniversary, its grand inter-connected narrative reaching no less than twenty films (and eleven television series); the Ryan Coogler-directed Black Panther achieved enormous cultural impact, widely deemed to be a vital moment in black American history; the electrifying Spider-Man: Into The Spider Verse set a thrilling new benchmark in animation and a vivid view of the Spider-Man mythos; Aquaman returned some lustre to the faltering movie endeavours of DC Comics, grossing over one billion dollars.

Meanwhile, in the source medium of comics, the superhero genre continues to generate works of great diversity and nuance: Jeff Lemire’s Black Hammer (Dark Horse) explored, with exquisite melancholy, the aftermath of a superhero saga; Superman (DC) has compellingly utilised the character’s role as a father in highlighting his innate goodness; Captain America (Marvel) has powerfully examined the hero’s identity within the contemporary political divisions in the United States; Mister Miracle (DC) masterfully fuses interpersonal family drama with Kirby-esque spectacle; Batman: White Knight (DC) was a striking and thoroughly gripping inversion of the power dynamic between The Dark Knight and his nemesis, The Joker and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (Marvel) offered a heady mix of comedy and female empowerment. In the midst of such vibrant activity, however, the comics industry was rocked by the death of Stan Lee, the “Marvel Bard”, who was very much the genial, effervescently-creative face of the superhero genre for decades.

Soaring into its ninth decade, then, the superhero currently occupies a diverse and expansive space in modern popular culture. Perceived as a modern form of mythology or folklore, the character’s signature emblems are among the most recognisable in the world, functioning as powerful, pervasive and vastly profitable brands. 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

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”. As more and more people wear the symbols of superheroes (via t-shirts et al) as an expression of values as well as fandom, the superhero is becoming us.

The 3rd Global Conference on Superheroes invites inter-disciplinary discussion on superheroes and the notion of the super-heroic. In particular, this edition welcomes a focus on Batman, whose eightieth anniversary is being marked in 2019.

Indicative themes for discussion may include but are not limited to:

  1. Post-Humanism:
    1.  Technology & augmentation / armour
    2. Cyborgs
    3. Prosthesis
    4. The Übermensch
    5. Mutations and genetic engineering
  1. Dual Identities:
    1. The power of the mask
    2. Alter-egos and secret identities
    3. Costume and Disguise
    4. Cosplay
  1. Gender & Ethnicity:
    1. Hyper-masculinity
    2. Depictions of the female superhero
    3. Ethnic diversity in superhero comics and their readership.
  1. Sexuality:
    1. LGBT Superheroes
    2. Queer readings of established characters
    3. Gay Representation in Superhero Comics
    4. Camp and the Superhero
    5. Superheroes vs Sexual Violence
  1. Deconstruction:
    1. The anti-hero
    2. The post-9/11 Superhero
    3. The Everyman superhero
  1. Social Responsibility:
    1. Vigilantism
    2. Superheroes as role models
    3. Childhood play
    4. Heroism and cowardice
  1. The Heroic & the Patriotic:
    1. The monomyth (the hero’s journey)
    2. Patriotism and nationalism
    3. National personification
    4. The Soldier as Superhero
    5. “Truth, justice and the American way”
  1. Pop Culture Depictions:
    1. Adaptation
    2. The superhero as brand
    3. Merchandising and franchising
    4. Fans and cultural capital

What to Send:

300 word abstracts should be submitted by Monday April 15th 2019 to the following e-mail:

If an abstract is accepted for the conference, a full draft paper should be submitted by Friday 16th August 2019. 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: SUPER3 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.

Organising Chairs:

Danny Graydon (University of Hertfordshire):

Torsten Caeners (University of Duisburg-Essen):

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