CFP: The Superhero Project – 4th Global Meeting

September 4-6, 2020
Die Wolfsburg, Mülheim an der Ruhr, Essen, Germany
Stichtag: 01.06.2020

“What would you prefer, yellow spandex…?” – X-Men (2000)

2020 marks twenty years since the release of X-Men, which sparked a re-emergence of the superhero on screen and led to a spectacular ascent towards being the most successful and globally popular genre in cinema history, with dozens of films produced and many billions of dollars earned in the last two decades – an aggressive dominance that shows no signs of receding.

In the last year, the titanic Avengers: Endgame provided the superhero film with its biggest-ever canvas and, sandwiched between Captain Marvel and Spider-Man: Far From Home, brought Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to a triumphant finish, after eleven years and twenty-three films. Yet, late in 2019, DC placed its most iconic villain centre stage in Todd Phillips’ Joker, which provided a truly striking take on Batman’s arch-nemesis, drawing on 70’s New Hollywood aesthetics and exploring issues such as mental health and social revolt. The James Gunn-produced Brightburn merged the superhero genre with Horror to generate a forbiddingly dark mirror of the Superman origin story. Meanwhile, on television, the full CW line of DC Comics shows ambitiously collided in an adaptation of the signature 1980’s event Crisis on Infinite Earths, which surprisingly provided actor Brandon Routh a belated opportunity to reprise the role of Superman.

Within the source medium of Comics, the genre continued to show great diversity and invention, along with experimentation: Gene Luen Yang and Girihu’s superb Superman Smashes The Klan took a famous storyline from the 1940’s Superman radio show and used it to view The Man of Steel via the immigrant experience, while in the mainstream comics, Brian Michael Bendis controversially dispensed with a core tenet of the superhero mythology, as Superman revealed his secret identity to the world. The Unstoppable Wasp was a light-hearted wonder, firmly focused on fun and easily accessible. After decades of being rooted in science, Immortal Hulktook a sharp turn into the realms of Horror and Grant Morrison’s take on Green Lantern vigorously resurrected the Silver Age of Comics. In Tom King’s Mister Miracle, the superhero is viewed through the lenses of mental health and political anxieties.

Soaring into its ninth decade, then, the superhero currently occupies a diverse, expansive and dominant space in modern popular culture. Perceived as a modern form of mythology or folklore, the characters 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 Project: 4th Global Meeting invites inter-disciplinary discussion on superheroes and notions of the super-heroic.  Indicative themes for discussion may include but are not limited to:

1. Post-Humanism:

– Technology & augmentation / armour
– Cyborgs
– Prosthesis
– The Übermensch
– Mutations and genetic engineering

2. Dual Identities:

– The power of the mask
– Alter-egos and secret identities
– Costume and Disguise
– Cosplay

3. Gender & Ethnicity:
– Hyper-masculinity
– Depictions of the female superhero
– Ethnic diversity in superhero comics and their readership.

4. Sexuality:
– LGBT Superheroes
– Queer readings of established characters
– Gay Representation in Superhero Comics
– Camp and the Superhero
– Superheroes vs Sexual Violence

5. Deconstruction:
– The anti-hero
– The post-9/11 Superhero
– The Everyman superhero

6. Social Responsibility:
– Vigilantism
– Superheroes as role models
– Childhood play
– Heroism and cowardice

7. The Heroic & the Patriotic:
– The monomyth (the hero’s journey)
– Patriotism and nationalism
– National personification
– The Soldier as Superhero
– „Truth, justice and the American way“

8. Pop Culture Depictions:
– Adaptation
– The superhero as brand
– Merchandising and franchising
– Fans and cultural capital

What to Send:

300 word abstracts should be submitted by Monday June 1st, 2020 to the following e-mail addresses: and .

Accepted proposals will be notified by June 08th, 2020.

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: SUPER4 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 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! If this is the case, please do resend to both e-mail addresses.

Organising Chairs:

Danny Graydon (University of Hertfordshire):
Torsten Caeners (University of Duisburg-Essen):

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