December 6 - 8, 2018
Superheroes are transmedia, transcultural, and transhistorical icons, and yet discussion of these caped crusaders often fixate on familiar examples. This conference will join wider scholarly interest in going beyond out-dated definitions of superheroes. We invite papers that unmask international examples, examine superheroes beyond the comic book page, identify historical antecedents, consider real world examples of superheroism, and explore heroes whose secret identities are not cisgender men. From big screen heroes to lesser-known comic book vigilantes and real-life costumed heroes, the conference will include papers that consider superheroes across all eras and media platforms.
Keynote Speaker: Comics artist, writer, and “herstorian” Trina Robbins
We are inviting submissions for individual research papers of 20 minutes as well as pre-formed panels. Proposal topics might include, but are not limited to, the following areas:
- Superheroes Beyond… Comics
Superheroes are often considered comics’ defining content, as traditionally the four colour medium was the only format capable of fully capturing the superhero spectacle. Emboldened by digital technologies, Superheroes can now be found across a rich array of media formats. Proposals are invited that consider superheroes across multiple media platforms including movies, games, television, digital comics, and virtual reality.
- Superheroes Beyond… Men in Tights
It is often suggested that superheroes reflect our attitudes and anxieties. However, while superheroes may articulate society’s interests, they have only recently begun to reflect its diversity. We welcome papers that consider how superheroes are no longer the white heterosexual men that once dominated the genre, with a more diverse array of characters donning capes and cowls.
- Superheroes Beyond (and Before)… 1938
Is the vigilante Robin Hood a superhero? What about demigods and mythological icons such as Hercules, Māui, and Artemis? Superheroes are notoriously hard to define, making it difficult to identify when the pop culture icon first came into existence. We encourage papers that identify early examples of the superhero archetype and chart their influence on the heroes of today and tomorrow.
- Superheroes Beyond… America
Comic books are often described as an American form, and the medium’s most popular character, the superhero, did much to affirm that link with dozens of star-spangled heroes created during the industry’s Golden Age. However, the superhero has been reimagined in a range of contexts to respond to local cultures, politics, and traditions. Papers that consider how superheroes engage with national and regional identities are welcome.
- Superheroes Beyond… Fantasy
The term “superhero” is often applied to real-life individuals who have distinguished themselves through their bravery or compassion. However, superheroes in popular culture are often violent vigilantes. Papers are invited that consider superheroism in everyday settings and how that can be reconciled with the more colourful power fantasies.
- The Superheroes Beyond conference is organised by the Superheroes & Me research team – Angela Ndalianis (Swinburne University of Technology), Liam Burke (Swinburne University of Technology), Elizabeth MacFarlane (University of Melbourne), Wendy Haslem (University of Melbourne), and Ian Gordon (National University of Singapore) – and supported by the Australian Research Council (ARC) and Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI).
Proposals of 250-300 words for individual presentations or full panels, as well as any queries, should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org by May 25, 2018, along with a 150-word bio.
Keynote Speaker Trina Robbins
Trina Robbins has been drawing and writing comics since 1966, when she drew comics for the East Village Other, New York’s iconic underground newspaper, while at the same time designing and selling clothes from her Lower East Side boutique, Broccoli. In 1970, she produced the very first all-woman comic book, It Ain’t me, Babe. In 1972 she was one of the founding mothers of Wimmin’s Comix, the longest-lasting women’s anthology comic book. (1972 – 1992)
In the mid-1980s, tired of hearing publishers and editors say that girls don’t read comics and that women had never drawn comics, she co-wrote (with Catherine Yronwode) Women and the Comics, the first of what would become a series of histories of women cartoonists. She has been responsible for rediscovering previously forgotten early women cartoonists like Nell Brinkley, Tarpe Mills, Barbara Hall, and Lily Renee.
In 1986 she became the first woman to draw a Wonder Woman comic book. In 2013 Trina was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame. In 2017 she was inducted into the Wizard World Hall of Legends, and at the San Diego comic convention she received the Eisner award for editing the two-volume reprint collection of the complete Wimmin’s Comix.
Further Speakers and Industry Guests to be announced.