March 13-14, 2021
Superheroes and superheroines are in crisis. In times of powerful social and political upheaval, good and evil are no longer clearly differentiated. This is problematic for a genre that traditionally deals with clear-cut moral boundaries, not least because the superhero genre traditionally celebrates the eternal fight of the good and immaculate hero against the evil, ruthless villain. From the Dark Age of Comic Books onwards, solemn types of anti-heroes and anti-heroines have taken center stage; protagonists that continually and deeply doubt and question everything: their own position, the rationale behind the means to an end, the application of violence and vigilante law as well as the ever-changing question of good and evil.
Religion and the church can provide guidance to these questions, but just like these superheroic types, they are deeply caught in an existential crisis. Beset by recurring scandals, the globalized church is losing importance and support in oursecularized society. Especially in light of this development, it is the more astonishing that topics of faith and parochial locations are featured centrally in the superhero discourse. Notions of the paranormal, god-like creatures and metaphorical battles between angels and demon are as much part of the discourse as is the direct depiction of the church and religions topics: there are instances where Daredevil goes to confession, Dr Manhatten walks over the water, Nightcrawler kisses the cross in prayer; there is Superman’s Kryptonian Name “Kal-El” that translates as “the voice of God” from Hebrew (not forgetting that Superman was written, drawn and published by Jewish artists) or Ms Marvel representing the first ever Muslim superheroine in the Marvel universe.
The colloquium wants to trace the close interconnections between religion, faith, divinity and morals in the superheroic discourse. Where do we find religious references and why are they present? How significant are these themes in the comics and how are they staged formally, aesthetically and graphically?
Indicative themes for discussion may include but are not limited to:
- Religious symbolism and its significance (Batman’s epithet as the Caped Crusader)
- Faith as a defining quality of a character(Daredevil, Nightcrawler, Father Jordan)
- Transfer of religious characters (Thor, Loki, Ares)•Religious texts and rituals as sources
- Divinity, pseudo-divinity and narratives of faith and salvation(Superman and other figures of salvation)
- Religious locations and institutions and their representation in comics(St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Asgard)
- Representations of angels, demons, witches and devils (The Joker as a representation of the devil, Hellboy, Scarlet Witch)
- (Coping with and negotiating) experiences of (Jewish) diaspora (Shuster / Siegel)
- Intersectionality / diversity (Daredevil’s othering as a Catholic in protestant America)
We especially encourage interdisciplinary approaches and perspectives and we welcome analyses of comics, film, TV, radio drama and other media.
We invite all scholars –especially students, PhD students and post-docs – to send in proposals for individual papers or more experimental approaches such as workshops, reading groups, discussions etc. Contributions will be presented at a colloquium at the Wolfsburg (Mülheim an der Ruhr) on March 13th and 14th, 2021.
The colloquium emphases a participatory exchange between the academia and society so that the event will feature smaller contributions by students as well as members from the Wolfsburg’s sponsorship program for gifted pupils. In light of this, we particularly welcome contributions that pursue a multifaceted, experimental and even interactive approach to the subject matter. This is to advertise to as broad a target audience as possible, the appeal, significance and importance of diverse academic disciplines and courses of study, especially for comic studies.
Papers are welcome on both German and English. Pending the future developments of the current Covid-19 pandemic, the colloquium will take place as an on-site event, an online event or a blend of these two forms. Irrespective of this, the colloquium will feature online elements (ie live-streaming).
250 words abstracts should be submitted to all organizing chairs (see below) by December 7th, 2020. Please include (in the mail or the proposal) if, following Covdi-19 restrictions, you will present in person or online only.
We are looking forward to your proposals!
Organizing ChairsDr. Torsten Caeners (firstname.lastname@example.org) Gaspers M.A. (email@example.com) Dr. Matthias Keidel (Matthias.Keidel@bistum-essen.de)
We aim to publish the papers in an edited volume.