comic books

#NeMLA17 #S306: “Transformation Sequences in Comics,” Thu Mar 23, 4:30 PM in Dover A

On Thursday, March 23, 2017, at 4:30 PM, I will be chairing the session “Masks, Mutations, and Metamorphoses: Transformation Sequences in Comics,” at the 2017 Baltimore meeting of the Northeast Modern Language Association, organized by my colleague Rafael Ponce-Cordero at Keene State College. I had helped Rafael with writing of the session description:

The transformation sequence is standard to comics: Clark Kent rushes out of the phone booth and is now Superman, Usagi Tsukino spins and lights up to transform into Sailor Moon, Kamala Khan experiences terrigenesis to become Ms. Marvel, and Bruce Banner hulks out into a giant green rage monster. This session welcomes submissions that look at transformations not only of characters but of the graphic narrative form, and how those alterations affect other narrative practices in the novel, film, and television.

I’m honored to chair on Rafael’s behalf.

Below is the lineup:

  • “The Interrelation of Transformation, Ethnicity, and Form in American Born Chinese
    Kom Kunyosying, Nashua Community College
  • “The Gay Superheroine As Filipino: A Postcolonial Queerying of ZsaZsa Zaturnnah
    Christian Ylagan, Western University
  • “Rejecting the Mainstream: Transformative Rage in Queer Comics”
    Tesla Cariani, Emory University

The session is in Dover A on the Third Floor of the Marriott Waterfront. If you can’t make it, message questions to me on Twitter @dereksmcgrath or at the hashtags #S306 #NeMLA17 between 4:30 PM and 6:30 PM.


“Daddy Don’t Get Scared!” Gender Problems in Ant-Man

The film presents its two fathers, Scott Lang and Hank Pym, as acting on behalf of their daughters. But their actions are also on behalf of themselves—to the detriment of developing one female character. And the word I repeat too often below is “frustrating.”

Ant-Man (2015, directed by Peyton Reed) is a bizarre film to watch, not only because of its complicated production history, its momentary immersion into the Microverse, or the fact that freaking Ant-Man is getting a film before Black Panther, Runaways, Captain Marvel, or Ms. Marvel. 

No, the film is also bizarre given its approach to representing men and women. 


Call for Papers at Northeast MLA: Failed Film Adaptations, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Superheroes of the Households, and More! (Deadline: September 30, 2015)

Conferences are keeping me busy.

Not only will Keith McCleary at UC San Diego and I be hosting the roundtable “Developments in Comics Pedagogy” at the January 2016 meeting of the Modern Language Association in Austin, Texas, but I get to work on additional panels about comics, graphic narratives, and now film adaptations at another convention.

The Summer 2015 newsletter for the Northeast Modern Language Association, that I co-designed and edited, is arriving soon in members’ mailboxes, with a long list of 400 CFPs for sessions the organization is hosting at its March 2016 meeting in Hartford, Connecticut. You can read (and submit to) the CFPs online now, I’m scheduling daily tweets of CFPs @northeastMLA

But I also want to share some CFPs for sessions I’m co-organizing or that I have discussed with colleagues. I have included links and descriptions of those CFPs below. The deadline is September 30, 2015:

The Marvel Cinematic Universe as LiteratureWith dynamic individual superhuman characters populating a world of complex, interwoven mythologies and origin stories, the films and television series of Marvel Comics Studios experiment with long-form transmedia storytelling. With twelve films and three television series released in less than a decade, all adhering to the same continuity and fictional universe, how can the Marvel Cinematic Universe reveal or offer fresh insight into the ways in which modern cinematic storytelling functions as literature? Approaches may include analysis of one or more films; storytelling across genre and medium; adaptations of the original Marvel Comics to film and television; and applications of various schools of literary and media theory to MCU properties.

The Monster in the House: Domestic Ideology in Superhero NarrativesIn worlds full of superhuman heroes, mythological imaginary creatures and battle narratives of epic scope, what is the role of the domestic? This session seeks proposals investigating the ways in which domestic spaces and domestic ideology function within superhero narratives as sites of union and/or conflict between the human, the subhuman, and the superhuman.

Race and Comics: The Politics of Representation in Sequential ArtThis panel welcomes papers that examine the treatment of race and racial relations in comic books, whether in superhero narratives, graphic memoirs, web comics, or other forms of sequential art both inside and outside the United States. How are comics used to document and represent racialized identities? How have the medium and its surrounding fan communities adapted earlier content to speak to current topics?

“Ruined!” On Failed Adaptations from Page to ScreenThis session will explore adaptations that fail in some way. Among our goals, we would like to identify what could be productive about failed adaptations. How do such failures identify what not to do, and can an adaptation that fails to be faithful to its source material still produce a valuable, worthwhile text? We are particularly interested in proposals that look at the adaptation of older artistic and literary forms in online and/or interactive content.

In addition, I’m happy to see NeMLA feature more panels related to comics: this has been helpful for anyone with an abstract that is related to graphic narratives, as it increases the chances that interested persons can find a session on comics related to their topic, or can find a session that would be more than happy to feature presentations that use comics as their primary texts. I want to see this practice continue at NeMLA, and I am happy to see it take hold at other conferences. 

The deadline is September 30, 2015. Remember that NeMLA now accepts abstracts only submitted to their web site; the links above take you directly to each CFP, and all you need to submit is to register for a free NeMLA user account, for which you may sign up at those links. If you know anyone interested in submitting, please forward these CFP web links via email or social media. 

Upcoming presentations on comics: NeMLA and Dartmouth College

The last few weeks have been busy for me in considering comics and the superhero genre: I’m slowly working through a response to Netflix’s Daredevil (and the frustrating responses I have read regarding its representation of gender, and my frustration with a seeming lack of attention to its representations of race). And the next two weeks will be busy for me as well—not only because of Age of Ultron on Friday and Free Comic Book Day on Saturday, but also because I am presenting at two conferences on consecutive weekends.

I’m in Toronto this week for the 46th annual meeting of the Northeast Modern Language Association. In addition to marketing the conference, including through our Facebook and Twitter pages, I have co-organized with Rafael Ponce-Cordero and Keith McCleary two sessions on “Comedy and Comics.” I also will present at one panel on my research of—and participation in—online satire centered around the superhero genre. “Comedy and Comics” begins Friday, May 1, at 3:00 PM. I have included the panels’ schedule and my abstract below.

The next weekend, I present on using Japanese animation and comics in the classroom at Dartmouth College’s Illustration, Comics, and Animation Conference. I’m excited to share my experiences as a fan and a teacher of popular culture towards creating lesson plans, course web pages, and other content to more effectively teach about and teach with anime and manga. The conference’s schedule is available here, and my abstract is below as well.


MLA CFP: Developments in Comics Pedagogy (200- to 350-word abstracts due March 1)

Keith McCleary at UC San Diego and I are pleased to report that our CFP for the Modern Language Association’s 2016 roundtable, “Developments in Comics Pedagogy,” is now online at Please visit this link for more information:

We welcome submissions (200- to 350-word abstracts) that identify innovative approaches to teaching all aspects of comics—broadly considered in terms of production, research, and appreciation—in upper- and lower-division courses in literature, language, and related studies.

This special session is an exciting opportunity to share your pedagogical practices with other scholars and teachers interested in comic books, graphic novels, and other visual narratives. The roundtable format also allows for an energetic discussion between participants and audience members, which will make this sessions stand out during the 2016 meeting of the MLA in Austin, Texas.

250- to 300-word abstracts are due by March 1 via email to both and

My Upcoming Conference Presentations: Poe and Satirical Comic Books

Aside from scheduling any local comic book/anime conventions, here are the academic conferences where I’m presenting in the upcoming months:

“Detecting the Complementary Poles of Sentiment and Sensation in Poe’s ‘The Oblong Box.’” Poe Studies Association International Conference. February 27

“Comedy and Comics: Parody, Satire, and Humor in Superhero Narratives.” Northeast Modern Language Association. May 1

“Detecting the Complementary Poles of Sentiment and Sensation in Poe’s ‘The Oblong Box’” will be my second presentation to the Poe Studies Association, after presenting as part of their joint sessions with the Nathaniel Hawthorne Society in 2013 at the Modern Language Association. As suggested by my presentation’s title, I draw upon an argument by Jonathan Elmer regarding representations of gender in both sensationalism and sentimentalism. Both literary approaches are common to Poe’s body of literature, even in the same tale. Poe draws upon both literary practices when writing “The Oblong Box,” which makes this text an important but overlooked tale of ratiocination, and one that I argue re-arranges the tropes of the detective genre as concerns representations of men and women. As one of his last stories within the detective genre, “The Oblong Box” prompts re-consideration of the overall tract Poe followed when it comes to positioning female characters in “Murders in the Rue Morgue,” “The Mystery of Marie Rogêt,” and other tales as victims of violence, and men as alternating between rational, stoic detectives and mourning, bereaved acquaintances or lovers.

In addition to this exciting session at the Poe Conference coming up, I’m looking forward to the NeMLA session, “Comedy and Comics: Parody, Satire, and Humor in Superhero Narratives,”  as it will continue a discussion I held at the Modern Language Association earlier this year, as part of the Graduate Caucus’s roundtable, on my participation in online fan communities. My practices in those communities often take satiric approaches when it comes to representations of gender in comics, which corresponds with similar practices found at Escher Girls and The Hawkeye Initiative. Rafael Ponce-Cordero at Keene College, with whom I collaborated in previous academic convention sessions, had the great idea for a session on humor as it operates in the superhero genre and in comics overall. I’m happy to join co-organize with Rafael the session “Comedy and Comics,” and I’m looking forward to my presentation for this session, “For the LOLz: Comedic Reinterpretations of the Superhero in Online Fan Communities.”

Back to writing.

CFP: Comics Read But Seldom Seen–Diversity and Representation in Comics and Related Media

The University of Florida is hosting an exciting conference on representations of diversity in comics, graphic novels, and related media. Please consider submitting proposals by January 1, 2015—and please forward this CFP to anyone who you think would be interested.

[CFP] 2015 UF Comics Conference

Comics Read But Seldom Seen: Diversity and Representation in Comics and Related Media.

The Graduate Comics Organization at the University of Florida invites applicants to submit proposals to the 12th UF Conference on Comics and Graphic Novels, “Comics Read But Seldom Seen: Diversity and Representation in Comics and Related Media.” The conference will be held from Friday, April 10th, 2015 to Sunday, April 12th, 2015.  Proposals are due January 1st, 2015.

Proposals should be between 200 and 300 words. All proposals should be submitted to Najwa Al-Tabaa at


Marvels & Monsters: A Symposium on Asian Images in Comics and Graphic Narratives

From Stony Brook University’s web site:

Stony Brook University Libraries is pleased to present Marvels & Monsters: Unmasking Asian Images in U.S. Comics, 1942-1986 from March 12 to July 27, 2014.  The exhibit will be on view in the Theatre Lobby Gallery at the Charles B. Wang Center.  Through a selection of images from comic books representing four turbulent decades, Marvels & Monsters illustrates how evolving racial and cultural archetypes defined America’s perceptions of Asians.  This exhibition draws from noted science fiction author and cultural studies scholar William F. Wu’s comic book collection–the largest archive of comic books featuring Asians and Asian Americans–that was donated to the NYU Fales Library & Special Collections through the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU.


Curated by Asian Pop columnist Jeff Yang, this exhibition is a unique and fascinating look at how the images and characters of Asians and Asian Americans featured in comic books during times of war and unrest coalesced into archetypes that still remain today.


The exhibition places a selection of noted archetypes–Guru, Brain, Temptress, Manipulator, Alien, Kamikaze, Brute, and Lotus Blossom–within both a historical context and a comparative discourse with contemporary Asian American writers and creators including Ken Chen, V.V. Ganeshananthan, Larry Hama, David Henry Hwang, Naomi Hirahara, Genny Lim, Greg Pak, Vijay Prashad, and Gene Luen Yang.


The exhibition also contains elements designed to encourage direct engagement with the archetypes, such as life-size cutouts of the eight archetypes that allow visitors to put themselves “inside the image” and an installation called “Shades of Yellow” that matches the shades used for Asian skin tones in the comics with their garish yellow Pantone™.

The exhibit will also frame a one-day symposium on Asian images in comics and graphic narratives on April 23, 2014.  Marvels & Monsters: A Symposium on Asian Images in Comics and Graphic Narratives will examine images of Asians in a variety of cultural forms (manga, film, video, social media, graphic novels).  The keynote address will be presented by Min Hyoung Song, Associate Professor of English at Boston College, and author of The Children of 1965: On Writing, and Not Writing, as an Asian American (Duke University Press, 2013).  Other speakers include exhibit curator and author of books on Asian American comics and graphic narratives, Jeff Yang, and graphic novelist and filmmaker, Derek Kirk Kim.  

The opening reception of the exhibit is hosted by Charles B. Wang Center on March 12, 2014, 5:00 to 7:00 PM.  It is free and open to the public, but RSVP is required.


The symposium and exhibit are presented by the University Libraries and made possible by a grant from the Presidential Mini-Grant for Diversity Initiatives at Stony Brook University.  Generous support is provided by the Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, ​​Cultural Analysis & Theory, Center for Korean Studies, Asian American Center, Confucius Institute and the Charles B. Wang Center.


General Information

The Charles B. Wang Center is located at 100 Nicolls Rd. on the campus of Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, New York.  For more information, call 631-632-6353 or visit


Gallery Hours:

Monday through Friday: 10:00 AM through 8:00 PM

Saturdays & Sundays: 12:00 PM through 8:00 PM