CFP: “Of Superpowers and Privilege: Diversity in Superhero Narratives” (Northeast MLA, April 2018, Pittsburgh), Submission Deadline 9/30/17

I had shared calls for papers related to comics for the April 2018 convention of the Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA), with abstracts due September 30, 2017. I have updated that list to include this CFP by my colleague, Mary Ellen Iatropoulos.

“Of Superpowers and Privilege: Diversity in Superhero Narratives” emerges partially as a response to comics publishers, in particular Marvel, facing criticism for whitewashing of adaptations such as Doctor Strange and Iron Fist, even blaming “diversity” for slumping comics sales. Fans’ backlash to such failure to increase diversity, even to blame diversity, demonstrates that, for all the repetition of the word “diversity,” its ideals are far from its implementation.

The CFP summary is below, and you may read the full CFP and submit abstracts online by September 30, 2017, with a free NeMLA CFP List account at this ink:

Please email me ( or tweet at Mary Ellen (@metamare) or me (@dereksmcgrath) with any questions.


CFP: Comics sessions at the Northeast MLA in Pittsburgh (Deadline: September 30, 2017)

Updated September 18, 2017

Each year, the Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA) organizes numerous sessions on topics related to the research and teaching of comics, graphic novels, and other visual texts. The 49th annual convention will take place April 12 to 15, 2018, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and abstracts are due online by September 30, 2017.

Below is a list of some sessions related to comics. Each link takes you directly to the web page to submit your abstracts. To submit, you will need a free NeMLA CFP List account at

For questions about specific sessions, please click the session’s link below for the session’s chairs. For general questions about submitting abstracts or the 49th annual convention, please email

Deadline Friday: Poe and Comics at NeMLA 2017!

Friday, September 30, 2016, is the deadline to submit to the more than 400 calls for papers at the 48th annual meeting of the Northeast Modern Language Association, in Baltimore, Maryland.

My colleagues and I are organizing exciting panels in studies of literature and popular culture, including two sessions I’m putting together on Edgar Allan Poe and representations of disabilities in comics.

And additional sessions below may be of interest in light of recent developments in comics and the superhero genre–Luke Cage premieres tomorrow as well, so why not watch the show, and use that to draft an abstract to a relevant session below?

These are just a few of the exciting sessions (with links for submitting 300-word abstracts) that can lead to dynamic discussions–so please consider submitting abstracts or forwarding these calls of papers to interested peers.

CFP: “Marvel vs. DC: Civil War?” (NeMLA Baltimore 2017; deadline Sep 30 2016)

Last year at the Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA), my colleague Mary Ellen Iatropoulos and I were happy to host Lisa Perdigao on our academic roundtable about the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This year, for NeMLA’s 2017 convention in Baltimore, Lisa is organizing a panel on rivalries, not just within Marvel Comics but as it pertains to its long-lasting competition with fellow comic book publisher DC Comics.

DC and Marvel have collaborated in the past for crossovers and amalgamations of their fictional universes, revealing the parallels between them, such as Batman and Daredevil (or Iron Man), Green Arrow and Hawkeye, Atom and Ant Man, Superman and Captain America (or Thor)–or just so we could see a fistfight between the Justice League and the Avengers, or watch Superman wield Captain America’s shield and Mjolnir.

This competition has moved off of the comic book pages and onto the silver screen. Whereas Marvel has embraced a fun, eclectic blending of various genres in its numerous film adaptations from Disney and other film studios, DC has remained fixed largely at Warner Bros and has persisted with a grim portrayal of superheroes that has appealed to some fans and irritated many others. It’s even inspired popular web parodies. This shift from comics to film production even resulted in a new bicoastal rivalry: DC Comics has moved to Hollywood, while Marvel Comics stays in New York City.

This CFP also has the potential for presentations not necessarily as to the rivalry between DC and Marvel, but a comparison of how the two comic book companies portray rivalries. How does the rivalry between Superman and Batman differ from that between Captain America and Iron Man? How are metahumans portrayed differently from mutants and inhumans? What is it about superhero stories that perpetuate the idea of rivalries rather than collaboration?

And that’s not even touching upon all of the other works that DC and Marvel have created but which are outside of the superhero genre, such as literary adaptations, The SandmanPreacher, and Lucifer.

Obviously, there are a wealth of topics for consideration to this CFP, and I strongly encourage interested scholars to submit to Lisa’s session, or to forward this CFP to interested colleagues.

The full CFP is below.

Marvel vs. DC: Civil War?

Northeast Modern Language Association
Baltimore, March 23-26, 2017
Chair: Lisa Perdigao (Florida Institute of Technology)
Deadline: September 30, 2016

Submit 300-word abstracts and short bios online at 

Released in spring 2016, Captain America: Civil War and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice converge on the narrative of a house divided. Marvel’s and DC’s staging of the wars between their respective superheroes is suggestive of a larger battle between the two franchises that dates back to the comics. These two films represent turning points for the companies, as they threaten to disassemble the Avengers and the Justice League as soon as—and even before—they are created. Adapted from the comics, the films’ narratives highlight central tensions within the individual universes as well as the ongoing rivalry between the two companies.

This panel will explore how the concept of civil war plays out within and between the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and DC Entertainment films and television series. Papers are sought that examine individual Marvel and DC works (comics, films, and television series), the expansive Marvel and DC universes, and the relationship between the two rival companies. Possible topics include the difficulties of assembling a superteam in the twenty-first century, the race to utilize new mediums in the digital age, and the conflicting ideologies represented by Marvel and DC.


CFP: “Masks, Mutations, and Metamorphoses: Transformation Sequences in Comics” (NeMLA 2017 Baltimore, Deadline 9/30)

I wrote earlier about the many session proposals on comics, graphic narratives, animation, and related topics that the Northeast Modern Language Association includes for its upcoming March 2017 convention in Baltimore. With this year’s convention focused in large part on language, culture, and international studies, one particular comics session is especially relevant. Comics frequently focus on transformations–mutations, maturation, name alterations–as allegories for feeling one’s identity changed by movement or displacement.

My colleague at Keene State College, Rafael Ponce-Cordero, is organizing the session “Masks, Mutations, and Metamorphoses: Transformation Sequences in Comics,” which considers both formal and content-based transformations. This session therefore looks at how comics represent or use transformations, whether as how characters conceive of changes to their identities in terms of race, nationality, as well as gender and sexuality, or how transformations of the comics medium have altered ways we communicate about these and other topics.

Potential topics may include adaptations from comics to animation and other media, innovations in the comics medium, or transformations of characters, whether physical mutations, Sailor Moon-esque transformation sequences, or changes to characters’ personalities over their publication history.

The CFP is below. Please consider submitting a 300-word abstract and a brief biographical statement to NeMLA’s CFP List web site at this link: Please forward this call for papers to interested scholars.

The deadline is September 30, 2016. If you have any questions, please email Rafael Ponce-Cordero (

Masks, Mutations, and Metamorphoses: Transformation Sequences in Comics
Rafael Ponce-Cordero (Keene State College)

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.


CFP: Superhero Narratives and (Dis)Ability (NeMLA 2017, Baltimore, Deadline 9/30/2016)

Mary Ellen Iatropoulos (co-editor of the forthcoming volume Joss Whedon and Race from McFarland) and I are co-organizing a roundtable for the March 2017 Baltimore meeting of the Northeast Modern Language Association, focusing on representations of disabilities in superhero narratives.

This roundtable seeks presentations exploring how the superhero’s superpowered engagement of ableist society reveal or illustrate complications of negotiating the construction of (dis)ability. Recent works in comics, television, and film, such as DaredevilBatgirlMy Hero Academia, and Yuki Yuna Is a Hero, may be relevant to this roundtable’s discussion.

Please consider submitting a 300-word abstract and a brief biographical statement to NeMLA’s CFP List web site before the September 30th deadline. And please forward this call for papers to interested scholars.

The full CFP is below. Please email me at if you have any questions.

Superhero Narratives and (Dis)Ability

Chairs: Derek McGrath (Independent Scholar), Mary Ellen Iatropoulos (Independent Scholar)

Popular culture narratives present ever-increasing images of persons with disability, whether through superheroes themselves or via supporting cast members. Apart from literal impairment, superheroes and superpowers can also be read as allegories for disability and Othered bodies and minds. How can superpowers be read as disabilities, or disabilities as superpowers? How does the superhero’s superpowered engagement of ableist society reveal or illustrate complications of negotiating the construction of (dis)ability?


CFP Reminder for NeMLA 2017 Baltimore: Comics, Edgar Allan Poe, and More! (DEADLINE: 9/30/16)

The 48th annual meeting of the Northeast Modern Language Association will be March 23 to 26, 2017, in Baltimore, Maryland. With almost 400 calls for papers, there are numerous opportunities to share your research with fellow scholars and teachers.

In addition to the full list of CFPs, I recommend submitting proposals for sessions on Edgar Allan Poe or comics–and I happen to be organizing sessions on both (“The Pop Culture Afterlife of Edgar Allan Poe” and “Superhero Narratives and (Dis)Ability”). Both links take you directly to the CFP List submission web site for 300-word abstracts, short biographical statements, and any audio-visual equipment requests. Submissions are due September 30, 2016. 

Participants may submit paper abstracts to more than one NeMLA session; participants may present in no more than one session of the same type but may present a paper as part of a panel and also participate on a roundtable or creative session. More information is available at NeMLA’s web site.

And if you are interested in submitting to other sessions, here are lists of sessions in the same category:

CFP: Comics/Graphic Narrative Sessions at NEMLA 2017, Baltimore (Deadline 9/30/2016)

UPDATE, 7/10/16, 7:01 PM EST: Added “Teaching bandes dessinées as Literature”
UPDATE, 7/13/16, 10:46 AM EST: Added
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: 20 Years Later and Where We Went” and “Transmedia Storytelling: Questioning Canon in 21st-century Popular Culture Narratives”

The Northeast Modern Language Association continues its work to expand scholarly discussions about comics and graphic narratives. Session proposals for the upcoming Baltimore conference, meeting March 23 to 26, include panels organized and chaired by my colleagues Rafael Ponce-Cordero, Emily Lauer, and Lisa Perdigao, as well as one roundtable I’m co-organizing with Mary Ellen Iatropoulos on representations of disabilities in superhero narratives.

Please consider submitting 300-word abstracts and brief biographical statements to the following sessions, and please forward these calls for papers to interested scholars. Submissions are due September 30, 2016, at CFP List. Links for submitting abstracts and bios to each session are below.

Participants may submit paper abstracts to more than one NeMLA session; participants may present in no more than one session of the same type but may present a paper as part of a panel and also participate on a roundtable or creative session. More information is available at NeMLA’s web site.

Have I forgotten a comics-related NeMLA session to add? Please email me at or tweet me at @dereksmcgrath.


Reminder: Call for papers for “Can The Subaltern Be A Superhero?” (Abstracts due May 30)

With the CFP posted here, to H-Net, to CFP List, and to numerous list servs, Rafael Ponce-Cordero and I have been receiving helpful feedback regarding the focus to our volume Can The Subaltern Be A Superhero? The Politics of Non-Hegemonic Superheroism. We also have been receiving abstracts and inquiries of interest: thanks to everyone who is writing to us!

There is still time before the May 30 deadline. We are interested in abstracts that consider what happens when the superhero is not male, heterosexual, white, or American. Topics fitting this call for papers may include, but are not limited to, female superheroes, LGBTQ superheroes, minority superheroes in the United States and elsewhere, and superheroes from the Global South.

If you have questions about potential topics that you are considering, please email Rafael ( and me (

And please share the CFP below with anyone you know who may be interested in this volume. Thanks for your consideration!

Can the Subaltern Be a Superhero?
The Politics of Non-Hegemonic Superheroism

Send 300-word abstracts and short bios to Rafael Ponce-Cordero at with subject line “CFP – Can the Subaltern Be a Superhero?” by May 30, 2016.

Superheroes are, by definition, guardians of law and order, i.e. of the status quo. Not coincidentally, the majority of them—and certainly the most famous ones—are male, straight, and white. Yet there are costumed crime-fighters who do not conform to that tacit rule and serve, in this sense, as examples of what we can call alternative superheroism. Those are the ones this collection of essays will examine.

Topics fitting this call for papers may include, but are not limited to, the following general themes:

  • Female superheroes
  • LGBTQ superheroes
  • Minority superheroes in the US and elsewhere
  • Superheroes from the Global South


Primer for “Developments in Comics Pedagogy” (MLA, January 8, 2016): What are comics? Are they for children? For all ages? Are they always visual?

On Friday, January 8, Keith McCleary (UC San Diego) and I will be leading the roundtable “Developments in Comics Pedagogy” at the Austin, Texas, meeting of the Modern Language Association.

For the next few days, in preparation for our discussion, I will be writing about what led to this roundtable, recent approaches in the teaching of comics and graphic novels, and my own contributions to this discussion about pedagogy and visual texts. Abstracts and bios for all roundtable participants are available here.

Yeah, this post is very much a collection of loosely connected topics.

Recently, Glen Weldon tackled the well-worn history of Fredric Wertham’s nonsense about the corruption of youths by comics, “Comics: They’re For Kids Again!” His thesis is based on Gene Yang becoming National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, demonstrating how far along we have come since the days fearful of comics as being inappropriate to give to children, for various reasons: they are violent, full of sexual subtext or text, full of antiheroes who disrespect authority. It feels like there is this tear for comics, pulling it in one direction to as adult as possible (not necessarily mature, so much as very violent, very sexual), or in another direction to be what is imagined as appropriate for children, purging not only imitable content but content that is not suited to a heteronormativity (because heaven forbid a same sex relationship be showed in, I don’t know, an animated series…but what do I know: I’m still bitter about the finale to The Legend of Korra not including a big damn kiss).

Our roundtable participant Joe Sutliff Sanders approaches this argument in his publications regarding how picture books and comics are closely associated with each other as if they are intended for only children. As Joe points out, our college courses are about teaching students the value of literature in numerous forms. And if we are teaching to students of various age groups–preschool to graduate school–it is even more vital that we understand how we are treating comics–as literature, as something not quite like literature; in words and in images; intended for young readers, older readers, and all readers.

However, comics are also seen as too violent to give to children. Of all shows, Girl Meets World on the Disney Channel set up a strawman argument that it is not appropriate to teach The Dark Knight Returns, not because of Frank Miller but because it’s not as literary as To Kill a Mockingbird. Yet that plot in Girl Meets World resonates with the history Weldon identifies, since Wertham argued that comics address such topics of gore, sex, and violence that they are considered inappropriate for readers.

Stan Lee bristles at calling them “comic books,” as if that suggests there are only humorous or for children–whereas I tend to celebrate the camp, kitsch, and youthfulness of comics. So as I may mock Weldon a bit for writing in such broad strokes, he’s not wrong: I think I would prefer to use “all-ages” rather than “for kids.” In this regard, it feels like the challenge is addressing what is appropriate content for a classroom: we are stuck with this association of comics being for kids, even as we know that comics will approach material that many of us find uncomfortable. Reading Joe’s syllabi, I am impressed how he approaches trigger warnings, acknowledging that course content can hurt, can offend, and that it is important to feel that the classroom is a space to discuss those reactions.

Going back to Lee’s frustration with that phrase, “comic books,” it feels like there is still this problem with the word “comics,” ignoring that, really, it is an appropriate term: as I think Susan Kirtley is describing them, they are kind of a misfit form of art, so there is something a bit comical about how hard it is to fit them in, how exaggerated they seem to other forms of art, how outside or queer or whatever word to use to describe their failure to fit into certain connotations of literature–no matter how extensively Scott McCloud and Will Eisner persuasively define them.

In trying to define “comics,” I also am talking about the slippage moving from comics to related fields, such as single-panel illustrations (cartoons), moving illustrations (animation), and other forms of visual art.

Those of us who enjoy them still debate the proper phrase: comics, comic books, graphic novels, visual art? Nick Sousanis‘s Unflattening has an impressive layout tracing the various terms, in English and American cultures (sequential art, picture writing, image-text, graphein, commix, and I would add photonovel) and other languages and cultures (manga, bandes dessinées, fumetti). Nick, drawing from McCloud, Eisner, David Lewis, and other scholars, identifies comics’ image-based and word-based doubleness. It is not that comics are only symbols, only representative of an idea. As Nick writes, words are about, images just are. I agree with most of this point, even as there are questions I want to ask. 

As a slight aside related to how we define comics: one topic I hope can be discussed, whether at the roundtable or in future discussions, is how we teach comics when we know we have students with visual impairment? After Joe’s writing about the difficulty describing comics and picture books in words, I am not sure how teachers can present comics in ways supplemental or as substitution for the visual. Is something still a comic when the visual is removed from it?