Whiteness and the American Superhero


Sean Guynes and Martin Lund, editors
Whiteness and the American Superhero
Chapters selected; currently in proposal stage.

American superhero comics have a problem with race, and especially with their own overwhelming—albeit often unspoken—whiteness. Recent decades have seen increasing interest in diversity of all kinds from comics publishers, and in the past few years comics scholars have sought to provide histories and critiques of race, racism, and their representation in comics. Through monographs, anthologies, journal special issues, articles, and conference presentations scholars of U.S. superhero comics have addressed a breadth of issues regarding how black, Latinx/Chicanx, Jewish, Muslim, Asian American, Native American, Middle Eastern-North African, and other ethno-racial and ethno-religious identities and histories have intersected with the figure of the American superhero—a figure that, from its own inception, has traditionally been used by comics creators and in public discourse to represent white masculine prowess.

Whiteness and the American Superhero addresses a key lacuna in the way that race, superheroes, comic books, and the matrices of American culture and history have been previously discussed by finally turning attention to the role that whiteness has played in superhero comics’ narratives and histories. In particular, the collection brings together chapters that address the whiteness of American superheroism and the assumptions (and possibilities) of the racial makeup of the superhero figure from the late 1930s to the present.

This collection brings together a range of scholars to participate in demonstrating, historicizing, and challenging the operations of whiteness across the range of superhero comics produced in the 20th and 21st centuries in the United States. Chapters that look at superhero narratives as well as at the production, distribution, and audience and reception contexts of those narratives, in order to highlight the imbrication of forces that have helped to create, normalize, challenge, and even subvert ideas about whiteness and race in U.S. superheroes. Whiteness and the American Superhero considers the co-constitutive nature of identity, representation, narrative, production and consumption, and historical and cultural contexts in forging ideas about who gets to be American and who gets to be a superhero on the four-color pages of U.S. comic books.