Superheroes are a global phenomenon. The superhero genre has been proliferated through modern industrial societies by way of movies, television, comics, and other forms of popular media. Although virtually every nation in the world has heroic myths, the modern superhero, as marked by the inception of recent American comics heroes in 1929, is a uniquely Western invention. Superheroes are “Western” insofar as they embody and exhibit Western civic values, such as democracy, humanism, and retributive justice. These characters have been communicatively incorporated into globalization processes by means of diffusion and thereby enact aspects of cultural imperialism. Even so, superhero figures have been in high demand across many populations for their entertainment value. As superheroes have diffused in non-Western cultures, they have not only been absorbed by new cultures but also refigured and adapted. These non-Western adaptations have had a recursive influence, such as the global popularity of Japanese manga. The recursive relationship between Western superheroes and their non-Western adaptations implies superheroes are an important aspect of cultural fusion in global popular culture.
The Globalization of Superheroes: Diffusion, Genre, and Cultural Adaptations
Queer comics have been a staple of LGBTQIA+ culture, from independent and underground comics beginning in the late 1960s to web comics in the current digital age. Comics are a uniquely queer art form, as comics scholar Hillary Chute has argued, consistently marginalized in the art world. Queer comics have also principally been produced by and for queer audiences, with mainstream recognition not being their primary goal. This marginalization has, in some sense, been a benefit, as these comics have not been captive to the pressures of capitalist aesthetics. This makes queer comics a rich historical archive for understanding queer life and queer communities. Collections of queer comics from the late 1960s and onward have recently been published, making large archives of work widely available. The Queer Zine Archive Project online also houses a large volume of underground and self-published material. There are some affordances inherent to the medium of comics which make it a distinctly powerful medium for queer self-expression and representation. In comics, the passage of time is represented through the space of the page, which makes complex expressions of queer temporality possible. The form is also quite intimate, particularly hand-drawn comics, which retain their original form rather than being translated into type. The reader plays a significant role in the construction of meaning in comics, as what happens between panels in the “gutter” (and is thus not pictured) is as much a part of the story as what is pictured within the panels. In addition to the value of reading queer stories in comic form, incorporating making comics and other creative practices into pedagogy is a powerful way to engage in queer worldmaking.