This week Cambridge University is allowing free online access to and downloads of the papers that were published as a part of their first symposium on comic books and politics, entitled The Politics of the Superhero.
This marks what could be the next phase in academic acceptance of comic book scholarship as a legitimate endeavor and, as such, should be as widely lauded by the comics journalism community as the power of the internet allows.
The papers submitted cover a vast range of subjects, from Ayn Rand’s influence on the work of creators like Steve Ditko and Frank Miller to what the Avengers film teaches us about American political identities in a post 9-11 world.
That this sort of work was solicited is, in and of itself, a watershed moment for those who wish to see the analysis of sequential graphic media pursued with more rigor by the academic world. It was also of particular interest to us here at Capeless, as our primary mission is to analyze the cross-section of comic books with real-world social issues. While much of our coverage of late has had more of a news-centric focus, it is my hope as the founder of this site that this remarkable collection of scholarly work will help to serve as a reentry point into what has always been the best and most unique thing about Capeless Crusader.
When Michael Stock and I founded this site nearly two years ago, we were tremendously excited to analyze comic books and the characters contained within through the lens of social commentary. But we rapidly found ourselves struggling to find any work of substance from the two major publishers, DC and Marvel. That realization is what led to the focus over the last year on independent publishers and the far riskier work that they were doing there. One of the most remarkable things about the papers presented in the Cambridge symposium is that, by and large, they deal with mainstream super-heroes—capes, if you will. I have personally found reading them to be an exciting experience that has reinvigorated my hope of finding ways to look at this type of work through that critical eye and find something worth discussing.
I would encourage all readers of this site to take the time to examine these papers. You may find some of the topics disturbing, and you will almost certainly discover new things about this art form which we all love so much.
In the coming weeks, our staff here at Capeless will be doing close readings of these papers and offering our comments on them. It is our sincere hope that our readers will join in the conversation and contribute their opinions as well. The issues examined may well be touchy subjects for some, and that is perfectly okay. As we always do, we ask that our readers offer comments that are grounded in logic and civility. Any and all opinions are welcome, but they will be best-received when backed by substantive analysis and should always, always treat others who join in the conversation with respect and courtesy.
Josh Epstein is the Publisher for the Capeless Crusader website. He also hosts the weekly Infinite Crossover podcast in cooperation with Fanboys Inc. He’s a lifelong comic nerd, and “Superman” is the first word he ever read aloud. He is also an actor, singer, and daytime supporter of all things technical. contact: firstname.lastname@example.org