From fan appropriation to industry re-appropriation: the sexual identity of comic superheroes
Schott, G. (2010). From fan appropriation to industry re-appropriation: the sexual identity of comic superheroes. Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics, 1(1), 17-29.
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/4637
In his controversial text Seduction of the Innocent, Fredric Wertham's (1954) description of Batman and Robin as a 'wish dream of two homosexuals living together' (Lendrum 2004, p. 70) represents one of the first published queer readings of superhero characters. This text signalled the commencement of, and subsequent intense interest in, the way superhero characters often portray a 'camp' sensibility (Medhurst 1991) representative of a queer performative identity (Butler 1993). This is most evident in online fan-communities where the sexual identity of popular superheroes are continuously explored and debated in discussion forums and expressed through the production of slash fiction and queer-themed fan art. The ambiguity inherent in superhero comics has traditionally allowed and encouraged fans to operate as 'textual poachers' (Jenkins 1992) appropriating these texts for their own means. Today, however, there exist a new generation of comic book superheroes, in the form of established industry-penned 'out' gay characters. This paper examines the impact and meaning of the shift from the 'implied' to 'actual' in terms of fans' acceptance, resistance and desire to further appropriate comic texts.