Alter/Ego: Superhero Comic Book Readers, Gender and Identities
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
The academic study of comic books - especially superhero comic books - has predominantly focused on the analysis of these books as texts, as teaching and learning resources, or on children as comic book readers. Very little has been written about adult superhero comic fans and their responses to superhero comics. This thesis explores how adult comic book readers in New Zealand engage with superhero comics. Individual interviews and group conversations, both online and face-to-face, provide insights into their responses to the comics and the characters as well as the relationships among fans. Analysis of fans’ talk about superhero comics includes their reflections on how masculinities are represented in these comics and the complex ways in which they identify with superheroes, including their alter egos. The thesis examines how superhero comic book readers present themselves in their interactions with other readers. Comics ‘geekdom’, fans’ interactions with one another and their negotiation of gendered norms of masculinity are discussed. The contrast between the fan body and the superhero body is an important theme. Readers’ discursive constitution and management of superheroes’ bodies, and their engagement with representations of superheroes are related to analyses of multiplicity in individual identities and current theories of audience reception and identification.