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Days of Our Super Lives: Continuous Narratives and Storytelling in Superhero Comics

Joe McVeigh (University of Jyväskylä)
Presentation type: 

The creators of comic book characters have a vested interest in using the continuous narrative model of storytelling because of the serial nature of the characters. The stories are run out across multiple media and alternate realities are created to tell various versions of the same characters and story lines. The problem for scholars is that a continuous narrative would seem to make it impossible for comic book characters to develop and evolve, therefore defying comprehensive descriptions. A related problem is that incorporating the alternate realities in comic books – or the various ways of telling the same story – will reduce the traits that can be assigned to a character. It boils characters down to a handful (or less) of core elements, which may then be insufficient to distinguish a character from others. Nevertheless, comic book characters (and long-underweared superheroes in particular) exist in our collective consciousness thanks to the power of storytelling. Most or all of their character traits may be mutable, but we know them when we see them. And even a cursory examination of these characters shows that they clearly have evolved from their origins, especially in the cases of those with long histories, such as Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. How then does character evolution take place in comic books? And how can we incorporate the alternate realities of comic books into our descriptions of these characters? This study shows that describing comic book characters can be done with traditional methods of storytelling, provided that scholars contextualize them and appreciate the special way that storytelling in comic books works.

Scheduled on: 
Saturday, November 7, 2:45 pm to 4:00 pm

About the presenter

Joe McVeigh

I am a corpus linguist and full-time university teacher at the University of Jyväskylä and a postgrad at the University of Helsinki. I teach linguistics and English literature courses. My research interests are corpus linguistics and marketing, as well as storytelling and character descriptions in comic books. I also serve as the web editor for Varieng’s eSeries, Studies in Variation, Contacts and Change.

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