Mid-Atlantic Popular &
American Culture Association

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Hearts of Ice: Intertextuality and Canonicity in the Evolution of Mr. Freeze

Peter Cullen Bryan (Clemson University)
Presentation type: 

“Mr. Zero” was introduced in the Silver Age as a campy, ice-themed addition to Batman’s rogue’s gallery, though was rechristened “Mr. Freeze” in the television series of the mid-60s. His appearance in the series secured a place for the character in the comics, but the character was unceremoniously killed off in the early 1990s, leaving seemingly little impact. Bruce Timm and his team revived him in 1993. This version of the character was a re-imagining of the character: a tragic, romantic villain who featured far greater depths than before, culminating with Joel Schumacher’s fusion between the campy 60s version of the character, and the serious, tragic meditation of the animated series for his second Batman film.

I examine the intertextual exchange that created the character of Mr. Freeze as he exists today (comics to television to animation to film, and back again). Of special interest is the role that non-comic creators, notably Bruce Timm and Joel Schumacher, had on the development of the character. The theories outlined by Henry Jenkins, particularly his examinations of the intersections between fan communities and canon (ala Textual Poachers). The fan responses to three key evolutions of the character further underpin how different genres influence each other, and affect long term developments. Timm’s characterization of Mr. Freeze is considered a high point of the character, while Schumacher’s hybrid of the tragic and the camp became a thing of mockery. I observe the relationship between these two faces of Freeze, and offer some insight into why combining two successful versions of a character can meet with such derision within the larger fan community. This will offer some deeper insight into how fan creators can affect developments outside of their mediums, and the deepening relationships between print, television, and the fan communities that surround them.

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

About the presenter

Peter Cullen Bryan

Dr. PETER CULLEN BRYAN teaches English at Clemson University. He received his PhD in American Studies and Communication at the Pennsylvania State University in 2018. His areas of study include American Studies, Intercultural Communication, and 21st Century American culture, emphasizing comic art and fan communities. His first book, exploring the transcultural adaptations of Carl Barks’s Duck Comics, is out now. His research has appeared in the Journal of Fandom Studies, The Journal of American Culture, and Popular Culture Studies Journal, exploring the intersections of creative activism and fan identities in adaptational and transnational spaces.

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