Professor of Politics, Economics, and Law at the SUNY, College at Old Westbury
The use of violence by female superheroes has been written about mostly in terms of its subversion of dominant cultural narratives of gender, as well as in terms of readers/viewers’ pleasure and feelings of empowerment. I would argue, further, that for those who find the subversion of gendered norms discomfiting, the palatability or popularity of female superheroes’ violence also lies in stories that: 1) conform them to raced and classed notions of gender performance, 2) present them as seemingly naturalized to such behavior because they were born to it via an alien and/or exoticized monoculture, 3) accentuate their similarities to popular male superheroes, and 4) surround them with familiar military tropes and trappings. The subversion of gender norms attracts a more progressive audience; the containment of that subversion through these techniques attracts a more conservative audience, thus ensuring marketability across the political spectrum.
Ayanni C. H. Cooper
English PhD Candidate at the University of Florida
The webcomic Agents of the Realm (AotR) by Mildred Louis is a “college years coming of age story that takes influence from a number of timeless Magical Girl classics,” like Sailor Moon (“About”). The narrative follows Norah, Adele, Kendall, Paige, and Jordan—five young women at the imaginary Silvermount University who, after the discovery of magical amulets, transform into “fetching super-warrior[s] … [who] courageously fight the forces of evil” (Sugawa). Louis relies on some of the greatest, tried-and-true magical girl tropes in her story: the team of five become “a specialised task force” of “chosen” ones who must “protect our world,” plus they “are endowed with heightened strength, stamina, [and] magical powers” (Liu 5). That said, Louis also adds her own spin to the genre by making the main cast college freshman and by having “the majority of the cast [identify] within the LGBTQ community” (“About”). Louis uses the university environment in AotR to create a utopic space for her queer magical girls. While this is a story-wide project that unfolds over the course of many chapter, I’ll examine a brief sequence towards the end of volume one that demonstrates how this utopic space explores queer identities.1
Assistant Professor of Science & Social Science at Columbus College of Art & Design
As a comics creator, researcher, and teacher, I think of my work less as providing answers and more as honing questions. In this essay, I follow a trail of them, namely: Who are we to study comics and make claims to the ways that people inhabit this social world?
Due to the ongoing pandemic crisis, ICAF was forced to cancel its events at the 2020 Small Press Expo. Over the next 16 weeks (give or take), we will be publishing