Welcome to 2021 with a new presidential administration, profound political divisions [pun intended] deepening thanks to rampant disinformation, and an entertainment landscape facing seismic shifts thanks to the lingering COVID-19 pandemic and political stupidity. Comic books are also facing a questionable future and tectonic changes even as they have become the major genre driving television and film in the past decade… but far more resilient than cynics feared. As it turns out, which I’m going to argue herein, the old “Marvel Method” for creating comics has not only become a stunningly effective model for franchise films, but it seems to be blazing a trail for reinvigorating television formula because of what media theorist Henry Jenkins has explored as the 2007 “Multiplicity Theory of Genre” within superhero comics across their amazing 83 years of publishing history. It maybe turns out these fantastic fictions can help reform our fact-starved political landscape from oblivion… or they may instead affectively encourage fascist Q-Anon rewrites of facts, history, and conspiracy thinking common to fandom?? Superheroes are arguably inherently fascist tropes to [often] self-examine the genre… but are we in a dangerously Brave New World of myth-appropriation? Because when we’re rooting for Wanda, and X-Men Pietro for that matter, we’re rooting for Fascism or calling attention to the worst impulses of superhero gene. And maybe WandaVision is a warning about our American Superhero Hubris?

WandaVision is boldly reintroducing Marvel’s MCU back into our cultural consciousness by challenging us to ponder the impact of rewriting reality and memory then what it can do writ large. SPOILER ALERT: don’t hit the fold because comic books past already warn us that this particular future is a dangerous idea.

In process…

Posted by: Doc Comics | September 24, 2020

On Studying Superheroes…

Posted by: Doc Comics | January 6, 2020

Flirting with the Dark Side


2020 opens with a mixture of optimism for a new year — which also happens to be an election year — and heightened anxiety over the possibility of war with Iran. Once again, the self-righteous hubris of American Exceptionalism enters our public dialogue amidst the Trump Era populism that critics fear teeters on Authoritarianism if not neo-Fascism. We can expect our superhero narratives to wrestle with this crisis of contradictions, yet it is ominous that Todd Phillips’ Joker film is winning awards and critical acclaim even as it courts social controversy. Perhaps it is an omen of things to come this year.


Posted by: Doc Comics | August 18, 2019

Superheroes, the original AntiFa

“Today, Captain America’s most nefarious villain, the Red Skull, is alive on screen and an Orange Skull haunts America. International fascism again looms large (how quickly we humans forget – study these golden age comics hard, boys and girls!) and the dislocations that have followed the global economic meltdown of 2008 helped bring us to a point where the planet itself seems likely to melt down. Armageddon seems somehow plausible and we’re all turned into helpless children scared of forces grander than we can imagine, looking for respite and answers in superheroes flying across screens in our chapel of dreams.” ~ Art Spiegelman, The Guardian


When news broke that Art Spiegelman, the comics legend who won a Pulitzer Prize for his Holocaust memoir Maus, was asked to remove criticism of Donald Trump from his intro for an upcoming Marvel book, controversy again erupted over the political underbelly of our American Superheroes. As we have explored here time and again and again, the superhero fantasy is a powerful synecdoche for American exceptionalism, fascistic flirtations, and warring political ideologies within today’s headlines. Amidst our super-charged contemporary political landscape, superheroes are once again being called into service to warn America and the world of resurgent fascist threats to traditional democratic values.

Sadly, America has been here before.


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In its opening weeks, AVENGERS: ENDGAME has proven a critical and financial success. The bold cinematic experiment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has transformed what used to be a nerdy niche of pop culture into worldwide Hollywood gold as a dominant film genre. Comics fans are both thrilled and amazed at seeing childhood icons translated to the big screen, but perhaps even more significantly, the films also have transformed movies. “This generation is more invested in serialized storytelling than they are in two-hour narratives,” observes Joe Russo, who directed Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame” with his brother, Anthony Russo. The ambitious gamble that was the MCU has thus remade mainstream storytelling over in its own image, bringing comic book tropes, conventions, and plot devices into cinema.


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Posted by: Doc Comics | March 13, 2019

Is Captain Marvel “political” enough?

After several rocky controversial months of review-bombing by internet trolls, the CAPTAIN MARVEL movie finally debuted to eager audiences and solid critical reception. As the first Marvel Studios film with a female lead, it is inevitable that fans would engage the movie in search of Feminist themes and ideological motifs. Rather predictably, the Hollywood blockbuster is a mixed bag of big-screen popcorn and pop-feminism cloaked in colorful costumes and comic book Easter Eggs. As CBR puts it in a very astute essay: “Yes, Captain Marvel is ‘Political’ – Just Not in the Way You Think.”

[Spoilers in the links, FYI.]


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Posted by: Doc Comics | January 4, 2019

Into The SpiderVerse

A surprise joy of 2018, arguably the Best Superhero Movie of the year and “one of the best superhero features ever made,” the animated feature Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is an instant classic that offers surprising freshness to the well-known mythos of Marvel’s beloved hero. But it also just may be an essential breath of hopeful optimism needed to revive heroism and offer an antidote to these darkly cynical times. But by golly this beautiful smart movie does so while being amazingly FUN!

spiderverse2 Read More…

Posted by: Doc Comics | November 21, 2018

R.I.P. Stan Lee


The passing of Stan Lee, legendary creative face of Marvel Comics and co-creator of iconic superheroes known world-wide, marks the end of an era. Few names are as synonymous with comic book superheroes, and “Stan the Man” enthusiastically embraced his role as the defacto voice for comic books with unmatched zeal and EXCELSIOR as the Godfather of what became the Marvel Comics media empire. As fans and the industry mourn his passing, Lee’s legacy is being rightly memorialized with tributes, heart-felt eulogies, and also some necessary criticism of his penchant for self-aggrandizing myth-making.

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Posted by: Doc Comics | September 19, 2018

The Best Graphic Novels of All Time

I was asked to contribute to this list of must-read Graphic Novels, which was a difficult task and I’m a bit crestfallen that ALL STAR SUPERMAN didn’t make the cut. Still, some great recommendations here that I’ve added to my own pull list!!

“The Best Graphic Novels of All Time” list from The Reading Lists.


The task of narrowing my top 3 was always gonna be a tough task. There are a lot of criteria that could be put into play: the most groundbreaking, original comics? Most influential? Or perhaps the most significant in terms of cultural impact or influence upon the comics medium? And since they were specifically focusing on “graphic novels,” then I took that to mean specifically-created direct-to-market one-shot ‘adult’ stories rather than compilations of comic book storylines into “trade paperback” form. Thus, I threaded the needle on these criteria and made my case.

What do YOU think, superscholars? What would be your Top 3 Graphic Novels of All Time?

Posted by: Doc Comics | April 25, 2018

Superhero Anti-Myths?


In a pretty interesting article at Pacific Standard Magazine, Noah Berlatsky takes on the notion that superhero stories are mythology. “Unlike myths, superhero sagas suggest that justice is actually attainable,” Berlatsky asserts. Furthermore, aside from some superficial similarities, these Nietzschean superhero narratives actually run counter to a lot of the usual socio-cultural functions of Myth.

“The whole premise of the superhero is that the Gods are dead and irrelevant, and that humans can, and should, expand to fill the space left in the cosmos by that divine absence. … In comparison to selfish, philandering, all-powerful jerks like Ego or Zeus, superheroes start to look like a pretty good ethical model, Superheroes wouldn’t just accept that Iphigenia has to be sacrificed for no reason. Instead they’d feel empowered to confront injustice and evil and to make the world a better place. Give Job a super-suit and let him grab Satan by the horns. If myths say that we should be powerless before injustice, then, yes, let’s do away with them and make some anti-myths about getting empowered instead.”

The downside of these Superhero Anti-Myths, however, is that these narratives of every[hu]man underdogs work “only if you believe the myth that your fellow humans are kinder and wiser than the gods.” So are these superhero stories perhaps too utopian in their presumptions about human nature? Maybe TOO democratic, or alternately, inherently fascistic and dangerously delusional when wed to American populist politics?


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