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TitleFandoms, Multimodality, And The Transformation Of The 'comic Book'
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                            Wayne State University
Turning The Page: Fandoms, Multimodality, And The Transformation Of The 'comic Book' Superhero
	Matthew Alan Cicci
		Recommended Citation
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Page 1

Wayne State University

Wayne State University Dissertations


Turning The Page: Fandoms, Multimodality, And
The Transformation Of The 'comic Book'
Matthew Alan Cicci
Wayne State University,

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Part of the Film and Media Studies Commons, and the Other Communication Commons

This Open Access Dissertation is brought to you for free and open access by [email protected] It has been accepted for inclusion in
Wayne State University Dissertations by an authorized administrator of [email protected]

Recommended Citation
Cicci, Matthew Alan, "Turning The Page: Fandoms, Multimodality, And The Transformation Of The 'comic Book' Superhero" (2015).
Wayne State University Dissertations. Paper 1331.

Page 2




Submitted to the Graduate School

of Wayne State University,

Detroit, Michigan

in partial fulfillment of the requirements

for the degree of



MAJOR: ENGLISH (Film & Media Studies)

Approved By:

Advisor Date




Page 106


figures and responses to Thor, Captain Marvel, and others suggest that isn’t the case. Captain Marvel’s

inaugural issue sees her going toe-to-toe and beating Absorbing Man, a heavyweight villain who often

tussles with the Hulk. The female Thor’s first few issues see her trouncing Frost Giants, saving the

Avengers, and humbling the original male Thor in combat. While there is obviously a male audience for

these books, just like there is a female audience for, say, Batman books, it is more likely that the way in

which the industry truly turned away from the female reader wasn’t by removing romance books, it was

by perpetuating practices that stymied their entry into the genre. If one of the joys of superhero reading

is playing at being a hero, a landscape bereft of engaging female characters is sure to stymy female

readership. But, as Hawkeye and Loki suggest, male characters could provide a space for female fans, as

well. The key isn’t same-gender, one-to-one identification; it is creating a book that doesn’t stigmatize

femininity as either only passive or sexualized while also constantly idealizing masculinity as powerful.

Regarding Gabilliet’s second point, the comic shop is increasingly becoming less of the primary

‘space’ for superhero fandom. Thanks to the ubiquity of digital comics and online comic ordering,

readers no longer even need to attend a shop to pursue their favorite characters.

The move to the

internet both for purchasing and reading one’s comics, but also for engaging in fan discussions, clearly

mitigates the notion that the comic shop is an insurmountable obstacle for the enterprising female fan.

In fact, the reader-friendly nature and their increasing presence may in fact be the first interaction many

female fans now have with the object of comic books.

Additionally, Gabilliet’s take doesn’t account for the mainstreaming of comic culture, like the

rise of the convention, namely San Diego Comic-Con (which drew only ~5,000 attendees per year in the

‘80s but now draws over 130, 000), and the prevalence of the superhero today. Even if the comic book

store was still the primary physical space for engaging with comic fandom, the notions of comic


As evidenced by the fact that digital comic sales are the largest non-gaming purchase made on tablets and
smartphones. A trend obviously acknowledged by Amazon Inc. which purchased Comixology, the largest seller of
digital comics, for an undisclosed amount in late 2013.

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speculation and collection have long since dwindled in importance; Gabilliet himself chronicles the

1990s as the apex of the specula

fact, stripped of any real underpinnings, the comic book shop continues to present

because the demographics of purchasers are male and the stereotypical image of a superhero fan is


Were just the barriers of speculation and collection faltering at the same time as the collective

space of reading, discussing, and exploring comics growing (both physically and metaphorically), it

evidence of another entry point multimodal versions of superhero characters. While superheroes have

long populated radio shows, cartoons, and licensed merchandise, only the past 15 years has seen them

The success of these films may n

on Hiddleston instead of the pre-existing comic version suggests, but it undoubtedly brings attention

ample of how

multi-media outlets have not only created new superhero fans but also, in some cases, divorced

superhero fandom from comic fandom in a sustained manner.

how contemporary female fandoms are no longer barred by the shifting tenor comics acquired in the

years following 1970.

As suggested at points throughout this chapter, the fact that contemporary female superhero

fandoms are starting to influence the industry and present themselves as fully invested fans of the

superhero genre has garnered varying levels of backlash. This blowback not only characterizes the

means in which female fans very presence in the fandom is resistant, it also attempts to ghettoize


And, aga

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August 2015

Advisor: Dr. Chera Kee

Major: English (Film & Media Studies)

Degree: Doctor of Philosophy

Superheroes are increasingly becoming more affiliated with film media than comic books. The amount

companies all suggest that superhero film adaptations are the medium most associated with the

superhero character. Such monumental shift in the distribution of superheroes comic books were long

the dominant medium of superhero characters are indicative of ongoing media convergence practices;

the success of these contemporary adaptations, from 1998 on, have not only caused the filmic

superhero to eclipse the comic one, it has inevitably led to a rewriting of superhero comic book form

restingly, however, is the simultaneous

evolution of superhero comic fandom. The aggressive adaptation schedule of superhero stories

his or her fan obje that is its success across multiple

mediums at the same time but via different plots, stories, and narratives the superhero fandom has

become more diverse and progressive but also increasingly engaging in a form of anti-fan behavior.

Lines of fandom are being drawn along lines of medium-specificity the comic book or the film? While

such lines obviously produce certain intrafandom tensions, it also speaks to the expansion of both what

a superhero fan is and how they practice their fandom.

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Matthew Alan Cicci is a PhD Candidate at Wayne State University in English (Film & Media Studies). His

dissertation, “Turning the Page: Fandoms, Multimodality, and the Transformation of the “Comic Book”

Superhero, is scheduled for a Summer 2015 defense. He has recently accepted a position as a Visiting

Professor of New Media Studies at Alma College. His interests include comic studies, fan studies, and

adaptation studies; he has a chapter forthcoming in

Changing Times (McFarland, 2015) that details how Hulk stories written at the beginning of the 1990s

frame the consumerism of the 1980s.

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