TWC: Appropriating, Interpreting, and Transforming Comic Books (March 2013)


Appropriating, Interpreting, and Transforming Comic Books (March 2013)

Edited by Matthew Costello

Special issue of Transformative Works and Cultures (

Manuscripts due April 1, 2012

Action Comics #900 included a short story in which Superman, confronted by the US State Department for causing an international incident by supporting Iranian prodemocracy protestors, decides to renounce his US citizenship to become a citizen of the world. This brief story was reported by most major news services and garnered much attention. This was far from the first time that comic book characters addressed and engaged with major social or political topics. The late Republican Senator from Alaska, Ted Stevens, used to wear an Incredible Hulk tie for votes he considered important. Various groups use comic books to help define themselves, whether it be fans of the Hernandez brothers creating and sharing their own Love and Rockets artwork, LGBT groups offering queer readings of Green Lantern, or Sacramento manga fans organizing events, including a cosplay contest, to raise money for Japan.

As these examples suggest, people appropriate, reinvent, and transform comic books to create visions of themselves, their groups, and their relation to broader society, both national and global. This is neither a recent nor a national phenomenon. Comic books have always been appropriated by their audience, from Captain America’s Sentinels of Liberty in World War II to Ted Stevens’s Hulk tie. Comic fandom in the United States and readers of manga in Japan have been actively organized since the 1960s. More recently, the Internet has allowed the wide dissemination of comic book cultures, connecting fans more closely to each other and to comics’ creators, both nationally and internationally.

This special issue seeks theoretically informed essays that explore how dedicated fans as well as the broader public have appropriated, interpreted, and transformed comic books and comic book characters to define themselves and their societies.

We welcome submissions dealing with, but not limited to, the following topics:

* Case studies of how particular characters or books have been used by their reading communities to engage in civic action.

* Discussion of transformative works, such as fan fiction, fan art, and fan vids.

* Transformations across national borders through the globalized comic market.

* Analyses of how fans affect characters and books through commentary and migration into the professional ranks.

* Analyses of how various groups use comic book characters to define their relation to society in fan fiction and other activities.

* Examinations of commentaries on political or social issues relating to characters in letter pages and Internet forums.

* The development of comic shop infrastructure and its interrelation with comic fan communities.

* Popular reactions to events in comic books, such as the death of Captain America or Superman’s decision to renounce his American citizenship.

* Interviews with comic creators and/or fans focusing on creator/fan interactions.

Submission guidelines

TWC accommodates academic articles of varying scope as well as other forms that embrace the technical possibilities of the Web and test the limits of the genre of academic writing. Contributors are encouraged to include embedded links, images, and videos in their articles or to propose submissions in alternative formats that might comprise interviews, collaborations, or video/multimedia works. We are also seeking reviews of relevant books, events, courses, platforms, or projects.

Theory: Often interdisciplinary essays with a conceptual focus and a theoretical frame that offer expansive interventions in the field. Blinded peer review. Length: 5,000–8,000 words plus a 100–250-word abstract.

Praxis: Analyses of particular cases that may apply a specific theory or framework to an artifact; explicate fan practice or formations; or perform a detailed reading of a text. Blinded peer review. Length: 4,000–7,000 words plus a 100–250-word abstract.

Symposium: Short pieces that provide insight into current developments and debates. Nonblinded editorial review. Length: 1,500–2,500 words.

Submissions are accepted online only. Please visit TWC’s Web site ( for complete submission guidelines, or e-mail the TWC Editor (editor AT


We encourage potential contributors to contact the guest editor with inquiries or proposals: Matthew Costello (costello AT

Due dates
Contributions for blinded peer review (Theory and Praxis essays) are due by April 1, 2012. Contributions that undergo editorial review (Symposium, Interview, Review) are due by May 1, 2012.


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