Book Cover

Authorizing Superhero Comics

On the Evolution of a Popular Serial Genre

Daniel Stein

306 pp. 6 x 9
28 illustrations
Pub Date: August, 2021

Subjects: Comics Studies
Film & Media

Series: Studies in Comics and Cartoons

order Hardcover $99.95   ISBN: 978-0-8142-1476-3
order Paperback $34.95   ISBN: 978-0-8142-5802-6
Order PDF ebook$34.95   ISBN: 978-0-8142-8143-7

Authorizing Superhero Comics is a truly fascinating piece of innovative scholarship that approaches a salient part of comics history and culture from the perspective of actor-network theory, offering important insights into the (para)textual construction of authorship in superhero comics and beyond.” —Jan-Noël Thon, author of Transmedial Narratology and Contemporary Media Culture

“Daniel Stein has produced a meticulously argued, well-researched, and methodologically sound study, which I believe will resonate with anyone studying superheroes, comics, and popular culture more generally.” —José Alaniz, author of Death, Disability, and the Superhero: The Silver Age and Beyond

Authorizing Superhero Comics examines the comic book superhero as a lasting phenomenon of US popular serial storytelling. Moving beyond linear- or creator-centered models of genre development, Daniel Stein identifies authorization conflicts that have driven the genre’s evolution from the late 1930s to the present. These conflicts include paratextually mediated exchanges between officially authorized comic book producers and alternatively authorized fans that trouble the distinction between production and its reception; storyworld-building processes that subsume producers and fans into a collective rooted in a common style; parodies that ensure the genre’s longevity by deflating criticism through self-reflexive humor; and collecting and archiving as forms of memory management that align the genre’s past with the demands of the present. Taking seriously the serial agencies of the superhero comic book as a material artifact with a particular mediality, the study analyzes letter columns, editorial commentary, fanzines, encyclopedias, and other forms of comic book communication as critical frameworks for understanding the evolution of the genre—assessing rarely covered archival sources alongside some of the most treasured figures from the superhero’s multi-decade history, from Batman and Spider-Man to Wonder Woman and Captain America.


Author photo

Daniel Stein is Professor of North American Literary and Cultural Studies in the English Department at the University of Siegen.
(Photo credit: Sarah Rötzel, Foto Loos, Siegen)


List of Illustrations


Introduction    Authorizing Superhero Comics

Chapter 1        Negotiating Paratext: Author Bios, Letter Pages, Fanzines

Chapter 2        Stylizing Storyworlds: The Metaverse as a Collective

Chapter 3        Transmodifying Conventions: Parodies

Chapter 4        Collecting Comics: Mummified Objects versus Mobile Archives

Coda    Authorizing Diversity



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Edited by Sean Guynes
& Martin Lund