Within mainstream superhero comics, sexuality has often been simultaneously gratuitous and invisible. Though virtually all superheroes wear their underwear on the outside and proudly display their hard and sensuous curves inside revealing, skin-tight costumes, the Comics Code Authority long forbade any definite expressions of sexual behaviour or desire. The unequal application of this ban exaggerated the simultaneous presence and absence of sexuality; historically, while the bodies of female superheroes have been hyper-sexualized, the bodies of male superheroes have prioritized power characteristics in defiance of sexual characteristics. Some things have changed over time. In the 1990s, Marvel Comics released several “Swimsuit Specials” that eroticized both male and female superheroes. And in the 21st-century, both Marvel and DC finally abandoned the Comics Code and launched several “mature” titles that allowed more graphic expressions of sexuality. Superhero sexuality had also become more diverse; in the past two decades, each of the “Big Two” publishers has added several gay, lesbian, and bisexual heroes, some of them newly created, others coming out of the closet. Yet a simultaneous presence and absence remains; when superheroes get banged up and laid out, it tends to be in a fight rather than the bedroom, and the costumes tend to stay on.
This panel will examine the superhero genre’s complicated relationship with sexuality in as many ways and places as possible. Papers may focus on past or present representations of sexuality in either mainstream comics or in those Underground, “indie,” or web comics which have commented on, critiqued, or revised the mainstream. Possible topics might include: the relationship between sexuality and gender; how sexuality is represented in the comics form; the ways in which the absence or denial of sexuality can feed subversive readings; or, how sexuality intersects with the graphic and narrative conventions of the superhero genre.
If you are interested in participating in this panel, please send a 200-word abstract plus a 50-word bio to Anna Peppard at firstname.lastname@example.org no later than January 3rd, 2017. The panel will be proposed for the annual conference of the Canadian Society for the Study of Comics, held May 13-14th in Toronto in collaboration with the Toronto Comic Arts Festival (http://www.torontocomics.com/whats-happening/canadian-society-for-the-study-of-comics-2017-conference/).