Within the superhero genre, sexuality has often been simultaneously gratuitous and invisible. Though many superheroes wear their underwear on the outside and proudly display their hard and sensuous curves inside revealing, skin-tight costumes, historical censorship and related, prevailing assumptions about the superhero genre being primarily intended for children have meant that when superheroes get banged up and laid out, it tends to be in a fight rather than in the bedroom.
Some things have, of course, changed over time. Within the past decade, in particular, superhero comics and the superhero movies, television shows, cartoons, and video games they have inspired have become increasingly diverse and adult-oriented: in comics, we have seen Batman have sex with Catwoman on a rooftop and seen Iceman, a founding member of the X-Men, come out as gay; in movies, we have seen Deadpool bend over to celebrate International Women’s Day; in television, we have seen Jessica Jones and Luke Cage’s superpowered passion break a bed frame; and in the popular subgenre of superhero porn parodies, we have seen a great deal more. Yet even now, a simultaneous presence and absence remains. Circa 2017, most mainstream superhero comics, films, and television shows continue to prioritize sexiness while pushing the actual business of sexuality off-panel/off-screen. In addition, fans remain divided about whether and how sexuality should be presented in the superhero genre. Even as some fans vocally advocate for more sexual diversity, other, equally vocal fans complain that there is already too much diversity; still other fans continue to insist that sexuality has no place in superhero stories. Meanwhile, in academia: while gender is a relatively common topic within existing scholarship on the superhero genre, sexuality has only been sporadically considered, with no existing books or journals dedicated to the topic.
Supersex: Essays on Sexuality, Fantasy, and the Superhero will make visible the modes and meanings of this simultaneous presence and absence by examining the superhero genre’s complicated relationship with sexuality in as many ways and places as possible. Chapters may focus on past or present representations of sexuality in either mainstream productions or in those Underground, “indie,” or fan-based productions which have commented on, critiqued, or revised the mainstream. Ideally, this collection will bring into conversation diverse scholarly approaches exploring an equally diverse collection of texts, from Marvel and DC’s all-ages content to various revisionist narratives and parodies, as well as fanfiction, sanctioned and unsanctioned erotic art and pornography, and cosplay culture. Chapters on international (i.e. non-American) subject matter will be considered, with the caveat that such chapters must take cultural context into account, and relate themselves in some way to the American culture that originated the superhero genre and continues to dominate its production. Similarly, chapters that consider subject matter whose relationship to the superhero genre is not immediately obvious must make a case as to why such subject matter is worth considering under the superhero banner. Analyses that consider content in relation to form are especially encouraged, as are intersectional approaches, i.e., chapters that consider superhero sexuality in conjunction with gender, disability, race, etc. All chapters must address the relationship between some aspect of sexuality and the conventions of the superhero genre, including, but not limited to, costumes, superpowers, secret identities, bodily transformations, the physical enactment of Manichean conflicts, etc.
Those interested in participating in this collection are asked to send a max. 500-word abstract and a max. 1-page prospective bibliography as well as a 50-word bio to Anna Peppard at email@example.com no later than December 20th, 2017. All proposals will be adjudicated by December 31st, 2017 with first drafts of accepted chapters due March 31th, 2018.