Date: Monday, November 19 2018

Time: 10:00am – 11:30am

Venue: Dunton 1811

Queer comics readers have always known that the euphoric freedom of the superbody and the suggestive homosociality of superhero friendships furnish abundant raw materials for queer worldbuilding and the pleasures of self-recognition. We just have to squint at them properly. But why do these willful allegorical readings sometimes fail? Why is it that some objects attract, while other repel, the reparative hunger of a queer gaze? What are the limits of the queer reader’s transformative powers?

This paper revisits the scene of childhood comic reading in a melancholy mood in order to ask how queer theory’s reparative hermeneutic is complicated by juvenile readers whose sense of their own queerness is precarious or disavowed and by comics whose tacit licensing of queer allegory is confounded by the industry’s structural homophobia.

Focusing on Marvel’s Uncanny X-Men and Dazzler series of the early eighties, two series whose “mutant” metaphor most self-consciously reworked the superhero conceit into an allegory for minoritarian radicalism, it argues that superhero comics of this period are difficult to separate from an affective economy of gay shame. Read in situ, and contra the current vogue for reparative reading, they are as likely to furnish a repressive sexual pedagogy on the virtues of closetedness as to produce a superhero allegory of gay self-acceptance and queer liberation.

Dr. Johnson’s work focuses on the convergence of serial melodramatic forms with psychoanalysis and queer theory. Dr. Johnson is interested in the affective economies of superhero comics and soap operas, particularly with respect to their perception by queer readers and audiences. Currently Dr. Johnson is the co-investigator on a SSHRC-funded project entitled “Comic-Cons: An Emerging Urban Media Industry.”

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