Uncanny Bodies

Superhero Comics and Disability

Edited by Scott T. Smith, José Alaniz

Hardback - £79.95

Publication date:

27 November 2019

Length of book:

248 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271084749

Superhero comics reckon with issues of corporeal control. And while they commonly deal in characters of exceptional or superhuman ability, they have also shown an increasing attention and sensitivity to diverse forms of disability, both physical and cognitive. The essays in this collection reveal how the superhero genre, in fusing fantasy with realism, provides a visual forum for engaging with issues of disability and intersectional identity (race, ethnicity, class, gender, and sexuality) and helps to imagine different ways of being in the world.

Working from the premise that the theoretical mode of the uncanny, with its interest in what is simultaneously known and unknown, ordinary and extraordinary, opens new ways to think about categories and markers of identity, Uncanny Bodies explores how continuums of ability in superhero comics can reflect, resist, or reevaluate broader cultural conceptions about disability. The chapters focus on lesser-known characters—such as Echo, Omega the Unknown, and the Silver Scorpion—as well as the famous Barbara Gordon and the protagonist of the acclaimed series Hawkeye, whose superheroic uncanniness provides a counterpoint to constructs of normalcy. Several essays explore how superhero comics can provide a vocabulary and discourse for conceptualizing disability more broadly. Thoughtful and challenging, this eye-opening examination of superhero comics breaks new ground in disability studies and scholarship in popular culture.

In addition to the editors, the contributors are Sarah Bowden, Charlie Christie, Sarah Gibbons, Andrew Godfrey-Meers, Marit Hanson, Charles Hatfield, Naja Later, Lauren O’Connor, Daniel J. O'Rourke, Daniel Pinti, Lauranne Poharec, and Deleasa Randall-Griffiths.

“A remarkably significant contribution to both disability studies and comics studies. The essays collected here interrogate how superhero comics have struggled with reconciling the fantasy of the superbody with a growing concern, among producers and readers, for a more diverse and more adequate treatment of disabilities ranging from autism and dissociative identity disorder to deafness and progressive muscular dystrophy. A truly eye-opening book!”

—Daniel Stein, University of Siegen