Grant Morrison and the Superhero Renaissance
14-15 September 2012
Long Room Hub, Trinity College Dublin
A call for papers for an international conference on the work of comic book and graphic novel writer Grant Morrison.
Grant Morrison has been the single most important and influential creator of superhero comics in the last twenty years. Indeed, DC Comics’ decision to place him at the helm of the recent Action Comics reboot constitutes a formal recognition of Morrison as the central artistic force behind the reinvention of the superhero since its inception in 1938. It is not only Morrison’s flexible imagination and the febrile energy of his storytelling that have brought him critical and commercial success, but also his ongoing analysis and inspired reconstruction(s) of the superhero concept. Morrison’s later and present work shows a determination to spearhead what may be termed a renaissance in superhero comics, set in opposition to the cynical realism which prevailed in the so-called ‘bronze age’.
Morrison’s work on the superhero aims to reverse the deconstruction of the concept performed by Alan Moore and others, in the mid-to-late 80s, who aimed to lay bare and thereby undo the foundational assumptions, textual unconscious and ideologies underpinning the superhero; however, to suggest that that is all Morrison does would be to over-simplify and misrepresent the breadth, depth and originality of his thinking and work.
In his newly-published non-fiction book, Supergods, Morrison outlines and develops his account of the superhero, placing special emphasis on what the fluctuating aspects, appropriations and abrogations of the idea in our culture tell us about who we are and, most importantly, can and could be. In particular, Morrison presents the superhero as an archetype of the human Self, whose changing images by turns reflect, inform and motivate our noblest aspirations and whose deliberate reconstruction by artistic and critical intervention promotes individual liberty and rebels against the anti-life pessimism of post-structuralism. In this utopian formulation he identifies the superhero archetype as a vital source of cultural and social renewal, and his work on and with it envisages a new humanism that espouses sincere hope in a better tomorrow for all.
It is the purpose of this conference to promote analysis, criticism and reflection on Morrison’s contribution to the re-making and re-valorising of the superhero. While the focus will be primarily on his reconstruction of the superhero from 1996’s Flex Mentallo and JLA onwards (continuing through Marvel Boy, Seven Soldiers, All-Star Superman, Final Crisis, and Superman Beyond), research into the early period of his career and oeuvre (Zenith, Arkham Asylum, Animal Man, Doom Patrol) which reflects our central concerns will also be welcome.
Suggested topics: aesthetics; apocalyptic and utopian visions; authorship in a shared fictional space; counter-cultural politics; DC continuity and the multiverse; ecological issues and animal rights; the new and the now; fiction and virtual reality; humanism; intertextuality; mysticism and magic; open texts and reader agency; pop music and punk; realism in the fantasy mode; sincerity and (post-)irony; text and image.
250 word abstracts to email@example.com by Monday 30th April 2012
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