Super­hero Comics and the Autho­ri­zing Func­ti­ons of the Comic Book Para­text (2013)

Peer reviewed / Buchveröffentlichung


This chapter treats editorials, letter columns, and fanzines from the realm of American superhero comic books as paradigmatic examples of paratextually mediated forms of popular serial storytelling. These paratextual forms not only allow for, but actually necessitate, ongoing and indeed serial debates about plot developments, the gestation of complex narrative universes (or storyworlds), specific aspects of setting (from Metropolis to Gotham in DC Comics), the evolving characterization of superheroes and villains, and themes from the rather simple good vs. evil stories of the genre’s early years to the morally conflicted narratives of the darker graphic novel period since the 1980s and 1990s. Moreover, such spaces generates extensive exchanges between the official comic book producers, represented, for instance, by the company logo, superhero trademark, copyright notices, authorial signatures, and editorial commentary, and the receivers of the stories, those who buy and read the magazines and frequently become active participants in the serial construction of comic book narratives by writing letters to the editor, producing fanzines, and thus claiming authorial competences themselves.


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"Stein, Daniel (2013b): „Superhero Comics and the Authorizing Functions of the Comic Book Paratext“,
in: Daniel Stein / Jan-Noël Thon (Hg.): From Comic Strips to Graphic Novels. Contributions to
the Theory and History of Graphic Narrative. Berlin, S. 155–189."