Volume 10 , 2006/2007

Post-Superheroes: Transcending Media

Guest Editor, Wendy Haslem


1. Superhero by Numbers – Lisa Watson and Phil Stocks

2. El Santo: Wrestler, Saint and Superhero – Gabrielle Murray

3. America vs Japan: the Influence of American Comics on Manga – Ludovic Graillat

4. Superheroes, Superegos : Icons of War and the War of Icons in the Fiction of Kazuo Ishiguro – Pascal Zinck

5. Why are Japanese Girls’ Comics full of Boys Bonking? – Mark McLelland

6. Enlightenment in a Dark Age: The Yogi as Spiritual Hero – Gary Hickey

7. Achilleus: Man of Bronze – Annabel Orchard

Superhero By Numbers – Lisa Watson and Phil Stocks

Abstract: This paper reports on results of a statistical analysis correlating superhero characteristics such as powers, motivations, weaknesses, and costumes with commercial viability as represented by comic book sales and number of appearances in new media such as cinema and television. Results indicate that features of a character have little impact in the comic book market, and that new media trends support a move away from god-like, untouchable heroes to heroes displaying more human frailties and highly visual super abilities. Continue reading

America vs. Japan: the Influence of American Comics on Manga – Ludovic Graillat

Abstract: America is very much linked to Japan. Since the Second World War these two countries are at the same time a model, a foe, a friend to each other. When we talk about the manga we often compare them to the comics. Although Japan has its own superheroes (such as Godzilla as the supervillain, Astroboy, Akira, etc.), we can’t deny that America influenced the creation of Japanese superheroes. This essay will explore this influence through the work of Masakazu Katsura, a famous mangaka (manga writer) mostly known for his series Video Girl Aï (1989).

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Superheroes, Superegos : icons of war and the war of icons in the fiction of Kazuo Ishiguro – Pascal Zinck

This essay examines the enduring providential intervention of superheroes in the fiction of Kazuo Ishiguro, drawing on examples from his novels to probe linguistic, psychoanalytical, cultural, and historical aspects. Arguing that most of Ishiguro’s protagonists believe that they are entrusted with “a sense of mission” and that they are so omnipotent that they can alter the course of history, the essay adopts a psychoanalytical approach and questions to what extent superheroes and kung fu encounters with supervillains can be attributed to narcissism and the need to escape tyrannical families.

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Why are Japanese Girls’ Comics full of Boys Bonking?[1] – Mark McLelland


‘Boys’ love’ (shōnen’ai) in Japanese does not refer to the love many young Japanese women feel for male teen idols but instead refers to the homoerotic attraction the male heroes in a genre of Japanese women’s manga (comics) feel for each other. Commencing in the early 1970s, women’s manga began to describe love stories between ‘beautiful boys’ culminating in the mid-80s in an amateur genre termed yaoi (an acronym meaning ‘no climax, no point, no meaning’) which, dispensing with the elaborate plots of the earlier comics, focused instead upon sexual interactions between boys and young men. The advent of the Internet has provided a new forum for Japanese women interested in boys’ love fiction to publish their own and read each other’s work and has enabled western women interested in manga and anime to also participate in this subculture – a subculture that overturns western obsessions with traditional heroism. This paper briefly outlines the history of Japanese women’s fascination with male homosexuality and describes the boy love stories in women’s manga and on the Internet. It criticises western academic analyses of the genre which tend to pathologise both the women fans and Japanese society in general. Instead, it is suggested that it is not the widespread representation of homosexuality in Japanese popular culture that should be problematised, but rather the extreme compartmentalisation of homosexuality in western cultures.


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Enlightenment in a Dark Age:The Yogi as Spiritual Hero – Gary Hickey


A concept fundamental to Hindu cosmology that became popular in India around the turn of the first millennium CE was that of world ages. According to this belief, we are now living in a cycle of spiritual decline (kali-yuga) that began after the death of Lord Krishna in 3002 BCE. Because we are living in such a Dark Age, the type of spiritual leaders needed to maintain a high level of morality must exhibit both discriminative intelligence (buddhi) and moral stamina. Such enlightened beings embody an almost superhuman level of morality and as such are considered spiritual heroes.

A belief demonstrated by the lives of these spiritual ‘heroes’ is that the highest spiritual belief can be achieved in this bodily existence. Such a belief has informed the spiritual traditions of India wherein the human body is seen as the instrument for the realisation of the enlightened state.This essay explores manifestations of these states of being.


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Achilles: Man of Bronze – Annabel Orchard

In the Iliad, the Trojan hero Aeneas says of his Greek enemy Achilleus: “he claims to be made all of bronze (panchalkeos)” Iliad 20.102 The poet has apparently reserved a special term for this reference to Achilleus. The word panchalkeos or “all bronze” occurs in the Iliad only in this passage. Achilleus’ physical identity is so closely associated with his armour that he might well be described by the Trojans as a man made of bronze. Whenever he appears on the battlefield, he is encased in armour made for him by the lame smith god Hephaistos. The bronze armour that he wears represents Achilleus’ identity as a warrior and hero. This paper examines the perceptions of the armoured body of Achilleus. It considers the effect of the armour on the person inside it and on those who view the armed figure on the battlefield. Drawing on ideas about the cyborg, it examines the enhanced power of the hero due to the technological and supernatural properties of the armour. It also considers the concept of imperfect invulnerability in this myth, and considers the significance of a physically imperfect god creating armour for a physically vulnerable hero.

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