The relationship between slash fan fiction and comics fandom is problematic not only because of the shift of medium from source text to fan text but also because of the shift of fan community. Comics fandom is often viewed as consisting of heterosexual white men and comics are often explicitly marketed to them, excluding and othering the rest of the audience. Comics fandom online subverts this expectation of audience because the majority of fan authors and creators are women. While canon plots privilege action and conflict, and the problematic depiction of women characters in them is so obvious it hardly need be discussed, comics fan fiction reverses these trends: stories privilege emotional arcs, and female characters are depicted as more recognizably human even when they are secondary to the male characters.
Comics fan works thus become completely transformative because of the shift in both fan space and fan audience: texts that are homophobic become homophiliac, authors and readers who are male become female, and that which had previously been other becomes the new norm. For these reasons, the fans are not just aware but indeed hyperaware of their own identity as subaltern and subversive practitioners.
Currently browsing tag
When the Tea Party rose to national prominence in 2010, the movement’s cosplay of American icons, including the Founding Fathers, immediately made news (Walsh 2010). One of the most remarkable costumes worn by Tea Party demonstrators was that of the Star-Spangled Avenger. As Nicolle Lamerichs (2011) argues, when fans cosplay they are expressing their fondness for, identifying with, and making statements about the narrative associated with the character whom they are playing. The statement made by political Captain America cosplayers is that Cap would agree with their point of view. For instance, at a 2011 Tea Party rally, a man dressed as Captain America personalized his shield with a bumper sticker that read “Please don’t tell Obama what comes after a trillion” as a way to assert that his support of limited government is the sole authentic American perspective (White 2011b). Similarly, the Star-Spangled Avenger waved the star-spangled banner at a March 24, 2011, rally in opposition to the Affordable Care Act (Shelly 2012).
While in both these cases Captain America’s iconography was used to support right-wing causes, his use in political action transcends partisan boundaries just as the character does in the comics. In October 2010, the Sentinel of Liberty showed his support for “reasonableness” at Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear (Calhoun 2011). A year later he defended labor unions at a protest in Madison, Wisconsin (Mills 2011). Furthermore, Cap’s iconography has been used at multiple Occupy rallies: one protestor wore a makeshift Cap costume and flashed the peace sign while another attached a figurine of the Star-Spangled Avenger to the top of a sign bearing a handwritten anticorporate slogan (Moscamaurer 2012; jamie nyc 2011). Additionally, an activist advocating for homeless veterans addressed Occupy Oakland clad in the costume of the Sentinel of Liberty (addio33 2012).
While Captain America was first created as a fervent nationalist who wanted American children to “free our country of our traitors” (Yanes 2009, 58), he has developed into a very different character. Fans have embraced the modern incarnation of the Star-Spangled Avenger because he is one of the few embodiments of an Americanness that encompasses a wide swath of the nation’s political spectrum, from the most conservative Tea Party member to the most liberal Occupier (Johnson 2010; Mroczkowski 2011). This near-universal American appeal renders any political use of his image inherently divisive and questionable, yet makes his political appropriation irresistible.
Forrest Phillips, Captain America and fans’ political activity
Fan studies journal Transformative Works and Cultures has published its thirteenth issue on comics fandom. Here are links to all the articles, on topics ranging from women in comics fandom to fans on 4chan to Captain America and various other Avengers-related things. Enjoy! As usual, we’ll be posting some good quotes from the articles too.
Matthew J. Costello: The super politics of comic book fandom
Symposium (short articles):
Forrest Phillips: Captain America and fans’ political activity
Amanda Odom: Professionalism: Hyperrealism and play
Rebecca Lucy Busker: Fandom and male privilege: Seven years later
Ora C. McWilliams: Who is afraid of a black Spider(-Man)?
Matthew J. Costello: Interview with comics artist Lee Weeks
Kate Roddy, Carlen Lavigne, Suzanne Scott: Toward a feminist superhero: An interview with Will Brooker, Sarah Zaidan, and Suze Shore