What It Means to Be Super: Diversity and the Prevailing Discourses in Superhero Comic Books
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This study examined how themes of diversity influence the superhero genre of comic books and sought to identify the broader societal discourses that shape the representation of diversity in these narratives. The study’s review of related literature encompassed works exploring comic books as a genre, their history, and their relationship with discourse and popular culture, and revealed 5 significant themes related to diversity: race, gender, sexuality, age, and ability. The study employed a qualitative methodology and was designed as a thematic discourse analysis. Nine superhero comics under the Marvel and DC umbrella were accessed online and then narrowed down as the study’s data set. Each comic was coded by taking note of the main plot points and larger findings and the information was grouped into larger themes that became the basis of the data. Results of this study showed that although some elements of diversity existed in the data set, it did not play a significant role in shaping the narratives’ respective stories. Results also indicated that the primary feature in the data set comprised a Caucasian, male, straight, European, or American discourse; however, there is evidence that diversity is beginning to become more of a priority in the creation of these superhero comics. Lastly, the study considered educational implications of bringing superhero comics into the classroom including improved reading engagement, diversified text selection within classrooms, and getting students to think about diversity through a new lens by challenging what a superhero should look like or is supposed to be.