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Josef Benson and Doug Singsen

Apr 12, 2022

Bandits, Misfits, and Superheroes

Whiteness and Its Borderlands in American Comics and Graphic Novels

University Press of Mississippi 2022

American comics from the start have reflected the white supremacist culture out of which they arose. Superheroes and comic books in general are products of whiteness, and both signal and hide its presence. Even when comics creators and publishers sought to advance an antiracist agenda, their attempts were often undermined by a lack of awareness of their own whiteness and the ideological baggage that goes along with it. Even the most celebrated figures of the industry, such as Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Jack Jackson, William Gaines, Stan Lee, Robert Crumb, Will Eisner, and Frank Miller, have not been able to distance themselves from the problematic racism embedded in their narratives despite their intentions or explanations.

In Bandits, Misfits, and Superheroes: Whiteness and Its Borderlands in American Comics and Graphic Novels (University of Mississippi Press, 2022), Dr. Josef Benson and Dr. Doug Singsen provide a sober assessment of these creators and their role in perpetuating racism throughout the history of comics. They identify how whiteness has been defined, transformed, and occasionally undermined over the course of eighty years in comics and in many genres, including westerns, horror, crime, funny animal, underground comix, autobiography, literary fiction, and historical fiction. This exciting and groundbreaking book assesses industry giants, highlights some of the most important episodes in American comic book history, and demonstrates how they relate to one another and form a larger pattern, in unexpected and surprising ways.

This interview was conducted by Dr. Miranda Melcher whose doctoral work focused on post-conflict military integration, understanding treaty negotiation and implementation in civil war contexts, with qualitative analysis of the Angolan and Mozambican civil wars.

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Miranda Melcher

Miranda Melcher (Ph.D., Defense Studies, Kings College, London) studies post-conflict military integration, understanding treaty negotiation and implementation in civil war contexts, with deep analysis of the Angolan and Mozambican civil wars.

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