Date of Award

8-15-2017

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

English (M.A.)

Department

English

First Advisor

Robert Rozema

Second Advisor

Brett Colley

Third Advisor

Rachel Anderson

Academic Year

2016/2017

Abstract

Whether they are secret or whether they are household names, identities are paramount in superhero comics. Yet those that create these identities do so from a place of privilege in a hierarchy which results in inauthentic characters and repetitive plots. For the superhero genre, the misrepresentation of female characters (perhaps related to a severe underrepresentation of female creators) has resulted in highly patriarchal storylines that are reductive, stereotypical, and often violent toward women. To combat this trend, one must consider the ways in which a more complex female character violates the current framework and offer a solution. For superhero comics, complexity violates its staunchly binary framework and a solution lies with the cyborg, a figure championed by Donna Haraway in her essay, “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century.” A hybrid of nature and technology, the cyborg defies easy identification and finds a sense of belonging through means other than identity. Using this as a template, creators, specifically male creators, can include women in their stories without imposing harmful binaries. Evidence of a successful execution of the cyborg character can be seen in Neil Gaiman’s Black Orchid and A Game of You, both of which depict women in the midst of identity crises. This paper will explore the ways in which identity affects the depiction and treatment of these women, how they fare in its absence, and the alternative modes they use to find meaning for themselves.

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