This past fall, we were pleased to offer several grants to help support our students in sharing their research at the premiere conferences in their field. Below, Grace Gipson reflects on her experience in Melbourne this past December.
Going Down Under “Superhero Style” in Melbourne, Australia
~Grace D. Gipson, MA
This past December I was given the opportunity to attend the Superhero Identities Symposium held at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image. Attending and presenting at this symposium was a true privilege and honor to take part with other scholars, particularly from Australia and New Zealand, regarding the theme of superhero identities.
As part of the Superhero Identities Symposium, I participated in a panel discussion on the many ideas and themes attached to the Netflix television series Jessica Jones. My presentation was titled: Road to Recovery: Fighting through Trauma and Abuse in Netflix’s Jessica Jones series. What was unique about this panel was that each participant offered differing perspective on the character and series, but also common material was brought to the discussion as well. This particular panel not only centered its focus on Jessica Jones, but spoke to the overall theme of the symposium of addressing the means to negotiate and articulate identities in response to fictional heroes.
Along with presenting there were two other highlights of the symposium keynote speaker and University of Southern California Communications and New Media scholar Henry Jenkins and Hope Larson writer for DC Comics “Batgirl” and co-creator of Boom! Comics “Goldie Vance”. Both speakers addressed diversity among superheroes, the impact of society on superheroes, and the role of superheroes in popular culture. Whereas Jenkins, provided an academic perspective including real life events like the shooting of Trayvon Martin and the Dakota Access Pipeline, to demonstrate how superheroes play a role in society; Larson offered a writer and illustrator point of view to discussing the importance of providing true to life representations of the characters in comic books and graphic novels. Larson also spoke to her experiences as white woman who writes about and creates characters of color. For Larson it was critical to research and engage with people who looked like some of her characters so that she could have more accurate depictions, and avoid stereotypes and misconceptions. Diversity in comics has been a long discussed topic that has progressed and evolved since its inception in the early 1930s.
Not only did the conference take place during a Melbourne summer, but the location of the symposium the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) was a treat, especially for New Media scholars. This Australian national museum is home to a wide, diverse collection of film, television, video games, digital culture and art. The ACMI gives visitors an incredible, interactive, and immersive experience to the story of the moving image. A fitting and creative space for an event such as the Superhero Identities Symposium.
Overall, this symposium further interrogated the superhero and unmasked the superhero identity across all eras and media platforms. Having the opportunity to be able to meet with other scholars across the Pacific and explore the moving image, not only provided additional insight into the field of New Media and comics, but aided continuing efforts to establish more networks and communities.