Masks, Mutations, and Metamorphoses: Transformation Sequences in Comics (Panel)


Cultural Studies and Media Studies / Interdisciplinary Humanities

Rafael Ponce-Cordero (Keene State College)

Comics are a medium that has transformations in both form and content. Their form centers on the transition of one image to another in sequence; as with any narrative, it often focuses on the development of a dynamic character, and in superhero stories, with the additional metamorphosis of a person’s very body and identity.

Scholars continue to return to comics as one avenue for considering the transitive, even transgressive, dimensions of identity. Graphic memoirs, such as Gene Yang’s American Born Chinese and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, use the comics medium to represent feelings of isolation, assimilation, and othering by the very transformation of their younger selves’ bodies. Superhero comics such as Ms. Marvel, X-Men, and Inhumans have used bodily transformations not only as symbolic of self-conceptions of race, gender, and sexuality but also as extensions of those same identities. As Aaron Taylor argues, the human body in comics is a site of contention, able to be superhuman in terms of muscularity, flexibility, and speed, yet marked as othered and hence an opportunity to represent feelings of difference as physical manifestations and changes.

The transformation sequence is standard to comics: Clark Kent rushes out of the phone booth and is now Superman, Usagi Tsukino spins and lights up to transform into Sailor Moon, Kamala Khan experiences terrigenesis to become Ms. Marvel, and Bruce Banner hulks out into a giant green rage monster. This session welcomes submissions that look at transformations not only of characters but of the graphic narrative form, and how those alterations affect other narrative practices in the novel, film, and television.

The transformation sequence is standard to comics: Clark Kent rushes out of the phone booth and is now Superman, Usagi Tsukino spins and lights up to transform into Sailor Moon, Kamala Khan experiences terrigenesis to become Ms. Marvel, and Bruce Banner hulks out into a giant green rage monster. This session welcomes submissions that look at transformations not only of characters but of the graphic narrative form, and how those alterations affect other narrative practices in the novel, film, and television.